Saturday, December 7, 2013
On Elvis and Ricky ...
At Hattie's, the coffee shop I inhabit each morning, one of the young servers is an Elvis fan--a big Elvis fan. She has recordings of everything, goes to see Elvis impersonators, is a font of information about Elvis trivia; she and her mother, she tells me, are planning a visit to Graceland in the spring. (She was deeply impressed that I had been there--though I didn't have the heart (courage?) to tell her that we didn't actually go through the mansion (we thought the cost prohibitive) and had satisfied ourselves with the gift shop and his old tour bus.) When "Blue Christmas" comes on the Muzak in the morning, she sings along.
She is also impressed to know that Elvis was popular when I was in junior high and high school--that I got to hear the records when he first released them, that I was around when his films first came out ... that sort of thing.
What I haven't told her is this: I hated Elvis Presley back in 1956 (the year I started seventh grade) and beyond. Hated him. My parents also thought "Elvis" was a variant spelling of "Satan" and did not permit me to watch when he was on The Ed Sullivan Show. Here's a YouTube link to an appearance in 1957. They also forbade me to see his movies. Dad called him "Elvis the Pelvis."
What they didn't know is that I didn't care. I hated Elvis ... We'll get to the "why" part in just a minute.
I also hated Rick Nelson. Which is odd because I really liked him when he was "Ricky Nelson," the younger son on one of my favorite shows from boyhood--Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966). I was just about to turn eight when the show commenced and just about to graduate from college when it went off the air. That's quite a run.
As I said, when R. Nelson was "Ricky," I really liked him. The squirrely little boy, always in and out of trouble (minor trouble). But as he got old, they started calling him "Rick" on the show. And when he started his career as a pop singer, Ozzie and Harriet started ending each half-hour show with Rick and his band singing one of his latest songs. It was about this time that I started hating him. Here's a link to a YouTube video of the very first show from 1952. I'd forgotten, till I looked at that video, that during the show's credits the voice-over called Ricky "irrepressible." That was what I'd liked about him. Maybe even envied.
But as the years went on, as I said, I grew to hate him. Just as much as I hated Elvis. And here's why ...
The girls in my grade loved those guys. Adored them. Pasted pictures of them in their notebooks, in their lockers. Got together to spin their 45s. (If you don't know what that expression means, I pity you.) I can tell you that no girl/woman/alien has ever pasted my picture anywhere, certainly not in some location designed to get the heart beating more quickly, the hormones surging, the imagination waxing wildly. And as for 45s? Well, I was 45 years old for a year. That's about it.
The hair, the pouty expressions, the sensuous lips, that ... talent. My hair back then was out of control (even butch wax failed--my hair resembled the "Ricky" 'do visible in the YouTube clip); I had a pouty expression, but it just looked obnoxious when I tried it (no girls seemed ... drawn to it); and sensuous lips? Mine were chapped in the winter.
So I was jealous. All that energy and emotion and passion wasted on two guys whom the girls in my grade had no chance with. I mean--think about it: What was the likelihood that, oh, Elvis was going to drive through Hiram, Ohio, on Ohio 82, see one of the girls in my class, squeal to a stop, jump out, plant a big one on her kisser, kneel, propose marriage, swoop her off to Graceland. (About the same chance as I had in dazzling Marilyn who surely would never wander through Hiram.)
I loved rock-n-roll, by the way. Buddy Holly, Nervous Norvus, The Platters, Fats Domino the Everly Brothers, Sam Cooke, The Coasters, Patti Page--those folks I liked. I didn't see them as a threat.
All of these principals are gone. Elvis, of course, in 1973 (heart attack--drugs?); Rick, 1985 (a Texas plane crash)--all the other Nelsons, too. And I'm sorry our sad earth is without them. But the me of 1959 would have been quite pleased at the prospect that I would outlive them both. Shows what a jerk I was. I'm much more mature now ...