The brain works in mysterious ways. Here I’ve been wondering why, oh why, somebody used the arm of a screen door closer as a bookmark in an unoffending unabridged dictionary. It only just occurred to me that I may be misjudging the donor: maybe this was used to hold the book OPEN for consultation, and it was actually his heirs and assigns who closed the book on the tool, ruining the book forever (though we do still have a perfectly undamaged screen door closer arm.)
Similarly, as we work our way through a major donation of books for our LGBT section, and I deal with what were once cheap little paperbacks which are now still little and paperback but no longer cheap, AND try to figure out what to do with one item of vast historical importance (in nice shape because someone closed IT up in a book in 1965 and hasn’t had it out since…if you’ll pardon the expression), I came across a photo-essay book called Real Men, and immediately thought “Don’t Eat Quiche”.
Different book, of course, but it made me wonder about the original. In searching, I learned a number of things you didn’t want to know. That’s my job around this website, isn’t it?
For those of you born after the Battle of Gettysburg, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche was more than just a bestselling book published in 1982. It was a cultural phenomenon, setting stand-up comedians off on a wave of jokes about other things real men don’t do. And where pop culture leads, publishers are bound to follow. Among the other things real men don’t do, according to the books published in the wake of this bestseller, are Bond, Vacuum, Cook Quiche, Abandon Their Responsibilities, Abuse Women, Text, Write Columns (wait a minute), Need Closets, Rehearse, Apologize, Say ‘Splendid’, or Pick Primroses (on an Alpine-Style Ascent.
This of course called for answers from various directions. Of course there was a book called Real Men DO Eat Quiche. And Real Men do other things as well, including Yoga, Pray, Cry, and Drink Port. They also Do IT: Better, Outdoors, or In the Kitchen. (At least two of these are cookbooks, if you were wondering. I can’t check from here whether they include recipes for quiche.)
If you were around in 1982 (I won’t ask for a show of hands; too many of you probably need help doing something that strenuous), you were aware of the immediate answer book to Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche which was, of course, Real Women Don’t Pump Gas. Real Women also don’t Diet, Cry, or Sit Around Complaining. Many books deal with what Real Women Don’t Wear: Glass Slippers, Pants, Thongs, Pink, or Size 2. None of these was apparently a sequel to that one about real women not dieting.
What became of the authors of the 1982 classics? Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche spent 53 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, helping get the name of Bruce Feirstein out there. A writer and producer whose work ranges from Saturday Night Live to Fox News (he wrote ad copy for Michael Dukakis and co-authored a book with Bill O’Reilly), probably his most widely known work (after that Quiche thing) is his work on the James Bond movies and videogames. (He was also the author of Real Men Don’t Bond, no pun intended, and Nice Guys Sleep Alone.)
The author of Real Women Don’t Pump Gas must have known something about the subject, as she starred in the movie Superchick. Her career was shorter than Feirstein’s, as she died at 58, but no less stellar. Leaving acting for her writing, Joyce Jillson became a widely syndicated astrologer, and, it says here, was astrology consultant to the Ford Motor Company and the Los Angeles Dodgers, besides being Staff Astrologer for Twentieth Century Fox.
What lesson can be derived from all of this I couldn’t say, but I think it can help us write our own bestsellers. I’ll race you to see who can finish an answer book for Stieg Larsson called Real Women Don’t Kick Hornet’s Nests.