Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
The news that a new member has been added to Rock 'n' Roll Heaven's helluva' band just hit my desk. Clarence Clemons, the "Minister of Soul", "Secretary of the Brotherhood," and "The Big Man" in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, died yesterday due to complications from a stroke he suffered on June 12. He was 69.
Best know for his supernormal ability to wield a sax, Clemons did have a brief vogue in movies and television, generally assuming the role of a saxophone player, or "Himself." He was schooled by the best, first appearing as "Cecil Powell" in Martin Scorsese's scintillating period musical, New York, New York. A visit to YouTube took a turn for the grievous. There is no footage to share from NY, NY that features CC. Netflix it tonight!
He was perfectly suited to play one of "The Three Most Important People in the World" in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and a Louisiana Gator Boy in Blues Brothers 2000. And who can ever forget Clemons as "Clarence" in Carl Reiner's underrated spoof, Fatal Instinct?
Forgive me, Marty, but from the seed you planted hath sprung forth a semi-autobiographical, career-defining role for the Big Man starring opposite the equally-late, and considerably shorter, Gary Coleman in the too-too memorable So You Want to Be a Rock Star? episode of Diff'rent Strokes.
Arnold receives expert instruction on the art of blowing a sax.
As Bill Kingsley, Jr., Clemons borrows Lina Wertmuller's shades and Barry White's cool to basically reprise his real-life role as a woman's dream and son of a famed saxophonist. In order to impress a chick, Arnold (Coleman) gets his friends to form a rock band.
The trouble is, Arnold doesn't know which end of the woodwind to blow into. Conraid Bain, brilliant as Arnold's adoptive father, Philip Drummond, calls in a favor from an old musician friend. The two must have been so tight that Kingsley, Sr. wants nothing to do with dullard Drummond and sends his son to tutor in his place.
On the night of the band's debut performance, instead of transforming Arnold into "the engine on the soul train of life," Mr. Kingsley schools the boy in the art of deception. Note the brilliant manner in which the canned laughter is held until the camera pulls back to reveal an off-stage "Cyrano" Kingsley dubbing Arnold's pantomime. This is what television is all about!