|Random Observations from a Random Mind(and sneaky & gratuitous merchandise links)
If Elvis Didn't Die:
A friend of mine and I, dead set against making any meaningful contribution to the Arts or Society, for that matter, have just completed a screenplay about Elvis. During this process, the King, his life and times, were much discussed around the table at local watering holes and, in the living room, while the Play Station downloaded NHL 2001.
Fate takes another turn that August in 1977 and Mr. Presley, grossly sedated, straining to relieve his constipated intestines, does not suffer a fatal heart attack and die. He's saved. What now? To badly mangle old Mr. Frost, what road taken now in Memphis?
We forget, after the always fortuitous marketing ploy of your product dying young(see Dean, James and Hendrix, Jimmy) had boosted Elvis' record sales in the following decades, that things weren't exactly rosy in the career department for the landlord of Graceland. Sales for albums, recorded hastily, the material indifferently chosen, were stagnant. Concerts were getting stale, the performances spotty, with Elvis getting fatter and fatter, prone to long rambling discussions on stage about martial arts and meditation. Lyrics would be forgotten or altered. What happens next?
Does Elvis get so fat, reduced to washing himself with a long stick and a rag, that he has to go on Springer for a tearful intervention? Or does the heart scare jolt him out of his bad habits? Gone are the puffer nutters (the infamous fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, very tasty, by the way, sort of a palate pleasing gradual suicide) and the barbecue pork pizzas. The pills are flushed. He finds serentity and sleep through meditation and Buddha. The weight goes down. It must be remembered that the fat Elvis comedians love to riff on was a late development. As late as 1974, for the Aloha Television special, we have Elvis at 165 pounds, fifteen pounds under his Army release weight. Of course, several barrels of diet pills, enough speed to keep a herd of Hells Angels spinning their wheels for months, were required for that effort. But, there he is, lean and trim, ready for the 80's.
What kind of music does he make? What kind of music did they make in the 80's? Oh yeah. Yuck. Elvis doing Duran Duran covers. Twitching through "Hungry Like a Wolf"? Cheesy, cheesy videos playing on MTV. Jiggly girls and inane songs, productions that make Clambake look like Lawrence of Arabia. I maintain that the artificial electo beat of the pop songs would send Elvis running in the other direction to Country and to the homey climes of Gospel (where he won his only Grammy's). But, oh Christ, now you got New Country, which is just really bad, repackaged pop music.
Okay, Elvis used to act, the man actually supposedly having a natural talent for the Art. A talent we seldom saw because of terrible material and choices in movie roles. Maybe television. A fatherly figure. Family Ties. Dispensing paternal advice to the young Alex P. Keatton in a loveable Southern drawl. "Ah, Son, I think you should show a little more respect for Mallory. She's a woman after all, they have to be treated right." Ann Margret as the Mom?
All right, the nineties. Better times ahead. Elvis, the new alternative to Alternative Music, the anti-Kurt Cobain. Look at the careers of Tony Bennett and Tom Jones (the perennial new Elvis Presley) in that decade as people, including lots and lots of kids, rediscover these old musical icons. And what icon is bigger and better known than Elvis? Johnny Cash pulls out his guitar (and his his three chords) and plays the Viper Room. Elvis could do that. Crooning standards for a world aching for a simpler time.
How about a duet with his son-in-law, Michael Jackson? Hold on, what's with that? Would Elvis let his little girl marry that professional freak? Remember that famous television in Las Vegas? The one that got shot because Elvis didn't like what was playing? Scratch one twisted Diana Ross impersonator. So, after his acquittal on the murder charges, in a trial that just blew OJ's ratings away, Elvis is bigger than ever. Live internet broadcasts. Guest shot on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
I like him in Gladiator. The Oliver Reed part, the wily old gladiator turned slave owner. Swaggering down the red carpet on Oscar night, Courtney Love on his elbow. Taking Care of Business, Man. I can see it now.
Your turn. What do you see?