From the author: The best band you never heard in your life....
AND THE CARTOON GIRLS GO “DO DA DO DA DO DA DOO” by David Perlmutter
3, 916 words
Editor's note: The following is an account of one phase of the activities of the Cartoon Republican Army (CRA), the rebel organization hoping to acquire civil rights for the race of animated cartoon characters they represent, which this reporter has chronicled in the past and will likely continue to do so in the future, barring accidents. This account chronicles one of the few events in the CRA's history which has yet to achieve the kind of publicity other aspects of the organization's activities has received.
FIELD COMMANDER F. FINSTER:
On the record, I want to say that the damn thing was none of my doing. What I mean is, it never would have gotten off the ground if I had not been so grievously disobeyed. Normally, seeing as I’m the number two person here, anyone going against what I say gets turfed, but, seeing as it was supposedly in “such a good cause”, I got overruled by the big boss on that one.
However, that does not mean that it was a good idea. Far from it! Let me explain….
It all began when I was busy shuffling paper around like I was before you came in. Typical summer weather-hot- so we were all kind of short with each other, more than usual. But I knew something serious was up when my secretary, Lieutenant Flint, came in.
“Fish Face is coming in,” she said. “I’m gonna go put cotton in my ears for when….”
“Who?” I asked.
“You know! Bess!”
“Use her proper title, please.”
“All right! Captain Fishelman. Do we have to go through this all the time? I mean, we all pretty much know each other by now, and….”
I cut her off with a pre-emptive grunt.
“Regardless of how much we know, like or dislike each other here in the Cartoon Republican Army”, I said, “we will endeavor to treat each other with respect at all times. This is essential to our smooth, functional operation, both as a full organization and independent units…”
“You know,” she interrupted, “if you spent less time talking like a textbook all the time, then maybe we’d…”
“Are you implying something, Lieutenant?”
“No! At least, I didn’t think I was…”
I glared at her long enough to convey my displeasure with her, and then artificially plastered on a smile.
“Just get out of my office, and don’t come back here until “Fish Face” gets here- so you can warn me. ‘K?”
She nodded and exited.
CAPTAIN B. FISHELMAN:
Oh, sure. I know Finster told you I’m a tool, and that it was me and my ego that fueled the whole shindig. Well, she is a 24 karat LIAR! This ‘toon fish has given too much of herself to this cause for anyone- especially not that over-ranked COW- not to recognize it. Repre-ZENT!
Now, the timing of this was crucial. Somehow or another, a number of our guys supposedly got rounded up by the feds and stashed at the Zoo in San Diego. It would have been pretty easy for them to catch the dumb ones, but I’m surprised the smart ones got nabbed, too. You would think they would have learned something from most of us girls (excluding her highness the Field Commander) getting stuck a ways back!
However, that’s neither here nor there. The point is, the boys were caught, and we needed to free them. Otherwise, the CRA was as a spent force. That was the point that I intended to make when I showed up at CRA headquarters (location classified!) that day, with my Captain’s hat on my head and my fin holding a briefcase of papers.
“Hiiii, Candaace!” I drawled at the Field Commander’s executive assistant when I entered.
“Yeah,” she said, apathetically. “Whatever.”
“Uh, I outrank you, so you should….”
She stood up and saluted me.
“That enough for you, Captain?” she said, a bit resentfully, as she went to inform the boss.
If I had teeth, I would have clenched them, and then I would have slapped her insolent face. If I could reach it, that is.
Candace came back, and pointed me towards the office. When I got there, the Field Commander was her usual spindly, lanky and lazy self, lounging at her desk.
“Okay, Bess,” she said. “What do you want?”
“Just your approval, Field Commander.”
“Of what? This better not be expensive! We’re tapped out as it is….”
I snorted contemptuously.
“Is that all you care about? MONEY?”
“It was money that got us all into this.”
“Oh, yes. The old “Hollywood ruined us all” excuse.”
“It’s not an excuse!”
“It’s not as bad as the government’s doing to us NOW! Or what they did to us on ORTHICON!”
“I wasn’t there.”
“And that’s why you don’t get what was so important about it. We were POWs!”
“Look, Captain. You were promoted to your current rank, and made the head of our fairly recent media production unit, so that we could make some positive progress with our relations with the human race.”
“Which I believe I have done, have I not?”
She stood up and crossed her arms as a scowl creased her face.
“Sure,” she said, sarcastically. “If you consider doing an extended series of antagonistic podcasts on the subject of why human beings SUCK HELPFUL!”
“Do not ridicule “Bess’s Bring Down”, okay? Do you realize how many people follow it every week?”
“Not “people”. ‘Toons. You’re just preaching to the choir. You’re supposed to be converting human beings to our cause, not driving them away from it!”
“As long as I am the Captain of that ship,” I said, indicating the Captain’s hat on my head, “it sails the way I want it to sail!”
To my shock, she removed it from my head and threw it out an open window.
“How DARE you?!” I stormed. “I paid a lot of money for that!”
“That you took out of your budget.”
“You don’t KNOW that!”
“I know, sister. I KNOW! You can’t walk around with bling like that and expect me to not think you aren’t doing what you should!”
“Oh, did you not hear me?”
“Captain, you better tell me what you had in mind before I break out my FRYING PAN!”
“Fine!” I took a cleansing breath and opened my briefcase, giving her my documents. “Hear. Read this.”
FIELD COMMANDER F. FINSTER:
I read her documents calmly- the first time. Then I re-read them with an eye to the cost, and then I exploded, throwing the papers back at her.
“Are you INSANE?” I shouted. “Or, at the very least, more so than USUAL?”
“The only one around here who’s insane is YOU,” she shouted back, “if you can’t see the value in this idea!”
“Certainly. It’s far more feasible for us to stage a variety show for the boys in San Diego- and thus, abscond with them as they were absconded from us- than it would be for us to raid the city with bayonets drawn. Considerably less ink to be shed.”
“You have me there,” I said. “But, like I said before, we aren’t exactly made of money right now…”
“That’s the advantage of my plan. All we need is a PA system, a bandstand, a few amplifiers, and some lavaliere mikes for me and the other singers…”
“I knew it! This is just another cheap excuse for you to flog your talents at the expense of the CRA…”
“It’s not just me, you JERK! All of the members of the band- and the singers- are CRA members! We are females intent, unlike you, on making certain our captured menfolk are rescued from their purgatory in the least injurious way possible! We are all paying our way, and using our own instruments, and not costing the CRA a DIME- other than to supply with a bandstand and decent PA equipment! So, if this is indeed a cheap way of flogging talent, as you suspect, it is not only mine, but also that of the 15 members of GPE whom you…”
“Girl Power Express.”
“What kind of name is that for a BAND?”
“Obviously, you haven’t been paying attention to musical trends recently, ma’am!”
I crinkled my brow, as I do not like being called that, and have told everyone this. Bea knew, which is why she used it to taunt me. I didn’t take the bait this time.
“How do you expect to accomplish your goal?” I asked.
“It’d be a typical Trojan Horse procedure,” she said. “We go in, do a few numbers, and then we invite anyone who wants to sing to come on stage and sing and dance with us on the last one. We’d have already secretly slipped word to the guys about how this really meant that they’re to follow us out, as we’re going to walk out of the Zoo as we do the last number. Then, when the human guards- as there inevitably will be- are distracted, we slip out with the guys in tow, and Bob’s your uncle. So, are you gonna…?”
“This is because you can’t sing, or play….?”
“No. It’s because it’s a stupid and reckless idea with too much of a potential for going wrong.”
“You human ‘toons think you’re so SMART! You’re made out of the same ink and paint as us, you know!”
“Yes, but some of us know how to think things through, and some of us…”
“Well, it’s a good thing I got the General to approve the idea before I….”
“WHAT?” I screamed. “You went OVER MY HEAD….?”
“Put a sock in it! The General said she’d be delighted to head up the horn section of our band. Furthermore, as she’s just gotten that MacArthur Genius Grant she applied for, and I have just succeeded in getting my Guggenheim Fellowship, we don’t need to have the CRA- or YOU- approve the project. Therefore, you can just DEAL WITH IT!”
There was a brief pause, during which I contemplated the massive arrogance and chutzpah Bess had just displayed towards me. She’d pay for it- one day.
“Very well,” I said, as there was clearly nothing else I could do. “But understand this. GPE is completely on its own for this foolhardy venture. The General be damned. The rest of the CRA will not lift a finger to help you…”
“It’s not like we need your help, anyway,” Bea said as she packed up and left. “We have more than enough of the super-powered and smart girls on our side, and they’re the ones that make sure the trains run on time here. Good luck finding a private’s commission after I tell the General what you said about her!”
I could only chuckle to myself at that. It would take more than that to get me turfed, and the three of us- the General, me and Fish Face Fishelman- all knew it.
LIEUTENANT C. FLINT:
Bess came out of the boss’ room sooner than expected and walked over to me.
“You know, you have cotton in your ears!” she said.
“What?” I answered.
“You have COTTON in your ears!”
“COTTON! In your EARS!”
“Can’t hear you. I got cotton in my ears.”
“Well, take it out.”
“Take it OUT!”
I did. Then she told me about the plan she’d cooked up, and how she needed to have another vocalist as part of Girl Power Express. And, perhaps, a multi-instrumentalist who could do relief work for some of the others when they went on breaks.
“What’s in it for me?” I asked.
“I would think that would be obvious,” she reminded me. “Your brothers, and your boyfriend…”
“Do you think they got caught? I haven’t heard from ‘em for a while….Listen, is Isa…?”
“Lieutenant-Colonel Puente-Bernstein,” she said, “is our second guitar player and chief arranger. She’ll be the Billy Strayhorn to my Duke Ellington, if that means anything to you.”
“I’m in, then. I trust her word more than anybody else here, ‘cept the General’s.”
“Good. Now, are you okay with doing up-tempo numbers, ‘cause most of the other singers prefer ballads…”
“My pipes can handle anything you want, Bea. It’s in San Diego, right?”
“Yeah. On the 15th.”
We agreed to meet then, along with the rest of the band, to do our duty. Little did we know what was in store for us.
CAPTAIN B. FISHELMAN:
They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, but, since I am neither mouse nor man, I figured that my plan was not part of that schema. I was wrong.
It started well enough, as we all managed to get into America’s finest city without incident. You would think that, us being all brightly colored and super-powered and quintessentially “feminine”, some of us might have been questioned or detained or what have you beforehand. No. That didn’t happen until we actually got to San Diego.
Unfortunately, it seems someone had tipped off the Zoo about what we had planned to do, so we were politely but firmly told when we entered Balboa Park, in which the Zoo exists, that our presence was not welcomed. As bandleader, it was my appointed job to beg, cajole and threaten the City Council with everything I had, but they wouldn’t budge. So then I basically told them, point blank, that we would be playing a concert for the boys somewhere in town soon, and, if they didn’t like it, they could go fuck themselves. End of story.
Once the group had paid my bail, there was some discussion about what to do next. Should we try an alternate location, perhaps, or just give up? I was quick to make myself heard on the latter option.
“Give up?” I said. “Seriously? Did the boys “give up” when we were imprisoned?”
“Most of them were glad we were gone,” said Louise Gutman, our keyboard player. “That was how it appeared to be at my house, anyway.”
“It was only by chance that we got rescued,” said Mavis Pipes, our percussionist. “If my brother hadn’t…”
“Look!” I cut her off. “They’re expecting us to do something, quid pro quo, for what they did for us. We have to do this, okay?”
“She has a point, you know,” the General said as she came up towards me, fiddling with a reed for her saxophone. “If we won’t do it, who will?”
Her word in this organization, informal as it may be sometimes, is the closest thing we have to law. So I now knew, as did everyone else, that this was going through, whether we liked it or not. Fortunately, we liked it.
LIEUTENANT C. FLINT:
Bess, of course, raised holy hell about how we couldn’t play for the guys in the Zoo, even though I was convinced that they just told us they were there to throw us off. In any event, we got banned from ever playing in San Diego, pretty much forever, after she told the City Council to do it to themselves. That took a lot of guts, I’ll admit, but it didn’t solve our immediate problems.
However, Bess had spoken to the General during her incarceration, and they’d worked out an alternate scheme. Which was this:
Our ban on performing in San Diego did not extend to the nearby island community of Coronado, which has a separate municipal government. So, therefore, all we had to do was pack up the gear and move over there. Simple, right?
No sooner had we found a good spot on the beach facing the San Diego skyline, and set up the PA system and the bandstand and the amps and what have you, and tuned up our instruments and warmed up our pipes, than we got a visit from the local Juan Law.
“What the hell is this?” he exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious, you moron?” Betterfist, our bassist, shouted at him as she warmed up.
“Yeah,” added her sister Baubles, our drummer, as she did likewise. “We came to play.”
“Cut it out, you two!” said their sister Flotsam, who was our lead guitarist, and normally leads that trio when they do their superhero thing, although she’d fortunately decided not to do so for GPE. “No trouble, remember?”
She seemed ready to fly over and politely talk to the guy, but I put my hand up.
“You relax,” I said. “I’ll deal with this.”
I turned to the lawman and asked him how much it would take for us to be able to play undisturbed. When I picked up my jaw from the floor, I ran and told Bea. When she picked up her jaw from the floor, we had to start passing the hat again to collect the fee he wanted. Fortunately, we had just enough scratch between us to make it happen.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL I. PUENTE-BERNSTEIN:
You probably got most of the meat of the story from Bess, Candace and the Field Commander. But the first two of them have a tendency to embroider things, and the latter wasn’t there, so I’m glad you came to me for this part of the story. I can tell the truth without varnishing it up, unlike some people.
I’d been in the background much of this time, getting the arrangements ready while Bess stood around looking over my shoulder or preening in that damned Captain’s hat of hers. Did she not realize how small potatoes being a Captain was in an Army? I knew I’d have to pull my rank sooner than I thought.
I got the chance as soon as we started on the first number. Somebody hit a clinker, and Bea just lost it. Her mouth made that long upside down V ridge that Kermit the Frog always makes just before he gets pissed off at somebody. And she was pissed, all right. She started cursing bloody murder and saying we couldn’t play for shit and all sorts of other unreasonable things. That was when I put my guitar down, stood up, and took my microphone off its stand.
“Bess!” I snapped. “For God’s sake! Cut it out!”
“Pardon me?” she blazed. “I am the bandleader here!”
“The band figurehead, is more like it! You forget that I did all the fucking arrangements!”
“So what? It takes more than just making arrangements to run a band, girl! You need to be able to enforce DISCIPLINE!”
“Which I’m gonna do if you don’t behave yourself! You can easily be replaced by a SENIOR officer, Captain!”
She was coming right at me with murder in her eyes, but the General got up from her chair and locked eyes with Bess in a contest Bess hadn’t a chance of winning.
“You keep going,” the General warned her, “and you won’t just be out of the goddamned BAND! You’ll be out- PERIOD!”
That shut Bess up. She went back to the bandstand, rifled through pages in the band book, and raised her conductor’s fins again.
“All right, OFFICERS!” she snapped. “And you, too, grunts! I got an easier one for you this time. Number 100 in your books. That’s right. ‘Snibor’”. She paused and waited for us to find our places, and then it was “uh ONE two three four…”
So, from that point on, we were off, with Bea prevented from “disciplining” us as she would have wished. But, other than that clinker, there were no other mistakes- musically speaking.
We started out doing a few jazz instrumentals (including the previously noted “Snibor”), with plenty of room for soloing, thanks to yours truly’s arrangements. The local people had no objections to this approach, and we seemed to get a crowd together down by the pier. This was what we wanted. If we had the support of the locals, we might get their sympathy regarding the plight of our actual (and, in my case, hope to be) significant others, and the outcry would be such that the feds would be forced to free them immediately.
This was, I thought, confirmed by the number we did before the union-mandated 15 minute intermission. Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”, sung by Bess, with all of us chiming in on the “and the colored girls go ‘do da do da doo’” bit, although, for obvious reasons, we substituted “cartoon” for “colored”. They went nuts over that one, and we thought our case was in the bag.
It didn’t work out that way.
The second set was primarily a vocal as opposed to instrumental one, unlike the opening. To my shock, (for, as usual, I hadn’t been consulted on the decision), Bea had elected to make most of the vocals the bawdy blues numbers we had in the book from before World War II. That was a miscalculation. It not only upset some of the parents in the audience, who hurried away with kids in tow, but either confused or embarrassed the pre-pubescent members of the band. Like me.
Anyway, we were halfway through one of those tunes- something called “Dirty Mother for Ya”, which was the specialty of our sole canine member, Cadpig- when, suddenly, the audible “click” of a small battalion of firearms interrupted us. A bunch of San Diego cops, it appears, had been tipped off about us, and crossed the Bay Bridge to apprehend us, even though Coronado wasn’t part of their jurisdiction. Cadpig, meanwhile, was so shocked at the sight of the guns that she stopped in mid-sentence, piddled on the stage, and ran off.
“What the hell are you…?” Bess shouted at her, before turning around. Stark terror erupted in her eyes.
“EVERY GIRL FOR HERSELF!” she screamed, and ran away like the coward she truly is.
The cops stormed the bandstand and tried to arrest us. The operative word is “tried”- ‘cause we put up a fight, like we always do.
I can’t tell you much about that part, owing that it took place far too fast. I defended myself well enough, of course, although I ended up smashing my guitar over one of the cops’ heads. My mastery of martial arts helped me after that, until Candace found me and helped me get out of there.
FIELD COMMANDER F. FINSTER:
You know what the worst part of the whole thing was? The boys were never in San Diego. At least, not all of them, as we were led to believe. It was just two dumb animals from a CGI movie who had nothing to do with the CRA at all, because those CGI assholes have no brains and they’re totally stinking up the art form, which is why they will never be allowed to be CRA members. They were picked up for picking out “Louie Louie” on the organ at the pavilion in Balboa Park without a permit. Some CIA fellow thought he’d try to goof us up by claiming all our boys were there, since he apparently couldn’t tell the difference between cel, Flash and CGI animation- of which only the first two, I being in the latter camp, are allowed to be part of the CRA. Thankfully, it didn’t work.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go catch a certain FISH!
This story originally appeared in Polychrome Ink 1 (2014).
An encyclopedia of television animation programs produced in the United States between 1948 and the present. Includes detailed listings of programming content, production credits and background related to the production and development of the series.
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