It’s Altogether Too Much For Me

I used to have a whole section on my site called Obsession Central, where I would track the progress of whatever obsession had cracked over my head like an avalanche. Because that is what it is like. Now, I have loved Elvis since I was a kid. I grew up watching his dumb movies on our local channels (Channel 56 will forever have a place in my heart because that’s where I saw most of the movies that ended up forming my entire outlook on life and popular entertainment), and, you know, the dude is ubiquitous. Still. Saying you’re “obsessed” with Elvis Presley is like saying you’re “obsessed” with The Beatles. The worldwide reaction is, “Yeah? So? Join the club.”

But there are times when an obsession kicks up into another gear, and I can feel it happening. It sometimes happens in a single moment. A moment when an anchor drops inside of me, I can feel the impact, and I know how my free time will be spent for the foreseeable future: researching the shit out of my obsession and going as deep into it as I can. I have always been this way. Since I was a little kid, I have had these outbreaks of feverish obsession, which I suppose you could call “celebrity crushes”, but it’s always been about more than that for me (and my writing is a testament to that). It’s the work I’m interested in. It’s how they do what they do, and the trajectory of their careers, and their influences and inspirations, etc. Even when I was 11 years old, that was the stuff I wanted to know about, oh, Harrison Ford (go to slide 4) or Ralph Macchio. Of course I wanted to dry-hump them as well, but the urge to dry-hump is one of the strongest most primal impetuses for people who write about art (in my opinion). I love those who can ADMIT that. I know it’s not easy to cop to, to say, “Look, I find so-and-so fascinating because 1. He was very talented and had a great career, 2. He was very influential and a real pioneer, and 3. I want to dry-hump him on a couch.” But it’s honest. Lester Bangs copped to it in his obituary of Elvis. That’s such a huge part of WHY these people become stars, and why we react to them the way we do. To discount that or dismiss that is to miss out on all of the fun.

My love for entertainers and movies and music is a mix of huge crushy-crush feelings, and artistic concerns. It works for me. That’s where I like best to write from.

In terms of the breaking obsessions: I may have even been familiar with whatever person I become interested in, but for whatever reason it hadn’t gone into Obsession level. Dean Stockwell is a great example of that. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as obsessed with anyone as I was with Dean Stockwell, although he does have some pretty stiff competition. But that obsession came over me like a bolt from a clear blue sky and raged for MONTHS afterwards, I was barely interested in anything that didn’t have to do with Dean Stockwell. A new movie comes out. Is Stockwell in it? No? Oh, okay, I’ll go see it, but I’m already bored by the lack o’ Stockwell!

People who dismiss me because I am honest about the crushy-ness of my interests often misunderstand me. Or they assign motives to what I write (I wrote a post praising Johnny Depp in Public Enemy and someone showed up who obviously disagreed with my assessment of the movie and said, “You just have a crush on Johnny Depp”, which I thought was incredibly rude, not to mention incorrect.) But that’s not my problem. “Falling in love” with a performer is one of the greatest pleasures of my life and I hope I never outgrow it. It has led me down some fascinating paths and byways, and introduced me to a lot of work I never would have encountered without the celebrity crush leading me there.

Elvis Presley has always been there. But for whatever reason, he’s showing up in a new way for me right now. I’ll have more to say about this. “Stuck On You” is my current favorite song of his, on eternal loop on the iPod, and this live clip from the Frank Sinatra welcomes Elvis home show is one of those perfect examples of how electric this guy had to be live. Even in today’s music world where people gyrate when they’re opening a can of soda, when “suggestive” behavior is par for the course, Elvis’ body language still remains distinct and startling. If I had to say why, I would say that it came from within. He moved that way because the music told him to move that way, AND he COULD move that way. I know he was quite shy at first and had stage fright and all of that, but the way he moves his body, and the obvious enjoyment he gets from it is still radical. It is the opposite of cool. It’s hot. It’s engaged. It seems to come from a real drive within him, and that was why girls shrieked when he even just lifted his shoulder. It’s also casual. Watch how he adjusts his cuff links and his jacket sleeve in the beginning of the song. That’s almost the sexiest moment because it’s real, it’s part of a flow. Every moment speaks of an enjoyment in what he is doing, and a pulse of sexual energy that can’t be suppressed. Killer combo.

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24 Responses to It’s Altogether Too Much For Me

  1. Jennchez says:

    I’ve always had obsessions like that too. I remember being a teen and speeding hours in the library reading about Barbara Stanwyck, Viven Leigh, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald……… This list could go for days. Then with the advent of the internet and Wikipedia, whoa it was obsessive compulsive heaven!!

  2. sheila says:

    Jennchez – the library was essential back in those dark ages! I wouldn’t have had a social life at all as a teenager if there had been the Internet to help me foster my obsessions.

  3. That grin! Right in the middle of whatever phrase, he grins. “Isn’t this just the best time?” And we all respond, “YES!”

  4. Kent says:

    One of the BIGGEST Elvis obsessives on the planet is Eddie Murphy. He used to be king of the Paramount lot in the 80’s. He had his own building with his signature two stories tall attached to the front wall next to the entrance. Parked and ever ready were two executive golf carts that could carry about 9 people each. Whenever Murphy went anywhere on the lot it was in his golf cart caravan with 17 other people. It was both HILARIOUS and INTIMIDATING! Old timers at Paramount said they hadn’t seen anything like it since Jerry Lewis in the ’60s. Because Murphy was a comedian, people assumed he was outdoing Lewis on his home turf.

    When you went in Murphy’s office, he had the BIGGEST portrait of Elvis hung on the wall. BIGGER than anything at Graceland…. the story goes on and on, but Murphy was doing one big Elvis riff on fame and “HOW TO: BURN MONEY”. The great thing about Elvis and obsession… is that it is inexhaustible. The music and images just go on forever, and so does his influence. Look at Michael Jackson, so obsessed he married E’s daughter, and foresaw his own demise in the sad narrative of Elvis Presley’s life. Fasten your seat belt, Sheila. It is a LOOONG, spinning ride!

  5. sheila says:

    venetian – yes! The grin!!! Killer. He’s enjoying his own power and what he is doing.

  6. sheila says:

    Kent – love the info about Eddie Murphy!!! Why am I not surprised? But still, it’s fascinating.

    The man died so young. It’s so ridiculous. His stardom was too big. He was isolated, surrounded by sycophants. Who knows. But still, would have been interesting to see what would have happened if he got clean and kept singing.

    • Kent says:

      Yes. #1 GET CLEAN. Then in my alternate universe fantasy of his life… make A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand and the original Joan Didion/Gregory Dunne DARK screenplay, win an Oscar, divorce ‘Cilla and marry Ann-Margret after she divorces Roger Smith. Their spawn would be bigger than a dozen Gagas and would keep the world agog today!! Alas…

  7. bybee says:

    I love Kent’s fantasy. It actually brought a tear to my eye.

  8. Dan says:

    With you on the Ch. 56 thing.

  9. sheila says:

    Dan – what would childhood have been like without Channel 56??

  10. Dan says:

    Largely devoid of film. The 8:00 Movie played a huuuuge role in bringing movies to me, back in the days of 3 networks, some UHF and no VCR.

    The fact that these movies were often ‘B’ or ‘pulp’ films certainly shaped my taste as well.

  11. sheila says:

    Yeah, they had this great mix. You know how some people “don’t like” black and white movies? Well, first of all, you’re an idiot. But second of all, I just never ever had that thought enter my mind even once because so many of the movies I watched on Channel 56 were black and white. (My parents also had a black and white television back in my earliest days, so maybe that’s why I never minded it as a “thing”). But to “not like” a movie because it wasn’t in color? What are you, nuts? I felt this way even when I was 9 years old.

    And yeah, lots of great pulp films, too.

  12. april says:

    And then there are those exquisite moments when obsessions collide…

    Seventh inning stretch, indeed.

  13. sheila says:

    April, I love it when that happens!

    Yes, I’ve seen that clip and love your comment about seventh inning stretch. My thoughts exactly.

  14. Jennifer says:

    “Falling in love” with a performer is one of the greatest pleasures of my life and I hope I never outgrow it. It has led me down some fascinating paths and byways, and introduced me to a lot of work I never would have encountered without the celebrity crush leading me there.

    This describes me perfectly. My partner is used to this fortunately and is happy to go along with it, whatever weird movies I turn up (and he does it himself). I have a crush on Derek Jacobi for example that has lasted for 20 years now and shows no signs of ending. He’s a brilliant actor, but he’s also so damn gorgeous. Yes, I know I’m talking about a 72 year old gay man. Doesn’t matter.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, I’m slowly working my way backwards at the moment – so many great posts. You may have triggered an Elvis obsession with me.

  15. sheila says:

    Jennifer – I’m glad to hear it. He is a worthy obsession!

  16. patricia says:

    Ahhhhh, this blog feels like home to me. Lots of people with obsessions. By the way, what is Eddie Murphy up to these days? Haven’t seen him for quite a while.

  17. sheila says:

    I think he may be about to host the Oscars! At least that’s the rumor!

  18. David says:

    I think anyone who is anyone has a piece of Elvis at their core. I keep thinking about Keith’s quote – Elvis sort of turned everybody into everybody. I know you are focusing in on Elvis on the artist. I just love the influence he had. Some people say it was Frank, but I really think Elvis created modern entertainment, all of it, music, videos, movies, what it meant to be a star. He weaved a whole new layer into the fabric of our society. Buddy Holly? James Dean? took parts of Elvis to make their own. And with apologies to Don McLean, I think it was Elvis who weaved his way into our souls.

  19. Sheila says:

    David, well, to quote John Lennon: “Before Elvis there was nothing.”

  20. sheila says:

    (Of course that is not strictly true. There was plenty going on – but in terms of cultural impact and reach, nobody could touch Elvis. He wasn’t there … and then he was there.)

  21. David says:

    That’s another pet peeve I have about people who like to dismiss Elvis. Some will comment that he was just a product that came along at the right time, and that if it wasn’t him it would have been someone else. EXCEPT THAT IT WAS HIM! And he did come along – and he did shake the air conditioners of America – and he did make parents nervous – and he did make girls all soft and gooey – and every guy did want to be him!!! He actually happened dude!

  22. sheila says:

    Right, the whole “if it hadn’t been him it would have been someone else” theory just doesn’t hold water. Who cares? It WAS him. That’s how it happened. To live in some hypothetical universe where something equally as powerful, although totally unknown (since uNREAL) happened – is … stupid, frankly.

    It’s just evidence of his power, in my opinion. People don’t like to feel they are dominated. It’s difficult to resist his domination. So I understand, on some level, the response. But on the other hand, I am drawn to his power, to what he did do.

    Yes: He actually HAPPENED, and how insane is that. How lucky is that.

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