On New Years Day I was watching the annual Twilight Zone Marathon and getting a familiar and increasingly uncomfortable feeling that I had never seen some of the episodes. After watching the show for — God, I hate to say this — nearly fifty years, shouldn’t I by now have seen every one? Well, I haven’t, and am starting to think that maybe this would make for a pretty good Twilight Zone premise. Something like:
Aging guy watches old TV show marathon and tries to convince others that someone’s inserting new, never-before-seen episodes, but can’t because everyone believes he is a doddering old fool who is losing his marbles and is no longer able to remember what he has seen in the past.
One came on that I remember, and it’s called “Black Leather Jackets,” with Shelley Fabares, who falls in love with a guy who turns out to be from outer space. Anyway — and it’s what happens whenever I am reminded of or see Shelley Fabares — I began singing one of my favorite songs (really), “Johnny Angel.”
For those that don’t know anything about Shelley Fabares, when she was a teenager she was on the Donna Reed television show, playing an all American girl named Mary Stone, who was popular, extremely cute, nice to everyone, and owner of many American teenage boy’s hearts, including mine.
It ran from 1958 — 1966 and was set in a bucolic small town somewhere in America, where her father was a doctor who practiced out of his home, which in those days was pretty common. Donna Reed was her stay-at-home mom before there existed a need for such a term.
She was as perfect as her daughter — perhaps even more so now that I think about it. Involved with the school and community, Donna effortlessly fixed everything that wasn’t quite right. The family was kept running smoothly, all while Mrs. Stone looked very good in poufy party dresses, high heels and pearls. Did I mention she also did her own housework? She did.
William Roberts was the show’s producer and decided it would be good for the show, and Shelley, too, to become a popular singer. Thus, Johnny Angel was born in 1962. The record sold over a million copies and was number one for awhile, which indeed made Shelley Fabares a pop sensation. Here are some lyrics:
Johnny Angel, how I want him, how I tingle when he passes by
Every time he says hello my heart begins to fly
I’m in heaven, I get carried away
I dream of him and me, and how it’s gonna be
Other fellas call me out for a date, but I just sit and wait, I’d rather concentrate, on Johnny Angel…
Okay, there is something a little untoward about a grown man singing these words — in more ways than one I imagine — but exposing one of my harmless eccentricities for ridicule isn’t why I mention it. It’s what happened afterwards.
Minutes after seeing Shelley and launching into a Bill Murrayesque rendition of the song, I went to Walgreens for a few things. When I walked into the store, what do you suppose was playing over the store’s PA? If you guessed Shelley Fabares singing Johnny Angel, you guessed right!
Anyone would have to admit that this is really strange and well beyond the boundaries of normal coincidence — but it gets weirder. I left Walgreens and drove to Burger King and was listening to Cousin Brucie (who in the sixties was a big DJ in NY, and for a time considered to be very cool, something I’m still trying to figure out). Without changing his schtick, he has managed to land a show on satellite radio that centers around music from that time, and it includes interviews with people who were at the top of their game back then.
As I waited in the Drive-thru, he was talking to some guy who reminisced about the people he’d worked with over the years. If you are guessing that this guy said he’d worked with Shelley Fabares and was involved somehow with the recording of Johnny Angel, you are right again!
All of this happened within an hour. What are the odds against that? The connections were made first by cable TV, then me (remembering and singing), then Walgreens’ PA system, and finally Satellite radio. These sounds and images all found their way to one set of eyes and ears within an hour, traversing hundreds of thousands of miles.
When something like this happens, eventually I ask myself: So, what does it mean? I never come up with a good reason, though sometimes I think about buying a lottery ticket. I am pretty sure it means something, and that these odd occurrences stand as evidence for whatever that something is.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Being unable to explain or understand these things is probably what makes them so much fun. These are the real mysteries of our lives, ones where we play a role, ones whose explanations lie somewhere in the cosmos, or heaven, or…who the hell knows.
I have only a few of these (and treasure them), and will blog about them from time to time. In the meanwhile, I’d love to hear of similar instances, so feel free to send them along.
Happy New Year!
Everything reminds me of something else
Donna Reed was in a movie entitled: It’s a Wonder Life, She plays Mary Hatch and has a scene with Jimmy Stuart (George Baily) that takes place in her mother’s house and is noteworthy for two reasons: First, she is beautifully photographed and is radiant. Second, it’s one of the most excruciatingly sentimental love scenes I’ve seen on film (or anywhere, I guess). It takes place when she is talking on the phone to Sam Wainwright. Pay special attention to how they look at each other, especially when Sam is talking.
Happy New Year!