Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sailing the Specious Seas of Cheese: A Theorem Wrapped in a Riddle Inside an Enigma

I wasn’t too bad at theorems in high school geometry. (Okay, I got a C, but that was the result of being totally preoccupied with the circumference of Lisa S.’s fabulous freshman breasts.) It’s been thirty years since then, but I’m gonna take a crack at a theorem here…

Theorem. Walter Matthau (as Sen. Russell Long) in JFK: “That dog don’t hunt...”

Sound bite of “Chop Top” in Primus’s “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver”: “Dog will hunt!”

Proof. Walter Matthau was not a fan of Primus (Matthau ≠ Primus).


As additional support, I offer that, to my knowledge, after Matthau died in 2000, not a single Primus album was found among his music collection.

Interestingly, each part of this theorem was released to the public in 1991—the Primus single preceding Oliver Stone’s film by approximately seven months. Of course, principal shooting for JFK took place much earlier than the film’s release, so both Matthau and Primus were creating their moments at roughly the same time. Considering that “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” garnered a fair amount of radio play—reaching #23 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart—it’s a little surprising that Walter Matthau did not take to Primus. After all, aside from Primus’s unique brand of idiosyncratic funk-metal that surely would electrify even a 71-year-old Brooklynite such as Matthau, “Jerry”—who “wrapped himself around a telephone pole”—meets a fate very similar to Lee Bowers, the railroad worker who witnessed suspicious happenings on the Grassy Knoll and died in a single-car accident on an empty road in Midlothian, Texas. It is Bowers’ testimony during the Warren Commission proceedings (as read by Jim Garrison) that helps convince the New Orleans District Attorney of a conspiracy in President Kennedy’s assassination, and, in fact, that scene with Bowers occurs in JFK only minutes after Matthau’s brief portrayal of Sen. Long and utterance of “That dog don’t hunt…”

So even had Matthau gotten up to leave the premiere and go home after his appearance half an hour into the film—which I’m betting he did—the aged Matthau likely didn’t make it out the theater door before the aforementioned Lee Bowers segment caught his attention. Okay, it’s possible that Matthau wasn’t a regular listener of the radio stations playing Primus’s new single at that time, but according to Variety’s archives, Primus was mentioned in no fewer than nine issues of that most famous of trade papers in 1991—so Matthau surely was at least aware of the band, thus making a tenuous connection in his mind between the song and the film highly probable. It’s baffling why such a fresh and dynamic sound as Primus wasn’t Walter Matthau’s cup of tea—perhaps he was still attached to those tiresome hair bands of the late ‘80s—but why Walter Matthau didn’t enjoy Primus is irrelevant mathematically. As their aforementioned statements show, Matthau and Primus were clearly at odds philosophically, as well as regards canine behavior; thus, my theorem is airtight.

On a related note, I am currently developing a corollary concerning Jack Lemmon's attitude toward Sonic Youth.

(Images from JFK copyright Warner Bros.)