Sunday, January 6, 2013


This is a tribute to a great American, an important contributor to our popular culture, Forsythe Pendleton Jones III whom generations of young people know just as Jughead.    He was a rock star as the drummer for the Archies, a band of studio musicians who performed the number one song in 1969--Sugar Sugar (written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim).  The Archie comics were created by Bob Montana who created a sketchbook diary of his high school years in Haverhill, Massachusetts from 1936-39.

Recently I gave a speech about Archie's loyal friend, one of my favorite cartoon characters.  I could readily identify with him because, growing up through my high school years, I was Jughead and he was me.  One of my audience pointed out that Jughead was the precursor to the Dobie Gillis character Maynard G. Krebs who was portrayed by the late Bob Denver (of Gilligan's Island fame).   Jughead was Maynard without the goatee.  He was based on Montana's childhood friend Skinny Linehan. 

If Barbara Walters were writing this, she would no doubt consider him to be the most fascinating character in the Archie series, and he'd probably be on her Top Ten list.

Jughead started attending Riverdale High School in 1941, and he is still attending classes.  By now, he is older than most (but not all) of the teachers.  The principal, Mr. (Waldo) Weatherbee and teacher Miss Grundy are both over 100.  Apparently the teacher's union is not strong in Riverdale.  Despite his advanced age, Jughead hasn't aged a bit  

He wears a beanie of a type which was popular in 1941.  In his closet, he has about 3000 sweaters with a large letter "S" , but nobody has ever disclosed to us what the "S" stands for.  One theory was that originally he and Archie went to different schools--Archie wore an "R" for Riverdale.  But at some point, the writer determined it was too inconvenient for Jughead to attend a different school.

Jughead's real name is Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, but with a name like that, he had to have a nickname.  Anyone who would name their kid "Jughead" today would be prosecuted for child abuse--except maybe in Hollywood.  Naming your kid Forsythe, well, that was his father's name also.  In any event, any kid with a name like that learns quickly to fight or becomes very clever.  Jughead chose the latter.  Although he is somewhat of a non-conformist, he has a wry and sarcastic sense of humor.

In the comics, Jughead always has his eyes half closed like he is half asleep.  His mother took him to the eye doctor because she was concerned about his sight.  The doctor told him to read the bottom line on the eye chart.  "Made in China", said Jughead, as the doctor peered closely at the chart.  That was the end of that.

Jughead's appetite was legendary, especially when it came to hamburgers.  When he started school, there was no McDonalds, but the White Castle chain goes back to the 1920's.  For what it's worth, the design for White Castle imitates the famous Water Tower in Chicago.    But getting back to our subject, other schools would challenge Jughead to an eating contest, but Jughead always won.  He was the Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobyashi of his generation.  He would be featured on Man v. Food on the Travel Channel.  After winning the contest, they would ask him if wanted anything else, and Jughead would reply, "a dozen burgers." 

When it came to girlfriends, Jughead tended to stay out of relationships.  In an early episode, Jughead stated that he didn't dislike girls, he just liked eating better.  he hung with Betty Cooper (the blonde--Veronica was the brunette) who was always trying to get close with Archie.  But a tall, angular, aesthetically challenged girl, Big Ethel liked Jughead and would chase after him.  He learned to run fast, so fast that the track coach tried to recruit him for the team.  When Big Ethel learned to bake cookies, however, she had some success with him.

Jughead's friends, other than Archie, include Big Moose who likes Jughead because he is non-confrontational.   Dilton Doiley sees Jughead as a fellow eccentric.   Veronica and Reggie don't respect Jughead or take him seriously, often to their detriment.

Unless you're really into the Archie comics, you probably didn't know that all the characters have last names.  Archie Andrews, Reggie Mantle, Moose Mason, Midge Klump (Moose's girlfriend), Dilton Doiley (the genius), Veronica Lodge, Betty Cooper and Big Ethel Muggs.  The creator, Bob Montana modeled them after characters back home in Haverhill where, among other things, he was acquainted with the prominent Lodge family--he had painted a mural for them.  You may remember Henry Cabot Lodge (both Junior and Senior) who were both prominent Senators from Massachusetts.  Lodge Jr. was U.N. Ambassador who ran unsuccessfully for Vice President with Richard Nixon in 1960.  Of course, in the comic strip, Veronica's father, Hiram Lodge was the wealthiest person in town.

According to Montana, Veronica's name was inspired by actress Veronica Lake.  Betty was the "girl next door" stereotype based on Montana's girl friend in New York. 

Bob Montana died in 1975, and in recent years, to keep the comic strip relevant, Montana's successors have introduced new characters and crazy stuff.  For example they came up with  Jughead's Time Police (time travel) and Jughead's Fantasy. In a 2010 adventure, Archie has a Black girlfriend, Valerie Smith.  In another, Archie cracks up his 1916 Model T and gets a Ford Mustang (but still a jalopy). 

Maybe it's time to bring back the band.