Heaven and Then Some

The poster to possess in 1977 was Farrah Fawcett’s; the iconic picture attributed to Bruce McBroom and first published in Life magazine.  If “iconic photo” is an entry in any dictionary, it would be lacking without that particular pose to illustrate it.

To have been a Caucasian, female American in ’77 is to have coveted her hair, not to mention her ability to stop traffic. She was a star worthy of the artistic attention of Andy Warhol and Hugh Hefner alike.

I don’t mind admitting that I burned up a few curling irons, and my share of hair products trying to make my thin, straight hair look the part. Unfortunately, my hair is not full, thick, or fabulously long.  It was apparent that no amount of time, primping or makeup could ever make me look like Farrah.  Plus, she was 30 years old at the time, and I was still a teen.   At least I have the comfort of knowing I was not alone.

This was also the year when Elvis Presley died. Few pre-internet deaths were as widely covered. On the August day he died, suddenly, Elvis news was everywhere; newspapers, magazines, television and radio all covered his death in the days, weeks and months following his death.

While Elvis was world-famous, and I was a fan of his music, I was not “fanatical” about him.  Sure, it was sad to learn that he had joined the veritable string of artists who died untimely drug or alcohol-related deaths.

But what really stands out in my mind?

It had only been a day or so since news broke that Elvis had died. I was browsing through the local mall’s record store with my girlfriend, she flipping through one side of the display and I on the opposing one.

My girlfriend was a drama queen—literally. (I say “was,” not because the memory is from 1977, but because I heard that she passed away several years ago.)  Anyway, she loved to act and it was not beyond her to jump into character occasionally and act out a scene.   She lived by Shakespeare’s line, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” She never needed a stage, just a venue. That record store became one that day.

There were three other shoppers, and at least, as I recall, one employee behind the counter at the time. I could usually tell when my friend was about to break out and put on a show.  She’d get a certain indescribable look about her.

She plucked an Elvis album from the rack in front of her.   As soon as I saw that move, I knew she was up to something.  She was a die-hard punk rock fan, so Patti Smith’s  Horses would normally have been a more likely selection for her.

She clutched the album to her chest, let out a sudden grievous wail, screaming, “Not the king!”   This she accompanied with instant streams of tears, much sobbing and the concerned looks of the other customers.

I could not help myself. I burst into an uncontrolled fit of laughter, which confused the scene all the more. The store employee came to comfort her. The other shoppers skittered out, casting looks of disapproval my way, no doubt disquieted. To them, I’m sure I looked heartless, and I honestly don’t think they knew we were together.

I remained in the store until the employee had convinced my girlfriend to release the album from her clutches. After she “composed herself,” she and I left much to the obvious relief of the record store employee.   It seems now an odd way to remember the death of Elvis Presley.  I wonder whether the store clerk remembers it too.

Then what happened?

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