Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jerry Butler – "Message to Martha" (1963)

Spread your wings for New Orleans
Kentucky bluebird . . . fly away!

I'm pretty sure that the movie star Ashley Judd wasn't the Kentucky bluebird that Burt Bacharach and Hal David had in mind when they wrote "Message to Martha" in 1962.  For one thing, Ms. Judd wasn't born until 1968.

Ashley Judd
The state bird of Kentucky is the cardinal, not the bluebird.  But "Fly away, Kentucky cardinal" doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

"Kentucky bluebird" is an appropriate sobriquet for Ms. Judd because she is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and the university's colors are blue and white.  (I'd describe the particular shade of blue that the University of Kentucky uses as royal blue.  Officially, the color is Pantone Matching System – or PMS –  286.)

Judd attired in PMS 286
You might think she would root for dear old Harvard because she picked up an MC/MPA degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2010.  (MC/MPA stands for "mid-career master in public administration.")

Ashley – may I call you Ashley, my dear Ms. Judd? – is a fan of all University of Kentucky sports teams.  She's even attended a few UK football games, although the school's football teams are generally awful.  (The Wildcats were 5-7 on the gridiron in 2014, but 2-10 in both in 2013 and 2012.)

And she showed her support for the UK hockey team (who knew?) by posing for a saucy little poster that was sold to raise money for that team.

Compared to Ashley's movies, of course, the hockey poster was pretty tame.  (She's appeared topless and/or bottomless in a half-dozen or so movies.)

Ashley Judd's favorite Kentucky team isn't the football team or the hockey team.  It's the men's basketball team.  

Kentucky has been a basketball power for decades.  It won the national championship in 2012, was the runner-up in 2014, and was heavily favored to win the title this year.  

The Wildcats' first game in the NCAA tournament this year was against the Hampton University Pirates.  Hampton had lost only 17 more regular-season games than Kentucky – the Pirates went 17-17, while Kentucky had a perfect 34-0 record – and the chances of Kentucky losing were about one in a zillion.

But Ashley Judd was anything but overconfident about the outcome of the game.  She was so overwrought about the Kentucky-Hampton contest that she brought her dog Shug (a cockapoo) to the game for emotional support.

(Ms. Judd doesn't take her children to basketball games because she has no children.  That's because she believes that "[i]t's unconscionable to breed, with the number of children who are starving to death in impoverished countries."  After reading that quote, I'm embarrassed to admit that I have four children.) 

Ashley's psychological problems go much deeper than basketball-related anxiety.  According to her 2011 memoir, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, Ashley was the victim of incest and abuse when she was a child.

Ms. Judd told ABC News that she was exposed early and inappropriately to sex because of her mother's affairs with men:

[H]er abuse started as pre-teen when she was growing up in Kentucky.  An old man lured her into an empty storeroom by telling her he would give her a quarter to play a pinball machine, and then molested her.

She writes she was traumatized again when her family and other adults wouldn't believe her.  Later, Judd said she was a victim of attempted rape while she was working as a model in Japan.

Ashley says she only learned to fight her demons after entering rehab for depression at Shades of Hope in Texas.  Therapy sessions there exposed memories of childhood incest.  Judd said she still has bouts of depression.

Ms. Judd has described good ol' Shug as a service dog – which federal law defines as a dog or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.  

We're all familiar with the service dogs that guide blind people.  But there are other kinds of service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs, who are trained to help their owners deal with psychiatric disabilities like schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disability ("PTSD").

Ashley may have suffered a little PTSD after ESPN's Dick Vitale slipped her the tongue before a televised Kentucky basketball game this year:

As I understand it, depression may qualify as a disability under certain circumstances.  If Shug has been specifically trained to help Ms. Judd deal with her disability, he would meet the definition of a service animal. 

Federal law requires that businesses must allow a service animal to accompany a disabled individual to any place where that individual is normally allowed to go – including sports arenas like the one where Ashley Judd attended the Kentucky-Hampton basketball game.

Service animals are also allowed to accompany their owners on airplane flights.  Here's an excerpt from the Daily Mail's account of what happened when a large service dog went on a five-hour flight last year:

A US Airways flight was forced to make an emergency landing after a dog relieved itself at least twice in the plane's aisle – causing travelers to become sick when they were overwhelmed by the stench.

Flight 598 took off from Los Angeles for Philadelphia on Wednesday – and it seems that the pet, a service dog reportedly named Truffles, couldn't quite wait to reach their destination.

"The full-sized dog that's on my flight, well it did what dogs do and went to the bathroom when it felt like it," [a passenger] tweeted. "Smack dab in middle of aisle."

Truffles the poop-apocalyptic service dog
Another passenger described the incident to an Inside Edition reporter:

About an hour into the flight, I started smelling this terrible smell.  I thought it was the family in front of me – I have a little eight-month-old and I was like, "That is the worst blowout I have ever smelled."  I look up the aisle and there's a dog pooping right in the middle of the aisle.  It's a big dog, three or four feet tall or long, and he was just going. . . . It wasn't little pieces, it was fully-fledged dog-diarrhea. . . . The second time after the dog pooped they ran out of paper towels, they didn't have anything else.

The smell was so bad that passengers nearby started vomiting and "dry heaving."  The plane was forced to land at the Kansas City airport, where a cleaning crew cleaned up the mess.

"The proud, the few . . ."
The plane eventually took off again and finally arrived in its destination, but some passengers missed their flight connections.  One family reportedly missed a Mediterranean cruise.

Fortunately, Ashley Judd's Shug didn't suffer from a bout of gastrointestinal distress the night of the Kentucky-Hampton game.  So the NCAA wasn't forced to stop the game and evacuate the arena until the local hazmat squad could deal with Shug's mess.

As I noted above, Ashley Judd has described her dog as a service dog.  This article backs her up.  

But others have said that Shug is really an emotional support animal – which is a horse (or, as here, a dog) of a different color.

An emotional support animal (or "ESA") is a companion animal that provides a therapeutic benefit to someone with a mental or psychiatric disability.  But unlike a psychiatric service animal, an ESA has not been specifically trained to help its owner handle his or her disability.

An ESA dog vest
Federal law provides more limited protections for owners of ESAs than it does for owners of service animals.  To qualify for your legal rights as an ESA owner, you're supposed to have a letter from a physician or other health professional stating that you have a disability, and that your ESA provides a therapeutic benefit to you.

A recent article in the New Yorker reported that it's pretty easy to obtain ESA credentials.  A lot of health professionals are willing to provide the required letter on the basis of a cursory telephone chat or an online questionnaire – assuming you can afford the required fee, of course.

The author of the New Yorker article, Patricia Marx, obtained ESA credentials for five animals.  She was able to take a 15-pound turtle into a Manhattan art museum, a Christian Louboutin shoe store, a deli, a hair salon, and a funeral home. 

She also went shopping for a handbag at the local Chanel boutique with a 30-inch-long emotional support snake, boarded a bus with an emotional support turkey, and flew from Newark to Boston with a 26-pound emotional support pig.

Last but not least, she took an emotional support alpaca on an Amtrak train and then toured the 19th-century home of artist Frederic Church with the camelid in tow.

Shopping with a support alpaca
In closing, here's something I bet you didn't know about alpacas (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Alpacas use a communal dung pile, where they do not graze.  This behavior tends to limit the spread of internal parasites.  Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females, which tend to stand in a line and all go at once.  One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows.  Because of their preference for using a dung pile, some alpacas have been successfully house-trained.

Dionne Warwick's 1966 cover of "Message to Martha" – which was titled "Message to Michael" – was a much bigger hit than Jerry Butler's 1962 recording of the song (which was released in December 1963 on his Need to Belong album).  But Butler was the first artist to record the song, and I like his version better, so that's what you're getting:   

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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