Archives For Elvis

Box office blues

March 7, 2014 — 2 Comments

What kid doesn’t like going to the movies? Whether it was mom taking us downtown on the bus to see a matinee — mostly animated Disney films — or the whole family piling into the car with our picnic basket to see a family friendly show at the drive-in, I loved it.

As a young girl, I only remember going once to a theater with just friends. Toby Tyler, Disney’s hot new release, was showing and a classmate invited me to come. I cried when Mr. Stubbs got shot (Toby’s chimpanzee companion), and then became overjoyed to find out he survived. But I also remember the popcorn smelled awesome that day and the chocolate covered raisins were particularly tempting. In addition, the theater was air conditioned. In the middle of the summer? Sheer luxury.


By the time I was junior high age and we’d moved to the South Grand area of St. Louis, there were several movie theaters within walking distance of where we lived. As I recall, the one we frequented most often was the Melvin Theater on Chippewa Street, several blocks east of Grand Avenue. This theater was popular with our family because they played second run movies and admission was only  fifty cents. This appealed to my dad, who shelled out the dough for all of us to get in. The Melvin was about ten blocks from our house, so on nice evenings the whole gang would walk there and back, stopping for Velvet Freeze ice cream cones on the way home.

ritzAnother one was the Ritz Theater on Grand at Arsenal Street. I walked past the Ritz often, on my way home from school, because it was in the same block as the Woolworth’s dime store (where my friend and her sticky fingers exited the store with that stolen notebook). I studied the movie posters in the glass cases outside the theater, but most of the time I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, so I was mostly just window shopping.

I remember seeing posters featuring some pretty big names: child star Haley Mills had been wildly successful in both Pollyanna and The Parent Trap in the early 60’s, and by the time I was strolling South Grand, she was releasing The Moonspinners and That Darn Cat. I can’t begin to t ell you how much I adored Haley Mills. I think if I could have waved a magic wand to change myself into her, I surely would have done it. (Fortunately, I was constrained to remain myself.)

The ever popular Elvis had some releases during that period, notably Viva Las Vegas, Fun in Acapulco and Kissin’ Cousins. Being a little too young to have caught the Elvis wave, I thought these movie posters were interesting, but not nearly as compelling as the…

Beatles’ movies! Oh my, I got lightheaded when Hard Day’s Night came to the Ritz. To say that I wanted to see that movie would be a gross understatement. But, as luck would have it, their music was verboten in our household, meaning I would not be buying a ticket to see it. Nor Help! And not Yellow Submarine, either. My dad had made a very big point of the utter uselessness of the British Invasion. Which left me to my reveries while poring over posters of the Lads from Liverpool. But even more sinister than British rock leaping across the Pond, was the…

Bond genre. By the time I was strolling by the Ritz after school, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger were mega blockbusters, raking in a whopping $78 million and $124 million, respectively, in worldwide box office receipts. Connery was 007 back in the day, and he projected an edgy, cool, swaggering playboy persona. I’m confidant I would have gotten off easier had I been caught sneaking off to see a Beatles movie than one of the Bond films. They were sooo off limits for Burns kids. Which explains why I was flabberghasted several years later when a certain brand new fiancé of mine suggested we see the hot new release…

Diamonds Are Forever.

Recently graduated from college, he had moved to Seattle six months earlier. I flew up from Southern California for a visit during the semester break. We had just walked out of the downtown store where we purchased my engagement ring and there, across the street, was a theater marquee emblazoned with the latest Bond flick.

“Hey, wanna go to a movie?”

“Which one?”

“Turn around and see.”

A Bond movie? Whoa, he’s not kidding. But I’ve never even seen one. And what would Dad think? Wait… Dad’s not here. And didn’t I just get… engaged? Perhaps I’m an… adult.

He had just slipped a solitaire on my finger, and I was loath to deny this simple request to take in a matinee. Plus giddy over being newly betrothed. Though contemplating such racy behavior felt strange, it didn’t keep me from taking his arm and sachaying across that street and into the theater.

And to my surprise, I enjoyed the movie. Now, I don’t think Bond movies will ever be my favorites — you know, the sheer number of things that get blown up, and all. But if you stop and think about it, it was kind of poetic that we sealed the deal that day with a movie entitled diamonds are forever. That ring sits on my hand even now, next to a wedding band. Barring its loss, the ring will likely outlive us both: an enduring symbol of our grand love affair — one that will transcend our finite existence in a legacy bequeathed to our children, grandchildren and beyond.

Nice flick pick, Sweetie.


He snapped this photo of me on the sidewalk outside the store, right after we bought the rings.


Dial “M” for Mistake

February 7, 2014 — 5 Comments

When Super Storm Beatles tracked across the Atlantic, headed for the states, I missed the first big wave that hit our shores because I had shelter. Boy, did I have shelter.

The first hint that I would be routinely sheltered from atmospheric phenomena in the world of rock ‘n roll occurred when I was about five. Elvis Presley was performing “Hound Dog” on TV and about halfway through the song, my dad got up and changed the channel. “Don’t need any of that in this house.” Dang. Most likely was Elvis’s gyrating that did him in.

By the time the Beatles were slated to debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, our family’s hatches had been fully battened down — not a chance that even a drop of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” would seep into our living room. No, we had been sealed in our own yellow submarine when the deluge began to pummel the homeland. Protected, I was. Seriously protected.

So on that Monday, when girls ran up to me and asked, with extreme animation, “Did you watch the Beatles last night?!!!!!” my reply was a soft-spoken, “No, missed it.” Then they would proceed to describe in detail the Fab Four’s appearance in all its wonderfulness, and I felt like I’d slept through a coronation or something. (Well, in a way, I sorta did.)

But I didn’t waste any time getting up to speed. A lot of days, I walked home with Roxanne, who had a transistor radio and who frequently bought teen magazines, which were generally plastered with photographs of the mop heads.

“Who do you think is cutest?”

Is she kidding? Like there’s even any contest! 

“Oh, I dunno — who do you think?” I replied, keeping the cards very close to the vest, as if her deeming him cutest too would somehow diminish the verve of my adolescent crush on Paul. You know, Paul — as in, the one who sang “Michelle” — en français. Be still, mon coeur.

Then there was my buddy, Desiree, whose parents not only let her listen to rock ‘n roll, but let her buy the 45’s. My visits at her house included lots of record playing. She was also fond of the Beach Boys, so I became familiar with “California Girls”, “Barbara Ann”, and “Good Vibrations”, too. Oh, help me, Rhonda!


Meanwhile, our home was devoid of any and all Billboard Hot 100’s. The radio perched atop the refrigerator was tuned to easy listening — Robert Goulet, Tony Bennett, Eydie Gorme, et al. Once in a while, a pop performer or group would cross over: Petula Clark’s “Downtown” wended its way into our kitchen via the airwaves, as did The Fifth Dimension’s “Up, Up, and Away”. (I’d cloak my glee to avert, if at all possible, that whole channel changing scenario.) The stereo in the living room was reserved for classical music, with the occasional big band thrown in. And there’d be no watching the Monkees on TV, either. At times, I thought I’d die for want of a rock ‘n roll fix.

Then one Sunday afternoon, my parents left me to watch my three younger siblings for several hours. I instantly sized up a ripe opportunity. But I generally didn’t violate house rules. Enter: Inner Conflict. I resisted. Temptation mounted. I held out. For a while. Alas, temptation overpowered my resolve.

I reached for the radio dial and turned to the station preferred by every warm-blooded adolescent I knew. And I cranked up the volume. The fall from saint to sinner was as simple as that. But I’m here to tell you, forbidden fruit is sweet, and “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride” never sounded better.

“You’re gonna get in trouble, Linda,” came a little voice from the kitchen doorway.

“Why, you gonna tell Mom and Dad?”

“No, but we’re not supposed to listen to rock music.”

Well, fine. Way to spoil the moment.

The brief exchange succeeded in smiting my conscience, and the next song just didn’t satisfy like the first ones, so I turned off the radio. Score that: Guilt 1; Contraban 0. I decided to turn my attention to the household chores I’d been asked to do, then hung out until Mom, Dad and my older brother returned. I think it was later the same day, and I was in my bedroom, when Mom wanted a little music to cook by and turned on the radio.

Not being a very clever sneak, I failed to return the radio dial to Mom’s easy listening station. And I also forgot to reset the volume control knob. Big lapse. Herman’s Hermits came blaring through the house. For about three seconds. I froze in my tracks waiting for the shoe to drop.

I honestly don’t remember any consequences for my behavior other than the self-inflicted shame of having violated the house rules, and knowing my parents knew I’d exposed the younger kids to musical pathogens. I wanted to be trusted and responsible more than I could ever want stolen pleasure from a handful of popular songs.

And that was the last time I ever did that.

Besides, I still had Roxanne and Desiree.