Image by Free-StockPhotos.com
It's sometime during 2002, or maybe 2003. You sit there in the audience of a low-budget talk show. The cheap set design approximates that of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson as it existed roughly thirty years earlier. (The only difference would have been if the set designer's original idea had been incorporated; his idea was to fill the space behind the host with 8"x10" black & white photos of television and motion picture personalities whom the host greatly admired, including Ernie Kovacs, Orson Welles, Jack Benny, and Johnny Carson himself. But then he discovered that Conan O'Brien had done the same thing ten years or so earlier when he first took over Late Night from David Letterman.)
The studio lights come up, revealing the talk show's Host, who looks much like -- make that exactly like -- the writer of this blog looked seven or eight years ago. The Host looks into the camera, smiles, clears his throat and says:
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I introduce our next guest. Listing all of his accomplishments would fill the rest of our time remaining tonight, and you'd never even get to see him perform! So suffice it to say that here, doing his new hit medley entitled "Another American Trilogy," is... ELVID!"
The studio goes black. Then the on-stage lights come up just enough to show a microphone in its stand. From out of the darkness comes a man's left hand. He grabs the microphone and brings it to his lips as an unseen band begins to play. The stage lights continue to brighten, but only slightly. You wait for a spotlight to illuminate this "Elvid's" face, but that doesn't happen.
In a voice you've heard countless times before... somewhere... Elvid begins singing a song you've never heard covered quite this way: the Paul Simon composition, "Homeward Bound." Lines like "on a tour of one-night stands, my suitcase and guitar in hand" and "each town looks the same to me" strike you with unusual poignancy, like the singer indeed knows whereof he speaks.
The musical arrangement drifts away from the Paul Simon tune and Elvid, his face still maddeningly obscured by the dim and selective lighting, begins singing a song which was also in the original "An American Trilogy" piece: "Dixie." As in that other, earlier version, the song is sung slowly, almost mournfully. You feel that this is indeed a man removed from his home in the South, whether "the South" refers to Tupelo, Mississippi... or Memphis, Tennessee... or southern Massachusetts. A pleasant-sounding choir of background singers, presumably off-stage, adds to the power of this segment.
After Elvid's brief rendition of the "Dixie" portion of his performance, the unseen band kicks into an up-tempo arrangement of Neil Diamond's "America," introduced in the third filmed version of The Jazz Singer (in which Diamond starred in 1980). By now, you notice, the lights are finally bright enough to make out Elvid's on-stage movements, but his face, as always, remains largely unseen. Elvid's characterization of himself as a wandering musician seems to have finally realized that he's been where he belongs all along.
At the conclusion of the song, Elvid raises his right arm toward the sky -- or to the heavens? -- even as Neil Diamond's character did at the conclusion of his version of the song. You still can't clearly see his face, but somehow... it no longer matters.
Photo "borrowed" from 1980's
The Jazz Singer, and subsequently
"muddied" via Ubuntu's F-Stop feature!
The already-dim stage lights go out completely as the woefully-small studio audience bursts into applause. The lights come up once again and the camera focuses on the Host once more, seated behind his desk. He makes a lame joke about how they had "tried to cut down the electric bill to afford Elvid's performance fee" before dramatically (but facetiously) intoning, "And as for Elvid himself? Elvid... has left the building!"
* * * * *
Well, fellow babies, it almost happened. No, really.
One of the few good things about my former Crappy Day Job as it stood seven or eight years ago was that it gave me every weekend off, something which no other job of mine since I entered the work force in 1973 had done. It also gave me enough money so that I could easily afford to quit the Sunday flea markets I'd been doing steadily since 1988.
Foolishly -- that is, incorrectly -- assuming that I'd have a lot more time on my hands, I planned something rather ambitious. "I want my own TV show!" I announced to anyone who'd listen. My plan was to have a weekly "talk show" spoof, closely modeled after that of my idol, Johnny Carson, using the facilities of my home town's cable access station. (This would be easy enough, seeing as how I actually worked for the cable company at the time.) I'd heard of two or three programs during the 1990s that had started out as cable access shows, but had been "discovered" and bought by "real" TV channels. Ah, the lure of money! This was to be the "brush with fame" I mentioned in my title, in order to justify this post's tenuous inclusion among this week's Theme Thursday entries.
Several names for the show itself occurred to me, but I'll be damned if I can remember even one of them right now!
I planned to have real guests from the local area. Politicians, rock bands, blues bands, jazz bands, country & western bands, strippers... you name it. I'd do real interviews, as well as put-on interviews with characters invented for the show itself. And once in a while, I'd have really special features... like this "Elvid" guy I came up with one day.
Of course, through the magic of videotape, I would be both the host and this "Elvid guy." I can talk somewhat like Elvis, and as a singer, I can actually imitate him pretty well, too. I was doing that as early as 1976, when I used to sing Boston's "Peace of Mind" as if it had been arranged by whoever it was who wrote the arrangement for Elvis Presley's "Burnin' Love." (If you know both songs, give it some thought. Kinda cool, innit?)
The only "problem," such as it was, was that there was no way I was gonna shave off my mustache and beard for a seven-minute spot! So I couldn't show Elvid's (my) face when I performed as him. I can sound like Elvis, sure, but I certainly don't look like him. (I can approximate the famous "Elvis sneer," but I think Megan does it even better!)
So, you ask, what happened to this wonderful TV show? Well, even before I realized how much time this would really entail, I realized that such an endeavor would quickly eat up a lot of written material, whether this was a half hour show, or even a fifteen-minute thing! More than I could handle, considering the mental burn-out I often suffered because of my Crappy Day Job. And on a budget of $47 or so I could hardly afford to hire a writing staff! And I refused to seek out qualified, talented people just to say, "I can't pay you anything now for all of your hard work, of course, but if this thing ever takes off... "
No. No way. I've been approached by far too many people who don't understand that a professional writer can't pay the bills with "maybes" and "somedays." It's always been very, very easy for me to politely refuse such offers. "Writing on spec," as it's called, is an industry no-no.
Thus, my "dream TV show" was -- and will remain -- just that: A dream. Not even a dream, really, just another idea for my mental files. But since David M. Lynch's First Rule of Writing is "Never Throw Anything Away," I know I'll do something with the story of The Show That Never Was someday... like, say, today?
So as far as your chances go of ever hearing -- never mind seeing -- an actual performance by Elvid, whom I hereby dub "The King of Blog'n'Roll"... it ain't gonna happen, sorry. And as for my story about him? Ummm... Haven't you been paying attention? Heh.
Thanks for your time.