Edie Gorme died yesterday.
She and her husband, Steve Lawrence were married over five decades, proving that celebrity marriages can make it. They sang together, but she also did some solo performances. One of my favourites was Blame it on the Bossa Nova.
In my book, Riding the Thunder, I used references to a lot of period music from the early 1960s, and that song was a small part of recalling the period. Here is my own personal salute to a talent lost....
Behind her, Asha heard Jago calling, but his words were carried away on the waves of memories fighting to surface within her. As she circled around the side, she heard a flapping noise. Her steps slowed as she neared.
The sound came from an odd addition to the building. Originally, she’d judged, the structure was a simple L-shaped house. Possibly someone had lived here once. At some later date, the extension― what looked like a small pavilion― had been grafted onto the back. There were no walls to this part of the structure, just sheets of unpainted plywood covering the two open sides. One wooden panel had been pulled half down, hanging diagonally by a single nail. Behind the boards was a heavy circus tent quality canvas, gray from age and ripped in a couple places. The wind caused the end to flutter, the metal grommets of the rings knocking against the wooden post.
Asha hesitated for a moment, uncertain if she wanted to pull back the sailcloth and see what lay beyond. Just as she worked up enough nerve, Jago touched her arm. Her mind snapped back.
“Asha, are you all right?” He reached out and brushed the back of his hand to her cheek.
She offered Jago a fleeting smile, trying to reassure him, only her attention remained divided. The clanking of the metal grommets against the poplar wood post was a siren’s song, calling her.
In a sad voice, she told him, “It seems so small now.”
She heard his words― ignored them. Moving forward, she grasped the canvas and lifted it back. In a flash, everything about her surroundings shifted, changed― as they had by the pool. Instead of the dingy, forlorn pavilion, the white canvases were rolled up to the roof and tied back, leaving everything open to the night air. Colored Christmas lights were tacked along the poplar wood rail that ran along the outer edge of the small skating rink. Eydie Gorme's Blame It On The Bossa Nova played over the speakers hung on the walls. The skaters could rock to the music while going around and around. Laura loved the dizzying sensation, loved the spinning colorful lights, similar to the feeling of being on a merry-go-round.
No, no, the bossa nova…
Then she saw him, standing by the post, watching her. Tommy. So handsome. And she loved him more than she loved life.
“Asha, damn it.” Jago jerked her around by the arm to face him. “What the hell is wrong with you? And don’t bother telling me you need a soda.”
With a faint shudder, Asha’s mind returned to the present. She glanced about the dingy building. No Christmas lights. The hardwood floor was ruined by the decades of the lack of care and intruding rain. No music. No skaters. No Tommy and Laura. However, Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont had once stood here on a hot summer night over four decades ago. For some strange reason she was being shown their young lives, their special passionate love.
Though all about her was now back to normal, an oppressive air of sorrow lingered; it pushed against her mind to where a tear came to her eye. She wasn’t sure why seeing a beautiful memory like the one she had just experienced should leave her so profoundly shaken. The couple’s love was so clear, so beautiful. Laura and Tommy were extraordinary people. Though these flashbacks left her rattled, she felt Laura was giving her a gift. That gift should bring joy, happiness. Instead, she was overcome with a poignant, heartbreaking sadness.
Silent tears streaming down her face, she smiled at Jago, trying desperately to hang on. Just hang on. “I wish I had known them.”
Poor man, he stared at her, totally confused, fearful. “Who?”
“You’re now sorry you went to bed with me, eh, Jago? You’re scared I’m crazy as a loon.” She reached up and touched his beautiful face, cupped his cheek. “I’m not sure I can explain, since I don’t really understand myself.” Dropping her hand, she walked in a small circle. “This used to be a skate rink. They came here on summer nights. Played music. Mostly the girls skated. The guys just watched them in their tight Pedal Pushers. They decorated with strands of Christmas lights, made it festive. Others would park their cars out here, and would sit on the hoods observing, too. The nights would flicker, alive with lightning bugs, turning everything magical. It was a gentle time. A happy time.”
As she talked the images grew so strong, the music filtered around her. “’I wonder what went wrong, with our love, a love that was so strong,’” ― she sang the lyrics to the tune she could hear.
“Del Shannon’s Runaway,” Jago identified.
Asha’s head whipped back to him, almost hopeful. “You hear it?”
If he could hear it, too, maybe she wasn’t going insane. She gave him credit. He listened for a minute, but then shook his head no.
“You’re hearing Del Shannon?” he asked solemnly.
She chuckled, trying to make light of the bizarre situation. “Actually, no. You’ll think I’m totally nuts. I’m now hearing Alley Oop.”
“Alley Oop?” Jago huffed a small laugh, but concern filled hid dark green eyes. “Sorry, I missed that one.”
“I’m sure it’s on the jukebox at The Windmill. I’ll play it for you when we get back.” She smiled, fighting the tears. Her tone sobered. “I’m not crazy, Jago.”
“You just go around hearing Alley Oop?” He shoved his hands in his back pockets and looked at her, guarded. “I read once about a guy, his tooth was turning his mouth into a radio. Somehow, he was receiving music through his filling. Maybe you need to have your fillings checked.”
She shrugged. Walking to the rail, she put her hands on it and gazed out at the abandoned property. “It might account for the music. Only, it doesn’t cover Tommy and Laura.”
“Tommy and Laura?” he echoed, his disbelief rising. “The lovers from that song on the demented Wurlitzer?”
“Yeah, Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Peterson. It was very popular in the early ‘60s.”
“Maybe you’re fixing on that song― for some reason?”
“Tommy Grant and Laura Valmont. They used to come here. They were very much in love.”
“Used to? Were?” he challenged.
A flock of birds were suddenly flushed from the stand of trees, the crows’ caws filling the late afternoon sky. Jago took her elbow. “Come on, we can figure out Tommy and Laura later. We need to get out of here.
Available in Tradesize and Kindle
Available in Tradesize and Kindle