Heartbreak Hotel

Remember when Elvis was shocking? He’s like the face of Americana now and to our jaded eyes there’s nothing remotely¬†provocative¬†about him. He’s as safe and familiar as a bowl of cornflakes. But in the fifties he outraged and terrified the nation with his sexy grin and lascivious leg wiggles. Back than any man who didn’t have starched pants and the regulation stick up his ass was a threat to society. The fifties were all about propriety and conformity and pretty pink colors. What was wrong with people back then, I don’t know. Maybe after the many traumatic evens of the thirties and forties everybody just wanted to feel safe. After all, the whole world had been turned upside down. You can’t really blame people for wanting to put a bland and pleasant face on life. Then this new thing called rock’n’roll came along. And scared the shit out of the older crowd. When Elvis asked his girl if the chairs in her parlor felt empty, everyone knew he wasn’t talking about the chairs in her parlor. It was rare enough to see a man displaying physical grace – everyone had a suit on starched so stiff they could barely walk. Overt physicality was permissible for dancers like Gene Kelly, but Kelly’s dancing was never sexualized. Acting sexy was ok for a few women, the Marilyn and Jayne types, but no man before Elvis acted sexy. Elvis moved sexy, the way a woman would, but of course in a very masculine way as well. That was unheard of. No wonder Ed Sullivan filmed him from the waist up. It wasn’t just the women who were sexually repressed – it takes two to tango, as they say. How much blame you can put on Elvis Presley for the sexual revolution that quickly followed his arrival I’m not sure, but he surely did help it along. Maybe we’ve come to associate Elvis and Marilyn Monroe with each other because at a very repressed time, they did more than anybody to show men and women how to be physical creatures.