Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Guilty Pleasures 2
THE SELF-FLAGELLATION CONTINUES. Freezing rain has just turned to snow and we're battened down for our second great blizzard within the week. As usual, serendicity has just played another card from its enormous deck, reminding me that I've always had a silly crush on Esther Williams, who (as my mother used to say) couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. But at this very moment TCM is showing a celluloid souffle called "Neptune's Daughter," featuring Esther in some of the most gorgeous duds any woman ever had the privilege of wearing. (Mrs. CP is exclaiming over her wardrobe in each unfolding scene as I write this. Edith Head, she muses? Has to be.) Interestingly, her love interest in the pic is Ricardo Montalban, a man whom most people still confuse with her real husband, Fernando Lamas. Sigh. I guess that means she'd never have fallen for a charmless Scot who's about as far from "tall, dark, and handsome" as it's possible to get without being formally listed as an exemplary antonym in Roget's Thesaurus.
It's easy and acceptable to have a crush on Rita Hayworth (which I do). So why is it faintly ridiculous to have a crush on Esther Williams? Don't know. But it is. And I don't care. Which reminds me of two other female movie stars I'm embarrassed to love. One is virtually forgotten, and the other is, well, I'll get to that in good time...
You know. Jimmy Stewart's on-screen wife. No neck, awful hair-sprayed-to-death hair, and a collection of shirtdresses that would have made June Lockhart expire of envy in Lassie's paws. This woman:
After the credits, she makes her first appearance 6:30 in.
What about her then? Her voice. That husky murmur. Her voice and her eyes. Demure but absolutely resolute. She's the "good woman" of the adage about what a great man always has behind him. For many years I wondered, "Why was this plain Jane a movie star?" As I've grown older I've learned why. The world has grown full to bursting with Megan Foxes. But the June Allysons are a vanishing breed. Faithful, loving, invincible, and beautiful from the soul out. And how about this completely accidental YouTube find?
Yup. I'm also carrying a torch for Judy Garland. And, no, I'm not even gay. As with June Allyson, it took me a long long time to appreciate Judy Garland -- at least the Judy who matured away from the adolescent prodigy who sang so heartbreakingly in the Wizard of Oz. A lot like June. No neck, perpetually bad hair, and weirdly frumpy clothes the whole time. I always thought her adult voice was harsh. And whatever anyone says, she was never a good-looking woman. But looks matter less and less as you get older. I began to understand that she wasn't really the victim her biographers seek to make her. She had a gift and she knew it. She kept on going, no matter how, to keep sharing that gift. A different kind of love but one I admire without even the slightest trace of pity. Like June. Vulnerability as strength. Who do we have today? Lady Gaga.
I rest my case.
Another writer I've repeatedly slammed. Because he so completely disdained meaning. But lawdy lawdy, what a writer. One of the very few I can always enjoy reading out loud (along with Cynewulf, Swinburne, Verlaine, and some of Poe's poetry). Every single piece in City Life I've declaimed to my private ceiling, just wishing I had that touch with words. He systematically, immorally even, uncouples words from their meanings and finds new meanings inside the empty space he creates thereby. At his best he's just plain gorgeous under a mask of plain. My objections are all philosophical, which can and probably should be translated as "second rate." On the other hand, like Eliot, Joyce, and Hemingway before him, he's flung the door wide open for talentless imitators. I'm content to be the stolid sentinel at the door, saying, "No. You haven't earned the right to rewrite the scripture of genius."
From the sublime to the ridiculous? Yes. That's what self-revelation consists of. There's no excuse whatever for liking Tijuana Brass. But hearing their songs make me happy. I don't care that Herb Alpert had no more talent as a trumpet player than the average high school band member. I. Just. Don't. Care.
You got a problem with that?
You're flying over the world in all your omniscient super-sophistication. Then you spy an Aborigine village where the natives, or their shaman, seem to know as much somehow about the universe as you do. But without your hubris. That's Patsy Kline. Even Johnny Cash put on some airs from time to time. Patsy never did. She lived in the dreamtime for sure, but she did the earthbound thing better than all her dimwit contemporaries. Why she had to die young.
Some people know everything. I do. That's how I can recognize the others.
Don Johnson couldn't act and the fellow who played Tubbs was even worse. But the best series television episode in history was the pilot of Miami Vice. I'll listen politely to your rebuttals, but you're wrong. This was the absolute apogee of dramatic TV in America.
Jeez. Still not done with this confessional torrent. uh, did somebody mention Glenn Miller?
I'll end with the self-immolating admission that I loved the big band my own father dismissed as the closest thing to Lawrence Welk his generation ever produced (apart from Kay Kyser, that is). But I can't help it. I like Glenn Miller. I like the sound. Despite the extensive training I've received in jazz from people who know, I still feel a bump of optimism when I hear the unmistakeable timbre of the band whose leader perished without a trace in the second war to end all wars. And isn't that an irony even Alanis Morissette could recognize?
Worse, it looks like there'll be a Part 3 before this blizzard concludes. My most obsequious apologies. How much confession can any audience be expected to endure?
UPDATE. By popular demand -- who'd a thunk it? -- Instapunk commenters love ABBA. A movie I'd never have put on my list without this nudge is Muriel's Wedding. A chick flick even a guy could like. Anyway, here you go:
Hey! Here we all are. Naked as jaybirds, just like that ABBA album cover. Is it great? Not here it isn't. The blizzard is ubiquitous and cold. Brrrrr.
UPDATE 2. Just for those who haven't heard of him, here is Roger Whittaker:
And one of his gigantic hits you could get on one of his reasonably priced CDs.
There. Duty done. He has many fans. You could be one too.