Saturday

November 1973: HELEN REDDY - Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)


I had the biggest crush on a blonde hair, blue eyed boy in my 2nd grade class, Scott Van Seiver. Proximity is what made these feelings so urgent: he sat next to me alphabetically in class and lived down the street from the lady who babysat me, so I saw him on the walks to and from school. Sometimes he’d join us, and all this togetherness was exhilarating.

One day in class, I was quietly singing the chorus to “Ruby Red Dress,” and Scott said, “I love Helen Reddy.” I felt an odd pang of jealousy; if he loved her, could he possibly like me?

“Leave me alone, won’t you leave me alone…” After constantly refusing to join, I finally said “yes” to becoming a Brownie. Hell, the meetings were at the babysitter’s house, and since I was already there, it was getting hard to avoid it. I liked the snacks and the crafts (jewelry boxes made of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue – what’s not to love?), but was most enthralled when we gathered in a circle and sang songs. I especially loved that each meeting ended with the singing of the same song, much like Sonny & Cher always ending their show with “I Got You Babe.” I appreciated this adherence to showbiz tradition.


What I did not appreciate was the Brownie uniform. If it had been the cotton, shirtwaist dress model with the crisp, elf collar and bow tie with matching belt and hat, I’d have been ultra happy. Snacks and that uniform were the reason I gave in and joined. But 1973 was the year the Girl Scouts of America decided to update its image.

The uniform they sold to us at Goldie’s department store in the Village Square shopping center was a shapeless polyester jumper (you had to supply your own shirt to wear underneath!) the color of cheap chocolate milk. The hat had become a dark brown polyester/wool beanie that didn’t match the jumper, and the formerly natty bow tie was now a strip of burnt orange polyester shaped like a bowlegged man’s tie.

The new uniform made our troop look like walking baked potatoes, and even the troop leaders must have felt negatively toward the new look because they only made us wear them when out in public doing official Brownie business. And after suffering through one public Brownie event in that ridiculous costume, I made sure to somehow forget/skip out/be sick for every event after that.

See Helen Reddy perform "Leave Me Alone" on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
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October 1973: CHARLIE RICH - The Most Beautiful Girl in the World

My Father was gaga in love with his new wife, Joy, while I was falling deeper into dislike with her one visitation weekend at a time. He thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world, and I thought she was bad news.

The walls of their tiny apartment were paper thin, so I had to endure hearing them make sex noises, which was gross and maddening. But even more damaging was Joy constantly trying to win me over with things that I had no interest in.

For example, for my birthday, she gave me the Donny Osmond album My Best To You. A new teen idol had yet to take the place of my beloved David Cassidy, and Donny certainly wasn’t even in the running. But Joy was thinking that since Donny was so hot at the time, surely I liked him, thus the album was presented to me with great fanfare.


She obviously did not remember how important teen idols were, and that a deep love for them happens spontaneously and organically. It cannot be foisted upon you like an arranged marriage, and I wanted nothing to do with that album.

But Joy insisted upon us playing it repeatedly, with her bopping and singing excitedly in an attempt to engage me in some giddy girlie bonding. I did like the song “I Knew You When,” and maybe I would have liked the rest of the songs if she hadn’t been so desperate to make me like them.

Then it turns out Donny covered a song that Wayne Newton had also covered, and turns out Joy absolutely adored her some Wayne Newton. So she pulled out that album so I could hear his version. You’d think that since the moment traumatized me so much, I’d remember clearly what the song was, especially since she was exuberantly singing along with it while Dad smiled wildly. But the mind tries to be kind by blocking out ugly things, and this was one of those things.

See Charlie Rich perform "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World."
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September 1973: CHER - Half-Breed


With one song, Cher made me switch sides from wanting to be a cowgirl to wishing I was an Indian maiden with the floor-length headdress like the one she wore while singing the song on The Sonny & Cher Show. I still want that headdress, and I’ve come close to it a couple of times: the Cher half breed doll and being invited to portray an Indian in a music video.

Cher performed the song on horseback, and I, too, could sing it on horseback…well, technically, on the back of my Shetland pony. But since she was short, there might be a problem with the feathers dragging on the ground. And there was one other technical glitch with executing this idea: Sugar had recently given birth, so was busy nursing a little one.

Yes, that public moment of copulation with Billy Blue Blazes did result in an exquisite little colt my Father named Star. Yes, Sugar gestated for about 370 days, which is not all that unusual.

During the separation, my Dad had shipped the pregnant Sugar from our paddock on Douglas Road to the ranch of Art and Ann Klein in Brighton, Illinois. Art and Ann were the couple who gave me the red cowgirl outfit, so this (and about 10 acres of fenced pasture) made them the perfect adoptive parents for Sugar.

I was enchanted by the little colt, and thrilled to see Sugar every now and then, but because it was every now and then, it felt more like visiting a petting zoo than spending time with my pony and colt. Sometime later when Dad sold the pair to a co-worker living in Troy, MO, it registered nowhere near the sadness he expected upon telling me the news. I had to pretend to be sad just to match his expectations. There was no way for him to understand, or me to explain, that I had a callused heart from having lost Sugar – among many other things – in September of 1972, and that I was just happy that some big, happy family would now love and play with my pony.

Here's an iconic Cher moment: "Half-Breed."
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September 1973: PAUL SIMON - Loves Me Like a Rock


My Mother begins dating a man named Dale, who has a modified version of Charlie Rich's hair, drinks too much, drives too fast and smells of Old Spice (with a Cutty Sark top note). He also has a skinny blonde son named Jeff, who is the same age as me.

Jeff was a deeply morose little guy because his mother had died the previous year. I was angry because I’d “lost” my father around the same time. When we had to hang out together, it always felt like we should have had a connection but something key was missing. Now I realize that if we’d been adults, we’d have spent our time together moaning about how life sucks over way too many cocktails and bonding for life. But as it stood, I was full of piss and vinegar while he was mopey and lethargic, and that was an uncomfortable combination.

See Paul Simon perform "Loves Me Like A Rock."
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