We’ve been relocating to and painting our new spot, which includes an unfinished recording space (here I come plaster, sander and paint!), so I haven’t had a chance to add some interesting retro news that popped out recently. Several news stories have ties to Texas.
First off – we start with the unassuming town of Lubbock, Texas, where a paper fistfight has broken out over one of rock n’roll’s most gifted and beloved stars. Buddy Holly’s widow is threatening to sue Peggy Sue Gerron, the “Peggy Sue” of note (that’s a pun, ain’t it!). Gerron is releasing a book with her memories of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Now, when Patti Boyd came out with her autobiography last year, Beatles and Eric Clapton fans were deeply curious about the woman behind pivotal rock songs like “Something”, “Layla,” and “Wonderful Tonight”… but Gerron was the first woman to be honored so publicly in song (as opposed to the anonymous “Hey Nonny Nonny” muses chronicled through history.)
As the story goes, the song “Peggy Sue” was originally written with another woman’s name as its title; then changed to help one of the other Crickets court Gerron. She later married that man, Jerry Allison, the Crickets’ drummer. So Gerron is – at the very least – not a stranger making up stories, out of whole cloth, about a celebrity, but someone whose husband worked closely with Holly. It’s therefore believable that she could have struck up a friendship with Buddy Holly.
Holly’s widow, Maria Elena Holly, recently filed a cease and desist order, claiming that Gerron was not Holly’s friend, and that the book will hurt her business, which owns the rights to Buddy Holly’s name and license.
Sounds a bit fishy — firstly, because celebrity books are a dime a dozen, and rarely do we hear complaints about them before the fact. While there’s been a great deal of controversy over the recent Charles Schultz biography, with son Monte going to great lengths to correct inaccuracies, the Schultz family hasn’t tried to circumvent the biographer’s right to free speech, or made claims about “damage” to their share of the Peanuts empire. (Damage to their father’s reputation – yes.) They’re just trying to get the record straight and have been above board and classy about it throughout.
And while the organization behind Graceland owns the rights to Elvis’ image and properties, as far as I know, they cannot legally stop a person from writing about their real life friendship with Elvis. A case of out and out libel (as with the questionable books by Albert Goldman) could be pursued in court, but someone writing about a friend who happened to be a celebrity? It would be “unauthorized,” but a person, of course, has a right to publish their own memoirs. Elvis is also a public figure, which means an exploration of his life is not an automatic invasion of his privacy.
And lastly, there’s the lunacy of suing a woman for writing about a man… who gained fame writing a song about her. Hypocritical and fishy.
At the age of 28, Heath Ledger was too recent a vintage to fall in the “classic film” category. However, his sudden death yesterday was a tragic surprise. It is a cliche to say that great things were expected from Ledger, but then again – there it is. He was a great actor. His Oscar-nominated work in Brokeback Mountain will inspire future performers, and will be remembered as a classic performance worthy of James Dean or Marlon Brando. Hopefully, future discussions will not focus on the tabloid aspects of his passing, but on the difficulties experienced by sensitive and talented performers, regardless of decade.
Richard Corliss of Time has written a lovely piece about Suzanne Pleshette, who, despite her battle with disease, also appeared to have great work ahead of her. In just a few days, her star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood will be revealed. Corliss argues, though, that Pleshette would have been a wonderful screwball comedy heroine. He’s right. The New York Times also has a nice obituary for the Newhart actress, who passed on January 21st.
Allan Melvin, who passed away on January 17th, is another actor whose work has been taken for granted. Remembered best for Sam on The Brady Bunch or Corporal Henshaw on the Phil Silvers Show, (depending on your age), Melvin amassed an impressive number of credits in his 84 years, spanning a generation of TV shows: Gomer Pyle, the Andy Griffith Show, All in the Family, and even H.R. Pufnstuf. Melvin’s work was memorable, all right — any time your role becomes the punchline to a joke, as “Sam the Butcher” was, you’ve made it.