Hours before Rodney Dangerfield died, I tried to collect a debt from a buddy, e-mailing him my address. He facetiously thanked me for adding him to my Christmas card list, prompting me to reply, without thinking, “Rocco, Moose, help the judge find his checkbook.”

Nothing else needed saying. Young readers and women who still believe Doritos and Budweiser aren’t a square meal are scratching their heads right now. But my friend, a middle school classmate of mine when “Caddyshack” opened, understood every syllable.

What I said, in Quotable Guy-Movie Talk, was that yes, my friend Joe will pay me. Or, as Dangerfield’s Al Czervik told Ted Knight’s Judge Elihu Smails in “Caddyshack,” I will send two large goons dressed in plaid pants to his home. Of course, this is all in fun, as the only people who actually dress like this are newspaper editors.

This is what Dangerfield, who died Tuesday at age 82 from heart surgery complications, left us men types. He was one of us, partially because of his self-effacing humor, but mostly because, in a weird way, we wanted to be like him.

That’s an awfully strange thing to say about a flabby old guy with bulging eyes and no respect. It’s just surprising that death got the final line in over Dangerfield.

He was the oldest and one of the few non-“Saturday Night Live” or Monty Python-connected members of the exclusive Quotable Guy-Movie Club. He may have been behind only fellow “Caddyshack” alum Bill Murray (“Big hitter the Lama”) in standard go-to lines. While Dangerfield movies “Back to School” and “Easy Money,” both rank high in guy lore, “Caddyshack,” was the shiny gem – the bible of guy quotes, an obscenely rich gold mine of dialogue over which men can connect, bond and eventually stain a deck together.

It’s still mind-boggling that Dangerfield overshadowed performances of Quotable Guy-Movie Jedi masters Bill Murray and Chevy Chase, whose on-set rivalry sparked the magical improv in the “Can I play through,” scene.

Snicker if you want. Look down your nose and eat up more of Woody Allen’s highbrow neurosis. Try to convince us that “Mrs. Doubtfire” was funnier with a better plot (as the American Film Institute did when it outrageously decreed there were more than 70 funnier movies than “Caddyshack”). Then find me a real man who quotes Robin Williams around a campfire. I dare you.

For 24 years, Dangerfield’s obnoxious tycoon Al Czervik has given men rude one-liners for multiple, complex situations, prompting high-fives from guys and eye-rolling from women. Here are some examples:

n To the waiter at a bad restaurant: “This steak still has marks from where the jockey was hitting it.”

n To a large-lipped woman: “The last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.”

n When challenging someone to a bet, and they fail miserably: “You can OWE me.”

n To poorly behaved children: “Now I know why tigers eat their young.”

n To bad dancing by one of more couples: “Whoa – the dance of the living dead.”

n In response to flatulence: “Who stepped on the duck?” (Of course, this was a big one in high school.)

n To the prospect of a big victory party “Hey, we’re all gonna get (lucky).”

Then there’s the visualize. No real man alive doesn’t appreciate Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” or Earth Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland” now that we automatically see Dangerfield’s cockeyed dancing. Step away from “Caddyshack” briefly and few men can enter a hot tub without seeing Dangerfield come up for air, wearing a mask and snorkel, surrounded by young babes in “Back to School.” When one pours his champagne, cooing “Say when,” Rodney responds the way most men would want to: “Right after this drink.”

Unfortunately for wives everywhere, Dangerfield helped a generation or two of men believe we were funny. He was the ultimate guy, whose one-liners were so good they need no explanation (among guys) 24 years later. Connecting with a Dangerfield line continuously bonds men across race, politics or income. Well, at least it appeals to our shared sense of bad manners, an important male trait constantly underrated in scientific studies.

For that, he’ll always have our respect.


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