Scandal

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On idols.

Published August 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock and Roll.

Thirty-five years is a decent amount of time.  It’s strange to think that Elvis lived, laughed, loved, performed and perished all before I was born, before my parents even met, before I was even a thought.  Yet, here I am, mourning his death and spending an entire day reminiscing, watching corny films and old news reels, flipping through photographs and listening to scratchy, dated recordings.  Elvis and his legacy and his story have captivated me for as long as I can remember.  My father loves him, and I can remember watching a rebroadcast of the Aloha from Hawaii concert with my father, my mother and my twin sister crowded on the couch with the speakers vibrating from the effort of amplification.  My twin – who would absolutely murder me if she knew I was writing this in a place where anyone could see it – would sing along to “Fever” while shaking her hips as she stood on the couch, and I would pretend to be a crazed female fan, screaming at all the right times.  My twin was Elvis for Halloween one year, even.  He was, undoubtedly, an integral part of my childhood.

I made a pilgrimage to Graceland with a good friend, college roommate and fellow artist.  I spent hundreds of dollars and took hundreds of pictures.  I am dying to go back to experience more and learn more.

And as a result, Elvis is an integral part of who I am.  All my wildest dreams of not only becoming a successful, popular and beloved writer but of finding romance and connecting with someone as beautiful and talented as he was stem from watching him perform and researching his biography.  He is such an epic and elusive figure.  He was an enemy of the state, sure to corrupt the youth with his gyrating hips and soulful music.  But at the same time, he loved his mama and served his country.  He was a miraculous kind of contradiction that revolutionized popular culture, celebrity status, sex and music with an air of humility and authenticity that has yet to be replicated.  Sure, there were revolutionaries who came after him: the Beatles, Michael Jackson, my own beloved Bruce Springsteen, but he was the first.  Elvis is an original.

And because Elvis was a phenomenon unfamiliar to our culture, we didn’t know how to truly deal with him.  Parents scorned him, adolescent males wanted to be him and dyed their hair dark and gelled it to perfection and adolescent females cried and swooned and held out glossy photographs in quaking hands.  We loved him, but he was removed because he was rich and famous – wildly so.  Thus, his story turned tragic and he became one of the first, but unfortunately not the last, victims of the machine of Hollywood.  Everyone watched him implode and mourned the loss.

I’ve pontificated at length about Bruce Springsteen and how he is a romantic hero of mine.  I have to admit, and not just because I’m mourning the anniversary of his death, that Elvis is a greater romantic hero.  His songs and his personal life meld together in my mine to create a kind of colossal figure that is to be loved and admired and feared and pitied and mourned.  As always, Bruce said it best: “…it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.”  John Lennon, another performer gone too soon, said: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”  Bob Dylan said: “When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss…Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” Hell, even 50 Cent bowed to the King when describing the difference between him being in Vegas and Elvis being there: “That period was different. When Elvis was there, they were stopping everything. Elvis had the moment for real. While I’m here, it’s not all about 50 Cent, but it was all about Elvis.”

Elvis is an inspiration and a cautionary tale.  He is the stuff of American legend.  He is greatly admired and missed tremendously.  Of course, I am speaking personally and would never dare presume to speak for anyone else.  I really would love to meet a boy who looks like Elvis, who performs like Elvis, and who is as passionate as Elvis was.

I’ll leave with you a few quotes from the King himself, and wish you all a good night.

“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God…I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.” –Elvis commenting to a reporter, 1950’s.

“When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times…I learned very early in life that: ‘Without a song, the day would never end; without a song, a man ain’t got a friend; without a song, the road would never bend – without a song.’ So I keep singing a song. Goodnight. Thank you.” –From his acceptance speech for the 1970 Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation Award, given at a ceremony on January 16, 1971. (Elvis quotes from copyrighted material with lines from the song “Without a Song”.)

“Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.”  –From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972

“…the image is one thing and the human being is another…it’s very hard to live up to an image.” –From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972

On Hollywood and the dying standard.

Published July 29, 2012 by mandileighbean

Tonight, I watched “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with my sister.  It’s a remarkably entertaining and creepy movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.  However, you don’t realize the movie got under your skin until you’re unprepared for it, like if you’re washing the dishes and letting your mind wander, and you have a sudden compulsion to shout, “But you are, Blanche! You are in the chair!”  Maybe that’s just me.

Either way, the film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two titans of old Hollywood.  According to Tinsel Town lore, Davis and Crawford DID NOT like each other.  After filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Crawford was FURIOUS, and took it upon herself to call all of the other nominees, offering to accept the award on their behalf if they won and could not be present for the award ceremony.  The other actresses agreed so when Anne Bancroft was announced as winner, Crawford made the long trek to the stage, making sure to pause just long enough to give Davis a dirty, dirty look.

 

 

 

 

 

Society changes and irrevocably, popular culture changes with it.  As a species, we must adapt or die.  That can be taken figuratively or literally – biological reasons aside, if one does not grow and evolve with society, one becomes an outcast and endures a social death which may proceed the physical one.  I get that – but I think it’s unfortunate when inevitable change alters the better aspects of society.  I’m too young to sound this old, but I miss when a lady was a lady.  It’s trendy now to be trashy; females would not recognize the pictures included about and would most likely recognize J-Woww or Snooki.  It’s unfair of me to become philosophical when really, all I’m saying is that I miss old-fashioned, bitchy Hollywood when glamour covered the more base qualities of human nature.

I promised to become totally honest with you, and I have done my best to do so in the following prompt.  Enjoy.

PROMPT: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

PIECE: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over,” I sobbed to Alyssa in the, thankfully, empty girl’s bathroom across the hall from the library.  I was taking in deep, shuddering breaths and releasing great, broken sobs.  Passing Steve a note and then throwing my arms carelessly around his neck when Kylie, his girlfriend, was only feet away had been a mistake.  What’s worse was that the whole lunchroom had seen the embrace, and that same audience witnessed the inevitable confrontation just a few days later.

All of my secret hopes, desires and scheming had been exposed via an online journal, which I was naïve enough to believe I kept secret.  Word got out that not only did I like Steve, but was trying to break him up with Kylie not so he would go out with me – no, that would be too obvious and logical for me – but so he could go out with my friend Tara.  There had been angry instant messages, brutal anonymous comments on the online journal entries and sordid e-mails.  I thought that was the worst of it and being so young, I believed I was invincible, that the slings and arrows would bounce off this armor I had crafted from misinformation and romantic wishes, and nothing more.

All that changed when I arrived at school.  The very atmosphere of the building had changed.  I could feel the eyes burning holes into my skin, wondering and judging and assuming.  I could hear the tongues wagging, condemning and poking fun at my fall from grace.  At the point, I was narcissistic enough to believe that yes, EVERYONE was talking about and that yes, EVERYONE did know what was going on and that yes, EVERYONE did care.  I was also young and dumb enough to believe that NO ONE understood what that was like.

So when I walked into the lunch room, it became immediately obvious that I could not sit across from Steve and Kylie as I had since September.  I relocated to the end of the same table, but figured the length was enough of a buffer.  Opting not to eat, I made awkward conversation with the acquaintances I had made out of necessity and emergency.  I tried to blend it and start over, put the social blunder behind me as if it had never even happened.  Kylie would not have it that way.

She marched down to my end of the table and screamed at me, leveling completely accurate accusations at me.  She called me names loud enough for all surrounding students to hear.  I didn’t rise to my feet; I only made dismissive facial gestures and loudly called out generic insults.  A few of my friends stood to my defense and it quieted down.  But the next day at lunch, Kylie recited my journal aloud, dramatically reading all of my feelings for Steve, and reading all about how unfair it was that he wasn’t with me.  I looked down the table at him, anxious for a reaction, but I got nothing.  He never, ever gave me anything.

It was all a mistake, and I should have known that right away.

P.S. – The above prompt is a memoir; it’s true, but I changed names and altered details to protect those involved, and absolve those whom I wronged.

 

 

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