Wally's Workshop: Bookcase Bar, Bunk Beds, Built-In Furniture, Coffee Table, Workbench (1972)

Week of October 26, 2005

Wally's Workshop

Wally Bruner is not your average home-improvement mogul. He drops his tools a lot, can't cut straight and has an affinity for velour shirts, plaid slacks and gold pinky rings. He is, in short, the "Anti-Vila" -- as fallible and cheap as Frank Handyman on the other end of the tube, jowls-deep in cashews and brandy. Wally also has a wife who flips him shit by the wheelbarrow while offering very little in the way of actual assistance on his projects, all of which involve large planks of wood and little else.

This 90-minute how-to video represents the amalgamated works of Wally's short-lived television show, which aired back when disco dawned. As with any good buddy-cop movie or late-night talk show, Workshop's success hinges not on the quality of instruction, but on the chemistry between Wally and his wife. And Natalie plays the perfect McMahon to Wally's Carson. She's also very attractive and likes to drink, as evidenced by her unbridled excitement for Wally's first creation, a bookcase bar.

This is not a bar/bookcase. It is a faux bookcase that folds down to reveal a fully functional den bar. The "books" on the bottom shelf are not really books at all; they're discarded book-bindings Wally adheres to the wood with Elmer's glue so as to conceal what amounts to a drawbridge entrance to the hooch, replete with little silver chains. Some of the bindings he accidentally glues upside-down, only to correct himself before the sticky stuff dries. Wally's follies (will the sander fly out of Wally's hands and make a beeline for Natalie's forehead?) add a layer of suspense to the happy couple's breezy rapport, elevating Wally's Workshop from mildly amusing to sublime, undoubtedly the most entertaining instructional video ever made.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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