Thursday, August 16, 2007
Where Were You When You Heard Elvis Died?
In August of 1977, I was enduring the third year of my four and a half years behind the Orange Curtain. I had just quit the christian college I had been attending in Fullerton and was moving out of the dorms and into an apartment in Brea. Happily, I had also been taking theatre classes at CSUF and would continue there full time in the Fall semester. I had also switched my major from Psychology to Film and was preparing to immerse myself in cinema. I spent the summer watching European classics at the Wilshire movie theatre, which once existed on Malvern in downtown Fullerton. This wonderful pre-war building included the movie theatre (Once a public bathhouse, the water marks were still visible on the walls.) a hotel and a restaurant. Sometime in the eighties, the site was demolished and replaced with stucco condos.
That fateful year that Elvis died, I drove a 1965 Volkswagon "Notchback" model with a dual carburetor engine and a messed up first gear. I had to hold the stick in place until the time came to switch to second or the stick would pop out of first and send the vehicle and myself forward in neutral. As I remember, you also couldn't downshift from second to first in that model transmission even if it were new. The weather on August 16th in Brea was like a furnace and my air cooled engine didn't come with air conditioning. Approaching the intersection of Brea and Bastanchury, my tinny AM radio speakers announced that Elvis had died and I almost stripped my gears.
I must admit that Elvis hadn't been on my mind a lot during those years before he died. I did spend the summer of 1966 at the Park Theatre in Gardena watching the redistribution of every Elvis film made up to that point, along with the Corman Poe movies, but the Park Theatre was the only game in town for an ten-eleven year old.
Being born in the fifties, I had parents who adored Elvis and named my childhood cat after him. However, the cat died before Eisenhower left the White House and my father preferred Erroll Gardner (1921-1977) records. Curiously, a lost kitten entered my new apartment in the fall of 1977 and I handed her over to my parents for safekeeping. I named her "Marigold" because that day I saw Paul Newman's "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds." Elvis had left the building of my consciousness by then.