NO CLAMBAKE HERE

When in the home of another it’s bad form to impose, so yesterday I was forced to endure, without complaint, almost an entire Elvis Presley movie, for the first time in my life. It was called ‘Clambake’ and I couldn’t help thinking it must be the worst film he was ever in, ‘cos Jesus it stank. I don’t mean like Jaws 3 or any of the poorer Hammer offerings or a sequel/prequel type of franchise-squeezer, all of which can unwittingly supply a perverse type of pleasure through their shamelessness/incompetence, I mean it just stank, stank, stank! I actually went on the web to see if it was his worst, thinking it must be, it just must be- no; a half-dozen or more are consistently ranked below it, and CIA torturers must surely have bought the rights to one called ‘Harem Holiday’ which is unanimously called his worst. How bad is THAT one?!
But to get back to sticking the knife in this Clambake thing, rather than the heads of everyone involved in making it, which would be the preferred option, it involved a bunchy of drippy ski-boat operators in Florida and an apparent race (I got out before the end, but I’m going to hazard a guess that ‘our hero’ won.) Presley wasn’t just a waterski bum sort though, he was also a part-time industrial chemist- and no, that last statement wasn’t a typo. And all as an excuse for third-rate performances of fifth-rate songs, with children incongruously shoehorned into the plot to, presumably, invoke an ‘aaah’ reaction which, in my own case, was more of a stomach wrench. Granted, being a product of the late ’60s with a beach-type setting it did at least have a plentiful supply of girls in bikinis of that era, surely the most erotic fashion ever, while the leading lady (Shelley Fabares) was, in any language, a fine thing, but hell, they were all still in an Elvis Presley movie called Clambake! Plus Miss Fabares was, alas, no actress, except when standing next to Presley, when she took on the qualities of a Streep, but only in comparison, ‘cos that Elvis dude couldn’t act to save his life, even in the most basic scene. I mean that literally; there’s one shot which lingers on him and which, from the context (Christ, I’m talking ‘context’ in an Elvis movie!) seems to demand he look jealous/upset/heartbroken but no, he just looks off camera and waits for the call of “cut,” possibly while wondering if the studio firebuckets contain real fire. ‘Cos let’s face it, he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer!
And I know I’m being nasty here, but it’s overdue, believe me. As I said, I’ve never watched a whole Presley film because, being an enforced consumer of RTE as a child I had plenty of opportunities to watch the first 20/30 minutes of many examples, time enough for anyone, even a kid, to decide ‘this is shite,’ and leave the room for more worthwhile pursuits, like staring at wallpaper or seeing how long you can hold your breath or stand on one leg, all activities which benefit from an absence of aural toothache, or the Elvis repertoire, as it sometimes called. And I could have left it at that, quite happily; after all, there are a handful of his recordings I can actually listen to without screaming (Moody Blue, In The Ghetto, Suspicious Minds or A little Less Conversations,) only the other 700 or so I passionately hate, so I could have said ‘me and Elvis, a bad mix, let’s move on in our separate directions and leave it at that’ but no, I wasn’t allowed! I had to be in frequent contact with folks who actually liked this tuneless dope, worshipped him in fact. This was the case with one particular individual who tried to convince me, in a hectoring manner (I was 13, he nearly 30) that “Elvis is worth a million Beatles!” (My photos of the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing from last week are a particular comfort when I think of this.)
And so far I’m only talking about Presley’s ‘talents’ as a singer/actor, I haven’t even started on his failings as a human being, which are widely known. By this I don’t mean the unhealthy relationship with food which we all, myself included, share in our own ways, but I do mean the creepy mother-worship, the exploitation of women offscreen/stage, the boorish crowd he hung with, and the substandard psychopaths like Parker and J.Edgar Hoover he licked up to. I would include his politics, but I don’t think he had even the limited intelligence needed to be an extreme right wing Republican like John Wayne. So I’ll just put his offer to ‘spy’ on the Beatles during their American tour down to immaturity and sycophancy (he was in Hoover’s office at the time.) Unfortunately those ‘qualities’ are common among his fans I’ve found, and I long ago decided that any such individual was likely to also be a fan of Manchester United or Liverpool, and easily-drawn to all in life that’s glamourous, superficial and ultimately worthless, words that might usefully be deployed when the Graceland sign is next down for maintenance. So there, I’ve said it, I’ve got a half-century of simmering resentment off my chest and yes, it’s petty, it’s spiteful, it’s nothing to be proud of, but it is a natural reaction to an extreme provocation. After all. I had to watch almost an entire Elvis Presley movie. It was called Clambake!

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