Thursday, May 15, 2008

Goddamn, New York: Where on the Dial is Joe Franklin?

I know, I know, Big Joe retired several years back and can still be found doing short “flashback” segments on a local AM station. But the Joe that diehard New Yorkers remember was a man that kept us company in the early morning and late evening hours, a man whose guest roster was surreal in its eclecticism — literally every profession was covered on his panel at some point. The low-budget genius of Joe’s program has been brilliantly summed up elsewhere — please treat yourself to Nick Tosches’ wonderful “Memories of Joe” which originally appeared in the Village Voice, can now be found in The Nick Tosches Reader, and can be read here.

But of course to know Joe was to watch him. There are some samples of Franklin at his finest on YouTube, and I have a whole raft of short little moments of wonder on tape that I desperately need to transfer, but here are three good slices. First, Joe’s amazing intro, circa the ’80s-’90s when he had a Joe-poses-around-NYC montage to start things off.

Then this bizarre interview with mighty Joe by the late club promoter/gossip maven Baird Jones. Here we get into the area of Joe-legend, one of the many celebrity-studded (and utterly undocumented) tales that he has unleashed upon us in recent years. I still recall his description of what seemed to be a makeout session with Marilyn in his last autobio (he also sampled Jayne Mansfield’s charms, according to the book): they were writing a Marilyn autobio (not the one that did circulate called My Story, some other one), and I believe the way it is put in the book is that both MM and Joe were in an amorous mood, and it quickly descended into a haze “of Chinese food and Garry Moore.” (Gar was on TV at the time.) His story here concerns JFK and Nixon helping him tend to a dead man. No shit.

And how could I not succumb to the charms of this short promo for Joe’s show, back from the era where he was using “Axel’s Theme” from Beverly Hills Cop as his theme (I, being a hardliner, really missed the “Twelfth Street Rag”). Please dig.

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