…or Jackie Gleason meets
...the Blue Angels.
The Fez has a rather rich genesis and an even more intriguing and tumultuous evolution. A modest but eventually iconic first step away from the age old turban, the Fez began to get traction around 1826 in an effort to cast off images of Ottoman backwardness.
Fast forward about a century and Ataturk, in his relentless drive to evolve modern Turkey had the Grand National Assembly ban the damned thing outright in 1925. Obviously the photo above is pre-ban...but dig the fuzzy fez topper that Atababy himself is sporting. That'd be the one I'd want.
And here's Ataturk replete in western hemisphereish headguise.
Vanity Fair (1869-1914) sprinkled a Fez wearing Pasha or two in their caricature lineup during the earlier years of the magazine. The image above, signed "Coide" was by Tissot. Thomas Gibson Bowles, the founder of Vanity Fair (and by the way, grandfather to those Mitford Sisters) befriended Tissot and assisted him financially as Tissot got settled in St. Johns Wood. Bowles used Tissot caricatures on about a dozen occasions.
Imagine getting Vanity Fair delivered to your home every Friday and opening the center of the magazine to see who the victim of the week was. Sir Leslie Ward..."Spy" of Vanity Fair fame captured the Pasha above.
Most weeks the caricature was a white boy. I mean come on, this was Victorian London. But occasionally, someone a bit more semitic or even downright savage would appear. I'd say the Pasha depicted therein were grandfathered discreetly into the white boy category. Carlo Pellegrini..."Ape" of Vanity Fair and by far, my favorite caricaturist drew this one.
But Fez topped personages in history seem to pop up in disparate camps.It seems that pre-Fez-ban countries started their younguns out rather early with said head rig. I wasn't quite so lucky.
French Zouaves and other forces of North African origin wore them in various squirmishes around the world. Yes, squirmishes. Zouaves were too damned esoteric in garb and tactics to show up for mere skirmishes. Shut up.
Now this photo scares the hell out of me. Bosnian Muslims and Croats wore the Fez as members of the Waffen SS Mountain Division.
But what about the decline of the Fez? Not from a “let’s cast aside symbols of the old Ottoman world” but from a more pedestrian, or Go-Kart point of view. In my humble opinion, the slide began on August 13, 1870. From this point on my friends, the Fez was in huge ass trouble. And Dr. Fleming, pictured above, started the slide.
Here’s the story… “In 1870, there were several thousand Masons in Manhattan, many of whom lunched at the Knickerbocker Cottage at a special table on the second floor. There, the idea of a new fraternity for Masons stressing fun and fellowship was discussed. Dr. Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and fellow Mason and stage actor William Florence (above) took the idea seriously enough to act upon it.
Florence, a world-renowned actor, while on tour in Marseilles, was invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The entertainment was something in the nature of an elaborately staged musical comedy. At its conclusion, the guests became members of a secret society. Florence took copious notes and drawings at his initial viewing and on two other occasions, once in Algiers and once in Cairo. When he returned to New York in 1870, he showed his material to Fleming.
Fleming took the ideas supplied by Florence and converted them into what would become the "Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.) Fleming created the ritual, emblem and costumes. Florence and Fleming were initiated August 13, 1870, and initiated 11 other men on June 16, 1871.” And so what I call the Fez Slide began.
But before I go further, let me first mention a couple of things about Freemasonry. In order to become a Shriner, you must first be a Mason and not only a Blue Lodge initiate (of which I am a member) but also either a Scottish or York Right initiate. The Masons and Shriners are honorable and extremely charitable men who for the most part possess unimpeachable standing in their communities.
There’s been an interesting turn in Freemasonry membership over the last thirty years or so. Not a judgement—just an observation. There was a time when in most communities, all professions were represented when the local Masonic Lodge gavel hammered the Lodge to order. Every doctor, lawyer, judge and business owner in most towns could be found on the rolls of the local Lodge. Today it seems that the Masons have become a rather working class entity. Still a great organization but one with fewer crossover members whose names synonymous with the local Country Club as well. Kinda sad actually. I love the lore, history and ritual of the Masonic Degrees and because the founders of my college fraternity were all Masons, I couldn’t wait to turn 21 and begin the mystic journey. Hell, if it was good enough for Teddy.
And the Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine….My goodness what a rich, Fez topped lineage of distinct men…
Actor Harold Lloyd
Colonel Sanders. Finger Lickin' Hiram
Actor Glenn Ford
Warren G. Harding. Well ok, every now and then a turkey slips through.
And of course the failed haberdasher has already been depicted.
Air Ace Jimmy Doolittle
John Philip Sousa
Red Skelton. We need a Red Skelton these days.
And Roy...Cowboy Rogers...who looks out of sorts sans Cowboy hat.
And finally, the Duke. John Damn Wayne himself.
And please, if you ever see the Shriners out in the streets seeking donations for their hospitals for children...give them a buck or two. I go out of my way to give them something when I see Shriners fundraising at public events. I’m on the verge of making fun of the Fezboys but before doing so, let me offer the Shriners Hospitals as a model for walking the talk on true charity.
“The Shrine's charitable arm is the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a network of twenty-two hospitals in the United States, Mexico and Canada. It was originally formed to treat young victims of polio, but as that disease was controlled, they broadened their scope. They now deal with all pediatric cases, most especially with orthopedic injuries, disease and burns. There is never any charge for treatment at a Shriners Hospital. There is no requirement for religion, race, or relationship to a Freemason. In 2008, Shriners Hospitals had a total budget of $826 million and in 2007 they approved 39,454 new patient applications, attended to the needs of 125,125 patients.”
They take care of our children. Regardless of ability to pay or what color you are or who or what you worship. Walk through a Shriners Hospital one day. You’ll be flush with gratitude.
So with their charitable accomplishments as context, I must ask the sartorial question…At what point did these boys debase the robust history of the Fez to this degree? The iconic symbol of Ottomosity now irreparably tainted with exhaust fumes from a Briggs and Stratton four-cycle Go-Kart engine.
I mean damn...these boys are off the hook with their pimp-my-ride buggies and their precision circuito-undulationaton moves on parade pavement. Michael Schumacher...be afraid...very afraid.
Nothing short of the USAF Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels in precision and daring moves. Butcept none of these mugwumps could pass a flight physical. Do you think there’s a Go-Kart physical?
These are Oldsmobiles right? Am I the only one that howls every time I see these things?
My bet is that the brothers only retired the Fez for this, their single Christmas performance.
Watch out! These guys are pulling G's that must be equal to the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels in full tilt. I heard there was a tragedy in this band of Merry Jeepsters. Hoyt Johnson got a hemorrhoid caught in the rear transaxle of his Jeep, mid turn, and it strangled him right there. On the street. In Hahira Georgia...the state, not the country.
These guys tried out for the Merry Jeepsters and to a man, failed. Seems that their blood pressure and BMI were too low.
I have nothing to say.
Lee Iaccoca, father of the Mustang, leveraged a stroke of genius when he built the original Mustang on the Falcon chassis. Manufacturing processes were already in place for the Falcon. These guys obviously didn't read the dry cleaning labels on their little Iaccocas.
Carroll Shelby? Wake up Carroll Shelby. There's a fat guy stealing your car.
My dad had a '54 'vette. I threw a brick at it. That's worth another post. But for now ladies, relish the pure Alpha Male testosterosity of this gang. Obviously since they are slightly diagonal to the normal parade stream, this troupe of precision thang danglers are about to whoop it into one of those undulation crazy eights things...again. The guy in front-left...Udelle Finklea...he's done this before.
And what's this guy in the back doing? What's his job? Oh right, he's driving the supply wagon...beer, Prep-H and whatever else these precise boys might need. Depends.
And so please…enjoy these Fez topped caricatures on wheels. Revel in their pudgy good ole boy-ness as they offer a dash of Old Bay or celery-salt to the parade Bloody Mary. Because these bad boys are risking life and limb at seven miles an hour for your enjoyment. Fez Wearing Go-Kart boys…the swizzle stick that stirs the campy cocktail of any parade. Chubby Fez Boys on Wheels…the sole reason why even though I’ll never stop giving them my money with all my heart, and a portion of my wallet, I will never, ever become one.