I love jury duty. It breaks up my usual routine and gives me the opportunity to meet people I probably would not meet otherwise. I’ve served on juries four times. I’m very good at it.
Three of those times were for criminal cases. One was for grand jury. In grand jury, one goes to the courthouse every day for a month and hears a little evidence from plenty of lawsuits filed, in an effort to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial. We decided there was enough evidence for every single case we heard, and what doosies we were treated to! I don’t remember the details, but I recall it being a parade of nuts. Every day, one wacky witness after another, all in different cases, performed for us. A few of them were sober. To get paid to witness it was a treat.
The first criminal case I served on had to do with drug dealing and possession. The defendant was Latino. As we started our deliberations, we took a vote amongst the jurors to see which way everyone was leaning regarding the defendant’s innocence. Nine of us thought he was guilty. Three people, coincidentally the only three white heterosexual males, voted not guilty. I love that about New York! After a couple of days of deliberation we convinced those three that the defendant was guilty, even if he is Latino. We told the judge our verdict, which was relayed to the defendant’s attorney. The defendant didn’t hear it. He had already skipped town.
My next case was a drunk driving arrest. I was an alternate juror, so I sat through the trail, but initially didn’t deliberate with the other jurors. I was needed in case the regular jurors couldn’t come to a unanimous decision and one of them couldn’t come back the next day to continue the deliberations. That is what happened. I was surprised. The defendant, who wasn’t Latino, was obviously guilty. It turns out there was one holdout, but her reasoning was very different from that of Jimmy Stewart’s character in Twelve Angry Men. Per this one angry woman, the arresting officer did not follow proper procedure to a t. She said in her job as a teacher, if she did not follow proper procedure to a t, she would be disciplined. Though she agreed the defendant was driving drunk, she felt we needed to send the police department a message about following procedures to a t. My fellow jurors told me things were heated during the previous day’s deliberations, but somehow I was able to calmly explain to the one angry woman that it is not the police department who are on trial here. She changed her vote to guilty.
The last jury I served on was for a case involving a double homicide. That was a rough one; I’m too sensitive for such ordeals. The trial lasted a month, during which time we were shown many photographs of the deceased. At least my fellow jurors were a great bunch of people. Despite the intensity of the case, everyone was professional and respectful during our deliberations, which lasted for several days.
I bring up jury duty because of Wonder Woman. While serving on the drug trial, I rode the courthouse elevator with TV’s Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter, whose husband was on trial in the same building for a banking scandal. Unlike the defendant in my trial, Mr. Carter, who is actually Mr. Altman, was acquitted.
In February 1980, Lynda Carter, pro-choice and LGBT rights advocate and spokesperson for irritable bowel syndrome, guest-starred on The Muppet Show, where she sang “The Rubberband Man,” a song written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed about Bell’s son, whose schoolmates mocked him for being chubby, calling him “the fat man.” “The Fat Man” was Bell’s original title for the song, about a large man who knew how to get a party going with his dance moves. It was meant to uplift young Bell, to show that his weight wasn’t something that needed to drag him down. He had talents and abilities that people admired. I don’t think that was clearly conveyed in Carter’s performance.
Three years prior to Carter’s performance of “The Rubberband Man” on The Muppet Show, Tina Turner performed it on The Brady Bunch Hour, a TV variety series featuring the original cast of the sitcom The Brady Bunch except for Eve Plumb (figures, right?) serving us hilarious comedy sketches and memorable musical moments such as this one. Turner performs the song in front of a swimming pool in which four women do a non-strenuous water ballet. Every so often, the tape of audience applause fires up for no discernible reason, other than the producers’ realization of “Holy shit! That’s Tina Turner!“
The best version of “The Rubberband Man” is the original recording, the last top forty hit for Spinners that featured Philippé Wynne on lead vocals. Wynne joined the group in 1972 and left in 1977, the year after “The Rubberband Man” peaked at #2 on the pop chart. He died from a heart attack in 1984. Today Tunes du Jour celebrates Wynne’s birthday by kicking off our weekly dance playlist with Spinners’ “The Rubberband Man.”
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