Monday, February 14, 2011

The Pompatus of Love

Years ago my sister Pat asked me if I knew what the “pompatus of love” meant. She was referring to the line in Steve Millers song “The Joker” which was a big hit in 1973.

“Some people call me the space cowboy.
Yeah! Some call me the gangster of love.
Some people call me Maurice,
'Cause I speak of the pompatus of love.”

I remember doing a little research back then but I basically came up blank. Apparently Steve Miller even once told an interviewer it was a meaningless word.

That’s partly true. I now have new insight into this classic rock riddle. As it turns out “pompatus of love” is derived from the line “puppetutes of love” in a song called The Letter written by Vernon Green and performed by the Medallions in 1954. This musical mystery was first revealed by Cecil Adams in The Straight Dope on October 25, 1996 after talking to Jon Cryer, the producer of the movie “The Pompatus of Love.”

“Speculation about "pompatus" was a recurring motif in the script for The Pompatus of Love. While the movie was in postproduction Cryer heard about "The Letter." During a TV interview he said that the song had been written and sung by a member of the Medallions named Vernon Green. Green, still very much alive, was dozing in front of the tube when the mention of his name caught his attention. He immediately contacted Cryer.”

Vernon made up the word puppetutes. He told Jon Cryer that it means “a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children.”

Now you know what I know.

Happy Valentines Day!
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