Willie Noir and the Consequences of Sin

By Fred Zackel

Art_ensignfrown0616_gi Didja hear that Senator John Ensign, the two-term Nevada Republican caught up in a sex and ethics inquiry, won’t run again?

As Carl Hulse of The New York Times reported it, “As I have learned through the mistake that I made, there are consequences to sin,” Mr. Ensign, 52, said at a news conference in Las Vegas as his wife, Darlene, stood at his side.

Hulse continued, saying:

“Once considered a future presidential contender, Mr. Ensign has seen his political fortunes plummet since he admitted in 2009 to an affair with a former campaign staffer who was also the wife of a top aide. A Senate Ethics Committee investigation, still under way, began after disclosures that Mr. Ensign’s parents paid $96,000 to the aide, Douglas Hampton, who also said the senator had helped him line up lobbying clients after Mr. Hampton left his Senate job.”

Like a lot of folks, I love reading noir. Watching interesting people make one dumb decision after another. Like watching them falling down a staircase, going faster and faster until they go splat.

Noir is Inexorable and doom is Inevitable.

Methinks, a noir protagonist thinks with his willie, or rather lets his willie think for him, and that dooms him.

“Heaven be damned! I’m gonna think with my willie!”

A small film crew went down to the Tough Town, the toughest part of the Cold City; they were slumming, hoping to get some gripping footage to shock and awe the straights who lived Uptown.

Blondie Fatale, femme lead in this low-budget indie flick, got snatched by some ignorant savages who needed a patsy to get the heat off them, and she got tossed into the dark shadows.

Harry Dick, the toughest monkey in Tough Town, saw her and fell for her goldie locks. Now, Harry Dick lacked all self-control; he'd kill you just as soon as look at you; he took what he wanted when he wanted it; he had zero morals, too; he was that kind of guy.

Anyway, he didn't rescue her. No, he snatched her up, didn't cut her loose, man-handled her and kept her in shackles, and took her to his pad to do with her whatever he wanted.

Before he gets to let his animal nature run amuck, she cuts herself free during the night and escapes, and then he goes after her.

Meanwhile some big teeth baddies are chasing her, too.

Only when he has to rescue her from some big-teeth baddies does he realize, hey, I like this Blondie Fatale. I want to set up housekeeping with her.

Her buddies from film school save her butt, and bring down Harry Dick, knock him flat on his keister, helpless, and then they decide to show him off to the straights that live Uptown.

But Harry Dick busts free, snatches the Blondie Fatale again, and wastes a bunch of straights on his way out of Uptown.

But the cops are on to him, too.

Cornered by John Law, Harry Dick gets blown away, and Blonde Fatale gets free.

King Kong is noir.

The moral of the story: The biggest testicles have the smallest brains.

Ask any woman. As the bumper sticker in Wyoming states, “If it’s got tires or testicles, you’re going to have trouble with it.”

Recently Matt Lauer of America’s The Today Show was publically accused by his Dutch-born model wife of having cheated on his wife. And the National Enquirer reports that the 52-year-old Lauer, the father of three, has moved out of the family home.

Bones star David Boreanaz, 40, is just one of the more recent Hollywood stars to confess that he has been unfaithful to his wife of nearly nine years, Jaime Bergman. Meanwhile an extra is suing that he made Promises to get her on the Casting Couch.

What’s going wrong?

Our society celebrates -– DEMANDS — male self-control.

And noir is a morality tale about men who can’t control themselves.

A man enters the Universe of Noir when he lets his willie do his thinking for him.

Think Bill Clinton. Eliot Spitzer. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Mark Foley. Newt Gingrich. John Edwards. Jesse James. And what was the name of that Congressman? Whadda mean, which one? The one the other day. No, yesterday’s. And now John Ensign throws in the towel.

Tiger Wood anybody?

Remember Tiger Woods’ “Confession?”

“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves. I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect.

“Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives. The stories in particular that physical violence played any role in the car accident were utterly false and malicious.

“But no matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don't share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions.”

The NY Times ran this transcript and within 36 hours the public made … 11,896 comments at the NYT website.


I sorta figured Tiger was just going through the Evolutionary Mandate: score with as many women as possible to pass on as many sets of his genes. Things today are different. Maybe Evolution got bumped by The Pill.

Just imagine: for the past dozen years, in every clubhouse across the country, some guy at the bar was leaning over to the next barstool, crudely saying, “If I were Tiger Woods, I'd be getting every piece of tail there was in the world!”

Guess what: Tiger was.

Now he's just one of the guys. Except he's a billionaire. Which means even with a bad pre-nupt agreement, he's okay for retirement. Hey, he can retire and move to Florida and spend every day playing golf.

Oh. Right. That’s what he’s doing now.

Oh, and the “pundits” in the media? Oh, they're routering his crotch like, like, like … he committed a crime. Which … he didn't. Unless adultery with a dozen or women is a crime.

What he did was a sin. In some people's eyes, anyways.

Now & then I get …. sorta religious. I always liked Jesus telling the adulterous woman, “Don't do it again, okay?” Just nobody here practices my form of Christianity. Oh well.

I'll bet not a single guy in this country envies Tiger today.

The most important part of these Clinton-Letterman-Woods-Ensign stories is not that these guys thought with their willie wonkas. Not that they thought they could get away with it, either.

The most important part is that they thought they could trust the Other Woman. Twitter twitter twitter … iggle giggle wink wink nudge nudge.

“My life would have been so different if I hadn't taken off my underwear.”

Eamon Casey, the former Archbishop of Galway, didn’t actually say that. But I bet he thought it.

For giggles, google Casey. He gives you good faith in religion as a moral compass, speaking of loose gimbals.

Check out the journalism book, “Write It When I’m Gone: Remarkable Off-The-Record Conversations with Gerald R. Ford,” by journalist Thomas DeFrank.

DeFrank writes, “(Jerry Ford) thought Bill Clinton had a serious addiction here and he needed help.”

Bubba let his willie do his thinking in the White House.

What the hell was he thinking? Well, he wasn’t.

What was he thinking with? Ah, there’s the rub.

True fact: Monica never knew Bill was married. He never told him, the cad. That’s why Monica showed him her thong in the Oval Office. If she had known he was a married man–

Wait! Was the whole deal a set-up? Did the Femme Fatale frame Bill’s Willie?

How hard-boiled are you to hang onto a semen-stained dress?

How soon do you stop looking like an innocent and more like a blackmailer?


Naw, that’s not how it happened.

The femme fatale is fatal to the willie.

Yoko Ono was a femme fatale. She broke up the band, right? She got John Lennon to pose naked for an album cover.

Noir is about morality, as John Ensign came to realize. The inevitability of the Denouement is, well, Judgment Day. I look at noir writers, and I see old-fashioned Old Testament religion oozing from them like January maple syrup.

Dashiell Hammett was a former Catholic, James Cain was a gloating Catholic, Mickey Spillane created the (Mike) Hammer of God, and so forth.

The Maltese Falcon is not at center a whodunnit, but a novel about people — about one man, Sam Spade, especially — caught up in a world of crime. It offers a peculiar point of view to accompany this vision, the detached-viewpoint story, where we never get into the head of any character. We are simply floating, invisible observers, and the narrator has disappeared.

We see and hear the events as they take place, as if we are present, but invisible in the room. This is not quite “the camera's eye.” That's where the reader is allowed to see and hear only what a camera sees and a microphone hears. In The Maltese Falcon there are comments and interpretations. We become invisible observers in the room.

In The Maltese Falcon, murder is still represented as a game of Good versus Evil (although most of the violence is off-stage). The gamester here is the Ace of Spades, Sam himself. The ambiguity of his character is central to the story. In this world where all is corrupt, where all can be corrupted, Sam Spade knows the score.

“Most things in San Francisco can be bought, or taken.”

Hammett created Spade, a blonde devil. Spade is also Sisyphus before Camus tinkered with the myth. The Falcon begins with Spade in his office and ends with Spade in his office.

And when Miles Archer, his partner, is killed, Sam Spade pushes himself squarely into the center arena and the struggle for the Black Bird (i.e., temptation.) He wheedles and cajoles and threatens and lies and taunts and bluffs to find out who killed Miles Archer.

Hammett's misdirection is marvelous. Archer's death very quickly becomes a subplot. Finding the Black Bird becomes the main plot. And yet once the Bird is found, Archer's death is resolved.

Spade describes his dead partner Archer:

“He was a sucker for women. His record shows that—the only falls he took were over women. And once a chump, always a chump.”

The leopard can't change his spots.

Fantasy is about power. For men, it's the sword battle with the Dragon over the Maiden in Distress. Very Freudian. The dragon is the Authority Figure, the Maiden represents the Sexual Conquest, and the sword is the penis. The Quest is about getting your first sexual experience.

Women tell Quest stories, too, although minus the sword. The Bridal Quest. Wherein the woman watches (“witnesses”) the Male Quest to see if he might be suitable marriage material.

Probably the most obvious example of this was the 1985 movie Witness with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGinnis. Once we realize she is “witnessing” which suitor (Harrison Ford’s character or Alexander Godunov’s Amish counterpart) will be best for her and her eight-year-old boy.

Fifty percent of all books sold in the USA are romances. And I mean that in the old 13th century definitions. Adventures with marriage at the end of the book. Women are on the Bridal Quest to find a monogamous mate.

Pornography is about power, too. Male fantasies are great equalizers. Their “swords” perform with legendary adeptness. And the women in porn are dumb enough to agree: “Oh, how long your sword is!”

In real life most women recognize the irrational, unreasoning power of the fantasy, and they justifiably feel the threat.

(For a variation on the theme read a batch of the Coyote stories from Native Americans — very anchored in sexual adventures and misadventures. See Coyote as Yuppie Stud: “Wanna see my sensitive side?” And the Old Women laugh at him. “Oh, that's just Coyote playing his tricks!”)

But consider another ubiquitous fantasy, the Cinderella story: That fairytale has over 750 variations and is told in every culture in the world. You'll notice the Cinderella story is the secret story behind almost all of Oprah's monthly Book Club Choices. Hmmm. Wonder why??? Do you think Oprah sees herself as a Cinderella?

The story goes like this: Once upon a time — that means it happened once in all time and will never happen this way again — a girl relegated to being a Kitchen Bitch for her entire life gets help from her Fairy Godmother — an old crone witch who befriends lonely single girls — and Cinderella can now “bewitch” a Prince Charming — who is so stupid, the only way he can tell women apart is by seeing their shoe size.

Think of Prince Charming. He wants a woman who fits the glass slipper.

In the original French version, the glass slipper was fur.

The furry slipper. Can she get her foot into the furry slipper?

He never saw his True Love’s face? What was he looking at?

Prince Charming is so dumb, he can't tell two women apart except by their feet?

Cinderella gets rich, moves to the castle, where she harasses all the Kitchen Bitches who didn't get lucky and find the Right Guy.

Look at the Maltese Falcon story again. Brigit O'S thought she was Cinderella. She thought all Prince Charmings are stupid fools who would walk up Burritt Alley with their tongues hanging out of their trousers.

Spade — the Blonde Devil — The Warlock? The Gamester? The Trickster? — almost fell for it too.

Compare Brigit's description with the Woman playing dice with Death in the second boat of Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. They are identical! Both are archetypical. Both are myth.

“Her lips were red, her looks were free
Her locks were yellow as gold,
Her skin was white as leprosy.
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thick's man's blood with cold.”

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Imagine Sisyphus with a gun.

Is that a gun in your hand or do you love me?

Camus wrote The Stranger after he read The Postman Always Rings twice.

Spade's only moment of freedom is sending Brigit over. Archer was doomed; he thought with his willie. But Spade can transcend his willie. Temporarily.

Brigit counted upon Spade being just another guy who never stopped thinking with his willie.

How smart was Spade fouling his own nest by balling his partner's wife? Spade is nuts about pussy but a real wussy around women. Anytime he needs advice, he asks Effie first.

Spade KNOWS the only reason Archer died in Burritt Alley is because Archer talked faster than he did into taking on the new client and following her scent across the city.

Ah, the scent of a woman right up a blind alley.

Spade goes after Archer's killer because he recognizes HE should been the poor dumb slob dead with his gun in his holster.

Spade knows he is no match for a hungry Cinderella.

He strip-searches Brigit to see if she's carrying weapons.

Well, of course she is; all women got them.

Sam Spade's comment at the end: “Next, I've no reason in God's world to think I can trust you and if I did this and got away with it you'd have something on me that you could use whenever you happened to want to.”

Oh, he's sweating, afraid, and desperate all right.

The ancient Greeks had a story about the wolf and the farmer's dogs. The wolf comes by the farmer's place, sees the farmer's dogs all running wild and jumping around the meadow, having the time of their lives, partying like crazy. The dogs see the wolf, come running over. “See how free and wild we are,” the dogs all tell the wolf. The wolf doesn't say anything.

In truth, the wolf sees the collars on the dogs' necks.

The last lines of The Maltese Falcon read:

“Spade, looking at his desk, nodded almost impreceptably. 'Yes,' he said, and shivered. “Well, send her in.'”

And the last thing Spade does in the book is “shudder” 'cause Archer's wife wants to see him. After that we get The Silence of the Lambs from Spade.

I think it was Esquire magazine some years ago who claimed Sam Spade was murdered on the very next page. Iva, of course.

Spade, the lone wolf. Thinking with his willie once too often.

That's noir, man.

Let’s turn on the news.

Let’s see who’s next to discover the consequences of sin.

How’s Tiger doing this weekend?

Maybe he just needs to get lucky.