Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Henry mystery

[Henry, July 19, 2011.]

What Henry is doing is no mystery: he’s painting on a black eye to match the one a bully just gave him. (Ta-da: sunglasses.) But what is he using as a mirror?

My guess is that it’s a gum machine, the kind that once could be found attached to posts in New York City subway stations. Here are three (machines, not stations). I suppose that in the right light the glass could serve as a mirror (especially if it were, say, 1947 or so).

Sometimes I wonder who in their right mind reads Henry.

Related posts
Betty Boop with Henry
Henry’s repeated gesture

[Here’s a photograph of a gum machine in its native habitat. There’s a better suggestion from Pete in the comments: a comb dispenser.]

comments: 7

Pete said...

It might be a coin-operated comb dispenser. There used to be one in the men's restroom at the old Shady Lane Restaurant in Marengo, Illinois, where my family used to dine regularly with our Rockford cousins. (I always brought a dime with me so I could buy a new comb, whether I needed one or not.) I clearly remember that the dispenser had a mirror, presumably to aid purchasers in trying out their new comb.

Henry reminds me of the lyrics from Uncle Tupelo's "Black Eye": "He had a black eye he was proud of/Like some of his friends/Made him feel somewhere outside/Of everything and everywhere he'd been." I wonder if Henry was so proud of his one black eye that he thought he should have a second.

Michael Leddy said...

Wow — I had no idea there was such a thing. And that makes sense of the mirror. Here’s one from Flickr, without a mirror.

I have a friend who’s an Uncle Tupelo fan who’ll like seeing this reference (and may have also thought of it). The cheerful, relaxed attitude toward violence is another element in the strip’s datedness.

Stefan said...

I think I must be the friend to whom Michael refers, and it's true, I liked seeing the UT lyrics a lot. It's a great song on a great record. Plus, it gave me a chance to remember a word that I think I learned at Orange Crate Art: mondegreen. As regular readers will (again, I think) recall, the word refers to misheard phrases or lyrics. Many people upon hearing "Black Eye" for the first time think that Jeff Tweedy is singing "black guy" (and it really does sound at first as though he is).

Anyway, thanks for the delightful comment, Pete. I can't decide if I'm more amused by the existence of comb dispensers or by the Shady Lane's name. It sounds like it should refer to a place where nefarious types bowl. And the jukebox would include "Criminals," another great song from that UT record:

Michael Leddy said...

Hi Stefan. That’s some mondegreen.

A discussion board post says that the Shady Lane Theater burned down in 2009. Jerry Stiller worked there as a young man. It must have been the kind of local treasure that will never be replaced in the United States of Generica.

Pete said...

No, there will never be another place quite like it. The restaurant was a converted farmhouse, and the old barn became a playhouse for summer dinner theater. Stiller did indeed perform there as a young man, along with several other later-to-be-famous actors of that era. As remote as it was, the actors apparently stayed in town for the summer. I had more wonderful family dinners there than I can remember. The restaurant was best known for its fried chicken, which came with a slip of paper (stuck into the chicken with a toothpick) which read: "When chicken like this is served/The wise man never lingers/He throws away his knife and fork/And eats it with his fingers." I wish I still had one of those slips.

The playhouse did burn down, but the restaurant is still standing, though it's been out of business and for sale for many years.

Michael Leddy said...

Pete, you should make a post about this place. I for one would love to read it.

Pete said...

Maybe someday, after getting the news that the restaurant is finally torn down and thus can never return. (Until then, I'll hold out hope.) I just wish there were some old family photos taken there, but I can't recall any.