Jim Siergey: Kate & Willy

April 30th, 2019

Kate Smith. We all know who she was, right?

She was a large-framed woman who had a voice to match her size, which was about the same diameter as a doorway. She was very popular in the 1930s and 40s. Her rendition of “God Bless America” was her main claim to fame.

I only mention her because she entered and re-entered my consciousness recently. Let me tell ya, son, one entrance of Kate Smith is quite enough but, two? Phew.

I was browsing in a used book store, yes, they still exist, and noticed a Kate Smith cassette tape atop a stack of ‘em. A stack of cassette tapes, that is, not a stack of Kate Smith cassette tapes. She’s stacked enough for one tape.

Okay, I’ll stop with the size cracks.

I thought nothing more of it until later in the day when, on the internet, I came across a news item about Kate Smith. Actually, there was more than one article, the pro and the con. One was about how in the 1940s Ms. Smith was a torch bearer for racial tolerance. Another accused her of being a racist.

I don’t have a dog in that fight. The thing that made an impact on me was the unusualness of me coming across Kate Smith twice in one day.

The next day went even further than that.

My wife and I attended Chicago Shakespeare at Navy Pier’s production of Hamlet. As usual, it was an excellent production. However, as it approached the end with dead bodies littering the stage and Horatio’s closing line of “Goodnight, Sweet Prince” nearing, I began remembering the Cultural Jet Lag version of Hamlet.

KahunasiergeyVintage Siergey…


Cultural Jet Lag was a comic strip that I collaborated on with Tom Roberts. He wrote, I drew. The concept of the strip was an illogical combination of high and low culture with no regard for time and space in which we meshed what is considered “high art” with what is considered “low art”.

In this case we meshed the Frankie Avalon/ Annette Funicello beach movies of the 1960s with Shakespeare and entitled our version Beach Blanket Hamlet. Tom wrote a wonderful script that concluded with “Goodnight, Big Kahuna.”

So that was running through my head as I was watching the scene taking place on stage. Yes, it can be a bit strange being me.

But, as they say in infomercials, “That’s not all.”

Later that evening as I was riffling through the channels before turning off the TV and turning in to bed, I came across an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  It was during his opening monologue before he presents the evening’s story. In this one, he spoke, in his droll manner, these words.

“There will not be a presentation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet tonight.”

That made three Hamlet references in one day. Beat Kate Smith by one.

These two occurrences which, unfortunately for you dear reader, are likely interesting only to me do happen to all of us, no?

There is actually a name for this. It is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one stumbles upon some obscure piece of information—often an unfamiliar word or name—and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.

There are conflicting theories about why it is called Baader-Meinhoff, and they may all be apocryphal. In fact, the more scientifically accepted name nowadays is “frequency illusion”.

So there you have it…and you can keep it.

As for me, I am expecting that the next time I tune into the Those Were The Days radio program, I will hear an old radio broadcast of Laurence Olivier and Kate Smith performing…you know what.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Circus Boy

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