The VigilanceVoice

July 23, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 314

Young Frankenstein And The
Anti-Terrorist Village Of Vigilance

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, July 23--There's nothing better than a laugh to drive the demons of Terrorism into hiding.   Terrorists just don't have a sense of humor.
        Vigilance does.

       Young Frankenstein, the 1974 horror spoof written jointly by Gene Wilder and director Mel Brooks, is keeping the youth of America laughing in the face of Terrorism.
        Last night my wife and I joined 10,000 other Young Frankenstein fans at New York City's Bryant Park, located just behind NYC's famous public library.   The film ranks 91 on as an all-time box office revenue generator (ranking is based on inflation adjustment.  See link--
         Each summer the Parks Department puts on a series of free outdoor classic movies at Bryant Park, displayed on a giant screen in the open air, surrounded by giant office buildings.
         Young Frankenstein has the up-scale appeal of the Rocky Horror Show (released in 1975), drawing audiences ranging from young teens to ancient "old" people, like myself, who happened to see the movie when it was first released twenty-eight years ago.

        The park was literally sardine-canned with bodies, shoulder to shoulder, sitting on blankets or on the grass from as early as noon to capture a prime spot for a showing that began at 9p.m. and lasted until just before 11p.m.
         It takes Vigilance to secure a spot eight hours in advance for a movie so often played on television that almost weekly  airs on one of the many channels or cable outlets.  Maybe even Osama bin Laden was there last night, because the cultural mix of attendees was as diverse as the movie's global appeal has been over the past nearly three decades.
         The film elicits from viewers a deep gut-wrenching laugh, one that might have been strangled by the events of September 11, 2001, one that might have been stifled by the recent plummet of the stock market, or the constant pounding on the nightly news of a society whose economic and security bubbles have been burst.

       In remaking the 1939 Frankenstein classic film that starred Boris Karloff, Brooks and Wilder wrote a stunning slapstick that tickles anyone's funny bones then and now.  Masterful actors such as Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Gene Hackman and Cloris Leachman (as Frau Bleucher (neeeeehhhhh eehhhh, went the horses)) spark the film with precision humor and timeless appreciation of people who obviously loved working together to render Mary Shelley's famous "scary story" a giant guffaw that would last through time.
       What I found fascinating was the community of people who attended.  They were mostly young, the majority of them barely born when the film was released.  A friendly woman sitting next to me, whom I guessed to be in her late twenties or early thirties, had seen the movie more than a dozen times, and as my wife and I, knew the lines verbatum for the key scenes, which followed one another like machine-gun fire.

     I secured two seats at 5 p.m. next to the grass.   Sitting on the lawn near me were three girls appearing to be high-school age, one who had never seen the movie, but was eager to become one of its proponents.
       Out in the center of the lawn it appeared to be Spring Break.  A group of young New Yorkers was building a human pyramid to the cheers of thousands and got almost to the fourth level before they collapsed--four people at the base, three on their shoulders, two more on top of them, and then, when the final member tried to finalize the pyramid, they fell in a splash of laughing bodies to the cheers of the crowd.  Undaunted, they attempted it two more times before surrendering.
       For a moment--a precious moment--I forgot about all the troubles of the world.   It has been said that in the most troubled of times, people flock to the movies to "escape" life's realities, to be swept into a vacuum where they laugh and share the joys of the celluloid world unfolding before their eyes.
       That may be true, but I think there is another reason.    It is the Village of Vigilance.
       Last night thousands of people came to be part of the Village.   I found myself forgetting about how old I was, that I had a herniated disc, that I was to call today to get an appointment with the neurosurgeon, that I had to find some more ways to make money, that I had to promote my website better, that I should diet, that my ankles were swollen, that I hadn't won the lottery, and that the world was topsy turvey and my small, insignificant Voice wasn't being heard above the cacophony of it all.
       I became part of the Village.
       I found myself rooting and cheering and clapping, things I don't normally do because I wanted to be "part of" the experience of humanity sharing a common goal--happiness, joy, elation, laughter.

              Madeline Kahn on Bryant Park Screen

        Sometimes I take myself way too seriously, as we all do, thinking I am the center of the universe and that unless I punctuate my existence with an exclamation point each day, I'm useless and valueless.   But, last night, in the midst of humanity, feeling the vibrations of youth (and a few "baby boomers") laughing and crushing all the worries of the world, I just became a child of the Village of Vigilance, one of many playing on the grass of Bryant Park, getting pizza and cokes, and Starbuck iced drinks, weaving my way through the crowds of other moviegoers as one of them, eager to watch something that would wash my mind of all the burdens that stack up like soiled, smelly laundry and force one's face into a scowl, or droops the shoulders, or makes the head hang.

    Canadian Prime Minister Jean     Chretian greets Pope Paul II

       Earlier, I had been scouring the paper for today's story.  I had noticed International Youth Day, held in Toronto Canada, sponsored by the Catholic Church.   The Pope is making his 97th visit outside the Vatican to attend the conference of over a quarter million attendees ranging from 15-35, amidst pressures from his staff to "retire" his post as Parkinson's disease takes more and more toll on his 82-year-old body.    I thought I would promote the Vigilance of his message.  He called for the children to not be afraid of Terrorism, in a world riddled with Terror.
       But then I was torn about writing a story promoting the plea of the mother of five-year-old Samantha who was abducted from her front yard, sexually molested and raped.   Her mother's plea seemed far more Vigilant than the Pope's.  She begged the citizens of the world to "protect their babies, and to protect each other's babies."

Erin Runnion, mother

         Her plea was more heart felt to me and I believe to the world than anything the Pope could say in Toronto.   I believe Vigilance is all about the children's children's children.  It's about everyone, not just some, concerning themselves with the future generations.   When I hear a politician talk, puffing his or chest out like a banty rooster, and extolling the virtues of some bill or issue, and not including the benefits for the children, or the children's children, I tune him or her out.   I know the speaker hasn't thought through the issue to the future generations, for had she or he done so, the sound bite would include the benefits to future generations, and therefore have validity.   But laws or decisions or strategies that involve the present needs of adults have no business on any agenda.   They are selfish laws, ill prepared, hurried to salve the wounds of government's neglect to the future.
       I forgot about all those stories last night--at least for a few hours.
       I was with the Village of Vigilance.
       I was laughing.  I was cheering.  I was young and old. 
       I wasn't Terrorized.   My wife and I were too busy saying our favorite lines as each scene unfolded, forgetting that the world outside Bryant Park was more important than the Village of Vigilance we were enjoying.

Great Lines We Love From Young Frankenstein:
       "Where Wolf?"   "There Wolf!"
       "Put the candle back!"
       "Walk this way!"
       "What hump?"
       "What a pair of knockers!"
       "How about some hot soup?"
       "How about a cigar?"
       "You men are all the same.  After seven or eight times, you go tell the boys."
       "My name is Fron-ken-shteen!"
       "Destiny!  Destiny! No escaping destiny."
       (Add any others you like)


Go To July 22--Pyramid Of Corporate Vigilance

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