News of the Week: Kate Smith, Too-Hot Tea, and the Case of the Horizontally Challenged Hamlet

In the news for the week ending April 26, 2019, are a new take on tea, new dictionary words, a new Archie Bunker, and much more.

Hot tea in front of a wet window.

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Are you exhausted? I bet you’re exhausted. I know I’m exhausted, because everything is exhausting now. Even this sentence. Exhausting!

There seems to be a new “outrage” every single week. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be offended by now until someone tells me. You have to be careful what pronoun you call someone, having a character smoke a cigarette in a movie is frowned upon, you can’t eat at certain restaurants because of something their owners have done, and by all means don’t you dare listen to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

This week’s victim is Kate Smith. First the New York Yankees announced that they were going to stop playing the singer’s classic rendition of “God Bless America” before games, and a few days later the Philadelphia Flyers announced the same thing, going one step further by removing her statue from outside their arena, the Wells Fargo Center. Why did the two teams do this? Because they’ve declared Smith racist.

It was discovered — and by “discovered” I mean completely out in the open for the past 85 years — that Smith recorded songs in the 1930s that are rather inappropriate and cringe-inducing now. The Yankees have played the song since 9/11, and Smith sang “God Bless America” before a Flyers Stanley Cup game in 1974, a good luck staple there ever since.

The Flyers released a statement that said, “The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation. But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”

That’s all well and good (aside from the fact that she won the Medal of Freedom, not Honor), and things change over time — there are so many examples of when things should be changed — but I just worry about the precedent set by all of these “historical adjustments” of people and things and traditions. One of the Smith songs in question was also sung by Paul Robeson, a black actor and activist, and was seen as satire, with no racial hatred involved (there’s no evidence of Smith being racist in her life). At this rate, we’ll have to take George Washington off of our money because he owned slaves. We’ll have to ban Bing Crosby, because he sang several controversial songs, including “Mississippi Mud,” which was also sung by actor Henry Morgan in an episode of M*A*S*H. We can’t watch that show any longer either, nor dozens of movies and Three Stooges shorts of the ’30s. The New York Times crossword accidentally featured an ethnic slur last year, so you can’t do those crosswords anymore. (In fact, just to be safe, don’t read the Times at all.) Mel Brooks movies? Forget it. All in the Family? Once someone points out to GetTV that some episodes feature derogatory language, those episodes are going to go the way of that Michael Jackson Simpsons episode. Do you like German Chocolate Cake? We know the history of that country, so you can’t eat something with that name (thank God it’s not really German!).

Is it okay to use God like that? If not, I apologize.

I dread to think of what various things lurk in the archives of the Post that may seem inappropriate or dated in our new enlightened culture, considering the magazine goes all the way back to 1821.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for a website where I listed some of my favorite Christmas movies that aren’t often considered Christmas movies. Movies like Die Hard, The Thin Man, and L.A. Confidential. One of the films I chose was Lethal Weapon, and the editor told me I couldn’t include that film “in this current climate.” Can you guess what she meant by that? Yup, it’s because Mel Gibson was in it.

See how silly these things can become if they get out of hand? The over-the-top outrages are going to weaken the arguments about things that should be changed. Are we really going to “cancel” Smith because of something she sang 85 years ago? Is that what we’re now declaring she’s known for and that’s it, not all the good she did? Should Smith have her CDs destroyed, her songs edited out of future showings of TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and movies like The Polar Express, her Medal of Freedom taken away?

It’s exhausting.

Steep Trouble

It seems that every week we hear that some food or drink we enjoy is actually really bad for us, or maybe it’s something we avoid that might actually be good for us. Coffee causes cancer, but then wait, it helps prevent cancer. A low-fat diet is what we should do, but wait, some fats are now good for us and we need to watch the sugar and carbs. We started to use margarine so we weren’t eating so much butter, but then we found out about trans fats. Pretzels used to be the safe, healthy snack, but then suddenly they weren’t.

Now comes word that tea — which has always been touted as the healthier hot beverage — might have a hidden danger. The tea you have in your cup this very moment might be so hot it could cause an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Sigh.

Look, I try to eat well when I can. I have vegetables and low-fat milk and I don’t have a lot of alcohol or fried foods, but I’m sorry, at this stage I’m not going to alter my tea-making. When the kettle whistles, that’s when it’s done, and I’m going to continue to just pick it up and fill my cup. I’ll then add sugar and milk to my liking and enjoy it. I’m not going to stand there with a thermometer and make sure my tea is hot but … not too hot.

More New Words

A couple of times a year I tell you about the new words that various dictionaries are adding to their tomes. This week, Merriam-Webster announced that they’re adding over 640 words to their popular dictionary. I think that’s more words than I currently use in my vocabulary.

This is certainly buzzy. In this gig economy, some might think it’s just garbage time, but in these days where page views and screen time are important, it’s pretty much on-brand. Some might even say it’s peak salutogenesis. But in the end, you can’t win an EGOT simply by using new words, snowflake.

Wanna Feel Old?

I’ve often thought about this. When you get older, you look at age and time in a much different way than you did when you were younger, and facts like these make you stop for a moment and silently say “wow” to yourself.

Another example: I remember going to see Back to the Future when it came out in 1985. I was 20. We all marveled at the film’s fantastic plot, where Marty McFly travels back to the “olden days” of 1955 and has to make sure his parents get together or he’ll never have been born. Thirty years into the past seemed like an incredibly long time ago, but here we are in 2019, which is even further away from when the movie came out in 1985 than Marty traveled back.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to take my Geritol.

Is Hamlet Fat?

I have to admit, this isn’t something I’ve ever thought about: Fat Hamlet.

This is what many Shakespeare scholars are arguing about right now, according to Slate. Hamlet is often portrayed as fit and dashing — think Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, or Benedict Cumberbatch, who is portraying him right now in London — but there are clues that he may have actually liked to eat Hostess cupcakes and sit on the couch all day watching Real Housewives of Stratford-upon-Avon. Apparently this could alter the meaning of the play (though probably not to you and me). Hamlet’s mom even calls him fat in the play.

By the way, I think Hamlet would prefer the term “horizontally-challenged.”

Gee, Our Old LaSalle Ran Great

Have you ever thought to yourself, hey, I wonder what All in the Family would have been like if Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei played Archie and Edith? Next month you can find out.

Jimmy Kimmel Live will re-create two classic episodes of that show and another Norman Lear sitcom, The Jeffersons, live on his stage. This has been in the works for a while, and will air on ABC during prime time, May 22 at 8 p.m.

Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes are going to play George and Weezy Jefferson, with Will Ferrell making an appearance as neighbor Tom.

I assume that Kimmel isn’t going to re-create any of the controversial All in the Family episodes.

RIP Henry Bloch, Nancy Gates, Mark Medoff, Warren Adler, Jerrie Cobb, and Fay McKenzie

Henry Bloch was one half of the team that started H&R Block. The other half was his brother Richard. They changed the h to a k so people wouldn’t mispronounce the name. He died Tuesday at the age of 96.

Nancy Gates appeared in such movies as Some Came Running and Suddenly (both with Frank Sinatra), as well as World Without End, many Westerns, and Torch Song, which was based on the short story “Why Should I Cry?” by I.A.R. Wylie, published in the Post in 1949. On TV, Gates appeared on Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip, and other shows. She died last month at the age of 93.

Mark Medoff wrote several critically acclaimed plays, including Children of a Lesser God and When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? He was also a teacher at New Mexico State University for more than 50 years. He died Tuesday at the age of 79.

Warren Adler wrote dozens of novels, including The War of the Roses, the basis for the Michael Douglas/Kathleen Turner film, and Random Hearts, which became a film starring Harrison Ford. He died recently at the age of 91.

Geraldyn “Jerrie” Cobb was America’s first female astronaut candidate, though she and the 12 other women who passed the tests never made it into space. She died last month at the age of 88.

Fay McKenzie appeared in several Gene Autry Westerns, as well as many films directed by her friend Blake Edwards, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Experiment in Terror. She died last week at the age of 101.

This Week in History

President James Buchanan Born (April 23, 1791)

Buchanan was the only bachelor president to occupy the White House. Also, Bachelor President is a good idea for a sitcom.

Studio 54 Opens (April 26, 1977)

The popular nightclub was once a CBS TV and radio studio, and was home to such shows as What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth, and The Jack Benny Show. After many legal problems and a reopening, it closed for good in 1994 and is now home to the Roundabout Theatre.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Nabisco Pretzels (April 23, 1960)

Nabisco ad

In case you weren’t sure of all of the different ways you can snack on pretzels, this ad can help. You can have them with cheese and dips, of course, but you can also have them with ice cream, chilled tomato juice (for some reason), and a cola drink (Pepsi and pretzels is one of my favorite combos). I think Nabisco is cheating a bit when they list eating pretzels alone as one of the five “new” ways to eat them.

National Pretzel Day

I’m finally eating pretzels again, a few years after swearing them off because I broke a tooth on one. So I can now celebrate National Pretzel Day, which happens to be today.

And so can you, with this recipe for homemade Buttery Soft Pretzels from Allrecipes. Here’s a recipe from Add a Pinch for Strawberry Pretzel Salad, and if you think you can’t make a soup with pretzels, you’re wrong! This Bavarian Pretzel Soup features pretzels on the bottom. That’s one way to eat pretzels Nabisco didn’t think of.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

National Honesty Day (April 30)

This is the day that promotes truth-telling in politics, relationships, and all communication. Believe it or not, it was started by a former press secretary.

May Day (May 1)

This is a day that celebrates spring in the northern hemisphere. Each country has their own type of festivities, though the day is not celebrated in the U.S. as much as it used to be.

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Comments

  1. And the list goes on…look at what the University of Notre Dame did to Christopher Columbus. We need an amendment to stop this nonsense of rewriting history. Just think what things would look like if Germany had done this!

  2. Why does the main stream media judge everyone (now and in the past) by their current moral standards. Don’t they understand conditions in the 1930’s are different than today’s? Bob’s comment about Washington on the dollar bill were in humor, but I can see it happening in the future the way things are going.

  3. THIS IS GRAND – I READ EVERY WORD. I AM 89 AND TAKE THE POST IN THE MAIL BUT I AM ALSO ALMOST BLIND, AS I AM LOSING MY EYE SIGHT, BUT THIS IS BIG LETTERS AND WITH SPECIAL GLASSES FOR THE COMPUTER I COULD READ EVERY WORD. THANK YOU FORTHIS EDITION, IT IS TRULYGREAT. BEVERLY J. BYINGTON

  4. So, almost 5 months later ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is back in your column; this time as a link. Please don’t click on it folks as Bob and I are chastised big time. Ouch! A piece of German Chocolate Cake may ease the embarrassment of it all. Umm probably not, on second thought.

    Everybody’s offended at everything they shouldn’t be, and not at people they should be, like crybaby low-life Jimmy Kimmel! God he needs to go away. I soooo don’t want to know what he did to get where he got. Yeah, no thanks.

    Bob I thought you were 20 in 1985, not 21. You would know; guess I was wrong…

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