So here we are.
It was announced last week that Daily Variety will cease its publication after more than a century. Anytime I hear about Variety, I always think of its most notorious headline: STICKS NIX HICK PIX, that accompanied a 1935 story about how rural audiences didn’t like to watch films about rural life.
Of course, I didn’t always know this was a real headline, since I was long under the impression that it was made up exclusively for the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. They varied it a bit, spelling it STIX NIX HIX PIX. In any case, when I saw this film as a young thing, it was my first exposure to Variety’s unique showbiz slang. James Cagney’s rapid-fire explanation is still ingrained in my head:
“Stix” - small towns -“Nix” - say no to - “Hix” - rube - “Pix” - pictures. “Stix Nix Hix Pix.”
Upon hearing the news about Daily Variety, I thought about all the great headlines that could have been, and still could be, since there will still be a weekly edition... but only if very specific events occur.
I know this would never happen, but I almost want Tom Hanks to win another Oscar and make a horrible acceptance speech where he spaces out Cindy Brady-style, just to see the following headline in the next day’s Variety:
HANKS BLANKS THANX; TANKS
Or, wouldn’t it be great if there was a new avant-garde band where the lead singer also played the glockenspiel, and it became such a notorious rock group that they filmed their own cheesy, self-indulgent documentary? It would be worth it just for the Variety headline:
GLOCK ROCK DOC SCHLOCK
But even if an already existing band -- say, R.E.O. Speedwagon -- did a biopic that bombed in its opening week, you could still have this Variety gem:
R.E.O. B.O. D.O.A.
And supposing there was a new television series that took place on a train, but got reviews calling it boring and flat... that would be bad for the show, but great fun for the Variety reader who sees:
PLAIN JANE TRAIN SKEIN
What if Nicole Kidman decided to write, produce, direct and star in a film about a prostitute? And what if that production became troubled? Wouldn’t it all be worth it to see this in Variety:
NIC TRICK PIC SICK
Of course, not all Variety headlines contain clever rhymes. Sometimes the industry-speak itself can help create a wonderful little turn of phrase.
Say, for instance, the legendary Abe Vigoda reprised his infamous Barney Miller character of Fish in a brand-new movie musical of the same name, that was making its film festival debut. Variety readers would squeal as they read:
OPENING: CANNES TUNER “FISH”
Or if TBS produced a sitcom called Elves that they quickly axed:
DEATH TO CABLER’S “ELVES”
Or if a Broadway comedy called Brake For Laughter! had its leading man suddenly depart the show:
STAR ANKLES “BRAKE”
And how about if a network president championed a primetime drama called Midnight, but fired several showrunners? You’d simply have to read a Variety feature titled:
PREXY’S “MIDNIGHT” ‘RUNNERS
Of course, regardless of Variety’s future, these are all events -- and subsequently, headlines -- which, even with all of today’s ridiculousness, will probably never see the light of day.
But there is one headline I thought of that, sadly, is not that outrageous.
It’s sort of the opposite of and cousin to STICKS NIX HICK PIX, which would tell the tale of the proliferation and success of reality shows on cable like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Hillbilly Handfishing, and Duck Dynasty:
RUBES LUBE BOOB TUBE
It’s yours if you want it, Weekly Variety. That is, unless you already used it in the late 1960s during the Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction/Green Acres era. In which case, you could use:
RUBE TUBE REDO; BOO BOO POOBAH
And to think I’m unemployed.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.