News of the Week: Pricey Partridges, Favorite Films, and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” Really Should Stay

In the news for the first week of December 2018 are 12 days of expenses, great Christmas movie debates, classic song woes, a 'nog for every taste, plus much more.

A partridge looking back

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Christmas Is Expensive

On the first day of Christmas, I sent my true love a partridge in a pear tree. It cost me $220.13.

That’s up 0.1 percent from last year, according to this annual price index from PNC Financial Services Group. Six geese a-laying with set you back $390, while eight maids a-milking are a bargain at only $58. Ten lords a-leaping will cost you $10,000, though I really don’t know how they figure that one out.

If you buy all of the gifts, the total price is $170,609.46.

I wouldn’t suggest giving your true love these gifts, even if you have the money. She may have a problem with them. Especially those nine ladies dancing.

America’s Favorite Christmas Movie Is …

I don’t consider Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas to be “movies.” I consider them TV specials. They may last 30 minutes or even 60, but they’re not “movies.” But that’s the term used by many people including The Hollywood Reporter and Morning Consult, who polled 2,200 adults and asked them about their favorite Christmas movie. The winner was Rudolph, followed by A Charlie Brown Christmas, the original animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Home Alone. See? Mixing animated TV specials with full-length feature films.

It was an extensive survey, and they asked about a lot of different movies and specials, though they didn’t specify which A Christmas Carol they were talking about (there are approximately 37,000 film versions). They were also asked about Die Hard, which has been the subject of a big “is it a Christmas movie?” debate online the past several years. 8 percent of respondents had never heard of It’s a Wonderful Life and 8 percent had never heard of Miracle on 34th Street.

Last year I discovered a holiday movie that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a 1949 “Christmas noir” titled Cover Up, starring Dennis O’Keefe, William Bendix, and Barbara Britton. O’Keefe plays an insurance investigator who goes to a small town and finds out that a supposed suicide victim was actually murdered. Okay, it’s not “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” but it’s a nicer holiday film than it sounds, and has an ending you won’t see coming.

I’m not saying it will become your favorite Christmas movie, but it’s a good one.

They Really Can’t Play (Baby, It’s Cold Outside)

It’s Got to Go Away (Baby, It’s Cold Outside)

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a beloved Christmas/winter song that has been around since 1944, written by Frank Loesser. Do you enjoy it? Apparently you’re evil.

A radio station in Cleveland, WDOK, has banned the song after complaints from listeners about the lyrics. Other stations are beginning to follow suit after phone calls and social media posts. Some people think that the song condones sexual harassment, or even worse, rape, and shouldn’t be played in this new #MeToo world. Canada’s CBC, which has also banned the song, says “Song lyrics are always open to interpretation, and we fully acknowledge there are two camps regarding this issue.”

Yes, there are two camps:

  1. the ones who see nothing wrong with the song and are right
  2. everyone else

I’m actually sitting here with my fingers hovering above my keyboard because I don’t even know how to respond to this. Really, what can you say? I’d said the complaints are doltish, but that’s an insult to good dolts everywhere. The song was written in 1944, showing a fun conversation song between a man and a woman, and the lyrics are constantly misinterpreted. Here’s some background on the words and here are some thoughts from comedian and writer Jen Kirkman.

The line “Say, what’s in this drink?” isn’t about what you think it’s about. Again, the song was written in 1944 (and happens to be really clever). If you really do read the lyrics, you’ll see they’re actually pro-independent woman. It’s almost as if we’ve run out of things to be mad about in 2018. It’s exhausting. I’m surprised no one has complained that the woman in the song (are you ready?) SMOKES A CIGARETTE!

Of course, if you’re going to remain morally pure and avoid the song, that means you can’t watch the Will Ferrell Christmas comedy Elf, because one charming scene features a duet between Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel (maybe they can edit that scene out of future airings). You can’t watch all of the TV show episodes that feature the song, and you can’t listen to the versions by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams or Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting or even Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where the roles are reversed. Because that would mean you condone abuse and you hate women and you’re pretty much a bad person.

While we’re at it, we also need to ban “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” because it has bullying from other reindeer, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” because it’s too religious, and “Jingle Bells,” featuring rides in an open sleigh, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has deemed unsafe. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” needs to go away too because an old man who watches you sleep is beyond creepy.

Let’s also get rid of “White Christmas” because … well, you know.

Just to irk people, here’s my favorite version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” by Dean Martin.

All the Answers

In last week’s round-up of books you might want to give as Christmas gifts, I neglected to mention the one I’m reading right now by comic artist Michael Kupperman, titled All the Answers. It’s a graphic memoir about the life of Kupperman’s father Joel, one of the original panelists on the popular TV and radio game show Quiz Kids, and how his life was forever changed by being on it. It’s not only a great look at mid-century American pop culture, it’s a really fascinating study of a child’s quest to know his father (and himself).

Here’s an episode of the show that features Joel Kupperman, plus an appearance by Milton Berle.

RIP George H.W. Bush, Ken Berry, Philip Bosco, Michele Carey, Wright King, and Pete Shelley

You’ve probably heard and read many of the tributes to George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st president, who died last week at the age of 94. But here’s an interesting piece of information from The Washington Post. This was the first time one U.S. president stood before the casket of another president who was also his father.

Ken Berry is remembered for his roles on the sitcoms F TroopMayberry R.F.D., and Mama’s Family. He died last Saturday at the age of 85.

Philip Bosco was a veteran actor who appeared in such movies as Working GirlThree Men and a Baby, Trading Places, and Wonder Boys, plus tons of TV shows, including Law and Order: SVUThe EqualizerEd, and Damages. He also received six Tony nominations for his work on Broadway, winning one. He died Monday at the age of 88.

Michele Carey was an actress who appeared in movies like El Dorado with John Wayne and Live a Little, Love a Little with Elvis Presley, as well as many TV shows. She died last month at the age of 75.

Wright King was in such movies as A Streetcar Named Desire and Planet of the Apes. He also appeared on such TV shows as The Twilight ZoneWanted: Dead of AliveThe Gabby Hayes ShowJohnny Jupiter, and Captain Video and His Video Rangers. He died in November at the age of 95.

Pete Shelley was the lead singer and guitarist for the iconic ’70s punk band The Buzzcocks. He died yesterday at the age of 63.


Picture of the Week

This Week in History

Burger King Opens (December 4, 1954)

The fast food chain was originally called Insta-Burger King (which referred to the type of broiler used to make the burgers) when it opened in 1953. The first location under the Burger King name opened in Miami in 1954.

By the way, from now until Tuesday, you can go to Burger King and get a Whopper for a penny … but there’s a catch.

Ships Collide in Halifax, Nova Scotia (December 6, 1917)

The collision between the SS Mont-Blanc, a French munitions carrier, and the SS Imo, a Norwegian vessel, was so powerful that it killed 2,000 people, injured another 9,000, and destroyed the Richmond area of Halifax.

Nova Scotia is still so thankful to the state of Massachusetts for the assistance it provided during the disaster that the Christmas tree placed on Boston Common each year is one donated by Nova Scotia.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Hiding the Presents (December 7, 1957)

A mother tries to hide her sons' Christmas presents in her bedroom closet, but the kids are peeking on her through an open door.
Hiding the Presents

I’m really proud to say that even though I knew exactly where my mom hid the Christmas presents every year (the dark closet in that weird den we had), I never looked for them because I wanted to be surprised. Okay, there was that one year when I hoped she was getting me that electronic baseball game I wanted, but except for that one time, I never looked.

National Eggnog Month

It makes sense that December is National Eggnog Month. And you may be thinking: How many different ways could there possibly be to make it?

Well, you could make it with some light rum or with bourbon. You can also make it with no alcohol at all, and it probably tastes better than the store-bought stuff. There’s also a version you can make in just a few minutes with melted vanilla ice cream. You could even make an Eggnog Pie.

Someday someone is going to decide once and for all if it’s eggnog or egg nog.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Poinsettia Day (December 12)

Believe it or not, poinsettias are actually named for the man who discovered the plant in Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. Okay, I guess it’s not that hard to believe.

National Free Shipping Day (December 14)

This is the day a lot of companies provide free shipping on orders, and there’s a website that shows you all of the good deals you’ll find, with coupons and discount codes.

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  1. I must agree with Mr. Dawson’s comments, although I’m sure you DID give it proper thought and came to the conclusion you wrote about this offensive song. I too look forward to your news feature each week, but with this song, ‘Baby, It’s Could Outside’ it wouldn’t be right for me not to express my displeasure with you and Bob McGowan jr.

    I know he puts in a lot of excellent comments on various POST features, which is fine. They’re well crafted and unique, but shame on him for his remarks regarding this song, and Dean Martin for that matter! I’m sure Dean wouldn’t see anything wrong with it either, if he were around now. He isn’t, but the both of you ARE and should be ashamed of yourselves!

    Furthermore, I didn’t care for the flirtatious vein Bob’s comments were in, in the ‘North Country Girl’ series either. He should be ashamed of himself for those too, along with Gay Haubner herself! She’s the one who encouraged him with her outrageous, shocking shenanigans, week after week. If you ask me, there’s plenty of shame and blame to go around here. I have to wonder if he isn’t in cahoots with you Bob Sassone, and Gay Haubner!

  2. Dear Mr. Sassone,

    I do look forward each Friday to ‘News of the Week.’ And Mom always said if you don’t like the opinion, don’t read the article. But when it comes to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” you are so far off base you’re not even in the same state as the ballpark. This isn’t 1944. In 2018 it sounds like an incipient date rape. It is counter to the message of “No means no” we so much needs our young men to internalize.

    I’d also quibble that it’s a “beloved” Christmas song. I’d never heard it until a few years ago (I’m 61) when we started listening to Christmas music on Sirius. I thought it was creepy then, it’s creepy now, and it should be dropped from every play list. Just because it was a popular and “innocent” song 74 years ago doesn’t mean it remains in any way appropriate today. That fallacious argument could be made for many things once common and now offensive, e.g. Disney’s “Song of the South,” the children’s story “Little Black Sambo,” homophobic terms, etc..

    By and large you seem to write thoughtful opinions, I think if you were to give more (or any) thought to this issue you would conclude that because it is legitimately (if mildly) offensive it is time for it to quietly go away. There are so many other beloved songs of the season, this one won’t be missed.

    Merry Christmas!


    R. Dawson

  3. Fortunately, I haven’t heard the “12 Days of Christmas” yet, and hopefully won’t! It’s in my head though now Bob, thanks to you. I have heard that one that starts out with ‘Mamacita’. It’s awful too, but a lot shorter.

    Thanks for the video link of Dean Martin, still a great star, singer and all-around entertainer! Over ANALysis of this song is ridiculous, and sooo typical for this neurotic era. Ugghk! I like the video for ‘Quiz Kids’ too. Milton’s still one of my favorites—for sure. Always.

    Thanks for returning the bright, lit up vintage Post covers. Dick Sargent’s ‘Doggy Buffet’ might be nice for January, but before that, John Falter’s beautiful but scary ‘ladder’ (12/28/57) is just as jaw-dropping. Meanwhile, I’m getting my Christmas cards out this week.

    Last year I shouldn’t have bothered with the hot weather, fires, burning eyes. No, this year my cards will cut a dashing figure–even before they’re opened, I promise.


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