An Evening with Inspector Clouseau

inspector-clouseauSo I’m living in the inbetween. Most of my stuff’s in storage in a barn belonging to my pal, Liz. She’s graciously allowed me to park at her place while I get my proverbial head together. I keep only the barest necessities with me inside the house as I wait for the head to congeal. I have my laptop and my man cave.

That’s a joke, of course. I call the wide-screen TV with the five speakers for Surroundsound, the man cave. The barn is damp and I was concerned for the man cave’s health, so I brought it inside. Against Liz’s better judgment, I set it up in the living room, converting the tastefully decorated space complete with period furniture, lace doilies, and a baby grand into, I don’t know, a man cave, I guess you’d call it.

I never watch it. I hate TV. But a week ago I discovered a hole in my schedule. A vacuous vacancy. Having a moment with nothing to do is not just a sin, but dangerous, considering the idle hands/devil’s playground equation. I made a trip to the barn behind the house and dug through a few boxes to find a movie. I had little luck. The only thing I found was a broken box of microwavable Orville Redenbacher’s with a single envelope of mouse-chewed product, and a movie: the original Pink Panther. We cooked up the popcorn and settled in for an evening with Inspector Clouseau.

I had forgotten how bad this movie was. 60s/70s humor at its worst. Peter Sellers with only Blake Edwards to steer the ship. Where was Stanley Kubrick when we needed him? About a quarter of the way in Liz decided she’d had enough and excused herself to bed. It was 8:30. It was that bad.

I apologized, but hung in for the duration. I needed to know how this clunker had found its way into a fairly pristine DVD collection that included the likes of Wertmueller, Wong Kar Wai, Fellini, Bergman, and Mike Myers.

I figured it out towards the end. There’s this fabulous après skin scene in an Italian resort. Everyone’s in the lounge. There’s a fire in the grate, angora sweaters, Laura Petri pants, David Niven, and Robert Wagner. Oofa. It was cozy in a hip kind of way. Out of nowhere a slim, Laura Petri lookalike starting singing Mancini’s It had Better be Tonight, with mariachi boys on the side. The patrons gave her undivided attention as she sashayed through the crowd. At one point she did five seconds of choreography with the boys shaking the maracas. The crowd was on its feet. They bought her drinks when she was done, showered her with gifts of jewelry and lift tickets.

Back in the 70s, the day after I had first watched that film, I signed up for singing lessons. I wanted that singer’s life. I’d get to wear cool clothes, hang out with boys that could dance, do one-song gigs at night, and hit the slopes with handsome ski pros during the day. Life would be great once I learned to sing.

Then I grew up. Reality hit like a cold blast of Alpine air. You need a thousand-song repertoire if you want to get gigs that pay. And there are no Mancini gems in the set list. If you don’t play the painfully overplayed hit songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, the only applause you’ll hear is when the Yankees score up on the TV above the bar.

When you’re a musician, you don’t get to ski, swim, canoe, or even take a walk around the block. You have no time. You’re allowed two activities. You can practice and when you’re done with that you can rehearse. That’s it. And hiring three guys to play maracas? You’re lucky if you can afford a drummer and a bass player.

Get real. Get a job. Leave the singing to professionals.

Sue Lange




An Evening with Inspector Clouseau — 7 Comments

  1. amen. as a professional musician for most of my adult life, i can attest to the absolute truth of what you say. especially about the time thing. also, the job search never ends. even during times of employment, you know that they will end, likely sooner than later, and that it is something to be dealt with. no matter where you are, there is groundwork that must be laid about where you will be going.

    another film/TV convention that galls me, is the one where a cast member is called upon to play. the setting is almost always a crowded bar that the singer with or without a guitar, silences with a tender, sweet, and softly played ballad. that. never. happens. ever.
    from crowds like that the best one can hope for would be indifference, their hostility can be swift and hurtful.

    over the years some of the worst jobs i’ve taken have been with actors who play a musician in a role and decide they’d like to give music a whirl. other times, they actually can play or sing a bit and did think about becoming a musician before they took that soap opera gig to pay the rent.

    my blanket advice to people thinking about a career in music is this. if you can imagine yourself being happy doing anything else. go. do. that. if you work in a cubicle, or big box store or serve food or drinks somewhere only to go home to your instrument to play something out that was in your head all day so you don’t explode, welcome to our world. most of the time it sucks and pays little. every now and then, amid all the uncertainty and drudgery of endless practice you will find a few moments of transcendant ecstasy. believe me, if you’re really one of us, that moment makes all the other stuff well worth it.

    • Thanks for weighing in stephen. I never enjoyed music so much as when I quit the band. Your last comment is very true. “transcendant ecstasy.” Yes, it is worth all of that. I’ll look for you out there.

      Hang in!

  2. Oh, yes. My son plays in a band–they do better than most young-people garage bands as they play their own music, and all have been taking music lessons pretty much their entire lives. It’s a grueling way to live.

    Re PP, I saw the first one as a kid when it came out. I was 12 years old. At that time, many of the gags were new, and we and the entire audience roared with laughter. We kids thought it was a gas even though the coy sex stuff whizzed right overhead. (I vividly remember the song, loved it, but wondered why the lady had to hold her stomach. Was her girdle too tight?)

  3. Seems to me my whole family went to see The Pink Panther when it first came out — an amazing thing, since my parents never went to movies. I’m not sure why they were so into it. Maybe it was David Niven. The only other movie I recall seeing as a family was To Kill a Mockingbird. Don’t think I could get through PP again.

  4. Sherwood, I’m sure PP was hip and all that, but it doesn’t seem to wear well.

    Nancy: Yeah, Pink Panther and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those are two movies that should not be in the same room at the same time.

    • Coming from a blue collar community, we would not have known hip if it bit us in the ass (still don’t, actually) but I am here to tell you that audiences found it screamingly funny in 1963.

      Now, not so much. There are even parts that are painful (David Niven attempting to seduce Claudia Cardinale? Euw!)