I feel like I went to high school with Elton John; that’s how connected to him I feel. When I first heard “Your Song” on the radio I felt this shudder of familiarity. Was I thinking I knew that voice? Or was it those lovely understated words, penned by the great Bernie Taupin? Maybe anyone who was around in the 70s gets that twinge of nostalgia at the thought of a pair of platform shoes. Elton took the fashions of that decade and just kind of magnified them.
But really my topic today is how everyone thinks he’s an expert on the celebrities. Back in the 60s people around here would say “Oh sure Joan Baez, she really slept around.” That that casual piece of slander made me furious and kept me that even after I saw the 2009 American Masters documentary about her where she says basically ‘I was pretty promiscuous for a while there, whatever that was all about.” (Ah what a great human being she really is. In my book she took that sliver-of-mercury voice God gave her and wrapped a whole lot of goodness around it.)
Here’s what I’m sayin’: Just because someone who supposedly knows someone swears that story about Richard Gere, say, is really true doesn’t mean a thing . To that I say “Eh.” My kid was in Mark Zuckerberg’s class at Harvard and though he ‘knew’ him and saw him around he doesn’t pretend to know a thing worth mentioning about him. I was in Julie Nixon’s class at Smith but I too feel I can say nothing at all about what she was like except to mention that she had a rapid blink, probably arising from the fact that her dad was the president – and that in an age when most men looked like the Twelve Apostle she was shadowed wherever she went by a couple of buzzcut Secret Service agents straight out of Central Casting.
I did ride down in the elevator of the Hotel Northampton with her mother Pat Nixon when we were both overnight guests there. She had stayed there because she was visiting Julie and her new husband David Eisenhower. I was there because by the time I got drinking those 25-cent beers at the City Cafe it was too late to get back into the dorm. I called in the overnight as you had to do in those days and the local boy I was with gallantly got me a room that I hasten to add he never set foot in. He pressed the Up button on the elevator, gave me a peck on the cheek and went back to the bar to meet up with his buds.
Ancient history you say? Nah, it was only yesterday. My hero Thoreau said it: ““Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.” (My mom went to high school with him I think.)
Now let’s bow our heads and listen to Elton when he was but lad in his early 20s.