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Shirley Temple, and my apology to America

I need to apologize to America about Shirley Temple.
The first domino fell Sunday night, when my daughter and I were watching the Beatles tribute show, and Sir Paul's combo performed a version of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." As the camera panned around the Los Angeles audience, my daughter said, "Wouldn't it be funny if there's someone there who's on the album cover." The famous Sgt. Pepper's album is a collage of dozens of cultural figures, in an iconic phalanx behind the Beatles. I told her there weren't many who were still alive, which was true. Most of the legendary characters backing up the Beatles were already dead in 1967, when the album came out--it appeared to be a funeral scene, anyway--and certainly there were very few still breathing in 2014.
After the  show, I looked them up on a couple of Googlable sources, and determined that in that album-cover party, five were still alive, not counting the Beatles themselves.
Then, early last evening, Monday, I was at the window table at Suttree's, meeting with some out-of-state documentarians, talking about the history of music in Knoxville. We stuck to that subject for the better part of two hours, and somehow the conversation turned back around to the Beatles. Who have no connection to Knoxville except that they were admired both the Everly Brothers and Chet Atkins, and Pete Best once played at the Bijou, and Paul McCartney once stayed in Bearden overnight when he was having his car worked on. Only two of the five of us at the table remembered that Ed Sullivan show in 1964, and we talked about that, and how fast everything was changing, and the fact that when the Sgt. Peppers album came out, it seemed a couple of decades later, when really it was just three years.

And somehow I found it important to mention that I'd identified five people, besides Paul and Ringo, who were on the Sgt. Pepper's album cover, and who were still alive. One was Bob Dylan, of course. Then there was Tony Curtis, Dion, and Bobby Breen, a now-obscure Canadian born child performer of the '30s. And there was Shirley Temple, who's credited with getting America through the Great Depression, and who by some accounts is represented on that cover in different ways three separate times.

One of the young documentarians asked, "Shirley Temple's still alive? Are you sure?"
Yes, I said, at about 7:00 last night, I'm absolutely sure. I didn't know her personally but I was quite certain I would have heard if she were not. It was probably the first time I've had a conversation about Shirley Temple in a bar since she was ambassador to Ghana.
There was wood there, I was sitting on some, but I did not knock on it. And later the same night, Shirley Temple died, and I'm very sorry about that.

I will more careful. I will not speculate further about the health of Mr. Bobby Breen.

Something similar happened, about 18 years ago, when, out of the clear blue sky, I said, "I wonder whatever happened to Faron Young."


I've been informed that Tony Curtis, whom I first knew as Stony Curtis, on the Flintstones, died more than three years ago. No one told me.

So as of now, there are only three survivors of the Sgt. Pepper's collage: Bob Dylan, Dion, and  Mr. Bobby Breen, the Canadian-born child star who's now 86 and living in Florida. Plus Paul and Ringo, of course.

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