Friday, November 30, 2012

The Lamb Chop Murders

Today, an old friend made the mistake of asking me if I remember the kiddie TV character "Lamb Chop."  Ha!  Do I remember Lamb Chop?  Who doesn't remember Shari Lewis' adorable and timeless Lamb Chop?  Yeah, that would be me.  At least, I don't recall the puppet itself, or the show.  But I remember the incidents.

Not many people know of the first one, because there was another, much more widely-publicized story, involving a frozen leg of lamb, from around the same time.  This story, short on details though it may be, is better, because it's true. 

There was a wife, mercilessly berated and belittled by her bully of a husband for years, who reached her rope's end one evening and cracked his head open with a stack of lamb chops that had frozen together in their icebox.  Thinking quickly, she screamed a few times, broke the window that opened onto the fire escape, threw the bloody chops into a sink full of warm water, and called the police.

By the time the deputies arrived, she had concocted a story about a break-in by a crowbar-wielding thug who had struck the fatal blow upon her husband's crown and fled when she had screamed.  She had also cooked the lamb chops - pan-seared in a little olive oil, rosemary and mint.  She was never even arrested, and always thought it pathetic that the cops hadn't bothered to ask why she had cooked eight chops, when the table had been set for two.  She had no idea that they had absolutely made that observation, but that her husband had been a monster and her actions were more than justified.  Why put her through a trial, they had decided before even knocking on her door.

The second "Lamb Chop" murder took place in a studio prop room in the 1980s, and well, we all know about that one, don't we?

The third incident, and the only one I was lucky enough to have witnessed in-person, was more about "Rambo III" than it was about Shari Lewis or her TV puppet. I was working at Erol's Video Club in late 1988 when "Rambo III" was released on VHS.  It was a Friday night, and the video had come in the day before.  All 25 copies - a lot, for our store - had all gone out Thursday, so most of them were coming back at random times throughout the evening.  We didn't have a waiting list, because they had always been more trouble than they were worth, so there was a small crowd gathered around the "returns" table, waiting for Stallone's latest Razzie Award-winning masterpiece.

I hated approaching that table under those circumstances, with a copy of the sought-after video du jour or without.  This time, I was with.  A couple of people shouted something or other about having been there first, but I just tossed the tape onto the table and ran.  NEEDLESS TO SAY, a scuffle immediately ensued.  Punches were thrown.  Our brand-new candy display carousel was toppled.  Noses were bloodied, screams and obscenities filled the air. The police were summoned. 

I didn't see anyone leave in particularly serious condition, but we learned the next day that one of the combatants had died of his injuries, having been struck in temple with a videotape.  A detective came by that afternoon to pick it up from the manager's office.  It had been the only other tape on the returns table, at the time of the fracas, and it was the only one that had turned up broken, that night. 

It was our lone copy of "Lamb Chop's Sing-along, Play-along."

Do I remember Lamb Chop?  Yeah, I do.  In my nightmares.          

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