Redemption for Mammy Two Shoes

Many of us grew up watching Tom & Jerry on the tube, but if you’re old enough you remember the day Tom’s owner changed from a sassy black lady to a strident Irishwoman. Tom’s owner was never named, but the media latched onto her during the 80’s revisionism craze and called her “Mammy Two Shoes” because we almost never saw her face. People began saying she was a servant, when it was obviously her somewhat ramshackle but dignified home, and MGM had her legs bleached and her voice re-dubbed by June Foray as an Irish stereotype. The original voice, by black actress Lillian Randolph, was rarely heard again.

One of my faves- Fraidy Cat, where Tom mistakes her for a ghost

As a child, I remember seeing some of the cartoons before the axe fell. I never thought she was a maid, and there are very few shorts that put her in a maid outfit- she’s usually in a slipper and housecoat, like a single woman reclining after a long day. In fact, in Mouse Cleaning, you can see her dressed up to go to church. That’s one of the few shorts where you get a glimpse of her face, albeit from a steep angle and her hefty bosom blocks most of it. The other banned cartoon, Casanova Cat, is the only one I recall her being in a maid outfit- it’s a fantasy short where Tom goes to call on his white cat beau, who lives in a penthouse.

Rarely seen- “Mammy’s” face

I’ll be the first to admit that Tom & Jerry’s jokes were crude, but I never felt there was a cruelty in how “Mammy Two Shoes” was portrayed. She does have an accent and inarticulate manner of speech, such as when she tells Tom, “if you is a mouse catcher, then I am Lana Turner! Which I ain’t.” When she clamors for Thomas to “git in here and get that mouse!” when she’s screaming up on a chair, she looks no more ridiculous than any white female cartoon character did when they did the same thing.

Mouse Cleaning

If anything, the old cartoons use of blackface- whether it was Tom & Jerry or Looney Tunes, or anyone else- shames us because it’s so offensive today. But if you look at the history of cartoons, racial caricature is pretty even handed. There’s a Hogan’s Alley of Irish cops and Italian criminals, French gendarmes in the Pepe le Pew cartoons, and even the Dover Boys spoof of college boys goofs on whitebread folks. If anyone should be offended by cartoon caricatures it’s the Japanese, who really got some hateful cartoons made about them during World War 2. The classic cartoon Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, shows the evil queen sending hit men who have a sign that reads: Rub outs – 10 cents, Midgets half price, Japs- FREE! In a short full of black caricatures, that ends up being the most offensive part, until you realize the context- it came out in 1943.

The whiteface version

The Tom & Jerry shorts won more Academy Awards than Disney’s or Warner Brothers’, but I feel they jumped the shark when Chuck Jones came along and reworked the characters. I like Chuck- Hell, I have a tattoo of Pepe le Pew in an undisclosed location– but his Tom & Jerry are way too much like a mute Sylvester and Tweety. They lack the great character of the originals, where Jerry was a tiny Chaplin tramp and Tom was lazy and only chased Jerry when Mammy threatened him with sleeping outside. My favorite of all time is perhaps Heavenly Puss, where Tom loses his 9th life and is going to Cat Hell unless Jerry signs an affadavit forgiving him for all his trespasses. It deservingly won the Oscar that year.

You can find many of the original cartoons on youtube, and MGM has released most of them in original form in the Tom & Jerry Spotlight Collection DVD sets. The third set omits two cartoons- Mouse Cleaning and Casanova Cat- and several are edited. But we take what we can get. Warner Brothers has said that they’ll release all the Looney Tunes uncut eventually, and I wish MGM would do the same for the Tom & Jerry toons- even if they make it some special collector’s set with big warning labels on it.

Big Daddy’s Texas Tommy

I’ve been to Big Daddy’s Diner before. near Union Square, it’s a reliable and convenient place to nosh with friends after seeing a movie or a show at nearby venues. They make monster burgers, blue plate specials, and serve everything with tater tots. The retro decor ranges from vintage cereal boxes from the ’70s to ancient beer cans and old bumper stickers like Impeach Nixxon, mocking the Exxon logo. Service is a bit slow but the food is very good, and if you have a black hole in your belly that needs fillin’, their servings are huge compared to the somewhat similar and also nearby Fat Annie’s Truck Stop, aka F.A.T.S., which has its own charms but ain’t as decadent as Big Daddy’s!

They recently expanded or at least redesigned their colorful menu, and Firecracker noticed a big ol’ weiner called the Texas Tommy this time. I hadn’t had a hotdog in nigh on a month, so I opted for the ol’ hot beef injection. Besides, with a name like that I can’t exactly ignore it. Serendipity like that must be embraced and devoured. The Texas Tommy is a foot long Usinger’s hot dog covered- nay, slathered– with spicy ketchup, melted cheddar and bacon on a toasted bun, with a side of tots or fries. Firecracker ordered cheese tots and mine were caught in the crossfire.

What makes the Texas Tommy so good is the Usinger’s hot dog. Recently we had a bland foot-long chili dog at Bourbon BBQ in Wyckoff- they should switch dogs. Because when it comes down to it, no matter what you put on your weiner, the meat is what matters. That’s why Lucky Dogs purveyed from carts on Bourbon Street are best consumed while drunk. They’re big, mushy, and all you really taste are the toppings. Not so with the Tommy. Tommy’s meat is snappy, spicy and smoky, and no matter how much cheese and bacon coats it, the flavor shines through. So the next time you head over to Big Daddy’s, wrap your lips around Texas Tommy’s Twelve Incher.

If you don’t want to jam a foot long in your gullet, they have enormous and tasty burgers ranging from the spicy Daddy-O with jalapeno jack & bacon, to the Big Mac Daddy which mimics the fast food classic with ingredients that won’t be classified hazardous by the EPA any time soon. Plus they have giant grilled chicken sandwiches as pictured here, Blue Plate specials such as chicken pot pie, mac ‘n cheese, and ribs, they serve breakfast all day, milkshakes, malted, sundaes, pies, and they have a small but respectable selection of beers on tap (Blue Moon, Sam Adams lager & seasonal, Etc). Sure, it’s pricey and you’ll be seated next to hipster gals who look like the spectacled dude from “Flight of the Conchords” under wallpaper with KISS and the Kool-Aid Man on it, but when you want to be trashy and decadent, Big Daddy’s is the place to go.,+nyc&ie=UTF8&ll=40.748297,-73.983479&spn=0.014486,0.023367&z=14&iwloc=A&cid=40737838,-73987713,14583208166103847033&output=embed&s=AARTsJoZ6-xguGPShdh2Yhe3I359NvlTFg
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