Greasepaint Covers Everything But Winter’s Chill

I first heard Biff Rose’s sweet simple “Molly” on a visionary, game-changing public television magazine-format show in the early ’70s called The Great American Dream Machine, that seems to have been unfairly shuffled into a dusty back room of the TV Clubhouse of Fame. The Paley Center for Media has the original segment, but I can’t access that. What I’ve posted is a You Tube video someone has made using the composer’s own record as the soundtrack. I’m working on one of my own.

The elusive, erratic, enigmatic songwriter/comedian/counterculture philosopher Biff Rose is 70-something now, lives in New Orleans, still performs a bit,  flirts with total obscurity, seems uninterested in Mulligans, hard to say. He was acknowledged as pretty crazy back in the day, and is unquestionably much, much crazier and more controversial now. He is one of those artists best appreciated In Context. But he knows all about dusty back rooms and about floating around the shallows of fame and what you sacrifice to stay afloat even in the shallows.  His one-trick-pony’s trick was a Bowie cover called “Fill Your Heart“, which is probably still supporting him.  But his defining career song is “Molly.”  It’s his story as well as his song — and it’s Bonnie’s story, mine, my husband’s as well  — in fact, most people in Show Business, “Molly” is their story too.  It’s the simplest, truest story in the Show Business, and it’s pretty much always the story, ask anyone.  Any of us can tell you what we did for love.

I have remembered the lyrics ever since I heard it on TV in 1971 and wanted to be in Show Business more than I wanted to draw breath.  And there is a reason “Molly” came and found me on the Internet the other day, after going missing for 40 years or so from the Playlist In My Head.

You may not believe me, but I understood even then, watching an interpretative dance kind of thing on Great American Dream Machine, hearing this sad, circussy little song, what I was Signing Up For.  I think it was clear to me as a kid, on a prematurely wise and weary level, that by choosing the Circus  — not just as a fantasy, but as Real Life — I was agreeing to a dark bargain, like the one that Bonnie had made.  The Circus makes that deal with you.

I think 50-year old me has remembered “Molly” all of these years because 12-year old me knew that I would eventually figure it out, eventually come to understand about what the Circus gives you and what it takes away, after almost 40 years in it.

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