I admit it: the first mention of John Travolta in drag for the new John Waters movie, Hairspray, was not an appealing thought to me. Not sure why, except that it made me roll my eyes.
Still, I have loved John Travolta since I first reluctantly went to see GREASE in the late 70's. That is to say I went with a big chip on my shoulder, since I have a nasty habit of being very negative about a lot of stuff that seems to be embraced in the popular culture. In fact, it was quite by accident that I even caught an episode of the Sopranos years ago. They hadn't hit the big time yet, and I was channel surfing late one night. Had they become the phenomenon they were to become before I saw them, and I might have missed my favorite all time TV show.
But getting back to John Travolta and my bad attitude, which almost kept me from getting to see him light up the big screen. The fact is this: the guy has charisma and watching him dance in Saturday Night Fever is something I never tire of. Same for Grease. Even Urban Cowboy. And, when he was almost at rock bottom career-wise, and I was up all night and exhausted nursing my son, Look Who's Talking came along and made all my sleep deprivation seem less problematic, as he gave a refreshing and relaxed performance that showed us a little of the old John, and gave us some of his old pizzazz.
The rest--feh--including Pulp Fiction, which was a movie I totally loved, but felt that Samuel Jackson was the real Oscar guy. I think I am the only one I know who feels this way, but Travolta's performance just seemed to pale compared to the other stuff I loved him in, as well as a lot of the other actors in that film who were quite dynamic in their roles.
But now comes HAIRSPRAY, and he is singing and dancing again, and from the little clip I caught, I cannot wait to see it with Travolta looking every bit the early sixties hausfrau, complete with Big hair and a stretch headband. There is a nice article about Travolta in Sunday's NYTimes and today's Times has a nice film review and great picture of Travolta and Christopher Walken. Walken is one of those actors I would watch in anything. The idea of him singing and dancing, where his first training was, is something I know I will love (BTW, he really should have had the Gere role in Chicago).
What I love most of all about this movie: it's about 1962. That was a very innocent year. So was 1963--for a very short while anyway, until November...
In fact, I think of 1962-63 as the years I really left childhood behind.
And when the rollers were out, you teased your hair to kingdom come, and put a tiny little bow in the space between your bangs and the top of your head ( a year later I would put BIG bow in that space for 6th grade graduation). I could only find a 6th grade hair picture with headband, a la Edna Turnblad as pictured above. Speaking of hair, here is a great link to a blog about hairdo's: Hair History. Come to think of it, HAIR was beginning to be a big part of the self expression of teens--although we did not realize just how much so it would become in just a few short years.
In 1962 I wore tailored shirts with button-down collars. You HAD to. It was the law.
1962 was the year I discovered AM radio: WABC (and WMCA) in NYC, with Cousin Brucie and Scott Muni. I bought records by the Four Seasons (Big Girls Don't Cry) , Marcie Blaine (I Wanna be Bobby's Girl), and the Drifters (Up on the Roof). I thought about boys every waking minute. I watched American Bandstand, and learned to do the Locomotion. Tough girl groups sang "He's a Rebel" and tough boys were very attractive with pointy shoes and rolled up sleeves and pipe leg black pants.
I sure hope the movie captures the sound and feel of 1962-63. I have heard that it is somewhat less campy. That is good. I would like a time machine kind of experience.
And I also want to do a book set in 1962. I think that would be just the right follow up to bringing my cowboy thing to the surface. Now I can embrace my love of teased hair.