“North Dallas Forty” was on again not too long ago. I’ve seen it a bunch of times.
I knew the leads — Nick Nolte and Mac Davis — were still around. So I googled as I watched. Kinda surprised to find out Mac Davis was 78. Just didn’t seem like he should be that old, even if “North Dallas Forty” came out in 1979.
More surprised to learn this morning that Mac Davis died yesterday after heart surgery. Many tributes today have recounted the highlights of his long, distinguished career in music and entertainment.
None of them recounted this, though.
When I lived in central Wisconsin during the mid-’70s, we listened to WIFC, an FM station with a Top 40 format by day and a wonderful free-form format after 9 p.m. or so. In 1972, the No. 1 song on WIFC’s year-end list of the 30 most-requested album cuts was by Mac Davis.
“Poor Boy Boogie” was either a jug band song or an eef beat song, depending on how you defined it. When Davis did it on “The Muppet Show” in 1980, he told a bunch of Beakers “why don’t you just eef along with me,” so there’s that.
It was more often requested than “Pusherman,” by Curtis Mayfield from the “Super Fly” soundtrack, more often requested than Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” more often requested than the Allman Brothers’ “One Way Out.”
That should tell you everything you care to know about the musical tastes of central Wisconsin in the early 1970s.
That’s one memory. Here’s the other.
Mac Davis was perfect in “North Dallas Forty” as Seth Maxwell, a smug, self-centered, insecure pro quarterback clearly inspired by Don Meredith. Perfect right down to one word of West Texas slang I’d never heard before. Poot.
“Poot” was his nickname for Nick Nolte’s character, receiver Phil Elliott.
I always wondered what “Poot” meant.
Pete Gent, the former pro football player who in 1973 wrote the novel upon which the film was based, explained it in a 2003 chat with ESPN Classic:
“It’s a Texas nickname. It means ‘fart.’ That was part of Mac Davis’ ad-libbing in the movie. He is from Lubbock. It was perfect. That’s the magic that can happen. The madness got up on the screen.”
Mac Davis, forever young, winging it.
See ya around, Poot.