Friday, December 31, 2010

"Chillicothe, You Can Go to Hell!," A New Year's Greeting from Gemini Spacecraft

Time, once again, to hit the annual reset button on the olde Gregorian calendar. For a lot of folks, the season is rife with vows of personal reform, those proverbial New Year’s Resolutions. January tends to be a good month for gyms, who typically see a spike in new membership, as do Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. This time of year, many resolve to get in shape, lose the gut, put down the bottle, and be nicer to people on the subway.

Society has even created institutions to assist people with such reform, or, in some cases, with “rehabilitation.” These range from the Betty Ford Clinic, to bible camp, to the fat farm, and more. Another such institution is prison. Prison might not have much to do with the New Year, but it’s got everything to do with TIME.

Johnny Paycheck did his time. Back in 1989 Paycheck began serving a 7-year sentence for a barroom shooting that occurred in Hillsboro, Ohio, in 1985. He was incarcerated in Chillicothe Correctional Institute. The interview above took place while Paycheck was in the slammer. The clip contains some great footage--like how the hell did they get Paycheck’s actual sentencing on camera? But check out the typically condescending tone of the TV journalist douche for A Current Affair. Dig the implied “what a low-life” message. And his remark that Paycheck’s career at the time had  “all but died” is wholly inaccurate. During the three-year appeals process for his case, Paycheck signed a new contract with Mercury Records, and, in 1987, charted again with the single “Old Violin." 

But, for Paycheck, as with any con, the rap sheet came with collateral consequences, i.e., the trouble that persists after the debt’s been paid. The least of these being the disdain of the bourgeoisie. And, as the aforementioned douche says, the shooting was not his first run-in with the law. "In 1982 Paycheck pleaded ‘no contest’ to 4th degree sexual assault of a 12 year old girl.” Yikes! I mean, how do you reconcile a thing like that? Although it should be noted that there are many reasons to cop a plea, and not everyone who pleads guilty--or ‘nolo contendre’--is actually guilty. 

I still like the Current Affair story, despite its admonishing tone. Ironically, Paycheck seems to have been doing pretty good here, like maybe he did get some kind of new start, albeit a costly one. Paycheck ain't languishing in the can. He's workin' on that next platinum record! That indefatigable spirit--that's what you need heading into a new year...year after year after year. Like long-time buddy Chairman Merle said, re Paycheck’s incarceration, “I been tryin’ to help him for a long time. I got him here where he can’t do nothin’ now. Maybe I can get something through to him…I think he’s probably learned his lesson, maybe stay off that dope.”

Image lifted from WFMU's Rock'n'Soul Ichiban

 The Old Year is Gone

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