You know what the best part of that picture is?
And now you are probably thinking: wow, is that guy for real?
Oh, he’s real. And we have footage.
I mean, I know.
There’s so much going on here one scarcely knows where to begin.
Like: who knew Jackie Gleason had a show? (I didn’t.)
And: Can you say “The White James Brown”? (or, as Wayne Cochran was drolly known, The White Knight of Soul). Seriously, every single move and mannerism is ripped wholesale from The O.G. (Original Godfather). What we have here is not an instance of someone using another artist and incorporating his own style or making it his own. This is complete and transparent larceny. And its shamelessness is what makes it tolerable. It even manages to make it, in a circus freakshow sort of way, irresistible.
I have to confess, I’ve gone my entire life without seeing Wayne Cochran in action. (That, of course, is what YouTube is for.) He was briefly—and amusingly—referred to in the classic “Maury Sline” sauna scene from The Blues Brothers.
Wait… I can’t believe you are actually reading this and not watching that video again.
Let’s briefly break it down.
Okay, so how about Jackie Gleason “spontaneously” lighting up his cig as the camera pans in? Suave.
And how about the (obviously paid and staged) people at the tables? At first, it’s not quite as obvious (if you’re like me, your initial impression was: well, they were prepped and implored to “get into the spirit of the thing!”), but about half-way through, it’s undeniable: look at them, dancing along and grooving. The only way white people can approximate this type of synchronized movement is if they’ve been paid, or drugged. In this instance, it’s quite likely both.
Oh, yes. There is a second video.
2. That is just epic late ‘60s shlock.
3. This choreographed, insanely over-the-top audience participation also reminds us that a bunch of wealthy, utterly out-of-touch, supremely dorky old white men were calling the shots in Hollywood back in the day. And let’s face it, not too much has changed. But don’t kid yourself: it could never get this bad—and by bad I mean bad and good, as only the late ‘60s and early ‘70s could ever be—again.