Elvis is cool. Michael Jackson is SO cool.


This week is a long one at workyesterday involved a production trip to Boston and back and the next few days don’t promise to be any less rugged. I don’t mean to complain; I appreciate having every opportunity to work before my industry is automated and I am replaced by a smart, charismatic robot. I am a percentage point or two more than half-joking.

The highlights of yesterday included seeing an old friend during a production, and running into Eugene Mirmanone of my favorite comedianswith whom I then had this amusing Twitter exchange:

I also appreciated being able to eat part of a cruller and a ham and Gruyere croissant from Lil’s Cafe in Kittery (heaven) on the way down and a double jalapeño burger from Tasty Burger on the way back.

I’ve trailed off. The point of this post is to establish that the highlight of this week—looking beyond the exchange with Mirman—will be the time I was able to spend with my daughter last night. Her mother was at a board meeting (“Mommy is at a boring meeting”), so my 6-year-old girl and I were able to hang out on the couch and watch old music videos on YouTube.

As she loves the movie Crybaby, in which Johnny Depp plays an over-the-top Rebel Without a Cause greaser and social outcast, I introduced her to Elvis. Upon absorbing Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog, she was mesmerized. We watched Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis’s “crazy friend,” and another new love emerged.

I showed her Amy Winehouse, who she’s been listening to and knows the story and circumstances of because for whatever reason, even thinking of Amy Winehouse’s voice makes me cry these days and for whatever reason on top of that, I insist on listening to her anyway. We watched part of her live in London performance.

“You didn’t tell me Amy Winehouse was so pretty. Is she wearing a bra? Why are her arms so pretty? Are those tattoos?”

Then: “I’m sad she took drugs.”

And finally: “I’m sad she’s dead.”

To pick things up we moved on to Little Richard, and to her inquiry about whether or not he was a king, I told her that he was the king before moving onto another officer of American cultural royalty (and beneficiary of Richard’s flamboyant style).

We moved a little backwards through Michael Jackson’s catalog, starting with Black and White, hitting Bad and Beat It along the way, and landing finally on Thriller. After reconciling that later career Michael Jackson was not, as he appeared to her, a woman—no matter how fluid you try to be about gender identification, sometimes kids remain rigid in their desire to define—that he was a queer, iconoclastic pop mashup who outright lashed out against definition; who was not like the other boys; who was not going to live his life being a color—she fell in love with his image as immediately as she did with Elvis, demanding to know where he was every time he wasn’t on screen in his videos. “Where’s Michael? Where’s Michael?” She kicked the bottom of her leg in the jerky zombie Thriller style, and tried to talk through context of each of the videos. Maybe those boys did something bad to the others and that’s why they’re fighting in the subway. Maybe the zombies miss their friends and so they came back.

Bedtime finally made its way to us and so we wrapped for the night. She told me that every video was so good that she didn’t know which was her favorite. I said that the beautiful thing about music is that you don’t need to pick favorites; you can get something different from each song or performer.

“Well,” she said. “Elvis is cool because he’s just… Cool. But Michael Jackson is SO cool. He dances with everybody. Black people. White people. Babies. Zombies. Everybody.”

And with that, we brushed teeth, read books and headed to bed.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.