His Name ... José Jiménez, Astronaut

NASA's shuttle Atlantis launched into outer space this morning, marking the end of an impressive half century for American primates. I remember life before the race to penetrate the heavens and, strangely, find myself living in the future where no more of our astronauts will pop up beyond the Earth's atmosphere strapped inside USA vehicles.

My comment on Twitter got me to reminiscing.

I was around for the USA's first manned space flight & the last. The best thing the NASA programs gave me was José Jiménez.

I was being silly, but, to be truthful, not much.

In 1961, before manned rocket flights, a comedy routine jumped to the top of the airplay on Top 40 radio stations, and elsewhere, becoming a swift national sensation. Comedian Bill Dana released an in-depth Q&A with his comic character, José Jiménez. It seems the endearing innocent somehow positioned himself to become "the first man in space!"

I was nine and completely devoted to this piece of comedy brilliance. So consumed, I demanded -- as much as a kid could dare -- that my mother purchase the 45 RPM double-sided single, which I played on our turntable incessantly, memorizing and simultaneously performing the material in response to interviewer Don Hinckley.

I found "The Astronaut" at YouTube to share here, but this particular copy has an added puppet show performance video inserted by a fan. Underlying, however, is the uncut audio I still adore and enjoy as if it were emanating from a news broadcast.

Before listening, Wikipedia adds an anecdote about José's superstar fame:

Perhaps surprisingly, the character of José Jiménez caught on amongst the seven Mercury astronauts, and Dana became good friends with them. "Okay, José, you're on your way!" Deke Slayton quipped as Alan Shepard's famous first flight launched, in reference to the astronaut parody.

For his role as José the Astronaut, Dana was officially made an honorary Mercury astronaut.

José Jiménez: "The Astronaut" via YouTube

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