Thursday, October 4, 2018


Did you ever wonder where Wolfman got his poetic repartee he uses with the phone operator, that's heard over the radio in American Graffiti, as she tries to tell him he has a collect call? You know the segment I’m referring to. Wolfman starts calling her Floyd and then waxes poetically, “Who made the eyes but I?  Floyd, reach out and touch my soul, Floyd!”   It’s profound and hilarious.  It didn’t come out of a vacuum.  Wolfman didn’t just improvise the whole poem.  No.  So, where did it come from? Well, your buddy Kip is here to answer that question that's always burned a hole in the back of your pretty little head. What is the poem Wolfman is reciting to the operator that has every teenager listening to his show on their car radio laughing? Wolfman is loosely reciting a religious poem from seventeenth century orator, poet and Anglican priest George Herbert in which the poem has been used to speak of secular love. The poem is called LOVE (III).

I will share the original poem with you but first let’s put it into the context of the film.  We’ll start with the beginning of the aired phone call.

WOLFMAN - Rock 'n' roll will stand, man!  Who is this on the Wolfman telephone?
OPERATOR - Hello, it's collect...
WOLFMAN - Your name is Collette?
OPERATOR - Yeah, collect call for Wolfman...
WOLFMAN - Your name is Collette Call?
OPERATOR - Sir, this is the operator,
WOLFMAN - Are you French operator?
OPERATOR -This is a collect call for Wolfman Jack.
WOLFMAN - I love you, operator,
OPERATOR - Is this Wolfman Jack?
WOLFMAN - Is Floyd there?
OPERATOR - It's for Wolfman Jack...

CAROL - I just love listening to Wolfman.  My mom won't let me at home because he's a Negro. I think he's terrific.  Do you know that he broadcasts from a plane...that flies around in circles all the time?  Do you believe that?

Next Wolfman begins to woo the operator on the other end of the phone with poetry and humor:

WOLFMAN - Floyd, I love you, Floyd, Floyd, is this you, Floyd?  Floyd, I cannot look on thee, Love took my hand and smiling did reply,,, "Who made the eyes but I?"  Floyd, reach out, touch my soul, Floyd!

OPERATOR - Your party's ready, sir,

WOLFMAN - Hello, Floyd!?

CALLER: It’s Matilda!


Wolfman Jack recites the original seventeenth century poem and mixes his own madness and mayhem to make it his own improvised bit of business as any great artist might do.

The following is the original poem, LOVE (III) from which Wolfman borrows and interjects into his conversation with the operator.  LOVE (III) is a spiritual poem that works to speak of secular love.  Readers have found the battle between the ego and its humbleness and how that’s acted out in the verbs to be intriguing.  There’s a fascinating transformation that happens towards the end of the poem as it moves from past tense into present tense.

George Herbert

George Herbert Poem: LOVE (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest," I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not," says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down," says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

✌   FINE   ✌ 


George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets  (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978)

Mylene Demongeot 1962

No comments:

Post a Comment