Lovin' Billy Bob

This appeared in The Dallas Morning News - October 12, 2001

Billy Bob Thornton is rapidly becoming a Southern cliché.

For some reason, the screenwriter and actor has lately begun to think of himself as a singer, too. So he has released a country album called Private Radio, which has been receiving less-than-kind reviews.

It's full of low-rent lyrics and even more low-rent love. Excerpted lyrics from "Beauty at the Back Door," a nine-minute spoken word performance, reveals the level of Billy Bob's most recent achievement:

'Heavy air'

"There's somethin' about the South and the air is a lot heavier and it seems like the women sweat even when they're not."

"She didn't have but one dress and that's all she needed. It was kinda red and kinda gray and kinda tore up and kinda perfect. She's built like a brick [expletive deleted]. She had polish on her toenails that only went about halfway down 'cause they was always tore up."

"I don't know if you've ever heard rain on a tin roof or not but it's kinda tailor made for love and one day I was in the house and I was lookin' back toward the back screen door and there she was. Standin' there for 10 minutes."

Deep thoughts

In the liner notes, producer Marty Stuart muses, "Have you ever stood in the middle of an Arkansas cotton field in the scorching summer heat, spit in the dirt and counted how many seconds it took for it to disappear into the ground? There aren't many people hanging around the streets of Beverly Hills that understand what that's all about. Billy Bob gets it!"

I, however, would like to point out the following:

1) Most people have better things to do in the summer than stand in a cotton field and spit.

2) Since cotton doesn't mature until late summer and early fall, the only reason to be in a cotton field during the hottest part of summer is to chop out the weeds. So I would like a clarification on whether he should spit on the hard ground in between rows or on the soft dirt around the weeded plants. It makes a big difference as far as the rate of drying goes for one's spit.

3) The rate of spit drying has more to do with moisture – or the lack of it – than with the nature of the crop. Hence, spit dries up faster in arid West Texas cotton fields than in moister Arkansas.

3) I know this because I have actually stood in cotton fields and judiciously spit, both on the hard ground and on the chopped dirt. Through extensive testing in the fields of Alabama, Arkansas, and West Texas, I have also discovered that cotton fields hold no secrets. I get the same rate of spit-drying when I expectorate between a row of peas in a garden, all other climatoligical factors being even, of course. So I'm not sure why Mr. Stuart thinks the cottonfield experience is particularly revelatory.

Nevertheless, Mr. Stuart says that spit is crucial to the overall artistic experience because the Thornton songs came "as fast as spit dried dirt."

After listening to the new CD, I would like to verify that Mr. Stuart's last statement is, without a doubt, correct.

By Charles Ealy

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