by Paul Bowers
Clint Eastwood weirded us out a little bit with his talking-to-a-chair routine at the GOP Convention last night — until we realized that ol' Dirty Harry was drawing on a long historical tradition of artists treating armchairs, divans, and stools as human beings.
We at the City Paper started brainstorming, because that's what we get paid the mondo bucks to do, and we came up with a less-than-exhaustive list of chairs that, for one reason or another, are remembered as equals to our own species. Feel free to chime in with other notable examples.
1. Chairy, the ever-supportive and peppy armchair of Pee-wee's Playhouse fame:
(By the way, if you're interested in this sort of thing, the Greater Park Circle Film Society will be showing Beauty Is Embarrassing, a documentary about Pee-wee co-creator Wayne White, on Sept. 15.)
2. Neil Diamond's unsympathetic chair, who left the singer feelin' lonely still:
Humor columnist Dave Barry, voice of the baby boomers and aficionado of toilet jokes, had a lot of fun with this one, writing in a column that later inspired him to write the Book of Bad Songs: "Consider the song 'I Am, I Said,' wherein Neil, with great emotion, sings: 'I am, I said / To no one there / And no one heard at all / Not even the chair.' What kind of line is that? Is Neil telling us he's SURPRISED that the chair didn't hear him? Maybe he expected the chair to say, 'Whoa, I heard THAT.' My guess is that Neil was really desperate to come up with something to rhyme with 'there,' and he had already rejected 'So I ate a pear,' 'Like Smokey the Bear,' and 'There were nits in my hair.'"
3. Simon & Garfunkel's "sat-upon," who are blessed indeed (this video is from their later years, after they went electric):
"Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on," Paul and Art sang. If you haven't heard the song before, you might not know that the "meth drinkers, pot sellers, [and] illusion dwellers" are blessed as well.
4. Grampa Abraham Simpson's debating partner*:Photoshopped, but still, would you put it past Grampa to argue with a chair?
5. The chair from A Chairy Tale, a 1957 Canadian short film featuring a soundtrack by Ravi Shankar and a man trying his darnedest to sit on an uncooperative chair. It was nominated for an Academy Award. You can watch the whole thing here.
What follows is a visual history of the day-old trend known as Eastwooding: