Saturday, August 09, 2003

Just call Roseanna—it's a hell of a show...

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When rock crooner Eddie Money sings about his two tickets to paradise, do you suppose those are plane tickets or train tickets?

There’s nothing in the lyrics to suggest either one or the other — but for some strange reason, I’ve always pictured them as two train tickets to paradise. Curiously, this implies that, of any place on the globe paradise could be, it’s reachable by rail.

I guess that rules out Fall River. But Eddie Money is coming here anyway to close out the annual Fall River Celebrates America waterfront festival tomorrow.

Working at a newspaper means my few days off are precious. As it turns out, this year I had two days off during Fall River Celebrates.

One was on Portuguese Night. No thanks. If I want heartburn, I’ll cook Portuguese food myself.

The other was on Country Music Night. Every time I hear music by country twangers or Portuguese oom-pah bands, I feel shooting pains up my spine.

By some unlucky quirk, I was stuck with the two unhip days of Fall River Celebrates. I’m sorry, but it’s true. The naturalization ceremony on Friday was interesting to the people being naturalized. Tall ships are boring unless swashes are being buckled on them. All the singing and fireworks and la-la-happy-fun will happen when I’m not there.

If there’s anything I wouldn’t have minded seeing this summer, it would have been Eddie Money sing “Shakin’” to a crowd of families. That song is all about a hotsie-totsie named Roseanna and Mr. Money fumbling with each other in her dad’s car with the radio speakers blown out. It’ll be an PG-13-rated moment in a decidedly G-rated festival.

This isn’t the first time I’ve missed the good parts of FRCA. It happens every year. So I have some ideas how we can jazz up next year’s event.

A friend of mine, who I’ll call Jonesy, is a public relations man for a city tourism board in Michigan. Every summer, Jonesy is in charge of wrangling dozens of Elvis impersonators—collectively known as Elvi—for ElvisFest. Follow me?

A whole day of Elvis impersonators performing and seeing the sights? Perhaps a clandestine visit from The King himself? That has to be a good time. Imagine the Fall River air redolent with fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches, fake sideburns taped to everyone’s face, and everywhere you turn there are rhinestones, rhinestones, rhinestones. Me and Jonesy can set this up—just say the word.

By the way, this year Jonesy said ElvisFest included a segment hosted by a Massachusetts guy named Daniel Klein who writes detective novels starring Elvis as the crime-solver. He’s got book titles like “Kill Me Tender” and “Viva Las Vengeance.” So ElvisFest is fun and literary.

The real Elvis sang some country songs, but our Elvi won’t be allowed to.

So maybe next year we can set aside one night of FRCA just for Elvis. Possibly get rid of country music night, eh? Eh?

Another of Jonesy’s big tourist draws that has piqued my interest — see if you can guess why — is the Beer Festival. Local micro-breweries and amateur zymurgy enthusiasts (look it up) use it to show off their brews. And what would a beer festival be without a beer-tasting, yes? The Beer Festival is the place to drink, drink, and be merry.

Why, for the sake of the sweet lord, is there not a Beer Day at Fall River Celebrates? I used to work in a liquor store — believe me, people here enjoy a beer now and then. We have a microbrewery right in Westport that makes an excellent brew. And exposing Fall Riverites to any beer besides Natural Ice can only have a positive effect on our city’s physical and spiritual health.

Lots of other towns put on beer festivals, so we’ll trump them by making ours a beer and wine festival. Wine classes up the whole deal, and it also would give every Portuguese father with a couple of bootleg barrels in the basement a chance to share his art with the city at large.

I’ve already asked Jonesy the obvious question: how do we make sure festival-goers aren’t staggering around the streets, three or even four sheets to the wind?

“It’s something like $25 to get in,” Jonesy said. “Keeps the hardcore riff-raff out.”

Ingenious! And it turns out we’ll have a slot open for Beer Day at Fall River Celebrates ... if we get rid of the country music. Please?

But it’s a pipe dream. Many of the people holding the purse-strings for these events are probably too square for beer and Elvis impersonators.

Witness the plight of Matt French, a Tiverton 17-year-old who’s trying to pull off a Battle of the Bands fund-raiser on Grinnell’s Beach. The concert would raise money for the YMCA. One town councilor called his proposal for a five-hour rock concert “cruel and unusual punishment.” Others clutched their heads in panic, horrified at the thought of rock and roll music.

Would the council have complained if French wanted to host a Battle of the Bands with country singers instead of rock musicians? Would they have complained if it were a five-hour Eddie Money concert? Are they just being nasty because his last name is “French”?

I feel that kid’s pain. If he ever manages to get that concert off the ground, I’ll go and chip in a few bucks—on three conditions, that is: I need the day off from work, somebody has to play “Shakin’,” and please, please, please, no country music.

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