A tribute to a legend and a visit to an artifact of the last hours of her existence, published at the exact minute of her passing + 55 years.
Ms. Cline, backstage with butterflies and sweaty palms, Memorial Hall, Kansas City, 3 March 1963; her final show. Mildred Pierce photo
I’ve always had a queer fascination with youth and death.
Is it the great senselessness of this? That by rule, we’re all supposed to grow old and reminisce about our youth and what we should’ve done differently? Once you roll the celebrity aspect into it, you’ve got youth and death involving someone that in theory has more monumental life experiences in six months than the rest of us do in a lifetime. And perhaps that’s where obsession begins.
I find it quite strange that it took me as long as it did to find out how Patsy Cline died. And when.
Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ sort of spoon-fed the story of Buddy Holly and The Day The Music Died to anyone whose parents had that radio in the basement, with the missing tuning knob, permanently set to the oldies station. My curiosity for that one took me first to the nightmarish autopsy reports of those three singers sudden, violent ends, and then to a much more healthy end, a 2009 pilgrimage to the exact spot of the wreck in a field in northwest Iowa.
I knew Patsy’s hits. They’d cycle through that same oldies station here and there. But I think they (perhaps purposefully) branded her as a minor ‘crossover’ star in the early rock era, not as one of the biggest stars in the history of an entire genre of music.
As you start to dig in a bit, one finds out things that teenage boys just melt for in the concept woman; a public classiness cloaked in just enough mystery to allow for a secret, just between the two of yas, offset by an offstage reputation of being able to keep up with the boys in the three categories we’re taught to hallow the most: cussin’, fightin’, ‘n drinkin’.