Stiffen your backbone against the bullies


Stiffen your backbone against the bullies

Why is LOUIS DE VILLIERS suddenly thinking about the Wild West?


THE other day it was just over 50 years since Blazing Saddles came out; the cowboy comedy with the most childish jokes ever is middle aged.

If you haven't seen this Mel Brooks masterpiece, here's a litmus test to see if you would like to. I highly recommend the movie, but for me there are few things as funny as a fart:

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The friend in the apartment below my house has just come back from a hippie Easter weekend event and complains that after four days of beans and tofu it started to go more or less like that there, but of course there were no revolvers.

Eight working toilets for 900 people, in addition. Farting and pooping was the order of the day.

I reckon that's probably how it was, at best, in the Wild West.

She adds that she wishes she had a revolver instead to calm down some of the more annoying shamans, senseis and gurus.

Or simply to have her own toilet.


The same friend claims she always knows when yours truly has had too much to drink, because our sound density is not quite 100% — it's apparently when I start playing Fleetwood Mac, metal or theme music from cowboy movies.

Touché, Madame.


Maybe I should therefore start with the tunes this time.

And no movie inspired my youthful self as much as this one.

It was copied from the much better Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, but I saw the cowboy version 10 times before the samurai version and still identify with Vin.

The trailer is practically the entire story:

The master, of course, was Ennio Morricone. Spaghetti maestro Sergio Leone's great films were halfway better thanks to Morricone's compositions. Check out this one, from Once Upon a Time in the West, to be able to place the smallest sounds.

Harpsichord just to make your knees weak:

The Cutthroat Song from Rio Bravo — starring John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson — could anything be more 1950s?


People are sorry that Blazing Saddles couldn't be made today and with good reason. The dozens of racist comments in the movie do little to normalise racism; it clearly mocks racists.

But satire unfortunately annoys imbeciles as much these days as it did in the 18th century — if they don't quite understand what you're saying, you annoy then even more. And oh, it's so tempting.


It was Easter and John Wayne is in the HOOUUSE:

The old man, born Marion Morrison, was far to the right of Genghis Khan, whom he also portrayed in his life, with fatal effects — he and half of his film crew got cancer in the process.


There were other equally great cowboy heroes in the films — the good James Stewart, for example, or the cool Gary Cooper, who was sexually inclined to both sides with no one bothering about it. But for me and my mates, Saturday afternoons were Three Arts spaghetti time and Clint Eastwood was our man.

He made ice-cold jokes before he beat someone. Mostly we tried to imitate him. I've mastered those ice-cold jokes, but unlike Clint I take to my heels when trouble starts brewing.

A staunch old Republican these days, but still, cooler than this rarely happens:


There was much less gun violence in the old Western towns than in the movies; in Dodge City, guns per head and murder with them are more common than back then. Gun control within the town was stricter than these days.

Out there, though, you were always prey.

Cowboys were seldom white Americans. A quarter were black, a quarter Mexican and the rest mostly European.

White people hunted First Nation Americans far more than the other way round.

They were rarely shot dead from the front, like in the movies. It was mostly drunken fights or ambushes; no one ever stood in the street waiting for an opponent in broad daylight.

The cowboys were pretty smelly.

The well-known Gunfight at the O.K. Corral lasted a minute and caused three deaths; that we still know about it now is because such events were so rare.

Nevertheless, Wyatt Earp became the most famous Western hero as a result and Spike Jones recorded the song with the funniest title:

If you were as beautiful as Angie Dickinson, Grace Kelly and the women in the movies, you would definitely have remained in the east.



Brokeback Mountain was clearly realistic. So long alone in pursuit of the cows…

In Argentina, I saw very old gauchos, that country's cowboys, holding hands as boyfriends in the streets of Salta. They were so tough that they would be able to beat anyone who wanted to trouble them.

No one would have dreamt of it.


Why am I suddenly thinking about the Wild West?

It's pretty wild around here — please watch this brilliant South African production if you have an hour and a half:

It's pretty wild everywhere on earth.


My nerves have already collapsed to such an extent that I no longer count.

Once, one of the consequences was that I only read Louis L'Amour and Huisgenoot for more than a year.

L’Amour, a personal hero, wrote one book that almost all of you will enjoy — his life through books. 

But from L'Amour's Sackett family to Eastwood's The Man With No Name to Trinity and Bambino, they all stand for the fact that you should stiffen your backbone when you come across a bully.

That's probably all we can learn from the Wild West in popular culture and it's easy enough.


Here are trailers for some great cowboy movies to distract you from the worst news — Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly mostly stick to their principles in High Noon:

The samurai movie that brought the thing back to life:

A cynical little one from the early Seventies, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, with two admittedly better-looking actors than anyone probably ever was in the old American west. But Robert Altman, Julie Christie, Warren Beatty, Leonard Cohen and shit:

The Korean version from the 1930s, one of my 20 favourite films to date:

One of the newest greats, Jordan Peele, came up with this one last year:

Try, please. And fuck the bullies.

♦ VWB ♦

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