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Beyond the Beatles Part 3
The first time I met Barbara was sometime before I started second grade. I’m sure of that because I can remember one time we were together at the local playground, during summer vacation, having fun together, when we asked one another who our new teachers were going to be when classes restarted in September. We happily discovered we were going to have the same second grade teacher, Miss Harrison! I think we made that discovery as we ran up to and kicked a freshly painted green storage house that the park workers kept toys in. They would bring out the toys during mornings and afternoons for the kids to play with beneath a roofed-in area in front of the ice skating rink beside the basketball courts. I remember Barbara also had on a green sweater, er... hey, wait a minute! If she was wearing a sweater how could it have been summer? But we wouldn’t have been told who our new second grade teachers were going to be until the last day of first grade in June so... so maybe my memory’s whacked again.
Good time to site another memory whack. I went to get a picture of that final Girls Girls Girls beach scene and found Elvis wasn’t wearing the red jacket. At that time he was into his Captain Elvis phase with black slacks, shirt, and captain’s cap. Reckon Red Jacket Elvis did get started in Kissing Cousins, at least when we wasn’t playing his twin cousin Red Hair Elvis. He also wore the red while singing to Little Egypt in Roustabout, but by the time that flick rolled around, though in it he revived a bit of blue denium Elvis, spectaculared in the Got a Lotta Livin’ climax of Lovin You, he was mostly Motorcycle Elvis with the black leather jacket look he’d revive for his NBC Special five years later.
After Rousabout he’d move from motorcycle to race car and squeeze in one more1964 flick with the chick many said he met his match with, Ann Margaret. She had the looks, the sex appeal, the moves, the high octane performance, and fans were satisfied their Elvis had met a worthy Mrs. Elvis to live happily ever after with. It It seemed a natural.
I don’t recall if Viva Las Vegas had just come out when I got to see it. As a followup to Roustabout, I know I would have wanted to see it right away. Whenever it was that I saw Viva Las Vegas, I understood that Elvis and Ann Margaret had had a real life love affair that was over.
My Dad took me to see the movie at the Mayfair, a theater one block north of West New York, in Guttengerg. A small town about ten blocks long and eight avenues wide, Guttenberg was named after the inventor of the printing press, I knew, because my Dad was a printer. I asked him why it didn’t work out for Elvis and Ann Margaret. I asked him if Elvis and Ann Margaret still love each other. I guess I wanted to believe in the fairytale. I asked, "if you had never met mom, would you want to marry Ann Margaret?" I knew I wanted to.
We sat in the balcony beneath a huge golden chandalier attached to the high ceiling. I’d often stare at that chandalier and wonder how people managed to get it up there. It looked so heavy. I’d imagine it crashing down onto people in the seats below. In those days, a lot of theaters had high ceilings with chandaliers, before all the large older rooms were partitioned off to make the first duplex and triplex theaters in the 1970’s, before the new custom multiplexes were built.
In my area, the first multiplex was built in Secaucus, the now nationally semi-well known, due to that before mentioned WOR-TV-9 later to be cable Superstation that originated there, Jersey town. Down the hill, on the other side of Kennedy Blvd, about two miles from where I lived at the time, that new multiplex proved popular enough to become the hub for a shopping and hotel complex to be built around it. Then in just a few more years, a mile or so up the road, the Meadowlands sporting complex with Meadowlands Racetrack and Giant Stadium, sprang up. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. It didn’t begin with names like Meadowlands for nothing. Let’s stay in the same space but roll back time.
Back in those pre-multiplex days the scent of Secaucus would crawl back up that hill back across Kennedy Blvd. back to the immediate territory my pre-ten years old self could wander, and it would smell like pig. Secaucus was the place of pig farming and, in a few select places, places I was fortunate enough to have a Dad connected to, there were some small horse ranches. His buddy Spike had the ranch I was able to ride at. I never got too great at it, but I could stay in the saddle while I bounced in it. Spike had a daughter who had been in one of my grade school classes, and a younger son who was an excellent rider. Spike’s wife was tall, well maybe she was tall, I was mighty short at the time. She had silver gray hair and reminded of Roustabout’s Barbara Stynwyck as Barbara appeared in the Bonanza spin-off TV show, the Big Valley.
A lot of folks got mighty wealthy buying up that Secaucus land cheap before the hotel, shopping, and sports complexes kicked in. One fellow was Ed Roggerman. I don’t know if he was foward thinking or if he just needed some place to keep his horses. He was an enterpriser who opened up a childhood delight fondly remembered by all West New Yorkers my age. Officially, it was called Playland, but really, it was The Pony Track. A blue ticket cost a quarter and could be exchanged for either three spins around the corral on a pony, or a loop around the north side of the grounds on a miniature train. Usually it would be the pony ride because the train was always breaking. This must have been at a time before Spike’s or else why would I have been so pleased with three spins around the corral?
Then there were also the red dime tickets for a rides like the Whip. Now Ed didn’t have a monopoly on the Whip. Other enterprisers use to carry Whip rides on the back of a truck and pull curbside to sell them the way fellas today sell ice cream. The way children are protected today those trucks are no longer allowed to operate, but they were loads of fun and part of the neighborhood. Heck, the way things are today, a group of kids couldn’t even be allowed to operate a good game of Manhunt, what with the running through the streets, around cars, cutting through yards, hiding on rooftops, they’d all be hauled in for trespassing. During our games, we even hopped Ed’s fence once on twice. Anyway, he continued enterprising, adding to the neighborhood a trampoline yard and a miniature golf course, before urban renewal Green Acres forced guys like him to sell his property so that it could be put to "good use."
So you know who else looked like Barbara Stynwyck? Kevin Clement’s mother. She too was tall with silver gray hair. Kevin had an 8x10 glossy of her standing beside John F. Kennedy. He said she worked for him. Kevin was born May 29th, the same birthday as Kennedy. Go figure...
So speaking of Barbaras, let’s not forget we started this chapter talking about my Barbara, who not only stole my youthful heart, but Kevin’s as well. In the fair field of love and war, when we were hovering around the nine or ten year old mark, he came up with a couple of scams to get me out of the way and clear the field for himself. One was when he told me he and Barbara kissed over at the 64th street basketball courts so they had become a couple and I should back off. I believed him, but I still tagged along when he walked to meet her. When she was in sight, just across the street, and my heart was ahumpin’, he told me that she told him that she didn’t want me near her. He suggested, no, like a good boyfriend, he demanded, that I stay across the street away from her. Though I had, too easily, surrendered to the idea that she had chosen him and rejected me, it was too all of a sudden to accept that she didn’t even want me around. So I argued the point with him and, like a good friend of mine, he said that he’d double check with her. He crossed the street, spoke to her, then crossed back over to tell me, "no, she doesn’t want you to come over by her." So I stared, from my distance, at her, at them together laughing and clowning, though strangely, not kissing.
Of a time when I had exceptional reason to need her comforting kisses, am I easing the pain by distorting a memory when I recall Kevin later telling me that she didn’t really not want me near her, that when he crossed the street he didn’t really ask her if she didn’t want me around, that he was just fooling me. Maybe all that Beatle music about girls and kisses had us both a bit too girl happy at an age when boys are suppose to think girls just have cooties.
CONT from: http://mikemarks.hubpages.com/hub/Beatles-and-Beyond Part 1
CONT to: http://mikemarks.hubpages.com/hub/Beyond-the-Beatles Part 5
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