CHASING OLIVIA…

Greil Marcus’s excellent website has an “Ask Greil” feature which is a lot of fun. You asks your question and (sometimes) you gets your answer.

Most of the site consists of re-posting Marcus’s half-century worth of writing, a fair bit of it consisting of uncollected periodical writing like a post that went up a few weeks ago and read:

 “City Recommends: That you check out page 31 of the May (1975) issue of Creem magazine for a picture of Olivia Newton-John that will knock your eyes out and possibly even make you change your mind about her music.”

Which led me to ask:

Just curious. Did it change your mind about her music? If so, I’d love to hear more.

He responded thus (and here’s where it gets interesting):

The picture of her pop-eyes put her on top of my Good People chart and I started paying more attention. When “You’re the One That I Want” came out pic and song were the one that I wanted.

I have since seen the picture (having spent last month’s entertainment budget on an E-bay copy of the magazine in question…always wanted to get hold of an old Creem anyway and figured I’d never find a better excuse.) Unfortunately I can’t find a copy of it on-line and I don’t have the means of scanning it. Suffice it to say “pop-eyes” is on the right path, though it doesn’t quite do it justice.

It certainly isn’t like any picture of ONJ I’ve seen before and, boy, have I made a point of seeing a lot of ONJ pictures in my time.

[NOTE: I’m the right age for it. The rumors that swirled around her in my high school years were….interesting. Actual conversation held among the male kitchen staff at a certain Baptist Girls’ Camp, circa 1979:

Old Hippie Cook (well, he was 31, which seemed old to us): “Rrrrwwwrrr.”

JK (aka “The Mississippi Kid,” aka “Mornin’ Glory,” aka “Future Minister of Youth at the First Baptist of your choice and/or Traveling Evangelist”): “Aw man, she’s a lesbian.”

Old Hippie Cook: “That don’t bother me. Long as she’ll let me watch.”

Just so you know, I never heard these kind of conversations about any other seventies siren, not even Stevie Nicks. And, unless the subject was Olivia Newton-John, I never heard them at Baptist Camp either.]

What interested me in GM’s answer, though, was his statement that seeing a picture–any picture–of a woman he didn’t know, put her on top of his “Good People chart.”

Now, I’m shallow myself. Shallow as in: Liv, you’re on my Good People chart. I don’t care if you just shot a puppy…..Which, now that I’ve seen that other picture, and I look more closely at these, I think you just may have.

onj2

onj1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m sure that’s not what GM meant. I’m sure he was being other than shallow.

Which leads me to a place where I ask myself if, visual creatures that we are, we all do this sort of thing, whether we like it or not and whether we admit it or not? I know most of us tell ourselves we don’t…that, in the long run, we develop defenses against judging books by their covers. That we sort out the Good People from the Puppy Shooters a little too automatically at the beginning but get beyond it as we grow older and wiser.

And I’m sure we do, to some degree.

But I suspect it’s not to the degree we think it is.

Then again, the experience of seeing that picture in Creem (which I’ll gladly post if I ever find a means), is somewhat further complicated by a caption which Marcus does not mention (and may well have forgotten if he hasn’t seen the picture in a while). It reads:

The Creem Dreem: Olivia Newton-John. Contrary to rumor, Olivia’s yum-bum is not made of ice cream. In fact she is in private life not a mere truffle but a red-hot mama who could leave even hot honchos like Gregg Allman wilt chamber lain but begging for more. Here in an exclusive CREEM Hot Shot we see her leering at her next hapless conquered root, Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators.

Got it?

That’s in line, actually, with a review of Liv’s latest album in the same issue that begins:

What female singer would ya like most to sit in yr lap?

Got it now?

Actually, to me, she looks more like an ax murderess who enjoys her work in the “Creem Dreem” photo. Which is maybe why I’m leery of either including or excluding anyone from my Good People chart based on a photograph….or even whether I like their records.

Then again, I always did like her music anyway, especially her voice. Even if, as I always suspected, it had little to with her getting to sign a big record contract and more to do with the notion that a lot of young men, liberated and otherwise, would be asking themselves which female singer they would most like to sit in their lap.

More fool them.

The Overlords know we dream in pictures, though. That’s how they got to be them and we got to be us.

onj13

(I’m sure he’s dead. He certainly looked dead….When’s my next session?)

Still on my Good People chart, though. God help me.

MY LATEST TECHNOLOGICAL TRIUMPH…

No big deal for anyone who knows his arse from his elbow in Geek World, but toe-tingling for me as I finally manged to crop my header image to include a full body shot of Little Miss Dynamite, circa 1960. As I said back in early days here, this is my favorite photograph of anything or anybody, ever. Believe me, bumping the Shangri-Las or the Go-Go’s from my header took some doing! The photo is still a tad grainy (I’ll work on that) but a big improvement in any case.

We now return you to our normal programming…

 

MY LIFE IN THE PRESENT….

Snapshots for the friends and family who, thankfully, never got to see what I’ve been walking around on for the last four years!

This isn’t bad…My new bamboo floor going down in the “Hall of Terrors” (measuring and cutting terrors that is–I think one can see the challenges looming!)

 

I’ve been limiting visitation to my house for a while…Surely, this was a lawsuit waiting to happen! The new floor actually confuses my now goat-like feet. It requires no mountaineering skills whatsoever.

I promise to provide “after” pix when it’s all said and done. For now, this is one hump I’ll be glad to never see again!

ALL GOOD JOURNEYS MUST COME TO AN END

After visiting the Sun Studios on Friday morning and Shiloh on Friday afternoon, we drove to Birmingham, which was the original destination. (Had a friend coming to help me do some serious work on my house. Lives in North Dakota. Traveling by train. Thought he was coming around Aug. 5 or so. Delayed by work on his end and had to push it back about 10 days. Told him something like, “Well, the thing we gotta do in Birmingham–which was originally gonna be a nice break in our labors–is only happening on Aug. 18th.” Decided if we were going to do it, I better meet him somewhere along the way…Then decided the best meeting point was probably Memphis…Then realized it was all going to happen during Elvis Week…Sometimes these things work out.)

Anyway, what was happening one day only in BIrmingham was that their restored movie palace, the Alabama Theater, (which I blogged about a few weeks back) was showing Gone With the Wind on Saturday night.

The movie you probably know–though I can tell you that I had experienced it on the big screen three times previously (not to mention a couple of dozen times on VHS or DVD, including the time I watched it with the sound off and the time I listened to it with my eyes closed, all in a feeble attempt to understand Ms. Leigh’s genius for complex narrative, which no other actor has come close to matching in any medium that leaves a permanent record, though she herself got in the ballpark another time or two) and if you haven’t seen it in a place like the Alabama Theater, you haven’t really seen it–so I’ll leave you with a tour of the theater itself…(Photos courtesy of Dan Watson as per usual)

Bear in mind

Bear in mind as you scroll through that the city was planning to turn all this into a parking lot. Evidently someone wanted the pipe organ and–because of the cost of demolition and removal–figured out they could buy the whole building for not too awful much more…

 

This is the ticket booth

This is the ticket booth. I guess you can tell it was not shipped over from the local multi-plex.

...Just some knick-knacks for the lobby.

…Just a little knick-knack for the lobby.

Yes those are mirrored ceilings.

…And, yes, those are mirrored ceilings.

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...More stuff slated to be paved over.

…More stuff once slated to be paved over.

Oh yea

Oh yeah, they are showing a movie…

Our seats await...

Our seats await…Side balcony!

Soon after

Soon after, the 2,300 seats were mostly filled…GWTW can still pull a crowd.

 

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And, everywhere you look…details, details, details….

And finally

And finally, the restroom lobby. Be it ever so humble…

 

The wall

The wall that covers the pipe organ pipes…And created the expense-of-removal issue that saved the Alabama Theater!

Play on...

Play on…

Re-enactors

Re-enactors providing the icing on the cake…

Saying goodbye...

Saying goodbye…

No really...

No really…

 

I promise.

I promise.

Thus ended the Southland Tour…Now my photo-happy friend and I are faced with several weeks of drudge work replacing my warped and rotted hardwood floor. The happy dream is over! But it sure was fun while it lasted…and I’ll always have the memories.

 

 

ON TO SHILOH…

Back in 1989, I left Memphis one morning and decided to visit the national park that commemorates and preserves the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh, which I consider one of the more intriguing–and somewhat neglected–moments in American history.

The park is beautifully preserved but the battlefield itself is hard to get a grip on because it ranged over miles, back and forth, for two days. No way to see it except via the driving tour.

In 1989, I was just over half-way through the 20-stop tour (stop 11 as it turned out–and I was getting out and walking at every one…ah, Youth!), when my car refused to start back up.

Let’s just say that I never got to finish the tour and my sporadically starting-and-stopping vehicle finally gave out completely in Iuka, Mississippi, at around 5:00 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. The only place that was open was a pawnshop. The owner was behind the counter talking to a customer. When I walked in, he asked if he could help me. I explained that my car had broken down about a half-mile up the road.

Then he asked where I was trying to get to.

I told him I was headed for Florida.

At which point he proceded to completely ignore me for about fifteen minutes, evidently hoping I would go away.

Finally, perhaps sensing that I wasn’t likely to leave when there was literally no place else to go, he turned back to me and said, rather icily:

“What part of Florida?”

“Tallahassee,” I said.

From then on, he couldn’t have been nicer.

Turned out I was from the right part of Florida. The northern part–which is the Southern part.

I always got the impression that if I had said Orlando I would have been left to rot and if I had said Miami I might have been thrown in jail.

Eventually, when it was determined my car was not going to start again without some new parts, the pawnshop owner (who, when he heard I had been in Memphis, told me he had been on the car lot the first time Elvis bought a Cadillac for a stranger) offered to put me up at his house. He was very concerned about me having the stay in “the nigger motel” (the town’s only motel was owned by Pakistanis and, evidently, Elvis hadn’t made much impression on the pawnshop owner after all.). I was finally able to assure him it was okay but I imagine he thought less of me. (I also did not mention that my niece Candy’s husband Billy lived in Iuka. I did not mention this partly because they were going through a nasty divorce. Also partly because the last time I had seen Billy a couple of years earlier, Candy was set to take me to the tourist part of town on some expedition or other–Mud Island if memory serves–and, just as we were ready to pull away, he had leaned in the car window and basically said “Watch out for the niggers down there…Because whatever they do to her, I’ll do to you….You hear me?”)

I heard him. And I made up my mind if I was ever in Iuka, I wouldn’t bother to let him know.

While the pawnshop owner was calling around to arrange for a tow truck and a ride to the motel, his customer (who was still hanging around, probably because I was the story of the year–it’s like that in small towns) sidled over and asked, in all earnestness:

“The Cubans ain’t taken over Tallahassee yet have they?”

I assured him, that to my knowledge, they had not.

Three days later, I left Iuka with a new fuel pump and lots and lots of, er, interesting memories.

And the certain knowledge that, someday soon, I would get back to Shiloh–the battlefield just north of the town where they were still pretending the Civil War never happened–and finish that driving tour.

Twenty-three years later, some day came:

 

No sense starting a tour of the battlefield where they fought for the soul of the nation without my stopping to pose at the monument to my namesake…

...And marking his headquarters

…And marking his headquarters

No doubt he would be proud of my reading ability….

A replica of the church for which the battle was named…I caused much laughter by cracking my head on the five-foot high doorway (I mean after it was determined that I hadn’t suffered a concussion or anything…I’m SURE nobody was laughing before that!)

Sorry, sore noggin or no…I can’t resist a pulpit!

“Verily I say unto you, thou must exchange the God of Wrath for the God of Love!”…or something along those lines…good sermon for battlefields once they’ve been memorialized!

The field where the Confederate army, marching north from Corinth, Mississippi, surprised the Union army and began driving them back toward the Tennessee River…Within an hour, the survival of the Union–and the careers of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman–were all seriously in doubt.

By mid-morning, Union troops were in full retreat on both right and left flanks and the Confederates–having lost time while their starved troops stopped to plunder the abandoned Union camps–were again pushing hard on the center…They arrived at the open field to the left and swarmed the approach to the Sunken Road with every expectation of more Union panic, more Union retreat and certain destruction of the Army of the Tennessee ….

The view from the other side…Just past the Sunken Road, where the men from Iowa took their stand behind a line of trees…From this ground–known ever after as the Hornet’s Nest–they withstood four major Confederate assaults over eight hours…and broke the back of “the Cause” in the Western theater.

Stalking the line!

Shading my eyes while reading the monument to the Iowans who, in April of 1862, probably saved The Great Experiment…But if you want to consider it a salute, I can assure you I won’t mind.

Eventually, the Confederates brought up enough artillery to blast the Union troops out of the Hornet’s Nest. Most of the defenders escaped, the remnant surrendered…By then, the tide had been stemmed.  That evening, Sherman would approach his commanding general and say, ‘Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?’ ‘Yes,’ Grant would reply, ‘lick ’em tomorrow, though.’…The following day, the Confederates would retreat across the same ground.

 

...To valor

To valor…

Bloody Pond….where soldiers from both sides drank and bathed in the blood-stained water.

Where the dead rest…in peace I hope.

I hope it’s not twenty-three years before I get back again…but at least I can finally say I saw the whole thing once!

Tomorrow….I conclude my Southland tour with the Alabama Theater and Gone With the Wind.

(Photos, as before, courtesy of Dan Watson)

 

 

I JOURNEYED LONG….

Well, to Memphis anyway. By complete coincidence it was Elvis week. I spent the actual anniversary of his death at the Pink Palace, which is a genuinely great museum anyway, viewing the exhibit of Alfred Wertheimer’s mindbending candid photos of Elvis in ’56.

The next morning, I met a friend in a train station and he’s modern and all, so he carries a camera about with him. Hence, Friday morning went like this:

The approach to Mecca

The approach to Mecca…

Me being me in front of "the Door"...

Me being me in front of “the Door”…

 

It might look

Quiet time before the crowd arrives (about two minutes before as it happened…It may look like I’m praying…actually I’m engaging in another hallowed Southern tradition…I’m buying a coke. Prayer time was later.)

The first time I visited the Sun Studio was in the late eighties. They had just opened as a “museum” and it was basically a few 8 X 10 glossies (maybe 15 or 20) on the wall, some recording equipment, and a college age dude who knew less about the place than I did. You could walk in off the street. Can’t remember if they were charging money yet or not. Anyway, from all the photos on the wall back then, this girl was the one person I couldn’t place…Thought she might be local…These days, Miss Wood guards the entrance.

 

The tour begins...

The tour begins…

Trust me, I'm more impressed than I look...

Trust me, I’m more impressed than I look!

Gladys’ persistence pays off….

The way it was in ’53….Lest we forget.

The desk! Thank you Marion.

Ms. Keisker’s view in the summer of ’53…

The mystic chords of memory…

Don’t worry…I’m still impressed…The place just might be getting to me!

“If I thought it would do any good, I’d stand on the rock where Moses stood.”…Failing that, I’ll kneel on the floor where Elvis recorded “That’s All Right”! (This is not the camera being out of focus, incidentally. That’s just the ground shaking!)

And then…The lightning! (See, I told you it was getting to me!)

And that was it for Memphis…As there really wasn’t any way to top this, we headed to Shiloh on Friday afternoon…About which, more tomorrow. Call it the Southland tour.

(All photos courtesy of Dan Watson. Many thanks. For once, I’m actually glad there are pictures.)

 

BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL WONDERFULLY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE…

So someone will inevitably be curious:

 

The banner for the site is Brenda Lee from 1960, my favorite photograph of a rock and roll performer. (Or maybe just my favorite photograph period.) I’m posting the full photo because the banner space only seems to allow for a cropped (and slightly dulled) version.

And because it’s staggeringly awesome.