Saturday, March 10, 2012

I want to be remembered for something. Life can’t be just a dash on a tombstone. Maybe I can even have a statue made of me in bronze and be displayed somewhere. Well you usually have to be a brave leader in some war battle or be rich or some political power. There is a statue in New York’s Port Authority where many Americans take busses to all over the country from New York. The statue is Ralph Kramden, America’s most famous bus driver. How did a fictional character in a TV show get to have a statue displayed in a major city in a major building in that city?
Hey! He wasn’t a brave leader in some war battle, well he battled with his wife Alice each night. He wasn’t rich he was a bus driver. He failed at even being a leader in his Raccoon Lodge. But he is the hero of the working man who at the end of each episode kissed his wife and said “Alice , you’re the greatest!” and then all of America kissed each other and went to bed. That is the way things were then. No divorce, no real hate, plenty of problems but we all got through it with a little comedy and a lot of love.
Yes, I am talking about a little TV show filmed in black and white usually in the same room with only a table , a window, and a sink. That was the apartment for “The Honeymooners” a sitcom that I grew up watching throughout my first 20 years of life. See the episodes for yourself if you can somewhere and see how the comedy, the friendship between Ralph and Norton the best buddies evolved. Some people even say, “Hey Ralphy Boy!“ to me.
The actor who played Ralph the bus driver wasn’t particularly handsome or even fit. He was a portly loveable short tempered guy played perfectly by John Herbert Gleason who was born in Brooklyn , New York 96 years ago. His father left his mother when he was a young child. Raised by his mother, he became a street wise kid and appeared as a comic in night clubs.
Gleason then moved onto bit movie parts and then to Television where there in the 1950’s he became famous with the “Jackie Gleason Show.” Every Saturday night he showed off his cast of self created characters. He described his bus driver character as “a poor soul that doesn’t have much ability but he keeps trying he gets schemes and his schemes are all good willed to create wealth and happiness.”
He wasn’t just a funny man. He won a Oscar nomination for his role as pool shark Minnesota Fats in “The Hustler” with Paul Newman. He played a boxer in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” in 1962. Orson Wells nicknamed him “The Great One.” He lived the good life to the greatest. He was known for his drinking habit, smoking and was never skinny all his life. He loved a good meal too.
Jackie Gleason died in 1987 at the age of 71. His most famous character was that hard working bus driver who really never did anything right but everyone forgave and loved. He lives on in reruns and as a statue protected by railings wearing his hat and uniform and holding his lunchbox as he follows his belly to work. I guess he does deserve a bronze statue in one of the largest bus stations in the world. You just have to had seen the TV show to understand why.

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