Elvis Presley would have turned 72 today if he were still alive. It’s fun to pretend that he never died, that he’s hiding out somewhere in Tibet eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches and playing Stratego with Jim Morrison. Then again, it’s also fun to pretend to believe in flying saucers, the Easter Bunny, and that Jager shots make me cute and charming.
I was 14 and it was my last year at summer camp when I got the news of his death. I shrugged. To me, he was just some fat, sweaty guy in a jumpsuit from those TV commercials selling his greatest hits.
I doubt I would have heard about it at all except that two of the campers happened to be Doc Esposito’s daughters. The counselors, knowing what little bastards we all were, cautioned us about asking the girls if they were “All Shook Up” or making other insensitive comments. Looking back, I realize that it must have been hard on the Esposito kids when they got home. The sight of their father doing something other than scribbling on a prescription pad nonstop must have been quite a shock to them.
Years ago, I considered myself an Elvis aficionado in a budding postmodern smartass sort of way. If you wanted to master the art of irony, the whole Elvis thing seemed to provide a good set of training wheels. Any combination of the hip swaying, the obesity, the drugs, or the appalling fashion sense could be played for laughs with a minumum of effort. An even easier target were the serious Elvis fans in the way they deified him, or at least made him royalty.
I’m more or less over that now. Every no-talent hipster and his cousin were doing the same schtick. It got so you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some asshole winking and nudging about the King. Tongue-in-cheek Elvis knickknacks could be seen in boutiques that cater to those who habitually smirk. It was clearly time to move on.
So there you have it. You’ll get no pelvis gyrations from me today, no pointing straight at you and saying “Thank you very much” as if weren’t the stalest joke on the planet by now. There will be no cute anagrams done with his name nor any silly conjecturing about how he cheated death on that Vegas toilet seat 30 years ago. All I’m going to do is wish happy birthday to a dead man who just wanted to do right by his momma. Happy birthday, Elvis. Happy birthday to you.