Friday, 11 February 2011

Mister Cellophane

References to plastics in the music business say a lot. The Beatles' Polythene Pam was a Liverpool scrubber and the kind of girl who makes the News of the World;  Frank Zappa was sure that 'love will never be a product of Plasticity'; and Poly Styrene was a disaffected punk who sung about 'the day the world turned day glow'. Such references demonstrate how plastics have  been associated in the popular imagination with the seamier side of life. Yet our ordinary everyday unseamy lives depend on them.

The other day I came across what seems to me a much more accurate description of their role in our lives. It was at the musical, Chicago.  Sung by the good-natured, Amos Hart, who nobody notices inspite of his wide girth, the refrain is:

Mister cellophane
Should have been my name!!!!
Mister cellophane
'Cause you look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there!

I don't know whether Mister Cellophane existed in Maurine Dallas Watkins' 1926 play on which the musical is based, or if he was an invention of the lyricist, Fred Ebb, for the musical which had its debut in 1975. Both dates make sense. Dupont had opened the first cellophane manufacturing plant in the USA just two years before the play had its debut and in the 1970s plastics became the group of materials with the most uses in the world. Can anyone enlighten me?

Susan Lambert, Head of MoDiP

1 comment:

  1. I remember Poly Styrene - I was a great fan in my 'punk' days. For me her name was all about being against the status quo preferring a material name that was traditional like, Honey Oak. Poly was celebrating 'plastic' stuff, bags, clothes - she was at heart, resistant.
    Anyone else a fan?
    Steph James