I was invited to a luncheon today where Elvis was scheduled to appear, so of course I went. Elvis sang several songs, made a few self-deprecating jokes, and threw trinkets to the delighted audience. I was sitting right up front, and when he started to sing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” he came and took my hand, looked me in the eyes, and sang to me. Then he kissed my hand and moved on.
For just that moment, I was young again, starry-eyed at the attention of an idol. The singer wasn’t Elvis, of course, but he is a celebrity in his own right — one of the top three Elvis tribute artists in the world. And I was never that young, never awed by the presence of stardom. But today, caught up in the fantasy, the moment seemed magical.
My only real experience with celebrity came when I was very young. A friend wanted to go to the airport to see the Beatles, and her mother would only let her go if I went too. (I was always the responsible one, which now seems a bit pathetic for such a little girl, but I didn’t know any other way to be. Still don’t.) I didn’t want to go, had no interest in the Beatles, didn’t want to be her chaperon, and didn’t want to deal with a taxicab (her mother, like mine, didn’t drive), but finally she hounded me into asking my mother. I agreed, knowing my mother would say no as she always did and I would be off the hook. To my shock and horror, my mother said yes. And I was stuck.
My mother always accused me of being naïve, but now I see that in many ways she was the naïf. She hadn’t a clue what “taking a taxi to see the Beatles at the airport” meant or else she would never have said yes. But I knew. At least I thought I did, but the reality was beyond my meager imagination.
Originally, the Beatles were to land at Stapleton International Airport, but when the crowds of onlookers grew to a horde, the landing was moved to Buckley Field. We stood outside the chain link fence, the press of kids keeping me immobile against that barrier between us and the icons. In the distance, I could hear first murmurs then shrieks from the crowd as the car drew near. It must have been a convertible, because I can clearly remember seeing Paul’s face before I was all but crushed between the fence and the frenzied crowd. I would have been pulled under, but luckily I kept a strong grip on the links. As the vehicle passed us, everyone ran after it but me. I stood immobile, terrified by the power of the mob. My friend (who wasn’t much of a friend, if you must know) ran with the crowd. And soon I was the only one left standing.
I have no idea how I got home that day. (At the time, obviously, I knew, but I’ve forgotten.) I imagine someone took pity on me and called my mother or my friend’s mother. (I was in a panic because I was responsible for the girl, and I’d lost her.) I know I took a cab back.
I have made a point of never being in a crowd again. Oh, my, such a wild, uncontrollable beast! (The crowd, not me.)
But today, there were only two or three dozen of us — no mob — and it was sweet, especially when Elvis kissed me.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.