From 2002-2012, I supervised & baby sat a staff of fifteen 20-30 year olds in order to have a paycheck. They were, by turns, entertaining & exasperating.
They were all sharply skilled at smart phone use, but they had no frame of reference for The Supremes. They had heard You Can’t Hurry Love on our sound system & hating it, identified the 1966 hit as a Phil Collins song that their parents liked. These kids knew & appreciated the music of The Beatles because: “I used to hear this at my Grandma’s house all the time. I like it”. What drews the blank looks on their pierced faces was my explanation of The Beatles place in pop history. I claimed: “They were like Lady Gaga X 1000. People’s lives were profoundly changed from having heard their music.” They couldn’t grasp the notion that songs were heard first on the radio.
I tried to impart to these young people that in my lifetime, on a black & white TV, I was witness to: the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. & Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the killing of 4 college students & the wounding of 9 others at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. I cheered the resignation of Richard Nixon, minutes before he would have been impeached, Reagan surviving an assassination attempt by a Jodie Foster fan, & ironically, the attempt on a Republican President led to the Brady bill & real, rational progress on gun control.
I was lucky enough to be present for the start of space exploration, I watched enthralled as man landed on the moon in 1969. Who would have imagined an international space station? The entire space shuttle program went from the planning stage to being grounded in my lifetime. I remember the thrill of each launch & the shock & sadness of the tragic fates of Challenger & Columbia.
I remember the very first time I saw color TV. Currently we carry more computing power in our phones than existed in the room sized computer that The Husband did design work on in the late 1970s. The Internet has changed commerce, government, journalism, & social interaction. What would these kids think of a phone booth or a world without debit cards?
I remember that I attempted, in vain, to explain Vaudeville & Burlesque to my young wards, even as these art forms were enjoying a sort of renaissance in Portland Oregon.
"I will never forget it, you know. I was in bed one night with my boyfriend Ernie & he said to me, 'Soph, how come you never tell me when you're having an orgasm?' I said to him, 'Ernie, you're never around!'"
Sophie Tucker was incredible. It would be hard not to love her. She was brash, bold & sexually bodacious. She was in the rare & rarified world of women of that era who wanted it their way, particularly Black blues singers like Bessie Smith & Ma Rainey who were doing the same thing, except they were Black women during the time of segregation. It was more unusual to be as bold & provocative & self-defining as Sophie Tucker.
Known as ”The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” Tucker earned a reputation for her loud boisterous voice & risque songs & stories. Tucker briefly appeared in the Ziegfield Follies, but her popularity with audiences made her unpopular with the female stars who refused to go on stage with her. She suffered a certain amount of bullying for her non-conformist appearance. She celebrated her healthy sexual appetite. Tucker’s stage image emphasized her fat girl image but also a humorous suggestiveness. She sang songs including: I Don’t Want To Be Thin, Nobody Loves A Fat Girl But Oh How A Fat Girl Can Love. My guess is that the gays of her era must have loved her.
Sophie Tucker entertained from 1896-1966. She was born on this day, January 13th, in 1884.