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By Dianne Armitage
I am the last person you will ever hear complain about getting old. Every single day I wake up and smell the roses (or coffee, or sea breeze) is a blessing, breast cancer certainly taught me that. However, no matter how grateful you are to be alive, there are some things about aging that just plain stink. High on that list is somewhat long in the tooth former British icons.
I had just turned 14 the summer the Beatles made their first tour of the U.S. I played I Wanna’ Hold Your Hand so many times the grooves were missing from my 45 RPM! I’d been too young to idolize Elvis, so when the British Invasion struck, I jumped on the bandwagon embracing everything those kids across the pond had to offer!
When I wasn’t glued to the newest technology (in this case, my brand new powder blue Japanese-made transistor radio), making sure I knew the words to all of my favorite songs, I was covering the walls of my bedroom with pictures I’d ripped out of Tiger Beat, Flip, 16, or Hullabaloo magazines! Back in the 60s, a 12-issue subscription to Tiger Beat cost $4, but you also received a “press card” and “secret decoder”. Any high school girl worth her salt knew that her press card and secret decoder were bound to come in handy when she actually met the Beatles (or The Rolling Stones, or The Kinks.)
I couldn’t be bothered with important school-related facts like how to find a square root, or when Rome fell, but just ask me what John Lennon’s favorite color was, what kind of bangers (sausages to anyone who did not use their secret decoder) Paul McCartney fancied, or how much Twiggy weighed – and I could recite chapter and verse without hesitation.
The fascination wasn’t just about the music or the fashion, it was because they were all so cute, so innocent, so young – and from someplace so exotic. Ahhhh, if only I’d been born in Liverpool!
Fast-forward 40 some years and suddenly there seem to be a plethora of former teen idols who feel it’s necessary to reappear. I want to remember Gerry and the Pacemakers as just that! Not Gerry Needs a Pacemaker! It’s pretty unnerving when the Troggs and the Zombies actually look like, well, Troggs and Zombies!
You don’t see former top model Jean Shrimpton gallivanting around trying to recapture her youth by sashaying down a runway. Once upon a time, her celebrated romance with actor Terence Stamp made them one of the most beautiful couples among the trendy denizens of the even trendier Carnaby Street. (I know these things because, remember, I read Teen Beat!) She had the good sense to remove herself from the limelight years ago, and last I heard was the owner of a bed and breakfast somewhere in England.
I would have loved to remember JEan and Terence as the epitome of the couple I always wanted to be part of! Granted, I’ve sometimes put on enough weight to nearly quality as a couple all by myself, but I never quite realized the dream of having someone as glorious looking as Terence Stamp gaze lovingly in my direction. But he couldn’t be content with doing voiceovers as he aged. Oh no, not Terence – he had to show up again on film. I have to admit he’s a darned good looking older man – but he’s an older man. Now, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get my mind to conjure up the young Terence. It’s just not fair!
And before you think I’m being snarky or mean spirited, just let me remind you that I’m sure if Terence Stamp was given the choice of seeing me then – or now – he’d pick then too!
I’m not quite sure why I feel so strongly about this particular subject, but I think it has something to do with trying to have just one place that feels safe, untouched, and indestructable. That’s why we often have such fond memories of our youth! The British Invasion happened well before cancer invaded my body. It actually happened when I was just getting used to having breasts, and was trying to figure out whether they were a blessing or a curse. At that point in my life the curse was having boys pay too much attention to that part of my anatomy – it had nothing to do with disease or despair. Back then, I was still filled with hope and hadn’t a clue that life could take seriously wrong, even deadly turns.
At just about the point I was starting to think life as I knew it was never going to be the same, I happened upon one of my very favorite pop icons from days gone by – Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. He just happens to live in my neck of the woods (and luckily he doesn’t seemed concerned that someone is watching him from the bushes!) No, seriously, I am not stalking him – but back in the day he sang a song called Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, and since my maiden name was Browne – I spent many a slumber party trying to convince my friends that he was singing about me!
So when I spied him at a local pharmacy and he wasn’t buying wrinkle cream, I was relieved! Actually, I was awestruck because I would recognize him anywhere. He has somehow managed to carry his boyish good looks along with him into middle age. He still sports a winning smile and twinkly blue eyes – and I could still sport a crush of sorts – which made me feel just for a moment that perhaps youth isn’t wasted on the young after all!