Crazy for feeling so lonely!
Patsy Cline’s golden warbling voice echoed through the small exhibition space of the Patsy Cline Museum in Nashville, located right above the cheek-to-a-lot-of-jowl-packed Johnny Cash Museum just downstairs. Here, though, with Patsy, it was simply me and a particularly chatty gaggle of septuagenarians (I’m being generous), arguing over which way to walk through the simple loop of Cline memorabilia. When they weren’t fighting over directions, they were loudly proclaiming: “I had that sewing machine!” “I remember that diet book!” “What way are we supposed to go again?!”
Appropriately, while grinding my teeth in an attempt—a failed one, at that—to ignore the Boomer battles breaking out around me, Cline’s most famous song “Crazy” blared repeatedly through the museum. A midcentury classic, sure, but on the edge of a mental break already, I would have welcomed some diversity. Perhaps my favorite Cline anthem? “I Fall to Pieces”? Granted, had they played that, I may have crumbled straight to the floor, rolling on the carpet and weeping. Mostly because I was already falling to pieces gazing at the shrine of memorabilia related to the singer and her catastrophically cut-short life. This included everything from Patsy’s cowgirl dresses, many of which were made by her mother Hilda Hensley, to perfectly sappy promotional posters dripping with sentimentality (“I’m on a cloud with heartfelt thanks to everyone for making this a wonderful year for me”). Not only cases of musician-related crap, as I previously obsessed about at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum also recreated several significant locations in Patsy’s life such as Gaunt’s Drug Store where Patsy worked as a soda jerk and, my new happy place, Patsy’s “Danish-inspired dining room” from her “dream house” at 815 Nella Drive in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, which boasted a display cabinet filled to the brim with tacky salt and pepper shakers. Patsy loved kitsch just like us!!
Of course, Patsy’s much-too-brief life was also a tragic one—enduring a horrific car accident during the boom of “I Fall to Pieces” in 1961 and only two years later dying in a plane crash in 1963 at only 30 years old. To my deeply macabre fascination, the museum doesn’t shy away from ghoulishness, exhibiting some truly tasteless mementos such as the watch Patsy was wearing on the plane as it went down—stopped at the exact time of 6:20 pm—and, my personal favorite, the handkerchief Patsy’s mother used to dry her tears at her daughter’s funeral. Morbid!
I start with the Crossover Queen’s museum as, well, despite the difference in crowd size, I’m a much bigger admirer of Patsy than Johnny Cash (this is not to say I also don’t love the Man in Black). But poor Patsy’s lonely-hearted museum needs some love from someone not receiving social security checks. Conversely, Johnny’s Museum was packed to the brim with acolytes. So much so that I had to restrain myself from shoving everyone aside to flee out the door. Yet that would have been a shame to miss delightful finds like a gifted monogrammed prison uniform, photographs of Cash on his visit to the Nixon White House, and some particularly flamboyant Johnny Cash-branded cowboy boots (sadly, the museum was missing Johnny’s ultimate trip into flamboyance: Donning Elton John’s duds on SNL). The vitrine that particularly tickled my trash religiosity fancy was a section on Johnny’s strongly-held beliefs, including his very own drawing of the Shroud of Turin that looks much more like Kris Kristofferson to me. Why me Lord!
If I’m being honest, though, the piece contained within the Johnny Cash Museum that has haunted my intrusive thoughts for weeks after my visit to Nashville doesn’t even have to do with Cash (or Cline, for that matter): Roy Orbison’s glasses from the cover of his album In Dreams. I was ready to shatter that glass and run off with them while whispering the lyrics, “A candy-colored clown they call the sandman! Tiptoes to my room every night!”, just like Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth from Blue Velvet would want me to!
I close my eyeeeeess….and I drift awayyyyy….
Anyway, both the Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline museums showcase two deeply American figures who became myths in their own right. Johnny with his self-created outlaw mystique; Patsy, sadly, in her untimely death that only heightens the longing and heartbreak of her music. And before I go out walkin’ after midnight (just kidding–I go to bed at like 9 pm), I wanted to take you along with me, dearest Filthy Dreams readers, through these country legends’ museums: