Ann-Margrock and Roll

October 11th, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in the 1960s, I was, as many kids were, obsessed with TV cartoons. One of my favorites was the Flintstones. Not necessarily for the animation—the drawings didn’t come close to the beauty of Disney—or for the story lines, which were all too often predictable, even for a mush-brained six year-old such as myself. To make matters worse, every few months, the episodes would cycle through and they’d start over. Eventually, you’d think I would have gotten bored. What the Flintstones could offer, however, that Disney and even Warner Brothers could not (unless you count the cross-dressing Bugs Bunny), was sex.

For me, both Betty and Wilma exuded a certain untapped eroticism—indeed, were they not the original desperate housewives? And that theme song, swinging as it did, with its horn punches and thumping tom-toms, had a cool, big band vibe that suggested martini parties. But it wasn’t even for want of Betty and Wilma, or for the groovy music that I watched the show every afternoon after school, Hostess fruit pie dripping from my chin. Everything came down to one episode, the one for which I would wait weeks and often months: the episode in which the top sex kitten herself, Ann-Margret, played herself, in cartoon form, as Ann-Margrock.

Although it would take until years later to realize it, Ann-Margret was the gold standard for sex during those years in which I waited patiently for her to show up every weekday afternoon. As I got older, of course, my desire for Ann Margrock waned, as did my need for the Flintstones. Every so often I might catch an old movie starring Ann-Margret, but mostly, I moved on to other starlets of the day.

Then, in 2002, I heard her unmistakable voice singing a duet with Brian Setzer on “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.” I had started a swing band of my own and in the process, had rediscovered Brian Setzer. Not to mention Ann-Margret. As I listened to her breathy voice, I couldn’t help but to picture her in cartoon form—skimpy loincloth and all, at the microphone next to Setzer.

“Ann Margrock,” would again make an appearance in my head a few weeks ago, when we got the call from a local casting director for the film, “Lucky,” which was being shot in the Omaha area.Would the Prairie Cats be at all interested in being in a movie? With Colin Hanks, up-and-coming actress, Ari Graynor, and…bigband drumroll, please…Ann-Margret?

We had a 6am call at base camp and arrived on set a short time later, in the backyard of a home in one of Omaha’s ritzier neighborhoods, next to a shimmering, but icy swimming pool—it was 42 degrees and my guitar hands were frozen into claws. We were committed to a “ten to twelve hour” day, and just when I was questioning whether this endeavor was going to be worth it, from across the pool, Ann-Margret appeared. After a few minutes of taking stock of the set, she gave us—I like to imagine it was mostly me she was focusing on—a quick wave. In an instant, the getting up at 4:30 a.m., and the long day that surely awaited us, was worthwhile.

Finally, as the morning sun began to thaw my hands, and as my band mates and I were waiting to shoot a scene, Ann-Margret approached us. She was beautiful, of course. Often, when in the presence of famous people, I get nervous, but for whatever reason—it must have been her voice—I felt at ease. It wasn’t until now that I realized that not once did I think of her as a cartoon, but rather the stunning woman she still is.