Meathead Rob Reiner’s Lifelong Jinx

Comrad Meathead's Jinx

Comrad Meathead's Jinx

Rob Reiner, or Meathead, as millions of Americans call him, recently passed his seventy-third birthday, yet even as a senior citizen, he devotes much of his time denouncing President Donald Trump. It is part of an ongoing battle Reiner has fought with conservatives for over half a century, but someone needs to tell the guy he was jinxed right from the outset. Fifty-five years ago, in his eighteenth year, something happened 3,500 miles away in England that would have a lifelong effect on the young New Yorker.

 

July 22 was a cold, gray day in 1965 when the pilot episode of a British television sitcom Till Death Us Do Part aired on BBC1. It enjoyed high ratings, not just because many were indoors to escape the cold, but because Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell), was a remarkable actor, and Johnny Speight was a gifted comedy writer. Till Death Us Do Part was an instant hit. What British people did not know was that the show’s creator, Johnny Speight, was a communist whose greatest hero was Stalin.

 

All in the Family - titles

Remember All in the Family with Archie Bunker and his meathead son-in-law Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner)? That show was based on Britain’s Till Death Us Do Part. To understand Rob Reiner’s jinx, you need to start with Speight.


Johnny Speight

Born into an Irish Catholic family in 1920, in West Ham, in London’s East End, Johnny Speight is the reason Archie Bunker and Meathead would eventually exist. West Ham produced many famous hard-drinking Cockney-speaking footballers, but now they could add ‘hard-drinking Cockney-speaking comedy writer’ to that list. Like many poor Catholics in those days, Speight left school at 14. How could he avoid going along with working-class political concepts (the rich are all evil, the poor are all saintly)? Speight yearned to satirize his conservative father, as a writer, but being published was an unlikely prospect for an East End rube. He stammered and drank too much, so finding work was not easy. His only knowledge of people revolved around his working-class family in Canning Town. For those not familiar with Cockney accents, the following example might help. An educated Englishman in the seventies might say:

“Excuse me, sir, but where do you think you are going with that beautiful young lady?”

A 1970’s Cockney translation would be:

“Ska-uze me mista, buh where da bleedin’ ell ya fink yoo-iz takin that luvly piece a crumpet?”

A New York working-class stiff at that time might say:

Hey pal, hold up der. Where on oith d’ya tink you is goin wid dat drop-dead gorgeous broad?

Speight drank heavily, and that, along with his East End accent, stammer, and lack of education, jinxed his writing career for 21 years. After decades of alternating factory work, being on the dole, or selling insurance door to door, at the age of 35, he finally scored a position co-writing scripts for the BBC comedy show ‘Great Scott – It’s Maynard!’ Unfortunately, his bad luck ensured that none of the episodes survived. Being a government entity, the BBC thought it was wise to wipe (junk) all the telerecordings (kinescopes), for reuse or to preserve space. That was just the beginning of a curse that would follow Speight along, leapfrogging from him to the United States like bat viruses off a Wuhan tourist.

Some years later, Speight contributed to another BBC sitcom “Sykes and a…” which may be the worst title ever for a TV show. Again, his bad-fortune ensured that more than half the episodes were wiped, or junked. You can still see a few on YouTube if you can bear the smudgy old black and white reels. The jokes are a little hammy, but reflect the slapstick life of downtrodden Cockney underdogs, pleading neighbors for baths, driving buses recklessly, arguing over pets, being unemployed, and trying to make a quid (buck).

Speight hated non-drinkers, and said of himself, “I’m so far left I’m out of sight.” Probably inspired by fellow English communist Charlie Chaplin, Speight created many tramp characters over the years, including one played by Arthur Haynes for The Arthur Haynes Show. In the video below, Speight speaks about Haynes. Watch it to see Johnny Speight’s character, stuttering Cockney accent, and background. Remember, this is the man who will create Alf Garnett, who, in turn, will become Archie Bunker across the pond.

 

 

At the 1:08 mark, Speight explains that as a young man, he thought George Bernard Shaw was a stand up comic. He was impressed to discover Shaw had written books and plays, and read them all avidly, agreeing with Shaw’s extreme far-left political views. Shaw, an Irish political activist, was a member of the Fabian Society, an organization dedicated to world Socialism, whose emblem was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Aside from opposing vaccination, Bernard Shaw expressed admiration for Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin, and hailed Lenin as “a really interesting statesman in Europe.” Visiting Stalin in person, he described the tyrant as, “a Georgian gentleman… with no malice in him.” Stalin murdered about 60 million citizens of the Soviet Union, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. See Bernard Shaw in this video explaining why we should use mass murder to cleanse society.

Here are Speight’s words, from the 1:08 mark to 2:28:

I s’pose I, I got first involved in any, any kinda culture at all when I was young, living in Canning Town, the East End of London. I was at Canning Town public library, lookin’ for a book t’ read, and I, erm, first ah or I juz-say that George Bernard Shaw was alive in those days, aind de, almost every day or week there was some commen’ ‘e made. Ah, and it all-e made me laugh. Aind, I thought he was a stand up comic, and I thought, ‘I must catch this guy’s act one day ‘cos e’s, ee is really good, he’s betta than Tommy Trinder!’ Eh-heh hegh. And I was in Canning Town public library lookin’ for a book to read and I saw this shelf, with, of Shaw books, and I thought, ‘Christ, he writes as well, this fella!’ Ere was a man, er, eh, an obviously educated man, oo, er, so educated they e’n published im in book form, y’know, which is a, in the, in th, th, the, in the East End that was sumin, you know, you actually book, they published ‘im in a book, er, printed his words, sorta fing. Um, and, I was rea- he was a m- person confirmin’ my, my kinda instinctive beliefs about society or misgivins about it. Read, read, read then, everyfing he’d written I think, uh, all the novels, plays, wha-eva. Aind ah, and that’s when I decided to buy a typewritah. ‘Cos ‘e gave the impression that you, you could wry if you wanned too, nuffin stoppin you.

 

Johnny Speight, Warren Mitchell, Archie Bunker
Johnny Speight, Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell), and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor).

When you listen to Cockney Johnny Speight, you hear his father, and Alf Garnet, and in American terms, Archie Bunker. Ironically, the actors playing Alf and Archie were much better educated than Speight and had to stage their working-class accents. Warren Mitchell, who played Alf, studied Chemistry at Oxford University, while Carroll O’Connor, who played Archie, studied drama at universities in both North Carolina and Dublin, Ireland.

 

Till Death Us Do Part - cast

                                                                 
Till Death Us Do Part

Johnny Speight’s greatest creation was Till Death Us Do Part. The show aired on BBC1 from 1965 to 1975, about a poor family living in the East End – just like Speight’s own. By now, you should know that Speight hated conservatives and was himself a dyed-in-the-wool socialist. He created the character ‘Alf Garnett’ to mock conservatives. Alf would be a caricature of Speight’s father, a right-winged working-class conservative, who criticized socialists and black immigration.

Filling Britain with poor, unqualified, uneducated Africans was a beautiful idea, in Speight’s mind, even though many went on unemployment benefits, lived in slums, and turned to crime. As a Lefty, he was appalled to see conservatives opposing such immigration. Speight would try to “educate” Britons on how uncaring and conservatives were, through Alf.

Alf’s wife Else would argue and bicker with him, as would his daughter Rita, but Alf’s greatest rival was his son-in-law, Mike Rawlins. As a far-left socialist, Mike opposed all of Alf’s conservative views. Like his American counterpart, Michael Stivic (Meathead), Mike Rawlins supported striking workers, unions, left-winged political parties (Labour), anti-war beatniks, hippies, feminists, socialists, communists, anti-capitalists, communes, environmentalists, free sex, and black immigration. If Fidel Castro was for it, so was Mike.


Johnny Speight’s Jinx

Although the show was a smash hit, Speight’s jinx lived on, causing multiple problems. A significant setback for Speight was that working-class Brits liked Alf Garnett, and began to learn from him. Instead of being repulsed by the man’s views, many agreed with him. Alf taught many working-class people why importing poor immigrants was terrible for Britain. Before Till Death Us Do Part came along, there was very little in the media expressing such views. Most newspapers and TV shows were left-winged and supported black immigration wholeheartedly. Alf Garnett was a new voice who gave millions a grasp on why socialism was disastrous. Meanwhile, his maker, Speight, hated capitalism; writing plays about how evil it was.  Like most communists, he denounced capitalism while enjoying all its fruits, including a Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn, and a palatial house on a substantial piece of woodland. When asked if he would let tramps stay on his land, he replied, “I’d tell ‘em to piss off outa it.”

What a conundrum for Johnny Speight! Drunk at the bar, he would ask, “Why d-da bleedin’ ‘ell would any, anyone agree wiv a loudmouved, wacist, bigoted t-t-twit like bleedin’ Alf? I w-worked bloody ‘ard to make sure ‘e were th’ most u-unlikeable c— on earf!”
  “Well,” others suggested, “Alf says what conservatives say but in a working-class voice. Maybe that’s why.”
  “No, I unnerstan dat,” Speight would cry, downing another whiskey, “but wot I mean is, I took da w-worst of what I saw im me farver, and ex-exaggerated it even more, like, just to m-make sure, like, so nobody in tha hole worl could possibly like im, yet, dey b-bloody DO! It’s incredible!”
  “Perhaps it’s because Warren Mitchell is such a good persuader,” others would suggest.
  “Ya fink?” Speight wondered. “Geez, I ‘ope dat ain’t frikken true, ‘cos if, if, if it is, den wot the b-bleedin’ ‘ell am I doin? If yor right, den all my work is fer n-nuffin! I’m ‘elpin’ the fu–ing Tories!”


The Mirror

It was true. Speight was helping the Tories (British Conservative Party), and this haunted him. Apart from causing him to drink more, which made his scripts late, it resulted in him using Alf to lie about conservatives supporting Hitler (more on that later). Speight never did figure out why people loved  Alf, yet it was easy to understand. If I were explaining it to Speight’s ghost, I would say:
 

This riddle is easy to solve, Johnny, so pour yourself another whiskey and listen up. All your life, you thought you stood with the angels as a good guy, trying to help the world. To break the riddle, walk around the other side of the mirror for once and imagine that everything you learned was wrong. Looking through the mirror, see your mother, school teachers, and favorite authors, like Stalinist George Bernard Shaw, in reverse; as being mistaken. Consider that the very opposite of their teachings was the case. For instance, importing poor, uneducated immigrants into a wealthy first world country was a bad idea. Or that giving such immigrants welfare and free medicare would cost citizens too much and cause many problems for society. It may sound bizarre but play along. Pretend it was true. Continue with this for a moment, and fantasize that hippies were not the beautiful people you thought they were. Instead, envisage them as dirty, lazy parasites doing their best to destroy Western democracies. Picture Alf Garnett, saying that stuff about black immigration and hippies. It would sound sensible to you from this side of the mirror. Alf was right Johnny, and before you dash back to the front of the mirror, look again, because this is the front. You were always standing at the back, looking through at the world in reverse! When you thought George Bernard Shaw was a stand-up comedian – you were right the first time. He makes a much better comedian than a philosopher. When you thought Alf was wrong to hate hippies, you had it bass-ackwards.


The Jinx Continues

Chain-smoking Johnny Speight drank so much he was often late supplying scripts. He also had a frightful temper and would wrangle with people rudely. Watch him in this short BBC debate, talking over the moderator and other guests, including Marty Feldman, to blast his opinion at them repeatedly, forcing the moderator to ditch the interview. Overdue scripts became such a problem that eventually, the BBC scrapped Till Death Us Do Part before its time. Johnny’s reputation made it hard to convince the BBC to work with him in other shows. Speight took four years off to recoup, and during that time, the BBC became more politically correct, making it even harder for Speight to sell his scripts. In 1992 the BBC pulled the plug on a six-part series of In Sickness and in Health (a kind of sequel to Till Death Us Do Part) because there had been complaints about Alf’s language and his attitude to lesbianism and Aids. An irritated Speight said, “There’s a terrible censorship now, so many subjects are taboo.” The quote may have been a cleaned-up version of what he said, which may have been closer to, “’Ere, there’s a t-terrible censorship now, innit? So many bleedin’ subjects are f—in’ taboo, like, know wot I mean, wid lesos and flamin’ fags runnin’ amok in the bloody BBC?”
  That sounds like something Alf Garnett might say, and while crude, it would be roughly correct. The BBC was indeed filling up with communists, greens, feminists, lesbians, and homosexuals, fresh out of college and hell-bent on censoring words that did not support their agenda. What comes around goes around. The Lefties Speight helped all his life were now becoming his worst enemies.

 

 

In the 1969 scene above, we see Alf defending his house from the government bureaucrats who intend to rip it down. They offer him £300 for the home, which Alf paid £1500 for – a valuation set by the same bureaucrats in the past. They arrogantly ignore his objections. Worse still, his wife, daughter, and son-in-law scorn him for complaining. As far as Johnny Speight was concerned, this was an example of Alf’s greed and pig-headedness. Is it any wonder people sided with poor old Alf?

 

 

In the short video excerpt above, Alf is watching TV with the family. He is cheering for police who are breaking up anti-Vietnam War student demonstrations with tear gas. His support for police disgusts his socialist son-in-law, Mike. Alf correctly points out that students cause most disruptions of this kind, and that you never see Vietnamese students waving anti-American banners around, nor the students in Russia and China. This point is smart and pertinent. Hippies never object to communist tyrants, and communist populations never demonstrate against the West. At this point, Johnny Speight sinks to his lowest by writing up Alf to support Hitler, something a conservative would never do. The British Labour Party supported Hitler for many years, while conservatives under Churchill railed against him. Alf’s biggest hero after the Queen was Winston Churchill. While Johnny Speight was a great comedy writer, he was a liar and a fool politically, so it makes perfect sense his work would spawn meathead Rob Reiner.

 

 

About three weeks ago, Ricky Gervais described watching Till Death Us Do Part as a kid (see above). He loved Alf Garnett and thought of the show [ Till Death Us Do Part ] as a family, like his own. Ricky pointed out that the sit-com reflected the new generation coming in, with its “hippies, ne’er-do-wells, or long-haired layabouts,” and how Alf reacted to the “new-fangled teenagers.” He expressed no animosity towards Alf. Johnny Speight unintentionally taught millions of working-class kids like Gervais to be more conservative, much to his eternal frustration ­­­- his jinx. As an adult, Gervais criticized and embarrassed many far-left Hollywood actors at the Golden Globes, perhaps in part, thanks to Alf Garnett. Gervais’ father was a laborer and hod-carrier (a hod is a V-shaped trough on a pole, used for carrying bricks or coal). It was dangerous and back-breaking work, something Alf Garnett would have appreciated. Ricky’s father would likely have loved Alf, and his son followed suit.

 

All in the Family

All in the Family

For Johnny Speight’s jinx to leap across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, it would need a host and a carrier. Johnny Speight would never want the rights sold to a conservative – that would be blasphemy. It would have to be a far-left political activist, like himself. Also, if the person could have Russian blood, and daddy issues, all the better. He would need to be a fan of the British Stalinist George Bernard Shaw, and the British communist, Charlie Chaplin. Oh, and if he was a door to door salesman, turned comedy writer, with failed TV shows, even better still. Ideally, Johnny Speight wanted an American Johnny Speight.

 

Norman Lear


Norman Lear

Below is a partial bio on Norman Lear – do you think it would please Speight?


As a political activist, [Lear] founded the [far-left] advocacy organization People for the American Way… [His father was] Hyman “Herman” Lear, a traveling [door-to-door] salesman. His mother… was born in Kherson Gubernia, Ukraine, while his father was born in Connecticut to Russian-born parents… When Lear was nine years old, his father went to prison for selling fake bonds. Lear thought of his father as a “rascal” and said that the character of Archie Bunker… was, in part, inspired by his father
….
In Los Angeles, Lear stumbled upon a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara… in the… Circle Theater off Sunset Boulevard. One of the actors in the play was Sydney Chaplin… son of… Charlie Chaplin… [who] sat in front of [Lear], and after the show was over, Chaplin performed.
….
Lear [sold] home furnishings door-to-door… and later sold family photos door-to-door. Throughout the 1950s, Lear… turned out comedy sketches for television…
….
In 1954 Lear was enlisted as a writer hoping to salvage the new… sitcom, Honestly, Celeste!, but the program was canceled after eight episodes… He became the producer of NBC’s short-lived… sitcom The Martha Raye Show… Lear also… created his first [TV] series… called The Deputy, starring [far left] Henry Fonda [father of far-left Jane Fonda].
….
Lear has long been a vocal critic of the ideas held by the Conservatives…
….
Lear… signed an open letter supporting the proposed nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers led by the United States.


Could Speight have found a better clone of himself? From Wikipedia:

The show came about when Norman Lear read an article in Variety magazine on Till Death Us Do Part and its success in the United Kingdom. He immediately knew it portrayed a relationship just like the one between his father and himself. Lear bought the rights to the show and incorporated his own family experiences with his father into the show. Lear’s father would tell Lear’s mother to “stifle herself.”

How could Norman Lear have known that his purchase of Till Death Us Do Part came with Johnny Speight’s jinx? It leaped from the contract onto Lear’s face like the facehugger from Alien, injecting the reverse mirror hex into his brain. The poor man had no way of knowing that working-class Americans would not only admire Archie Bunker but would learn from him exactly why socialists (like Meathead) were worthless parasites, and how to stand up to them.

As much as Norman Lear tried to mock his father through Archie Bunker, all he was doing was giving workers a voice, and some free lessons about how to deal with Lefties, liberals, protestors, student socialists, feminists, and other bullies. Consider the following All in the Family scenes:

 

 

Above: excerpts from S01 E07, Feb 16, 1971, Mike’s Hippie Friends Come to Visit.
Archie is unkindly treated by his loafer son-in-law, and daughter when a scraggly hippy couple arrives at 10 pm and refuses to leave. Meathead and Gloria invited the hippies to stay the night without asking Archie’s permission and act as though he has no right to refuse. Archie says, “Y’hear that, Edith? I send in the mortgage payments; they send out the invitations.”
  The unmarried hippies insist on sleeping together on the living room floor. At 12.30 am, Archie offers them $10 to stay in a motel, and they still refuse to leave. Referring to the male hippy, Gloria says, “But Dad, you used to like him.”
  Archie replies, “Yes, I liked him when he was a nice clean engineering student, who used to dream about building bridges and banks. Now he looks like someone who wants to blow ‘em up.”
  The extraordinary point here is that, according to Rob Reiner, who co-wrote the script, Archie is not only wrong to say no to a pair of dirty hippies copulating on his living room floor in the middle of the night, but immoral to boot. How many Americans would agree with Archie’s position? Answer – most of them. Not only would they side with Archie, but they would learn from him exactly how to deal with unwanted hippy pests. Tell them straight to their face, “Get out!”

Rob Reiner - 1976
Rob Reiner – 1976

When Rob Reiner took on the role of Mike Stivic, Johnny Speight’s jinx was right there, under his wig. In a 1973 interview with New York’s Daily News, an incensed Rob complained bitterly about not being paid enough, saying, “A moron could tell that it’s unfair. It’s more than that. It’s criminal… I can tell you one thing: I’ll never sign a contract again until my lawyers look over every single word.” See the whole article here.

His jinx continued when someone persuaded the director of the film ‘Fire Sale‘ to include Reiner in the cast. He was given the part of an asthmatic who groaned and moaned so much, the film was a flop. From Wikipedia: ‘The film was panned by critics. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film half of one star out of four, calling it “a hideous comedy”… On his year-end list of the worst films of 1977 in “decreasing order of lousiness,” he named Fire Sale first… Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it “a lethally crass, singularly unfunny comedy” and “about as funny as arson.” Gary Arnold of The Washington Post described the film as “boorish” and “animated by naked hostility and vindictiveness rather than satirical perception or adroitness.” Leonard Maltin’s film guide assigned its lowest possible grade of BOMB and called it “Truly unbearable.”‘

 

Today Rob Reiner, continuing his far-left work, attacks Donald Trump regularly. His latest spate of assaults blames Trump for the coronavirus and calls Trump a criminal. There are too many of his poisonous tweets to list, but here is a scrolling screen recording showing Google’s search results at the time of writing:

 

Meathead on the Psycho Killer warpath

 

Johnny Speight’s jinx jumped onto Norman Lear, who passed it on to Rob Reiner. Poor old Rob thought he did great work in All in the Family, fighting conservatives, but in fact, the award-winning show did far more to help conservatives. Archie Bunker helped generations of kids understand why hippies were wrong about so many issues. They grew up to be adults who still call Reiner ‘Meathead’ because they sided with Archie. It is doubtful that Reiner understands why, which is a symptom of his meatheadedness. He once said, “I could win the Nobel Prize, and they’d write, “Meathead wins the Nobel Prize.”
  That is true, Rob, but if that happens, you will not be the first meathead to receive one.

Rob Reiner was never very bright, in my view, and this comes out in his speech, writing, and his pin-headed political beliefs, which have hardly changed since his youth.

So, who is this knucklehead, anyway?                      

Liberal vs. Conservative

Rob Reiner has a mixture of Polish, Russian, German, Romanian, and Austrian blood. He grew up in the shadow of his father, Carl Reiner, a highly successful actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. Carl created, produced, wrote, and acted in The Dick Van Dyke Show. He starred in a long list of movies and directed many others. The man was rich, won many awards, and his left-winged son Rob resented him. No wonder Norman Lear chose Rob to play Mike in All in the Family. He had daddy issues. Rob’s relationship with his father caused him great anguish, which led to many hours of therapy. Dropping out of the University of California film school, he went straight into acting. Rob could afford to, being the son of a multi-millionaire movie producer. How hard would it have been for a college dropout to find a role in a TV sit-com? Usually, it would be tough, but not if your father was Carl Reiner.

I think you know now why Meathead is a second-rate actor, a second-rate director, and a fourth-rate political activist. Will he ever lose Johnny Speight’s jinx? I doubt it. To this day, he continues to help conservatives by making a fool of himself on Twitter. His Trump Derangement Syndrome only assists the POTUS, because millions of Archie-loving Americans believe that if Meathead is against something, it must be good.

At seventy-three, the talentless commie would be better off saying nothing about politics ever again, but he will continue being Meathead, and President Trump’s ratings will continue to rise.

 

 

Rob Larrikin

Author: Rob Larrikin