The manly art of male crying

Kevin Cowherd

November 20, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

LET ME BEGIN by saying that I'm not much of a crier myself, although given the right circumstances (bill for a new transmission, "Ol' Yeller" re-runs), I can bawl like a baby.

Men first began crying openly in the late '70s, encouraged by the likes of Alan Alda and Phil Donahue, weepy guys with three-pack-a-day Kleenex habits who weren't afraid to show they were sensitive, vulnerable and so forth.

Women (at least some of them) seemed to go for this. So pretty soon you had a lot of guys with robin-egg-blue leisure suits sobbing on women's shoulders during everything from foreign film presentations to the hatching of baby chicks.

Of course, after a while, all that crying made women want to gag, and what followed was the inevitable backlash against male crying.

Look what happened to Alan Alda's career. One minute he's misty-eyed over operating room sexism on "M*A*S*H," the next minute he's working a Knights of Columbus convention in Des Moines.

Today, male crying is clearly acceptable, but it's not as, um, celebrated as it once was.

But try telling that to my old friend Monte. Monte's last crying jag came in a packed stadium while a group of us watched a football game in the rain. Suddenly the sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow appeared.

Of course, the rest of us recognized this as big trouble, because it meant that Monte would soon go to pieces and embarrass us.

Sure enough, as he gazed at the sky, his shoulders began to shake and pretty soon tears streamed down his face.

"It's so . . . so beautiful!" he sobbed.

Finally, somebody reached over and smacked him with a half-empty can of Budweiser and told him to knock it off. Which was only right. Here we were, surrounded by 60,000 screaming drunks who wanted to split the opposing quarterback's head like a cantaloupe, and Monte was being moved by a rainbow.

Heck, there were three or four women sitting behind us that wanted to take a poke at the little jerk themselves.

As a general rule of thumb, fallen preachers such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart are terrific criers, men who can summon wonderfully deep, mournful sobs that seem to emanate from some dark place within their souls.

Watching Jim Bakker blubbering and carrying on before they dragged him off to the slammer, I thought: Now that's crying!

(Let me hasten to add that if they were dragging me off to spend the next seven to 10 years in a dank prison cell with an oddly affectionate weight lifter named Todd, I would be crying, too -- as well as screaming and hanging onto someone's pants leg. Oh, you talk about a scene. You'd need five beefy U.S. marshals with crowbars to pry my hands loose).

Unfortunately, some men give crying a bad name. Because instead of letting forth at the appropriate time with a river of tears, they sort of . . . sniffle.

Look, if you're going to cry, cry like a man! Don't cry like some 3-year-old who just took a tumble on his Big Wheels.

Of course, in the pantheon of modern-day crybabies, one man stands alone. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for a major star, a super talent, Mr. Jerry Lewis!

You want a river of tears? Then check out Jerry's Labor Day telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. Great cause, sure. But when the show finally grinds to a close and the tote board goes over last year's pledge total, there's Jerry: shirt collar open, tuxedo bow tie askew, slick hair plastered with sweat against his forehead, hugging Ed McMahon and sobbing like someone just ran over his dog.

Say what you will about Jerry Lewis. But the man can flat-out weep.

So could Sammy Davis Jr., may he rest in peace. Sammy would take the stage during Jerry's telethon and start rapping about some "super-talented cat I know in L.A., I mean, I love this cat, and now the man is going through some hard times . . ." And next thing you knew, Sammy's voice would catch and he'd be a quivering wreck and some stage hand would have to walk him back to the dressing room.

Sammy set the standard for us all.

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