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Friday, February 10, 2006
Our Love It Forms a V

Two posts down, I presented a picture of Billy Joel, Christy Brinkley, and a bunch of other guys. I'm not going to reproduce it on this post, because, to be honest, it was weirding me out to click on my blog and see some like 80s version of lastnightsparty show up on my screen. But here is a link to a large version.

As I said, I'm fascinated by it; there's just so much going on there. It's one lady, who is also a supermodel, and a bunch of band nerds that are now in rock bands, all male, of course (this was the 80s)--9, to be precise. The lady is quite clearly trashed, having fallen onto something or other (I kept thinking it was a garbage can, for some reason, but it's not) while pincing an empty champagne glass between her thumb and middle finger. Her posture reminds me of this, actually:

...except with her head and legs propped up.

All the dudes who aren't married to her are doing the thing where they're carefully avoiding the center of gravity, pretending they're not interested, that there's not a really hot drunk girl supine before them. Even the dude on which she is obliviously resting her head is managing to do this, which is quite impressive.

All except blondie, who has taken what might delicately be called the opposite tack, placing himself between Christy's legs (or "gams" as they seem to demand to be called) and taking a fairly friendly grasp of her right calf, which is of course sculpted and lovely and reflective of the very pleasant way calves (all calves, really) fit into hands. I have always felt that there's no such expression as a leer, that it's just a handy way of summing up a whole attitude, but if what's floating above that dude's shirt, which is actually a baseball jersey with his band's logo on it (!), isn't a leer, I don't know what is.

And above all this, figuratively and literally, is Christy's either current or soon-to-be husband, Billy. He's the only person in the photo not smiling and not looking at the camera. He refuses to be distracted from doing what he's doing, although you could make a series of guesses at what that is and not be right. At first blush he simply appears to be extending his hand in order to help Christy back to her feet, but then you look up and you see his mouth open as if he's saying something, something that is undoubtledly along the lines of "C'mon, honey, it's time to go," at which point you examine the hand again and notice it's less offering assistance and more beckoning. But Christy isn't acknowledging him at all--she's not awknowledging anything except the camera, as is her tendency, you'd imagine. But nor is Billy acknowledging blondie, the dude between his lady's legs, which is also indicative: the conflict here is not between the two men, it's between the man and the woman. The man is using guilt, and the woman is using avoidance.

It's a lovely photo just as a photo, and although I don't know a damn thing about art, it seems like it's classically composed: you could draw an offcenter triangle there and pretty well contain the major action in the frame, and your eye is led around all sorts of places. It somewhat reminds me of this:

Aside from its function as an image outside of context (aside from knowing that Joel and Brinkley are romantically involved, without which knowledge he could easily be her father or brother), it's interesting even beyond the fact that you can see the end of their marriage here even as it's a situation (drunken revelry) that would be more typically associated with courtship and the conflict more clearly at play, jealousy, did not seem to be a factor in their divorce, although what the hell do I know.

No, the most interesting contextual thing about this picture is the way it perfectly represents an oft-overlooked aspect of the Billy Joel oeuvre. He's known for his more ridiculous, over-the-top stuff, but a crucial element of the Joel persona is the air of defeat that clings to him even when he's playing, you know, like a dozen sold-out shows at MSG in a row. He's a loner, but not in that cool way--more in the way you see in this picture, where the dark cloud above his head manages to maintain structural integrity even in a situation where everyone is having a rollicking good time. It's a dark cloud that seems reflective of an eternal dissatisfaction, a feeling that nothing he ever does is really good enough, and so that air of defeat is less imposed from outside as it is with your stock Willy Loman types and more burbling up uncomfortably from within. It's an emotion that can repulsive, but when it's expressed in the right context, it cuts right to the heart of pop's bad mood, the most well-known modern example of which is Blur's "Country House."

The other bit of context springs from the guys surrounding Joel and Brinkley (if we're following the classical composition thing, blondie is an ancilliary character, dude in the white shirt with the nerd glasses is like the dude behind the window, and boy would I love to know his deal, and everyone else is actually background, like they should be furniture or drapes or something), who are all members of an apparently Blues Hammer-type band called The Nighthawks, and if you look at the page this picture comes from, you will see that the only description is "With Christy Brinkley and Billy Joel." In a sea of unremarkable (and even somewhat embarassing) performance photos, you have this one picture that's utterly amazing, and all you have to say about it is "With Christy Brinkley and Billy Joel"? Unfuckingbelievable.