From the distance of being just a fan, my reading between the lines leads me to believe Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich may have been good friends. The kind who make disparaging remarks about the other that sound bitchy. But that, in reality, reflect an irony they share and a confidence they hold that it’s not mean-spirited.
Judy told about running into Marlene in England in the early 1960’s. This was in the waning years of their careers when they were reduced to cabaret acts, As they semi-circled the demi-monde performing for Cafe Society, occasionally they’d be in the same city at the same time.
The Blue Angel invited Dorothy to her London suite. Over cocktails Marlene put on her latest live concert album. She was so pleased with it she stood by the stereo lifting and dropping the needle to play only the highlights.
Judy said the weird thing was she never heard the orchestra or any singing. It was just the thunderous applause at the end of one number then the needle was moved to the end of the next track. She went through the entire album that way then started over again.
With a roaring ovation as constant backdrop, Marlene kept turning and asking incredulously, “Do you hear that? Can you believe it?”
I thought of that story because there was a clip of her in my morning Youtube wake-up feed. She was performing at The Grand Gala du Disque in 1963 and it confirmed the applause addiction Judy had observed.
Marlene only did three numbers (that included an incongruous tribute to folk singer Pete Seeger) and left the stage. Then she came back three separate times for encores.
I’d recently read Dietrich’s sex goddess persona did not resemble the way she lived. She was most comfortable being a house frau whipping up sauerbraten and butterkuchen for friends and family. In place of the Swansdown White Fox Coat she flung on stage, at home she preferred capri pants and a tee shirt with her hair in a babushka.
My Youtube surf had begun with a link to The Rolling Stones in Munich two weeks ago. There are thousands of Stones songs on Youtube that I never click because I know them so well. But this one seemed odd.
Out of Time was a lovely 1966 song with a plaintive melody and a jaunty vibraphone part. It was one of their tier 3 hits whose claim to fame was being on Jane Fonda’s Coming Home soundtrack.
Every tour since 1969 has been rumored to be their last one. The Stones never encouraged sentimentality with “message songs” in the set list hinting they might be done.
Neither were these rumors ever addressed head on because scarcity helps fuel demand. And they didn’t know themselves what they would be doing. They plugged away through the decades ending up as one of the most regularly touring bands ever.
Even with losing their essential element Charlie Watts on the eve of the current tour, when they probably just wanted to throw it all in, they soldiered on. With a billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales you can’t just walk away.
They’ve never performed Out of Time live until this tour. And seeing Mick on stage in Munich you can almost feel the arthritis in his hips.
It was the hip that did Marlene in when she fell off the stage in Sydney and broke hers. Her career ended at 75. At 79. Mick is now the new record holder for oldest Grande Dame on Stage.
Throughout their career The Stones have had novel solutions to age-old show biz cliches. I’d hoped they’d do something equally inventive when it was their time to quit.. Like maybe strip down to an acoustic ensemble and become in-resident artists at the Carlyle. I would be there to cheer them on and throw my Depends on stage. (Hopefully a clean pair though one never knows these days does one._)
My love for the Stones began with indifference. Granddad was taking me for a ride in his new pickup when the WOWO DJ came on the radio saying he had the first release from England’s hottest new band. The British Invasion in early 1964 had included The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, and The Animals. I couldn’t wait to hear what was next.
Their was a cautionary tone in the DJ’s voice, however, as he described this new group. The photo in their press packet showed an unkempt lot with messy hair and holes in their socks. I questioned how he could tell “they smelled” just by looking at a picture but I still believed only the truth was spoken over the air.
I was unmoved by Not Fade Away. It was okay but certainly not the best number on the charts at the time. I dismissed the group as also-rans.
The thaw began three months later with the release of It’s All Over Now. It had such a big sound that rolled over the airwaves. It just sucked you in. The ice break was taken to a low simmer in late winter with The Last Time. The song capitalized on the nihilism of youth with a riff you couldn’t get out of your head.
Finally, nine months after the fateful pickup ride, they soared past the boiling point and quickly hit hard ball stage with Satisfaction. The gestation complete, my life-long affection was sealed.
In addition to their music, in my youth I looked to them for clues on how to live my life (not being content with those I was getting in the corn belt.) Both for fashion and style. As a gawky teenager trying to decide how to act my choice was simple: just emulate Mick.
In high school Mother told me a coworker had noticed me walking downtown one afternoon. His comment was, “he’s awfully cocky isn’t he?” We laughed.
Fast forward 50 years to Palm Springs. Before I met my friend Roy he said he’d seen me around and was intrigued. He said I seemed so confident and unaffected by things.
And just a couple of weeks ago I was walking home from the store. A derelict sitting on the curb waiting for the 22 yelled at me as I passed, “hey, Mick Jagger!” Do you hear that? Can you believe it?
The one thing that bothers me about dying is that I won’t be able to have sex anymore. I’ve struggled mightily with this issue. I’ve sought the counsel of priests, rabbis and clergymen to see if there’s anything in the scriptures that would elucidate. They just stared at me as if I was from Mars.
Like the customer service departments of modern corporations, they’re only available to answer the easy questions. Anything more involved increases staffing that reduces profits which, in turn, robs shareholders. And nobody wants that.
It’s not everyday you encounter an ambitious 72-year-old. Ambition has driven me all of my life even though the goal of that drive has never been sufficiently defined. Whatever it is it’s probably going to continue for a while.
I can’t help it.
Happy Gay Pride you horny motherfuckers.
Post Script for Stones’ Devotees Only: In researching this post I happened on this live performance of Around and Around from 1964. At 1:40 and 1:53 watch how excited Keith gets, letting go of his guitar and egging Jagger on. So cool.