Monday, July 20, 2009

Eugene Tackleberry: Police Officer, Saxophonist

A few years ago, I had a single image stuck in my mind that I could not shake. This image wasn’t some sort of religious vision, creative epiphany or stupid song I heard on the radio. I was haunted by the image of Sergeant Eugene Tackleberry, the gun-nut trainee in Police Academy, playing saxophone during Mahoney’s wild beach party in the middle of the movie. Tackleberry is sitting on the beach, “playing” the saxophone (I believe Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s Clarence Clemons was the actual saxophonist) and watching as pretty ladies dance around the bonfire.

I will admit that this is perhaps the single stupidest thought to get stuck in someone’s head in the past century. I read somewhere that President James Polk had a similar image in his head as he was contemplating the Mexican War. Polk’s image turned out to be the first frame from the pilot episode of What’s Happening? Mine was merely a clip excised from one of the many movies I watched as a child.

The image was stuck in my head for weeks, perhaps months until I saw Police Academy on Comedy Central one Saturday morning. The timing was serendipitous as I happened upon the beach party scene that had haunted my dreams. I wish I could share for you the clip but YouTube and other video sites seem to skip over that part in the full versions of the movie. My working theory is that the clips were removed because the image has haunted others. Let me take you to Police Academy school for a moment to describe why this scene was stuck in my mind:

• Tackleberry is uptight and angry
• The saxophone mimicry is terrible at best
• The party is filled with attractive women but Tackleberry is too sexually repressed to approach any of them, leaving saxophone playing as the only outlet for his rage
• Steven Guttenberg was there

If you are unfamiliar with Police Academy, I would recommend watching the following clip featuring Michael Winslow, a man capable of imitating bodily noises, guns and any consumer electronics product on the market in 1984:

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