Friday, February 21, 2014

Evil Women in Song

I was driving down the road a few days ago and the song "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," starting playing.  I've always liked the song and could still sing along with the words after all these years.  Somewhere near the end of the song, it occurred to me what an unredeemable excuse for a human being Ruby was.  And that led me to trying to think of a more despicable character in a song...or at least a more despicable woman in a song.  And the only one close to her I could come up with was Lucille, as in "you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille."

Okay.  Let's look at those two songs for a minute.  As fate would have it, they were both performed by Kenny Rogers.  Mel Tillis wrote Ruby, and supposedly, it was based loosely on a true story about a couple he knew in Florida with the soldier actually serving in WWII.  Mel updated the song to the Korean War but it wasn't recorded for the first time until 1967 by Johnny Darrell, so everybody assumed that the "crazy Asian war" was the Vietnam War.

Forget the war stuff...heck, we've been in a constant war with somebody or another since 1941...let's get back to what a full-out loser Ruby was.  Her husband's lost the use his legs fighting in the war, can't leave the house without help, and Ruby can't temper her libido enough to stay home with him and watch Combat or Green Acres on the tube.  Nope, she's got to smear lipstick on as thick as butter and curl her out-of-the-box blonde hair.  (Could have been red or brunette, but I'm betting the little floozy was a bleach blonde.)  And does she just leave? way.  She slams the door on the way out.  As he plots her violent demise.

Kenny Rogers and the First Edition recorded the song in 1969.  It hit number 39 on the country charts but did much better on the Hot 100, topping out at #6.

Let's take a look at Lucille, the first runner up.  This became the first song recorded by Rogers as a solo artist and it reached number one on the country charts in 1977, also hitting number 5 on the regular charts, proving that nasty acting women in song could sell records.  What was Lucille's thing?  Pretty simple...she hightailed it to a bar in Toledo, Ohio (that in itself should be evidence enough of poor judgement), leaving behind her old man, four hungry children, and a crop in the field.  Not exactly a "Mother of the Year" contender.  Let's look at that again...four hungry children...could she not have at least left something cooked in the freezer that Dad could microwave for dinner?  And how long was she planning on staying?  The husband must have thought for quite a while because he had concerns about the crop in the field.  Appears that Lucille needed to get her cotton-picking butt home, sling on some overalls and work boots, and get to plowing or something.  And she might as well have done that, because the could-have-got-it-if-he-wanted-to cad who took her back to the motel (the husband should have slapped him off the barstool instead of whining about the four snot-nosed brats and the tobacco that needed topping) suddenly got a dose of guilt and couldn't perform anyway.  So it was not a memorable night for anyone.

So how could this all have worked out better for everyone?  Here's the way I would have written it.

Lucille, a bored farmer's wife, decides she needs a night out and chooses to tell her husband that she's going to a Tupperware party in Toledo.  When she leaves, the husband, who's a little on the needy side anyway, notices that she seems to be sprucing up a bit much for a Tupperware party, so he follows a safe distance behind in the rattly old pickup.  When Lucille gets to the seediest bar in south Toledo, she runs upon Ruby, who, in the past couple of months, has already worked her way through about all the rummy derelicts who flock to this sticky floored dive at about noon everyday, and the two of them decide to share a club sandwich with their whiskey sours. Ruby unloads on Lucille about how tough it is to live with a wounded vet, an older man at that, and how she's still up for a little partying and such now and again but all her husband wants to do is sleep and thumb through old editions of "Field and Stream."  Lucille tells her that she needs to count her blessings because at least Ruby doesn't have four rug rats running around the house screaming and yelling like a bunch of banshees - wanting this and wanting that - AND a husband who would rather be bush hogging than tush hugging.  Ruby reckons that Lucille has a point there and they decide to have a shot of Jack Daniel's neat and another whiskey sour.  And, by the way Barkeep, do you know how to mix a Singapore Sling?

Lucille's husband, who had lost her trail about halfway between the farm and Toledo finally spots her car in the bar's parking lot, and, about the time he walks in, Ruby and Lucille are shit-faced in the corner and trying to sing "You Light Up My Life" but they can't remember the words.  Mr. Lucille helps them out of the bar, loads them both up in the cab of the truck, and agrees to drive Ruby home.  Just as they are pulling into the subdivision, they spot Mr. Ruby wheeling in down the street in his wheelchair with a 20 gauge shotgun propped across his lap.  They pull over, Mr. Lucille and Mr. Ruby have a short conversation out of earshot of the two new BFFs, they unload the shotgun, load the wheelchair in the back of the pickup, and drive home.  Mr. Ruby has ribeyes in the freezer and cold beer in the fridge, so the four of them have a cookout, discover they really enjoy each other's company, and become fast friends.  The VA fits Mr. Ruby with prosthetics, puts him on anti-depressants and he takes a job driving a tractor for Mr. Lucille, who becomes one of the first renown organic farmers in his part of the country. The Rubys, after several unsuccessful attempts to get preggo, become god-parents to the four Lucille brats, all of whom, by the way, grow up to be very productive and successful citizens.  The oldest son in fact, spends 41 years in insurance claims before retiring to a life of blogging.

We lose two pretty good songs but we save two marriages and dodge the following bullets:  a raging STD for Lucille, a foreclosed farm with the parents and four kids on welfare for life, certain violent death for Ruby, and life imprisonment without chance of parole for a decorated war veteran.

Sounds a little bit like a Nicholas Sparks' plot.  Maybe he'll read the blog.

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