Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Variations on a >hic!< Theme

We're less than a week away from the Labor Day weekend, a time of year infamous for fender-benders (and far worse), often caused by a driver's overindulgence in spiritus frumenti. There's nothing funny about that, of course...but I'm not here to stand on a soapbox either. There are dozens of anti-alcohol sites and forums that handle the serious side of alcohol abuse quite nicely.

I'm lucky...I've never felt the need to drink to excess (except on rare occasions, when I know I won't be anywhere near large machinery for quite a while). But I have several friends (5 or 6) who did at one time. They're all sober now, having taken the pledge anywhere from ten to twenty years ago.

This post is dedicated to them...

A while back I was listening to an ancient comedy 78, and was surprised to find that it reminded me of a cut I have by comedian Henry Morgan...and there was a Charlie Weaver cut that was related as well...

Mrs. Dugan's Discovery, a story in Irish dialect (in 1908, all minorities were fair game), was written by Ellis Parker Butler, and was published in the August, 1908 issue of Good Housekeeping. There's a reprint of it here: http://www.ellisparkerbutler.info/epb/reading.asp?id=3734 . It's about a lady who finds twelve bottles of champagne in her cellar and decides to dump them, one by one...but as she goes, she drinks one tumblerful from each bottle, with predictable results.
A slightly modified version of the monologue was recorded late in 1916, by Steve Porter:

46199 Steve Porter: Mrs Dugan's Discovery Columbia A-1940
late 1916: Porter, comic monologue.

I was quite amazed...this little record seems to have inspired a few comics.

Mrs. Dugan has to sneak up on the bottles and can only catch one by pretending to ignore it. That reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Benchley stories (The Real Public Enemies)...where inanimate objects take on minds of their own. (In order to open a newspaper to a particular page on the open top deck of a bus, he has to exclaim aloud that he really wants to go to another page entirely, then wrestle with the paper to go to the page he intended to go to in the first place.)

Nearly 35 years later, there's this Henry Morgan cut, recorded sometime in the early 1950s on a 10" Riverside LP, and reissued a few years later on a Judson 45:

Henry Morgan: Twelve Bottles
The similarities astonished me (gosh!).

Finally, a slightly different take on the story...Charlie Weaver (Cliff Arquette) is getting progressively drunker (and sillier) as he waits for his friends to arrive at his New Years Eve party.

Charlie Weaver: Happy New Year, Happy New Year from the 1959 LP Charlie Weaver Sings For His People - Columbia CL 1345
Link killed 2 March 2010 - downloaded 52 times

There...that should holdja for a while. Stay safe and (somewhat) sober, and I'll see you after the holiday.


Anonymous said...

3 years later... can you re-post this? Please? Thanks!

Sanjay Sircar said...

Sanjay Sircar says:
I am very grateful for this information, particularly the later spin-off...

From See:

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description
Victor B-16181 10-in. 7/8/1915 Mrs. Dugan's discovery Taylor Holmes Recitation, unaccompanied
Columbia 46199 10-in. 11/15/1915 Mrs. Dugan's discovery Steve Porter Comic monologue