Wednesday, May 06, 2020
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- The Tattered, Battered Generation of '68-With The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter Redux In Mind
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- The Tattered, Battered Generation of '68-With The Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter Redux In Mind
Introduction By Allan Jackson
[Not everything that came out of the 1960s was pure gold not by a long shot. Nor did everybody was got washed, clean or otherwise, get religion on the new world a-borning. Couldn’t go the distance and as we can see now as the baby-boomer population settles into twilight we can see that we are very far from having changed enough of the world for enough people to be the least bit complacent about the matter. A lot of it got ground down in person stuff, in not being able to stand alone a bit-to seek shelter from the storm-the clarion call from the Rolling Stones once the forces that were unleashed by the 1960s began to get frayed around the edges and the massive counter-attack on the cultural and about a million other fronts sent us reeling. It is a long, long way although maybe a very short time from Street Fighting Man to Gimme Shelter. Leave it to the Stones to bookend the damn thing for us. Allan Jackson]
James Jordan usually a stable, steady guy who rolled with the punches, maybe rolled with then too much, was in a fix. James wasn’t sure what to make of the feelings long suppressed about his youth, about the place where he grew up, about his turbulent high school days in the early 1960s, about his problems with girls, about his problems with his mother, about his problems with “Uncle” all of which in the end drove him into what amounted to permanent exile, exile on Main Street he liked to say cribbing from a Stones’ album title. Those mumbo-jumbo broth of feelings that had suddenly simmered and then exploded into a great desire to work through after almost thirty years of statutory neglect what had happened back then.
A couple of years before James started simmering (his term) he had been searching for a couple of old neighbors from the old working class neighborhood where he grew up, Jack Jenkins and Johnny Silver, a couple of guys who he had hung around with, a couple of what they called then, maybe still do, corner boys, corner boys around Be-Bop Benny’s Diner over on Main Street in his growing up town of Clintondale where the caught hell, caught mischief, and occasionally a stray girl not afraid of corner boys or looking down her nose at them. Both these guys had done their time in ‘Nam when they place was the hellhole for their generation, for him too, although he dodged the draft, did almost two years in Allentown down in Pennsylvania for his troubles when “Uncle” called him on the matter and that was that. That act alone caused big riffs between the three. and not just the three but a couple of other of the corner boys who were not called up, Rats McGee and Clipper Harris, and especially the acknowledged corner boy leader, the late Red Riley who had some bronze star and other ribbons to show for his valor. (Red later got caught up in some bad stuff, drugs James had heard which kind of figured, and was cut down in some unexplained shoot-out with the cops at a White Hen store down in some hick town in South Carolina where he allegedly was in the process of committing armed robbery on the place.)
The last James had heard, this about twenty years before, Jack and Johnny were looking for him to tell him that they finally figured out what he was trying to do by resisting the draft, just trying to keep himself in one piece like they were but just in a different way. But in that twenty years back time James had been in a deep freeze about anything that smacked of the old town, of the old places, of the old days. He had even denied to both his first and second wives, both since divorced, that he was from Clintondale claiming that he had been born in more upscale Hullsville near the water. They had both been both big on “upscale” having come from some new money and thus he did himself no harm by mentioning Hullsville, until they found out otherwise when his first wife, Anna, found out he was fooling around with the woman who would be his second wife, Joyce, when she started looking to find out who he really was. Joyce thereafter did the same thing when he took up with his present companion (no more marriages), Laura. So he was in deep denial, or something like that.
Maybe if James had tried to locate Jack and Johnny back those twenty years he would have needed the services of some private detective agency, or something like that but the new technology, the new ways of gathering information in the age of the Internet had saved him much time and money. In the process he had, unintentionally, found some other people from his high school class who helped him in his search. (He had done a straightforward Google search for the Clintondale Class of 1962 and had come up first with a commercial high school site which led him to a site which had been established by a committee formed for the 50th anniversary reunion of that class).
To show how much he had mellowed since those trying youthful days, or maybe showing the extent of his simmering (remember his term) in the process of looking for his former brethren he had gotten caught up in what he, innocently, thought was a simple effort to help out one particular classmate on the committee, a former class officer, Melinda Loring. He agreed to answer some questions for a project that the class, the Class of 1962, was doing in preparation for the next year’s 50th class reunion. Apparently, from Melinda’s frenzied requests every time he answered one question thinking that was the end of it, this was to be an endless series of questions that seemed to him to start to make the run of the mill entries in that space by others in the class about kids, grandkids, vacations, travel and such who had seen fit to comment but who were not under Melinda’s sway seem like child’s play by comparison.
James finally having figured out Melinda’s mad plan told her (and obviously everybody else on the class website once she placed all his previous answers on-line for all the candid world to see) that he was placing the answer to the question below that she had asked him to write about on the site on his own unmediated by her, as he thought it might be of interest to those who, long of tooth now, had come from that time in question. Here is what one James Jordan formerly in permanent exile from his past on Main Street had to say to the following question:
Question: Do you consider yourself a member of the Generation of ‘68?
"In that time, twas bliss to be alive, to be young was very heaven"- a line from a poem by William Wordsworth in praise of the early stages of the French Revolution.
“I mentioned in the Tell My Story section of my profile page that while we were all members of the Class of 1962 some of us were also members of the Generation of ’68. I guess to those of us who considered themselves part of that experience no further explanation is necessary. However, if you are in doubt then let me give my take on what such membership would have entailed.
This question had actually prompted by an observation made by my old friend, and our classmate, the legendary track and cross-country runner Bill Collier. Part of my motivation for joining in this work on this site (answering the ten thousand Melinda questions) was to find him (and Jack Jenkins and Johnny Silver my old estranged corner boys who I am still looking for, Melinda is helping and maybe you can too). I have found him and we have started to keep in touch again via the amazing technology that has produced this class site for the computer-able. At one of the bull sessions that we have had I asked him whether he had gone to any class reunions. I had not done so and therefore I was interested in his take on the subject.
Bill said that the only one that he had gone to was the 5th anniversary reunion in 1969. Of course that year is the high water mark for the Generation of ’68. A key observation that Bill related, as least for my purpose here, was that when he went to that reunion and people came up to him to introduce themselves he had trouble identifying people, especially the guys, because of all the beards and long hair that were supreme tribal symbols at the time. So that is one, perhaps superficial, criterion for membership (for guys anyway).
Frankly, dear classmates, among the reasons that I turned my back on the old hometown right after high school was that it seemed like a ‘square’ (remember that tribal term from our youth meaning not hip) working class town that did not fit in with my evolving political and cultural, or rather counter-cultural, interests. Thus, Bill’s comments rather startled me. My assumption would have been that the ‘squares’ would have gotten a job after high school (or gone to college and then gotten a job), gotten married, had kids, bought a house and followed that trail, wherever it led. This new knowledge may tell me something different.
Is it possible that there were many other kindred spirits from our class who broke from that pattern, as least for a while? Who not only grew their hair long (male or female) or grew beards (male) but maybe dressed in the symbolic Army/ Navy store fashions of the day (male or female) or burned their bras (female)? Or did some dope (Yes, I know we are all taking the Bill Clinton defense on this one. Now) and made all the rock concerts? Or hitchhiked across the country? Or opposed the damn Vietnam War and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported the black liberation struggle and got tear gassed for their efforts, supported an end to the draft, ROTC on campus, etc. and got......well, you know the rest of the line. Or lived in a commune or any number of other things of like kind that were the signposts of the generation of ’68? In short, tried to 'storm heaven'. We lost that fight but these days I sense the storm clouds are gathering again for a new generation that has been beaten down by the hardships of living in this society without succor. Your stories, please (and that includes those ‘squares’ who do not now seem quite that way anymore).
James never did find out what happened to Jack and Johnny despite the best efforts of his and his classmates, especially Melinda who sensed how important it was to him (although she had told James that back in the day she would not go to Be-Bop Benny’s Diner because she was afraid and looked down her nose at corner boys). Seems the trail got cold when either one of them, or both, they were definitely travelling together, had serious problems adjusting to the real world after ‘Nam although the symptoms didn’t get bad until about a decade later around the time that James had heard they were looking for him. They, or one of them since the files were guarded by privacy laws, had been suffering, suffering badly from what a Veterans Administration counsellor at the hospital in Boston (the Jamaica Plain one not the one in West Roxbury) called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had taken off to the west, maybe California where a lot of guys with troubles tried to get a fresh start but the trail got cold, went dead, on Laramie Street in Denver. James told the whole class on the site when things seemed hopeless about finding their whereabouts that he hoped Jack and Johnny had found what they were looking for, looking for like the rest of that tattered, battered generation of’68 who tried to turn the world upside down and got knocked down for their troubles.
That Is Where The Dough Is-I Think-Denzel Washington’s “Inside Man” (2006)-A Film Review
In honor of legendary bank robber Willie Sutton
By Phil Larkin
Inside Man, Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, directed by mad monk Spike Lee, 2006
Recently my old amigo, my friend Sam Lowell from the old working class Acre neighborhood in North Adamsville where such things were common currency did a film review of Colin Firth’s The Gambit where by guile and intricate plan he was able to bamboozle a nasty art collector billionaire out of his prized Monet and made a cool twelve million-pounds, British money right, without working up a sweat. Sam mentioned that in the old-fashioned old days to grab that amount of dough you had to, well, rob a bank. He mentioned the famed bank robber Willie Sutton had made the immortal remark when asked why he robbed banks-“that was where the money was.” We spent many a corner boy larcenous night regaling ourselves with that hard fact although our thing, our “where the money was,” was much lower on the food chain-the midnight creep (don’t ask for details and I will tell no lies besides who knows if the statute of limitations has run out or some still standing owner is mad as hell and wants his or her pound of flesh-mine). And Willie’s remark was -and is as the film under review Denzel Washington’s Inside Man apparently tries to show again- still has a place in the cinema if much more dangerous in the real world and so Colin Firth probably was much better off with his white collar clean hands heist.
It is funny how I got this review which will give the reader some insight into how this publication business works. Frank Jackman recently did a film review on Woody Allen’s Whatever Works which had a main storyline about intergenerational sex. The rub is that Frank got picked for that assignment by current site manager Greg Green after he, Greg, had looked at the archives and noted that Frank had done a series of pieces about my experience a few years ago with a young Penn State graduate student whom I am still in touch with although we are no longer lovers since the long distance trips were killing me and she was get antsy for a younger guy I think. Of course I wasn’t about to be selected for that review since I would have slanted it too much one way even though I asked to do it. Greg threw me a bone by giving me this one when he mentioned that it involved an intricately planned bank robbery which is where you came in and why I am dedicating this review to our hero Willie Sutton.
Let’s follow the bouncing ball (I will not use Sam’s classic “here’s the skinny” now that his longtime companion Laura has taken it up as a lead-in to summary as well in her reviews). Russell, played by Clive Owen, reels us in by telling us that he will/he has committed the perfect crime-the perfect bank robbery so I am all ears. (That will-has a combo since he opens and closes the film with that remark.) The upfront idea is that he will rob a bank in New York City, on Wall Street, using the classic, movie classic, working class guys doing their work as a front to avoid attention. Bang. The quartet takes hostages and the games begin after terrorizing the staff and customers in their charge making them all wear similar clothing including the quartet.
Enter NYPD all ablaze to set up a perimeter and “do the do” on this situation which we know from a million films is to cordon everything off and deal with the craziness. Enter “on the ropes” Detective Frazier, played by Denzel Washington, and his partner who are the NYPD’s hostage negotiators. Russell and the detective play the usual cat and mouse game around demands and the safety of the hostages. In the meantime a “fixer” woman, played by Jodie Foster, is hired by the president of the bank, played by ancient and million film credits Christopher Plummer who has a big secret he wants kept under wraps, way under wraps. He has a very seedy and wretched past having worked for the Nazis and stolen diamonds and stuff from a Jewish friend whom he turned in the scumbag. Yes he wants that safety deposit box where the evidence is kept kept very secret.
Meanwhile back to the cat and mouse game between the detective and Russell. In the end the NYPD frustrated by the goings on decide to storm the bank after a confrontation with the bad guys who push the hostages out the front door. Guess what after the coppers search the place they find no bodies, no criminals and-no money taken. Frazier can’t figure it out at first but then realizes more is going on, much more. Without given that away while you are following the bouncing ball go back and think through about that bank president and his past and that will help. In the end though the crime is perfect-as far as it goes. Of course beloved and thorough Willie Sutton if he had had to go through so much effort would have cleaned that vault out-pronto.
You’ve Got Mail-James Stewart’s The Shop Around The Corner (1940)-A Film Review
By Si Lannon
The Shop Around The Corner, starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan, based on the play by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, 1940
Sometimes you just have to concede defeat in this movie reviewing business. Granted I don’t do nearly as many film reviews as I used when I started out slaving away for Greg Green when he was over at American Film Gazette but I still keep my hand in and believe that I can figure out what old boss Sam Lowell called the “hook” on a story. This film, The Shop Around The Corner, baffles me though as I will explain in a minute. Even Sam’s old chestnut about looking at the “slice of life” aspect if all else fails fails here since there is no “slice of life” aspect that an American audience would gravitate to so we are left with the holy of holies-the boy meets girl story line that has saved a million Hollywood movies and two million film reviews. I never liked to pitch a movie that way by there you have it. By the way Seth Garth told me when he reviewed Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ You’ve Got Mail in 1998 which is based on the same play by Hungary playwright Miklos Laszlo he had the same befuddlement (his term) and was reduced to the formula boy meets girl last desperate gasp.
Here’s where the dilemma comes in right from the first scene. We are supposed to believe this whole story takes place in a luxury goods shop on a downtown street in Budapest, Hungary in the 1930s but from the get-go this stage scene could have been anywhere, any city in the world, except for the few signs in Serbo-Croatian or Magyar or whatever language those guys and gals speak. Moreover the lead characters Klara Novik, played by Margaret Sullavan, and Alfred Kralik, played by James Stewart are straight out the central committee of WASP nation so the whole feel is wrong. You can see why I too am befuddled.
So down in the mud to that “boy meets girl” sinkhole-with a twist. Klara and Alfred have “met” through, no, not the Internet that is today’s method among some, a personal ad in a newspaper and have been cheerfully corresponding via, no, not e-mails, that too is today’s method but letters via a post office box drop. They have many interests in common but as we rev up they have never met. We learn all of this second hand when Alfred, lead salesman in the leather goods shop, tells a sympathetic fellow employee about his good fortune. For years the owner, an onsite owner, has relied on Alfred to keep his business afloat which he has done despite occasional differences (although why the owner has so many employees in such a small and for most of the film almost empty shop is another conundrum producer).
The way Alfred and Klara “meet” in person (without knowing they are co-correspondents) is the day when Klara shows up looking for work and she is able to con the owner in hiring her. Naturally to maintain some kind of dramatic tension they don’t like each other and harbor romantic feelings only for the phantom “other” co-correspondent who ultimately agree to meet in a public place (good idea). The works get jammed up though through a subplot where the wife of the owner is having an affair with a womanizing employee (who would seem to be number one to let go just to cut labor costs) who the owner mistakenly thinks is Alfred. Alfred gets the sack, for a while. As it turned out the owner had hired detectives to follow the wife and that was the end of that caddish womanizer and the return of Alfred as a manager since the owner was so distraught he had attempted suicide. Had been hospitalized and told to take life easier.
But back to Klara and Alfred. Through a happenstance, nice word right, Alfred finds out Klara is his pen pal. What to do, what to do. As it turned out Alfred had romantic feelings for Klara as pen pal or as fellow employee and he plays that card for a while before he finally clues her in that he, she have been correspondents-and soon to be lovers. Yeah, classic boy meets girl stuff in Budapest, or Bucharest. Yawn.
Tuesday, May 05, 2020
Thoroughly Modern Millie-And Then Some-Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works” (2009)-A Film Review Of Sorts
By Frank Jackman
I know exactly why I drew this assignment from current site manager and the guy who hands out the film assignments Greg Green (after having done that task at American Film Gazette for a million years, if you can believe this I worked as a stringer for him there when I was just starting out some thirty or so years ago). The problem with on-line sites is that everything can be easily archived and so Greg just looked up a few pieces I did a few years ago about a growing up hometown friend, Phil Larkin, who also occasionally writes here as well, and his travails with intergenerational sex with some Penn State graduate student whom he “met” on the Internet. Since a theme, a sub-theme as it turns out, of this so-so Woody Allen written and directed Whatever Works is the budding relationship between a twenty-something Southern (Mississippi) “baton twirler” (the main character’s characterization of her on his nice days) and a jaded neurotic older New York guy who has soured on the world after his fair shares of ups and downs that is the main play here.
(According to the blip on this effort it is not autobiographical according to Woody whose own intergeneration sexual encounter with his step-daughter whom he eventually married got him plenty of bad press in the early 1990s. I will take his word that this vehicle was intended for Zero Mostel who died shortly after he had written it and thereafter the script was shelved. Moreover autobiographical or not does not impinge on this whole subject of intergenerational sex which has certain taboos associated with it that I was trying to write about in the Phil Larkin pieces.)
I don’t want to discuss the cinematic technique that Woody used here to present the main character jaded, neurotic Boris, played by Larry David who is talking to the audience during parts of his monologue/soliloquy to the disbelieve of all his contacts but the interplay, the as it turns out wide range of sexual play only high-lighted by Boris and his baton twirler Melody, played by Evan Rachel Wood. True to New York Jewish intellectual form Woody has Boris world wary and weary in such a way that it had all the zing of very early such Woody productions based in New York settings and made me think that in the earlier 1970s sense the thing would have been played by Woody himself casting away on Annie Hall, Manhattan, and the like.
What makes the whole shebang workable to steal from the idea that generated the writing is the total improbability of the two main characters having the slightest thing in common. Boris already described in a few words which makes the nut takes in essentially a runaway, Melody, the baton-twirler from the South who baffles Boris no end as he tries to get rid of her-for a while- and then she becomes something like a case study in the redneck ethos and non-Jewish, non-intellectual, non-New York world that Boris is clueless about. Except he had his very definite opinions about that outer world. And she, well, she sparkly and bright, bears his malice and bile. Then opposites attract. Wedding bells. Boom
Attract for a while because intergenerational interplay (ah, sex) winds up being only one of the many ways that human beings can interact. That comes on display when Melody’s horrified mother comes up looking for what she assumed was her runaway daughter. Mother winds up having some cultural talent and she winds up with two lovers-at the same time. Father comes looking for Melody too (after a fling which broke up the marriage). Turns out he was a closet homosexual and if anyplace would be a place to cast your fate looking for a gay partner it was post-Stonewall New York. Bang, gay couple. To complicate matters Mother pulls a dipsy-doodle on Boris and Melody pulling a younger man in her path and Melody falls for him. Poor shmuck Boris-a loser. No. In desperation over losing Melody he decides to commit suicide. But in his weird world he fails hurting somebody whom he landed on who turns out to be his next wife. Heterosexual love. Bang. Makes me wonder if Woody was working his magic these days on this whatever works theme whether the talking-impaired cleaning lady and creature in The Shape of Water would merit a cameo appearance. Funny in spots if you like old-time Woody monologue/dialogue.
Monday, May 04, 2020
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The “Last Waltz”- With The Five Satins In The Still Of The Night In Mind
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The “Last Waltz”- With The Five Satins In The Still Of The Night In Mind
By Allan Jackson
[In a recent introduction talking about old growing up poor in the 1960s and the institutions, customs and mores that drove a lot of what in the Acre section of North Adamsville, and not just there as I found out later through the magic of television that united “youth nation” many, many others well beyond any on the ground organizing scheme I mentioned the critical role of the drive-in restaurant with those winsome car hops in any romantic endeavors. But thinking about it later and re-reading this piece that scene really belongs after you have what we called “scored,” made contact with some young woman and went from there (that “went from there” a whole separate issue which deserves its own space but for now was filled with so much deception, bragging and pure baloney and lies that the purveyors of each and every one of those conditions may burn in the hell fires if such are available). Yes, well before any “nightcap” at the Adventure Car-Hop Drive-In there was the inevitable attempt to ‘score” which at school or church dances usually had something to do with the “last dance.”
That last dance no mean thing because two things were necessary one of which was some serious eying of your target earlier in the evening and maybe a few dances and the other which was the ability to dance. Dance close without stepping on toes, having sweaty hands and the lot which put you in the losers’ circle which made hell fire seem tame by comparison. One of the great virtues of serious classical rock and roll music was that you and whoever was opposite you need not touch hands, or feet but you your own way. But come last dance time you either has it or not.
All of this to confess some fifty years later that I couldn’t dance worth a damn. Horrible, two left feet (or two right but the idea is the same) which left many a young damsel somewhere short of the midnight emergency room. The only one worse than me was the late Peter Paul Markin who really was a tangle anytime he was required to dance close. But see Markin had an aura or something, maybe it was those two thousand facts he would run at any girl who would listen and they thought he was an intellectual, which he was, a street intellectual of the highest order. Get this girls, tangled up in blue or not, would come up to him and ask him for the last dance. I never got too steamed up at Scribe which is what we always called him when he would go on and on about stuff, defended him physically a couple of times when fellow corner boys were ready to wring his neck to get him to shut up so you can see what a conversationalist he was but I would ride him mercilessly on this subject. Until he started sending his “rejects” my way. Enough said. Allan Jackson]
Sam Lowell had several years before, maybe in about the middle of 2010, done an extensive survey of a commercially-produced Oldies But Goodies series (this series had fifteen separate CDs, more about its mass in a minute), in twenty to thirty song compilations and had torn his ear off from the endless listening. He had begged for a little gangsta hip-hop to soothe his ravaged soul although he was strictly a white-bread blues guy around that kind of music, around black-burst out “roots is the toots” music) and he had selected one song in each CD to highlight the music. He sought to highlight in particular the music that he and his corner boys had grown up with, Frankie Riley the acknowledged leader, Pete Markin (also known as the “Scribe” for his endless “publicity” for the group, especially the fountain of wisdom put forth by one Frankie Riley, who later when the drug craze hit full blossom in the late 1960s went over the edge down in Mexico trying to rip off a couple of bricks of cocaine from the hard boys and Pete got two slugs and a face down in a dusty Sonora back alley for his efforts), Jimmy Jenkins, James “Rats” McGee, Johnny Callahan, and other guys like Luke the Juke, Stubby Kincaid, and Hawk Healey who walked in and out of the group at various high school points. Better, had come of age with the music in Adamsville, that is in Massachusetts. Sam had been born in Clintondale a few towns over before moving to Adamsville, a similar town, in junior high school and there had been taken under Frankie Riley’s corner boy wing but had decidedly not been a corner boy in that former town for the simple reason that there were, unlike in Adamsville at Doc’s Drugstore and later Benny’s bowling alleys, no stand-out corner to be a corner boy in, for good or evil.
Yeah, the music of the great jail-break rock and roll 1950s and early 1960s when Sam and the guys came of age had driven his memory bank at that time, some of that material had been placed in a blog, Rock and Roll Will Never Die, dedicated to classic rock and roll music (the classic period now being deemed to have been between about the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s although Sam flinched every time he heard some young guy, some guy who might be an aficionado but was nevertheless not splashed by that tide, called his time the “classic age,” yeah, that rubbed him raw).
Sam had received some comments on the blog at the time, mostly from his generational brethren inquiring about this or that song, asking about where they could get a copy of the song they were seeking and he would inform them of the monstrous beauties of YouTube, especially Elvis and Jerry Lee stuff, if you could stand the damn commercials that notoriously plague that site to get to your selection. Asked about whether he knew where a 45 RPM vinyl copy could be had, had at any price, a tougher task and asked about the fate that had befallen various one hit johnnies and janies whose single song had been played unto death at the local hang-out jukebox or on the family record player thus driving some besotted mother to the edge. Many though, with almost the same “religious” intensity that Sam brought to his efforts, wanted to vividly describe how this or that song had impacted their lives. Sam had presumed then, presumed a passing fancy on their parts, but a few apparently had been in a time warp and should have sought some medical attention (although Sam was too much the gentleman to openly make that suggestion).
A lot of times though it came down purely to letting Sam know what song did they first dance to, a surprising number listing Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock and Danny and the Juniors At The Hop as the choice, surprising since that would have meant a very early introduction not only to rock and roll but to the social etiquettes of dancing with the opposite sex, to speak nothing of the sweaty palms, broken nerves and two left feet which blocked the way, a task which Sam had not done until he was a freshman in high school. Or some would describe what song in what situation had they gotten, or given, their first kiss and to whom, not surprisingly in the golden age of the automobile generation that frequently took place in the back seat of some borrowed car (a few over-the-edgers had gone into more graphic detail than necessary for adults to go into about what happened after that kiss in that backseat). Yeah, got in the back seat of some Chevy to go down to the local lovers’ lane (some very unusual places, the lovers’ lanes not the backseats which were one size fits all). Or what song had been their first fight and make-up to one, stuff like that.
As the shelf-life these days for all things Internet is short Sam thought no more about that series, the article or the comments until recently when a young guy (he had presumed a young guy since most devotees of old time classic rock fall into that demographic, although his moniker of Doo-Wop Dee could have signaled a young woman) who had Googled the words “rock and roll will never die” and had come upon the blog and the article. He sent an e-mail in which he challenged Sam to tell a candid world (Sam’s expression not Doo-Wop Dee’s who probably would not have known the genesis of that word) why the age of the Stones, Beatles, Animals, Yardbirds, etc., the 1960s age of the big bad guitars, heavy metal, and big backbeat did not do more for classic rock than Elvis (Presley), Chuck (Berry), Roy (Orbison), Bo (Diddley), Buddy (Holly), Jerry Lee (Lewis) and the like did all put together.
Well Sam is a mild-mannered guy usually, has mellowed out some since his rock and roll corner boy slam bang jail-break days, his later “on the road” searching for the great blue-pink great American West night hippie days and his even later fighting against his demon addictions days (drugs, con artist larceny, cigarettes, whiskey, hell, even sex, no forget that, drop that from the addiction list) and he had decided, not without an inner murmur, to let the comment pass, to move on to new things, to start work on an appreciation of electric blues, you know Chicago, Detroit, Memphis urban blues, in his young life. Then one night late one night he and his lady friend, Melinda (and the big reason to forget about that sex addiction stuff above), were watching an old re-run on AMC (the old-time movies channel, featuring mostly black and white films also a relic from his youth and his high school time at the retro-Strand Theater that existed solely to present two such beauties every Saturday afternoon, with or without popcorn) and saw as the film started one ghost from the past Jerry Lee Lewis sitting (hell maybe he had been standing, twirling whirling whatever other energy thing he could do back then to add to the fury of his act) on the back of a flat-bed truck, piano at the ready, doing the title song of the movie, High School Confidential, and then and there Sam had decided that he needed to put old Doo-Wop right. The rest of the movie, by the way, a classic 1950s cautionary tale about the pitfalls of dope, you know marijuana automatically leading to heroin, complete with some poor hooked girl strung out by her fiendish dealer/lover, and of leading an unchaste life, you know that sex addiction stuff that Sam had not been addicted to along his life’s way, as a result was actually eminently forgettable but thanks Jerry Lee for the two minute bailout blast. Here is what Sam had to say to his errant young friend and a candid world:
“First off the term “last waltz” used in the headline is used here as a simple expression of the truth. But that expression will also give Doo Wop and anybody else who asks an idea of the huge amount of material from the classic rock period, like I said in my blog sketch from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, which was good enough, had rung our running home after school to check out the latest dance moves and the cute guys and girls American Bandstand hearts enough, to make the cut. (And that really was true, out of over four hundred songs at least one hundred, a very high percentage, could have had a shot at the one hundred best popular songs of all times lists). When I had started that Oldies But Goodies series a few years ago in a fit of nostalgia related to reconnecting with guys like Frankie Riley, Johnny Callahan and Frank Jackman from the old hometown I had assumed that I had completed the series at Volume Ten. I then found out that this was a fifteen, fifteen count ‘em, volume series. I flipped out.
Thereafter I whipped off those last five CDs in one day, including individual reviews of each CD and a summing up for another blog, and was done with it. Working frantically all the while under this basic idea; how much can we rekindle, endlessly rekindle, memories from a relatively short, if important, part of our lives, even for those who lived and died by the songs (or some of the songs) in those compilations. How many times could one read about wallflowers, sighs, certain shes (or hes), the moonlight of high school dances (if there was any) and hanging around to the bitter end for that last dance of the night to prove... what. Bastante! Enough! Until Doo-Wop decided that my coming of age era paled, paled if you can believe this, in comparison to Johnny-come-lately rockers like Mick and Keith, John and Paul, Jerry, Neil, Roger and the like.
No, a thousand times no, as right this minute I am watching a YouTube film clip of early Elvis performing Good Rockin’ Tonight at what looks like some state fairgrounds down south and the girls are going crazy tearing their hair out and crying like crazy because the new breeze they had been waiting for in the death-dry red scare Cold War 1950s night just came through and not soon enough. If Doo-Wop had paid attention to anything that someone like Mick Jagger said about all that work being an overwhelming influence, the foundation for their efforts it might have held his tongue, or been a bit more circumspect. Guys like Mick, and they were mainly guys just like their 1950s forebears, knew that much. Yeah, it was mainly guys since I admit the only serious female rocker that I recall was Wanda Jackson whereas Doo-Wop’s time frame had Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, just to name a few. If he had argued on the basis of female rockers I would have no argument that the 1960s was a golden age for female rockers but his specified only the generic term ‘rockers.’ “
Like I said part of what got me going on the re-tread trail had been that nostalgia thing with my old corner boys and all our nights dropping dimes and quarters in Doc’s or Benny’s jukeboxes, listening on our transistor radios until our ears turned to cauliflower, and swaying at too many last change dance to mention but I also had been doing a series of commentaries elsewhere at the time on another site on my coming of political age in the early 1960s. You know the age of our own Jack Kennedy, the age of the short-lived Camelot when our dreams seemingly were actually within our grasp, and of the time we began realizing the need for serious struggles against all kinds of wars, and all kinds of discriminations, including getting a fair shake for the working people, those who labor, the people who populated our old time neighborhoods, our parents for chrissakes, in this benighted world. But here when I am writing about musical influences I am just speaking of my coming of age, period, which was not necessarily the same thing as the former.
No question that those of us who came of age in the 1950s were truly children of rock and roll. We were there, whether we appreciated it or not at the time, when the first, sputtering, musical moves away from ballady Broadway show tunes from Oklahoma, South Pacific and the like and rhymey Tin Pan Alley pieces hit the transistor radio airwaves. (If you do not know what a transistor radio is then ask your parents or, ouch, grandparents, please. Or look it up on Wikipedia if you are too embarrassed to not know ancient history things. Join the bus.) And, most importantly, we were there when the music moved away from any and all staid arm in arm music that one’s parents might have approved of, or maybe, even liked, hopefully, at least left you alone to play in peace up in your room when rock and roll hit post- World War II America teenagers like, well, like an atomic bomb.
Not all of the material put forth was good, nor was all of it destined to be playable fifty or sixty years later on some “greatest hits” compilation but some of songs had enough chordal energy, lyrical sense, and sheer danceability to make any Jack or Jill jump then, or now. Think Elvis almost any place where there were more than five girls, hell more than one girl, or Jerry Lee and that silly film high school cautionary film that got this whole comment started where he stole the show at the beginning from that flatbed throne or Bill Haley just singing Rock Around The Clock in front of the film Blackboard Jungle. Here is the good part, especially for painfully shy guys like me, or those who, like me as well, had two left feet on the dance floor. You didn’t need to dance toe to toe, close to close, with that certain she (or he for shes). Just be alive…uh, hip to the music. Otherwise you might become the dreaded wallflower. But that wallflower fear, the fear of fears that haunted many a teenage dream then, that left many a sad sack teenage boy, girls can speak for themselves, waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats worrying about sweaty hands, underarms, coarse breathe, stubble, those damn feet (and her dainty ones mauled), and bravery, bravery to ask that she (or he for shes) for a dance, especially the last dance that you waited all night to have that chance to ask her about, is a story for another day. Let’s just leave it at this for now. Ah, to be very, very young then was very heaven.
So what still sounded good to a current AARPer, and perhaps some of his fellows who comprise the demographic that such 1950s compilation “speak” to (and some early 60s songs as well). Carl Perkins original Blue Suede Shoes (covered by, made famous by, and made millions for, Elvis). Or the Hank William’s outlaw country classic I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. Naturally, in a period of classic rock numbers, Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue (or, like Chuck Berry and Fat Domino from this period, virtually any other of about twenty of his songs).
But what about the now seeming mandatory to ask question the inevitable end of the night high school dance (or maybe even middle school) song that seemed to be included in each of those CD compilations? The song that you, maybe, waited around all night for just to prove that you were not a wallflower, and more importantly, had the moxie to, mumbly-voiced, parched-throated, sweaty-handed, ask a girl to dance (women can relate their own experiences, probably similar). Here Elvis’ One Night With You fills the bill. Hey, I did like this one, especially the soulful, snappy timing and voice intonation. And, yes, I know, this is one of the slow ones that you had to dance close on. And just hope, hope to high heaven, that you didn’t destroy your partner’s shoes and feet. Well, one learns a few social skills in this world if for no other reason than to “impress” that certain she (or he for shes, or nowadays, just mix and match your preferences) mentioned above. I did, didn’t you? Touche Doo-Wop!
Sunday, May 03, 2020
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Be-Bop The Adventure Car Hop –With Johnny Ace’s Classic Pledging My Love In Mind.
The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-The Be-Bop The Adventure Car Hop –With Johnny Ace’s Classic Pledging My Love In Mind.
By Allan Jackson
[One on the sub-texts, nice word right, of this series was to remember certain institutions, certain customs, certain mores, especially in growing up poor towns like the one I and some of the writers in this space grew up with not as nostalgia pieces although that was part of the mix but to see how all of that fit into day to day life among the corner boys. And to see how much the dead weight of those institutions, customs, mores acted as a drag when we decided to say the hell with all that. Sort of like telling kids today that not long ago we would use a bulky typewriter to communicate writing and not this beautiful word processor which makes life so much easier these days.
Not all those institutions, customs, mores, were world historic or anything like that. Some stuff like the car hop at the outdoor drive-in restaurant make famous by the movie American Graffiti later, the Saturday afternoon double feature matinee, the drive-in theater scam, the juke-box jive scam and the like were just ways for poor boys to get by. Take the car hop thing, the job, the way a lot of young women, some in high school or college so slumming but others who were on a career path (as long as it lasted) as well who gave guys, high testosterone guys, heart attacks every time they passed by. That job except maybe out in Omaha, or Grand Island where they have not gotten the word yet is gone and so a certain version of the male fantasy. Gone too it seems talking to young people, young guys especially is the dream car, dream of car mostly in our crowd which was your cache into that world. Those not in that world, the walker, didn’t mean jack in those days. Allan Jackson]
See the idea was that a young guy, maybe a guy who was a wiz at fixing up cars and who had retro-fitted, dual carb-fitted, low-slung wheels-fitted, amp-fitted, radio jacked-up some broken down wreak that some dealer had taken as a trade-in and was ready to ship to the junkyard and made it a “boss” car, like a ‘57 Chevy or Dodge or some nerdy young guy who had two left hands and had borrowed his father’s blah-blah family car for the night would bring his date to the drive-in restaurant and did not give a damn about the cuisine or the ambience against sitting in that car all private and all to munch on burgers and fries. And be seen in that “boss” car or in the case of the father-borrowed car just to be seen with his date. Be seen by the million and one young guys, maybe guys who were also wizzes at fixing up cars and who had also retro-fitted, dual carb-fitted, low-slung wheels-fitted, amp-fitted radio jacked-up some broken down wreak and made it a “boss” car, like a ‘57 Chevy or ‘56 Dodge or some nerdy young guys who had two left hands and had borrowed their father’s blah-blah family car for the night would bring their dates to the drive-in restaurant and did not give a damn about the cuisine or the ambience against sitting in those cars all private and all to munch on burgers and fries. Also to be seen and to be placed in the high school pecking order accordingly. Or if not in high school (but also not over twenty-five remember) to be paid homage for surviving that chore, and for knowing the ropes, knowing the signposts in the drive-in restaurant night.
My old friend Jack Lowell had succinctly put the idea of golden age automobile and golden age dining out together one night, really early one morning, when he, we, were feeling a little melancholy for the old days, and when he had had too much whiskey. All that needed to be added to the golden mix was to say that Eddie, Eddie Connell, would have been out, out once again some night, some weekend night more than likely with his ever-lovin’ Ginny, Virginia Stone, in the Clintondale 1950s be-bop night, having a little something to eat at the Adventure Car Hop, that burgers and fries eternal youth night out dining combo (did I mention a Coke or Pepsi, if I did not then those were the standard drinks to wash those hard-hearted burgers and those fat-saturated fries down) after a hard night of dancing to the local rockers down in Hullsville and afterward a bout down at Adamsville Beach located a couple of towns over and so filled with Clintondale and other young couples seeking some privacy from watchful town eyes, in the “submarine race” watching night.
Jack had good reason to want to talk about his best friend back then Eddie, about his “boss” ’57 two-toned, white and green, Chevy, and especially about his girl, his Ginny, since in the love wars Ginny had thrown him over for Eddie, had chosen Eddie’s souped-up car over Jack’s walking feet when the deal went down. Yeah, Eddie and Jack had back then still remained friends, had still been simpatico despite the girl mess-up. See just before the Ginny swap Jack had taken Ellen Riley, formerly the head cheer-leader at Clintondale High back in 1955 away from Eddie, the year they all, Jack, Eddie, Ginny, and Ellen if you are keeping count, had graduated from high school although neither Eddie or Jack knew Ginny or Ellen there. So all was fair in love and war. Although Jack had thought it was just slightly unfair that Ellen had subsequently thrown him over, Jack the struggling college student with no dough and no car just like he had been in high school, for a guy from Hullsville because she did not want to wait to get married until after he graduated and she empathically was tired unto death of walking. Or worse, riding that clunky old Eastern Transit bus which was always late and did not run after midnight just in case they had something going down at the beach or after the Hullsville dance got out when her father’s hand-me-down car had gone to the graveyard and they had no car between them.
But maybe Jack had better fill a candid world in on a couple of things to back up why he wanted to talk about Eddie and Ginny that whiskey-filled night. Was feeling just a little pang after all those years for having let Ginny go so easily. Jack and Eddie had known each other since the old days at Clintondale North Elementary and had been through thick and thin together (that “thin” usually revolved around girls, starting with Rosalind in the fifth grade who had eventually thrown them both over for a kid, Ricky Kelly, Jesus, wimpy Ricky Kelly, in the sixth grade). In high school they had drifted apart for a while when Eddie decided that since he was no student that he would take up automotive mechanics and Jack with two left hands pursued the college course.
Drifted apart until come sixteen Eddie, who proved to be a an ace mechanic, a natural, had fixed up some old Hudson that he found in the junkyard and made it a “boss” (Jack adamantly refused to define that term “boss” for that candid world since some things are, or should be, self-evident). That vehicle had been a “fox” lure (girls, okay) all through high school for both young men, except those times when Eddie wanted to take his girl of the week to Adamsville Beach and wanted to use the back seat alone with said honey. And then go to the Adventure Car Hop for a little something to eat before taking her home.
That all worked well enough in high school since neither young man had any serious relationships. Then after high school the workaday world hit Eddie and he took a job at Duggan Brothers Garage and Jack went off to the local college, Gloversville State, on a scholarship while continuing to live at home. One night when Jack was a sophomore at Gloversville he and Eddie, Eddie with the new ’57 “boss” Chevy then, went to a rock and roll dance down in Hullsville arranged for those still under twenty-one and who could not legally drink (of course there was more booze than you could shake a stick at out in the parking lot which faced Hullsville Beach but that is a another story) and that is where Jack met Ginny, a former classmate whom he had not known in school because, well, because as she told him that night she did not then have anything to do with “corner boys,” so had met her, had talked to her, had danced with her and afterward they and Eddie and a girl he picked up at the dance, not Ellen, had gone to the Adventure Car Hop for the first time together to grab a bite to eat before going home. Strangely Ginny, although she grew up in Clintondale, had never been there before considering it nothing but a male “hang-out” scene (which at some level Jack admitted to her was true).
And so started the love affair between Jack and Ginny, although according to Jack the thing had many rocky moments from the start on the question of Jack, poor boy Jack, not having his own car, having to either double-date with Eddie, whom she did not like then, or worse, walk when Eddie had his back seat wanting habits on. And her carping at Jack for not wanting to quit college to get married and start a family right away (Ginny had not gone on to school after high school and went to work in Boston for John Hancock Insurance where she was moving up in the organization). And that went on for a while.
Meanwhile Eddie had taken up with Ellen, whom he had not known in high school either, nor had Jack, because as she told Eddie “she was into football players with a future, not grease monkeys.” She saw the error of her ways when she had brought her car in for repairs and Eddie worked on the car, and on her. She was going to Adamsville Junior College right down the road but she saw something in Eddie, for a while. Then, although they all had double-dated together she “hit” on Jack one night, wound up going to bed with him a few weeks later down in Cape Cod, where she shared a cottage with six other college classmates for the summer, when Eddie had to go out of town for a couple of weeks to a GM training school and that was that.
Of course once the news got around, and in small city Clintondale that did not take long, especially with those summer roommates of hers, of Jack and Ellen to reach Ginny, and Eddie all bets were off. Ginny brushed Jack off with a solo telephone call to him in which she terminated their affair after about three sentences with a “I don’t want to discuss it further, I want to end this conversation,” yeah, the big brush-off. Ellen told Eddie that they were done and while he feigned being hurt about it the truth was that he had not been all that happy with her of late, thought she was drifting away from him when she decided against his protests to go in on that summer cottage. And so they parted, although Eddie was a little sore at Jack for a while, as usual when they mixed it up with their women.
One afternoon Eddie saw Ginny waiting for the bus, that damn Eastern Transport bus, and took her on the “rebound” (although don’t expect him to use that word about or around Ginny, just don’t). Ginny, for her part, decided that Eddie wasn’t so bad after all, and he did have that “boss” car and when they talked about it one night after they had hit the silk sheets was not adverse to the idea of marriage. And so their thing went in the Clintondale night for a while. Let’s hone in on what Eddie and Ginny were up to that long ago night Jack talked about when he got the blues about the old days, okay.
“Two hamburgers, all the trimmings, two fries, two Cokes, Sissy,” rasped half-whispering Eddie Connell to Adventure Car Hop number one primo car hop Sissy Jordan. Eddie and Sissy had known each other forever. Sissy had been Eddie’s girlfriend back in junior high days, back in eight-grade at Clintondale North Junior High when he learned a thing or two about girls, about girl charms and girl bewilderments. And Sissy had been his instructor, although like all such early bracings with the opposite sex there was as much misinformation and confusion as intimacy since nobody, no parent, no teacher, and no preacher was cluing any kids in, except some lame talk about the birds and the bees, kids’ stuff. Things, as happens all the time in teen love, had not worked out between them. Had not worked out as well because by ninth grade blossoming Sissy was to be found sitting in the front seat of senior football halfback Jimmy Jordan’s two-toned souped-up Hudson and Sissy had no time for mere boys then. Such is life.
For those who know not of Adventure Car Hop places or car hops here is a quick primer. These drive-in restaurants in the 1950s were of a piece, all glitter in the night (they lost a lot of allure seen passing by in the day and could have been any diner USA at those hours), all neon lights aglow that could be seen from a mile away as you headed out Route 3 from Clintondale Center, a small shopping area eventually replaced as the place to shop by the Gloversville Mall. The neon lights spelling out Adventure Car Hop super-imposed on an outline of a comely car hop also in neon meant, well, meant adventure, mystery, oh hell, sex. So any given Friday or Saturday night and in summer almost any night you would see the place packed with all kinds of youth cars in each striped slot. In summer the walkers, and almost every kid, girl or boy, had done the walk there before their coming of car age could sit and eat their meals on the wooden picnic tables the management provided. In winter they could go inside and sit at the vinyl-cushioned booths and order their meals while listening to the latest hits on the jukebox. Or if single, and that was rare, there were swiveling red vinyl-topped stools to sit at. Sit at and view Mel, Lenny, or Benny (the owner) pulling short order cook duty behind a metallic counter and view as well, get an eyeful if you thought about it, of the really comely car hops doing their frenetic best to keep up with the orders (and since space was at a premium avoid bumping into each other with big orders of drinks on their trays). Really thought if you went from Bangor to La Jolla you would see the same basic set-up so you would never have to worry about a place to go at night at least anywhere in America where ill-disposed parents would not be found in those precincts.
The Adventure Car Hop, the only such place in town and therefore a magnet for everybody from about twelve to twenty-something was (now long gone and the site of a small office park) nothing but an old time drive-in restaurant where the car hop personally took your order from you while you were sitting in your “boss” car. Hopefully boss car, although the lot the night Jack thought about how Eddie and Ginny graced the place had been filled with dads’ borrowed cars, strictly not boss, not boss at all. Sitting with your “boss” girl (you had better have called her that or the next week she would be somebody else’s “boss” honey). And the place became a rite of passage for Jack’s youngest brother Sam several years later even though the family had moved to Adamsville by then. That luscious car hop would return to you after, well, it depended on how busy it was, and just then around midnight this was Adventure Car Hop busy time, with your order on a tray which attached to your door. By the way families, parents alone without children, or anybody else over twenty-something either gave the place a wide berth or only went there during the day when no self-respecting young person, with or without a car or a date, would be seen dead there, certainly not to eat the food. Jesus no.
Now Sissy, a little older then than most Clintondale car hops at almost twenty-two, had turned into nothing but a career waitress, a foxy one still, but a waitress which was all a car hop really was. Except most car hops at Adventure Car Hop were "slumming” through senior-hood at Clintondale High or were freshman at some local college and were just trying to make some extra money for this and that while being beautiful. Because, and there was no scientific proof for this, but none was needed, at Adventure Car Hop in the year 1959 every car hop had been a fox (that beautiful just mentioned), a double fox on some nights, in their red short shorts, tight white blouses, and funny-shaped red and white box hats. And Sissy topped the list. Here though is where Sissy made a wrong turn, made her a career waitress (and made Eddie feel sorry for her, or at least sorry for losing her instruction back in ninth grade to some damn old football player). She had let Jimmy Jordan have his way with her too many times, too many unprotected times (again in the ignorance 1950s, in Clintondale at least, the fine points of contraception, or even cautious use of rubbers was a book sealed with seven seals mostly), when she was a senior at Clintondale High back in 1955 (and Jimmy was up at State U playing football and also having off-hand quite ignorant sex with a few adoring college girlfriends on the side).
So that year she had had to drop out of school to have a baby (Jack said they called it “gone to Aunt Ella’s” and once a girl was not seen for a while someone would use that term and that was all that was needed to be said, except the occasional sighing about a good girl gone wrong or scorn from the prissy girls who allegedly were saving “it” for marriage). But see Jimmy, caddish Jimmy, left Sissy in the lurch, would not marry her or provide for the child (what the hell he was a student, he had no dough even if he had been willing to do the honorable thing, which he was not) and so she never went back to finish up after that visit to Aunt Ella. She had latched onto the job at Adventure Car Hop to support her child since Benny could have cared less about her maternal status as long as she showed those long legs, those firm breasts, those ruby-red lips and those dazzling blue eyes to great effect in those shorts and tight blouse that kept the boys coming in, even the boys with dates. Yeah, so he could care less for as long as she could keep eyes turned her way.
The story, an old story in town since there were a couple of “role models,” Jenny and Delores working at Jimmy Jack’s Diner over on East Main who followed this career path after having children out of wedlock. And thus all the signs told that career waitress was to be Sissy’s fate, maybe not at that place but probably she would wind up at Jimmy Jack’s or some truck stop diner on the outside of town with a trying too hard too tight steam-sweated uniform, stubby pencil in her hair, a wad of gum in her mouth, still fending off, mostly fending off except when she got the urge or felt lonely for a man, lonesome trucker advances.
But back to the 1959 be-bop night, the be-bop Friday or Saturday night when those car hops, those foxes, were magnets for every guy with a car, a boss one or a father’s car it did not matter but without girls filling the seats, especially the front seat, hoping against hope for a moment with one of those car hops. And for car guys with girls in those front seats looking to show off their girls, claiming they were foxier, while sneaking furtive glances toward the bustling car hops, even than the car hops, if that was possible, and it usually wasn’t. Although under no conditions let your date know that if you wanted a date next week and not the freeze-out “not home” treatment. More importantly, to show off their “boss cars.” And playing, playing loudly for all within one hundred yards to hear, their souped-up car radio complexes, turned nightly in rock heaven’s WJDA, the radio station choice of everyone under the age of thirty.
As Jack honed in on that remembrance night on Eddie's super-duplex speaker combo The Dell-Vikings were singing their hit, Black Slacks, and some walkers were crooning along to the tune. Yes, if you can believe this, some guys and girls, some lame guys and girls, not junior high kids who couldn’t drive anyway but over sixteen high school students actually walked to the Adventure Car Hop to grab something to eat after the Clintondale Majestic Theater let out. They, of course, ate at the thoughtfully provided picnic tables although their orders were still taken by Sissy’s leggy brigade. Nicely served by those tip-hungry car hops just like real customers with a glimmer of nighttime social standing, although they were still nothing but lamos in the real night social order.
But, getting back to Eddie and Ginny, see Sissy would have known something that you and I would not have known, could not have known, just by the way Eddie placed his order as The Falcon’s doo wop serenade, Your So Fine, blared away from his radio in the fading night. Sissy knew because, being a fox she had had plenty of experience knowing the drive-in restaurant protocol after the battles had subsided down at Adamsville or Hullsville Beach “submarine watching” night, including with Eddie in the days, the junior high days when she and Eddie were nothing but lamo car-less walkers. And what she knew was that Eddie and Ginny, who had been nothing but a “stick” when Eddie and she were an item, a stick being a girl, a twelve or thirteen year old junior high school girl with no “shape,” unlike Sissy who did have a shape, although no question, no question even to Sissy Ginny had a shape now, not as good as hers but a shape good enough to keep Eddie snagged, had been "doing it” down at Hullsville Beach. Doing “it” after spending the early part of the evening at the Surf, the local rock dance hall for those over twenty-one (and where liquor was served). The tip-off: Eddie’s request for all the trimmings on his hamburgers. All the trimmings in this case being mustard, ketchup, pickles, lettuce, and here is the clincher, onions. Yes, Eddie and Ginny are done with love’s chores for the evening and can now revert to primal culinary needs without rancor, or concern.
Sissy had to laugh at how ritualized, although she would never have used such a word herself, may have not been up on her sociological jargon, to describe what was going on in the youthful night life in Clintondale (including the really just slightly older set like the clients of the Surf rock club, Eddie and Ginny, who had learned the ropes at Adventure Car Hop way back when). If a couple came early, say eight o’clock, they never ordered onions, no way, the night still held too much promise. The walkers, well, the walkers you couldn’t tell, especially the young walkers like she and Eddie in the old days, but usually they didn’t have enough sense to say “no onions.” And then there were the Eddies and Ginnys floating in around two, or three, in the morning, “done” (and the reader knows what “done” is now), starving, maybe a little drunk and ready to devour Benny’s (who was doing short order duty that night since Mel had called in sick, “rum” sick Benny called it) cardboard hamburgers, deep-fried, fat-saturated French fries, and diluted soda (known locally as tonic, go figure) as long as those burgers had onions, many onions on them. And as we turn off this scene to the strains of Johnny Ace crooning Pledging My Love on Eddie’s car radio competing just now with a car further over with The Elegants’ Little Star Sissy had just place the tray on Eddie’s side of the car and had brought his order and placed it on the tray, with all the trimmings.