Groovin' on Gellar

Monica Lewinsky, Monica Schlewinsky

At least Monica Lewinsky's guest shot on last week's Saturday Night Live was entertaining, as opposed to that interminable, self-indulgent interview between Lewsinsky and Barbara Walters not that long ago. In the opening skit she played Mrs. Lewinsky-Clinton in the year 2001, tired from a day of letter-turning at work (presumably, as the replacement for Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune), showing that she could poke a little fun at herself. After all, what other job could she get with a very public résumé that includes "pleasuring" an older man who happened to be the President of the United States?

Lewinsky appeared again on the recurring skit "The Ladies Man," taking calls from lovers involved with their bosses, and later from a contrite Linda Tripp (a still of John Goodman in drag), who asked for Lewinsky's forgiveness, to which Lewinsky mewed, "No way."

I confess, I had my share of ha-ha's with it all, but I still want to know: When is that girl's 15 minutes of fame going to end?! Watching that wide-mouthed face and knowing it gobbled the President's member intrigues me as much as the "Presidential Chair" at Güero's. The folks at the Tex-Mex eatery marked the chair Clinton sat in when he ate there a few years ago. So what? I know the chair is there, but I don't go sniffing after it.

Here's hoping her 15 minutes are nearly up.

Farewell, Don AméricoI'm sure some will find this tipping of the hat to Américo Paredes in a column about television incongruent, if not irreverent. Paredes, the distinguished anthropologist and scholar of Greater Mexican culture, in which he included Texas, died last week. His students, colleagues, and many of us who were enriched by the expansive effect of his scholarship, mourn the loss of a key figure in the development of Mexican-American and Chicano studies, and indeed, the evolution of ethnic studies in universities across the nation.

So how does this tribute, in this column, come about? A while ago, I came across a 1989 interview with Paredes, in which he speaks of television. The interview appears in a publication of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Paredes had just been named a Charles Frankel Prize-Winner by the NEH. The Frankel prize was awarded "for [his] efforts to bring history, literature, philosophy, and other humanites disciplines to general audiences."

He was asked: "How can history be made more available to the public?"

His response: "Television has disappointed us in that respect. Its historical documentaries, what few there are, do not approach the quality of the documentaries on wildlife and astronomy. We need more commitment on the part of scholars and intellectuals to communicate with the general public by means of lectures, round-table discussions, as well as on TV."

As well as on TV? Did Don Américo Paredes say TV?

While most intellectuals turn their nose up at television, here was an distinguished scholar actually referring to it as a potentially useful medium. He was obviously disappointed in it, but was still willing to imagine its potential. He was, after all, a believer in the public intellectual. In order for scholarly work to have a real impact on ordinary people, scholars had to step down from the ivory tower and approach them in non-academic places.

Paredes cited television as a means to reach the general public, even after his book, With His Pistol in His Hand, was made into a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) film in 1983. The film starred Edward James Olmos and was shepherded through production by Olmos, who believed it would pay homage to the father of Chicano letters. Paredes hated it. He especially hated Olmos' portrayal of Cortez and told him so in a now-legendary phone call Olmos made to Paredes after the film was aired nationally. Depending on who tells the story, Paredes either reamed Olmos or merely hung up on him.

Still, in 1989, he was willing to name television as a medium where scholars and intellectuals could place their energy. Did he feel that way at the time of his death? To speak in the vernacular, No sé, esa.

Maybe it's pie-in-the-sky to think of TV as a place where intellectual production can flourish in a more public way. But to imagine and to consider those things that have not been imagined or considered before is one of the great lessons Paredes taught us. Who knows? Maybe some chicanita or chicanito TV-head is out there trying to work it as we speak.

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Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanaz, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wb Network, Monica Lewinsky, Saturday Night Live, Americo Paredes

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