The forlorn, former home of Cans 'n' Stuff
The street on which I was raised runs nearly three quarters of a mile, a straight line along its entire length. We lived almost dead center, whence I could pedal my bike a satisfying distance in either direction. On the west end of the avenue lived Big Ed and Little Ed, a father and son whose nicknames reflected their seniority but not their relative size. Big Ed, as I recall, was a quiet, gray-haired man of small stature. Little Ed, however, was bigger in every way, from his large frame to his frizzy, black hair, which framed a happy-go-lucky countenance. They would have been an odd couple under any circumstances, but for a brief period of time they were business partners. They ran their unique venture from a tiny and disheveled storefront at the eastern terminus of our street.
Cans 'n' Stuff was surely one of the stranger establishments to have emerged in my hometown. Its eclectic stock was an outgrowth of its proprietors' respective hobbies. Big Ed collected beer cans, a fad of rising popularity in the seventies. Little Ed collected record albums, singles and related memorabilia. Naturally, they opened a shop that sold used records and beer cans. It was, perhaps, one of the greatest moments in the history of entrepreneurial zeal executed without so much as a shred of market research. What, after all, was the target demographic of Cans 'n' Stuff? Whom did Big Ed and Little Ed envision as their customers?
Today's Brain Buster: Which of these people might have trouble finding lifeguard work?
One October in the mid-Nineties, my wife and I were invited to a Halloween party. It struck me as a funny idea for the two of us to wear carefully applied KISS makeup but to otherwise make no changes to our everyday wardrobe. We set out across town along I-70, Julie sporting the Starchild design of Paul Stanley and me bearing the Demon likeness of Gene Simmons. We enjoyed the varied reactions of passing motorists, but upon arriving at the party, we were dismayed to discover that we were the only guests in costume. Rather than appearing ironically witty, we instead looked just plain stupid. When it comes to successfully pulling off such a stunt, there is safety in numbers.
I was reminded of the incident after traveling a few hours in the other direction on I-70 to catch KISS at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis on Monday. A friend and I arrived with plenty of time to enjoy the fair before the show, and during the interval we observed increasing numbers of KISS fans arriving in tour shirts, many of them wearing makeup and some outfitted in full stage gear. Though the more elaborately costumed provoked sidelong glances from average fairgoers, they also earned the admiration and support of their peers. In the strange world that is the KISS Army, cavorting about in costume makes anyone a sideshow celebrity.
The Beatles: indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and no extras?
Imagine the public outrage that would ensue if Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were to announce their intention to reunite and tour as The Beatles. Though they would have no trouble selling tickets, a critical consensus would condemn the endeavor as false advertising, even though the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison obviously would have prevented them from participating. Yet there is no hue and cry over Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend appearing as The Who in spite of the unavailability of late bandmates Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Why? The answer rests in the peculiarities of rock group dynamics, by which the members of most bands can be subdivided into indispensable leads, colorful supporting characters, and extras.
Now let us entertain an alternative history in which Lennon and McCartney are today's surviving Fab Two. They hold a press conference under a giant Beatles logo and announce a reunion tour. The world rejoices. Everyone laments the losses of Harrison and Starr, but few seem to mind Lennon and McCartney hiring session players and billing themselves as The Beatles. This is because within Beatle group dynamics, Lennon and McCartney were the indispensable leads. You can't have The Beatles without either of them, but you conceivably could have The Beatles with both of them and some hired hands.