Friday, March 4, 2011

Gratuitous Tom Waits post (Updated)

"I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."
- Tom Waits in a 2002 NPR interview

Well I broke down in East St. Louis
On the Kansas City line
and I drunk up all my money
that I borrowed every time
and I fell down at the derby
and now the night's black as a crow
It was a train that took me away from here
but a train can't bring me home
The above video is one of very few instances where I think a man with a cigarette holder works (besides the incredibly obvious). Lover of all things tobacciana that I am, I nevertheless have a hard time getting on board with cigarette holders-- they're so damn prissy!
I could just stop this post right here.

Anything motivated by a desire not to smell of smoke clearly cannot be trusted.

It seems to me that cigarette holders can be understood either as campy or aristocratic. I've written before about the strange ways cigarettes interact with class:
" the original Wall Street Gekko is never seen smoking a cigar, only cigarettes. I, being me, read a lot into this- everyone else in Wall Street who matters smokes cigars- Bud Fox, his father, and Gekko smoke cigarettes...
In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I don't think I saw a single cigarette, and Gekko smoked plenty of cigars. I actually think this makes sense- destabilized, insecure, and with a fraction of the money he did prior to incarceration, he no longer has the luxury or the confidence to play himself down- there's a scene where he greets some other financial bigwig only to be awkwardly brushed aside and ignored- now, he needs every superficial wealth-and-power-signalling accessory he can find, for himself, probably, more than for anyone else."
For Thompson and Waits, the holder is clearly about camp, whereas with just about everyone else, it always comes across to me as trying too damn hard, one of the biggest damnable offenses in my book. Cigarette holders done right are a lot like gold teeth-- a potential status symbol that, having found its way into the lower classes, has been recontextualized and reimagined so thoroughly that no one outside of a very particular milieu would dare embrace it.

Actual elegance is about simplicity and understatement-- someone trying to appear sophisticated by holdering their cigarettes seems rather like a little girl stumbling around in her mother's shoes.

But then of course I've never really had any patience for people dandying up their poisons.

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