One evening I was watching television with our neighbor (back in the day when "coming over" meant that we would leave the back door open when he was ready to stop by). That particular night we were enjoying the narrative subtleties of "GI Blues" - tagline: ELVIS AS THE GAY, SINGING SENSATION...TOAST OF THE WORLD'S GIRLS...ENVY OF EVERY MAN IN THE ARMY!
Okay, maybe that's overstating it a little bit, but you have a sense of the camp value of such an experience. As we watched, we became increasingly perplexed by the number of commercial interruptions. Then we started to notice the number of ads for a specific product. WTBS, Atlanta's "Superstation," was bringing us "GI Blues" thanks primarily to its sponsor, Attends. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Attends would be Pepsi to Depends' Coke. Adult diapers were not a brand new concept for us, but it caused us to question just who the audience for "GI Blues" might be. Was there a nation of weak-bladdered individuals staining their couches as they watched Elvis sing his way across Europe? Had we missed our demographic?
Then we made a connection: Perhaps there was a subtle message being sent. Maybe they were trying to tell us that The King may have been a secret incontinence sufferer. That would have explained all that shaking about, wouldn't it? Perhaps it was brought about by the intense mixtures of chemicals or fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Whatever the case, it became increasingly difficult to watch the movie without a twinge of "ABC Afterschool Special" angst.
By the halfway point, we started paying more attention to the commercials than the movie - especially the toll-free number at the end that encouraged us to inquire about their full line of Attends products. After a few more breaks, we could no longer contain our curiosity, and so we dialed. The very cheerful Attend-ant asked what product we were interested in - our inner fourteen year old had been stirred. At this point, I was grateful not to be on the phone, having given that very important responsibility to my more laconic friend. He very carefully navigated the series of questions that lead us down a path to be sent free samples of pull-on briefs.
I had to remove myself from the room, but was able to stay within earshot and was able to come up with the address of the lucky individual who would receive the package.
Then came the ultimate challenge: The very helpful operator asked what size undergarment we would be needing. As I collapsed in a heap on the cool linoleum floor of the kitchen, I heard my friend gasp, "Large." It was a courageous effort. I am certain that I would not have made it past the selection of pads or briefs. It is a testament to his tenacity that he was able to maintain his composure for the duration of the transaction. Only after he hung up the phone did he allow himself to be swallowed up in the utter sophomoric glee of the moment. It is this effort we salute today. I'm still laughing.