Not so long ago, commenter Kazzy shared a story in a comment thread so awesomely hilarious that it’s worth repeating. (Thanks for letting me share it again, Kazzy. It was truly one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.)
Prelude: One of my cats is named Bustopher (More specifically, Professor Bustopher Jones IV*. There were no other Bustopher Joneses, professors or otherwise. This is not relevant to the story.)
Vet: Hello. Is this Butt Stuffer’s owner?
Wife: What? No. Who?
Vet: You aren’t the owner of Reese and Butt Stuffer?
Wife: [aside, to me] She thinks Bustopher is named Butt Stuffer.
Me: [to wife] Let me handle this. [Takes phone]
Me: [into phone] Yes. We are Butt Stuffer’s owner. [aside, to wife] Best. Name. Ever.
* Super double bonus points to anyone with any sense of where this name is derived from. NO GOOGLING!
Now, I knew the answer to his question. As I mentioned at the time, during junior high I went through a regrettable Andrew Lloyd Webber phase, an end result of which is that I know Bustopher Jones is one of the characters in “CATS.” (It is also for this reason that I can sing the entire score of both “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita.”)
[First aside — I once dated a guy who had been in the Broadway cast of “CATS.” Apparently there’s a whole background plot that’s being enacted between musical numbers when all of the various cats are running and frolicking around. It involves kidnapping and rescue and romance, and all of the different cast members have some part, but none of it is actually communicated to the audience directly. True fact!]
Anyhow, somewhat randomly the other night I had one of those moments when I was struck by the fundamental weirdness of American culture. Think about it. I’m showing my age a bit by musing on the topic, but when it first came out “CATS” was huge. Huge! I lived in rural Missouri, and somehow it managed to be a cultural influence even there. A musical with essentially no plot to speak of, in which grown men and women in leotards dress up as singing, dancing cats. Kitted out like the folks in the picture up top.
Huge. In Reagan’s America!
[Second aside — the other cultural phenomenon that struck America during the Reagan ear that I find confounding is the phenomenal popularity of fey, sexually ambiguous performers. In particular, the popularity of effete British homosexuals. During the same years that “First Blood” and “Rambo” were hits. Go figure.]
So that’s this week’s question — which crazes have swept the nation that, when you step back and look at them, seem completely incongruous? That prompt you to wonder how on earth it caught on, and at that time. What serves as a handy reminder that our culture can be downright weird when it wants to be?