In case you hadn’t noticed, time is flying by like an SST. Those “infant” grandchildren are now five and ten years old. Your last few birthdays have flown by, haven’t they? I am older than I have ever been before. Everyone I know has serious aches and pains with more and more surgeries scheduled.
The event that struck me between the eyes last week was Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday. Elvis? 80? You gotta be kidding me.
Of course Elvis didn’t make it, having succumbed to a variety of drugs on a Memphis toilet. I read once that he had 18 different drugs in his bloodstream when he passed. Now, that’s decadence. He was only 42 years old when he died in 1977. 42!
“Blue suede Shoes” and “Hound dog” hit West Roxbury like an avalanche in the 1950s. If you walked into the Center Street diner, chances were good that an Elvis song was on the juke box. Juke box! We all saw him on Ed Sullivan Show (natch) and could not hear a single word because of the screaming young girls. Elvis songs played at every Holy Name Church dance and we all did our impersonations. Little did we know that a whole industry of Elvis impersonators would survive to this day.
In my day, you were either a Motown guy or an Elvis guy. You couldn’t do both. As Elvis got less bluesy and more schmaltzy, I drifted off to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops and of course the sensational Diana Ross and the Supremes. I must confess that I never bought an Elvis song after “Heartbreak Hotel.”
For me, the legend of Elvis died on the Hollywood sound stage. His first movie “Love Me, tender,” was so bad that I was thrown out of the Hancock Circle Movie Theater for endless and loud laughter. I couldn’t help it.
Elvis got even.
I can’t even remember which branch bank I had the argument with, in Rockland. It was something about a mortgage payment. I switched banks often. Whatever happened, (the memory is long gone) I wrote a furious letter to the bank president about the egregious sins I had suffered, and then forget completely about it.
When I came down with the flu that day, I was imprisoned on my couch, watching television and drinking tea. There were only 10-12 channels those days, so I had to settle for an old Elvis movie, “Viva Las Vegas.” One thing about Elvis movies, they always had sensational women, which made up for the rest of the movie attributes, like acting, writing, or plot. So I sat there, semi-delirious in my afghan, sweating, drinking tea, watching Elvis when the phone rang.
I have been an idiot for most of my life and have learned to live with it. I carefully choose friends like David Grima who are even more idiotic, so I can retain some physical and psychological balance. For reasons unknown, I consider answering the phone as an entertainment medium and like to say something idiotic like “Boston Red Sox” when I pick up the phone.
This was before caller ID, of course.
On this dismal day, I answered the phone by giving my very best Elvis impersonation, singing, of course, “Viva Las Vegas.”
Have you guessed? It was the bank president.
She was classy enough to say that she loved that song, and then professionally moved the conversation to my written complaint. I stuttered, hemmed and hawed and tried to remember what the issue was. She was very cool, apologized for my mistreatment and said my business would be welcome, if I ever forgave her bank.
I thanked her endlessly for bothering to call.
I never did another “Elvis” answering the phone again.
Now, I do Al Green.