It was over two decades ago when I first realized that I had to take extreme care and caution when using my middle finger inappropriately. I was living in Studio City at the time and one particular Friday had a very difficult time at the office…or should I say on the stage. I was constantly butting heads with the late night talk show host Arsenio Hall. He already didn’t like me very much because I was one of the people on his crew that told him “no” more often than he would have liked. And because of that, I was lumped in with the “suits.”
“Suits” were the people who were technically employees of Paramount Pictures Television and not part of the crew of people who were hired specifically to work on “The Arsenio Hall Show.” Associate producers, makeup and hair, camera operators, art directors, prop masters…they were all hired just for the show. Those of us who took notes during the taping of the show (lawyers and music clearance person included) were lumped into the category of “suits.” That meant that as much as Arsenio would have liked to fire me every now and then, he could not. If it became too unbearable, I would have been switched to work on another show but that was not the case. In some weird sort of way, I think he liked to torture me by singing a song he knew was denied. He would sing it during his monologue after I already told him he could not and then I would be running around backstage sending memos to the exec’s, telling them they could not repeat the show because the song that came out of Arsenio’s mouth was not approved by the music publisher. That’s the kind of Friday I had over two decades ago.
I was the music clearance sheriff and part of my job was to make sure that songs were not used illegally or copyright infringement would be on the horizon. We were having difficulty negotiating with Warner/Chappell Music who controlled many songs and when Arsenio asked me if he could have the house band play an Ohio Players tune called, “Fire” which was controlled by Warner/Chappell Music, I told him ‘no.’
He didn’t care that by ignoring me and singing the song anyway he was impeding the negotiations which were going on with the music publisher in question. All he wanted to do was sing the song. And he did. He even made a comment to the audience that he was told he couldn’t sing it and he felt like doing something he wasn’t supposed to do. Disrespectful. Flip. Insolent. Audacious. All of the above.
So by the time I picked up Alex (three at the time) and Erik (two at the time) from the Paramount Daycare Center after the taping of the show I was in a bit of a mood. Traffic was horrible. I was beyond grouchy. The kids were cranky. It didn’t make for a pleasant ride home at seven in the evening on a Friday. Throw in a bit of road rage, some people cutting me off and well, let’s just say I didn’t take care of my middle finger the way I should have that day.
When I got home I lifted Alexander out of the car and as Alex waved to the neighbor across the street he used his middle finger as an additional salutation. The neighbor was not pleased. I was mortified and when asked for an explanation when we got into the house, Alex replied, “Mommy, you waved hello with that finger three times on the way home so why did you get mad at me for doing what you did?” That was one of those parenting moments I wish I could forget.
These days I’m a grandmother and isn’t it an unwritten rule that grandmother’s aren’t supposed to express the use of the middle finger? I’ll have to try and remember that the next time I’m driving around the city with Ameilia in the back seat.
Unless, of course, we are stuck on the 405 on a Friday evening in the middle of rush hour traffic and someone cuts me off…then all bets are off.