|Bye Bye Birdie
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Caricature & Article by:Peter Emsile
Back in the early 1960s, there seemed to be a plethora of singing
Bobbys: Darin, Rydell, Vinton, Vee, Curtola, etc. etc. Well, when it comes to
singing Bobbys, mostly I'm a fan of the great Bobby Darin, and I'll likely be
doing a post on him sometime in the near future. But I also favoured Bobby
Rydell, who, like Darin, brought a bit of that swinging Sinatra sound to the
image of the teen rock and roll idol to create a sound that had a more lasting
appeal. A couple weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of seeing Bobby Rydell in
concert at Stage West here in Mississauga. I'm happy to report that Mr. Rydell,
now 66, is still in very fine singing voice. Actually, I prefer the way his
voice has matured as an adult, over the teen idol voice he had back at the start
of his career, as it puts him very much in the realm of Sinatra, Vic Damone,
Tony Bennett, etc.
Prior to going to see him in concert, I had drawn a caricature of both he and
Ann-Margret in their roles in 1963's "Bye Bye Birdie", the musical
that created some good-natured fun by spoofing Elvis's being drafted by the U.S.
Army. The Elvis type character is fictionalized as the gyrating teen
heartthrob,"Conrad Birdie", hence the title of the show. Bobby Rydell
played the hapless boyfriend, "Hugo Peabody", being ignored by Ann-Margret's
all-American girl,"Kim McAfee", who has been randomly chosen to give
Birdie his one last kiss before the army gets him. The movie is a lot of fun and
gives both Bobby and Ann-Margret an opportunity to really show off their song
and dance skills. I think Ann-Margret is a phenomenal performer who wasn't given
enough venues to display her musical talents onscreen. She's also terrific with
Elvis himself in "Viva Las Vegas", which she made the following year,
both films having been directed by George Sidney. It doesn't surprise me that
she went on to great success on the Vegas stage, singing and dancing up a storm
after those skills seemed to not be in high demand at the movies anymore.
I was pleased to see that Bobby Rydell still enjoys the film role, as he does a
medley in his show of most of the songs from the score, while a montage of film
clips plays on the screen behind him. As it turns out, Bobby Rydell was good
friends with Bobby Darin back then, and he did a marvelous tribute to his late
friend by singing a medley of his big hits. Of course Rydell performed most of
his own big hits, such as "Wild One", "Volare", and
"Sway", the latter song's swinging arrangements having likely inspired
the more recent rendition by Michael Bublé.
Though I was hoping to present the framed caricature in person to Bobby Rydell,
I'm afraid that turned out not to be possible, but I did manage to get it to him
via the show's local promoter, who also got Bobby to autograph an additional
print for me as I'd requested. I was told he got a real kick out of it, anyway.
So now, what better way to end off but to post the clip from "Bye Bye
Birdie" that I'd based this caricature on. It's my favourite scene in the
film, as it shows Ann-Margret at her sexiest as they all sing the swinging
"A Lot of Livin' To Do". Enjoy!