I often wondered if audiences fully understood the context of Billy Crystal's imitation of Joe Franklin on SNL in the mid 1980s. At the time I was about 12 and living in New Jersey, and this show was still on the air on WOR Channel 9, a local NJ station. I would watch it mostly out of curiosity and was kind of hypnotized by it (You'd have to have seen it to understand). I can't believe the show was on for 40 years!
The Joe Franklin Show looked back nostalgically to what my grandfather's generation sometimes referred to as "a better time." I seem to remember Joe showing old photographs of film, stage, and music stars long since dead, or forgotten, or both (at least by my generation). He would also feature a lot of octogenarian guests.
What interested me at that age was how time passes. How the world passes and changes and how the present slowly fades. I sort of grew to understand why senior folks like to tell stories. Why they so often forsake new music for the old music of their youth. There is an undeniable sadness about this. The world we know now will fade, perhaps faster. All of the great music and zeitgeist of my youth, will probably someday be considered quaint by a future generation, to be finally forgotten by that generation's children.
We are all destined, perhaps, for this.
Joe Franklin was a good spirited guy who, I imagine, brought a lot of smiles and happiness over the years, and perhaps exposed new generations to the entertainment (and entertainers) of the past. I miss the show. Even though I wasn't there, I got an ever so narrow glimpse at what seemed to be a classier time.
There's a mental leap you have to make to join these folks and "look back" to a time before, perhaps, your parents were born. Often for me, it wasn't even the rambling stories Joe and his guests recalled that were of interest. It was watching their faces light up as they retold them. It was imagining them young, building the country I grew up in.
Many of us are spoiled and don't realize the debt we owe to previous generations. A world where such simple entertainment (in terms of its message) could be enough to uplift, just might have been a world worth living in. Especially when you compare it to the vulgarity, irony, sarcasm, and so forth that it often takes to entertain younger audiences in our present age (myself included).
I don't know. But Joe Franklin made me think about that a lot. And I miss his show.
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