If you believe my mother, and I don’t know why you would — she’s a notorious revisionist historian — my first “celebrity crush” was on Bozo the Clown. I was, to hear her tell it, quite obsessed with his shenanigans. Hmmmm —- Perhaps in writing this I’ve managed to unlock what in years of therapy and self-examination I could never quite put my finger on. Could my exposure to Bozo, at the tender age of three, be the root of my shoe addiction or my affinity for brightly colored sweaters? Maybe. It just goes to show you that, given my mother’s complicity in the matter — I couldn’t have turned the television on myself! — the genesis of my mental problems are, in fact, my mother’s fault.
As I matured and, I would imagine, grew tired of Bozo’s clowning around, I had a brief fling with Bob McAllister of Wonderama fame. Oh, yes. He could certainly whip a group of grade-schoolers into a frenzy! While he enthusiastically mastered the ceremonies of a very silly kiddie program, Bob was really the anti-Bozo. He wore sedate plaid sport coats and sensible shoes. This attire was most probably obtained from the very same places my father shopped, places like Ed Hall or Thom McAn. That Bob bore a resemblance to the father’s of his audience members was, I’m sure, a calculated decision made by the Wonderama producers.
While Bob may have looked like everyone’s father, I daresay he didn’t behave as such. He adopted personas, such as “Bert Beautiful” and “Chuck Roast”, distributed cans filled with spring-loaded snakes to audience members (one lucky can would hold fake flowers!), led games which featured things like stacking coffee cups and picking up bagels with a dowel, and encouraged exercise (if memory serves, Bob was fond of the jumping jack). He was spirited and energetic. Oh, and he really seemed to like kids. (In a good way. Not in a creepy Uncle kind of way!) For three hours every Sunday morning (we were Saturday night mass Catholics, thank God!) I got to indulge my crush on one Mr. McAllister.
It was my dream, of course, to be an audience member. To go home with a bagel necklace that spelled out my name (MY NAME IN BAGELS — hello! I would have been THE COOLEST kid in the neighborhood if I’d had one of those!) The show was filmed in New York City, so it was certainly not out of the realm of possibility that I could have been taken there to participate in a live performance AND given the aforementioned bagel necklace, but I never was. My father, unlike Bob, just didn’t have a taste for this type of adventure nor did he have the time or the wherewithal for Bob McAllister’s brand of tomfoolery. His daughter owning a bagel necklace AND, thereby, becoming THE COOLEST kid in the neighborhood, wasn’t, I guess, at the top of his list of “things that are important in life”. (My father often referred to this list when I was denied something on my “things that are fun in life” list.)
Just as “Little Jackie Paper” would eventually abandon “Puff the Magic Dragon”, I abandoned Wonderama. Bob, as it turns out, was no match for one Donald Clark Osmond. Sure, Bob was cute in a “Daddy” sort of way, but Donny Osmond was cute in a more age-appropriate way. Bob sang a bit, he would launch into the occasional ditty about good news and exercise, but these songs couldn’t hold a candle to classics like “Puppy Love” or “Go Away, Little Girl” (I was certain Donny would sing this one to me, as ours would be a May-December romance). I was crazy for Donny. Crazy. I even wore purple socks under my navy blue cable uniform socks, an act which earned me many, many demerits and countless minutes in the chair outside of Sister Maria Michael’s office. (Where I was sent by the insufferable Sister Agnes Ann, who had taken to doing a heretofore unheard of “sock check” when she got wind that I might just be “out of uniform”.) Sister Maria Michael was a good egg, though. My minor sock infractions usually resulted in a simple stern warning “not to wear them again” (a rule that I broke over and over again, which resulted in the aforementioned demerits). Occasionally, but not always, she would actually make me hand them over to her (she always gave them back, though!). In retrospect, I guess she really had no place to store smelly contraband socks in her neat little office. These exchanges, between Sister Maria Michael and myself, always included the dispensation of a few of the ever-present cherry Lifesavers that the good sister carried, along with her beautiful mother-of-pearl rosary beads, in the right pocket of her sensible skirt. I always felt a kinship with Sister Maria Michael. She was always kind to me. I got the impression that she, too, had a rebellious nature. Unlike my nemesis, Sister Agnes Ann, who had, it seemed, made it her life’s work to break my spirit, Sister Maria Michael just wanted me to dial it back a notch or three.
My affection for Donny Osmond lasted a good, long time. Longer than it should have, really. While other kids had moved on, discovered the allure of, say, the Mick Jaggers or the David Bowies of the world, I was still pining away for Donny. But that all changed the day I heard “Love Needs a Heart” by Jackson Browne. The minute I heard the line, “Baby, the hardest thing I’ve ever done/Was to walk away from you.”, Donny was done for. I fell, and fell hard, for Jackson. I took my babysitting money and bought “For Everyman” and every other Jackson Browne album the store had in stock. I was pleasantly surprised to discover (the music store carried posters!) that my newfound love was also, in my estimation, a beautiful creature. (The long nose! The chiseled cheekbones! The full lips! The silky black hair!). When I returned home and while shelving my newfound treasures, I discovered that my father actually owned the first album. Frankly, I felt a little betrayed by this. My father was always trying to shove Cat Stevens, Linda Ronstadt, and The Rolling Stones down my throat — in a fruitless effort to cajole me out of my Donny phase. Why had he held out on Jackson? Unforgivable.
My father had an extensive and pretty impressive record collection. It also bears mentioning that when I was 13, my father was only 33. It came to pass that we shared, as I grew older, similar musical taste. While my mother was stuck on Sinatra, Aznavour, and The Four Seasons, my father’s tastes had evolved to include a dizzying array of genres. It was from my father that I received my first album, at the ripe old age of six, which he won for me (or so he claimed, I suspect he really won it for himself) on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. The album? Tapestry by Carole King. Why? Because I loved “I Can Feel the Earth Move”. I wanted to play only that song, over and over and over again, as six-year-olds are wont to do, but my father had other ideas. He forced me to listen to the album in its entirety. He explained to me who Carole King was and what she had managed to accomplish in her musical career. Remember my father’s “things that are important in life” list? Music made that list.
Jackson wasn’t my first, my last, or my only crush, but, with the exception of my father, he’s the man that’s been in my life the longest. My relationship with Jackson predates my relationship with my husband. I’ve had my dalliances over the years. I won’t lie. There were brief interludes when I flirted with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Adam Levine, and Dave Grohl, to name a few, but I have always returned, often with renewed enthusiasm, to my main man.
There have been some disappointments along the way, but that’s to be expected. All long-term relationships have their ups and downs. I’m not the only one who doesn’t like “Lawyers in Love”. I would argue, though, that any album that gave the world “Tender is the Night” is worth a listen.
Having a crush on a singer/songwriter had hidden benefits. How many people can say that their “crush” showed up on their wedding day? Not in person, of course. That would have been downright weird and, quite frankly, Jackson would not have been warmly welcomed by the groom. Who could blame him? I wouldn’t want to be overshadowed on my wedding day by someone Time magazine described as “The Poet Laureate of Rock and Roll”? Would you?
Most women wouldn’t choose “Daddy’s Tune” (from “The Pretender”, 1976) as their father-daughter dance, but I’m not like most women. Nor is my father like most fathers. Ours is a unique relationship. In many ways my father and I grew up together. He was young. I was precocious. We were close, but like most parent-child relationships, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. My adolescence, difficult as it was for me, was, I daresay, harder on my father.
We share similar personalities, my father and I, which didn’t always serve us well. We are both headstrong. I learned from him to temper this quality with compassion. In other words, forge ahead, but do so with as much tact as you can muster. I often applied this lesson very successfully — with other people; not so successfully with the man from whom I learned it. As a result we had our fair share of knock-down, drag-outs.
Given the nature of our relationship, “Daddy’s Tune” was an appropriate choice for us. For those of you unfamiliar with the song, it is, essentially, an apology from a child to a parent. As such, it was, in a word, perfect for us. Choosing this song, rather than something more traditional, like “Daddy’s Little Girl” or “Sunrise, Sunset”, was my way of offering to my father the proverbial olive branch; agreeing to my unorthodox song selection was how he accepted it. Jackson said better and far more eloquently what needed to be said. It was in that very moment that the adult relationship that my father and I now share began. Jackson was there to usher it in.
And so it was that the three most important men in my life came to figure prominently in one of my happiest and most lasting memories. I think it’s fitting to wish a very Happy Valentine’s Day to my father for providing the framework in which forgiveness can occur, to my husband for his almost limitless capacity for accepting, understanding, and loving an often difficult woman, and to Jackson Browne for providing the music and lyrics in what has been the soundtrack of my life.
This piece was written for the GenFab blog hop… see these other stories!