Monday, June 14, 2010

Gordon Jump! How High?: A Very Special Episode

Upon the recent death of Gary Coleman, my pal Lou asked me to dig up an old column that I wrote about Gordon Jump. For several years I wrote a regular column entitled Robert Dayton's Going For It for a free Vancouver weekly. When my carte blanche left, I left (they refused to print my 3 column series about my cock, alas, only the first part saw print), they also didn't pay their contributors: a big no-no considering others (editors, ad reps, et al) were getting paid! My advice to you if you are a creative: get paid! By not getting paid you are under-valuing others in the industry and thus taking away work. I see big name blogs with advertising not paying for content. THIS IS WRONG! I blog here for free cuz no one else is making any coin off of me,just me...
Any ways, enjoy this classick column from a few years back...

The downtown Vancouver Eaton’s has really got the lead on free En’tainment. In the past they have had breakdancers, lingerie shows, living mannequins, and a French man playing an accordion. How did I know that he was French? Ohhh, the tell-tale signs were there: the beret, the striped shirt. But there was one special day that will be forever etched in my memory. April 12th, 2001. The day The Maytag Repairmen came to town. This special in-store featured Gordon Jump, who replaced the late Jessie White as Maytag Repairman in 1989 (before that he was portrayed by Tom Pedi), and his new buddy, the young and buff Mark Devine. Gordon Jump is best known for portraying Mr. Carlson, the station boss from the TV sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati. But it was his guest-starring role on Diff’rent Strokes that truly invaded my psyche.
Diff’rent Strokes was a sitcom that was inherently racist in its’ setup. An 80s materialistic escape fantasy where a rich, white man- Mr. Drummond- adopts two wise cracking black kids named Arnold and Willis as pets. Every episode would have some sort of forced moral. And then there were the “Very Special Episodes” such as The Bicycle Man, a two-parter written by two former WKRP writers with Gordon Jump as the title character, Mr.Horton. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but I’ll rely on my memories, friends’ memories, and the glorious internet.
One day Arnold and his friend Dudley go over to Mr. Horton’s bicycle shop for a visit. These kinds of shops are very popular with the children. Mr. Horton gives the boys booze and then persuades them to bounce up and down on the bed with their shirts off. Before they leave, he gives them gum to cover up their breath. The next time they visit he shows them a dirty cartoon where a mouse drops his pants! “It’s not dirty. It’s adult. We’re all adults,” says Mr. Horton. Arnold gets upset and leaves. Mr. Drummond finds out what’s been happening. I distinctly remember him getting so upset that he swears! A close-up of his face going, “What the Hell is going on here?!?!” He calls the cops and Dudley’s parents. After giving him a pill, Mr. Horton decides to play a game called “Neptune, King Of The Sea” with Dudley in the tub. Before this game happens, the police arrive. Dudley says, “He tried to...he tried to touch me.” The show ends with The Drummonds discussing the issues of child molestation.
However, due to the nature of the medium, this serious issue became somewhat trivialized with the show’s cheap set and always prevalent laugh track. The effects of child sexual abuse don’t disappear after two weeks but off Arnold and Co. would go obliviously skipping onto more “very special episodes” involving cigarettes, height issues, and Nancy Reagan. But it was effective- child abuse just wasn’t talked about so much back then. And lots of people do remember this two-parter.
Back to Eaton’s. Unlike most people, I have a good rapport with celebrities. We see each other eye-to-eye, we’re equals, I knew that meeting Gordon Jump would be no problem. Both Maytag Repairmen were signing glossies for the crowd. I approached Mr.Jump and asked him about The Bicycle Man. He was very cordial and in a quiet, pleasant tone of voice said, “That was a real gamble. You never know whether you have done the right thing or not because people could look at us on television and think that’s really us.”
“Just the other day I went to a large store where they sell stuff to new mothers. This young girl came up to me with tears in her eyes. She said, ‘Are you Gordon Jump?’ I said, ’I sure am.’ She said,’Would you mind if I could give you a hug and thank you for what you did for me years ago?’ I said, ‘No. What had I done for you years ago?’ She said, ’You did an episode of Diff’rent Strokes. That episode changed my entire life.’ And al of a sudden I realized that this business is really far more special than we sometimes give it credit for.”
I told him, ”I was a kid when I saw it and I didn’t know anything about that stuff.”
He responded, “It gives you an open forum so everybody’s talking about it and that’s what it was designed for.”
Mark Devine, the young Maytag Repairman joined in and said, “It’s weird how it sticks in your mind, too .I remember seeing the episode. I didn’t understand it but now...”

Thanks to Ted Dave for interview documentation.

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