The square and the round

Perry Como, dead at age 88. The man who, as far as I can tell, never sang any songs written by James Brown. OK, maybe “The Big Payback.” If you’re under 30, you may have no idea who Como was. He was a smooth, schmaltzy, semi-swingin’ Richard from the ‘50s and ‘60s, a very nice man who was the stone-cold mayor of Squaresville. Especially known for his trademark cardigan sweaters and his Christmas specials, Como made Pat Boone look like Mick Jagger.

Actually, it might have been the other way around.

Perry did OK, though, if you call career sales of 100 million records OK. He appealed to folks who sorta liked Dean Martin, but got uncomfortable watching a guy spill highballs on himself while he sang. Perry’s weekly variety show on the tube was big in the ‘60s.

Being young twerps of 11 and 12, my brother, Tom, and I were rarely consulted as to what show the family should view, so we would be stuck with Mr. Cardigan. While Mom and Dad could swing—Sinatra, Basie and Harry James were faves—they could gear down for Como’s schtick very easily. As far as us boys were concerned, Perry sucked bilge water through a hose.

There was something, though, that his show was good for, and it had nothing to do with corny skits and duets with Tennessee Ernie Ford.

It had everything to do with putting Ma and Pa into a coma. Dad was easy meat. Every night, he’d hit the couch, decide the show to be watched and within 15 minutes—lights out. Didn’t matter if it was Perry Como or Perry Mason. Mom was a tad tougher. She’d usually stay awake and sound the bedtime triangle at 9:30 for us. But, on occasion, Perry Percocet would sling some sonic Sominex into the mix that would get Mom’s chin on her sternum. Maybe some drool. That was when we’d make our move.

See, Mom liked Cosmopolitan magazine, and Tom and I somehow found out that we did, too. Not the recipes and dreamy articles in the front of the mag, but those full-page ads in the back touting Mark Eden’s Bust Developer.

Talk about va-va-voom. On a 10 scale, Mark’s models invariably packed a babe factor of approximately 296. My, how those gals could test the limits of their poor, defenseless brassieres. The brothers Van Dyke were seething in boiling cauldrons of testosterone soup, and Mr. Eden was pushing that seethe needle into the red on a monthly basis.

So on those rare nights when Perry could send Mom off to Dreamland, we would grab the new Cosmo, head to our room with scissors and tape and clip out another page for our highly revered Mark Eden scrapbook. After a couple of years, that thing was pure dynamite. In fact, it was a little overwhelming. Mrs. Janowski of Utica, N.Y., a perky housewife who enjoyed head-swiveling success, was a memorable favorite.

This is a good time to say, "Thanks, Perry. Thanks a lot. REALLY a lot."