There will be a lot written today about the late Shirley Temple. However, if you’re looking for some insight into her life or work, may I suggest you look elsewhere.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Shirley Temple movie all the way through. They were prevalent on TV when I was kid, but the only stuff from the same era that interested me were the “Our Gang” comedies.
But Shirley Temple does hold a special place in my memories. As a kid, she hosted one of my favorite shows, “Shirley Temple’s Storybook” which was basically all those fairy tales that Disney didn’t own; and as a result introduced me to a host of stories I’d never otherwise have heard.
But my warmest recollection related to her has to do with her signature song, “The Good Ship Lollipop”. Somebody was always singing it on those red and yellow vinyl 45’s they made for kids back in the day, so the words became engrained.
And it was the featured song for the first stripper I ever saw.
I was maybe 17, going to theatre school in London and one night a few of the lads went down to Soho looking for some excitement. We found a little shoebox strip joint over a pub and settled in with a pint nobody had even suggested we might be too young to purchase.
The lights dimmed and a winsome young lass appeared on stage, hair in ringlets and dressed in gingham –- or calico –- or whatever it is that innocent young things always wear in old movies.
The place was somewhat drafty and the poor girl had a cold, apologetically blowing her nose before the show commenced.
There was a hiss of static as a needle dropped on an well-worn record somewhere in the wings and she began to lip-sync -– and disrobe –- to Shirley Temple’s rendition of “The Good Ship Lollipop”.
Displaying both her artistic sensibilities and proving she was a real trooper, the young lady made sure certain portions of her anatomy “popped” in time with the music and placed all of her snorts and sniffles at appropriate breaks in the lyrics.
“On the goo-oo-ood ship Lolli-(pop)… It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop (snort)…”
So, while some today are recalling “Curly Top” or “Susannah of the Mounties” or Ms. Temple’s later career as a diplomat, I’m remembering that.
And in an odd way, that scene in Soho is not far removed from the original film staging. Recalled in that light, it appears my first stripper might have had more talents than I was aware of at the time.