I saw Morrissey last night at the Hollywood Bowl. He started the show by shouting, “Hooray for Hollywood!” It was great and his backdrop was three identical black and white photos of James Dean – his idol and one of mine.
Now, I know that the purpose of any great icon is to make us schleps growing up in the suburbs feel that we are not alone, that this icon is just like us. As Morrissey sings on the Smiths song “Unloveable”, “..I know that you would like me, if only you could see me. If only you could meet me.” And that’s how I and probably a bizillion of his fans feel about their relationship to him.
But seriously, you guys, if only he could meet me.
I actually did meet Morrissey in 1997 I think when I was bloated and had choppy Supercuts black hair, bad flannel shirts and un-self-aware low self-esteem. I saw Moz at a record signing and I went up to him and said, “Thank you. You were my best friend in high school.” (As if the 1 year that I’d had out of high school was miles and miles behind me.) And he looked at me and smirked, “I suppose now I’m your worst enemy?” He gave me a huge, engulfing hug, the nicest hug I’ve ever gotten from anyone including people I’ve dated and also relatives.
This is unlike when I met Robert Smith who was a terrible prick and the list goes on of icons who have let me down either in action or their personal behavior to me.
Moz has held up quite well and mostly because he rarely speaks to the press.
He influenced me in so many ways…the easy committment to being a vegetarian (which I do for environment more than animal rights reasons) and he introduced me to Oscar Wilde. But I’d already loved James Dean, having been introduced to him as a kid.
I love James Dean in what I think is a non-typical way. I know about his bi-sexuality, his weird seances at night and the company of vampiric types that he kept. His amazing dance skills – Eartha Kitt was his teacher and his strange fascination with prank calling Elvis.
When I moved to New York City, having never even been to New York City, I had a list of places to go and see, ones that still existed where James Dean had lived, sat or drank coffee. I got hired as a bookkeeper at the Iriqouis Hotel where he used to stay. After realizing that saying yes to the job would mean proabably getting sexually molested by the creepy boss who I’d share an office with, I turned it down.
When Morrissey first went to New York City, I just found out, he too went to the Iriquois to find James Dean’s spirit and was disappointed when he saw a cockoach.
So you can understand how awfully frustrating it was when last night, at the bowl, Morrissey showed James Deans screen test for his part of Cal in his first film, East of Eden, arguably my favorite movie of all time. I pinched Neil and stared at James Dean, then non-famous, just exuding some kind of magic that you just are born with and Moz has the same thing.
Of course that’s just when the dip-shits in front of me found their seats, while holding overflowing beers in their hand a la a Dave Matthews concert. They were loud and saying, “This film makes me uncomfortable.” Then the people whose seats those really were came and then the security came and there was a whole to-do right on top of James Deans face. I sat on my heels so I could see better saying, “If these people really knew Morrissey, they’d realize what they are missing right now.”
I know that you can like a band without liking all that comes with them but I feel like I deserved to be in the front row. I know I could have purchased a front row ticket but I didn’t want to spend the money.
I also considered bringing Moz some daffodils. He used to put these in his pocket in the ’80’s when he was in the Smiths and when I’d go see Morrissey in the ’90’s people littered the stage with the flowers. Last time I saw him, I was front row center and he took some from me.
Not one daffodil at the bowl last night. In fact, when Morrissey started his set off with a Smiths song, something that was so taboo on his last tours due to the Johnny Marr spat, the audience didn’t bat an eye. They didn’t really come to life until he launched into his first solo song. I was frantic, “Don’t they know he’s playing the Queen is Dead?”
Morrissey was so grateful to his new generation of fans declaring that it’s been fifteen years since the Hollywood Bowl let him in and he’s thankful that somehow people born in the last 15 years have found him. Including every fool in the front row.
I guess that’s what Smiths fans probably thought of me in the ’90’s when I went to see him. “I saw him do Hand in Glove and this girl is handing him flowers during Every Day is Like Sunday? I hate kids!” I’m sure people thought that of me.
Either way, I kept saying to Neil, (who graciously went with me) “Neil, seriously, if I got on the microphone and asked this crowd how many of them went to New York City to trace James Deans life you know who would raise their hands? Me and Morrissey. I’m just saying.”
Morrissey was great and Neil wrote down all the asides that Morrissey said so I could remember, which was a good call because I was too busy crying and staring.
Morrissey said, “There have been a lot of legends on this stage…like Charles Nelson Reilly…” It was amazing. He also introduced his band and then introduced himself by saying, “And I’m an old harpsichord that nobody plays.”What was amazing is that he has totally achieved what he set out to do, become immortalized and get over his welfare upbringing and shitty homelife. I love it. I love that he still used his icons, New York Dolls, Dean, etc. in his opening videos. It’s sort of a cycle. He romanticed people, we romanticize him and I further romanticize that I’m the only person who truly understands this pre-show symbolism.
I cried when he left the stage because I was so happy that years later, I got to see Morrissey when both he and I had gray hair. I am exactly the same in a lot of ways as I was when I was fifteen, it was not a phase. I’m still the same. And in a lot of ways that’s totally pathetic, still self-righteous, still judgemental, still reclusive, still irrational when I don’t feel reclusive, still a snob, still a kid and still having emotional reactions to things that most people have learned to control.
But last night it was very comforting.
If it wasn’t for Morrissey I’d never even be in Los Angeles, I’d never know you were allowed to move from your hometown and there he was singing to me and the other dis-affected youth while James Dean looked on in approval.