Before Kurt Russell became Herb Brooks, the coach of the US hockey team in “Miracle”, the story of the team that beat the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, he was Elvis. And if you think he was a great Herb Brooks, I’m here to tell you he was an even better Elvis.
I saw “Elvis” with my best friend in a Saturday matinee in 1979, in a movie theatre a little outside the city, close to the store where Dad worked. Interestingly enough, when I looked up the movie right now, it’s listed as a TV movie, but I’m positive I saw it in a theatre. Or maybe we just had a huge TV, after all, Dad always made sure we had the latest TVs and VCRs.
Anyway, that was just a few years after Elvis had died, and it was the height of the 50s revival in Finland. It was was the era of “Grease”, and the bigger kids in my school had tubes of hair grease in their hair – I used sugar water and only at home – the Levi’s 501s had to be rolled up just so, and rockabilly ruled OK. OK?
And Elvis was huge. Elvis was the King, and the King may have died, but the King also lived, but never as much as on the silver screen, when Kurt Russel became Elvis. He had the moves, and the looks, and the sideburns, oh, the sideburns. After the movie, I practiced curling my lip – since I couldn’t have the sideburns – and I listened to my one and only Elvis record over and over again.
I also said “my boy, my boy” a lot because that’s what somebody – can’t remember whether it was Elvis or Colonel Parker – said in the movie. A lot. It sounded cool, and it rolled easily off the tongue, even the tongue of a small Finnish boy.
I think about that often. I’ve thought about that phrase ever since I saw that movie, even when the 50s revival turned to 60s revival, and then to something else.
My boy, my boy.
Mostly I imagined my dad saying that to himself whenever he was proud of me. When I scored a nice goal, I figured he’d say “my boy, my boy”. When I got year-end awards at school, and Dad would be standing in the back, I heard him think “my boy, my boy”.
And he’d always be standing in the back, and even when I didn’t get awards or score goals, I knew he was proud. I knew it for sure, because Mom always made sure I knew it. When Dad got mad at me – and that happened for sure – she’d put her arm around me, and tell me that even if Dad was mad at me, “he’s so proud of you”.
That made me feel proud of myself, too.
Of course it’s yet another thing to now be that Dad in the back of the room, smiling proudly when Son holds a speech as “the president of Finland” in a school play, or runs down the track in a T-shirt and baggy pants when the others have lycra pants and spikes.
That’s also the way he likes it.
“I love seeing you in the back of the room, just smiling, you know, proudly like you do,” he told me the other week.
A few days ago, I snuck in to the back of the room in the middle of a show. It had started an hour earlier, but I just wanted to get in to see Son sing the finale in a comedy show by two famous Swedish comedians. I’d seen the show at an open rehearsal before, so now I just wanted to see how Son would nail it in the dress rehearsal.
The ushers walked me to the balcony and told me to go to the last row where there was just a bench, no seats, and I told them that was perfect. I stood there, and watched the show, glancing at my watch every once in a while to see how much longer until Son would take the scene.
Then comedians left the scene, and a girl walked on stage and started to sing. And then a boy joined her.
At the end of the song, the girl and the boy sang their last line, the punchline, with no instruments backing them up, just their clear, innocent voices echoing in the theater. And when they were done, the sold-out crowd erupted into thunderous applause.
My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I didn’t know whether to sit down or stand up, or jump up and down. So I stood up, then sat down, then stood up again as I smiled in the back and watched the comedians and the children take a bow. And another one. And a third one.
Then they left the scene, with one comedian walking out with the girl, and the other with the boy.
My boy, my boy.