Elvis Is Everywhere

Photo by Rebecca SchoenkopfWell, this has been a full news week, hasn't it, puppies? Apparently, there's some hoo-hah over Social Security(would this be a bad time to decide I'm tired of contributing to my 401k?), The Governor is happily shoving teachers' faces into toilets, and the media are having a fine cackle over conservative commentator Armstrong Williams taking nearly a quarter-mil from the White House to flog No Child Left Behind—and getting caught. But what's clearly most important? It seems both Brad Pitt and Gavin Newsomare newly available. Y'all can brawl like they did at The District Friday night (with broken beer bottles even!) over fine Mr. Pitt: I'll be hopping the first flight to San Francisco. Yoo-hoo! Mayor Newsom!


Oh, and there was something about a tsunami, but that's more than a week ago now, so we really can't be expected to remember. After all, I believe we're smack-dab in the middle of confirming as attorney general the architect of Abu Ghraib, which in my freakishly long memory seems to be a whole eight months past.

Long memories, like my mother—and, apparently, a good full half of the country—are un-American.

* * *

Suparna the Rocket Scientist's dear parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mukherjee, had been visiting Los Angeles for a full week, and Suparna, being the undutiful daughter she is, had yet to take them for Mexican.

We were on our way out for pizza Saturday night when I lickety-split decided to rectify Suparna's neglect with a trip to Azteca, the Mexican Elvis bar. The place was packed early, which was odd, and we watched the terrific Chargers/Jets game, which pleased Suparna's father, Mr. Mukherjee, because he'd been at Suparna's a full week and she doesn't have TV. Suparna's mother, Mrs. Mukherjee, told us a funny story in her prettily lilting accent about a co-worker she'd had who, every year on Elvis' birthday, would sing "Happy Birthday" even though he was dead, and we ate a delightful carne asada and tried to get Suparna's mother, Mrs. Mukherjee, drunk.

When all of a sudden who should block our view, but Sam, of Sam and Anita, whom we see in all the best beer lines! (Suparna, actually, had met them the day we got kicked offstage during Lucinda Williams' set at Doheny Days—which just meant we'd been lucky enough to sneak on there in the first place.) "WE KNEW WE'D SEE YOU HERE!" Sam was saying in his outdoor voice. "What are you talking about?" I asked. The couple looked at me, befuddled. I looked befuddled right back at 'em. "It's Elvis' birthday," Anita finally said. Oh. That would explain the roiling crowd. And the bit I'd heard on NPR the day before about tomorrow (today) being Elvis' birthday. And the sign Suparna had seen over the bar that read, "8TH: ELVIS'S B-DAY." Which, even after Suparna's mother, Mrs. Mukherjee, had told her story about Elvis' birthday, we hadn't managed to connect with Elvis' birthday.

So that explained a lot, then.

Mrs. Mukherjee immediately announced her wish to stay for the Elvis impersonator and informed Mr. Mukherjee that stay we would. Steve the Elviswas busy appalling the gathered hipsters by being old, but there was a table of large ladies following every bump and grind with natty little camcorders, even when his Elvis manboobs popped out of his excellently embroidered Elvis suit like he was Tara Reid. (He did not, however, like Paris Hilton, show off his Elvis vagina.)

But Elvis Jesse, it seemed, would not be denied! Not scheduled to perform, he went to the back of the room, where he bobbed, spun and bounced. "Look what you're all missing!" Elvis Jesse's slick moves seemed to say. "Steve the Elvis is old! [In fact, 70!] I am young, like chicken!" Steve the Elvis, it seemed, had been served.

We left before, like the District Friday night, things could go horribly, terribly awry. Like with broken beer bottles, even.

* * *

Chris Anderson, publisher of The Orange County Register, had given me a terribly gracious introduction Friday night at the premiere of On the Mountain at South Coast Rep. (I was representing the Weekly, which was the theater's media partner for the event, and Anderson is president of the theater's board.)

So it was awkward when, at the after-party at The Lodge, Anderson's pretty wife smilingly asked me if I'd liked the play.

"Noooooo!" I'd said, and please read it with the snottiest of sneers, like this: "Noooooo!"

For everything I hated about the play, see Joel Beers' review on page 33. Go ahead. We'll wait. Now, as far as I can tell, the only thing he missed was the ancient audience titillated by the "edgy" material. Oh, and the unappealing, uptight, repressed heroine's cringe-making "sultry" dance at the end. Oh, and when he posits, "It's really hard to tell if we should feel sorry for Sarah because of the pain she's endured or hate her guts for being a manipulative, self-righteous, blathering mess of deception, contradiction and hypocrisy," he's wrong. It's the second choice, and it's not hard at all. But everything else he wrote was right on, up to and including the adjective brittle. Also see Cornel Bonca's interview with the playwright, Christopher Shinn, but only to marvel at how such an astute man—and one who knows his rock & roll—could be so very wrong.

So there I was with Anderson's wife and a few glasses of a very nice red in me. And I realized when she froze that I'd been a bit—how d'you call it?—terribly rude. And so I softened and immediately began to talk about how wonderful the daughter (Tony winner Daisy Eagan) had been and how excellent had been her writing. (She was! And so was it!)

No dice. It was just like that one big muckamuck Republican wedding I went to where I accidentally said "drugs" to the Christian teens from Texas, which, I learned the hard way, is kind of like saying box cutteron an airplane or putting a chicken in front of Ann Coulter. Or a vagina.

And that's probably why my boss changes the subject when I ask why he doesn't put me on the radio. Because I'm drunk.




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