by Jim Dees – The first time I met George Plasketes he quoted Groucho Marx, “You can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff.” I did a double take at this towering figure (former SEC defensive end) with blonde hair flowing down around his shoulders, wearing a Jackson Browne T-shirt and thought, “What have we here?”
I would later hear him quote other heroes like Neil Young, gonzo major league pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee and most every member of the early Saturday Night Live cast. He was a walking, talking font of sly wit and pop culture insight with great taste in music.
He has put all that together in a new book, Warren Zevon: Desperado of Los Angeles, the first book-length exploration of that talented and tormented songwriter.
During his time in Oxford thirty years ago, George straddled the worlds of freaks and geeks. He had admirers among the suits at the Lyceum and with the tie-dyed crowd at the Hoka – the venue where I heard him quote Groucho and later witness him throwing lemons, with SEC accuracy and high speed velocity, across a crowded dining room. (Buy me a drink sometime and I’ll explain).
For a time during those years, George was the public-address announcer at Ole Miss baseball games. Armed with a cassette player and a bag of tapes, he would furiously search through his bag of tricks to fit the game moment, deploying various SNL bits as the game situation called for: “Off my back you big sex ma-sheen!” during rhubarbs with the ump. Dan Aykroyd’s “Rubber Biscuit” soliloquy as an opposing manager approached the mound. The theme from “Leave it to Beaver” as a visiting batter struck out and walked sheepishly to the dugout.
After two games of such zaniness, Mississippi State coach Ron Polk told Rebel officials his team would not take the field at Swayze for game three of an important series if George was the public-address announcer. George was removed and public address went bland.
This Thursday at Thacker Mountain Radio, after 30 years, we will right that wrong and allow George his rightful place, once again, behind the mike. He’ll talk Zevon, Oxford and maybe even Groucho.
After hearing his wit and warmth, no one will leave in a huff.
George Plasketes will discuss and sign copies of Warren Zevon: Desperado of Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 3 at 6 pm at Off Square Books (129 Courthouse Square) in Oxford on The Thacker Mountain Radio Hour. Cassandra King will discuss A Lowcounty Heart, a posthumous collection of essays by her late husband Pat Conroy. Musical guests will include jazz musician Rhonda Richmond and songwriter Christian Lopez. FREE.
Radio: 92.1 FM (Oxford) Online: http://myrebelradio.com/