When Elvis Met Steve

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Among the things I learned from Born Standing Up: The picture of Steve Martin on the left is not a gag devised for the cover of The Steve Martin Brothers, as I’d always assumed. It was how Steve actually looked in the late 60s.

This week’s reading has been Steve Martin’s memoir Born Standing Up. On the whole, a surprisingly dry read, though of course loaded with interesting tidbits for the Martin aficionado. Some of these have to do with the development of his comedy, though a lot of that I already knew from one place or another. Others had to do with Steve’s interactions with other famous persons. For instance, Linda Ronstadt:

One week I opened the show for Linda Ronstadt; she sang barefoot on a raised stage and wore a silver lamé dress that stopped a millimeter below her panties, causing the floor of the Troubadour to be slick with drool. Linda and I saw each other for a while, but I was so intimidated by her talent and street smarts that, after the ninth date, she finally said, “Steve, do you often date girls and not try to sleep with them?”


Or Martin Mull:

Martin’s wit was Sahara-dry; he performed onstage sitting on living room furniture and sang his own comic songs with titles like “Noses Run in My Family,” “I’m Everyone I’ve Ever Loved,” “(How Could I Not Miss) A Girl Your Size,” and “Jesus Christ, Football Star.” On opening night at the Great Southeast Music Hall, we were both nervous about meeting each other. I was sitting in my open dressing room when Martin walked by, carrying his stage clothes on a hanger. Unsure whether to say something to me, he kept going. After a few steps, I called out, “Nice meeting you, too.” We’ve been friends ever since.

Or, last but not least, The Elvis Presley:

I got a welcome job in 1971 with Ann-Margret, five weeks opening the show for her at the International Hotel in Vegas, a huge, unfunny barn with sculptured pink cherubs hanging from the corners of the proscenium. Laughter in these poorly designed places rose a few feet into the air and dissipated like steam, always giving me the feeling I was bombing. One night, from my dressing room, I saw a vision in white gliding down the hall—a tall, striking woman, moving like an apparition along the backstage corridor. It turned out to be Priscilla Presley, coming to visit Ann-Margret backstage after having seen the show. When she turned the corner, she revealed an even more indelible presence walking behind her. Elvis. Dressed in white. Jet-black hair. A diamond-studded buckle.

When Priscilla revealed Elvis to me, I was also revealed to him. I’m sure he noticed that this twenty-five-year-old stick figure was frozen firmly to the ground. About to pass me by, Elvis stopped, looked at me, and said in his beautiful Mississippi drawl: “Son, you have an ob-leek sense of humor.”

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