Friday, March 19, 2010

The Spotmaker

This was one of the iconic commercials to seep into my consciousness during the late seventies. I thought it was hilarious, and would stop whatever I was doing and run to the television whenever I heard it start. I memorized it word for word in no time and soon, in the privacy of my bedroom, I had the blocking down pat as well. The high-stepping dance down the glassware rack, the flamboyant flinging of the arms while saying "spotting and streaking glasses and dishes", not to mention the upraised, oh mary, palms while keening "OH NO! CALGONITE!" But I'd nailed it. I had the vocals down perfect (the opening Hn-hn-hn-hn laugh constituting a no-brainer given my years mimicking Charles Nelson Reilly as Hoodoo.) I did it for my friends and it slayed them; the whole crowd said I had it down spot on (so to speak.) So I decided to do it for my parents one evening at dinner.

I thought that the Spotmaker was a very funny cartoon character designed to pimp a product. What I failed to take into consideration was that my parents saw him as a tiny, green homosexual, sent to spread his filthy lifestyle via people's dishwashers.

I crossed the kitchen, where we ate, rinsed my plate, then opened the dishwasher to put it away. Immediately I crouched down in front of the open appliance and dove in. "Hn-hn-hn-hn-n-hn-hn! I am the Spotmaker!"

Both of my parents froze their forks midway to their mouths.

"I live inside your dishwasher, spotting and streaking dishes and glasses!"

Here I danced down our tiny kitchen, flouncing my arms at imaginary glassware.

"Do I make you unhappy? Do I embarrass you?"

At this point it was made expressly clear that I did, when my father banged his fist on the table and shouted, angrily, "Stop talking like a queer!" In the interest of accuracy, he was yelling through a mouthful of chewing tobacco, so it sounded like "Mrop tbrrkn brike br queer!" but over the years I'd learned to translate perfectly.

"I'm not a queer; I'm the Spotmaker!" I protested to no avail. "Actually, his only weakness is Calgonite."

My line of reasoning did not sway the masses. My Dad's blue cleaning-crystals of faith was not about to subvert what he already held in his heart as the truth. But he'd been finding reason to call me queer at least once a month since I was far too young to even have a sexuality, so I wasn't surprised. It also hit me that I'd had the same pejorative leveled at me when I'd imitated Hoodoo from Lidsville; another balding, accused homosexual who was also painted green.

I began to wonder about my father's view of homosexuality. Did he imagine there were secret, underground clubs in Huntington, West Virginia where men strip down to their green jockstraps, paint their skin the same shade of green, shave their heads and spend the evening evilly snickering to one another? Perhaps questioning his view of gayness might have been the ignition spark which caused me to question my own. Thanks, Spotmaker!

Mega-thanks to Joe for showing me the link and reminding me of the story.

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