While enjoying France and dodging Omicron, I’m also deep into Mel Brooks new book. It’s called “All About Me. My Remarkable Life in Show Business.” It is all about Mel. In my opinion, a genius.
In the chapter about making “Blazing Saddles,” Mel tells a story. I had heard it before. He asks someone if punching out an old lady in a bar fight was too over the top? The person says, “Mel, if you are going to step up the bell, ring it.”
He reminded himself of that when he was shooting the scene of the cowboys farting around the campfire. “Can I do this?” Ring that bell.
My dad said the same thing to me along the way. Not those very words, but something like… “If you are going to do something, don’t do it half-assed.”
Well, reading this book has brought something back to me that I haven’t thought of in a very long time. My dad’s funeral.
Ray Rhodes was a good man. A pharmacist in Paris, Texas. Loved by everyone. Would give anyone the shirt off his back. That’s probably why he died without a lot in the bank. Somehow, we managed. I digress.
When my dad died, my mom told me to deliver the eulogy. Keep in mind, this was a small funeral home in Paris, Texas.
I was reading Marlo Thomas’ book, “The Right Words at the Right Time.” She told the Mel Brooks story about ringing the bell.
I decided to use the quote. I decided to tell the farting around the campfire story. Well, it got a laugh. Mel would be proud.
Not everyone thought it was funny. On the way to the cemetery from the funeral home, the funeral director said, “I would have never let you eulogize your father if I thought you were going to say that.”
I responded, “Not your choice. We paid for the funeral.”
A few days later, the First Baptist Church of Paris, Texas, equivalent of Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” came to our house for a visit. Ugh.
I’ll not use her name. She’s not worth it. She talked to us about grief. Prayed with us. It was actually nice. Surprisingly so. I walked her out.
Then, the old church lady kicked in. She told me that she didn’t approve of what I said at the funeral. She added that she didn’t approve of my lifestyle. She then decided we should “pray the gay away.”
It didn’t go well from there. I asked her to leave. She told me I was going to hell. I told her that at least I was going to have fun getting there. I used a few other words and put her in her car.
As mad as I was back then… today, I look back on that story and laugh.
I have no idea if that old church lady is still alive. This, I know though. To paraphrase Mel Brooks… she stepped up to MY bell. I rang it. Hard and loud.
Read this book. Every page is funny.