' ' Cinema Romantico: It's Time to Retire "You Sexy Thing"

Thursday, September 12, 2019

It's Time to Retire "You Sexy Thing"

The other afternoon My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife and I happened to stroll by a Chicago eatery called, simply, The Whale. Perhaps because I just finished reading Moby-Dick for the first time* (*humble brag), perhaps for no other reason than, like, you know, it was called The Whale, I immediately assumed this moniker must be nautical-themed and that its interior design might aim to make each patron feel like Jonah. But no. The windows were wide open, providing a view of the restaurant’s expanse, which looked more like a speakeasy, or at least more like a speakeasy designed by a hipster who had only seen pictures of retro speakeasies – like, a speakeasy as a gastropub as Central Perk. That’s because Whale is a synonym for high-roller, which I confess to having forgotten, if I ever knew it at all, and remembered upon reading The Whale’s Google description: “Glamorous destination for elevated American fare & cocktails with a mid-century gambling theme.” The windows being open, though, afforded us not only a look at the environs but an opportunity to hear the establishment’s music selection. I know, I know, mid-century gambling theme! We must have heard, say, “Billie’s Bounce” by Charlie Parker! Eh, think again. The song we heard was Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing”, which, as My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife noted, sounded like it was chosen by committee, a marketing think tank determining what song would most suggest The Whale was a SEXY place populated by SEXY people. We kept walking.

As we walked, though, I thought back to August of last year when NPR’s All Songs Considered constructed an entire show around songs that need to be retired, with host Bob Boilen explaining in a brief accompanying piece that upon hearing Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” at a restaurant, suggesting dining establishments, mid-century gambling themed or not, could really use a little more sonic adventurousness, he realized certain songs, quality or not, were so overused it was time to put them out to pasture. And then I had an epiphany.

You might remember Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and it’s A+ ensemble, including hanger-on Scotty J., played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman with insecurity etched all over his face, desperation stitched into his heavy breathing, and bumbling body movement, like he didn’t quite have a handle on who he was, all of which rendered a character perpetually on the very edge of embarrassment. That’s why Scotty J.’s introduction, entering the sprawling party at Jack Horner’s opulent pad by way of a backyard gate, like a catwalk gone wrong, is scored to Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing”, a moment which isn’t parodying the song but lancing its groovy bubble so that every ounce of sexiness contained within spills out onto the ground and evaporates in the California sunshine. Nothing against Hot Chocolate, but their magnum opus had no ecstasy left after PTA and PSH got through with it; it was time to retire “You Sexy Thing” all the way back in the fall of 1997.

No comments: