"I don't do anything dangerous. When it gets dangerous I get lost." --The credo of Jim Rockford
Jim Rockford is the coolest. Bar none. I mean, he wears polyester jackets, he drives a Firebird, he gets $200 a day plus expenses, plus the girl, generally. He dates girls who are smarter than he is, a very cool thing to do. Lately he has been dating Beth, a lawyer. Rockford could never be a lawyer--his degree is from the College of Hard Knocks. And his LSAT score was 417, anyway.
There is probably no cooler place to live than a trailer home, which is where Rockford lives. With his father, Rocky, a superannuated geezer who isn't too cool but has a cool pickup truck. Rockford hates getting into fights, but when he does he always hurts his hand. Always. And he always gets punched in the gut. Rockford makes great use of his Phone-Mate, both in a practical way and as a motif for his show. All this is so so cool, so unbelievably cool. His best friends are Angel, an Hispanic con man, and Dennis, a policeman. Rockford knows Angel went to Brandeis and Dennis would rather be in New York working for Kojak, but he pals around with them anyway. It's the cool thing to do.
This isn't the Saturday night Rockford, you understand--that one's a clone, albeit a very cool clone. This is the Late Night Rockford, on Monday and Wednesday nights at 11:30 on Channel 7. At midnight, when you're coaxing those last twelve drops out of a half-gallon of Jim Beam, Rockford can become an objective correlative of your internal landscape. A very cool objective correlative.
Maybe I should develop some of these points more fully. Like the Firebird. Not only is it a cool car, but just check out the things he does with it. He's probably the best driver on television, and definitely the coolest. Every time I try to throw my Gremlin into a spin instead of doing a three-point turn it stalls. Rockford wouldn't be caught dead in a Gremlin.
Rockford is a lot cooler than his late night competition. Johnny Carsoin isn't really cool and half the time he has some hopeless boring cripple like Rich Little filling in for him. Baretta is sexy but not very cool, although his bird is cool. Barnaby Jones was cool when he worked for President McKinley. Mannix's theme song is cool, but he gets slugged in the medulla too often to be cool. Starsky and Hutch are the antithesis of cool, with their bullshit Trans Am and all. Banacek could never be cool with that haircut.
Take, for example, last Monday night. Channel 4 had on "The Best of Carson" with some guy named Merle Earle. Channel 5 had Police Story, with aging Presidential groupie Angie Dickinson and that guy with the hole in his chin. Rockford, meanwhile, had a very cool evening. He almost got his hand broken. His Firebird left the ground completely on at least two occasions. He got cheated out of his fee. In the end he helped steal a Mercedes limousine. Now, if you can't tell how cool all this is you might as well put your head in a Cuisinart and call it quits, because you're never going to get anywhere in life.
Understandably, "The Files," as it is known to the cognoscenti, has become a cult feature on college campuses everywhere. Or at least my brother watches it, and a friend of his, and the former sports editor of The Crimson. Maybe you don't believe me. Just ask Miles Kantrowitz how many polyester jackets he's sold since Rockford started. Ask Herbert T. Grierson of Grierson Pontiac how many Firebirds he's wheeled off his lot. They know. They really appreciate how cool Rockford is.
Yesterday some guy asked me whether the aesthetic of cool had any objective validity. I gave the poor fellow a quarter and told him to buy some Smokehouse Almonds. It's all you can do.