Friday, December 12, 2008

The Price of Obesity

Many of us have struggled with weight issues. My struggle was different from most. I overworked myself for a stretch of time during graduate school and found myself down to 102 pounds (46.5 kg or 7 stone, 4 pounds). When I realized that was not enough weight, the school dietitian put me on a 3,000-calorie diet. It was a lot of work eating all that food: breakfast consisted of a serving of oatmeal with wheat germ on it, milk and sugar; a banana; a serving of orange juice; an egg fried in butter with buttered toast; two waffles with butter and syrup; a serving of bacon, and fried potatoes. And a glass of milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast in it.

It took me a long time to eat those breakfasts, but they paid off, in conjunction with thousand-calorie lunches and dinners. In the four months I was on the 3,000-calorie diet, I gained a pound a week. But then I hit a plateau, and I dropped off the diet. But I did weigh 117 pounds. That was good, because with my body fat as low as it was, I was in greater immediate danger of organ failure than someone who was 100 pounds overweight.

Santa Claus seems to have the opposite problem. Although he is portrayed in the Rudolph special as being thin until he stocks up on fatty foods in late December, I have yet to see a photo of Santa in which he doesn’t have a pretty good heft to him.

Even so, it’s not kind of Augie Ríos to get in Santa’s face and call him ol’ Fatso, as he does in his other 1958 Christmas classic, “Ol’ Fatso” (Metro K20010). While many people have heard the A-side of this 45, in part because (as I neglected to mention on Wednesday) it reached #47 on the Hot 100, “Ol’ Fatso” didn’t chart, and it has not gotten the reissue attention that “¿Dónde está Santa Claus?” has.

That could be because Augie calls Santa a name and tells him to get his reindeer off the roof of Augie’s house. Augie seems to think that his presents appear out of nowhere, rather than from their true source, Santa. As a result, Augie gets no gifts the following year. He sings the song to let us know how badly he messed up. I, for one, am glad for the message, which prevents me from becoming too smug this time of year.

Though Augie paid the price for calling Santa fat, the experience of another kid shows that Augie’s description wasn’t inaccurate, just unkind. For, as Jeff Barry relates in a tune he composed with Artie Resnick in 1962, Santa was chubby enough to get stuck in his chimney. The result is that a whole bunch of toys aren’t going to get delivered. Jeff has to unload them on the neighbors, which can earn a kid great, though perhaps transient, popularity. The problem is that Santa will have to pay everyone overtime and buy the raw materials to remake all the presents for the kids who got stiffed because of Santa’s paunch.

That, my friends, is the true price of obesity.

Jeff’s version of the song is the unreleased demo, which you may not have heard before. Wendy Burton released the song on Columbia 42624 in 1962. That recording did not chart.

The writers of these tunes have been featured before. Jeff Barry, of course, is Jeff Barry, and Artie Resnick is one of his early mentors, whose credits include “Good Lovin’” (the Young Rascals), “Quick Joey Small” (Kasenetz blah blah) and, oh, “Under the Boardwalk” (Drifters).

“Ol’ Fatso” was the product of Gordon Irving, whose work I featured in the third post of the blog: “Mama from the Train.” Irving wrote a couple of other tunes for Patti Page, and he wrote the unforgettable “Unforgettable.”

Just so you know, “Ol’ Fatso” is the final childhood 45 I am sharing with you this year. The rest of the 2008 songs include one 78, a pair of childhood album cuts, and a single that was released in 1980. While I have new topics in the works for 2009, no music I discuss is going to be as dear to me as the songs I owned, then lost and recovered or salvaged at the time of the Great Vinyl Meltdown in 1972. On December 27, I’m going to run by you some descriptions of songs I can almost remember, in hopes that some will be part of your experience, and I can get them back into mine.

Since I discovered the WLS year-end countdowns around 1971, as well as the American Top 40 year-end gig, I have found such events worthy of my time. This year, I am going to do something similar on a far smaller scale.

I am going to list in a separate post all of the songs I have featured on the blog so far in 2008. (See below.) I request that you vote for your ten favorites, in order. Then, on December 31, which happens to be a Blogging Wednesday, I’ll post the resulting Top Ten for the blog year. If you must, leave your votes as a comment, but I would prefer that you vote secretly by email to me at caithiseach, so as not to influence others with your wise choices. Vote by December 22 to ensure inclusion of your opinions.

I will repost those ten songs on December 31. In the meantime, if you want to vote but missed some of the songs, let me know which ones you want to hear, and I’ll reattach old links on an as-needed basis.

I have composed a lot of countdowns over the years, but this one will actually have some lasting meaning to me, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes to work out your vote.

And while you wait for New Year’s Eve, enjoy whatever it is you eat this time of year. December is for socializing over food. February is for dieting.

Wednesday, I’ll bring you a child star of the 1950s who wouldn’t have gotten far today, amid the Mileys and Britneys. See you then!

Augie Ríos, Ol’ Fatso

Jeff Barry, Seventeen Million Bicycles


1 comment:

jb said...

Jeff Barry and his partner, Andy Kim, should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their contributions to the art of bubblegum. They'll never make it, of course, but they should.

Happy holidays to you and yours from me and mine . . .