I just read where you were recently honored with the King Vidor Award for Excellence in Filmmaking at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival in California. Congratulations.
Guess what? This award coincides with you and me being together now for 48 years, and I thought it was time to write you a letter and let you know about it.
It all started on a memorable night around this time in 1968 when I was 12 years old and I saw your 1963 movie “Bye Bye Birdie” on television. When the film opened and you came running out wearing that salmon-colored dress with that red hair in front of that blue background, and they zoomed in for a close-up and you started belting out “Bye Bye Birdie,” my voice suddenly dropped an octave. I grew a mustache in 20 seconds. They moved me up a grade in school.
I was right there with you and your cute little hyphenated name through the rest of the film. I was Hugo Peabody when you sang “One Boy” to him in the moonlight. I was Conrad Birdie when he leaned you over for a deep smooch in the high school gymnasium after he sang “One Last Kiss” to you. I was by your side at the local juke joint when you sang and danced your way through “A Lot of Livin’ To Do.”
I had already planned our life together by the time the movie came to an end and you graciously performed a reprise of the title song. You ended with the line, “Time to say goodbye – bye now!” and you stood there in that glorious profile as the camera panned away. Our budding romance came to an abrupt end as the picture faded to black.
But I knew we weren’t finished. I knew we would meet again. Lo and behold, we picked up right where we left off just a few months later at our secret meeting place, the television, when NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies featured you teaming up with Elvis Presley for a showing of 1964’s “Viva Las Vegas.” I’ve been a lifelong Elvis fan, and looking back I’m starting to think it’s not because of Elvis. It’s because Elvis had you. Talk about a breakthrough!
As you might recall – I sure do remember it – your first appearance in “Viva Las Vegas” is when you bring your little sports car in for a checkup, and you say the engine is whistling, and Elvis looks you up and down and says, “I don’t blame it.” I thought that was a pretty good line.
Anyway, then the camera showed you from ground level walking away in what can only be described as a perfect pair of little white shorts, and, uh, that was a very well-directed scene, I must say.
Anyhoo, you and Elvis got married at the end of the movie, and I imagined us being very happy together. Over the years, I’ve seen every movie you ever made, and even 48 years later you are still drop dead gorgeous, Ann-Margret.
By the way, I want to tell you that my wife, Lora, knows all about you and me because I had to tell her, so you can blame her for keeping us apart. Truth is, she seems amused by it, which kinda makes me mad, like she thinks in real life you and I could never really end up together. Also, I know you have been married for about 50 years to a man who seems like a really great guy and, of course, I hate him.
I let Lora read this letter, and she just smiled, like she wasn’t taking it seriously. I guess she’s right. You and I could never really be together in real life, right, Ann-Margret? Hahahaha. That is kinda funny. We could never really be together. Right?
A few months ago Lora and I were watching an episode of “Mad Men” on Netflix, and all the ad agency guys on the show, which is set in the 1960s, were in an office watching the clip of you singing “Bye Bye Birdie,” and when it was over they just sat there for a few seconds staring at the TV without saying a word, which I can relate to.
And then someone said something like, “How do we turn that into an ad?” And someone else said, “Get Ann-Margret.” And they were right, because even though they tried to produce a commercial with another actress in a similar scene, they just couldn’t get it to work, which I could have told them and saved them the effort.
Lora and I also saw an episode of Saturday Night Live not too long ago which included a skit called, “Ann-Margret Tries To Throw a Wad of Paper Into A Trashcan,” and Kristin Wiig was playing you, and the joke was that her Ann-Margret-style dancing was so frenetic that she bounced all over the room and never could find the trash can. Lora does a pretty good imitation of your dancing, too, but I think she’s making fun of it.
Let’s be honest, Ann-Margret, you are the best dancer ever. Even when you and Elvis competed in the talent show in “Viva Las Vegas” and they said Elvis was the winner (by a coin flip), I’m sorry, you clearly, clearly should have won that contest with your scintillating performance of a song and dance called, “Appreciation,” which I deeply appreciated.
Well, I’m getting ready to drop this in the mail to the address you have on your website. Just in case you want to say hi, I’m including my home phone number, and my cell phone number, and my home address, and my work address, and my work email address, and my private email address, and my other private email address, and my Facebook address, and my Twitter address, and also my neighbor’s phone number in case you miss me somehow and need to get a message to me.
Happy anniversary, Ann-Margret. By the way, I don’t know what it will be yet, but I’m planning to send you something special for our 50th in a couple of years, if Lora will let me spend about $25 on Amazon. She says she’ll think about it. (That usually means yes!) So when the time comes, keep your eyes open for the FedEx truck. Until then, bye now!
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.com. Ann-Margret has his other contact information.