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John Boni

John Boni
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North Carolina, USA
Birthday
July 03
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Retired TV writer/producer, mostly comedy, but also soaps and children's programming. Blogging because, like everyone else, things are on my mind.

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JULY 20, 2010 12:23PM

Turn Off the Radio, You Fucking Spic Bastard

Rate: 6 Flag
Racist

That’s what I yelled, all you Mel Gibson haters. Twice.

Not as bad as what was recorded coming out of Mel’s mouth, but I guess it’s enough to call me a racist.

Turn off that radio, you fucking spic bastard.

This was Manhattan in the early sixties. I had a cheap, rent-controlled apartment on 60th & Amsterdam. The bedroom window overlooked the courtyard of the buildings on 59th and 60th off of Amsterdam.

Every morning at 5 AM, someone in a 59th street building across the  courtyard woke up and played his radio … loudly. Loud Hispanic music.

The radio rested on the sill of his open window that faced the canyon created by the backs of these Manhattan tenements. It was summer, all windows were open, hoping for the slightest breeze to relieve the awful humidity.

As miraculous as it was to manage to fall asleep in the drench of August, it took only the slightest slightest distraction to jump you into wakefulness. That would be the radio. The loud music interspersed by a Spanish disc jockey speaking at a fever pitch, as if he were announcing a soccer match.

I hated the music. It was boring, repetitive and, of course, loud.

At the time I was playing El Gallo in The Fantastics off Broadway on Sullivan Street. I got home late, wired from the performance and usually managed to fall asleep at, say, 2AM, knowing that I would awaken at nine or ten.

But the radio starts at 5 AM. Impossible to shut my windows. No air conditioning and the room is already drenched with humidity. After two mornings of this aural intrusion, I determine radio man’s apartment number from his back window and go to his building.

I tacked a note to his door in Spanish asking him to not put the radio in his open window. Not only is it loud and wakes us up, it echos in the canyon formed by the buildings there.

Two notes and five days later, the radio remained on the sill.  The music seemed to be louder. That might have been my stressed imagination, but loud is loud, especially in the early morning quiet.

See where I’m going with this, Melophobes?

Finally, after two weeks, two cop noise calls and three notes later, I was awakened again at 5 AM and I yelled out the window:

“Turn off the radio, you fucking spic bastard.”

You fucking spic bastard.

Did calling him a spic reflect badly on me? Hell, yeah.

Did it make me a racist?

Before the Melexperts answer, let me drop some mitigating factors on you.

This was the 60’s. Political correctness hadn’t yet made its self-righteous entrance in our consciousness. And I had been raised in the 50’s, when we grew up on the streets freely calling one another, “Skinny,” “Dago,” “Porky,” “Gimpy,” “Kike,” “Queer,” “Whitey,” “Mick” and, yes, “Nigger,” with impunity. It was our language. We all sensed somewhere deep in our developing subconscious that these epithets carried a degree of hurt. But we were all doing it and, so, we took the bad with the good and the names passed muster.

So, turn off the radio, you fucking spic bastard.

However, in the sixties, an awareness grew that these names were being freighted with a new power, a negative designation that represented “fighting words.” Not yet as utterly taboo as the good and decent, righteous citizens among us would like, but not as forgivable as during my childhood.

Why did I call him a spic bastard instead of, oh, mother fucking bastard, or sonuva bitch bastard?

My guess is that in that moment of anger and frustration I wanted to fight back in a way that I thought would anger him the most. Something that would hit him as hard as the loud music hit me. Something I thought would hurt him where he lived.

If he had been very fat, I would have said, you fat bastard. If he were ugly, I would have called him an ugly bastard. If he were a “little person,” I’d have called him a midget bastard.

What this says about me is that, like everyone, I see what I see. A fat person is fat, an ugly person (subjective, I know) is ugly and a Puerto Rican is a Puerto Rican, or spic. It says that at that angry moment I was weak, uncharitable and certainly unchristian. 

I was fighting back with whatever weapon I had at the time. Not a gun, not a rock, not a radio … but words.

Or, if I really wanted to vent, I could’ve said “I hope you get beat up by a bunch of fucking n***ers," but that would've been too Shakespearian for my semi-conscious state.

But Melhaters would call me a racist or fatist or uglist.

In fact, had I gone over there with a gun and capped him, I’d have been convicted of murder. If someone heard me say “Turn off the radio you fucking spic bastard” as I pulled the trigger, I’d have been convicted of a hate crime, which as we all know, makes a person worse than a murderer.

Such is the crazy world the irrational emotionality of political correctness has created for us.

Now, I wasn’t drunk like Mel, nor did I have what seems to be his drinking problem. Nor did I have the anger issues everyone attributes to him — although I was gut splitting, cartoid artery-pulsing, sleep deprived pissed off at the time.

There doesn’t seem to be any question that Mel succumbs to alcohol, that he has anger problems and that he has negative attitudes towards Jews, the true nature and extent of which none of us really knows.

In fact, none of us really knows anything about what Gibson really feels or believes about anything except what we read in everyone’s self-righteous, indignant posts and television talk fests.

Our opinions are cobbled together from those hidden recordings, from media sound bytes, gossip reports, hearsay and our own feelings, which we smugly reinforce. In evaluating the entire ongoing (just saw two cartoons today) Melathon, it seems that the venom, the bile and epithets directed at Mel far outstrip his own vile comments.

What does that say about THAT?

Many of the same people who bleed for criminals because of their emotional disablities or other mitigating life factors are unwilling to grant Mel the same kind of understanding for his own psychological torments.

The target is just too easy, isn’t it!

As if none of us EVER wrote, thought, said or did anything in private that is comparable to “Turn off the radio, you fucking spic bastard.”

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Comments

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Great title, leading to an even better story. Racism makes my knee jerk a lot, and I never hear any good attacks on political correctness that don't sound like bad defenses of racism. I feel a lot wiser now.

Mel gets zero slack because Mel isn't Mel. He's the Road Warrior, he's the Man With No Face, he's the guy who shot the other guy to avenge some other guy. He's an icon, and icons don't blink. They don't fart, they don't drive, and they don't buy their own groceries. But sometimes they act distastefully, and then they are the Fallen, and the role of the Fallen is to allow the rest of us to...

The rest is pretty obvious. Rated.
Totally valid points about general humanity presented with your usual panache. You do hedge a bit that we don't Really know the extent of Mel's drinking, racism or anti-Semitism. Yeah, we have a clue. Not from gossip, from police reports and his own mouth via mea culpas.

Mel might be currently, ironically hoist on his own petard but precisely because he has a very public bully pulpit from which to shout or insinuate his repugnant personal views. Celebrity. Power. The Passion of the Christ, for example.

I'm curious, did that guy ever turn off the radio?
Interesting read. Glad I stopped by.
It takes guts in this day and age to write a piece like this. Haven't followed the Melplosion and subsequent alarmed blogging outbursts, but guessed that it has been rife with piety, sanctimony and hypocrisy.
This unties the knot in the end of the "we're all better than that" gas filled balloon so that it can shoot around the room in its own directionless journey.
K-Tel ... thanks. I'm glad you took this in the spirit in which it was written. Just another take on the whole issue. Your sensibleness is appreciated.

You've hit the nail on the head re: Mel. He's not Mel, he's all the characters he's played and Mel is getting the comeuppance.

Sally .... good to hear from you. Not so sure we know that much about Mel's inner demons as we think those recordings suggest. Sure, we know what he said, but the rest is inference.

No, the fucking radio never stopped. I bought a BB gun and shot the fucking thing five days later. Seriously.

Gwool ... glad you stopped by as well. Spread the word. I don't pimp my stuff anymore, so any help is appreciated.

Alsoknownas. Thanks. Long time no connect. Hope you're well.

Kyle, thanks. We've ALL done and said stuff like that. Admitting it might give us some perspective on others who say the same thing.
John,

Thankyou again for being normal. And thankyou for shooting the radio - that was unusual, and it was the funniest thing ever.

Well done. And although everybody says I shouldn't listen to you - I can't help it, you're right too much. Actually, you have the charming ability to make eveybody else seem idiotic! They must hate you. Again, well done sir.