Paul Coates -- Confidential File, March 30, 1959
March 30, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Operas Recalled ... the Sudsy KindYou really want to know what's bothering me? Or are you just asking to be nice?
What's bothering me is this gnawing feeling that I'm not in the swim any more.
I've lost touch with the little folksy things in life.
That's what comes, I suppose, of trying to be an egghead and subscribing to the Saturday Review of Literature instead of the Saturday Evening Post.
For instance, it occurred to me that I haven't even listened to a radio soap opera since Ma Perkins was a girl.
It occurred to me, as a matter of fact, while I was accidentally listening to a soap opera on my car radio the other day.
I'm aware, now, that it takes a certain amount of orientation before you are fully able to comprehend the subtleties in this type of melodrama. Apparently it's far more intricate than a Greek tragedy.
Once, I had the necessary orientation. There was a time, shortly after the era of the crystal set, when I dug each and every little nuance of Just Plain Bill' s dialogue.
Just Plain Bill would murmur to his daughter Nancy things like:
"Nancy, honey, don't you be upset because that promising young country prosecutor, Mark Shoreham, with whom you are in love, is planning to indict me for the murder of the elderly widow Blake, whom I befriended, and therefore she left a mite of property in my name. There's nothing for you to worry about, Nancy, honey. I'm not worried."
Plain Bill Easy to Dig
But in those days I could tell by the way he said it that Plain Bill was damn well worried. He was just covering up for Nancy.
I could also determine, by the merest inflection in her voice, that Myrt was really mad at Marge for carrying on with that saxophone player and was just not saying anything about it.
But my talent as a listener has diminished to the vanishing point. I realized that when I tuned in on soap opera the other day.
Of course, it should be said in my behalf that I tuned in late. And even if you come in at the beginning it's difficult to unravel the story of the tangled lives involved.
At any rate, the male lead had a deep, syrupy voice that had to be Don Ameche. He was talking, but mostly listening, to the feminine lead, whose name, I think, was Melinda. Things, he was telling her, would improve.
Things, she was telling him, better improve.
Is He Really Hiding Melinda?
"I'm sick of this 'backstreet' life," was the way she put it. "Sick of it. Are you ashamed of me? Do you have to hide me from people?"
"Darling," he whispered in that persuasive voice he once used to tell Mr. Watson to come here, "you know I'm not ashamed of you. You know I don't LIKE to hide you from people. I'd LIKE to shout it from the rooftops."
"Don't do me any favors," she said, in effect. "Don't shout it from rooftops. Just tell Cara about us."
Well, it doesn't take a bomb to fall on me. I figured that neat, little mathematical design out in a hurry. Wife, husband and girlfriend.
Melinda Struts Stuff in Kitchen
After the commercial, the plot thickened to the consistency of glue. Melinda went to Don Ameche's house while Cara was away for the evening. She wanted to prove to him that she could whip him up a dinner just like any housewife. And she had to clean up the dishes and get out before Cara came home. I mean, how would it look?
As if that situation weren't bad enough, I got the impression through further snatches of dialogue that Don Ameche wasn't really married to Cara. Of course, it was just an impression. I don't know it for a fact.
However, rather than get involved in that parlay, I switched the dial to Al Jarvis. I don't understand him either. But, at least, he keeps his nose clean.