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Category Archives: Celebrity

10 reasons why we love Bethenny Frankel

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She went on Real Housewives not to become a reality-TV, bottom feeder celebrity, but to sell her product and catapult her brand.

She outgrew the “needing to be financially rescued” default setting and transformed herself from Damsel in Distress to Empress. She used to date men to financially take care of her, then woke up seeing the danger of being the Princess in a Gilded Cage.

She has a confessed history of choosing the wrong guys over and over and finally found the right one, but she paid her dues through trial and error & mismatched engagements.

Everything seemed to come to her all at once (husband, baby, career success, fame) but those around her always knew her as a hustler and a workhorse even while she appeared to be floundering.

She doesn’t apologize for her neuroses. Even while having a public meltdown at her 40th birthday party or snapping off her  father-in-law’s head at Thanksgiving & her raw turkey, beneath the madness you understand her neurotic need to be perfect to feel worthy of love. The important thing is she’s aware of it.

She is more outspoken than a fiery woman being dismissed and chided in a boardroom. Gotta love that.

She is a shining example of persistence, being shunned by the boys’ club who tried to scare her off by barking SkinnyMargarita would never fly. That same company bought her for $120 million. Never underestimate the American woman. It happens so often it’s almost comical now.

She never settled or made decisions based on fear. Forward was the only direction her compass was pointed in. All roads lead to Rome.

She used to live in a 700 sq foot apartment, lived paycheck to paycheck, always took the subway and humbly joined the wealthy Real Housewives, even though she was the only single woman of modest means. Chutzpah will get you everywhere. When she got news of Jim Beam’s offer to buy her for $120 million she broke down in tears telling her husband, “I can’t believe I’m a businessperson.”

Beneath the acerbic wit and sometimes dominating way, lies what is obviously a very genuine person; humane, generous of spirit, and accepting people of all stripes with open arms. Hard on the outside, soft on the inside – the best variety of friend.

Birthday or Not, Bob Dylan is Timeless

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Yesterday Robert Allen Zimmerman stepped into his eighth decade of life.  Seems to me that writing anything about Dylan is almost an insult… as the man’s complexity and mystery defies any verbal description that might be adequate . Throughout his career he has played the roles of bona-fide shapeshifter, wordsmith, imp, and reluctant icon.  In spite of journalists’ attempts to pigeonhole him, categorize him, unintentionally foist labels and attributes upon him, he – like no one else graced with celebrity – has proven the master at outrunning everyone through sheer wit, and has notably avoided the same tragic demise as his peer John Lennon. His voice was no less influential than John’s (perhaps to his chagrin) and in spite of his power, learned how to slink into the shadows and become invisible. This is no accident. He’s basically a glorious version of the Road Runner. Sometimes the Wile E. Coyote he escapes is the parasitic journalist, sometimes it’s the “fans” who try to take a piece of his soul without asking.

Beyond the dexterity with which he has always dealt with the media, he is a Poet of the highest order, a consummate songwriter and lyricist, and is the owner of a singing voice which comforted many and seemed to capture, uncannily, the expansive American frontier, the peace movement, the civil rights movement and the genesis of the blues all at the same time.  Who else can do that? If he doesn’t want to fly straight onto our radar, he won’t. He’ll fly below, he’ll play mental jiu-jitsu and he’ll defy any and all attempts others make to own him; all while being seared into the consciousness of the American songbook.

Just as the most powerful moments often halt one into speechlessness, an homage to Bob Dylan in words seems almost silly. The man is beyond description and protects who he is indefatigably and with – not a shroud – but a veritable fortress of mystery.  Bob Dylan is equal parts genius, poet, rebel and sage.  Commemorate the day by stretching your personal catalogue beyond “Like a Rolling Stone” or  “Blowin’ in the Wind”. My personal favourites are “My Back Pages”, “Ballad in Plain D”, “Desolation Row”, “It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding” and “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”  Great songwriters don’t (or can’t) just write five masterpieces, which makes it a task to whittle down to single digits. Someone once asked Bob Dylan about his songwriting process and he quickly explained, “Oh, I don’t write the songs, I just tune into them.”  Beyond the songs he believes already existed, treat yourself to some beach reading or swim into the laser-like mind of a very right-brained and esoteric artist here.

Happy Birthday Bob!!

“I didn’t come out of a cereal box. ”
Bob Dylan
“The worth of things can’t be measured by what they cost but by what they cost you to get it, that if anything costs you your faith or your family, then the price is too high, and that there are some things that will never wear out.”
Bob Dylan (Chronicles: Volume One)
“People disagreeing everywhere you look makes you wanna stop and read a book. ”
Bob Dylan
“You can never be wise and be in love at the same time.”
Bob Dylan
“He not busy being born is busy dying.”
Bob Dylan
“People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.”
Bob Dylan
“I think women rule the world and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.”
Bob Dylan
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Bob Dylan
“Play it fuckin’ loud!”
Bob Dylan
“A poem is a naked person… Some people say that I am a poet.”
Bob Dylan

Poetic Justice for Dominique Strauss-Kahn

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The French have long been laissez-faire with regard to adultery and extramarital affairs, yet such moral laxity could never have been achieved and sustained without the permissive attitudes of women.  Rather than taking responsibility, it seems many Frenchwomen have, in their laziness, created monsters by allowing adultery to grow to epic proportions.  This coddling of their Frenchmen has now infected our shores (thank you, Anne Sinclair)  as 62-year old Dominique Strauss-Kahn has made yet another attempt (surely this is not the first) to cross a boundary and then run away like a two-year old, looking over his shoulder to see if Mommy will react or he will get caught. 

The question that should keep everyone and his wife up at night is, “Why does Dominique think rape and sexual assault is acceptable?” Is he drinking from the same lecherous chalice of entitlement that Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger have sipped?  Is the plan to keep acting out and hurting people – both spouse and victim – for as long as he can until he gets caught?

As a means of trying to understand why Anne Sinclair would fall all over herself insisting upon Dominique’s innocence, we must understand the context. The most obvious reason why so many Frenchmen have affairs is because women allow it and look the other way, practically rewarding them for their disrespectful behavior with their continued presence.  Like it or not, since the beginning of time women have found themselves in the unenviable and tiresome role of policing relationships.  Backs up against a wall, many women have been forced to react in one of two ways: either blow the whistle, slap on  a warning and ultimately walk away from the relationship, or conspicuously ignore and bury their heads in the sand consumed in denial, thereby emboldening the perpetrator to keep treating them like shit and betraying them either emotionally or physically.  In France, raping a woman and forcibly demanding subserviency from an innocent victim bears the same punishment as a minor drug possession or sale might in the US (2-5 years).  Suffice it to say, we are not making the friends with the French with this very public trial of Dominque.  They are doubtless rolling their eyes over the gravity with which we treat rape or any sex crimes in the US for that matter.  It would not be a stretch to imagine that Anne might want us to adopt the very maxim that has allowed Dominique to go off the rails for so many years “Boys will be boys.”

Sadly, that’s not the way we play in the Yankee sandbox.  Beyond Anne’s view of our puritanical morals, she could also be furiously concerned with the lining of her own pockets and the imminent downfall of DSK’s career.  Should he have perhaps thought about that before he savagely grabbed the Guinean maid’s breasts and forced himself upon her in the light of midday?  Now let’s not get carried away here.

True to form, 57% of French believe this is a conspiracy theory aiming to threaten Strauss-Kahn’s political aspirations against Sarkozy. The preference has been to doubt the veracity of a single mother emigrant trying to raise her 15-year-old daughter in the Bronx over holding a Manchild accountable for his actions. 

It is unfortunate that men such as Domnique, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tiger Woods had to experience such a loud thud of reality as a result of their sexual flagrancy.  Their consequences have ranged from ruined careers to soiled reputations to discomfort of looking one’s self in the mirror to potential jail time.  At least Tiger and Arnold engaged in something consensual, one might argue.  Mike Tyson got 10 years for rape; perhaps Dominique will slide through with the same. Would these men have had to experience such dire consequences if their animalistic behavior were nipped in the bud, offense by offense, instead of responded to with a flippant “Oh, isn’t that cute, he’s virile!?”  Time is nothing more than the space between a crime and consequence.  Dominique couldn’t have thought he would keep looking over his shoulder forever. Surely at least one woman would find the self-respect to take a stand and speak for all of the women he devalued. 

In a letter to the IMF board, Dominique Strauss-Kahn denied “with the greatest possible firmness” the allegations he sexually assaulted a hotel maid.  This is too easy. No one doubts for a moment that our dear rogue was firm.  Perhaps  next time, (if our justice system grants Monsieur a next time) taking care of himself in the bathroom would prove the more prudent decision bearing  far fewer consequences. As it was, he could have spared himself the loss of a few swimmers, gotten on the plane peacefully without forgetting his phone and gone back to his wife’s permissive arms.  As it is now, he has destroyed his life in one fell swoop.  Tant pis, tant pis.

Update: It appears our Dear Dominique has wiggled out of trouble this time.  How did he do it? What are the implications? A former IMF employee, Piroska Nagy, told a Paris prosecutor who was assigned to a new sexual assault case he faces back home: “I felt that I was ‘damned if I did and damned if I didn’t’,” she added. Mr Strauss-Kahn was “an aggressive if charming man”, she wrote, with a “problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command”.  

Howard Stern: The Newest Victim of Twitter

What is the past tense of twitter anyway? I’m not feeling “twittered” or “twitted” so I’m coining a new phrase and I hope it catches on.  Howard is a certifiable twatbird now.  In fact, you might not believe this but Howard twatted eight times in the last 24 hours. That is once every two hours of his waking life, unless he’s twittering through his insomnia in which case it would be three.  But that’s neither here nor there.  I’m not complaining.  I am a fan of Howard’s truth-speaking and self-deprecating advertising of his neuroses and small penis.  I find it charming. Frankly, I find people who don’t get Howard, instantly find themselves in a category.  The name of this category is a compound word: the antonym of which is downloose. Can anyone guess what it is? That’s right, you got it.  Uptight.

On a more serious note, I would like to venture a guess at what’s next. We have Facebook, which was entirely too much of a commitment of time, and then we have twitter, which is really manna from heaven for those who are both narcissistic and have ADD.

Facebook was that platform where we posted and advertised about how fabulous our lives are, even though, if you’re spending that much time posting about your life through status and photos, you probably don’t have one.  Twitter, of course, is a 10 second commitment as you vomit out a few syllables on your keypad to your few to many followers.  In fact, Twitter is brilliant because it combines sex and religion. You’re twatting to your followers as if you were Jesus of Cyberspace telling parables of 140 characters – or at least that’s the illusion you get to create for yourself. 

What I would like to know is, what’s next?  Are we on the brink of a new social media that lets us puke out one alphabet letter at a time, and if a certain number of people are staring at their computer screens or iphones when we post the little letter, they respond with their own alphabet letter? Let’s use our imagination here – if the letters match you immediately find yourselves in a private chat room. It might sound nonsensical but this where we’re heading: a purely autistic society where our only relevancy to connect is behind a screen.

The irony is, no one is really getting on Facebook or Twitter to read other people’s Twats or look at other people’s Faces while they are Friending strangers! They’re only getting on to post their own Facebook albums and Twat about their own Twats!  Something is very wrong here. Am I the only one that notices this, or does it just seem normal because everybody is doing it?

Come back from the ledge, Howard. Don’t get too close. Facebook and Twitter want your soul. Oh, and one more thing. We love your twats. Just don’t quit your day job. We need you.

 

Passages of Great Men: John Lennon

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I was only 4 years old on December 8th, 1980 – the day John Lennon died – so I don’t have one of the “I remember where I was when I heard he died” stories.  But I grew up with the Beatles blasting through the speakers of our home.  My brother and I have countless memories of playing Beatles records from our dad’s  collection and skipping around the house.  Penny Lane was probably the very first Beatles song I remember hearing – one of the first indications to my 5-year-old mind that my dad was way cool.  Soonafter I fell in love another notch when I heard the song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” on an episode of “Joanie Loves Chachi.” My adolescent infatuations began with The White Album (I had a special place in my heart for Rocky Raccoon, Piggies, Martha My Dear), Rubber Soul, Revolver, not to discount the brilliance of Sgt. Peppers or Abbey Road.

Well, you can’t just pick one – they were pure genius translated  into sound.  Although among their influences were Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers – they took everything they knew, stirred it into their alchemical pot of unparalleled songwriting, joy and a small dose of rebellion infusing their own generation with a soundtrack to be extremely proud of.  Their music erased lines of generations and they have clearly insinuated themselves into the hearts of every generation today.

It was not until college though that I became easily impartial to John.  I always felt sympatico to him on some level (maybe because we are both Libra/Dragons, lol.) Behind his consummate songwriting was cynicism, vulnerability and pain; he repeatedly birthed to us a dose of the hauntingly beautiful laced with irreverence and shrewd wit.  There was so much to be admired about him.  As Paul preferred to stay more on the conventional side of protocol (both in his crafting of music and in press conferences) John thumbed his nose at the establishment, never apologizing for saying what he felt, even when it rankled the powers that be.

His long drawn out battle around the U.S. government’s attempt to deport him was clearly a not-so-disguised attempt to silence him – his message resonating with so many – and a modern-day witch hunt.  As many before him who disrupted the status quo by fearlessly speaking out about injustice (and who are often ahead of their time) he was snuffed out early.  One of the main reasons I believe Dylan is still around and in one piece physically and psychologically is because of his lack of vulnerability and refusal to be pigeon-holed, projected upon or owned and crushed by the media.  Although Bob Dylan is also somewhat of a modern-day prophet and a man ahead of his time, the relationship he has to the media can only be described as a clever, impish and invincible Road Runner running from Wile E. Coyote.  I believe Bob has come out relatively unscathed because he always stays 5 steps ahead of them by questions aimed to cage him.

Which way is the more admirable path?  There isn’t one.  It is simply tragic and unjust that John was cheated out of the prime of his life.  When John’s message stepped beyond the bounds of his cozy little music label/box, the powers that be became uncomfortable.  Whatever you might believe about conspiracy theories, John always had a subconscious belief about being shot by a nutjob.  In spite of the paranoia that his phone was being tapped during the “felonious” marijuana witch hunt, he never shrunk into his shadows or stifled what he thought in order to play it safe.  Some may call him a martyr for this – he often made himself extremely open and vulnerable to fans, one time spending almost an hour talking with a mentally disturbed fan who crossed the precipice of his estate as it was clear watching the clip he was trying to re-wire his brain through a gesture of compassionate reason and love.   It is not surprising that it was his very message of love, openness, one-ness and vulnerability that doomed him.  Quod me nutrit me destruit (What nourishes me also destroys me.)   Even if John’s assassinator acted alone and was not at the frontlines of a conspiracy, his message only grew in power when he departed from the earth plane.

When you take a candle into a dark room, the darkness can’t swallow the light.  The light always wins.  The same is true for his life –  he very well may have decided he was done with this dimension.  The last two songs that John wrote,  Watching the Wheels and Woman seem eerily prophetic.

If you listen to the lyrics of the two songs respectively, it almost seems that he unconsciously knew he was going to die and was saying his goodbyes:

“Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry…
I’m just sitting here doing time,

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.”

And what seems like a haunting goodbye to Yoko:

“After all I’m forever in your debt,
And woman I will try express,
My inner feelings and thankfulness,
For showing me the meaning of success,
oooh well, well,
oooh well, well,

Woman I know you understand
The little child inside the man,
Please remember my life is in your hands,
And woman hold me close to your heart,
However, distant don’t keep us apart,
After all it is written in the stars”

Well, for all intents and purposes his life (or at least estate) is most definitely in her hands now for better or for worse; and maybe his untimely death was written in the stars.  Either way, he was a bright light and the joy and message he brought to the world, although greatly missed, could never be diminished by a lone gunmen who is hopefully rotting away in prison being raped up the a** by a large tattooed cellmate.  Although this sentiment may not echo his message of peace and love I have to draw the line when dark forces make cowardly attempts to quiet the light of brilliantly creative and giving forces.  Why are some of the brightest lights taken from us so early?  Maybe they reflect back to some people the things that are difficult to look at in themselves, or embarrass, like disconnection from the light in themselves.  While these losses may be sad and confusing for the rest of us, we must remember that he like so many others were just exceptionally bright lights who were on loan to us for a while.  The important thing – as with all those who lifted humanity in some way – is how we will keep each spirit alive by continuing to live their particular message.  That’s our job here and now; and as tragic as John’s shortened life was to so many, he has just started over somewhere else.

Guilt for being rich, and guilt thinking that perhaps love and peace isn’t enough and you have to go and get shot or something.
John Lennon

I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?
John Lennon

If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.
John Lennon

If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.
John Lennon

Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.
John Lennon

Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.
John Lennon

Rituals are important. Nowadays it’s hip not to be married. I’m not interested in being hip.
John Lennon

The basic thing nobody asks is why do people take drugs of any sort? Why do we have these accessories to normal living to live? I mean, is there something wrong with society that’s making us so pressurized, that we cannot live without guarding ourselves against it?
John Lennon

Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.
John Lennon

We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.
John Lennon

Word.

Passages of Great (Wo)Men: Princess Diana

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I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that Princess Diana had died.  It was about 1 or 2am and I was out at a club supporting my boyfriend at the time, a jazz violinist, who was playing a gig with his band.  I was most certainly jolted, more so as time went on, and I was surprised how emotionally entangled I was.  My reactions to her death were a complex mixture of sorrow for her boys, disgust at any role the paparazzi had played, deep respect for what she stood for and the very human struggles she endured.  I remember him asking, “Why are you so upset about her death anyway?”  While his questioning gave me pause, it forced me to illustrate why.  The outpouring of love and mourning surrounding her untimely death was unprecedented. I am sure the reasons behind such a visceral reaction from the masses were the same as mine.  Why was I so upset about her death?  Here’s why:

The timing of her entry into the monarchy seemed simultaneously perfect and long overdue.  Any subject of the queen could attest that the monarchy was staid and disconnected from the people, cold and unfeeling, and too steeped in tradition almost to have outlasted its purpose.  Princess Diana encapsulated everything that the monarchy was not.  While they were often accused of being cold, aloof and uncaring, Princess Diana went out of her way to give her sons as normal a life as can be expected, not being ashamed to live and play with them in public (certain things were just “not done”), did extensive charity work and generally broke with protocol, and did so boldly, when her heart led her in the opposite direction. 

There are many who seem almost required to have untimely deaths to complete their fulfilled purpose and mission.  Diana, by way of countless examples, was a systems buster forcing people to re-examine old worn-out ways and false assumptions.  To be sure, her death elicited an immediate and pronounced hostility towards the monarchy, and much finger-pointing.  Who is to say had the monarch not been faced with the almost damning outpouring of love, would they not have felt it necessary to look at their institution with a more critical eye and re-order some of their values? It is as if she was placed in her position to shake Britain up and evolve them to a more humane place. 

Did she have to suffer for it?  Surely.  She had to have been incredibly isolated in her position, in her early 20’s, already known to be shy and insecure and confined by countless restrictions of certain ways to behave and act. There was an unexpected obsession with her from the very start, perhaps not so fortuitously, cursed by her namesake (Diana means “the hunted”) not to mention the very public and painful humiliation she must have endured being the “third” woman in a marriage where her husband’s heart was very clearly with another woman.  (“Well, there were three of us in the marriage so it was a bit crowded.”)

She had endured much pain, isolation, personal struggle and paid the ultimate price, but her presence on this planet and tragic exit seemed to take  Britain’s worn out notions and turn them on their head.  A monarchy known for having allergies to intense emotion and wordlessness when words were most needed was forced to modernize due to her indelible mark as she unlocked frozen hearts.

Upon her banishment and divorce Diana threw herself into charity work.  Princess Diana was a true INFP if ever there was one.  The depth of her empathy seemed boundless as she raised awareness for AIDS and land mines.  One has to remember that in the early ’80s there was still an enormous amount of misinformation and fear around AIDS.  She was instrumental and fearless in breaking down that veil and prejudice. 

This was a time when if someone found out they had AIDS and others found out, that person would be alienated due to fear. Diana not only brought these people out of the shadows of society, but gave them a human voice in the press showing their suffering from exile and the price of misinformation.  Her involvement in AIDS opened the way for more celebrities and people with AIDS to speak out. 

She was in so many ways the opposite of what the monarchy was and how they rolled; it is no wonder they felt the sting when millions were so deeply affected by her death.  I remember being especially moved in a mixture of ebullient defiance and internal applause when her brother Charles gave a very provocative and courageous eulogy, which he delivered quite unapologetically, as his heart moved him in the direction to thumb his nose at the archaic establishment in front of millions of people.  One could not help but notice the irony of such a perfect opportunity in which to be outspoken: when the entire world was watching and those being vaguely accused might especially prefer a predictable and stiff protocol; certainly, not one that would magnify the nature of their flaws.  Speech starts at 1:42.

I think that women, especially, could relate to some of her struggles, her flaws and the pull of her heart to adhere to everything that is natural to a woman.  To nurture, to heal, to give voice to the unheard, to protect her children to the nth degree, and to doggedly fight for her principles through actions, even (perhaps especially) when those actions did not conform to what others thought she should do or who she should be.  It is said that in a marriage, everything depends on the woman.  If you have a righteous woman and an evil man the light of the woman will bring blessing to the marriage and make it righteous.  Conversely, if a woman is not bringing light and living as an example, an evil woman paired with a righteous man, the marriage will similarly falter.  Overly simplistic, true or not, I think many women saw Princess Diana as someone who had suffered great pain, personal suffering and feelings of unworthiness yet still brought a tremendous amount of light to the world.  For many, she was not seen as perfect, but someone to whom we might aspire.  “The reason a decade hasn’t dimmed Diana’s memory,” says one woman attending a recent memorial, “is that she epitomized every facet of human frailty, and reached out in a very hostile world.”

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Princess Diana

“I’m aware that people I have loved and have died and are in the spirit world look after me…”.
Princess Diana

“My inner strength has never let me down, and my guides have taken such good care of me up there.”
Princess Diana

“I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved. I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give. I am very happy to do that, I want to do that.”
Princess Diana

Passages of Great Men: Elvis Presley

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My cousin commented earlier this week about me being psychic.  Well I’m beginning to think she’s right; as I sat down at the computer in the wee hours of the morning I decided Elvis must be the next in the series.  Imagine my surprise when, as I was looking for articles online, I discovered today, January 8th, is his birthday – what would have been his 75th birthday.  As Freud said, “There are no coincidences.” So the homage is fitting.  Let this confirm his presence on the list if for no other reason.  And let’s not even start comparing Bernstein, to Lincoln, to Presley.  Can’t be done, nor should it. 

The music of Elvis illustrated what may have likely been the worst fear of those in the South during Lincoln’s time, and that fear was that blacks and whites were coming together.  As Elvis shot on the scene like a comet he brought huge controversy with him.  And with that controversy he broke barriers.  I once read somewhere that controversy was G-d’s way of making others pay attention to someone or hear a message.  Elvis took one handful blues, one handful of country “hillbilly”, some black and white gospel music, added a dash of hip swivelling (which during that time was seen as blatant and overt sexuality which must be Feared) and then let the masses stir and stew while the young people danced and grabbed their ticket to freedom and independence: Rock ‘n roll. 

Much like the “John Wilkes Booth’s” of Lincoln’s story, there were  those around Elvis – vociferous ne’er-do-wells – who dug their heels into the ground when changes were occurring across the landscape and went on a full-frontal attack.  The culture wars prior to the birthing of the civil rights movement in the 60’s were boiling strong.  It is sometimes shocking and scary to remember that it was really only yesterday that segregation and sublimation of other races was widely deemed a legitimate practice by the powers that be.

“Everything is tied together with the Brown decision, public school, desegregation, rock and roll music, Elvis Presley. I think that illustrates the fear in the South that blacks and whites are going to come together,” —Michael Bertrand, Ph.D., Professor, Tennessee State University.

“Without meaning to, and really without understanding it, he’s a point of conflict because it’s not just the mingling of blues and rock, it’s also his reliance on a music that is in the minds of some really sinful,” — John Seigenthaler, the retired founding editorial director of USA Today, who covered Elvis as a young reporter for The Tennessean.

In essence, Elvis and his music represented an evolution, most of which was a natural progression to a long pent-up and repressed society.  This evolution had to happen.  Why should this change not come through music?  When something is repressed it always comes out eventually, but in perverted form.  The fear of the elders was that the youth was going to become cocky, slick, leather-clad, free and sexually permissive, like they felt the King was selling.  Maybe this evolution was necessary.  Regardless of the unflinching efforts of elders and Ed Sullivan himself, they were forgetting one fact: if one is vehemently told not to do something as a youth, the natural inclination is to do it.  If parents could get a stronger grasp on reverse psychology, their efforts to control and direct might be more effective.  That said, shouldn’t the youth be leading the direction and not the parents?  The progression of a generation is just that, progress… and that evolution should be honored.  For every time the older generation complains of the youth showing disrespect, having no manners or being condemned as interminable sinners and blemishes on society, it begs the question:  To what extent have adults shown their children disrespect as human beings and independent souls – and does not this disrespect, by universal law, always come back in some way, shape or form?

Adults may stick tight to traditions and attempt to infantilize youth, but social and cultural change, often ushered in by youth is not only inevitable but necessary.  To the youth, Elvis was being painted as the Devil Incarnate which of course only encouraged teenagers as they clandestinely listened to Elvis in basements on their little AM radios, surely condemned to hell.  Not!

Here is something frightening to watch.  If we pay attention, this kind of thing still happens today, even if in different forms.  In the video below, Elvis basically stood and sang, tapping his feet repressing his urge to unleash the dynamite that he typically brought to the stage.  At this performance he was forbidden to engage in “illegal” hip movements. It appears that some people, somewhere get upset when other people somewhere else are having fun.

Speechless is all I can say.

Without turning this into a biopic, the turning point in his life and what began his own demise and self-destruction was the death of his mother who he adored and depended on for moral support and advice.  Adding to the pressure of his divorce from Priscilla, he was never really the same after this period a part of him dying and checking out. 

“This is the end of rock ‘n’ roll.”  — Bob Moore Merlis, Warner Bros.exec

“The void he will leave is impossible to gauge.” — Pat Boone, an early rival of Presley’s

“The King is dead, but rock ‘n’ roll will never die. Long live the King.” — John Lennon, former Beatle

“His music was the only thing exclusively ours. His wasn’t my and mom and dad’s music. His voice was a total miracle in the music business.” — Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys

The youth of the 50’s and 60’s have deified Elvis since he came on the scene as a revolutionary; his passing seeming only to further elevate him as a rock and roll deity.  Graceland gets over half a million visitors every year and as reflected in the urban legend and myth that the King is still walking among us, there are still some who are unwilling to accept his passage.  For many, the possibility that he might come back to life, was their only solace. The preponderance of Elvis sightings and unwillingness to let go of such mirages is evidence alone of how much so many loved him.  Regardless of what people see or don’t see in order to sell papers, his spirit, at least, is still very much here – alive and well.