05 July 2009
Life imitates art, or vice-versa?
These two pictured icons of the 1980s, Panama Jack and Archangel (Airwolf t.v. series), represent part of the high watermark ('84-'85) of the style-concious, jet-setting decade. With respect to the latter in fact, it's the 25th anniversary of Airwolf, and we see the influences of the decade from the Cold War enemy to the duds. The creator of this video did well in his saxxy song selection and tribute to one of the great t.v. code heroes. What I'd like to know is: who came first? For Panama Jack it all starts with a hat and an eyepiece - and for Archangel, well, assuming he works in the Beltway, is that what he'd really be wearing too? Dammit, metaphysics! Someone is copying - these both didn't just emerge spontaneously.
If you didn't know, Airwolf was an epic action series from the '80s fitting right in with Knight Rider, the A-Team and Miami Vice as one of the best known. Most of these series displayed their characters with a trademark article of clothing: B.A. Baracus' gold chains, Michael Knight's afro and leather jacket, Sonny Crockett's blazer and pastels. In Airwolf, the good guys didn't wear a menacing black ("M.I.B." was associated with spooks long before the movie), they wore white. Maybe with no M.I.B. on-scene, the presence of these off-putting white duds G-men implied even more serious trouble for the bad guys than in the case of the former?? Why white? Purity? The white hat/black hat kind of thing from cowboyThe white-clad and debonair Archangel made a deal with "the sensitive, reclusive loner Hawke (age 34)" for Airwolf's resustainment in exchange for running an occasional errand for a quasi-secret agency, "The Firm". Archangel hung out in a white limousine, carried a white pimp cane, and had an o.k. looking executive secretary who wore white '80s jumpers with the futuristic shoulders as seen in the BMX boogie scene in Rad (1986). The Firm's security forces ALSO all wore all-white, but only the man at the top wore the eyepatch and the trademark hat. Eyepatches also are associated with concealment and a scarred past, some of my favorite things.
The also monocled and similarly suited Panama Jack made suntan lotion. His frequent appearances in ramshackle, bayouesque stores decorated with old fishing nets, his origins and intent are shrouded in mystery. Compounding the hunt for information is his being steeped in the pre-internet era. There is just very little knowledge being kicked around on this savvy traveler in the off-white safari suit, but he is impeccably clean, grease-free, and has presumably good skin, an anachronism of a more elegant time and place.
When I lived on the Gulf Coast in the '80s, his trademark was all over the place. His company says, "Panama Jack is a time and a place; a state of mind in a state of being." Maybe his elusiveness is what was intended, for what we're left with is nothing more than his cool hat and sunscreen, and something highly connotative. For me, he's a well presented beach guy with stamps all over his luggage who travels 90% of the time and sets up shop in the tropics. Everything he owns smells like last night's rum or coconut and you never get a good look at him. If you find anything else turns up, let us know. I'm satisfied in almighty unknowing. And now I'm headed back out - to find my piña type mixers.