Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big Love Times Three...Maybe Four

Considering this entry involves Mormons and porn, maybe I should title it Orgazmo, Part II.

I'm surprised it has taken three seasons for the HBO series Big Love to get under the skin of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For those of you who have not seen Big Love, the show's story line revolves around a Mormon polygamist, Bill Hendrickson (played by Bill Paxton), his three wives and their children. Hendrickson lives in suburbia but has ties to a polygamist compound which is led by a Warren Jeffs type character named Roman Grant. Throughout the first three seasons of Big Love, the Hendrickson family has struggled to live the "principal" of plural marriage while appearing to be a normal suburban family.

According to this AP article, HBO agreed to air a one time disclaimer in the credits of an episode stating the characters in the show did not represent the church's position on polygamy. That agreement kept the church satisified until now. The episode of Big Love scheduled to air this Sunday (March 15th) includes scenes of a Mormon endowment ceremony. Church ceremonies such as this are believed sacred by the Mormons and are not to be performed or talked about outside a Mormon temple. The fact such a sacred ceremony is being acted out on a television show is too much for many church members and many are calling for boycotts of HBO and all other Time-Warner companies.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on polygamy, Mormons or the LDS chuch, but a scene in a Big Love episode a couple of weeks back did remind of something that happened occasionally when I was growing up. For some reason, Mormon missionaries worked the neighborhood I grew up in quite a bit back when I was a kid. My aunt who lived accross the street from us was a member of a Free Will Baptist church and had read several books on cults written by fundamentalist writers. When the Mormon missionaries knocked on her door, instead of ignoring them like most folks in our neighborhood did, my aunt would open the door and tell the missionaries about her beliefs. Among those beliefs was the Bible was not to be added to or subrtracted from. So with that, my aunt believed Mormons were a cult following a false prophet because The Book of Mormon was an untrue addition to the Bible. A scene similar to this played out in this recent Big Love episode. One of the Hendrickson children begins to witness to a elderly man who is a born again Christian. The elderly man quickly turns the table on the child and Bill Hendrickson and begins to witness to them. Soon he is telling them they are following false beliefs and they need to change their ways.

Turning to a different type of endowment and big love, Friday (March 13th) marks the 21st anniversary of porn star John Holmes' death. Holmes was the first well known male porn star. Prior to his death, Holmes claimed to have had sex with 14,000 women. (But he was no Wilt Chamberlain. The Stilt claimed to have done the nasty with 20,000 women.) And, of course Holmes was known for the size of his manhood which was estimated to be anywhere from 12 to 16 inches. (Or, as Spin magazine once described Holmes, "the man with the state of Florida between his legs.) But, there was an even darker side to Holmes which is a little less publicized. It was widely suspected Holmes was heavily involved in drug trafficing and that he may have been involved in the Wonderland Murders.

There's nothing having to do with endowment with this third big love. This one is all about music and the man who sang "Big, Big Love", Wynn Stewart. Stewart is yet another influential county singer from the 1950s and 1960s who is somewhat forgotten today. Stewart was infleuntial in starting the Bakersfield sound and laying the groundwork for those from the area who followed him, including Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. In fact Haggard was playing bass in Stewart's band when Stewart provided Haggard with Haggard's first hit, "Sing a Sad Song". Stewart played the song for Haggard after writing it. Haggard soon asked Stewart if he could record it and Stewart readily agreed.

Stewart had his first hit, "Waltz of the Angels", in 1956 for Capitol Records. A couple of dry years followed before Stewart moved to Challenge Records, owned by Gene Autry, where a string of hits including "Big, Big Love" and "Wishful Thinking" followed. In the mid-60's, Stewart returned to Capitol Records where he had his biggest hit, "It's Such a Pretty Word Today" in 1967.

In 1959, Stewart recorded the Harlan Howard composition "Above and Beyond". Stewart's version and its soft pop beat didn't do much. But, the following year Buck Owens' straight country shuffle version of the song became a hit and helped propel Owens to country stardom. Owens discusses his relationship with Stewart and gives Stewart his due in this conversation with Ralph Emery.

Unfortunately, Stewart died of a heart attack in 1986 at the age 51 after battling alcoholism for years once his career began to wane. You can hear him sing "Big, Big Love" here and watch him sing "It's Such a Pretty World Today" here.

Finally, and in a weak attempt to tie Mormons, porn and country music together in one story, I leave you with this. A couple of summers ago, I decided to do something healthy and walk the mile or so to my local Target to pick up a couple of things. I was strolling up a hill on the sidewalk and listening to the Gourds version of "Gin and Juice" on my iPod, if I remember correctly. I was definitely in my own world when I was startled back to reality by the sight of bike with a cute girl at the helm barrelling right at me. I jumped off the sidewalk as the bike and its rider came to a stop right by me. The young lady began talking as I pulled the earphones from my ears. For a split second, I felt flattered that a little cutie was stopping to talk to me. Then, I noticed the black name plate on her shirt and I heard her ask me if anyone had ever spoken to me about The Book of Mormon. Ooof, back to reality.

As she continued to talk, I started to wonder if she'd be interested in discussing the Doctrine of Shedd back at my place and again my mind began to wander, only this time to impure thoughts. A few seconds later, I was back in reality because the little cutie's sidekick came down the hill on her bike at a high speed and literally skidded to a stop within inches of the cutie, the cutie's bike and me. But, all thoughts of converting the both of them to the aforementioned Doctrine of Shedd was short lived. The sidekick was about five times the size of the cutie. At that point, I knew it was time for me to move on because in the matter of a minute or so I had been scared senseless, flattered, began a fantasy and then scared senseless again. I excused myself, started walking and went back to listening to the Gourds. I think it was "Ants on the Melon"....

I'm gonna fry me some chicken, baby
Fry me up some chickens tonight
Mash taters and butter and all the other
We gonna do it up right
I wanna see you naked, baby
See yer titties sittin' up high
Mash taters and butter and all the other
We gonna do it up right


  1. The Doctrine of Shedd? Excellent.

    Utah is the number one consumer of online porn in the nation. Big love, indeed.

  2. Tom Hanks puts this brouhaha into perspective (and waxes prophetic) at the 3rd season premiere of Big Love:

    "There's gonna be lies, and secrets, and discoveries, and problems. Television!"