Detail from Harry Green print Blackpool


Hans Christian Andersen

Book Cover 'The Tinderbox' Andersen


Georges Rouault
Heads of two Clowns

Rouault, Heads of two Clowns


Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn,
So get those stakes up higher
There's a thousand pretty women waitin' out there  ...
Viva Las Vegas,
1964, film title song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman
Viva Las Vegas, Blackpool

Print/Poster Gala Night at Empress Ballroom, Blackpool

Episode 1A

First Telling of the Fairy Tale



(Not to be picky, but the Holden family is actually dressing for the grand opening of Ripley's new refurbished amusement arcade in Blackpool, and the announcement of his scheme for a projected Las Vegas style casino-hotel to be constructed on the property adjoining his arcade.)  The Latin beat becomes Elvis singing Viva Las Vegas.  One after another, the characters sing along with Elvis:  their voices are softly but clearly heard, never interfering with the integrity of the original performance.   Ripley takes the lead, as always, singing most of the piece while dressing to look like Elvis in his Las Vegas period.  Wife Natalie contents herself with a plaintive How I wish that there were more than twenty-four hours in the day.  (When we know her better we'll sympathize.)  Portions are also contributed by 19-year-old Shayanne and Danny, three years or so her junior.

At this point, our attention is diverted from music and lyrics to the clothing selected by the members of this family:  Ripley all Elvis sideburns and fleshy masculinity, slapped-on cologne, showy jewellery, riverboat gambler white suit with black shirt, black and gold brocade waistcoat, indefinable menace;  Natalie lovely and tasteful in an elegant black frock;  Shayanne also simply and becomingly dressed in black.  And completing the disparate elements of the picture is Danny in habitual large clumsy sneakers and hooded jacket following the others as they clatter down the steps and out into the waiting limousine for the drive to the nearby historic English holiday seaside resort of Blackpool.

Even on first viewing we catch the significance of the swift unexpected glance by Natalie Holden out the limousine window into the inviting anonymous darkness during the drive, away from husband Ripley and daughter Shayanne, away from son Danny.

. . .

The premise of these Retrospective Commentaries — that we look within ourselves in order to discover meaning through a metaphoric sifting through the sands of a book, film or other artistic work, uncovering in the process certain debris which can be examined for clues — is completely overturned in Blackpool.

There's no need to dig into the sands of Blackpool, which more nearly resembles a violent collision at sea followed by remains of the shipwrecked vessels washing up onto the shore.

Instead of excavating, our time is better spent protecting ourselves from wave upon wave of images and sound, characters and dialogue, melody and lyrics, ideas, questions, and vague menace breaking in bewildering succession about our heads.  Rather than a vigourous removal of sand, followed by examination of any debris remaining in the sifter, we need to use the utmost delicacy and the finest-meshed sieve to rescue meaningful bits as they tumble past us into oblivion.

And only after we've pushed aside everything of substance can we concentrate our energies onto the silky shimmer of Fairy Tale and the sullen gleam of Myth trickling through our fingers onto the beach.

[February 2007]
    [Page amended February 4th, 2012]


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