So my little blog has been experiencing yet another spike of interest from the outside world. I’m guessing it’s because of the big SNL reunion show, which earned super-high ratings for NBC, despite the station’s usual status as the lovable loser of broadcast TV. People (apparently) are checking in to see if anyone’s posted any newsworthy tidbits about the late comedienne. And once again, I’m hear to tell ya: there’s nothing. No further comments from the family, no intrepid young journalists publishing a big exposé about Hooks’s final years. I wonder if someone out there is trying to dig up some more information. Honestly, I can’t imagine why there wouldn’t be interest. An incredibly talented TV star who fades early and dies young–that seems like a story to me, even though I’m not a journalist and, in fact, am just basing this opinion on what I like to read. There’s always been something compelling to me about life lived in the margins.
I realize that calling Hooks’s life “marginal” is probably a misuse of the term. There are, in fact, people out there who are not actors or comediennes, people who are forced to the edges of society (whether because of their bodies, their beliefs, their gender, or their lack of resources) and people whose entire cultures thrive on the “margins” of the world (even if those so-called margins take up entire continents’ worth of land). I’m not trying to devalue any of these people–I’d love it if we had more input from everywhere, especially our planet’s many overlooked spaces, where so much living and dying happen. I’m also not trying to redefine marginality as worthy of note only if you’re lucky enough to exist right outside the shadow of greatness–in the Brooklyn beside Manhattan’s promised land. Absolutely not. But I also opened this can of worms on my blog, and Hooks does still fascinate me as a woman of SNL (a major marginal space at least in the demographic landscape of this particular TV show) and as someone who worked hard to get something only to have it mysteriously evaporate at the end of her life. I’m a born-and-bred meritocrat, educated in the Cinderella story of the American middle class, and when a person gets her due and then loses it, I want to know what happened.
I know, too, that the story I’ve outlined here (the pull-up-your-bootstraps rise to prominence and tragic fall from grace) may not be Hooks’s story. I may be projecting. I do that a lot. But I can’t say if I’m right or wrong because there’s nothing out there to be found. Gaps in the record fascinate me, too. Derrida’s aporia, the lacunae in memory–holes in the knowledge base, especially in the age of Google, don’t seem like they should exist.
Since I’m a sickly middle-aged wife and mother and not a budding journalist, I’m not going to search out the story of Jan Hooks. I’m going to sit here in my little wifi-connected bubble and wait for someone else (probably a milennial) to do that. But I will leave all you Fickle Readers out there with a few items to temporarily patch up those knowledge gaps until the youngsters come along: one, a tribute to Hooks published by Sarah Larson in The New Yorker, which has some nice analysis and links to sketches; two, this New York Magazine article (found by an intrepid anonymous tipster!) that mentions Hooks and her smoking habit; three, this interview with early 90s SNL alum Melanie Hutsell, which doesn’t have much to do with Hooks but does discuss Hutsell’s iconic Jan Brady impersonation and her fans in the gay community. Enjoy!