Monday, October 20, 2014

Which Rick Nelson?

Over the course of his four-decade, yet tragically crash-shortened career, rocker Rick Nelson managed to do some creditable acting too, from teen heartthrob Ricky courtesy of Ozzie and Harriet, to cast-against-type rapist (for an Eighties TV movie, I think); whether a young gunfighter backing John Wayne (in Howard Hawk's great Rio Bravo), or a Navy lieutenant in some Jack Lemmon shipboard comedy circa 1960, or years later the guy who keeps bursting into the wrong sitcom-family kitchens ("Hi, Mom... I'm home!") in a brilliant early Saturday Night Live skit.

Still, Rick was happiest and most comfortable on stage, singing, initially in his rockabilly combo with guitar-great James Burton, then stuck doing country-ish
Pop tunes for too long, before finally fronting a fine country-rock band in the Seventies performing mostly his own songs, from "Restless Wind" to "Garden Party" and beyond.

I got to spend a weekend hanging out with Rick the country-rocker for an interview piece that appeared in Fusion, Boston's then-answer to S.F.'s Rolling Stone. Forty years on, I still think of him as the friendliest, most easy-going star/celebrity I ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was sometimes accused of being wooden and withdrawn (and later had drug problems), but I believe he was just shy and private, a likeable, rather ordinary guy thrust into more limelight and folderol than he really ever wanted.

I've been thinking of Rick in these latter days, when Parkinson's symptoms and the side effects of meds leave me embarrassed and unhappy out in the public eye.
People want to be helpful, and no one's pointing at me and snickering but, pace Greta Garbo, I just want to be ignored and left alone. (Soon I'll be walking around like Frankenstein's monster, with electrodes in my skull, wires down my neck, and a pacemaker-like device in my chest, as "deep brain stimulation" attempts to stall some symptoms for a few years.)

Whether I stutter then, or stumble, or somehow stand taller, I guess I'll still be some version of Ed. But... I'd rather folks remember examples of the good fortune and good times I was granted--including my take on Rick Nelson, archived partly here and the rest here.

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