Saturday, November 27, 2004

Guy Grand Guignol

Terry Southern refuses to die. His physical form may have passed in 1995, but that hasn't stopped him. Southern's absurdist, sometimes dark takes on the human condition are not only timeless, they were usually well ahead of their time.

Consider Guy Grand. In the 1959 novella "The Magic Christian", Southern's Grand is a mad, practical joking millionaire who, among other strange pursuits, offers big bucks to those willing to publicly debase themselves. And of course, this being America, there's no shortage of applicants.

Well, Tip Top Ter anticipated more than I'm sure he then realized. In addition to the countless "reality" shows that celebrate and reward the lowest, foulest behavior, we have our own Guy Grands in
Donald Trump and Richard Branson.
Peter Carlson makes a convincing case, backed up by Southern's son:

"Southern is unavailable for comment, but his son, Nile Southern, says he's noticed the similarities between The Magic Christian and the billionaire shows.

"The Rebel Billionaire -- isn't that Guy Grand incarnate?' he says, laughing.

"Southern, 43, edited Now Dig This, a 2001 collection of his father's writings and recently published The Candy Men, a book about the strange story of Candy. He can imagine how his old man would react to the billionaire shows.

"'I think he would look at them and he'd say, "Wow!" . . . I think he's gathered around with the ghosts of Michael O'Donoghue and Lenny Bruce and looking at all this with astonishment. And chuckling.'"

And doubtless Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs are hovering near, equally astonished and appalled.

Thanks to Nile Southern's efforts, a new generation of writers and humorists are being exposed to his father's work and legacy, like these bright young things in Chicago:

If you crave the full Terry Southern, spend some time here. And might I recommend this lovely CD produced by my friends Nelson Lyon and Hal Wilner? It's filled with Southern reading some of his, um, racier bits, and inspired performances by Jonathan Winters and Marianne Faithful. Perfect for the holidays. Guy Grand would approve!