Having shed the evils of cable television in lieu of the wonders of Netflix, our family is blessed with a multitude of ways to avoid curing cancer, helping the poor, and/or being generally useful members of society. So in the spirit of brain rotting voyeurism, I recently found myself paying tribute to my British heritage by queuing up a BBC documentary on the English monarchy. Now, when one selects a program for viewing, Netflix helpfully makes additional recommendations that are, at least in its estimation, related to the video you choose – like a drug pusher for couch potatoes. So while I chose to expand my knowledge base on the British monarchy back when they were able to conquer something aside from the front page of the National Enquirer, Netflix cheerfully pulled up a list of more titles “like” it. These titles included a documentary on the Tower of London (okay), a National Geographic documentary on the current royal family (sure), the second season of the BBC historical monarchy documentary series (fine), and…”The Man Who Would Be Polka King” (what the…?).
Aside from equating the royalty of the illustrious British Empire with the accordion-ified monarchy of polka, I felt inexplicably compelled to further explore Netflix’s reasoning in equating the two. The synopsis for “The Man Who Would Be Polka King” did not shed any further light but read as follows: “After defecting from Poland in the 1970s, Jan Lewan became a worldwide polka superstar, famous for his musical talent and dashing showmanship. Filmmakers Joshua von Brown and John Mikulak show that Lewan’s empire was built on a foundation of lies. This irreverent documentary reveals how the charming entertainer used his connections to bilk investors out of millions in a complicated investment scam that eventually landed the Polka King behind bars.”
At first, one is blinded by the revelation that there is such a thing as a “polka superstar,” let alone one of international proportions. Secondly, one must wonder about the political workings of the polka-based system of monarchy – is the basis of the national economy beer and lederhosen? Thirdly, while the tale of King Jan answers the immortal question of who stole the keeshka, it simultaneously raises the question of who these investors in polka are and what sort of polka paraphernalia would justify an investment of “millions” of dollars. Purchase of radio air time to force unnatural levels of polka consumption? A bulk supply (i.e., one) of tubas? One thing that is clear, however, is that the Kingdom of Polka (Polka-dom?) is more perilous than one ever could have conceived. Forget the marital woes of Henry VIII and the brotherly squabbling of Richard and John. The rise and fall of the Polka King makes the treachery of the English monarchs look like mere trifles. Indeed, had Shakespeare lived during our times, we would have been blessed with such literary tributes:
To steal the keeshka or not steel the keeshka: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the belly to suffer
The slings and arrows of hunger,
Or to take arms against a sea of barrels,
And by rolling end them? […]
To dance: to drink;
To drink: perchance to pass out: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of drink what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Only to discover in heaven there is no beer,
And thusly, that is why we drink it here.