Let’s face it–we are a superficial lot.  It seems as though everyone on television, regardless of what venue, show, or even commercial, is beautiful.  This is especially true in the music industry, where it seems that looks more often than not outweigh musical ability when it comes to celebrity.  Stars like Susan Boyle thrive in this environment because they do not fit the pretty standards we have come to expect from our musicians.  Boyle is as popular because she is so homely as much as because of her tremendous voice.

This wasn’t always the case.  There was a time–before MTV, VH1, and TMZ–when it didn’t matter what a singer looked like, as long as he or she could sing.  The number of people who saw these performers live was miniscule compared to the number that enjoyed their songs on the radio, oblivious as to how amazing hideous some of these people were.

Here are a dozen examples:

Elton John

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am, as I have said several times on here, a big fan of Elton John.  With over forty years of great songs under his glittering belt, he has someting for just about every musical taste.

But let’s face it–Elton is not an attractive man.  You could say the same about most people dressed in rainbow-colored feathers and oversized, rhinestone-covered glasses.  And whereas such costumes (in an episode of the original Muppet Show, Elton was described as dressing like “a stolen car”) might hide his natural unattractiveness, the crazy clothing only serves to magnify his freakish appearance.

Janis Joplin

She had a voice that sounded like a concrete mixer full of lost souls.  She also had a face that looked like it should perpetually be seen above a sign indicating her inmate number.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie might not have been so bad if the front rows of Queen fans didn’t have to duck his massive overbite every time he turned in their direction.  Plus–and this is one of the great truths of the universe–no man looks good in full body spandex.

Jim Croce

I love Jim Croce.  Let me say that again–I love Jim Croce.  As a matter of fact, I’m watching a DVD of some of his performances as I’m writing this.  But if this is the shot he chose to put on his Greatest Hits album, knowing how many people would see it, he mustn’t have been too concerned about his appearance.  It was a tragic loss to the ears that he died so young, but certainly not much of a loss to the eyes.

Steven Tyler

It’s a good thing he’s a judge on American Idol, because he’d damn sure never win.  You have to be at least somewhat pretty to win, regardless of how well you can sing.  He is proof, though, that a really ugly rock god can still produce a smoking hot daughter…

See?

Aaron Neville

Is that a tick?  You would think with the amazing advances in dermatological science we have made, he’d have that damn thing removed.

Alice Cooper

If he hadn’t sung the kind of songs he did, no dude named Alice would have sniffed rock and roll fame, especially looking like a Goth drag queen.

Elvis Costello

My name is Elvis Costello.  I collect spores, molds, and fungus.

Angus Young

Angus has a brilliant approach to his ugliness–keep people hypnotized by your spindly, white legs so they don’t notice your face.

Tom Petty

They had to add “and the Heartbreakers” because he surely wasn’t breaking any hearts looking like that.  Mirrors, maybe, but no hearts.

Rod Stewart

If you want his body, and you think he’s sexy, come on, Sugar, and put on these glasses.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of off the top of my head.  If you have others you’d like to mention, feel free to do so in the comments section, assuming you are not already nauseous from my selections.

Photographs and memories,

All the love you gave to me

Somehow it just can’t be true

That’s all I’ve left of you.

–Jim Croce, “Photographs and Memories”

When I was younger, around twelve or so, my parents would sometimes be out of the house and I would be free to explore that magical repository known as “their closet”.  Unlike some kids, my interest in my parents’ closet had nothing to do with finding something that shouldn’t be there, but rather with unearthing what should be there.  Like an archaeologist, I would sift through the old clothes and boxes in search of what I was really after.

History.

In the closet, my dad kept (and still keeps–I checked) various bits of nostalgia such as slides from the time he spent in Korea while serving with the Army.  He was too late for the war, but those pictures of a much younger him never failed to fascinate me, particularly against such an exotic backdrop.  He showed them occasionally when I was in elementary school, and I was even allowed to take them to school during the sixth grade to tell, thanks to some handwritten notes, about his experiences there.  There were also pictures, mostly of me and my brother when we were younger, but also of my parents when they were younger, filling in the vast space before my memories began to take root.  There were papers, none of which I understood at the time, but that I knew to be important simply because they were in the closet rather than in the trash.  Other items, such as my mom’s crafts abandoned craft projects and my dad’s airplane magazines collected there as well, not important enough to keep out, but too important, at least to them, to throw away.

During one such exploration into the Closet of Wonders, I discovered a couple of notebooks that I had never seen before.  They were tucked in the very back at the top of the closet–the area where other parents might hide a handgun or a porn collection.  Inside the notebooks were the opening pages of a handwritten manuscript, began, then abandoned, by my mother.   I read through the pages and was not surprised that they were the beginning stages of a romance novel.  My mother read every book Harlequin put out for a couple of decades, so it was only natural that she might try to express her love for those stories by trying one herself.  Even at that age, I could see a few problems with spelling and grammar, but I had recently learned about the differences between a “rough draft” and a “finished piece”.

So, I asked her about them.

My mom, for those of you who didn’t know her, was as fearless as anyone I’ve ever met, but at the mention of her aborted manuscripts, she shrugged off the question, somewhat embarrassed.  She had been a stay-at-home mom and babysitter until my brother and I were both in school and, having the time, she thought she’d give it a try.  It turned out to be a lot harder than she expected and, aware of her own limitations, she gave it up.  She told me, though, that she had always wanted to be a writer.

Now, we come to the present.  She has been gone two years today and in that two years, I’ve done what she had only dreamed of doing–become a published author.  This fall, I will have two more stories published, bringing my total to six, and my only regret is that she has not been here to tell me how inappropriate they are and how proud she is that I wrote them anyway.  Also, I made a commitment to writing my Christmas stories without ever realizing that I was writing them for her, Santa’s biggest fan, even though she’ll never read them.  They are a tribute–however silly or sad or gross they are–to the woman who showed me that even working in retail during the holidays cannot dampen the joy one can find in the holiday season.

According to the old saying, time heals all wounds.  It’s true, but tell that to the amputee who will never hold anything with his missing hand again, or the cancer patient who has parts removed as if she was an old station wagon, or the son who will never share his victories with his mother, victories in battles that he has fought for them both.  Yes, time does heal all wounds, but sometimes the scars left by time are almost too horrible to behold.

I miss my mother.  She could be a pain in the rump sometimes, but no one would have been more thrilled by my published stories, even the ones she really didn’t like (I can only imagine the eye-rolling response I would have received for “Santa’s Worst Stop).  She was my first fan, the one who read my stories in elementary school and told me how good they were, even when they weren’t, and no amount of success, no mile-long line at a book signing or movie deal, will replace her.

Okay, that’s enough crying for this year, I think.  Time to go work on a Christmas story.  Mom would have liked that.