The Lost Tracks of Danzig

Band: Danzig
Album: The Lost Tracks of Danzig
Best song: The cover of “Cat People” says a lot about Glenn, doesn’t it?
Worst song: Well, “White Devil Rise,” while not racist, is kind of strange. I don’t think Rick Rubin and Glenn Danzig taking on Louis Farrakhan (by explaining the inherent malevolence of a race war) is the best of ideas. Also, it’s a crappy song.

I have a friend — we used to be closer, but he and I have grown apart, as all adult friendships separated by 700 miles are wont to do — who is the picture of a certain kind of masculinity.

To say that “manliness” is a singular thing is facile, to say the least. This is the entire point of this piece, of course.

Let’s call him “Phil.” Phil, like me, is from the north suburbs of Chicago, an affluent world of entitlements, good education, polo shirts and Rockefeller Republicans. Like me, most of Phil’s life was occupied by polo shirts, white guilt and the like. Similarly, we are the same age and his cultural life was shaped by the consumerism and commercialism of the baby boomer generation. He loves the Rolling Stones, almost anything on a big TV, mass-produced fast food, leering half-sexism and American beer.

In this populism, Phil enjoys terrible food, cigarrettes and libertarianism. He’s also a phenomenally quick guy and has an economics degree from a pretty prestigious university. He’s not a stupid guy, but somewhere, the notion of respecting women got scrambled. To be fair, he loves women with the same veracity he loves McDonald’s, unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand how to show it. He calls women “sugar” and such. He talks like a Rat Pack member, despite, uh, that having been 50 years ago.

Another key difference, of course, is that the Rat Pack guys had jobs, hygiene and did something other than watch Tivo’d episodes of old TV.

I’ll tell you a story about he and I to illustrate this point. One Thanksgiving week after college, I’d taken a trip back to Chicago to see friends and family for the holiday. As was the custom, a bunch of us went to a bar — a terrible Wrigleyville Irish bar, of course — after dinner. As my mixed-gender group of friends stood at one end of the room, I ventured to the bar to get us some drinks. I accomplished this task and moved back to my friends. On my way, a similarly-aged woman started dancing at me. I gave her a horrified look and kept walking. Phil noticed this and confronted me when I got back to the group.

“What was that?” He asked.
“What was what?”
“That girl. She wanted to dance with you.”
“Yeah, well.”
“Come on.”
“Come on, what? I’m not here to meet women.”
“Why not? Don’t you want to get laid?”
“Well, yes, but I am only here for a few days and, more importantly, I am staying at my mom’s house in the suburbs. See the problem?”
He poked me in the chest with his index finger and said “That girl would fuck you in the alley out back right now.”

Thought that story doesn’t illustrate it well — I just love that story — Phil’s masculinity is similar most to Homer Simpson. He’s devoted, but he’s a man of large appetites. It’s a distinctly American, post-war notion, but it’s ours nonetheless. He loves football, not just because he’s supposed to, but because of the artistry and, mostly, the violence. He loves beer because it’s what men drink.

To illustrate my generation’s gender conundrum, I suggest you read Kay S. Hymowitz’ City Journal piece from a few years ago. It is as powerful now as it was then. It describes the masculinity inherent in my generation, that of adolescent consumerism v. life experience. It’s a masculinity that is illustrated well in Hymowitz’ most powerful opening sentence in one of her more powerful paragraphs: “Maxim asked the SYM what he wanted and learned that he didn’t want to grow up. ”

(Similarly wonderful line: “The Maxim child-man prides himself on his lack of pretense, his unapologetic guyness.” )

I do not want this kind of masculinity. But, really, I don’t know exactly what kind of masculinity I do want. But, I know I absolutely do not want “unapologetic guyness.”

I used to joke that my idol for masculinity was Burt Reynolds. Reynolds’ 70s machismo is something to behold; he was all Camaros and chest hair and that mustache. Oh, that mustache. Being a former college football star, his testosterone levels were well-known.

But, Reynolds’ masculinity speaks a bit to a harder edge with no softness. The last thing Reynolds seems to have is a sense of humor about himself. This seems odd to me. Moreover, Reynolds’ style is decidedly a product of his upbringing — as we all are — and it lies in football, the South and a rural steeliness that I do not have. Similarly, it resides in the notion that the frivolous things are of import. It’s the notion that perpetual adolescence is something to be desired. Reynolds probably hunts and loves it.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Reynolds gives us this, which may be one of the better things available online. It also gives us this:

Amazing, yet troubling.

A similarly modern form of maleness remains, as Mindy Kaling opines, the Aaron Sorkin character’s territory:

I love Aaron Sorkin characters because I, like the rest of the North American world, have a fondness for witty, East Coast-y, over-educated, well-dressed Jewish guys. The typical Sorkin character is a bleeding heart liberal who is the tiniest bit sassy. They are also deeply moral. The West Wing was entirely populated with these guys, and they frequently had to stand up for what was right. You knew there was a stirring Sorkin speech and some good W. Snuffy Walden scoring on tap every episode.

This, while not the exact opposite, is nowhere close to the Maxim/Reynolds model of maleness. Sorkin’s characters — yes, I realize it’s a construct, but it’s one with which I’m all too familiar being Jewish and living on the East Coast, so it’s definitely aspirational for many of us — are typically constructed in TV world and thus make for difficult fulfillment. No one is that well-spoken; it takes Sorkin a lot of time to write those parts. But, there is a grain of truth behind the somewhat waifish guy with a child’s love — but not obsession — of cultural nonsense, sport and the like. This guy has demons, but they are frivolous and do not affect his daily life of making the world a better place.

This guy is not a fighter. He probably doesn’t drive a Trans Am, in fact, he may not own a car at all. He’s an intellectual and probably reads a lot more than he ever watches TV or sports or whatever. He also talks his shit out too much and probably cries a lot. He, undoubtedly, has a short temper but does little with it.

Sadly, I fit this type more than I’d like to admit.

As a devotee of High Fidelity (“It’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like”), I find myself troubled with this. For one, I lift weights and play on a softball team. I listen to a lot of, ahem, harder music. To say I enjoy pornography would be an understatement. I don’t care for guns, cars or explosions, but I’m certainly not Adam Scott’s character from Parks and Recreation.

What I want to be is easy. It’s what we all want to be. It’s these three men:

Marvin Gaye
George Clooney
Jon Hamm

The Marvin Gaye of the 1970s was a man in the middle of everything and concerned about it. During that time, Gaye battled drugs and divorce, all while staying about the proverbial fray. Moreover, unlike the Aaron Sorkin characters he predated by nearly 20 years, Gaye was a sexual dynamo.

George Clooney, it probably goes without saying, is the picture of single man to which we all aspire. Clooney loves women and cars and the world, but remains dedicated to the liberal causes that the Mindy Kalings — herself the Clooney of many women, I’d guess — of the world prefer. He’s handsome, versatile and clever. Similarly, he is in great shape without being the bizarre muscle thing that dudes like 50 Cent seem to be.

Jon Hamm is the other side of Clooney, of course. He’s self-effacing and less productive — have you seen a Jon Hamm-directed movie? — but is more in tune with the rest of humanity (read: He has been with the same woman for a million years). He plays a dumb, handsome guy in 30 Rock or a selfish dickhead idiot in the phenomenal Bridesmaids.

These men showcase the masculinity of Cary Grant, a well-read, well-dressed intellectual who also was “self-contained” and could laugh at himself. I want to be them.

Of course, this all comes around to a one Glenn Danzig. Being a fan of metal, it’s hard not to think of Danzig as a supremely masculine character. He’s all shirtlessness (and sometimes, with a mesh shirt) and crooning. Now, admittedly, he’s as over-the-top as a single person can get. In fact, he appears to be the type of dude that’s so manly that he has no use for women or anything but Satanist storytelling, singing and hard guitars.

A little while ago, a photo emerged that made me love Danzig even more than I had before. Now, let’s be clear: I do not like cats. I have a dog and a very doggish (slobbery, farting, dirty, etc.) dog at that. My dog is disgusting. But, I appreciate anyone like Danzig with an air of unabashed hardness being the type that has a need for kitty litter.

Assuming the litter isn’t for, like, a panther.

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  • By Hawk | Albums That I Own on September 22, 2011 at 7:46 am

    […] Now, it’s far more complicated than that and without the actual text, I can’t speak to the actuality of the concepts within. But, I tend to agree that our culture is overly childlike. […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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