The RP: What’s Up Doc? — My Five Favorite “Doc”s Who Weren’t Really Doctors

Continuing my newly-established tradition of plagiarizing from Nick Hornby and sharing my pop culture Top Five lists (See my Favorite Breakup Songs , my Favorite Hoops Books, and the Most Jew-ish Gentiles), and in honor of my oldest RPette’s recent acquisition of an adorable bunny (named “Louie” not “Bugs”), I ask the question that has confused, even haunted my generation: 

What’s up with all of the guys named “Doc” who’ve never practiced medicine or even earned a graduate degree? 

Without further agonized perplexion, I hereby list My Five Favorite “Doc”s Who Weren’t Really Doctors:

5. (tie) Doctor J and Doctor K

Julius Erving (who supposedly got his nickname from a high school buddy) and Dwight Gooden (an homage to Erving — K stands for strikeout — that was later shortened to “Doc”) were two of the greatest athletes of the last three decades of the 20th Century.  J was the fifth highest scorer in pro basketball history, the first great populizer of the slam dunk, and one of the most graceful and elegant atheletes to ever play the game (And how ’bout that ‘fro!).  K was one of the most feared and dominant baseball pitchers, whose brilliant career could only be stopped by drug use and injury.  And yet, despite their greatness, there is no sensible reason to award them with the title of doctor.  (At least J gathered a few honorary degrees after his career ended.)

4.  Doc, the Dwarf

Doc wasn’t necessarily the brightest of the dwarfs — he seemed to stammer and lose his train of thought quite often — but he held sway over the rest of the crew, with the possible exception of Grumpy, of course.  (Here is a great summary of his life and career.)  Doc’s authority emenated from being the gray eminence of the group, the centered, moral authority.  Yet there was no evidence whatsoever of a medical license or doctoral dissertation at an accredited university.  Indeed, it took the efforts of a fully-heighted fellow (The Prince) to relieve Snow White of her food poisoning ailment.

Click on the picture to watch the commercial

3. Peter Bergman (or was it Robert Young?)

In the late 1980s, soap actor Peter Bergman starred in one of the most infamous and influential commercials in television history.  Recommending Vicks Vapor Rub to the viewing audience, Bergman stated, “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV.”  Hundreds of imitators followed, the most recent copycat coming from Holiday Inn Express’ “Stay Smart” series. Some conspiracy theorists think that Robert Young of Marcus Welby fame first uttered the line in a Sanka commercial.  (They are known as “Sankers”)  But whatever the original source, my generation was poisoned by the idea that someone who simply played a doctor on TV could dispense medical advice.  This commercial accordingly bears full responsibility for, simultaneously, our health care crisis, our culture’s addiction to celebrity, and Donald Trump’s haircut.

2. Doctor Pepper

The drink that was created by Charles Alderton in the 1880s is the source of epochal debates as to the origins of its name.  Some believe that there was an actual Dr. Pepper.  Others believe that it was a takeoff on pepsin, a digestive protease.  Regardless of the truth, the history of the soft drink is based on a series of lies.  First, the drink is not medicinal in nature.  And second, Diet Dr. Pepper does not taste like real Dr. Pepper.  (Although Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry is awesome.) 

Click to sample and/or download

1. Otis Redding, “(Sitting on) The Doc of the Bay”

Just coming off his famed performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Otis Redding penned and performed what would become his signature song, and one of the great classics of R&B music.  With a very simple guitar accompaniment (The first song I ever learned to play!), Otis croons with a restrained passion that eloquently matched the lyrics.  Unfortunately, he did not live to see the song’s release and its path to immortality.  Redding’s death leaves a tortuous mystery forever unanswered: Who was Doc, and why was Redding sitting on him?

OK, RPeeps, what did I miss?  Please share in the comments section below.


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