One of the first things children often notice beyond themselves is their shadow. We laugh at the shock and sometimes fear over this unknown something following and mimicking their every move. Trying to understand it when you alone are the entire universe is a challenge and a learned intellectual ability.
Black and white photos hold more for me more than glorious living color. There is something about the depth chasms alongside a contrast of light and dark. The shades of gray carve out a perception that embraces many facets beyond the most obvious. They only slightly conceal. It gives one pause to observe closely and with introspect.
In white and black, the highlighted gray made by light direction and blockages can be true to form or larger than reality, depending on intensity and distortion. Much the same way a person’s inner self can be interpreted at times, perception or truth past the image. Elvis was no different. In fact, in many ways, like a shadow, he was assuredly “extra”, as my young adult children like to say.
Being extra tends to mean a step beyond. The Urban Dictionary states it as “excessive, dramatic behavior, over the top, doing the absolute most.” When I ask a waiter for more ice, evidently I’m being extra. If you wear bracelets that are loud and clang-y to the point others notice, you’re extra. If you tend to interpret shadows outside of the main subject of a photo, extra-ness has arrived at the party.
I’m extra. Me and Elvis are in good company. I can’t think of a single adjective used today that would be more appropriate. Just by the very nature of being Elvis, he is extra – and I love that he is. They could even redefine the term as being Elvis instead of being extra and it would apply.
Notice the photo I posted from the 69 Las Vegas press conference following his return to live performances. Look at the externals, recently married, beautiful baby girl, ’68 Comeback success, great physical form, fabulous voice and high energy, and now a highly acclaimed and successful return to the concert stage, well received, applauded, at the peak of his game. He’s donned figurative knighthood and an emblematic Presley MacRobertson land has just been named. Life is perfect. His broad beaming beautiful smile is captivating. He has the world by the tail, on the road to nothing but success with zero detours, no doubt.
Like King Midas, all he has touched has been made gold. I see this single shot and smile. Then I tend to look just a tiny bit beyond the perimeter. Just outside the outline the shadow extends a little further. Yes, I know it’s only a shadow and maybe it’s a stretch. Perhaps I’m being extra, as I see past his frozen in time moment of success because I, like you, know there is much more to his story.
His marriage was already in trouble, if there was much of a marriage at all. There was infidelity. You choose which stories you want to believe but none are healthy. He sought credibility as an actor and remained forever unfulfilled in that respect. He was artistically frustrated.
The next pinnacle of Aloha was still 4 years away. By then his marriage was all but dissolved, his light of his life daughter was no longer living with him, giant financial obligations divorce wise, business wise and personally loomed as large and heavy burdens to weigh him down with a great danger.
He was soon to launch into endless repetitive touring. After Suspicious Minds, he was to have no more number one hits. While the 60’s had ushered in mop top boy bands, singer songwriter combinations accompanied the 70’s. The times they were a-changing. But at this moment, he was Sir Edmund Hillary atop Mt. Everest.
As many others who study this beautiful man, we know the inherent sadness still floated within. Loneliness is not fulfilled by people or materials or gains. The insecurities are lightly buried just below the bubbling surface. I want it to be different. I want the successes to continue to buoy him and the sorrows to sink to the depths and stay. I want him to be healthy and stay healthy. Just like the edge of the outline holds a shadow, the beaming photo hangs onto the current unchanged reality.
Why can’t we focus only on his music and his beauty and his generous spirit and his kind and gentle nature. Let’s only listen to the uptempo songs he sang and look at the way he smiled at the girls in the motion pictures. Health issues and prescription drugs and temper tantrums and excessive spending are of no matter. If we bury our head in the sand and pretend it’s not part of the story, if we don’t see the shadow and only the form, how are we serving him?
Loving perfection is not difficult. Loving your children when they are excelling is easy. Loving them when they are stinkers, mean mouthed, disrespectful, rebellious, sometimes cruel or dishonest can be more of a challenge but only if love is to hold conditions. My love and admiration for this man doesn’t waver because of imperfections and flaws. I love with my whole heart. If you love any other way, is it a real love?
The well intentioned tend to throw out the term true fan, as in a true fan would overlook any flaws and toss them out. I disagree. A one dimensional fan sees only beauty and admires. A true fan observes the whole subject with the shadows and loves still.
If being extra means objectively studying all characteristics of Elvis Presley wanting to understand all he encompassed and all he overcame as well as all he endured, then consider me extra.
I love the shadow and the subject and that will not change the outcome of unconditional adoration, no matter what is found behind the misty blurred shadow edges.