Becoming Brenda Starr
Brenda Starr and I go way back. I knew just enough about her by December, 1961, to know I wanted to be her when I grew up. I wanted the career in writing, the fabulous clothes, the glamorous bedroom, the amazing long, red, flowing hair, and the cleavage.
Sure, she had a wacky dysfunctional relationship with a guy named Basil, but I hoped they had some semblance of a true spiritual connection, since his last name was St. John. A name like that should be able to cover a lot of sins, don’t you think?
As it turned out, he often disappeared for years at a time into some distant jungle, where he was forced to develop a rare serum from an exotic breed of orchid in order to prolong his own otherwise useless life.
Then he’d ingest or inject the serum, and use the cubits that had been added to his miserable existence to trek back to the big city, where Brenda would forgive him in an implied session of passionate lovemaking.
In December of 1961, Basil was away. I was eight years old, and anxious for his return. Wouldn’t it be better if Brenda and Basil lived out his few remaining days together, making happy memories? What good was it if he hung on another ten years separated from his one-and-only love, in exchange for a couple measly episodes of making-out?
Even at eight, I had lost patience with Basil St. John.
And if it weren’t for what happened on that fateful morning in December, 1961, I might have given up hope for Brenda, too.
I was spending the weekend with my grandparents, and by five o’clock Sunday morning, my grandpa let Grandma and me know he was having a terrible heart attack. She told him it was just heartburn, and to go back to bed. She was snoring within seconds, but I knew the truth.
My grandpa, just like Basil St. John, wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon.
The doctor made a house call, and an ambulance took Grandma and Grandpa into the city, where Grandpa lived in Intensive Care for the next five weeks. I was hustled to the next-door neighbors, people I did not know, but who had an enormous white Family Bible on the coffee table.
I took great comfort in the physical presence of the Bible—although I had never opened one and didn’t that day, either—but I instinctively reached for the Sunday funnies.
What I found there disturbed me almost as much as witnessing my first heart attack.
Evidently, Brenda Starr had been drugged by very bad people who, as the ultimate insult, had shorn her hair. Really shorn. Brenda Starr with a pixie cut.
“You can get through this, Brenda. Things aren’t as horrible as they seem right now. It will be all right, you’ll see. Hair grows back, really it does. Basil will still love you, no matter what. You are not alone.”
Okay, I admit it. That morning, I played Brenda Starr’s shrink, her counselor, her pastor. And in helping her, I pulled my terrified little self through a very scary time.
Brenda’s hair grew back so fast, I couldn’t believe it. Within a few short weeks—before my grandpa was even in a private room—her auburn tresses were as long and voluptuous as ever.
Boy, did I ever want to be Brenda Starr.
The next Halloween, in 1962, I got my chance. My mother bought me a wonderful Brenda Starr mask, and I had a costume to die for. (No cleavage, but still. Heck, I was a kid. There was plenty of time for that.) It was my favorite costume ever.
I must have had Brenda and Halloween on my mind in my sleep last night. Toward morning, I dreamed of having her gorgeous coif, which was growing exponentially like one of those dolls with a little crank that makes her hair cover her rear end in seconds flat.
I awakened with a huge smile and ran to the mirror to see if my hair would turn redder and grow big before my very eyes, but no such luck.
Still no cleavage, either.
Posted by Katy on 10/29/12 at 07:47 AMFallible Comments...