|John Belushi as a "Killer Bee" on Saturday Night Live.|
My column in the Sun-Times is limited to 719 words, unless I get special dispensation for something longer, and often tangents must be stripped away to get the column down to the proper length, like a wrestler wrapping himself in a mat to make weight before a bout.
For instance. Wednesday's bit of fun about St. Patrick's Day originally contained a deep dive into the history and etymology of "deely bobbers," which I first remembered as "deely boppers," those plastic headbands topped with a pair of springs holding a variety of festive trappings: stars, balls, or, in my mind most definitively, shamrocks. They seem a necessary part of the clueless mis-celebration of Irish culture: the pints of green Miller beer, the grass green "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirts, the painted faces, the deely bobbers.
Fashion often disappears into the mist. But deely bobbers are quite specific, at least according to Wikipedia:
Stephen Askin invented the original deely bobber in 1981, inspired by the "Killer Bees" costumes on Saturday Night Live....Askin made prototype Deely Bobbers in his kitchen and test-marketed them at the Los Angeles Street Fair of summer 1981, selling 800 at $5 each. He sold the invention to the Ace Novelty Co. of Bellevue, Washington, which launched it in January 1982 at the California Gift Fair. The name "Deely Bobber" was suggested by the wife of John Minkove, an Ace marketer; it had been her schoolfriend's placeholder name for "thingamajig". It was previously a brand of toy block sold 1969–1973.I remember the "Killer Bees" as being a recurrent theme on Saturday Night Live. There was something inherently funny about seeing John Belushi in this ridiculous bee costume, and he would show up from time to time, almost randomly, dressed as a bee, and the sproingy deely bobbers bouncing around his head were part of the overall effect.
In looking at the clips for deely bobbers, I noticed an early New York Times story of June 7, 1982, "A New Fad Invades: Martian Antennae" which is distinctive in that it completely misses both the origin of the novelty, a TV show of some note broadcast not terribly far from the Times newsroom, as well as the headdress's actual name. Yes, it's easier now with the Internet. But still. It couldn't have taken that much effort to figure out where they came from.
And here I thought the general cluelessness of the Times cultural coverage is a recent deterioration. I have to remember that Spy magazine had no trouble in the 1980s running a densely-packed monthly column cataloguing the Times' flaws and follies.