James Garner (1929-2014), who died over the weekend, was what I call a nonchalant actor. He made acting look easy.
Garner did not have an easy upbringing. His childhood has been described as “Dickensian” . . . that played like a modern day Oliver Twist.” His mother died when he was five years old.
“After their mother’s death, Garner and his brothers were sent to live with relatives. . . . Garner grew to hate his stepmother, Wilma, who beat all three boys, especially young James. When he was fourteen, Garner finally had enough of his ‘wicked stepmother’ and after a particularly heated battle, she left for good. James’ brother Jack commented, ‘She was a damn no-good woman.’ Garner stated that his stepmother punished him by forcing him to wear a dress in public and that he finally engaged in a physical fight with her, knocking her down and choking her to keep her from killing him in retaliation.”
If you’ve never watched The Rockford Files, then you have missed some of the greatest social commentaries ever to come out of a sit-com. One of the best episodes is when Jim Rockford, played by James Garner, teams up with a New Age nut named Jane Patten (Valerie Curtin) who goes by the name Sky Aquarian.
At one point in the episode, Sky tells the guru who was feeding her all the enlightenment nonsense that she is disappointed in him after Rockford proves that her “guru” was the person who had stolen the money:
Whap! The guru slaps her hard. Then Rockford says, ‘That’s the sound of one hand clapping,’ a reference to an earlier ‘wise saying’ by Sky. The slapping scene is [a] wake-up call to the new-ager on how gullible she has been and is the kind of metaphorical slap we wish we could lay on some people who have given their minds over to nonsense. Unfortunately, Sky is found 6 months later to not have learned her lesson and we end the episode on a sour note shaking our heads.”
The episode is called “Quickie Nirvana.” It was first broadcast November 11, 1977.
There’s another scene where Rockford engages the mumbo-jumbo insanity of what would describe today’s “Progressive Movement.” It’s classic:
Rockford: What can you do, lady?
Patten: My consciousness doesn’t lend itself to problem solving like yours, okay! I’m into an alternative lifestyle. I’m a seeker after truth. Now what’s so wrong with that?
Rockford: Your alternative lifestyle comes out of somebody else’s pocket. You mooch, you borrow, you hardly work, but if anybody doesn’t go along with it, they’re fascists, unmellow, competitive; all that love and freedom is just another way of saying me first!
Patten: It is not!
Rockford: Yes it is! You just don’t have a sense of responsibility, that’s all there is to it!
Patten: What I mean is I’m not into a structured living or accumulated things. I’m into my consciousness!
Rockford: Consciousness! You’re practically unconscious 24 hours a day! What you’re into is having someone else do you’re thinking for you. There’s Gordon Borchet, Baa Baa the Bhagavad Gita. Next it’s going to be Sam Levenson or Francis the Talking Mule for all I know. They have all the answers, right. Don’t you have any answers of your own?
Patten: Those are pathways to bliss…
Rockford: Hmm, maybe. But you don’t practice them, you just talk about them. You’ve flipped from Ashram to water tank and back! Are you any happier for it? Look around you. You see a lotta bliss out there?
Patten: I don’t think I’ve done so bad for being 32 years old.
Rockford: You’re 40. I’ve seen your driver’s license.
Patten: I was 40, but I’m making positive affirmations! I’m 32… I’m youthing myself.
Rockford: You’re 40.
Patten: But I don’t want to get old…
Rockford: Well neither do I.
Patten: But you see we don’t have to. Not if…
Rockford: There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s the way it is. I’m sorry to be the bearer of the bad news. There’s no easy answer, you know. No quickie nirvana. You don’t like it, tough, join the club!
There is nothing new under the Sun. What goes around comes around. Today’s Liberals think they’ve discovered some new truth, that they were with it first. Baloney. Their worldview has been tried and found wanting. A dose of Rockford’s critique of “Quickie Nirvana” might prove to be the cure.