Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, January 8, 2015, 10:51 a.m.
Well, if it’s not Elvis Presley’s birthday. One can tell by the crummy movies on TCM. Elvis movies are good to write by. One can pay only mild attention and still get the gist of what is going on.
At some point, musical instruments will appear in the back seats of convertibles, the lobbies of hotels, and the garages of race tracks. Elvis sang so well that any band could follow him on an entirely original song. This even applied to marching bands.
By the way, Elvis made three racing movies – Viva Las Vegas, Spinout and Speedway – and two of them are on TCM today. Unfortunately, the NASCAR-themed flick, the last, is not on. How Bill Bixby and Nancy Sinatra failed to secure Oscar nominations is beyond me.
Not only was Elvis the King. Not only did he usher in the Age of Rock & Roll. Not only did he star in thirty-one movies, but probably twenty-five of them were among the worst hundred ever made. My personal choice is Kissing Cousins, but different people have different tastes.
Elvis’s greatness is underscored by his movies. Thirty-one bad ones. Roy Orbison, for instance, made only one horrible movie, The Fastest Guitar Alive. It’s a Civil War flick. Roy is a Southern spy with a bullet-shooting guitar. Lawrence Olivier is rumored to have passed on that one. Not only could Roy Orbison play a guitar. He could shoot one.
In summary, I’ve been to Graceland but didn’t buy the tee shirt. To paraphrase Bill Maher, I kid The King, but I recognize his cultural significance as an international symbol of commercialism. He was so good and yet so dependent on Col. Tom Parker, the ultimate symbol himself of “Hey, kid, just do what I say, and I’ll make you a star.” He did, Parker did, and it’s probably why The King died at forty-two. He made all that money, and, all the while, he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist, which he was in the rare instances that art was allowed.
In a sense, Elvis has always embarrassed me because he could have been so much better. Even his music detoured to the silly, factory-produced songs the movies forced him to sing. He was great at the beginning, and great at the end, and, in between, a magnificent voice singing stupid words.
I remember the day he died like it was yesterday. I was drunk when I heard the news and drunker afterwards. During the few moments when I was, um, out in public, as when, um, I purchased more beer, there were people weeping uncontrollably. I can remember how Big Don Fulmer opened up one of the cheap eight-track players he sold along with bootleg tapes at Don’s PDQ, and “Love Me Tender” was playing as I asked what was on special. Big Don just cried and waved his hands toward the cooler.
Let’s see. I was nineteen. A man could buy beer legally at nineteen in those days. Woman, too.
“Operator, operator, get me Las Vegas, quick!” But Lucky Jackson is off to Los Angeles to pick up a motor
Who am I kidding? I always watch Viva Las Vegas because Ann-Margret’s in it.
Imagine if time had unfolded differently, and Elvis Presley starred as Riley Mansfield in an adaptation of my novel, The Audacity of Dope. It could have turned The King into an artist. Or maybe an artiste. http://neverlandpublishing.com/taod.html
Read my short fiction at www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com. Thanks.