Vincent Price and his sushi at the Boulevard

Today’s Zippy strip has Griffy and Zippy inside the Boulevard Diner in Worcester MA while snow falls outside:

(#1) The two men exchange opinions about their two favorite things, which are definitely not raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens: Griffy’s (diners and snow) are more conventional, and are linked to their context; while Zippy’s (Vincent Price and sushi) are decidedly eccentric, and have no connection to the context or to each other

And now the time has come to speak of many things.

Male friendship. Griffy and Zippy spend a lot of time together in the strip, hanging out and sharing their enjoyment of the passing scene. Diverging hugely in personality type, they nevertheless share a number of passions — demotic food, roadside institutions, art over an immense range — and while disputing over small stuff the way buddies will do, their friendship is surprisingly free of ritualized aggression and competition, but shows a lot of genuine respect for one another’s peculiarities.

In the strip, Griffy ventures so far as to impress on Zippy that neither Vincent Price nor sushi is to be found where they are, but Zippy just maintains that they can be if you only believe — and Griffy runs with Zippy’s fantasy, seeing sushi in the rice pudding and Price in Zippy himself (Vincent Price and Zippy the Pinhead both being highly constructed public personalities). Meanwhile, Zippy shows no hint of contempt for what other Pinheads might see as bland rationality and lack of imagination on Griffy’s part.

This is one model for close same-sex friendship; it gives me quiet pleasure to see it in action.

The actual diner. From Wikipedia:

(#2) Now offering a number of Italian specialties

The Boulevard Diner is a historic diner at 155 Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was built by Worcester Lunch Car Company in 1936 as #730. It is a well-preserved instance of a barrel-roof diner that the company made in significant numbers in the years before the Second World War, and the city’s best-preserved 1930s diner.

Two of their favorite things. An allusion to  the song “My Favorite Things” by Rodgers & Hammerstein, from the musical The Sound of Music. The tune is wonderful, now a jazz standard:

John Coltrane played a fourteen-minute version in E minor as the title track of an album recorded in October 1960 and released in March 1961. It became a jazz classic and a signature song for Coltrane in concert, also appearing on Newport ’63 in 1963. (Wikipedia link)

The words, on the other hand, tend to the trite, mawkish, and awkward. “Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens” is at least intended to evoke a cosy childhood household, but “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” is just beyond the pale.

Then Vincent Price. A few highlights from Wikipedia:

(#3) Vincent Price in the spring of 1930, the end of his first year at Yale; ready for the dramatic roles and romantic leads that were to come to him (photo: the Vincent Price Papers, Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library)

Vincent Leonard Price Jr. (May 27, 1911 – October 25, 1993) was an American actor best known for his performances in horror films, although his career spanned other genres. He appeared on stage, television, and radio, and in more than 100 films.

… Price was … an art collector and arts consultant, with a degree in art history, and he lectured and wrote books on the subject. The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College [which was established by art donations and a substantial donation of money from Price] is named in his honor. [Note that Price chose to create an art museum at a community college.] Price was also a noted gourmet cook.

A versatile and hard-working actor with a famously mellifluous voice, Price more or less stumbled upon several acting genres that allowed him to have a highly successful career while cultivating a pleasantly campy persona that he displayed in some of his movie and tv work and in his personal life. He was a dependable professional in his acting work and also, by all reports, a deeply nice man.

Then most people read about his art enthusiasm and his gourmet cooking and say, oh, yeah, some kind of fag — meaning this either contemptuously and dismissively, or to claim him proudly as One of Us, queer like me, and a model for crafting a decent and worthwhile life. Only reinforced by that campy persona, the open secret in the business that he had a long history of occasional sexual relations with men, and his support of LGBT+ causes later in his life.

So, yes, somewhere in the MMS (male-male sexuality) zone, which I’m happy to think of as “some kind of fag”, because I use this label for myself. But the MMS zone is incredibly diverse; you would scarcely believe how many different ways there are to be a fag.

So I tell you also that Price genuinely enjoyed the company of women — many MMS guys do — and apparently found sex with women pleasurable.  He was married three times (for 10 years, almost 25, and almost 20) and fathered two children. (It was an open secret that his third wife, the actress Coral Browne, was lesbian; their relationship was apparently founded more on companionship and affection than on sexual spark.)

It seems clear to me that he was firmly and happily attached to a life of intimacy with women and that his sexual encounters with men were, as quite a few guys in the MMS zone put it, “just sex” — but nevertheless important to him.

In any case, Price stands out as an idiosyncratic actor, like no other; compare him to his  contemporary Jimmy Stewart, an embodiment of regular-guy masculinity. So it makes sense for the idiosyncratic character Zippy to choose Price as one of his favorite things.

The sushi thing. Zippy picks Vincent Price rather than Jimmy Stewart. And sushi rather than, say, a tuna melt or fish sticks (or that bland staple of diner cuisine, rice pudding). Sushi is exotic, strongly flavored and scented, with unusual textures, not really like any other kind of food. Of course Zippy loves sushi.

Then there are those tastes, smells, and textures, which are, well, notably genital. Which has led to sushi serving as a symbol of a woman’s external genitalia and to eating sushi serving as a symbol of cunnilingus (and so of lesbian sex). But the taste and smell of sushi equally evoke those of the male crotch (my own gets kind of rank pretty fast, and as gay man I’ll admit to having complex feelings about that); and the mouth-feel of ika nigiri sushi is much like that of an engorged penis.

Beyond that, much nigiri sushi looks phallic, even when it’s not deliberately sliced for that effect. From the Dennis the Foodie (food and beer reviews in Vancouver BC) rave review, “Sushi Gem: Tetsu Sushi Bar” on 6/15/17:

(#4) From the “Premium Choice” nigiri sushi; thanks to its pink color (deeper at the tip), the salmon looks especially phallic

As Vincent Price is to Jimmy Stewart, so that hunk of salmon is to fish fingers / sticks, like these:

(#5) Fish fingers / sticks from the Irish Times site (iStock photo)

Such as you might get in an American diner, presented as in #5 or in a bun with dressing (tartar sauce, probably). Everyday fare, on the bland side. But Zippy’s attuned to fishy things with much more pizzazz, a touch of raunch, even.

One Response to “Vincent Price and his sushi at the Boulevard”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Writing about the Tetsu Sushi Bar in Vancouver, and about its salmon especially, made me irresistibly hungry for salmon. I ended up ordering some grilled salmon shioyaki (salted salmon with crispy skin). Well, yes, traditionally a breakfast dish (and many many years ago it came as part of a fabulous breakfast I had in Tokyo), but I had half of it (with rice and miso soup) for dinner last night (with edamame as a vegetable and a spicy salmon roll for fun), and the other half for lunch today, and it was immensely satisfying.

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