dreams, music, politicians, politics, slut shamers, social media

Strange morning dreams, and rude comments from MAGAts….

I’ve been having some interesting dreams lately. Yesterday morning, I dreamt that Richard Carpenter had quit playing music and become a dentist, and he was MY dentist. I don’t know how good Richard is at math and science, but based on his looks alone, I could totally see him as a dentist. But, because I do admire his piano skills so much, and I’m sorry I dreamt he changed careers, I decided to download a few of his solo albums. As I write this, I’m listening to this year’s Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook, in which he plays intricate piano instrumentals of his biggest hits with his sister, the late Karen Carpenter. And, as I write this, I realize I’m turning into my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d probably enjoy himself. He used to play Carpenters albums in the car when I was a kid. If I was lucky, that’s what he would play… otherwise, it would be straight up Muzak. Thankfully, I’m not that bad off yet. If I ever become a Muzak fan, please just put me out of my misery so I can be beamed out of this existence.

Then this morning, after I fell back to sleep after waking up at 4:00am, I had a dream that I went back to my parents’ former home and place of business in Gloucester, Virginia. Somehow, I had forgotten that they had sold it to Deborah, the lady who worked for my dad for about 20 years before he finally let her take over the business. Before Bill and I went to my old house, I dreamt we were at some kind of pond in Germany. I was standing on the shore, looking for fish. I saw a whole lot of them. One was a giant goldfish– size of a frying pan, which jumped out of the water and bit the air. A German woman standing next to me managed to get a shot of the magnificent leap. I was about to try to do the same, when all of a sudden, an iPad came flying through the air at me. It was somehow magnetized with a powerful force, causing it to stick to me and push me to the ground. I couldn’t get up.

Then, I was at my old house– Deborah’s current house– walking around, noticing how my mom’s needlework shop was full of kids’ bikes, and there was a water slide made of foam rubber cushion installed near the front porch. Just as I was about to try out the slide, I remembered it wasn’t my house. I figured we better leave, but as we were about to leave, a bunch of people showed up, claiming they were Deborah’s friends. They were an odd group– people who would be considered “weird” in many circles. I have no idea if Deborah has any friends who resembled the ones in my dream. There were also cops, and they wore black uniforms instead of the brown ones they wore when I lived in Gloucester. I should also note that Deborah, herself, was not in attendance.

That’s when I woke up for good… and I looked at Facebook on my iPad, and saw a bunch of notifications for comments people made to me last night, after I dared to post to Nancy Pelosi that I had already voted straight blue and wished her husband, Paul, a speedy recovery. Now… on the surface of it, I don’t see why this statement should have attracted rude and angry comments, and inappropriate reactions, from MAGA trolls. I don’t understand, either, why they are hanging out on Nancy Pelosi’s Facebook page, harassing her supporters and well-wishers. Even if I still voted Republican, I would wish Paul Pelosi a speedy recovery from the injuries he received at the hands of David DePape, an unhinged QAnon supporting person who broke into the Pelosis’ home and attacked her 82 year old husband with a hammer. Why wouldn’t I wish him, and his wife, well? That’s called just being a decent human being, don’t you think? He’s not in office himself. He’s just married to a high powered Democrat. No one deserves to be violently attacked, especially in their own home, but I don’t see why I should wish Paul Pelosi ill, simply because his wife is a powerful woman who pushes Democratic policies.

As for my votes, I figure I have every right as an American person over the age of 18 to choose the people I think will do the best for the country. I do not think that Republicans, especially as they are today, will do the best for America. Even if I believed that voting “red” would improve the economy and help people with their bills– and I don’t believe that, by the way– I have seen way too many people with questionable morals and narcissistic personalities running for office. Decent humans who actually care about others and want to do what is best for America are in very short supply in the Republican Party. Sorry… I just can’t align with folks like Lauren Boebert, Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor (Greene), Matt Gaetz, Glenn Youngkin, Kari Lake, Greg Abbott, any Trump family member (besides Mary), or any of the other truly disgusting and hateful people who are stumping for the Republicans right now. I won’t do it, even if it means my stocks will finally go up again. Voting for decent, professional, caring people in leadership matters more to me than money does. I’ve been broke before, too… so I do know how important money is. But if bad people run the country, do you really think they will want me to hang on to money? My answer to that question is “no”.

I simply don’t believe that if the Republicans get all the power, they will make American better, let alone great. They are interested in enriching themselves and staying in power, PERIOD. So, because I have the ability to do so, and a functioning brain, I’m choosing NOT to vote for Republicans… probably ever again, if I’m honest. As a legal, law-abiding, adult American, that is MY call to make, just as it’s your call to vote for Republicans, if you want to do that. Leaving me horrible comments, especially on a Democrat leader’s Facebook page, is NOT going to change my mind. Laughing at me will only cause me to use my block button, because by laughing, you’ve shown that you don’t have any respect for me, anyway. So why would I want to read anything you post or see your profile picture? We have nothing in common.

I don’t make a habit of following social media pages made by Republicans. I don’t sit there and harass Republican voters for leaving supportive messages for their candidates. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time. In fact, as an American, I believe that everyone has the right to vote their conscience. I am also smart enough to know that if I was inclined to try to change people’s political beliefs, I’d likely get further by being nice about it, rather than being insulting. Too bad some of these MAGA trolls aren’t busier making their lives more fulfilling somehow. Maybe they should go to church or something.

I totally agree with Beau on this. The Republican Party is not about helping the people. It’s about money and power, and they WILL come after yours, even if you vote for them.

I was telling Bill about my strange dreams, and he was especially interested in the one about the iPad that was so powerful that it was holding me down to the ground. What a concept! I spend too much time online, and way too much time being irritated by social media. I don’t like all liberal ideas, and would actually rather have the choice to vote for more moderate candidates who have chances to win. But I prefer liberal agendas to the truly distasteful fascism I’ve seen coming from the right wing these days. I’d rather vote for “woke” policies, even if I don’t really like the whole “woke” thing, where women have privacy and bodily autonomy, than align with people who cheer for guns as they try to force women to gestate at all costs. And as they force women to stay pregnant when they don’t want to be, can’t afford to be, or it’s not safe for them to be, they offer no solutions or support to those women, or the babies they will birth. All they do is slut shame. I think access to abortion and healthcare privacy are both very important, so I will always vote for candidates who support that. I care much more about already BORN people. The MAGA trolls can just fuck off.

I am glad to spend another year abroad. This year, on Election Day, I will see James Taylor perform. I have had tickets for his Frankfurt show for awhile now. We were going to see him in February of this year, but COVID numbers were too high then. It looks like the show will still be going on this Tuesday, and we have second row seats. This may be my last time seeing James perform in person, so I look forward to that. It will be a nice diversion from the disasters at home in the United States. Hopefully, my dreams then will be inspired by James Taylor, rather than MAGA morons.

ETA: Sadly, James Taylor had to postpone again. COVID has invaded the band.

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condescending twatbags, music, rock stars, YouTube

Repost: Druscilla Penny…

I originally posted this article on the first OH blog on October 21, 2016. I’m reposting it as/is today, because I have a case of writer’s block and can’t think of anything to post right now. This post actually got some interesting engagement from new commenters when it was fresh content, six years ago. So, for that reason, I’m making it available again for the intrigued. I might be back later with something new, or I might not. This has been a stressful week, and to be honest, I’m kind of tired.

I probably ought to write this post on my music blog, but I figure what I’m about to write has enough in it that isn’t about music that it belongs here on my big blog.  Besides, the only reason anyone reads my music blog is to find out about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi, who probably gets unfavorably compared to her famous dead aunt Karen more times than she can count.

Yesterday, I took my dog to the vet. Zane (who passed in 2019) has had an ear infection and the vet had given us some meds. I’ve been using the meds, but his ear is still full of gunk. The vet wants to sedate him and flush it out. I’m going to try to have a sebaceous cyst removed from him on the same day. ETA: The “cyst” turned out to be a mast cell tumor, which is linked to canine lymphoma. Both Zane and Arran had mast cell tumors, and both went on to get lymphoma. On the way to the vet’s office, I was listening to music. The old Carpenters’ song “Druscilla Penny” came up on the iPod.

Richard plays a song about a groupie who wears too much makeup.

“Druscilla Penny”

Druscilla Penny, what a name!

Are you sure you didn’t make it up yourself?

You’re very pretty, yes you are

But with all the junk you wear, it’s hard to tell

Man, you must work hard to get your hair to look like that

I don’t need a horoscope to tell me where you’re at

Your family’s probably given up on you

Since you began to follow groups of long-haired rock ‘n rollers

I can hear your mother crying for her daughter

Ah, ah, ah ….

Ah, ah, ah ….

Druscilla Penny, what a girl!

Where’s the purpose to the crazy life you lead?

It doesn’t matter after all

You’re so sure instant love is all you need

I’ve seen your face at least a thousand times

You’re always standing there behind the stages at the concerts

Waiting for an offer to be with someone after

Druscilla Penny, how’s your head?

Do you ever wake up lonely in the night?

It isn’t easy for a girl when she can’t decide

If love is wrong or right

I hope I live to see a change

Could you ever really love?

Ever really care?

Ever really get it together? no no

This is one of a couple of songs on the Carpenters’ 1971 self-titled album that features the metallic voiced Richard Carpenter singing lead.  I read on a message board that this song was kind of a comedy skit, with Richard singing to one of the countless groupies who were waiting around to get with a musician.  I’m sure Richard fielded his share of horny women back in the 70s, though he sounds so uptight and straight on this song that it comes across as funnier than it probably should.

He sings about her crazy life, her love of substances, makeup, and weird hair, and the fact that her family is sick over her departure from respectability.  I’ve heard this song many times, but yesterday was the first time Richard sounded downright disdainful to me.  Like, I could picture him backstage telling off some poor kid, standing over her like an overbearing father.  It just doesn’t seem to mesh with the concept of a famous pop musician.  On the other hand, it does seem to suit Richard’s personality. Case in point…

“Piano Picker”… another song that highlights Richard’s attitude…

“Piano Picker”

Everybody always asks me

How I got to play so fine

And friends, I’m gonna tell ya

It really did take some time

Yes, after years and years of practice

And a case of real bad knees

Whil the other guys were out playin’ with the football

I was home bangin’ on the keys

And it got me

Right were I am, this is me

Playing the piano

I hope ya like what I do

It’s for you, and I’ll try and sing right too

I guess I’m really very lucky

That I’ve got this thing to play

‘Cause it can really make me feel good

Even when it’s cloudy and grey

Yes, after years and years of practice

And awful allergies that made me sneeze

And now the other guys are out playin’ with their girlfriends

And I was still bangin’ on the keys

And it got me

Right where I am, this is me

Playing the piano

I hope ya like what I do

It’s for you

And I’ll try and sing right too

Someone get this guy a glass of chocolate milk and some Claritin.  And maybe something to kill the bug up his ass.

Actually, the whole “Druscilla Penny” story seems kind of funny to me because everyone and their brother seemed to be taking drugs back in the 70s.  I mean, Richard himself spent some time in rehab for being hooked on prescription meds.  As far as I’ve read, he was not a drinker even in those days, but he did take Quaaludes or something like them.  And while Karen was getting some help for her anorexia nervosa, Richard was seeking treatment for his addiction to pills.  So why should he be looking down on a groupie whose head is in the clouds?

I know… it’s just a song and a rather silly one at that.  It might be funny to hear someone do a cover of it.  I bet Pat Boone could turn it into a big band standard, much like he did with Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”.  On the other hand, maybe it’s time I got a life and started listening to music from the 20s.

Below are the original comments:

AlexisAR

October 23, 2016 at 9:20 AM

I remember both of those songs. “Druscilla Penny” always seemed really condescending to me, as in the one girl who was so low that even Richard wouldn’t take her up on her post-concert offers.

  1. knottyOctober 23, 2016 at 9:50 AMYeah. That is exactly what I thought. Very condescending. As if Richard has room to be picky.

Unknown

February 27, 2017 at 6:29 PM

Love this song. I’ve always thought of it as “Penny Lane Lite,” though I have to say, I’ve never considered it to be condescending in any way. More of a cautionary tale. Considering the mindset regarding the pills he was taking at the time (they were given to him by his mom, who had a prescription), I can see how he wouldn’t have associated the fact that he was taking pills to help him sleep with the rampant recreational drug use he probably witnessed in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Also, I don’t think he had quite developed an addiction yet when this song was written.

Replies

  1. knottyFebruary 27, 2017 at 6:40 PM Well, you’re right that this was one of their early songs and Richard didn’t get help for his addiction until the late 70s. Which, if you think about it, makes it even funnier. He was what, 24 or 25 years old at the time? I’m not sure exactly when the addiction started, but I did read that it went on for years until he entered the Menninger Clinic in Kansas.

    Anyway… I love listening to the Carpenters. I enjoy a lot of what Richard and Karen did, especially in the early years. This song is a guilty pleasure for me, but I was inspired to write this post because I happened to hear it a different way on that day. And I’ve been listening to it since the late 80s (and probably before then, too).  

Melanie Kyle

January 4, 2019 at 8:22 PM

Hi, I actually know Dru. I met her in the early 90s and we became very good friends. She went to school with Richard told me that she was very hurt by this song. He was judgmental and nasty toward her. Basically, he was clean cut and she was a hippy and he bullied her both at school and by writing and then publishing this mean inaccurate song. 

Replies

  1. knottyJanuary 4, 2019 at 8:56 PM I’m sure knowing the woman behind it makes it seem all the more mean spirited… it doesn’t seem very becoming to the Carpenters. And I am sure Dru was mortified.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Two book reviews about Karen Carpenter’s life…

These two related book reviews, written for Epinions in 2007 and 2010, are both about books written about Karen and Richard Carpenter. They appear here as/is.

The almost complete Carpenters story…

The cover for the paperback version of this book. I have the hardcover edition.

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to music by Richard and the late Karen Carpenter, popularly known as The Carpenters. The Carpenters will forever be known for their ability to create and cover 70s era pop confections like “Top Of The World”, “Close To You”, and “Superstar”. Richard Carpenter provided his considerable arranging talents and piano playing. Karen Carpenter contributed her unforgettable voice. Together, the Carpenters were a musical force who reached fame and fortune while they were still in their 20s.

In April 1994, the late Ray Coleman published an authorized biography called The Carpenters: The Untold Story. I was quick to purchase a hardcover copy of this book and I’ve read it several times. Unfortunately, it seems that Coleman’s very comprehensive and informative biography is no longer in print. Nevertheless, I think it’s a must read for anyone who is interested in the Carpenters’ careers.

Coleman includes brief information about Karen and Richard Carpenters’ ancestry and childhood, as well as information about the time they spent in New Haven, Connecticut before they moved to Downey, California to pursue their music careers. The biography continues with the story of how the Carpenters were discovered, their meteoric rise to fame, and Karen’s and Richard’s legendary demons. Karen Carpenter was, of course, afflicted with anorexia nervosa, whereas Richard developed a drug addiction which led to a stay at the Meninger Clinic in Kansas. There are two photo sections with pictures of the Carpenters as kids and adults. There’s even a copy of an essay Karen Carpenter wrote for school.

The Carpenters’ story has been told and retold by different sources. The television movie The Karen Carpenter Story was shown for the first time in 1989. There is also an independent unauthorized film called Superstar available, which was made with Barbie dolls. Check out YouTube and you’ll find plenty of news and interview clips documenting the rise and fall of the Carpenters. In my mind, Coleman’s book is the only source that really provides a glimpse into who Karen and Richard Carpenter were as people. Although this book was written with the Carpenter family’s cooperation, it doesn’t cast the family in a perfect light. Though Karen had the voice of an angel, she didn’t always behave like one, especially when it came to Richard’s love life. And Richard Carpenter, talented as he is, also comes across as a bit stodgy and demanding.

This is not a short book, but I always enjoy reading it; Ray Coleman had a way with words. The only drawbacks I can think of are that this book is not as easy to find as it once was and the story ends in 1994. Richard Carpenter is still around, having married his cousin Mary Rudolph (she was the adopted daughter of his aunt) in 1984 and fathered five children. He still performs and he’s always tweaking the Carpenters’ sound and repackaging their music. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants the lowdown on the Carpenters’ career.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

And now, my review of Randy Schmidt’s book, Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter…

Karen Carpenter’s life and death…

The cover of Randy Schmidt’s book.

It’s hard to believe that Karen Carpenter, who had one of the most recognizable voices of the 1970s and early 80s, has now been dead for 27 years. I remember quite clearly the day she died, February 4, 1983. I was ten years old and riding in a car with my dad to visit my sister, who was at that time a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. An announcer came on the air and said that Karen Carpenter had died that morning. I asked my dad what had killed her and he said “Starvation.” He didn’t elaborate, but it wasn’t much longer before I first heard about anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder that plagued Karen Carpenter’s final years and eventually led to her sudden death at age 32.

Karen Carpenter was, of course, part of the brother-sister pop duo the Carpenters. The other half of that duo was her older brother, Richard. While Karen had that magical voice that made their music so appealing to so many listeners, it was Richard who was known as the “brains” behind the outfit. He wrote and arranged songs, occasionally sang, and played piano like a genius. And in their very close-knit family, Richard was apparently the most important child, especially to their mother, Agnes Carpenter.

Author Randy Schmidt has just published Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter (2010). I happened to find it two days ago, while playing with the Kindle my husband Bill just gave me for my birthday. Karen Carpenter’s story has always fascinated me and I do enjoy the Carpenters’ music, saccharine as it often is. I downloaded it and managed to finish it within several hours of dedicated reading. Considering the fact that this book is well over 300 pages long, that was quite a feat and a testament to my interest in the book.

Overlapping biographies

Back in 1994, the late author Ray Coleman wrote The Carpenters: The Untold Story. Coleman was a well known biographer of rock worthies as well as the editor-in-chief of Melody Maker magazine. Coleman’s book about the Carpenters was very comprehensive, so I was somewhat surprised to find Schmidt’s new book. Having read Little Girl Blue, however, I did notice that Schmidt had consulted many of Coleman’s works in Melody Maker and Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters in order to write this book. In fact, I even recognized a couple of paragraphs that appeared to come verbatim from Coleman’s book, which I have read several times since 1994. Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters, which Schmidt does list in a very comprehensive bibliography, obviously served as a major source for Schmidt’s Little Girl Blue. Why, then, if Ray Coleman had already written the Carpenters’ story, did Randy Schmidt need to write another book specifically about Karen Carpenter?

What I think Little Girl Blue offers…

What sets Little Girl Blue apart from The Carpenters: The Untold Story is that Schmidt managed to get information from sources other than those approved by Richard Carpenter. In particular, Randy Schmidt interviewed Karen Carpenter’s close friends, Frenda Franklin, Olivia Newton-John, and Karen Ramone. Karen Ramone was also interviewed for Coleman’s book, but from what I gathered in Little Girl Blue, Schmidt got more details, particularly about the time period when Karen Carpenter was in New York City in 1979-80, recording her one and only solo album, Karen Carpenter, with Karen Ramone’s husband, Phil Ramone.

Schmidt also updates Carpenters fans on things that have happened since Coleman’s book was published. For one thing, Karen Carpenter’s solo album, which had been shelved back when it was created, was finally released in 1996. For another thing, Richard Carpenter has become the father of five children– only three of them had been born when Coleman’s book was published. Schmidt also writes about why the Carpenters’ remains have been relocated from their original resting place at Forest Lawn in Cypress to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.

What’s good about Little Girl Blue

Besides the fact that Schmidt updates fans on all things Carpenters, this book includes some photos– a few of which I had not seen before in Coleman’s book. Schmidt writes well and I appreciated the fact that he spoke to a lot of different people in order to give readers a less whitewashed version of events. Schmidt provides more details about Karen Carpenter’s ultimately doomed marriage to Tom Burris, making him out to be an enormous gold-digger.  If what Schmidt writes about Burris is completely true, it’s tragically ironic that she married him.  One of Karen Carpenter’s biggest fears was, allegedly, marrying a man who was a gold-digger.

Schmidt also makes Karen Carpenter’s mother out to be an extreme control freak, who refused to let either of her children grow up and be normal adults. Schmidt even interviewed actors Mitchell Anderson and Cynthia Gibb, who famously played Richard and Karen Carpenter in a 1989 movie of the week called The Karen Carpenter Story, which played on CBS on January 1, 1989.

What’s not so good about Little Girl Blue

Like I mentioned before, Ray Coleman had already written a superior biography about the Carpenters. I am very familiar with Coleman’s book, which is unfortunately now out of print. I do think there’s room for two biographies about the Carpenters– but– it was pretty clear to me that Randy Schmidt leaned on Ray Coleman’s work quite heavily. In fact, there were a couple of instances in which it appeared to me that he’d actually copied some paragraphs or at least paraphrased them to the point at which I knew I had read them several times before. I didn’t have Ray Coleman’s book next to me as I read Schmidt’s efforts on my Kindle, but I feel pretty confident that I’d be able to find the text in question. Reading Schmidt’s work pretty much felt, to me, like the literary equivalent of a re-run.

Should you read Little Girl Blue?

If you are a diehard fan of the Carpenters’ music, you may already know a lot of the information Randy Schmidt reveals in his biography, especially if you’ve already read Coleman’s work. However, if you missed Coleman’s book and can’t get a copy of it, Little Girl Blue is definitely worth reading. Personally, I think I liked Coleman’s book better, though Schmidt does offers some new information, particularly on things that have happened since 1994. And I do think his interviews with Frenda Franklin give this book a perspective that is lacking in Coleman’s book. I do wish, however, that I didn’t feel like I had already read parts of Little Girl Blue.

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athletes, celebrities, mental health, psychology, tragedies, YouTube

Partial repost: Christy Henrich and Karen Carpenter, and discovering Dr. Todd Grande…

Recently, I watched a video done about Karen Carpenter by YouTube shrink, Dr. Todd Grande. Dr. Grande does videos about mental health topics in a trademark “flat” kind of way. When I first encountered him on YouTube, I didn’t like his videos that much because his delivery was so dry. But I kept coming back, because he chose interesting topics. After awhile, I realized that I enjoy his videos and even his “flat” style… especially when he throws shade in kind of a bland way. In the video he made about Karen Carpenter, Dr. Grande remarked that in terms of her musical talent, Karen was “like a Ferrari stuck on a go cart track”. He implied that she was much more talented than her brother, Richard, is. I got a kick out of that observation.

Karen Carpenter… Dr. Grande implies that her wings were clipped by her brother… Frankly, I think her mother was more of a wing clipper.

Personally, I disagree with Dr. Grande that Karen’s talent was that much more impressive than Richard’s is. They had strengths in different areas. Richard is a fantastic pianist, and he’s a great arranger. He knew what songs went best with Karen’s vocals. Karen was a magnificent singer and drummer. Together, they worked well. Both of them worked apart with somewhat less success. I do think that Karen and Richard had a very controlling mother, and personally, I think if anyone should be blamed for what happened to Karen Carpenter, it could be her mom that deserves the most shade. Agnes Carpenter was overbearing and overreaching… and she didn’t want her children to be independent adults. Moreover, she obviously favored Richard, which probably took a toll on Karen’s self esteem. Maybe that had to do with her development of anorexia nervosa. I don’t know.

Anyway… I enjoyed watching Dr. Grande’s video about Karen Carpenter and realized he’d done a bunch of similar videos about other celebrities. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on Christy Henrich, a brilliant 80s era gymnast who famously perished from anorexia nervosa in 1994. So I left him a comment. Maybe he’ll read and heed it. I really think it would be interesting to hear Dr. Todd Grande’s deadpan views about Christy’s public struggle with anorexia. She had a tremendous work ethic, which extended to her illness. At one point, Christy’s weight fell to 47 pounds. It’s not that I admire her for being that emaciated. It’s more of a comment on her sheer will power and relentless pursuit of her goals, self-destructive as they were. I’m sure a mental health expert would have a lot to say about her.

A video a YouTuber made about Christy Henrich.

In the meantime, below is a repost of an article I wrote in February 2014 about Christy Henrich for my original blog. It was inspired because Bill and I went on a “hop” to Spain and Portugal in January of that year. On the way back to Texas, we landed in Missouri and drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri. I thought of her as I realized how much Missouri reminds me of Virginia. As usual, the repost appears “as/is”.

Remembering Christy Henrich

Back in the late 1980s, I had a brief but intense obsession with watching gymnastics.  I would catch meets on ESPN or Home Team Sports.  In those days, ESPN only had one channel and I believe HTS is now defunct.  I remember seeing very old footage of Shannon Miller when she was just 12 years old.  I remember watching Brandy Johnson and Phoebe Mills.  I could never so much as turn a cartwheel myself, but I really enjoyed watching the tiny girls compete.  I admired them for being so tough and strong.  I was into horses myself, though.

I also remember Christy Henrich, who was less than a month younger than me.  When I first saw her, she reminded me a bit of a soccer player.  Short and muscular without an ounce of fat on her, she didn’t have the long, graceful limbs of the Russian or Romanian gymnasts.  But she was very strong and had an amazing work ethic.  Her coach, Al Fong, even called her E.T. for extra tough. Sometimes, that extra tough work ethic worked against her, as you can see in the video below.

This may have even been the first meet I ever saw Christy in… This performance was not very good. The commentators say she “looks tired” and “doesn’t look right”. They also mention that she was warming up way before everyone else was.

Not being privy to anything going on in gymnastics that wasn’t aired on TV, I didn’t know about Christy Henrich’s eventual slide into anorexia nervosa and bulimia.  Back in those days, I had a bit of an obsession about eating disorders, too.  I knew a lot about them and even flirted with them.  If I had known about Christy, I might have even admired her for her anorexia.  That’s how dumb I was at 16.

Christy Henrich at 17

I remember watching the very intense 1988 Summer Olympics gymnastics trials.  I was kind of rooting for Kristie Phillips, an adorable strawberry blonde who had seemed poised for gymnastics stardom.  A growth spurt and weight gain had sidelined her in 1987 and she was back to try to win a spot on the team.  She placed 8th and was named a second alternate.  She would not be going to Seoul unless someone got hurt.  Christy Henrich missed the team altogether by .0118 of a point.  There was no hope for her at all, unless she set her sights on 1992 in Barcelona.

About Kristie Phillips, who also suffered from an eating disorder.
Kristie Phillips was on Oprah, along with Christy’s mom and boyfriend. Here, she talks about her suicidal ideation after she missed the Olympic team.

In 1990, a judge supposedly told Christy Henrich after a meet in Budapest, Hungary that in order to be a serious contender for the Olympics, she would need to lose weight.  At 4’11” and 93 pounds, Christy didn’t have much weight to lose.  But she took the judge’s words to heart and went on a serious diet, quickly shedding five pounds.  She was praised for the weight loss at first, but then she slid headlong into a battle that would eventually cost her her life.

Christy Henrich in 1990

By January 1991, she had lost so much weight that her coach, Al Fong, kicked her out of the gym.  A week after he kicked her out, she came in to tell him she was quitting the sport.  Though she had a loving family and a boyfriend who wanted to marry her, the eating disorders had taken hold of her.  On July 26, 1994, she died of multiple organ failure.  She had just turned 22 years old and she weighed less than 60 pounds.  At one point, her weight was just 47 pounds.

A clip from a 1995 episode of Oprah in which Christy’s mother and boyfriend talk about her struggles with eating disorders.  

I remember reading Joan Ryan’s book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  In fact, I read an excerpt of it in the Washington Post just days before I left the country for Armenia to serve in the Peace Corps.  When I got home in 1997, I bought the book and read it.  It was about female gymnasts and figure skaters.  In 2000, Ryan updated the book, including discussion about Dominique Moceanu’s desire to be emancipated from her parents because her father was spending her money. 

I don’t know what made me think of Christy today.  It’s not her birthday or the anniversary of her death, though in July of this year, she will have been dead for 20 years.  That amazes me.  It seems like yesterday, we were 22 years old.  The older you get, the faster time flies.

Last month, as Bill and I worked our way back to Texas from our trip abroad, we drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri.  We stayed a night in Kansas City, which is where Christy died.  For some reason, I even thought about Christy’s mother as we passed through.  It was frigid during our brief time there and, looking around, it didn’t look like the kind of place that would excite me.  On the other hand, I did notice how nice and folksy everyone seemed to be.  It seems like the kind of place you could get to know your neighbors.

Christy Henrich in 1987.

I’m sure that the last twenty years have been tough for all who knew and loved Christy Henrich.  What happened to her was just gruesome.  I still like watching gymnastics today, but remember Christy’s story reminds me that the sport has a bit of a dark side.  To read more about Christy Henrich, I recommend the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  

An eye opening read.

Edited to add: in 2014, I still had no idea how dark gymnastics can be… that was before we knew about John Geddert and Larry Nassar.

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