Before moving to Dallas this year, I read an old Calvin Trillin article for The New Yorker detailing Joe Bob Briggs/John Bloom's rise and fall in Dallas in the '80s. Needless to say, I moved to Dallas anyway.
Since then I've read other Joe Bob articles and have found that they all (including Trillin's) follow the same basic trajectory as Jimmy Fowler's "Joe Bob In Bloom" [December 17]: Sagely, saintly nice-guy John Bloom wags his head--in shame or faux shame, it's never entirely certain--about the Joe Bob "phenomenon" while his contemporaries from his Texas Monthly glory days wag their heads in shame at their friend who once wrote wonderful non-fiction articles about snake-handling preachers and such.
In all these articles, Briggs/Bloom is seen as a two-headed creature that seems to perplex both its audience and the monster itself. However, in all the dissection of Joe Bob/John Bloom, has anyone ever stopped to consider that Bloom might be putting us all on, including himself? Despite his highbrow leanings, he's found a home disguised as Joe Bob in the decidedly lowbrow, irony-heavy "ain't cool unless it's crappy" pop culture of the '80s and '90s, turning a buck off celluloid detritus like I Spit On Your Grave while having plenty of writerly friends around to cite his true love of T.S. Eliot, thereby making him a "writer's writer" too.
Though Briggs/Bloom is a smart and funny man (no doubt very capable of writing very touching snake handler pieces), he can't have it both ways--whether he's a bigoted redneck or as a poker-of-fun at bigoted rednecks. Bloom ends up somewhere in between, wanting to please the bigots and the bigot haters. Because of this, his satire has become stale and formulaic and his love of "heavier" things seems tinged with insincerity. And worse, because of his love of fame, he's become an opportunistic money-chaser (albeit one who knows good poetry) who's watering down his "message" to find a cable TV audience.
Despite the furor and attention to his work, I would say that Bloom doesn't come close to being in the same circle of great American satirists such as H.L. Mencken or James Thurber, both smart, funny men who poked fun at things they hated but played straight with their audiences about their satirical intentions. Instead of these writers, I'd say John Bloom is more along the lines of, say, D.B. Cooper--they both took the money and disappeared.
The crying reverend
Why is Robert Wilonsky so hard on me? I am just a local artist who is trying to feed my family. Sure, I may play concerts all over the United States and abroad, but I still like to think of myself as a local guy. I live in Dallas. I love Dallas.
In a recent issue of the Dallas Observer [Street Beat, December 17], Robert seemed to be dancing on my grave with the reports of Reverend Horton Heat getting "dropped." I long for the good old days when the Observer music writers were on the side of local artists instead of the big-business types at the major labels.
Robert called my album "filler." But if Robert could write at least one song as good as any of the songs on Space Heater, he could have his own silly band. Now that's a scary thought!
In the "Dude, you dropped" section of Street Beat, Robert starts with that "sources close to the band" stuff, and it makes me ask one question--why in the heck didn't he just call me on the phone to get the real story? It's not like I'm friggin' Cher or something! Instead, he writes falsities and insults.
Maybe Robert should think about shoring up some of those old journalistic abilities. He's not good enough to do his own job right, yet he can critique the job that I'm doing. It's people like Robert Wilonsky who love to destroy a good local music scene.
But I'm in good company. When Frank Sinatra died, Robert had this great idea. I could just hear him thinking, "Remember when I gave Frank Sinatra that bad review? Now that he died, let's run that same article about how much his last concert in Dallas sucked." Tasteful.
One night at Sol's Taco Lounge, Jeff Liles came up to me and said, "Robert Wilonsky just saw you come in the front door, so he quickly left out of the back." Well, Robert is not that stupid after all. So let it be known that when Robert Wilonsky loses his job, I will reflect and be a little sad. Because that is the kind of guy that I am. I'll save my dances for joyous times. And I'll be back reading the Dallas Observer.