Deadbeat Poets Society

by Steve Watters with Joel Thollander

Republished by Permission of Neopolitique

Four men slip out under the heavy cool shadow of evening.
In their black shirts, black pants and jackets, their silhouettes disappear into the blue mist.
Running like wolves through deserted streets -- their flashlights dance like fireflies around them.

After cutting through countless abandoned buildings and junkyards, they duck down an alley
Where they see a crack of light in the drizzling dark:
Over a thick wooden door a small neon sign shines the name, "Daddy-o Café"

Inside, a thumping upright bass throbs through the room
Drumsticks dance on the cymbals of a hightop
And a sad and sultry saxophone sings the lead.
A man with dark glasses and a pointed goatee grinds and steams espresso beans
as the shadowy figures pass around mugs and demitasses to capture the syrup of the bean.

A wild-faced man stands and jabs his mug in the air and proclaims:
"I, Robin Williams, hereby convene the Deadbeat Poets Society" amid hearty chants of "Hear! Hear!"
"The meeting will be conducted by myself and the other 'deadbeat dads' now present: David Schwimmer, Carlos Leon, and Ted Dansen.
I'll now read our traditional opening message:

"I went to Hollywood because I wanted to live dramatically
I wanted to dig deep and express fatherhood on film, as it is felt in real life.
But now my fatherhood has been put to route for a deadbeat myth that is not life
And now that fatherhood in Hollywood has died, I have discovered that I have not lived!"

After more shouts of "Hear! Hear!" and much banging of coffee mugs, Robin Williams slips behind a tight spotlight against a dull brick wall where he gives the first rant of the evening:

    "Daniel Hillard's Song"

    When the voices of children are heard on the green
    And laughing is heard on the hill,
    My heart is at rest within my breast
    And everything else is still.

    I'm insane for time with my children
    To laugh and to play;
    But Miranda and the judge say I'm not needed
    Except for my pay.

    They said I could rarely see my kids
    Because I wasn't a good man
    I had to feminize my manhood
    In feather dusters and pans.

    I cook, I bake, I sew!
    I'm Mrs. Deadbeat dad.
    Domesticated, sensitized
    Now I'm not so bad.

    Little voices are heard on the green
    Riding towards sunset on a Hollywood horse;
    But their folks aren't reconciled
    We are cursed by "the good divorce."

    To be better mommies and daddies
    We gotta be apart.
    We'll just quit trying and tell our kids
    To simply find families in their heart.

David Schwimmer then steals behind the spotlight for the second rant:

    "A Father Only in My Mind"

    The Central Perk store in NYC
    is where I first
    fell in love
    with unreality.

    Espresso beans glowed in the semi-gloom
    of that new season of Friends
    Pheobe's "smelly cat" upon the counter moved among
    Biscotti and syrup-laden lattes.

    I was in love with unreality
    because my first love had left me blue
    My dadhood I pledged as Carol and I made little Ben
    but she found my patriarchy to be as old as the bones I studied
    and loved a reflection of herself more than me

    I'm no deadbeat dad, I want my son badly;
    but for Susan, Carol exchanged me
    so I hurt and mope about
    schwimming in great depression
    while my writers -- my voice
    make me believe, live, and love the lie --

    So in unreality I move
    Sharing with Sister Gingrich the celebration of lesbian vows
    Playing the part of domesticated tolerant man
    Watching my manhood diminish in Ben
    in the cradle of an endless womb.

    I'm no deadbeat dad
    my heart just beats dead within me
    Unwanted, barely needed -- I'm socially ostracized as a father
    So I cling sheepishly -- sexually, as I sleep with Rachel
    Wondering if she'll make me
    A dad once again -- or leave me also at the altar

    I'm better not to think of what is real --
    So I live blissfully in love with unreality.

Carlos Leon grabs the microphone from Schwimmer and delivers:


    Should I get married? Should I be good?
    Astound the material girl next door with my spandex suit and lycra hood?
    Don't go to her concerts but take her to the gym
    To tell her all about bench presses, dumbbells and bikes that sit stationary.
    Because now she has desired me and kissed me and all the preliminaries
    She is in control and I am following her
    Not getting angry saying, "I'm your trainer! I'm just your trainer!"
    Instead I take her in my arms and lean against a mirrored wall
    And she woos me the entire night with starlight! Starbright! Do the fatherhood gig tonight!

    When she takes Lourdes Maria on a whirlwind tour
    Will she introduce me to her parents?
    Back straightened, hair pert-plus washed, strangled by a tie
    Or will she shoo the "sperm daddy" out the back door sinking into obscurity while she says
    "Papa don't preach I'm keeping my baby"?

    I could hit and run, now that she has my seed.
    But I should get married, I should be good
    Else they will call me deadbeat and irresponsible and worse
    But what can I do when she says my daughter doesn't need me?

    Ah, yet well I know, that were a woman possible as I am possible
    Then marriage would be possible
    But this woman is impossible --
    The material girl and her new daughter have plenty of cash to take my place
    And so I wait -- bereft of another client and the daughter of my not-wife.

Finally Ted Dansen takes the stage. Eyes big and intense. Stiff grin. Holding a fistful of poetry, he scans the room and begins:

    "Howl 96"

    I saw the best fathers of my generation ruined by culture.
    Screened out by screenwriters, prodded away by producers.
    Directed by directors to Hollywood hell.
    Then replaced by bumblers, adulterers, drunks, dysfunctional patriarchs, and feminized pops.

    I gave 'em "Dad" -- me, Jack Lemmon, and Ethan Hawke -- the Tremonts
    We're talking compassion, respect, legacy, provision, love, duty -- and gallons of alligator tears.
    But they wanted "Three Men and a Baby -- and a Little Lady" -- They gave me "Made in America"
    Then as if things couldn't get worse, they strapped me into that rollercoaster of a flop Called "Getting Even With Dad"
    And they couldn't just leave that blond prodigy "Home Alone."
    They let him beat me -- belittle me -- bedevil the deadbeat strawman.

    Timmy's got a notion that he needs papa time --
    blackmailing his "deadbeat daddy" into pretending I like him.
    But where does he get off? Doesn't he know, dads aren't hip?
    Sting said it all in his country tune, "What can a father do but babysit sometime?"
    A boy has just got to watch TV and movies to know we've pushed fathers out the door.

    My Hollywood has made all hellish homelife holy!
    "Handsome hunks who are horrible husbands" on Sally Jesse is holy!
    Homer Simpson and his humorous homilies are holy!
    Al Bundy and his bumbling, babbling bowling alley banter is holy!
    The nuclear-family free sitcom landscape is holy.
    Sophomoric sex-laden comedies during family hour are holy!
    Murphy Brown's "who needs fathers?" is holy!
    Disney characters saying "grown-ups are idiots" are holy!

    Oh Hollywood, New York, Orlando, America.
    Where did all the good father gigs go?

    I'm with you Andy Griffith as you whistle that innocent tune with Opie and a cane pole.
    I'm with you Ward Cleaver on your way home to a family meal with June, Wally, and the Beav.
    I'm with you Fred Murray with your three sons and their big cartoon shoes.
    I'm with you Bill Cosby as you deliver babies and lectures in your warm and wise wool sweaters.
    I'm with you Ozzie and Harriet -- ignore the critics -- I know you had it good!
    I'm with you Ricky Ricardo as you teach little Ricky to play those drums.
    I'm with you Mike Brady as you serve up life's lessons for your blended clan.
    I'm with you Robert Young as Kitty, Betty, and Bud admit that "Father Knows Best"
    I'm with you Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, and George Jetson -- bringing order to Saturday AM.
    I'm with you Tom Bosley, with your tall moose hat, hanging out with Fonzie, Potsie, Richie, and Ralph.
    I'm with you Spencer Tracey, in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" and oh yeah, "Father of the Bride."
    I'm with you Danny Thomas and oh how I would love to see the nineties "Make Room for Daddy."
    I'm with you Jimmy Stewart every holiday in "It's A Wonderful Life" I'm with you -- Cheers to you all!

A Few Facts About Deadbeat Dads

62% of custodial mothers do not receive child support. However, of that number, three- fourths of them simply do want child support, have not asked for it, have accepted other financial arrangements instead of child support, or the father does not have the money. Only 11% of those custodial mothers who do not receive child support, is because of "deadbeat dads".

The "deadbeat dad" craze has allowed the blame of several social ills, from poverty to welfare costs to social pathology, to be placed squarely in the laps of fathers.

Of 10 million custodial mothers, only .7 million do not receive child support because of "deadbeat dads". This is not minimize the problems that those custodial mothers face. But "deadbeats" are by far the minority. Keep this in mind the next time you hear yet another story about all of those "deadbeats".

Myths, legends and the American Way: Deadbeat Dads

Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala testified that if we collected all of the child support owed by Americans, we would reduce the $200 billion welfare cost by 25%.Even under the raciest projections of the government's Annual Child Support Report. in 1992 (the last year
for which data is available), there was about $10.9 Billion court-ordered child support owed by all Americans and, of that a little more than $6 billion was paid. This leaves $4.9 billion in unpaid child support in 1992. -- far short of the $5O billion Ms. Shalala hopes to raise.

Once a serious discussion gets under way, one of the first items on the agenda should be the Inherent unfairness in taking something away from people and then making them paying for it. Most fathers are deeply committed to their children, yet a 1991 Census Bureau study found that about half of fathers receive no Court-ordered visitation. When fathers do receive visitation, almost 80% pay all of their child support on time and in full. When fathers receive joint custody, The child support compliance rate jumps to more than 90%.

The Myth of Deadbeat Dads
Thursday, March 2, 1995 - Page A14
Stuart A. Miller/Senior legislative analyist /American Fathers Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Feminist legal dogma and contrived statistics have reduced divorced fathers to wallets, with a few child visiting hours on Sunday. Most fathers show their love and responsibility towards their children by working long hours to provide comfort and security. Upon divorce, those sacrifices are twisted as a weapon against fathers. They discover that they sacrificed too much -- they are dismissed as not the `primary caregiver'. Fathers are presumed by the courts to have no feelings, just money. What those fathers are torn from is their own flesh and blood. Society then expects them to suffocate their grief and `act like a man'.

Deadbeat Dads: An appeal for justice in custody and support court decisions
Jeffrey Asher

More important than payments, is the mortgage of our country which allows paternal irresponsibility following gratuitous sex. David Blankenhorn says:

"Many of these men do not consider themselves to be deadbeat dads at all. Their reasoning may be sad, but at least it is consistent. They do not think of themselves as deadbeats precisely because they do not think of themselves as dads. They never signed on to anything. They never agreed to play by any fatherhood code. They have never had any explicit obligations either to their children or to the mothers of their children. By what reasonable principle do they owe anybody anything?" So maybe moral responsibility rather than monthly child care payments is the beginning point.

National Review , April 3, 1995, pp. 34-42

The National Fatherhood Initiative

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