Of Sweathogs and Men, or the draw of Welcome Back, Kotter

welcome-back-kotter-abc[1]

By Noah Fleisher

If you are a person of a certain age - and I think that you are - then all you need to do is hear the opening chords and see the opening images of the video linked right here to be instantly transported the mid-1970s.

“Welcome Back,” by the great John Sebastian is - for me – immediately evocative of the ’70s green shag carpet I huddled on with my brothers to watch the show on what I think was Tuesday nights, of the dish of chocolate ice cream in the light brown bowl that would be gone before the first commercial and, saddest of all, of the closing credits of the show, equally evocative as the opening, which meant bedtime.

I really thought much about “Welcome Back, Kotter” in a few decades. I noted occassionaly when it would run on TV Land, or when one of the former cast members not named John Travolta was in the news for drunkenness, drug abuse or (RIP Ron Pallilo, aka Arnold Horseshack) death.

Until today when, as I am wont to do in a spare moment over morning coffee, I checked out this week’ Weekly Comic Auction.  In my cursory perusal of the original comic art I came across this absolute gem of Pop Culture: Jack Sparling and Bob Oksner’s Welcome Back, Kotter #1.

Welcome Back Kotter Art

Thing is, I remember that comic book. I remember a kid who lived a couple streets over who loved that show, who also had that very comic book. I remember that I was awed by the fact that such a thing could exist simultaneously with such a towering paragon of television wit as Welcome Back, Kotter.

This is also the kid that always reminded me on Tuesdays that both Happy Days and Kotter were going to be on that night. The thing is, he always called the show ”Welcome Back, Carter,” which made my 7-year-old brain short circuit just a bit. I tried to correct him, many times, but his willfull ignorance was an anvil and my indignation was simply Wiley Coyote unable, repeatedly, to avoid it.

This show was a cultural phenomenon. It made a huge star out of Travolta and, perhaps most importantly, it featured four out of its five main characters sporting very stylish ‘fros – maybe the only time this has been attempted successfully – or at all – on network TV.

I will level with you: I want to buy this art.

So do at least a few others, as the bid currently sits at $37. I would throw my bills into the ring, but I imagine this will quickly go beyond what I can reasonably spend, not to mention that my wife would never let me put it up in the house, ’70s-TV aficionad0 and expert though she may be.

This wonderful little lot did, however, give me a nice little jolt back to those days,  as halcyon and uncomplicated as any I can remember from my childhood. Welcome Back, indeed.

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