Monday, March 30, 2009

Touched by a deaf guy

#18 in an occasional series of repressed 70's memories that turn out to be true.
Trolling for this picture I realize that Amy Irving could rate her own essay.

A couple of things you could count on if you were a fictional character in the 70s: you would eventually befriend a runaway/prostitute, you would narrowly miss a drunk driving incident, and you would fall in love with a deaf person.

Deaf people were apparently everywhere in the 70s. Someone got the ferry running from Martha's Vineyard. And they were very good-looking, in the way we were good-looking in the 70s. Skinny, hairy, gabardined good-looking, without belts or pantylines.

Blindness was so 60s, so... Audrey Hepburn. Deaf characters lived these amazing independent good-looking lives where our character could worship them from afar "and never even realize..." Then you could learn their magical cool language (overnight with the help of a book), and they could solve your problems through their personal courage.

It made for a nice partnership.

You could count on the musical ASL number in these films -- Michael Ontkean's in Voices is a real tear-jerker. Who didn't run out for Joy of Signing after that? Boys thought it was a new way to meet chicks, and girls thought it was just another branch of social work we could break into.

If Diane Keaton had stayed in class with her deaf students instead of looking for Mr Goodbar, that movie would have had a very different ending.

One sign you have arrived as a cultural phenomenon is that you are parodied on SNL.

Iconic ASL moments from the 70s

Louise Fletcher's Oscar speech

Patty Duke gets self-referential in the Miracle Worker remake

Everybody Can performance of "You Light up my Life"

A deaf-dumb-'n'-blind kid sure plays mean pinball

Voices: "your coffee... is delicious..."

Learning the disability hierarchy from And Your Name is Jonah

Another Airport movie?! How can we dress that up? Ooo, add a deaf girl! (see also Towering Inferno)

Nashville - 2 is better than one!

Kitty O'Neill: Stockard + Stock Car + Stock character

late to the party
Children of a Lesser God - but good for Marlee. Got her Oscar. You ain't got one.

Notice that after all that exposure,we hadn't let learned how to applaud for deaf people, but we certainly knew they need a wide-shot.


  1. I was a late bloomer I guess... didn't get my copy of Joy of Signing and the part time job at Perkins School until the 80's.

    But in a weird way, when I see that blind guy on American Idol, I think of the 70s. Maybe it's the hair?

  2. The 80's blinded Mary Ingles on Little House on the Prairie but she then met her husband (also blind) at her special school in Mancado for the blind and DEAF. Even in an 80's show about the early 1900's, the trend continues.

  3. And the Evangelicals embraced the trend too (because they love and use pop culture while they hate it). Raise a hand if you attended a church where a nice-looking lady stood to the side interpreting the service for the entirely non-hearing-impaired congregation. Gave you something to look at while you weren't listening, right? Signing also let good Evangelicals express SOMEthing with their bodies for once. It was difficult to get used to, but the before you knew it you were making wide sweeping arcs
    over your head -- "His ban-ner...over lo-ove..."


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