A Long and Winding Road

“In a situation like this, I always ask myself, what would my hero Edward R. Murrow think? And I think that Ed would think that this was censorship. Then I think about what my other hero, General George Patton, would think, and I think George would think that radio and television ought to be cleaned up, and if he were alive today, he’d take two armored cavalry divisions into Hollywood and knock all those liberal pinheads into the Pacific! So as you can see, I’m a very confused man. And when I get confused, I watch TV. Television is never confusing. It’s all so simple somehow.” – Les Nessman, WKRP in Cincinnati

This is my new favorite quote. At least my favorite of the ones I’ll never be able to memorize. How did I get here? Let’s backtrack…

Last night, we saw the best documentary ever: The Eyes of Tammy Faye. This film has it all – Tammy, Jim, Jessica, Jerry, Roe, puppets, a camel, Jim J. Bullock, mascara, bad poetry (one of the few times I appreciate it), Greg Gorman, Ativan addiction, crying and to top it all off, it’s narrated by RuPaul. It just doesn’t get any better than this. Gather a few of your friends and watch this movie. You’ll be stunned. You’ll be shocked. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll become a part of you.

So in this film, we see clips from the TV biopic about The Scandal. Get this – Kevin Spacey played Reverend Jim and Bernadette Peters played Tammy Faye. Jerry Falwell was played by one of those “that guys” and all I could think of was the phrase “Handle it, handle it.”

So this morning I do a little digging. Richard Paul is the guy I was thinking of, and the catchphrase came from “Carter Country”, back in ’77. Get this – not only did he play Falwell in the biopic, he reprised the role in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Looks like much of his career was spent playing preachers and mayors.

So my friend Chuck (fount of TV knowledge) asks if he also played a preacher-type in an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati (“As God is my witness I thought turkeys could fly.”). So I do a little more digging and find that Chuck is again right. Way to go, Chuck. Turns out the character Paul played was so much like Jerry Falwell, that Falwell got rather pissed. According to TVTome.com, “A week after this episode aired, Jerry Falwell declared on TV that WKRP had personally attacked him and that this was proof of Satan’s influence in Hollywood. He also showed a clip from the episode to illustrate his point.” Sweet!

So, I followed a link from that site to a quote page from the episode, and there was Les’s quote waiting for me. It was actually the only funny one on the page. The rest were a little… strident. Definitely no turkey tossing in that episode.