Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jimmy Durante: In His UFO

By Robert Barrow

     Ever since "flying saucers" captivated public interest in the forties and fifties, cartoonists and humorists have enjoyed a galactic field day. Between 1964 and 1966, when national UFO activity became prominent with dramatic overtones, the funny saucer/aliens/space invasion stuff in newspapers, magazines, TV and radio blossomed. As might be expected, this trend wasn't at all comforting to serious UFO investigators, forced almost daily to beat away the laugh factor with a stick while pleading with the public to consider UFO incidents earnestly.

Nevertheless, it's human nature to dive deep and fast for humor when confronted with potentially dangerous or just plain weird intrusions into our supposedly normal lives -- and laughter triumphs over feel-good drugs almost every time.

A few days ago, I mentioned a novelty song performed by the late actor/comedian/singer Jimmy Durante -- an immensely talented performer of both motion picture and television fame (he had his own weekly network show in the fifties), whose trademark was his large nose and a very notable voice. I'm acutely aware that some of you, perhaps most, won't recognize his name because, well, because fame truly is fleeting, and today has a way of replacing all the yesterdays with lightning speed sometimes.

At any rate, Durante was 71 years old in 1964 (he died in 1980 at 87 years of age), when the Socorro, New Mexico (alleged) UFO encounter and a host of other close-up UFO incidents (with apparent ground evidence associated with various cases) began to be picked up by the national press.

At some point during the brouhaha, Jimmy made a quickie novelty record, added to one of his LP record albums, entitled "We're Going UFO-ing." I erroneously called it, "In my UFO" previously, but hadn't heard it or thought of it for so many years that the real title escaped me until I looked it up.

I do remember that the song turned up without warning on, especially, AM radio stations (whose sole reason for existence in the sixties was usually to play music and sponsors' commercials, with a dash of disc jockeys and news thrown in for good measure), played for a few days and then seemingly disappeared forever.

But this is the Internet Age. Today, you can visit one of many sites to hear and, if you prefer, even purchase a download of this brief 2:28 minute recording. Durante and his orchestra sound superb in stereo, the lyrics are few and, like it or not, "We're Going UFO-ing" is "one of those songs" (to quote another Durante song favorite) that stays in your head by way of its own catchy melodic simplicity. Yes, the song works, and while its release did absolutely nothing for serious UFO research in 1964, the darned thing may have been what the country needed as strange UFO "bombshell" incidents came to light all over the country and all over the world.

You know what? If the day ever comes in this country when we have UFO "disclosure" and, according to the opinions of some, people begin to panic in the streets and start eating their neighbors and initiate the wearing of tin foil hats and wolfs bane, this is the song I want blaring out of loudspeakers on military vehicles as the government tries to maintain calm and sanity (ha, good luck with that). Anyway, thanks for the comedy, Mr. Durante -- and, not to forget, goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

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