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   March 27, 2008 Issue                                       

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©2007 The Chestnut Hill Local

Once-dangerous ‘Big Shot’ has been pathetically domesticated

Jim Harris as “Bigshot” (1981), with all fingers intact.

Recently, I was lying in bed on a Saturday night, watching an “Osmond Family Reunion” fund-raising special on PBS. As if that weren’t pathetic enough, I was thinking, “Boy, these guys are good!” And when they projected old video from their 1970s’ TV show, I thought I detected a tiny tear of nostalgia trying to make its way out of my left eye.

Suddenly a thought struck me like a thunderclap. Is this what my life has come down to: watching dancing Mormons in fringed vests on TV? Am I the same rogue who used to arrive home as the neighbors were leaving for church on Sunday mornings? Is this the same guy who once woke up at high noon in a tuxedo on the beach at Atlantic City, amidst a crowd of little kids staring in wide-eyed wonder? “Mary, Johnny, stay away from that man,” their mother cried, “He’s dangerous.”

That was me: dangerous. Whether lying there on the beach like an unexploded torpedo, or jousting for the last crouton at a salad bar, I was a force to be reckoned with. Not someone you’d want to cross, baby.

Just one example of my once-formidable powers of retribution: In 1981, when I was the Philadelphia 76ers mascot, “Big Shot,” I got wind that the team’s new director of operations, Lou Sinefeld, was planning to fire me. Apparently he blamed the mascot’s “crude” antics for the team’s low attendance. I heard that he was going to make a big show of announcing my firing to the press, so I hatched a plot of my own.

I planned to put on my large furry outfit, alert the media, and go up to the observation deck in City Hall tower. There, I would barricade myself in and strike a few poses for the press before hurling the big costume streetward. I figured it would be a scene right out of King Kong, enshrine me in the “Insane Philadelphians” Hall of Fame and bring well-deserved negative publicity to my front-office nemesis, all in one fell swoop.

In the end, I decided not to worsen my soon-to-be-unemployed situation by incurring fines or possible jail time. Instead, I sent my boss a publicity photo of a waving Big Shot with all but one of the fingers strategically erased. For good measure, I added a very brief (two-word) personal note.

I should note that in 2005, Philadelphia City Councilman Rick Mariano, who was under the threat of federal indictment at the time, went to the top of the tower, implying that he might be attempting suicide. He was subsequently talked down by then Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Johnson. It was about as exciting as an episode of the Dr. Phil Show. He should have jumped — or at least put up a fight.

Anyway, after I passed my 40th birthday, I got the bright idea of having sons to protect me and my turf when I got too old to be dangerous anymore. In addition, they could carry on my legendary legacy of derring-do. I imagined three strapping boys — Adam, Hoss and Little Joe — patrolling the borders of my sprawling estate while I rocked by a raging fire with my faithful hound at my side. “Everything’s secure on the north 40 acres, Paw.” “Thanks Adam, tell Hop Sing to start getting dinner ready.” It seemed like a dignified way for me to wend out my days. 

Of course, things seldom go exactly as planned. I wound up living in a Germantown row house, sitting by a sputtering space heater with my bald three-legged cat, with the Slomin’s Shield for protection. 

When I go out in public today, little children no longer look on in wide-eyed wonder. I think most of them are carrying guns. Bravado has little meaning in a society composed entirely of idiots. I’ve had to rethink my whole image. The Osmonds are looking better to me all the time.

Jim Harris, of Germantown, is a musician and animal activist who has conducted an exhaustive scientific study which proved  that spending countless hours on a cell phone may ruin the quality of one’s sperm, raising hopes that teenagers and stock brokers may in the future not be able to reproduce. You can produce a bump on Jim’s head at