Saturday, December 31, 2005

A New Dawn

Last week I was going to write about how our perceptions about fat people have changed over the past few decades, and about body image in general, but that topic didn't seem fitting for the holiday season. Since the holiday season is a time for holiday traditions, I decided instead to write about how traditions are inherently bad since they have a tendency to keep us stuck in the past instead of moving us toward the future. But I didn't feel that the tone was in keeping with the generally positive, cheery holiday season mood, so instead I decided not to write anything.

This week, it's a different story. But I'm not going to write about fat people or traditions -- maybe I'll do that some other time. This week, I'm going to write about something everyone enjoys: going to the movies.

There are a lot of things to complain about when you go out to see a movie. Just to name a few, there are noisy patrons, sticky floors, people sitting next you who hog the arm rest, arm rests that double as drink containers but aren't meant to be comfortable for arms, movie previews that give away too much of the plot, and movies that should have never been made.

But what I'm going to complain about are the commercials most theaters show before they start showing the previews. I have no complaint about the commercials themselves. I don't like them, but they're an unavoidable evil, so I just ignore them. But one of the theaters I go to doesn't show regular commercials -- instead they have a slide show of advertisements from various local merchants and service providers. I have no problem with these advertisements. What I don't like is the sound track, which is meant to sound like a radio broadcast, complete with fake radio announcer. And what I don't like specifically is that most of the time they play the worst possible music ever. Usually it's a lot of slow, whiny music -- the kind of thing that sometimes gets mistakenly called "soul" for some odd reason. But make no mistake -- this is not soul music. it's the sort of thing that if James Brown were dead, it would have him spinning in his grave. To be accurate, they should call it annoying whiny music, although from a marketing standpoint, I can understand how that might not be such a great idea.

Fortunately, the last time I went to that theater, they weren't playing any "soul" music. But what they played instead was almost as bad. It was a song by Tony Orlando and Dawn. This surprised me, since I didn't even think they were still around. And if you're below a certain age, you might not have even heard of them.

If you're below a certain age, you might also not know that in the late 1970s, Freddie Prinze -- talented comedian, actor, and friend of Tony Orlando -- committed suicide by taking a lot of drugs and then shooting himself. It was tragic, but if there was a silver lining to this very dark cloud, it was that the tragedy prompted Tony Orlando to publicly announce that he would be giving up show business forever.

If you don't remember Tony Orlando and Dawn, let me remind you that in the '70s, they were the trio responsible for such sappy musical atrocities as "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" and "Knock Three Times," as well as the song "Candida" (which, despite its title, was not about a yeast infection). These songs and many others were universally hated, and to this day it remains a mystery as to how millions and millions of copies managed to get sold. (Perhaps it was due to The Bonnie Tyler Effect, which I described in an earlier post.)

Orlando kept to his word about retiring, and the world breathed a collective sigh of relief, but this left Dawn without a lead singer. Fortunately, noted Russian author and dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was able to step in and assume Orlando's place. The band was then renamed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Dawn. They released two albums and went on several world tours, performing for very enthusiastic audiences, especially in South Korea and Japan.

Later, after a slump in the mid-80s, another member of Dawn was added (making Dawn now a trio) and the group changed its name to Alex and The New Dawn. This new lineup failed to establish much of a following, however, and less than a year later, citing both illness and disagreements with Dawn about the direction of the music, Solzhenitsyn left the group. The three women continued without him, releasing an album with little fanfare under the name The New Dawn. They recorded another album two years later, calling themselves simply Dawn (presumably because by this time they were no longer new), but the album was never released, and the group disbanded shortly thereafter. It wasn't until Tony Orlando rejoined the group many years later that they went on to realize the limited success that they currently enjoy.

So despite the setbacks, everything worked out okay -- at least for Tony Orlando and Dawn, although not necessarily for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or movie patrons. I'm still not a fan of Tony Orlando and Dawn, but I have to admit that their music is much better than that slow, whiny stuff I usually hear in movie theaters.