Saturday, March 10, 2007

This doubles as my submission to the 33 1/3 series, by the way

Recently while listening to Prince's greatest album, Sign O' The Times, on the way to work, I began to have new, serious reservations about the lyrical content of a song I've always dug, "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker." While I haven't always exactly shared the same value judgments as His Purple Badness, let alone the characters in his many salacious songs (hmmm, now I smell a potential blog miniseries), something about this particular title character seemed especially off-putting on this occasion. Let's break down the song's lyrics and see if we can pinpoint the sources of my consternation:

Dorothy was a waitress on the promenade
She worked the night shift
Dishwater blonde, tall and fine
She got a lot of tips
Well, earlier I'd been talkin' stuff
In a violent room
Fighting with lovers past
I needed someone with a quicker wit than mine
Dorothy was fast

OK, so far I think most of us would have a favorable impression of Ms. Parker. Plenty of charming, alluring young women have held down food service jobs at some point in their lives. My ideal personifcation of this type might more closely resemble, say, Salma Hayek than a "dishwater blonde," but whatever. Plus, Dorothy of course shares her name with a revered writer, so any moment now I think we can expect her to serve up a platter of bon mots with a side of sly come-ons (or onion rings), right?

Well, I ordered - "Yeah, let me get a fruit cocktail, I ain't 2 hungry"
Dorothy laughed
She said "Sounds like a real man 2 me"
Kinda cute, U wanna take a bath?
(do you wanna, do you wanna, bath)

Uh oh, right away discriminating listeners probably are getting the feeling they've been sold a bill of goods concerning Ms. Parker's alleged "wit." I can just picture the kind of woman who'd say "sounds like a real man (to) me." She'd probably fit squarely in either the white trash or Francesca Fiore camp, neither of which I particularly want to visit. Plus: "U wanna take a bath?" That just about tops the list of most UN-clever things a person can say upon first meeting . "Hi, my name's Chri - WILL YOU TAKE A BATH WITH ME?!?" Although today that sentence might look more forgivable in the low-stakes era of text messaging, where Prince proved 2 B ahead of his time, spellingwise.

I said "Cool, but I'm leaving my pants on" (she say)
"Cuz I'm kind of going with someone"
She said "Sounds like a real man 2 me"

We'll address the pants issue in a minute, but you'll recall how that last sentence set off alarm bells the first time she used it. Now she's just repeating the same stock phrases like a mentally challenged person approximating flirtatiousness. A part of me wonders if this song should've been called "Riding the Bus with Dorothy Parker" instead.

"Mind if I turn on the radio?"
"Oh, my favorite song" she said
And it was Joni singing "Help me I think I'm falling"

Oh good, I'd have to listen to Joni Mitchell with her as well. Normally I don't think music taste is that important but by now I'm less and less inclined to cut her any slack.

The phone rang and she said
"Whoever's calling can't be as cute as U"

Ugh. Keep going...

Right then I knew I was through
(Dorothy Parker was

My pants were wet, they came off
But she didn't see the movie
Cuz she hadn't read the book first

Dorothy not having read a book? As one bonafide comic genius was fond of saying, "get out of the city!"

Instead she pretended she was blind
An affliction brought on by a witch's curse
Dorothy made me laugh (ha ha)

Great, now we can apparently add bad improv acting to the list of "cons." The fact that this guy is laughing at it doesn't exactly cast him in a good light either. Maybe Prince is channeling Drew Carey here?

I felt much better so I went back
2 the violent room (tell us what U did)
Let me tell U what I did...

I took another bubble bath with my pants on
All the fighting stopped
Next time I'll do it sooner
This is the ballad of Dorothy Parker

At this point I think I'm most concerned about Prince's wardrobe, as I'd wager the kind of pants he wears wouldn't lend themselves to frequent bubble bath immersion . I don't know if his leaving his pants on (at first, anyway) nullifies the whole "cheating" aspect either. Worst case scenario, that resembles Francis Wolcott from Deadwood's logic, and I'm sure we all remember how that turned out.

Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker

Yes, yes, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker. Maybe someday Prince will write a follow-up song called "The Ballad of Virginia Woolf," about a schizophrenic lunch lady who ends up running around in an gorilla suit like at the end of Wise Blood. Save that for your next comeback, Your Paisley Majesty!


I love you in the face said...

(ha ha) This is the most entertaining blog post I've ever read. While digesting this compliment, please take into account that I spend 8+ hours a day in front of the computer... reading blog posts.

angelissima said...

um. Maybe bubble bath avec pants means something ethereal, something so beyond the comprehension of the mere mortal mind.

Or not.
laoxmiv (vietmanese/russian dressing)

Sam Baden said...

An interesting interpretation of a much-loved (by me) song.
I always assumed there was no connection between "Dorothy Parker" and Dorothy Parker, but now I'm starting to think His Royal Purpleness is too smart for that.