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I'm All Shook Up!

You don’t need me to tell you what dismal, scary times we live in. As March roared in like a lion, my favorite presidential candidates dropped out, the stock market and my retirement tanked, and COVID-19 marched across the land.

My first day working from home in a social distancing experiment found me blue and frightened. I live about a dozen miles from one of the hot spots. I’m older and have an underlying lung condition. I live with an international traveler just returned from the Middle East. I feel like I have a big COVID-19 target on my chest, beckoning the inevitable. The pantry is well stocked with pasta and canned tuna, I will be OK until I’m not.

Amidst a gloom that watching an episode of the The Great British Baking Show couldn’t shake, I went to bed reading the news on my phone. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were just diagnosed with the corona virus while in Australia. But wait – they were in Australia because Tom is playing Col. Tom Parker in a movie about Elvis Presley by Baz Luhrmann.

Baz Luhrmann is making a movie about Elvis!

This is very good news, and I went to bed a happy woman. Waking up, all I could think about was “Baz is making a movie about Elvis, Baz is making a movie about Elvis.” I danced through 30 seconds of hand washing imagining what my favorite director and his crew could do with that. Spectacular Spectactular!

Baz Luhrmann is one of my favorite artists. I would go see anything he was involved in. And he’s been involved in opera, movies, theatre, fashion, television and music as a writer, director, producer, designer, composer and conductor. He is the creative force behind the Red Curtain Trilogy of award-winning movies – “Strictly Ballroom,” “Romeo + Juliet,” and“Moulin Rouge.”

Well known in his native Australia, he finally came to America’s attention in the 1990s. His first film, Strictly Ballroom, is a perfect piece of fluff. My fondness for it comes from the viewing circumstances as well as its exuberant wackiness. I was sick at the time, undergoing grueling chemotherapy, and confined at home. A neighbor brought me a VHS copy in hopes it would cheer me up. It made me laugh and laugh and I wore that tape out. The paso doble and rhumba became the sound track to my chemo visualization and Señor Adria was born.

I became a gushing fan girl, and not only because Baz got me through cancer. Every production he creates has an over-the-top style that fits its subject. Warring gangster families in a dystopic near future. Top-hatted mustachioed gents at a late 19th century rave. The wild, wild west of the outback frontier. The luxurious opulence of decadent Long Island sound wealth. Every exaggeration makes sense in the wacky worlds he creates. I loved the incongruous mash-ups of musical eras, the jukebox hits dropped into the laps of frenzied dancers, shimmying in their jewel box costumes. You can see glimpses of Bollywood, Hollywood, Busby Berkeley, and every 1930s romance and musical meant to make the audience forget their Depression troubles. Now, instead of scrolling through the daily news of horrors, I’ll binge watch Baz Luhrmann, not only the Red Curtain Trilogy, but Australia, The Great Gatsby and his hip-hop music TV series The Get Down.

I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with Elvis Presley. I can easily anticipate the iconic Coca Cola billboards, voyeuristic all-seeing eyes, the stages with red curtains, and the unabashed celebration of pleasure. Which songs will he choose? And will he mash them up with the blues music that came before and the rap that comes after? All I know is that it will be eye candy and a serious pleasure to watch.

Production on the Elvis movie has been suspended because of COVID-19 on the set. Even under non-pandemic conditions, we would have to wait until the fall of 2021 to see the next feast Baz Luhrmann has prepared for us. A lot of contagion can happen between now and then, but so can a lot of “Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love!” Baz Luhrmann got me through a tough time before and I’m counting on his oeuvre to do it again.

The COVID-19 virus has a lot of us all shook up. The news around the world is grim. I wish Tom, Rita and everyone else stricken a speedy recovery. The rest of us should hunker down and ponder the good we will do once this horseman of the apocalypse passes by. And let’s enjoy the time we have, “Come What May.”


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