Not Phil Collins

Not Phil Collins

The other day I was talking with a friend about a writing project I’m working on. In describing a scene I mentioned this to her: “If this character had a spirit animal, I think it would be Ted Nugent.”

She smiled and laughed in the manner of someone who wasn’t sure what they were smiling and laughing about. This friend is over a decade younger than me and I realized that she might not know who Ted Nugent is. So I asked, “Do you know who Ted Nugent is?”

“I think so,” she replied. “He’s an actor, right?”

Intrigued by her bite I let her run on the line. “You think he’s an actor?”

“Yeah, he was in that one movie,” she hesitated.

“Oh, that one,” I toyed. “Remind me, which one was that again?”

“I mean,” she cleared her throat, “he’s that little guy. Like, almost a midget? Right?”

I cocked my head and summarized. “You think Ted Nugent is an almost midget actor?”

“Yeah, wasn’t he in that LA Something movie? The newspaper guy with the big glasses?”

“LA Confidential?” I suggested.

“Yeah, that’s it. Wasn’t Ted Nugent the celebrity reporter guy who gets killed at the end?”

“That’s Danny DeVito,” I corrected.

“That’s not Ted Nugent?”

I shook my head. She smirked and looked thoughtful. She paused a moment then continued.

“Is he a musician?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” I replied, “Do you know his music?”

She shook her head. “I don’t.”

“I guess he’s kind of before your time,” I said. “I don’t think he’s really done much that’s been popular since Damn Yankees, which was like late 80’s or early 90’s.”

“I know he’s not Phil Collins,” she insisted.

She had a point: Ted Nugent is no Phil Collins. But then—and I write this as a big Phil-o-phile—Phil Collins is no Ted Nugent.

And so, into my friend’s shopping basket of cultural arcana I tossed a couple cases of Ted videos—Ted wailing out “Cat Scratch Fever” and, true to the origins of our conversation, “Old Fred Bear”; a couple Damn Yankees videos; and plenty of shots of Ted hunting things with a bow and defending 2nd Amendment rights to Piers Morgan. I trust she came out the wiser for it all.

Like myself, Ted’s from Detroit (hence his nickname, The Motor City Madman), and he currently lives down the road from my folks on a ranch outside of Jackson, MI. It’s easy for a left-leaner like me to lampoon someone like Ted, especially since he’s so vocal about gun rights and the sartorial benefits of camouflage. On the latter subject I would assign camouflage to the bin of its hippie counterpart—tie-dye—and say Never is about the right time to wear such clothing. On the former subject it’s likely we’d have plenty to disagree about, since it seems to me that easy access to guns is one of the most significant ways to ensure that gun violence remains a problem. (Though I have to think that arguing gun rights with a man who carries a firearm on his person at all times seems like a surefire way to ensure oppositional arguments are presented with a sufficient and respectful wariness.)

But politics and clothing aside, I kind of dig Ted’s style—any musician who came of age in the late 60’s and who has consistently disavowed drugs and the counter-culture, preferring instead to wear a sidearm and hunt for his own venison, passes the George W Bush Test and qualifies as someone I’d like to have a beer with. Since Ted doesn’t drink perhaps we could go hunting together. It’s true that I don’t hunt, but for Ted I’d make an exception.

I don’t have a bucket list for my life—that’s always seemed as out of place as wearing camouflage or tie-die. But if I did have a bucket list, hunting with Ted Nugent would sit right up near the top.

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