Tuesday, January 15, 2008

R.I.P. Vampira

There are very few things in life that will induce me to illicit an audible, emotive sigh. You know it well: "Ahhh."

I don't get moved too terribly by babies. They're more likely to make me laugh. Likewise, I've never been too much of a sucker for schmaltz. So one might imagine my own dismay when I caught myself letting out a melancholic Ahhhh tonight upon reading of the
death of Vampira at age 86.

In all honesty, I never was much of a fan for Maila Nurmi - that was her name, well, stage name. I've just been rather appreciative of her tertiary ties to two individuals that are hallmarks of my past.

Remarkably - to me at least - Vampira had direct connection to both the object of my adolescent hero worship, James Dean, and the campy, ironic anti-hero of my expatriation, Ed Wood. She was an odd at best, ten years senior love interest of Dean and later reluctant "star" of Wood's classic Plan 9 From Outer Space. (Oddly enough Martin Landau is in a similar boat, having been Dean's friend in New York and later starring in Tim Burton's 1994 opus Ed Wood. He won best supporting actor).

Vampira was one of the few people that could bridge a time in my life from age 13 to 23 in one fell swoop. For a decade dawned amid pubescent haze and exited with adultish acuity, few people, let alone ideas, could tie the boy to the man...not even myself for the most part. As time passes and one grows pensive - and closer to 30 day by day - one might try to revisit those old times. Memories are subjective at times and fleeting at worse, so its always fun to visit those static footnotes and also-rans than can conjure up recollections above suspicion. Vampira was one of those hyper-text-esque images and ideas that instantly catapulted me to another time.

More often than not, I'd run across her image as played - quite buxomly - by Lisa Marie in Tim Burton's Ed Wood. Seeing that pale analog of Morticia Addams can flash up images of borrowing an A to Z James Dean encyclopedia from a pudgy girl in freshman German class or late night carousing 60 miles from Hiroshima. Either way her vampish figure was an instant ticket to time travel.

I don't think I'll carve any initials in my arm tonight. If self-mutilation didn't present itself for Elliott Smith, I doubt it's every going to happen. However, I am once again reminded that I'm almost six years older than James Dean was when he died and I've recently eclipsed Ed Wood's age when he made the classic Glen or Glenda.

On the whole, I guess I'm just feeling lucky tonight. Lucky enough to have been enamoured with a hero at 13, thousands of miles from home at 23, and still caring about silly shit today.

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