Orange Flip

I sweat for days waiting for the singular ugly colored blue Cadillac to drive up the driveway.

She scared me, and then I glimpsed her face. Tanned, lips painted with “Orange Flip” lipstick, her one and only, and the dreaded be-hive up-do. Oh God! My mother was going to kill me.

I liked cool clothing at 11 years old. I wanted the red kilt for school, with the matching kilt pin like all the other girls. Instead, I wore a mustard and gray Italian knit skirt and matching top. While she was away, I was seduced by these new black stretch pants I’d received for Christmas. They were cool, and I had to wear them. I would feel gorgeous as I walked with apathy by the boys on the snowy hills in New England.

I knew how to iron from ironing my brother’s socks. He was quirky about what he wore too. I set up the board, heated the iron, and in the emptiness of my house, with my adult sitter, and my brother always absent, I went to work. It happened so fast. The iron napalmed the ski pants into the silver covering on the board. There it was. It became one, the black heavy iron, pants, and board. I collapsed the board and hid it under my bed. It could have been a Rauschenberg. It sat there for days.

And, now, I had to confess. I ran out to the driveway screaming, terrifying my mother that something terrible had happened. I told her in one sentence, clenched my fists and bit my tongue. Then, I was yelled at for alarming her. Maybe, she thought for a second that our sitter wasn’t vetted well enough. Asking her if she could cook anything would have been a good place to start.  Relevant too. My mother’s daily index cards with recipes written in her perfect feminine handwriting remained in their elastic band. We only knew how to make green beans and some hamburgers. My brother cooked for us.

My mother had fallen in love with Miami Beach. And, they never parted. She stayed at the finest hotels on Collins Avenue and dreamed of owning a house there one day. She would never forget the Bal Harbor boutiques across from her hotel. Nor, could she stop talking about the pool boys. The job for all young guys in Miami. If you could walk straight, were a bit of a looker, and could carry a fresh towel, you made a decent living. In the morning when the women took to their self-designated chaise-longues, while the husbands golfed or went to play elsewhere, the pool guys, on cue moved in to take care of their ladies.

And, most were ladies. Still, I never saw a women reject a slathering of “Coconut Butter Dark Tanning Lotion” by “Coppertone” on  their backs. There was restraint and a sense of decorum though in covering their legs. It would be a lie to say I haven’t heard the pool boy’s stories. Miami Beach is one of the best playgrounds in the world. There’s lots of ocean on this planet, but Miami Beach had cachet, top entertainment, reliable sunshine, fine dining, exquisite hotels, and night clubs to wear your fur stoles at night.

That was another generation of Miami Beach, still replete with a panoply of choices for entertainment. Miami Beach was a favorite haunt for the Rat Pack, and the Deauville was where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop liked to hold court. Fiifteen years later on the afternoon of February 1964, history was made also at the Deauville, and still stands out in Miami Beach’s entertainment history today. The Beatles were broadcast live on “The Ed Sullivan Show, from the well known “Napoleon Ballroom.” 

My brother and I sat cross-legged on the floor, trying to get closer to the small black and white TV. John, Paul, George, and Ringo with the new Beatle haircuts were introduced by Ed Sullivan, and I didn’t know whom to focus on. I have to say it was John and Paul. February 9, 1964 was an unforgettable, Sunday night, a rare occasion in my house. We sat and stared knowing that this was a big night. We were thrilled to the bone, but who could know how they would impact our lives for decades? It was not unlike remembering where you were when President Kennedy was shot on the afternoon of November 22, 1963.  I was in my classroom when my headmaster made the announcement, on the intercom.  We were dismissed, and school was cancelled. That was a numbing and devastating Fall. Thanksgiving took second place to our murdered presidents dramatic funeral.

I always felt that the country reeling from the brutal, assassination of President Kennedy was desperately in need of a strong palliative and a distraction from the pain. It was my vivid introduction to politics as I watched with my parents for four days during Thanksgiving the services for President Kennedy. And, the Beatles were huge for a couple of reasons, not least of which was their hair. Parents could now talk endlessly about this long hair and what to do. Who knew it would take some imported music with guys and silly haircuts to begin a different conversation? One away from sadness.

My mother, in Miami Beach again phoned somewhat hysterical after watching the Beatles. Oh, she thought they were adorable and was particularly taken by Ringo. She was in a state of excitement. So quickly from the Rat Pack to the Beatles. There was fascinating data, which emerged from the Beatles’ performance that night. So large was the audience that the US ceased to be what it was for just a few minutes. One of the most remarkable observations was that “criminal activity in most major cities and towns was put on hold.”  

In my living room on that night, I fell in love with these guys and the next day I would buy a single, “Love Me Do.” I felt very grown up and danced in my full length mirror for hours. We all knew the words to the songs, and I remember my poor father driving us to school while we shouted and sang the whole commute. All their songs were number one at the same time.

Lori Willcuts

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