Monday, October 1, 2012

Sandy Duncan, urban-mythic Cyclops

When one can't chart the history of associations that have allowed him to arrive at a thought, it's called the Sandy Duncan Effect. I found this out recently--she just popped into my mind, the same way she has done for fellow bloggers. We don't know why we think of her, we just do.

She is a still-living personality that I seldom consider. This makes her image all the more vivid, lit in front of a David Lynchian purple velvet curtain in the spotlight of the mind's eye.

It could be argued that Peter Falk is the patron saint of this blog. His character Columbo has inspired a great deal of entries, being that the series has compelled me to google a panoply of character actors. I revere Falk. His cyclopian aspect makes him all the more special. His Columbo character has keen insight, Odin-like. He is locked into an archetype, like the original cyclopses, seeds of  Uranus' castration.

I assumed there must be some such aura surrounding Sandy Duncan, one of the first one-eyed celebrities I became aware of. Well I remember the fascination, within the knotty-pined and cane-covered TV world of childhood family rooms, when my mother related to me the story of Duncan's cyclopia. Doubtless Duncan was performing in a variety show, full of sugar-sequined curtains, when mom explained that the actress had had a brain tumor, requiring the removal of her eye, to be replaced by a glass eye. It was astonishing; there must be a divine feminine force that propelled her glass eye into a field of high performance, looking so real. Unlike the expressions of her male counterparts, (think of the glare of Sammy Davis Jr., or Peter Falk's inscrutable, swart pebble under his crusty brow)  Duncan's eye was amazingly life-like.

How do such urban myths evolve? Now I have found out it is hogwash. Sandy Duncan never had a glass eye. We may bemoan much of this digital age, but at least the new access to information makes these urban myths easy to bust. Some of the magic is lost, too.

 I look back to my times in school, hearing the strange pronouncements of teachers, who  sometimes built whole lessons--neigh, whole units-- around pixie dust.
My favorite of these fallen myths is the one woven into my memories of Social Studies, maybe 8th Grade. With the look of a pastor, voice full of awe and portent, our beloved teacher relayed the sad story of  Kitty Genovese, victim of modern society. She screamed for help in the Babylon of New York (remote and dark city of imagination, decadent as the original Babylon of mustached caliphs and sword-dancers.) Her cowardly neighbors lay in bed, callously ignoring her, letting her die. This story has since been shown to be inaccurate.

 Now, parents and authorities have lost their power to myth-shape.
I find that the certainties of childhood have largely fallen through the thin ice. Myths develop because of our wish for certainty, for explanation.

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