GETTING MORE TALE #784: Black Leather
In my earliest memories, watching television with my mom and dad, I remember thinking greasers in black leather jackets looked so cool. And I think that single impression had a cascading impact through my life.
It probably started with the Fonz. Arthur Fonzarelli. Happy Days was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s and it was on in our house all time. At least until Chachi showed up. My dad did not like Chachi. But we all liked the Fonz and his pals, Ralph Malph and Richie Cunningham.
I remember discovering rock and roll thanks to TV. Shows like Happy Days and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Similar to Fonzie was Bowser from Sha Na Na. It had to be the black leather and black hair. That and the low voice. I was obsessed. I’d go nuts every time Bowser was on. Along came John Travolta in Welcome Back Kotter. I loved Vinnie Barbarino. The black hair and black leather jackets are the only common thread.
The next black hair, black jacket dude to come into my life was Ric Ocasek. The Cars were “Just What I Needed”, but the song that hooked me (like everyone else) was “You Might Think”. There was a music video TV show that was on WUTV Buffalo 29 in the early 80s: The Great Record Album Collection. It was on right after my after-school cartoons.
I would have seen my first Van Halen and Quiet Riot videos on The Great Record Album Collection, but I absolutely fell for The Cars thanks to that show. Everybody loved “You Might Think”, but for me it was also the singer. He had that look that I thought was the absolute pinnacle of cool. Black hair, jacket, glasses, the works. Plus he was in a band! It couldn’t get any cooler. If you used the most advanced lasers to freeze every atom in your body to the point of absolute zero, you still couldn’t come close to Ric Ocasek’s state of cool. He was a dominant force in the music video, the visage towering over the beautiful object of his affection. I didn’t think about how it was creepy that he was watching her from the windows and mirrors, no. Didn’t occur to me at all. Put on a black leather jacket and I guess you could get away with anything.
The death of Ric Ocasek has hit me pretty hard. I’m trying to figure out just why his passing has impacted me more than the usual. I think it has to do with the very young age I first encountered him, thinking absolutely nothing could be as cool as that guy in the video. But look at him — he’s not handsome in the classical sense. He was awkward looking, skinny and gangly. Kind of like I was. If that guy could become so cool by singing a song…could I too?
At least this depression has led me to a rediscovery of The Cars, who I haven’t played in a long time. Hearing their brilliance, song by song by every damn song, reassures me that Ric was anything but just an empty jacket.
And you know what? I’d still like to be as cool as Ric Ocasek. I’d rather be him then, say, David Lee Roth. Ocasek’s cool was effortless. It was natural. And that’s what made him the coolest of all.