For the first time since Alexander Haig was Secretary of State, I had the opportunity to watch an episode of “Laverne & Shirley” from the very beginning. I still remembered that distinctive theme song as if it were yesterday, but as I sat through the show’s opening credits for the first time in my adult life, the meaning of these lyrics sank in in a whole new way:
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated.
We’re gonna do it!
Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.
Nothin’s gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin’ it our way.
There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.
On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.
Look at those words.
Once you get past ‘schlemiel, schlimazel,” the theme song sounds like the kind of pep talk that people fighting a losing battle against time to attain the markers of social success give themselves before heading out to work another day on the factory line.
“We’re doing it our way, yes our way, making all our dreams come true. This time there’s no stopping us. We’re gonna do it!”
It’s a Hail Mary pass that says the more you suffer now, the greater shall be your triumph later, but only if you don’t ever stop believing.
Do you like the sound of those odds?
If Laverne’s father, the pizzeria owning Frank Defazio, were around today, he’d tell his “29-year old” daughter and her best friend that the definition of stupid is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and maybe give them a wave of his rolling pin to drive home the point.
It’s kind of what the film Frances Ha was about. Frances Ha is what happens when Laverne leaves Shirley behind or vice versa, when one partner decides to get on with her life and renege on the vow to keep dreaming the dream together forever no matter what.
Every fifth or sixth episode seemed to revolve around this plot, with Laverne and Shirley inevitably getting back together exactly as before by the end of the half-hour.
If you took Laverne and Shirley aside and said, “listen you two, what do you really want to do with your lives?” They wouldn’t have a good answer. Laverne and Shirley were dreamers, not schemers. All they knew was that they wanted to be part of the zeitgeist someway, somehow.
Here’s where I join the party. As a kid in the Me Decade, I couldn’t much relate to working class girls from 1950s Milwaukee. I was in it for Lenny and Squiggy and, strangely, for Carmine. Sure, I enjoyed the comedy teamwork of Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, but the particular triumphs and tribulations of Upper Midwestern factory girls was something beyond my purview.
That was then. Now I’m on the wrong side of 45, working a Laverne & Shirley job myself. I used to want to be the next Rod Serling or Reuben Kincaid. But after 20 years of punching the clock, I’m starting to realize that it ain’t happening, that I have a lot more in common with two working class girls from 1950s Milwaukee than I ever imagined. At this point, the only thing left for me to do in life is go buy a bowling ball and hope they’ll let me join the team.