Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Knock on Wood

My favorite kind of impression is the one that takes on a relatively minor celebrity, one that you wouldn't ordinarily think worth impersonating, and brings out such specific and recognizable traits that you can't help laughing in recognition. The gold standard was performed by the wonderful Janeane Garofalo on The Ben Stiller Show's Woody Allen's Bride of Frankenstein. Stiller himself essayed Sydney Pollack in that sketch, well enough that you would say, "Hey, that's Sydney Pollack," even if you didn't think beforehand that you'd necessarily recognize someone doing a Sydney Pollack imitation. But Janeane captured Juliette Lewis with mannerisms that you never knew Juliette Lewis ever had, and as a result was not just exactly like Juliette Lewis but hilarious in the bargain.

Another one on in this realm is Mike Myers' Ronnie Wood as done on the Saturday Night Live sketch "The Ron Wood Show." Who would think Ron Wood would be worth imitating? Mike Myers, apparently, whose Woody carried around an oversized martini glass and an omnipresent cigarette holder and didn't talk so much as cackle.

But Wood has always been a bit of a clown, even back before he joined the Rolling Stones. Apparently all he has to offer to the band is his bonhomie and appropriate hair, because he doesn't add much in the way of musical value. He played a mean pedal steel on "Far Away Eyes," which anyone who was at my bachelor party heard on the jukebox twenty times in a row, but after that, bupkis.

Although Wood did much to patch up the warring factions in the Stones, even going so far as being willing to befriend Bill Wyman, which probably takes some doing, he never quite broke into Mick Jagger's heart. George Thorogood and the Destroyers opened for the Stones on a couple of their early-Eighties tours, and rumor has it that Georgie Boy was instructed to be ready to step in at any moment should a freebase-addled Woody be unable to play some night. At that point, Mick wanted to fire Wood outright, one hopes as much for his musical pointlessness as for anything else.

But one thing you have to give Wood credit for: He stole his second wife from the clutches of the Egyptian-born playboy Dodi Fayed, who would go on to date another blond British flooz. Those two both died in a car crash in Paris in August 1997, which kind of turns the story into a downer, but still, score one for Woody.

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