The Damone Theory of Historical Research

There is a scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” that always makes me pause… then laugh. Lothario wannabe and petty bookie Mike Damone is giving advice to endearing nerd Mark Ratner on how to get girls.

Damone: I mean, I just send out this vibe and I have personally found that women do respond. I mean, something happens.

Ratner: Well, naturally something happens. I mean, you put the vibe out to 30 million chicks, something is going to happen.

Being a secret stats geek, the scene always makes me chuckle (and brings to mind another of my favorite lines, this one from “Dumb and Dumber” where Jim Carrey (Lloyd) in his quest for the affections of Lauren Holly (Mary Swanson) tells Jeff Daniels (Harry) – “I am gonna hang by the bar; put out the vibe.”)

While I am photographing court cases that have not been opened in over 120 years, slicing my fingers on the old index cards in card catalogs, and getting migraines from squinting at microfilm, it’s not the scholarly muses of Campanella, Zinn, Abbott, Brinkley, and Burns that are occupying my mind and streaming down their spacious creativity and rigorous rationale – I am typically running these two movie scenes in my head.

What is the demography of the girls Damone hits on? Age? Height? Weight? Ethnicity? Virgins? Do they smoke Pall Malls or Marlboro Reds? Does he typically hit on them at school, the mall, gas stations? Is one location more successful than the other? Are drugs and alcohol an influence in their succumbing to his charms? What’s their birth order? Neighborhood? Are there any kind of physical characteristics that respond to him more? An average IQ?  Just how far and wide does this vibe go? Does a girl only need a pulse for Damone to hit on her?

What would Mike Damone and Lloyd Christmas do?

Right now I have been gathering data from various lawsuits from the late 19th century. It got to the point where the librarian just put their ENTIRE excel file of criminal records from 1880 to 1918 on my jump drive and handed it to me (all 46,474 cases). YES!!! Thank you. It might be so I’d quit bothering her, but I am too grateful to care. Pages and pages and pages of spreadsheets for me to go over, tear apart, and hopefully come up with something insightful.

While Lloyd had a specific target and goal in mind for his vibe, Damone was kinda all over the place, but both of them had approaches that I admire. Am I being as extensive as Damone but also adding some kind of laser-like filter like Llyod? This allows me to try and carefully select what information is valuable, interesting, and pertinent as well as trying to look at it from all angles and leave nothing to speculation. Approaching historical research the same way fictional movie characters try to get a piece of ass may not be the wisest approach but hey – whatever works.

Right now, the best I can do is hang by the library, my computer, the microfilm room, my books, and piles and piles and piles of papers – and put out the vibe.  Hopefully something positive comes back to me in return. Hopefully I will score.

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