The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-16-2000, 10:52 PM
BoBettie BoBettie is offline
Join Date: May 1999
The Neil Young song sings about "The Old Laughing Lady"

What is the Old Laughing Lady? I have decided it's either death or alcohol. Any interpretations out there?

Poster formerly known as Zette
Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2000, 12:40 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 11,955
At Euclid Beach Park when I was a young kid (an amusement park of Cleveland that closed in 1969), there was a life-size moving mannequin of a red-headed fat woman outside the fun house. "Laughing Sal" she was called. She shook all over, very spasmodically, while a recording of her demented laughter played endlessly.

She terrified the shit out of me.
Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2000, 10:45 AM
Thing 1 Thing 1 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2000
My take on it is that the Old Laughing Lady is death. The alcohol comes in because it is going to be the death of the drunkard of the village.

Right or wrong I don't know, but what do you expect for 2 cents?
Then he got up on top
With a tip of his hat.
"I call this game FUN-IN- A-BOX"
Said the cat.

-The Cat in the Hat
Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2000, 01:01 PM
Arnold Winkelried Arnold Winkelried is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Irvine, California, USA
Posts: 14,822
I personally (haven't heard the song in a while) figured that the Old Laughing Lady is death also. The verse about the drunkard might indicate alcohol, but the term "The Old Laughing Lady" brings up the image of death in my mind.

The only way to know for sure, I guess, would be to ask him himself. I found an e-mail address for him at this "celebrity e-mail" web page:
(I won't post the e-mail here because the SDMB has a policy against posting personal information)

Let us know if he answers!
Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2000, 01:11 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 60,014
ishmintingas, that's what I thought of when I saw this thread, too. I'm not old enough to remember the Laughing Woman at her original home, but she's still operational, and is now on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society. I'm sure that the song has deeper allegorical meaning, but is it possible that it was inspired by the Old Laughing Lady at Euclid Beach?
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
--As You Like It, III:ii:328
Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2000, 01:19 PM
panamajack panamajack is offline
Join Date: Apr 2000
I don't know the song, or when it was written, but if it is 'Laughing Sal', there's one out in San Francisco, which is more likely to have been seen by Neil Young than at other places. Presently it resides at the Musee Mechanique, just below the Cliff House and next to the Camera Obscura. In previous years it might have been down at Playland (just down the beach, closed in early '70's IIRC).

panama jack


Only love can break your heart.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:50 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2015 Sun-Times Media, LLC.