19 August, 2011

Nine 1/2 Bees

The author is taking a break from the keyboard as he visits with his mother. This post was originally published on October 11, 2010.

Romper, bomper, stomper boo.
Tell me, tell me, tell me do.
Magic Mirror, tell me today.
Have all of my friends had fun at play?

Now that you think I'm certifiably nuts, let me explain.

Last night some of my large extended Italian family came up the hill for dinner. It was a typical gathering filled with food, love, and laughter. From among the many mock insults and teasing began to develop a riff on not being a "Don't Bee." The younger ones, of course, had no idea what we were talking about.

In 1953 a television show debuted that was aimed at preschoolers. There were always lots of fun activities, and at the end of the show the hostess would look through her Magic Mirror and recite the above incantation. This was followed by "I see Elizabeth and Tommy and Peter and ... " - all the names parents "out there in televisionland" had been encouraged to mail in for their children. You were very excited to hear your name. I don't recall if mine were ever submitted, but Thomas or Tommy was likely to come up anyway.

A mainstay of the show was to teach about manners and responsibility. The "oughts" and "shoulds" were explained as we were encouraged to be like Mr. Do-bee and not to be like Mr. Don't Bee. It's the main reason members of my generation are so polite and always do exactly the right thing.

It also has me thinking about other kinds of "Bs."

Just over a decade later Frank Sinatra gave us Strangers in the Night and that immortal five syllable scat sequence: Do Bee Do Bee Do. It's enough to make you forget Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor "Quasi una fantasia", op. 27, No. 2). Not. Definitely not.

Then in the early 1970s the Doobie Brothers emerged. They weren't brothers, but It Keeps You Runnin', China Grove, Black Water, and Takin' It To the Streets were great songs. I saw them at the Syracuse War Memorial Arena in 1977 - at least I think it was 1977. There was a lot of smoke around that may have affected my time perception. By the way, I expect that within the next few years "doobies" will be legal in most of the United States. California is about to lead the way.

In 1975 we hooked up with the Killer Bees, the first recurrent skit on Saturday Night Live. They appeared in six full skits and briefly in another six, but we last saw them in 1978. If you never saw them, all you need to know is: John Belushi (visit YouTube).

Do be a Do-Bee.
Don't be a Don't-Bee.


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