Get On Up

The weather is a little better, as is the coughing and hacking that has become my existence. We had a few hours of high winds, the blowing variety, not the tornadic variety. I understand some folks lost power due to the lines blowing down. I understand that burying lines underground keeps them from all sorts of peril. Would a lineman still be a lineman if the line was buried underground?

This was one of the great mysteries I pondered while driving over to the Walmart in Blairsville. I was intent on picking out a good movie for movie night. I figured I’d go all the way to the $11.99 discount bin if necessary to find a good movie. Heck, I might even look at the racks. I needed something with an adult theme, not too adult mind you, to offset some of the grandkid’s recent choices.

The $2.99 and $3.99 bins were filled with anime and Care Bears stuff. Just what I was trying to avoid. I found a copy of “Steel Magnolias” in the $7.99 bin, and that was going to be my fall back if nothing better turned up. Fortunately the $9.99 bin held a winner, “Get On Up”, the story of James Brown. Being a movie specifically about a black person that was not involved in a group of white people blowing things up, the movie had not played at the The Bijou. Although he was born in South Carolina, most of us consider James Brown one of the most famous Georgians ever. After all, he started singing gospel over in Toccoa, which is just down the road a bit from here. He lived all of his life in Georgia and died in Atlanta, so I’m willing to call him a native son.

The movie recounts Brown’s life from the time he recognizes he is alone in this world and has to hustle for himself, until the end. In the early scenes Brown appears to be about eight when he is out hustling on the streets trying to take care of himself. He is influenced by the showmanship of an Evangelical minister and finds that he has a voice as well. As Brown hones his craft and his voice, he teams up with a group of singers that bill themselves as “The Flames”. The band evolves into James Brown and the Famous Flames and all of the hard feelings that come from one member being more famous than the others, rises to the top.

Eventually all but one member of the original group quits, and James Brown goes on without them. The movie reinforces the fact that James Brown was a perfectionist, but he expected perfection from his self as well. He was a man whose talents allowed him to meet Presidents and heads of state, but he never lost his common touch. He continually worked to reinforce pride within the black community, and his iconic, “I’m Black and I’m Proud” has stood as an anthem for black children since it was released in 1968.

James had an eye for the ladies and was married at least four times. After his death, there was a huge squabble over his will, as there always seems to be. Ex-wives and children were coming out of the woodwork to claim their share of James Browns legacy. In fact, I don’t know if it is settled today, the movie did not cover that part.

The movie did cover a lot of his music with Chadwick Boseman doing a very fine job of portraying Brown through the years. I can’t imagine how hard Boseman must have worked to get Brown’s dance steps down, even for the little short bursts shown on the film. It was good to see Dan Akroyd in the role of Brown’s manager and Octavia Spencer in the role of Brown’s aunt. In fact the movie was very well cast with Craig Robinson playing the part of Maceo “come blow your horn” Parker.

It was a good pick, more so for the songs than the theme. I’ll leave you with the reminder of what a great entertainer Jame Brown was. This song was originally cut in 1955:


It’s a sad thing to have to put behind something you enjoy because your body just doesn’t want to do it anymore. I guess that’s true for every profession that has a physical component to it, not just park supervisor. I often think about professional athletes that have to decide that it’s time to hang it up. Of course sometimes the decision is taken away from them, like Formula One racers. I think about Ayrton Senna who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at 34. In the documentary, “Hunt vs. Lauda”, they point out repeatedly that Formula One racing is the world’s deadliest sport. It was like it was preordained that if you were going to be a champion, you would die in the car. The competition is that fierce. Philosophers wax that if you “die doing something you love” it’s not as bad. Seem like it’s just as fatal to me. Formula One racing is not that important in our area, even though we do have a track nearby in Braselton. The South prefers NASCAR, where longevity is less of an issue.

The South also loves wrestling, or “wrasslin”, as we call it. I can remember following “Georgia Championship Wrestling” very intensely back in the day. My participation in high school wrestling eventually led to the conclusion that professional wrestling was indeed fake, but that didn’t stop of us from attending every live match we could in the Municipal Auditorium in Atlanta. I was also a devotee of the Saturday night telecasts on Channel 2. The TV telecasts were basically build ups for the matches in the Auditorium the following Friday night. There was always some grudge between two fellows that could only be resolved by a cage match in the Auditorium. I remember attending some big battle royal that former professional football player “Dick The Bruiser” won. In addition to a bunch of money, there was a new Cadillac awarded to the winner. “The Bruiser” had the audacity to have a private train car brought down from his hometown Chicago, pre-match,  to take the Cadillac back with him. All of us locals were incensed at the chutzpah.

Stirring up the hoypoloi was what professional wrestling was all about. Finding out that some of the most bitter rivals in the ring, were the best of friends out of the ring came as quite a shock to most of us. It was so easy to get trapped in the theatrics of the show that you were willing to discount the fact that if it was real, most of these guys would be dead. How many times can you get hit over the head with a folding chair and it not cause some permanent damage? Of course, we devotees of the sport believed in the reality of professional wrestling as surely as the Resurrection. Any suggestion to the contrary was heresy.

My first insight into the fakery was watching a wrestler take a bottle cap and open a cut on his own forehead. Profuse sweating made the wound look like he’d gone through the windshield of a car traveling seventy miles an hour. Since the wrestler was the “hero”, all of us locals were outraged at the evil done to our champion. I’m sure that the “Bad Guy” in every match had more to fear from the crowd than he did his opponent. And yet, they survived, and most lived to very ripe old ages. Many of the old school wrestlers continue to compete up into their sixties. One fellow, Bob Armstrong, is 76 and is still wrestling.

In recent years it seems that the thing that professional wrestlers have to fear the most, is themselves. There’s been several losses due to performance enhancing drugs and the effects that they create in the body. I guess the philosophy is that they have to look like the biggest, baddest athletes and if it takes performance enhancers to get there, it’s just how it is. That’s real sad to me. I’d like to think that these guys will still be out there wrasslin’ around in their old age, no matter how choreographed it is.

Well, I’ve got the NCAA wrestling championship DVRed and I’m all fired up to watch some wrestling, not wrasslin. I hear the heavyweights are going to be a real “battle royal” this year.