Pat Clark

A little holiday tradition can go a long way

I miss Perry Como.

Sounds hokey, I know, but darn it, I do. I miss Perry and Dean Martin and Andy Williams. Heck, I even miss Mac Davis.

All of the above had Christmas variety shows back in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, along with a handful of other old-guard entertainers who often would step up to the holiday plate.

I used to look forward to those shows, as a child and even into my teen years. You'd always get a big dose of Christmas spirit from them, thanks to the music, the little skits and the almost-mandatory gathering of the host's family on stage for at least one medley if not the big finale.

And the Rockettes. The Rockettes were quite the festive staple back then.

We don't get a lot of variety shows anymore, especially those of the holiday, um, variety. Although, frankly, I likely wouldn't tune in to shows featuring today's hot stars, with the exceptions of Josh Groban and Harry Connick Jr., who really are like singers from another era. And aren't exaclty hot stars, anyway. No thanks to a "Very Merry Justin Timberlake" or "Britney Does Christmas."

Which is why I especially miss Perry, Dean, Andy, et al. Most Christmas songs just need a '40s or '50s-era crooner to really make them sing. Too many pop performers overdo the emoting -- I'm talking to you, Mariah Carey -- and ruin the feeling. I don't want any hip-hop or poppy spins on the old standards or nasty bumping and grinding to "Up on the Rooftop."

Plus, where seeing the '60s- or '70s-era Rockettes decked in Santa suit-inspired red dresses and high-heeled black boots was once darling and demur, I have a hunch that any take on the same outfit by Britney or Beyoncé or Christina Aguilera would feature far less dress and precious little demur.

No one needs a soft-core-porn Mrs. Claus moment. No one.

I've been hearing a lot of Perry, Dean and Andy, along with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and the like on the holiday radio stations lately and it's made me a little wistful for those old shows. They were specials that made the season a little more special.

One thing we still do have, though, that also made the season special back in my day (OK, if I ever offer up the phrase "back in my day" again, I need someone to march down here and slap the aging right out of me. Figuratively speaking, of course. Actual slapping would hurt. And be a felony) are the cartoon holiday shows: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." And thank heaven we do.

Sure, some have been colorized to make them pop more off the TV screens, but the cartoons themselves remain intact and warm and fuzzy and fabulous. Thank goodness some things don't change.

It's kind of surprising, really, that they still are as anticipated by kids today as they were 40 years ago. Those Christmas cartoons provide one of the precious few areas were old-school remains superior to modern invention. There hasn't been a new Christmas cartoon -- or movie, for that matter -- in decades that's had a snowball's chance of becoming a classic.

Even more surprising is that no one's tried to turn Rudolph more PC by making the other reindeer play nice because we must embrace differences immediately rather than let everyone learn more about mistakes by actually letting them happen.

Hey, no one's even tried to remove Linus's moving biblical monologue from the core of the "Charlie Brown" cartoon. Oh, man, let's keep a lid on that one. Maybe the "happy holidays" pushers just haven't noticed.

Forgive me for showing my middle-age, but to see something -- anything -- that's old and traditional hold up and be cherished by today's technology-devouring and rabid politically correct culture puts a nice toasty little nip in my eggnog.

But I still miss Perry Como.

Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at pclark@modbee.com.

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