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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Fun on Stage with Dane!

So I mentioned in my last blog post that I wanted to do a screenplay that was a fictionalized take on Elvis's '68 Comeback show. It occurs to me that what I really need to do is both listen to Having Fun With Elvis On Stage, which I still haven't done, and order the DVD of said 1968 NBC program, and watch it while taking notes.
While watching parts of the original show on cable recently, I was struck by how much open contempt the performer had for his audience. Maybe not contempt, but even then he was already too fucked up to care. Furthermore, this was the final triumphant shout of an early voice of Rock n' Roll whose time had come and gone. He used to be the Bad Boy, now he was an Elder Statesman, and not taking it so well.

In short, everything They used to hate him for, They now saw as perfectly harmless, compared to what They were routinely being asked to Sell. They hoped maybe Eblis could come in and sort of retake his mantle by being a mixture of sexy and dangerous, yet somehow less scary than, say, Jim Morrison.

That's the prelim, at least. But I still have plenty of ideas. For instance, I've been wanting -for years- to do at least a comedy sketch about those retrospective shows on Lawrence Welk that one may see each and every Sunday afternoon on PBS.
They are inevitably hosted by a woman you've not really heard of, who was only somewhat famous while being on "The Lawrence Welk Show", and spent her entire career smiling. When I say 'smiling', I mean leering like a shit-eating whore, as was apparently mandatory for all who appeared on the show.

Now she is several decades older, and living at the Lawrence Welk Retirement Home, located somewhere in Southern California (which does, in fact, exist). When she speaks of her family, it's with an odd wistfulness, as if they haven't spoken to her for years. In fact, at times she spends more time on that than she does on Larry.
In the conceit I'm working out here, Elvis did not debut on Ed Sullivan, but on Lawrence Welk. Despite the obvious impossibility of such a thing, stay with me; ultimately Elvis sounded kinda like Larry when he spoke of "today's music" on the '68 Comeback show.

So we zoom in on a large woman who has mounds of hair, wearing a large, shapeless thing with lots of applique all over it. She is standing in a garden in front of some sort of residential complex. A smile of disturbing ubiquity is plastered on her face.

She says, "Hi. You all know me..." Then she looks to her right, momentarily unsmiling, at someone who has said something. Cut.
Same scene on zoom-in. "Hello. I'm Queenette Van Halferstram. You may remember me from the Larry Belk show."

While she is talking wistfully about 'my wonderful son, Randy, his beautiful wife Elaine, and my two grandchildren Todd and Ginnifer', you are starting to wonder where this is going. She is spending way too long talking about how...Well, it soon becomes clear that this is going to be a retrospective about the first appearance on Television of a Great Star.

Like I said, in this case, Elvis appeared on Lawrence Welk instead of Sullivan. And Lawrence Welk is named 'Larry Belk', and Elvis Presley is named 'Dane Bramledge'.
The main thing I'm wanting to do with the thing is make the viewer wonder: okay, this is a fake documentary, but who is filming it? Because it has behind-the-scenes shots like the opening one of Queenette, but also full on interviews with both people in 1968 dress...And people clearly speaking forty years later, as annoying bloggers who obsess about music.

Dane Bramledge is a moron, and no pains are taken to conceal this. The ridiculously old-school German-American teevee show host is openly outraged at the hedonistic, openly sexual dance moves of the young buck...Which of course are replayed in bad, pseudo-Kinescope. Unlike Elvis, Dane does not dance suggestively, he actually is miming sex, embarrassingly.
You know: he's jerkin' back n' forth, pantomiming in n' out, with clenched fists. He's delivering something from the rear, with hand suggestively placed on the back of Whoever. He's laying on the ground, thrusting his pelvis upward...Suggestively...

A relatively quick montage of the fella's movies is briefly suffered. Of special interest: 1964's Dane Goes To The Republican Convention, in which an obviously-on-pills Dane says, "Well, this will certainly result in good things in the future days to come..." Staring blankly out of frame the entire time.

Then we meet the Manager, the Network Producer and The Sponsor. I'm not sure how you're gonna make Colonel Tom Parker any funnier than he actually was, so let's not get into that. The Producer? Well, I suppose one could amuse themselves asking endless questions about exactly how each Linda Bird Johnson-lookin' chick was selected to sit in the front row at this joyless Hootenanny...

But the Sponsor is one Irving Shaloub, I've decided. Instead of Hawaii, the Comeback is filmed in good old Burbank, and Irving has a store there called Shaloub's Coats and Pants. But we flip forward to the present day, and there is The Blogger, saying, "And we all know what that turned into, right?"
A present-day commercial: A histrionic singer sings the store's name, three times. "Suits and Coats and Things...It's suits n' coats n' thiiings...SUITS N' COATS N' THIIINGS!" * And at the end, a sweaty-sounding voice-over comes in and says, "Suits and Coats and Things. That's our name; wear it out."

For all that have actually seen Elvis's '68 Comeback on NBC, you already know about the embarrassing gospel sequence. But for the resta you, here's how it goes:
Elvis is sitting there with Scotty Moore and the rest of the band. He talks half-heartedly about how impressed he is with the hot new music of today: "The Beatles, The Beards**...I don't know who else, but it's all...Well, it started with gospel and rhythm n' blues..."
Suddenly, we have a medium close-up on a black man who is wearing a black dashiki with a gold collar. He starts into some of the worst interpretive dancing seen by mankind. The band, once they recover, is wandering into a florid, over-orchestrated version of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child". Elvis, for some reason, is accompanied by who I'm pretty sure is The Supremes***. They wander into a medley of associated songs.

This is where the source material becomes just bad enough as to resist parody. But we get around this by reintroducing The Blogger:
"I mean, this guy had already insulted all of black America by doing crap versions of all their favorite songs, and then wasted all of whatever legend-status he had left doing shitty beach party movies...Now, when the record companies were all terrified that they'd have to spend the next god-who-knows-how-many years promoting bands who wanted to...Well, it was 1968, the country was coming apart at the seams, and Dane was there to be the Establishment's version of Jim Jimmerson."

Now, in reality, 'Jim Jimmerson' is a one-shot voice characterization by Stephen Root from "King of the Hill". But in this case, he appears as Jim Morrison's doppelganger.
Can't you see it? Everything The Lizard King thought he was, reduced to its idiotic worst? A montage intervenes, of Jim Jimmerson trying to walk sexy, but it's clear that actually he has some sort of disability, and just can't walk very well. A hit song of the time is played;
"You will be my Love Basket/ In a purple sky/ you can be my love basket/ know you're going to die..."

The voice-over (from where? It's never said what part is documentary, and what is not) comes in and says, "And with the release of 1970's Let's Die Tragically Young, it seemed like it was all over, but..."
The next shot is of a guy in his late sixties, on oxygen, fat. He wheezes several things about "blane...", but none of it makes any sense. Again, possibly Jim Morrison did himself a favor by leaving the stage when he did; jus' sayin'...

Since I haven't done enough research yet, I couldn't tell you how the damn thing would end. I suspect that...Well, I've always had this other idea for a video for The Free Design's "Kites Are Fun", which is a twisted enough song on its own (though I became familiar with it through the late 90's band Tomorrow's World): Elvis/Dane thinks he's going to take on this whole new psychedelic music thing where it lives, failing to note that popular music has already moved on to gritty songs of open revolution.
We open onto a shot of well-scrubbed white girls and boys, wearing mint-green tuxes and prom gowns. As the song begins -"Iiii like flyyyin'...Flyin' kites...", they start to tap their toes rhythmically. Then Dane steps out to sing the solo, but is represented by the photo cliche of the time: as he is represented in full size on stage, his face is also looming in profile above him.
And: well, I don't know.

I have other ideas. For instance, a terrible ABC television show called life is awful (y'know, like "thirtysomething"), which I have no idea what the premise would be, but it hardly matters, as far as I've noticed. What matters is the theme song, which would be a series of car horns, crashes and screaming, punctuated occasionally by Johnny Hartman from the recording of "Lush Life" that he did with John Coltrane.
To wit:
CRASH!!!AAAAAA!!!! " is awful..." KABLOOOM!!! SMASH!!! " is awful..." (gunshots, more screaming) " is awful..."

Well anyway, more soon.

*I've always held that a fake commercial for this fake store would feature loving, sweeping shots of suits, coats and...Brass tacks, say. Then another of suits, coats and...Teddy bears. Then suits, coats and an incredibly quick shot of a middle-aged man lying on a bed, wearing powder blue boxer shorts, with an obvious erection.
**It's possible that he meant The Byrds.
***Of course, it could have been anyone. Elvis hardly would have cared, which was kind of the point of all of this.



Blogger disco boy said...

btw, today is elvis' birthday. if for some strange reason he didn't die back in '77, well he'd be dead by now.

i don't know if it's true or not, but i always heard that elvis' last words were "ok, i won't." i doubt he said that very often.

5:37 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Hm. Who did he say that to, and why?

10:05 AM  

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