Thursday, November 8, 2007

Blast From the Past

Sorting through old VHS tapes last night, deciding which ones to donate to the library, I found a treasure I'd forgotten had been taped. There for awhile, I would often record movies and specials on VHS tape, averaging 3 movies to a tape on Extended Play. There must have been some kind of Elvis Tribute Weekend on one of the Portland television stations because the tape held two 90-minute specials and Priscilla's 1-hour guided tour of Graceland. (For the record, it also included a lot of outdated commercials and the tail end segments of two previously taped movies, Sinatra's Von Ryan's Express apparently having been copied over Newman's Coolhand Luke.)

The first was the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special, the one where he and some of his band were on a small raised stage, surrounded by the audience, and he was dressed in that high-collared black leather jumpsuit that must have felt like wearing jalapeƱo long johns under those camera lights.

The second was the 1973 Aloha From Hawaii special, the first live world-wide concert. That was when he still looked sexy-hot in that outrageous flare-legged, gold-dripping jumpsuit. It was when he was pretty much past the wild wiggling that began his career and he could make fun of the whole thing with an occasional "tease wiggle," raising a few audience squeals. Then he would flash that mischievous half-grin that said, "It's a joke, folks. Relax and enjoy."

Yeah. The happier moments -- before the end times when the fancy jumpsuits only emphasized how fat and tired-looking he had become, making your heart hurt for him, for the loss of so much promise.

Dead thirty years now, his particular magic still keeps enriching our lives -- and his estate, as far as that goes. The Forbes seventh annual list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities has Elvis in the Number One position (out of thirteen), ahead of icons like John Lennon and Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. (Believe it or not, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss are on that list, too.)

It seems like there ought to be some profound metaphysical message in all this. Like "Beware celebrity," or "Die young and bankable," or "Wear sunscreen." I think I'll simply settle for being grateful we have technology that allows us to revisit people and moments that entertained and lifted us out of the everyday for a little while. You have to admit, it's hard to beat the lift you get from memorable lyrics like "Hunka hunka burnin' love."


bonnie said...

I can almost remember back when I didn't think his singing was the greatest. Not so now. lol I think all I have is a couple records of his. You remember records? :-)

Anonymous said...

I think I had my hand fulls with babies and young married life to have time to catch the Elvis bug, but I do consider him a a great talent wasted. His voice was a gift, and he entertained and inspired many. My favorite song from him is "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

If I were you, I'd keep that tape. ~smile~


Mage And George said...

Oh, how lucious he was before drugs and alcohol took him away. Now Portland is a different matter. I'll be there next week deep into Powells books. Did you realize they have a bookstore just for cookbooks? OMG.

Kate said...

My daughter was crazy about him. I was traveling with my husband when I heard the news of his death -- I had to call her right away. She was only 10 or so, but she really grieved. I wonder if that's another day that we all will remember what we were doing when we heard the news, like the day Kennedy was shot.