Creepy politicians and media personalities are losing their jobs and stature left and right over revelations of sexual importuning, and we fully support that (just as we support more rapey conservative policymakers stepping into the light of the shining beacon that was Dan Johnson—grab that brass ring, Roy, you’ve got nothing left to lose!). And yet, open, unreconstructed, virulent racism no longer costs anyone face—it’s become a positive boon in right wing careering. For nostalgia’s sake, we decided to revisit an incident when a conservative figure lost his job for a racist remark, albeit one that went on to bear some rather unlikely but utterly glorious cultural fruit.
In the 1970s, Earl Butz was Secretary of Agriculture under GOP Presidents Nixon and Ford. He was a reactionary anti-New Dealer whose ridiculously pro-corporate policies arguably were main drivers of an environmental crisis North America now faces due to the various pollutants created by massive-scale factory farming, but his most memorable contribution to our culture was a terribly rude remark: When asked by I shit you not Pat Boone in 1976 to explain why African Americans tended not to vote Republican (I want to know how even Pat Boone could be that clueless—seriously how is that even a question?), he replied, “I’ll tell you what the coloreds want. It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”
That’s right: he actually said “the coloreds.” MAN, those were different times.
Initial reportage of the remark protected Butz’s identity, attributing the quote to “a Cabinet officer.” But once the remark’s author was outed, he resigned. He continued to serve the nation as an unholy piece of shit, being convicted of tax evasion and serving on agri-business boards of directors, until society was at long last relieved of him permanently in 2008. But his infamous remark proved enduring.
Loose Shoes is a comedy anthology movie roughly in the vein of The Groove Tube or Kentucky Fried Movie, except that unlike those films, Loose Shoes really, really sucks. It was shot in 1977, but not released until 1980—it was saved from obscurity by Bill Murray. A pre-fame Murray acted in one of its sketches, and as he had gone on to fame as Chevy Chase’s replacement in Saturday Night Live and the star of Meatballs and Caddyshack, disingenuous marketing claimed Loose Shoes as, ahem, “a Bill Murray movie.” None of the sketches are especially funny or memorable—not even Murray’s—save for one, the film’s closing set piece, “Dark Town After Dark,” an INSANE and wonderful fuck you to Butz, in the form of a Cab Calloway style revue embedded within a parody of ’30s black cinema! This clip is brilliant enough to justify the film’s existence—it features NY stage and character actor David Downing as the Calloway clone who dwells in abject poverty until MOVIE MAGIC™ transforms him into the singer of the film’s namesake song. It’s an incredible jazz arrangement performed by a fine (and sadly, uncredited) band, creatively shot, and sepia-toned to maintain a ’30s feel. I warn you: after you watch this, the obscene chorus will be stuck in your head indefinitely.
Here’s a rather more baffling take on the comment—one that not only pre-dates Loose Shoes’ release, but comes from The Netherlands. G.T. Walls is a singer about whom I can find almost no information except that he’s Dutch, and that he released in 1977 an album uncleverly titled Rhythm and Booze, which featured at the close of its A side a song called “A Tight Pussy, Loose Shoes And A Warm Place To Shit,” which was released as a single the following year. It features contributions from Holland’s somewhat better-known Arnie Treffers, and while it’s not remotely as catchy as the song in “Dark Town After Dark,” it boasts a pleasant enough ragtime influence.