<center><p> <b><u>REVIEW OF THE WEEK</u><p> by<p> BAO DAI OF HOLLYWOOD</b><p> </center> <left> DATELINE: HOLLYWOOD 30 JULY 2000<p> </left> <center> <b><u>JOHNNY DON'T DO PRISONS ANYMORE</b></u><p> </center>

It takes a train a full day to cross the State of Texas. On such a train ride a long time ago I passed a field where a chain gang dressed in white worked away (very dark skinned men in glaring white uniforms working in the hot Texas sun). An inmate looked up and forlornly waived at the train. Leadbelly wrote The Midnight Special, one of many train/prison songs which deserve their own niche in the Museum of Americana, while incarcerated in Huntsville, the heart and soul of the infamous Texas prison system.

One of my favorite albums of all times is Johnny Cash at San Quentin. You don't need to really hear it to comprehend its greatness... in fact, you might understand it better if you didn't take as listen musically it's no masterpiece - the Tennessee Three play the same, basic pure and simple tempo with little if any variation on all the songs... Wanted Man, I Walk the Line, Starkville City Jail, Folsom Prison Blues and the back to back renditions of the song he wrote for the occasion, San Quentin, which frankly pales next to Folsom Prison Blues, perhaps because it was written especially for the concert, which was recorded, snipped and edited together into a television show which no one I know has ever seen. San Quentin has great lyrics... lyrics which I'd quote a bit more accurately if I could find the record which used to be in the album cover

Anyway, the best part of the song goes something like this:

"San Quentin you've been living hell to me/

You've tortured me since 1953/

I've seen men come and go and I've seen them die/

And all along I keep asking 'Why?'"

It was back in the days when Johnny, who is no stranger to incarceration, did prison gigs... But Johnny don't do no more prison gigs. Does anyone? Bobby Brown? David Crosby (another Huntsville Grad). I mean Jerry Seinfeld, in the last scene of the last episode of his historically hysterical show was doing a prison gig, but I doubt the real Jerry does Rikers Island let alone Attica. Does Robert Downey, Jr.? (A man on the inside, so to speak, we'll revisit in a moment). What would he do? Shakespearean Soliquies?

Let's face it: Prison must suck. I don't mean living on the precipice of a violent eruption of humanity gone berserk or getting fucked in the ass by some giant member of the Aryan Brotherhood, or having to wake up at 6 a.m. everyday despite the fact you literally have nothing to do or eating a supposedly balanced meal extra heavy on the starch and including a salad with a rancid mayonnaise based dressing tossed in a cement mixer -- those things are bad enough, and getting worse as we enact more and more laws for people to break to fill the ever increasing number of prisons we build so the people who give big bucks to jack asses like George W. Bush don't have to coexist with people who do things they don't think are "right," but there are already advocacy groups (arguably) addressing those problems.

What I'm talking about is the lack of entertainment for the incarcerated.*

Sure, my local jail (I hear) has a TV Room for inmates... but it, like all TV Rooms in all facilities of imprisonment from Bangor Maine to San Ysidro has a single TV bolted to the 12 foot ceiling which is controlled by a remote It's a scientific fact that psychopathic mass murderers are all hooked on early morning kiddy educational TV and every bad soap opera or game show airing during the week and are big fans of figure skating, gymnastics, swimming or (if the other inmates are lucky, golf). Gangs while tending to allow better programs to be viewed (at a price) also tend to set up secretive, arbitrary and ever changing rules and the punishment for violating a rule is usually dismemberment or death... and since whoever controls the remote must keep it with him at all times lest he lose power, when Snuffy G. misses his shift or Psycho Killer Norman J. Watkins is being evaluated by a team of psychiatrists, there's no TV.

This, pathetic as it sounds, must be real drag for the likes of Robert Downey, Jr-- you recall... a few years back he was caught driving erratically with a hunk of tar heroin, some cocaine and a pistol in his pants. A few days later a dazed and confuse Downey, depressed after failing to legally change his name to "Downer" ended up sleeping off a run which had begun soon after his release from jail on the original charges, laying in someone's bed all tuckered out. Now if you or I saw Robert Downey Jr. asleep in our house we might be inclined to let him sleep it off and then extort many favors from him the following morning at breakfast, showing him Polaroids while continually calling information and asking for the number of the National Enquirer, but not that Malibu bitch... she figured Goldilocks needed to drag his drug addled ass from the house (the old "Oooops, wrong house!" excuse didn't work for him -- not that time). After several inabilities to produce drug free urine Judge Mira, Judge to the Stars (in the same sort of tradition as Thomas Nagouchi, Coroner to the Stars) decided that what would be best for this young man is that he be removed from all the stringent treatment programs in which he had been battling his criminal disease and placed into a system where he would not only be totally humiliated, but in which drugs are even more prevalent than they are on the street.

Hey, who could fault Mira? Incarceration has worked so damn well as a substance abuse rehabilitation modality I'm surprised kids who are deemed "at risk" aren't locked up for their own protection.

It must be a double drag for Downey, for if< he has access to a TV, he now knows that back in February his lawyers, to whom he undoubtedly pays a pretty penny, forgot he was supposed to be released and have only now, some five months after he was sentenced, figured out their client might be spending night after boring and unnecessary night counting the tiles in the ceiling... and has been doing so improperly for almost six months.

Worsening the matter is the fact the criminal justice system, which often takes years of unnecessary paperwork requiring the sacrifice of entire old growth forests, just to correct a minor bureaucratic error, since all live in the totally irrational fear someone will blame them for the mistake.

Of course the Court's "Well, we'll look into it" response is typical of the "He's a worthless, parasitic junky" attitude and that he's one who can buy and sell the court house and earned more money than the entire division charged with calculating his release date and Judge Mira for one hour on camera -- which he did while swacked out of his gourd, causes his file to keep reappearing daily at the bottom of the proper bureaucrat in box.

Let's face it, assuming he's into the 12 Steps, there are only so many times one can say The Third Step Prayer, the Serenity Prayer and meditate transcendentally, and Robert is undoubtedly running out of them and getting steamed.

So do yourself a favor, Robert... while locked up, get as many of your fellow incarcerated entertainment types together and do a benefit for the Retired Law Enforcement officers Fund. Judge Mira is not the kind of person who can easily admit mistakes, so you'll need all the Brownie Points you can score between now and your scheduled release date later this year (unless they catch you with powder that's not from a donut under your nostrils).

Meanwhile, you might want to make the next fight by the phones you win pay off Bu contacting someone like the lawyer (whose commercial is usually on after One Life to Live) and sue those guys with the thousand dollar suits to sue for malpractice and false imprisonment... and an unconstitutional to free access to entertainment (N TV ain't in the Penal Code), because I think you have a case here, and if there's anything juries in this just system we call American hate more than sniveling addicts, it's lawyers..... -------- * [Note to self: Call Ted T and see about starting up The Prison Channel. Bob Vila/Martha Stewart style programming on tattooing behind bars, making effective shanks, prison etiquette, counterfeiting techniques, how much to bribe a guard, cooking for several hundred people, decorating the cell, stuff like that]