Twitter tweeps have been RIP-ing Chuck Barris on the Internets today. Barris, a game show creator and producer of TV game shows, was best known as the host of “The Gong Show.” Barris died yesterday at the age of 87.
Similarly, other tweeps have been lamenting the end of a popular podcast, “Missing Richard Simmons.” In the six-episode podcast, filmmaker Dan Taberski investigated the disappearance of fitness-guru Richard Simmons. The podcast concluded yesterday.
Both of these notable events – the passing of Chuck Barris and the production of “Missing Richard Simmons” – have connections to America’s greatest poet, Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s third cousin, twice removed – at her request).
First, Barris’ “The Gong Show” often featured a stand-up comedian with a paper bag over his head known as “the Unknown Comic.” “The Unknown Comic” was the stage name adopted by Canadian actor Murray Langston.
Langston, who attended the Emmett Lee Dickinson School for Boys in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, got the idea after he’d learned of a comedy act performed by Emmett Lee Dickinson in the mid-1800s.
Prior to Dickinson’s comedy work with Edgar Allan Poe in the slapstick duo known as “Izzy Sharp and Moe,” Dickinson worked a solo comedy routine as “the Unknown Poet.” As “the Unknown Poet,” Dickinson read bawdy limericks and vulgar verse at various comedy shows around the country. Most often he appeared in a vaudeville comedy revue called “The Gang Show” in Baltimore, Maryland.
Second, in the late-1800s, Emmett Lee Dickinson created what was then called a “pad-cast,” a written discourse on pads of paper that were then circulated around the country for entertainment. The pad-cast was called “Missing Simon Richards,” and it focused on the disappearance of a well-known fitness counselor by the name of Simon Richards.
Besides writing the pad-cast about the disappearance of Simon Richards, Dickinson also wrote a poem about the fitness counselor's disappearance called "The odd old man is gone a year" (below on the left). Dickinson's poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen her poem "The odd old man is dead of year" (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
That odd old man is gone a year –
We miss his curly Hair.
Through such a podcast’s charm and camp
We hope his place we’ll hear.
We miss his celebrated Shorts –
Have any heard from him?
We wait to soon anticipate
His wrinkled coming Home.
His Life, begun in fluent Sweat
And antiquated song!
Achievement from deflating thighs –
Now transient and gone.
By Emily Dickinson:
That odd old man is dead a year –
We miss his stated Hat.
'Twas such an evening bright and stiff
His faded lamp went out.
Who miss his antiquated Wick –
Are any hoar for him?
Waits any indurated mate
His wrinkled coming Home?
Oh Life, begun in fluent Blood
And consummated dull!
Achievement contemplating thee –
Feels transitive and cool.