Adolescent Obsessions

Back in the olden days, before the computer age, when phones had long tangled cords, television had only five channels and listening to recorded music required a needle- yeah, during those times of technological deprivation-  I read a lot of books. Mostly I read classic works that came out of our school library because that was what was available to me. When I found a book I really liked, I had a tendency to become quite obsessive compulsive about it. Like most people, if I found a really good read, I would look up all the other works by that author, whether it was Alexander Dumas, Daphne du Maurier, or Taylor Caldwell. But my obsession always took me beyond reading more books. I would also scan the TV Guide hoping to find the movie version of my current book playing on one of those five clear TV stations. I am now so comfortable with my Netflix and DVD rentals for practically every movie ever made, that it is easy to forget that in the Olden Days the only way to ever see an old movie was to hope and pray that it would come on television. With movies like du Maurier's Rebecca or Dumas' The Man in the Iron Mask, it often meant catching it at 1:00 a.m. on a static-obscured UHF station. I was somehow never deterred by the disappointment that always occurred after viewing an inadequate movie version of a great book.

I was about sixteen when I read Gone With The Wind. It was recommended to me by a friend and it didn't take long before I was so absorbed in reading it that I would prop it on the kitchen windowsill while I washed dishes. As soon as I finished it I wanted to start reading it all over again. I was crushed by the ending. When I found out that Margaret Mitchell had not written anything else I was beside myself. I lived for the day when I could see the movie. GWTW was one movie that never came on television on a Saturday afternoon or at 2 a.m. on channel 52. It was a jubilant day when I heard the news that CBS had bought the rights to Gone With The Wind. When it finally came on television, the movie was so long with commercial breaks that it was a two day event. I invited fellow GWTW lovers who didn't have a television to come to my house to watch it on our color set which gave the viewing more of a party atmosphere.The idea of being able to record the movie meant that I had a cassette recorder set up near the TV to record the audio of my beloved movie. What a pathetic obsession that was. The movie took about five Memorex cassette tapes and yes, I did listen to them in my bedroom when I needed a GWTW fix.

It didn't end there. Next my obsession lead to reading Margaret Mitchell's biography. Then I read the biographies of Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Haviland, Lesley Howard and Laurance Olivier. I nearly died when in a bookstore I found a book covering all things Gone With the Wind called Scarlett Fever. It was filled with behind-the-scenes photos and stories from the movie. That's what I had, "Scarlett Fever." I spent my hard-earned cash on that book and read every word.

I had the same kind of obsession over Rogers and Hammerstein musicals, reading the original books or plays, buying the sound tracks and piano scores, memorizing every lyric and scanning the TV Guide for the scheduled appearance of any movie version. I read James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific as well as the original play that South Pacific was based on. Somehow I got a copy of the script for Oklahoma and I spent many long hot summer days laboriously copying it on a manual typewriter.

Camelot was a favorite musical, though I never could see the movie until I was an adult. Undeterred, I spent countless hours lying on the dining room floor listening to the movie soundtrack with headphones until I knew every single note. I wanted to marry Richard Harris and hear his Irish brogue every day. (Never mind that he was older than my dad.) I watched every movie that appeared that had him in it. I also read every book I could find about King Arthur, including The Once and Future King and the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson.

I guess a teenage girl could be obsessed about worse things. But I imagine that if I had a laptop, iPhone or Netflix in those days, I would not have read all those books or listened to all that music.  Today I have a life filled with important things to be obsessed about like family and home-keeping. I still revel in good books and movies and music but now am more balanced in my enjoyment of them. Funny how life makes those adjustments for us.