Elvis’ Third Cousin

Elvis’ third cousin was a folk singer in Coconut Grove and sang at the strip club in Cocoa Beach where all the astronauts hung out. Between the strippers with her clothes on; Five Hundred Miles, If I had a hammer, Joe Hill and other songs that were odd in that environment. She had great retorts when the guys in the audience would ask her to take her clothes off. “Do you have hemorrhoids?” she asked in her sweet southern lisp. “No” they would answer. “Just what I thought. A perfect asshole.” That was a few years earlier, now I was providing emotional support while she sang in a dinner club bar overlooking the harbor in Santa Barbara. It could have been Coconut Grove; the lights on the sailboats drifted by as she sung with a sweet Memphis lisp. She still had the old Grove magic around her. An old man in the shadows had fallen in love with her. I recognized his stentorian voice; John Carradine, the father of the Carradine acting dynasty. He waxed eloquent the whole night, telling stories, and asking Trish to marry him. He was drinking like a gentleman; hard and long. He admonished us, in the voice that had held such menace in so many horror movies, yet was full of such humanity: “If you’re going to drink, you HAVE to eat!” He grew more gracious as the night went on. Trish was doing well. During her breaks he would turn on the charm as she sat with a soda water like the mysterious Mona Lisa, an unreadable yet pleasant expression on her gorgeous face that reminded everyone subconsciously of her famous cousin even though they didn’t know it. “Pinza!” He gestured operatically with a knarled old claw of a hand, in a basso profundo, “Was scheduled to sing in Palermo and he was terrified. They were the most sophisticated opera audience, a great history of tenors. Pinza went for the high note and cracked on it. The audience immediately cheered and clapped so loudly, the director had to stop the music. “Bravo! Bravo! Again” they yelled. The conductor played the passage again. Pinza cracked again, his nerves were shot. He went down to the apron of the stage, asking them, “Why?” The crowd cheered and called out to him, “Bravo! Do it again! Do it till you get it right!” Trish was about done for the night. John was desperate, “David Niven! He joined the RAF at the height of his career, during the war. He was a courier, a leftenant. He delivered a communique to a ravishing major. She saw that it was David Niven, the famous silver screen idol. He asked her out to dinner. They had a night on the town in London during the Blitz. As they were ready to get undressed, David stopped her as she began taking off her Major’s uniform. “Could you please leave your uniform on?” He requested demurely. “Why on earth would I do that?” she asked him. “I always wanted to screw an officer.” We laughed. Trish thanked John for his stories. He told us his wife had died years earlier. He was grateful for Trish’s attendance. We drove back down into LA with a little of the old Hollywood pixie dust still sprinkled on us.

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