Weird Scenes #117: If Elvis Can Do It, So Can You

Between the politicians polarizing power trips / We’re just too pure and peaceful to decide / So we got our heads together while the planet fell to bits / Now the one side left to take is suicide / We are lemmings / We are crazies / We will feed our flower habits pushing daisies – Lemmings Lament, written by Paul Jacobs and Sean Kelly, 1972

O.K. I’ve had it with the Covid deniers. I mean, totally and to the point where I now believe it should be legal to shoot the unmasked. I call that self-defense, although if I were in Florida, I’d call it “Stand your ground.”

I’ve also had it with the anti-vaxxers, but I’ve been on that page for quite a while now. In this case, I’m a bit more sympathetic. There are whole communities who have been taught that government vaccine programs were evil, and in a few but incredibly important cases, they are right. I get that. And I suspect that many of those same people are just as tired of going to funerals as I am – virtual funerals truly are the worst.

Nonetheless, these folks are taking an unnecessary risk. I’ve said I’ll take the shots as soon as I can after Dr. Anthony Fauci gets one. Now that presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Biden are turning the event into a 2021 supergroup, I’ll even stand in line to get it.

This brings to mind a story, one which should lighten the mood a bit.

Back in the middle of the last century, we had a serious polio epidemic, also known as infant paralysis, because it primarily (but not exclusively) affected children. 58,000 cases were reported in 1952 killing more than 3,000 and crippling tens of thousands. It was a very big deal, believe me. I was born in 1950 and I clearly remember the hysteria that enveloped our nation during the first half of that decade… particularly as it was my ox that was getting gored. Polio had killed or maimed a horde of people since it was first noticed in 1894, and the medical mechanics industry shifted its efforts towards building very small iron lungs in an attempt to save these babies and children.

In 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced he had successfully tested a vaccine that would put an end to polio. Those were the days well before the invention of super-computers that would allow scientists all over the world to share data instantly and work together in their own separate laboratories, so it took a while before all the “I’s” were dotted. But dot them they did, and the vaccine became available for common usage. For a variety of reasons, some people were reluctant to take the shot.

Enter Elvis Presley.

On October 28, 1956, Elvis appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and sang his version of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog.” At the time he was, arguably, at the height of his popularity, and his appearance was well-publicized by both Sullivan (a syndicated newspaper columnist) and by CBS radio and television. When he was done singing his signature song, he received the polio vaccination. The Ed Sullivan Show was live on television, Elvis remained live himself, and America started lining its children up for the shot. The singer went on to a long and fruitful career, and our nation’s children went on to play sandlot baseball.

My parents rarely watched Ed Sullivan – I don’t know why; certainly, there wasn’t a Chicago Cubs game up against it. Nonetheless, I went off to my friendly neighborhood doctor and got my shot. And, yes, it was painful. My doctor, who saved my life twice some six years earlier, had the bedside manner of Peter Boyle in those big heavy boots. And, yes, I still remember getting that shot. When it came to wearing that Band-Aid, I was hardly alone in my first-grade class. I’m not certain I would have been allowed in school without one.

The polio epidemic faded away. We have grown far more cynical as a nation in the ensuing 64 years, and so it might take the efforts of four of our surviving brain-possessing presidents to get that point across. I’ll bet we see others live on teevee getting their shots. After all, that’s one way to get to the head of the line.

I realize we are not certain that any of the vaccines that soon will be available will help prevent the spread of Covid, but I do know a great way to find out. This stuff has tested to be effective on about 94% of the population and those are swell odds – and it’s not as though it will kill the remaining 6%. However, Covid might.

Either way, if you decide not to get vaccinated, kindly stay the hell away from me. That’s not much of a sacrifice, but I swear you do not want the last thing you hear on this Earth is the sound of my mocking laughter.