Contact High

As I approach senility, I’ve managed to outgrow most of my childhood heroes.

Lucille Ball was the first and easiest one to get over. By the age of 10 I’d memorized every line of dialogue of I Love Lucy. Even though I knew what was going to happen when I watched an episode for the 100th time, how Lucy did it kept it in the now.

I was one of the last rats to leave the sinking ship in the post-Desi 1960’s. I willed myself to love her subsequent sitcoms but intense loyalty could not make them funny. When I learned about her John Wayne politics I soured on her.

As an adult, I watched her on talk shows and was surprised by the effort she had put into her craft. The diligence and intense concentration that created joy for millions of people did not provoke the same feelings in her. It was just a job to Miss Ball which, in the end, made her seem like a very sad person.

My Jackie worship started as transference through my Mother. As documented in this blog, it began as pure idolatry that moved on to a fascination for her perverse imagery. Then the tackiness of her as a collectible commodity gave me a hobby. I ended up liking her but with some reservations.

As for Mick, I think I’m over him but I’m never quite sure. It helped last summer when I was in Bloomington and was reunited with Susan after 40 years. She seemed annoyed when she remembered, “you were always trying to be like Jagger.” Then she added, “I thought you were limiting yourself.”

I first saw Ike & Tina Turner on American Bandstand in the mid-60’s. The Ikettes were doing their mini-hit, Peaches ‘n Cream. Dick Clark lavished praise on Tina during the interview and called her shows legendary. I’d never heard of her.

Tina didn’t perform that day and barely spoke. But she was so self-possessed and confident, I was beguiled and instantly obsessed.

My favorite Ike & Tina album back then was called In Person and was a live recording of their performance at Basin Street West in San Francisco. It was on MINIT Records and I could buy it for 99 cents in the Rexall discount bin. I know because I wore out and replaced about 10 copies.

It’s mostly covers of popular hits but there are two medleys where she talks extensively. During one 17 minute recitative she stops and starts the band repeatedly to wax on about love and hurt. Like a Baptist Preacher, she varies the volume and cadence for dramatic effect. It was the height of soul music and there’s nothing more soulful than a Sunday sermon from a southern pulpit. Which is basically what Tina delivered. Very effectively.

There was always a manufactured and meaningless rivalry between Tina and Aretha. They were really quite different and I loved them both.

Aretha had the better voice and was more musically talented. But she was what opera queens call park and bark, a diva who plants herself on stage and lets the voice be the show.

Tina had a great voice too with a more limited range. But she danced exceptionally well and, incredibly, sang and danced simultaneously. She constantly worked on creating new dance moves and on staging to highlight the movement. She wore long falls because she said they had “action.” As did the fringe on her costumes. Hers was one of the first acts to use strobes and fog machines.

Show business cognoscenti took note. I remember hearing Diana Ross say with astonishment “oh my god, she’s so bad.” (Back when that phrase was first used as praise.) In 1969 Dick Cavett asked Janis Joplin who she admired as a performer. She immediately responded, “Tina Turner.” And Lena Horne was quoted as saying she wanted to be reincarnated as Tina.

Listening to one of the Turner’s albums was always hit and miss, gems surrounded by mediocrity. Ike was a musical control freak and notorious for stealing from other acts. Even the “rough” part of Proud Mary was nicked from Fort Wayne’s own Checkmates. It was Phil Spector’s majestic uptempo production of the Checkmates version that made Ike’s recording.

He also controlled most of the stage act. Tina later admitted being embarrassed by things Ike made her do like the lewd, kabuki-esque fellatio she performed on the microphone. Or singing lyrics with heavy drug references (“she reached in her bag and she pulled out some coke!”) She may have been reluctant to do them but, again, it was so good because she was so convincing.

Make-up’s a little scary but the fringe flew.

I completely internalized her music and always played it when I needed a lift. In college I drank prodigious amounts of coffee and mimiced the way she splayed her thighs, sat her butt down in it and gyrated across the stage to get that fringe moving.

Later when I did her on stage I was never an impersonator. She was sui generis and impossible to recreate. But she inspired me as I tried to perform with her spirit and attitude. And I loved doing her songs because they were full of energy and so sexually provocative.

David Bowie said that being on stage next to Tina was the hottest place in the universe.  Rock ‘n Roll gods melted in her presence. A YouTube clip that has since been taken down showed Mick and Tina in Tokyo doing Brown Sugar. When he drops to his knees in a corny gesture she dismisses him with a look: “not on my stage.”

(Note bene 11/28/18: a friend and devoted reader found the clip. What I wrote was on memory. Who knows what they were actually thinking. But at approximately 2:00 the look is there. Thank you Mimi.)

There is a video of Keith Richards in a group jam of Keep A Knockin’. He takes his vocal turn and nervously sings two lines. He’s palpably relieved and shows such affection when Tina steps up to rescue the verse.

And when Paul McCartney does Get Back with Charles and Diana in the audience, his look of anticipation as Tina makes her entrance and the thrill in his eyes as they harmonize are unmistakable ardor.

My generation grew up with a Bill Murray sneer for show business. We mocked every gimmick and show biz cliche there was. I kid you not. But the happiness Tina exhibited on stage was impossible to deride. There was joy in every performance she gave.

On New Years Eve 1982 she was gearing up for her return to the lime light. No one knew it was in the works but I thought at the time her stunning visual presence needed to be captured in the new medium of music video. Although she was technically still down-and-out in this appearance on Johnny Carson, watching it again she obviously was not going to be denied a comeback. And with a piano player like she had I’d be attempting one too.

Happy Birthday Tina.

Oily Sacraments

Yeah, right.

I’ve been without cable now for three years, YouTube has replaced the boob tube. It may be the same thing, but viewing without commercials makes it feel purer.

Some nights I’ll fall asleep with it on and wake up deep in a cookie vortex. Because you liked that we thought you’d like this. The strangest clips appear. It’s how I got caught up in the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death.

I do believe she was murdered but don’t have the resources to prove it. It’s just too convenient for her ex-husband and mother-in-law not to be true. What’s baffling though is how her two boys seem so loving towards the two beneficiaries.

Maybe William and Harry’s sense of abandonment left them clutching to whatever remained. They will get to the bottom of things over time and the truth will emerge. And if they know already, their poker faced mastery of public images is remarkable at their age.

Which was the rap against their Mother. The Mountbatten-Windsors said she was a nut job in real life who completely fooled the public with her manipulation of the media. That’s the kettle calling the pot semi-precious.

It’s left to YouTube viewers to read between the lines and determine who is more genuine: Betty and her kids or the Candle in the Wind. The latter appears to be the clear winner.

In the video coming down the water slide with her sons, Diana erupts into a hearty, sustained laugh that’s difficult to fake. It was probably at the expense of a thoroughly drenched photographer. There’s another one where she’s entering a state dinner, turns to the cameras and gives her coif a cheeky “I’m hot stuff” fluff.  She is one of us. The People’s Princess.

Contrast that to sister-in-law Anne, The Horses’ Princess. She shares an equine love with her Mother that had her competing on an Olympian’s level. Since then she’s been hell-bent on galloping into the Guiness Record Book for the most personal appearances by a Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

Whoa Nelly!

The Princess Royal is seen motorcading and helicoptering from one 20 minute visit to the next. Her stiff upper lip and matronly-before-her-time looks make her appear otherworldly. In one segment  a teenager remarks, “her hair isn’t connected to her, it doesn’t move.”

Whereas Diana took on causes for AIDS and eradicating land mines, Anne unveils plaques for the Shetland Pony Breeders Association. Or she celebrates the achievements of the Afghan Crocheters Guild of Southeastern Northumberland. Her dispassionate demeanor suggests the lower lips may be as rigid as the upper one.

Like his sister who just phones it in, the Tampax’s Prince is also a member of the Ma Bell generation. He paid his dues by getting caught doing naughty phone sex in 1992.

The phenomenon of phone dating services began in the 80’s. You would dial in to be randomly matched with another caller then could either have a private chat about things or make plans to meet up. More often than not the Al Parker voice you chatted with would turn out to be a 400 pound, pimply mama’s boy living in a debris strewn trailer with 19 cats. Sometimes it’s better to leave fantasy alone and just rub one out on the line.

Bonnie Prince Charley

The Heir Apparent got the phone sex spirit and was recorded cooing “I wanna be your tampax to his baby-poo. He deserves credit for getting the body region correct even if image selection was woeful.

The object of his hygienic lust was his current spouse. Born Camilla Shat, she is the great-granddaughter of Alice Keppel who was a mistress to Edward VII. The day Tampax the First is anointed our undoubted King he will sit on St. Edward’s Chair and ponder his holy bloodlines. He should contemplate his and his wife’s adulterous ones as well.

Their affair began innocently enough when they were young and unattached. Charles ensured she wasn’t a virgin (if there was any doubt) making her an unacceptable bride. Good PR work could have smoothed that over but Chuck was indecisive and she got tired of waiting. She mounted his hottest regimental brother in the Royal Horse Guards and became Camilla Parkyer-Bowels.

One ring-y ding-y

Charles spent the 70s flitting from woman to woman and having a blast. As a bonus he was able to work Lady Parkyer-Bowels back into the rotation.

When footage surfaced of him shaking his crazy legged groove thing at Carnivale in Rio, Burke’s Peerage convulsed en masse with embarrassment.  The establishment scrambled to create a homebody image for Mr. Wales by getting him married. The entire aristocracy seemed to be in on it except for the 20 year old naif who would be the victim.

The cruelest and most callous aspect of the plot was how Diana was used as a pawn in their game. Without her knowledge and with no training or assistance. That she was brilliant enough to catch on quickly and turn the tables on the Monarchy ended up costing her life.

Four months after her death, Charles’ other main extramarital squeeze, Kanga, died after a bizarre series of illnesses. The path was cleared for Camilla. A half decade cooling off period ensued and in 2005 the Queen finally sanctioned their union. Little Miss Shat was legitimized as the Duchess of Cornholes.

When the current sovereign was informed of her father’s death in 1952, a courtier immediately asked how she was to be styled. She responded with an incredulous, “why Elizabeth, of course.”

It’s a little known fact that god’s representatives on earth can call themselves anything they want once on the throne. When that day comes, King Tampax will no doubt stick with the unoriginal “Charles.”

The earth-shattering moment comes when his savvy queen consort is asked. It will be the final step in her long makeover to become beloved. Since today’s dumbed-down monarchy is fueled by a tabloid press who can’t get wacky enough for you, Camilla will go for broke and answer, “Queen Diana.”

The Duchess of Cornholes