Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, October 3, 2016

Paul is Dead and so is My Beetle

Poet Dottie Waters was sitting on our bed, not for any nefarious reason, but trying to figure out the various clues that proved Paul was dead. It was early summer 1969, and Paul was Paul McCartney of the Beatles.
Our group had dwindled down by now. Dottie, Jim Tweedy, Lois and I were scattered about the room surrounded by Beatles’ albums. Joe Rubio would have been in on this, but he was sitting in a tent outside Saigon with bigger things to worry about.
“And here’s another clue for you all/The Walrus was Paul.” (“Glass Onion” by Lennon-
McCartney, 1968.)
This was supposedly a statement on Paul’s death, although it is contradicted in other Beatles’ tunes; for instance, in “God” by the John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, you have Lennon singing, “I was the Walrus, but now I’m John,” and it is John who sings the song “I am the Walrus” in “The Magical Mystery Tour”.
It didn’t matter, the Paul is Dead Rumor had legs, as they say and whether Paul was dead was a mote point, the rumor was alive and wouldn’t die.
And there were tons of clues to Paul’s demise, too. People just like us, were sitting about in many bedrooms, dens and living rooms hashing this one out, even though logic seemed against the whole theory. One of the biggest indicators of Paul having left us was the cover of “Abbey Road”.
Here walk The Beatles in a row (funeral procession?). They are led, because John is dressed all in white, by the clergy. (John Lennon as clergy? That defies intelligence right there.) Next come the Undertaker, Ringo all in black. Then marching by is the corpse, Paul, his step out of sinc with the others, a “coffin nail”, held in his right hand, when he was left-handed, and he is barefoot. Finally, in somewhat worker’s clothes, follows George, the gravedigger. What more proof do you need? The license plate on the VW Beetle, perhaps, saying “28 if”. If what? Why he would have been 28 if he were still with us.  And above this, LMW, for “Linda McCartney weeps”. (Paul was actually 27 at the time of “Abbey Road” and Paul didn’t know Linda Eastman, let alone be her husband, at the time of his alleged death.)
“Oh, wait,” you may ask, “how could Paul be walking in his own funeral procession? And didn’t the Beatles make at least one more album called ‘Let It Be’”?  Those seems like  reasonable questions, you cynic, you; why couldn’t you take their advice and let it be?
To get the answers to your questions you must understand the rumer. The album “Abbey Road” was released in 1969. The photograph was taken on Abbey Road, a street running by the recording studio. Here is the gist of the Paul is Dead rumor and hidden in the lyrics of "I Am the Walrus".
Supposedly, Paul McCartney was killed in an auto accident (Yellow matter custard/Dripping from a dead dog’s eye”) in which he smashed into a van while high (Sitting on a cornflake/Waiting for the van to come”) after being distracted by a female hitchhiker he picked up. (“Boy you’ve been a naughty girl/You let your knickers down). John wrote the whole incident as code in the song “I am the Walrus, from which the above lyrics are quoted. In reality, John Lennon wrote the “Walrus” lyrics as pure nonsense on the theory they were so bizarre no one would even attempt to give them meaning. Ha, was he wrong on that one.

 This alleged accidental death occurred in 1966. Afterwards, the Beatles replaced Paul with a lookalike, who even got plastic surgery to look more like Paul. This is why “Paul” then grew facial hair, to cover his surgery scars until they healed. I think what truly amazes is  that people would think they could find someone who not only resembled Paul closely in looks, but sounded like him and could play a left-handed bass.
This rumor caught on and persisted and many people seriously studied for clues to prove. it. The incredibleness of this is it all occurred before the internet and social media.

In August we went with my parents to see the movie, “Love Bug”. I wasn’t loving my car  so much now, it kept breaking down. Disney films, such as the “Love Bug” were not Lois and mine usual fare, either. We had discovered the Art Theaters, such as the Art Holiday in Kensington, Walton Art in Germantown and the Abbe Art Cinema in West Philly.

This is an objection I have, the belittlement of words. I dislike the use of “adult” as in “Adult bookstore”, “adult language”, “adult situations” and so forth. What is so adult about them? Don’t they mean “sexual”, or more to the point, we are so ashamed of these things we don’t want our children exposed to them.  There was nothing particularly adult about that bookstore on Market Street.  It was just full of dirty books. The words sometimes contained herein were were very rudimentary, with an emphasis on rude. I mean, what is adult language anyway, just a lot of mostly single syllable words repeated at infinite, speech boring as a Kardashian.
So my other gripe is the use of “Art” associated with these theaters. What art?  You hear the term “art film” and it conjures up images of some European, shadowy story that is interesting to watch, but hard to understand. There is not usually much difficulty to understand these so-called “art-films”. We didn’t go there to ponder Bergmanian Symbolism (Virgin Spring, photo left); we went hoping to see some writhing naked flesh. We weren’t looking for brain stimulation, but stimulation a bit further down our bodies.

This experience was nowhere near the Globe, which we still went to about two times a summer. It did not have an atmosphere of fun or a night of misbehavior. These theaters were grim. The films ran continuous, so you found your way to a seat in just the light from the screen. The audience was generally sparse and almost all male. There were seldom any couples. There were seldom even two men sitting together. Those who were there sat spread out through the theater and new arrivals sought out a space away from others.
In the early days the films were mostly old striptease shorts interspersed with some Naturalist features. Nudist films lose the novelty very quickly. After five minutes of watching ordinary people walking around in the nude doing everyday things it gets very boring.  As one famous exploitation film producer once said, “How many ways can you shoot a naked person serve a volleyball?” The films tended to be grainy, with a lot of magnified dust particles and loose hairs flitting into the frame.
When you left these particular movie houses you always kept your fingers crossed that you’d find your car and it wouldn’t be up on cinder blocks. None of these venues were exactly in the best of neighborhoods, and it was only the pull of engaging in somewhat forbidden sex that drew us there. We really didn’t go all that often.

My world was going well during the last half of 1969. I had gone back to Temple that fall, taking Composition II, in which I would get an A, and a Psych course called “Personality & Adjustment”. I got a B. My overall grade point average was beginning to rise, making up for some lower marks I had gotten earlier.  I sort of bragged to Joe:
He (the professor) read excerpts from it (my composition) to the class as being the way an opening paragraph, a closing paragraph and dialogue should be written.

At this point (Early October) my job looked solid as well.  “My boss (Mary Cliffy) came along the other day" I wrote,  "and in a low voice told me the company was acquiring several new magazines and it would be a great opportunity for me, whatever that means. And then the employees have been spreading a rumor that I’m going to be picked as Assistant Circulation Director. It’d be nice, but I’d be surprised. I only hope with these kind of things so I don’t get a big disappointment. Can you imagine that, though? I’d be working with my present boss as a partner and reporting directly to the vice-president and President of the company?”
Joe wrote back that he had been taken off the machine gun and handed the company radio. I thought he was already the communications man, but he wasn’t. He was glad to do it because he felt the duty was safer than the gunner position, but first day on the new job he got struck by lightning. He was okay, but both the transmitter and receiver were fried leaving his unit without any communications for the night.
He told me he was put in for Spec 4.
Joe mentioned the start of the Christmas season with lights going up everywhere around camp.
They had begun stringing the holiday decorations here before Halloween was over.

Joe talked about President Nixon’s speech. I responded, “It was a brilliant speech. He really got a lot of the country behind him. Of course, he said absolutely nothing, except if it doesn’t rain the sun will shine. He’ll bring the troops home, if he brings the troops home. Is what it boiled down to, if you really think about it. Tonight Agnew was on TV trying to destroy any faith in the news media he possibly could.”
“I am almost brakeless in the car. And I can’t get them fixed for a week. Drat!

As December passed, I happened into a doorway on one of my walks. There was a cramped office inside.  The people there published a tabloid called, “Philadelphia After Dark” They agreed to give me an audition and sent me out to review this new Raquel Welsh flick in town, called “Flareup.”
Meanwhile I had two troubles on my mind, and neither was a woman. My car was not running and I had just walked away from my job at North American Publishing.  I had told Joe about the car, but not about my sudden unemployment nor the possibility of writing for Philladelphia After Dark.

1 comment:

Jon said...

I'm glad to see you blogging again and hope that you're feeling better. Your posts always conjure so many of my own memories that I usually just savor them without commenting. "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" were two of my favorite albums - and you've certainly brought new dimensions to the cover of "Abbey Road".

I remember so many of those "adult" theaters and cinema "art" theaters in Los Angeles. And I remember my initial frustration at not being old enough to visit one. I later made up for lost time....