Friday, November 21, 2014

The existential paean of Julie Andrews

Long-haired Julie
The key to her character is...a hairstyle?

She is rare — a woman who is more feminine with short, boyish hair. Both an enigma and a clue. With substantial tresses she appears ordinary, domestic and inconspicuous. It’s as if her rejection of an average coif adds an air independence, honesty and good health. She is strong in a focused, private Zen way. Small wonder that her two most successful roles (Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) are really one — that of a kindly, virginal English governess.

The skin is not blemished by sin or wrinkled with profundities. Whether her breeding is innate or acquired cannot be answered.  Her multi-octave voice is pitch-perfect and lilting, no Billie Holiday-style slurring and sadness. Her only mystery is motivation: what does she need? Who, really, is she?
Julie gets ready to shred it

Julie Andrews, with her Rogers & Hammerstein and her Lerner & Loewe is anti-Vegas and anti-Woodstock. Her space is occupied by others like Petulia Clark and Anthony Newley (kind of), those with a sing-along music hall sensibility. How she ended up in two monster money-making films of the 1960s is indicative of the era’s sly playfulness and hybrid nature of its entertainments. (Remember, Janis Joplin sang with Tom Jones, and it worked.)

Come fly with
Long after rainbow psychedelia is bleached away by the idle tears of nostalgic boomers, we shall still see Julie swirling atop that Austrian mountain, her arms wide open to a celestial lover, or floating to earth on an umbrella, detached from us, from sex, from the war and disease, Saint Andrews, joyous and unsullied in a self-contained, uncontaminated existence in which you sing your way out of any darkness, even the darkness of death. Untouched and untouchable.

Julie, must you leave so soon?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

John F. Kennedy: The Song, Never the Singer

"Hey you, doll face - road trip!"
He remains the Don Draper of U.S. presidents. His promiscuity was of gargantuan proportions. His inclination for risk-taking was pathological. He lied and cheated with energetic abandon and shared a family trait for vengeance and a dark appreciation of noblesse oblige.

Arguably —is there any other way? — his approx. 1,000-day reign was potholed with self-induced crises. His decisions surrounding the Bay of Pigs exposed the decomposition of his character. His heedless drive to murder Fidel Castro propelled the world into a U.S./Russian nuclear showdown. His womanizing exposed him to blackmail.

'Hiya girls': Frank, JFK, and, well...
Yet he was brave, handsome, articulate, wealthy and witty. He loved his children and had great taste in clothes. His image alone attracted a generation of bright, educated young people to pursue careers in the civil service, including a cigar-smoking William Jefferson Clinton — a career path that just a few years later Richard Nixon, building on Kennedy’s boneheaded involvement in Vietnam, would napalm into destruction.

Actually, it looks pretty good
Though he kick-started the 1960s, JFK was nothing if not a swingin’ rat-packer, a rich kid slumming with Sinatra and bed-fulls of prostitutes. In fact, his autopsy report indicated the presence of sexually transmitted diseases which, the doctors surmised, must have given him years of grief, let alone the pain imparted to his paramours.

The question arrives: do we wish to know salacious details as means of explaining motivations and judgments, or are we mired, sick with frustration and boredom, in belittling men and women of accomplishment? Is it a combination of the two?

In our sleep comes the song
Anyway, his importance can not be found in what he was, but what he seemed to be, what he could have been, and most importantly, what we wanted him to be. JFK knew his history, and he knew that in our dreams comes the song, not the singer, rounding our little life with a sleep.