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Posts Tagged ‘Robbie Robertson’

carny

Frankie (Gary Busey) gets made up to do his turn as Bozo. The job description is: sit in a cage and aggravate the male carnival visitors, so they will spend lots of money buying balls to throw at him. If they hit a lever just right, he gets dumped in the water. These rubes just have to show off for their girlfriends. Of course the best way to irritate a redneck is to impugn his manhood. “Don’t be queer,” Bozo sneers. The Bozo persona is truly provoking, with a flat twangy voice and an aura of malice. “You know why she’s shorter than you?” he taunts one guy. “It’s because she shrinks from your touch.”

Actually, Frankie is a pretty nice guy. We see examples of this, for instance at breakfast, when he and his buddy Patch (Robbie Robertson) are both accompanied by their one-night-stands. Frankie is sweet to the girl he picked up and partied with. Patch smokes a joint and ignores his own girl. His motto is, “I like to see ’em come, and I like to see ’em go.”

Patch is the carnival’s fixer. He fixes situations with money, free passes, or violent attack, whatever it takes. I love his look, and felt moved to paint a portrait of Robertson in this role (down the page.) Patch is cool but not cold. When an old-timer gives his farewell speech, the fixer wipes away a furtive tear.

If the marks don’t buy tickets to the Garden of Earthly Delights, the barker accuses them of not having normal sexual appetites. The carnival world is permeated with sex, a bachelor’s paradise where Frankie and Patch have shared girls and swapped girls. Then, into this testosterone-saturated atmosphere comes Donna (Jodie Foster). At she hooks up with Frankie, who treats her with respect and genuine caring. He encourages Donna to believe in her own instincts and powers of observation, which can be a double-edged weapon likely to hurt friends and the self, as much as enemies.

Donna’s cocky attitude gets the two friends attacked by truckers in a restaurant. Patch starts falling apart. He’s already thinking he’s getting to old to be a hired muscle guy, and now this woman is getting him into stupid fights for no reason. And she can’t resist playing him and Frankie off against each other. This is a sad commentary on the tendency of some women to take pride in their ability to set men at each other’s throats. In their eyes, this is a legitimate kind of empowerment. But they’re wrong.

And hey! Men do it too. In fact, riling people up is Frankie’s profession. Sure, he says he does Bozo not for the money, but as a student of human nature. But he’s just a little too good at doing Bozo. He’s earned himself some disturber-of-the-peace karma that’s coming back to bite him in the ass with Donna’s teeth, as it were.

“We’re crossing some state lines here. How old is Donna?” Patch sees Donna as an impediment to his partnership with Frankie, and tries to get rid of her. She claims to be 18, so he can’t ditch her with the underage excuse. You guessed it – before long, it’s Donna and Patch. Part of the problem here is that Frankie sees her as a rare blossom, far too good for life on the midway. But Patch is up for changing her into a carny, and succeeds, by getting her in the girly show. When that doesn’t work out, he finds her a job in a concession booth. Kissing her, he says, “You don’t even feel like a mark any more.”

Frankie has to find Patch for a rumble. When he stumbles in on Donna and Patch making it, he’s almost apologetic. Soon he’s back in the cage as Bozo, “rangin’ up” the yahoos, who don’t need any encouragement, because they’re already wrecking the place. Patch shows up and tells him to cool it, but Bozo is on a suicidal run, carrying on as if only exorcism would settle him down. The yahoos knock over his cage, and Patch extricates him. Then they have a serious fight and Patch says, “You and I are gonna disconnect.”

A bunch of really bad shit happens, and the two friends work together to fix a situation for Donna. They also make up, but then Frankie suggests he might move on. Patch says no, and Donna stays too. Patch decides to take a turn in the Bozo cage. He’s always been too cool for that kind of thing, before. You get the impression that they’ve each made the decision to continue on as a threesome, and that they’re each willing to make whatever adjustments or accommodations are needed, in order to do that.

patch

Interested in the portrait of Robbie Robertson as Patch?
Email Pat Hartman hartman (at) frii.com

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