Thursday, March 30, 2017

Calling Gloria

Written by  Brian George Hose

It all started years ago, when I was a teenager. “Ice Castles” was on cable and, not having anything better to do, I parked myself in front of the TV for a heaping helping of teenage angst. The tragic and triumphant story was entertaining, but what stuck with me was a song on the soundtrack. I’m terrible at remembering lyrics, which made it that much harder to find the song’s artist. All I could remember was that it was a glorious 80s pop ballad about a woman named Gloria. I asked everyone I could think of if they knew the song, but all I could offer was that the chorus started with the words, “calling Gloria.”

It’s important to note that this was in the early days of the internet and well before the advent of smart phones. The world wasn’t quite at my fingertips yet, so I relied on word of mouth to find Gloria. Having so little to go on, nobody could offer much help.

Years passed and from time to time I would still ask about Gloria. At this point she was a distant memory I rarely thought about. A few months ago, a friend mentioned “Ice Castles” and Gloria came rushing back to me. Unfortunately, this friend didn’t remember Gloria, and I found myself at another musical dead end.

Then, a few weeks ago, a friend posted a number on Facebook. He asked us to figure out the number’s meaning, so I quickly turned to my best friend Google for an answer. It turns out that the number was from the Atlantic Records catalogue, which lists the catalogue number for all the label’s albums. The number in question belonged to the album Self Control by singer Laura Branigan. Not knowing anything about Ms. Branigan, I made another Google search.

It turns out that Laura Branigan is most famous for a song called “Gloria,” which appeared on both the “Ice Castles” and “Footloose” soundtracks. To say I was thrilled to have finally found Gloria is an understatement. It was like bumping into an old friend I hadn’t seen (or heard) in years.

And Gloria was just as glorious as I remembered. What I hadn’t remembered was that Gloria seems to be a hot, hot mess. She’s hearing voices in her head, there are people looking for her, and she’s living a secret life under an alias. She also seems to be in crisis, experiencing delusions of grandeur, and struggling with the fact that everyone who used to want her is no longer calling. Poor Gloria.

Gloria was still on my mind this past week when I visited my brother and his family in Wisconsin. My sister-in-law had arranged to take me to a local gay bar for karaoke night. While I love karaoke, I’m hesitant to sing. I have a low bass voice that doesn’t fit most pop songs and I like to avoid public humiliation. But, after telling her about Gloria and my years-long struggle to find her, she said, “I think you found your song.”

So, I did it. I belted out “Gloria,” shouting the high notes and squeezing out every last breath to hold the notes that seem to go on forever. I wish I could say that I received a standing ovation, but the truth is that there was a spattering of applause before the DJ introduced the next singer.

That didn’t matter though, because in the moment it truly felt like I had been reunited with an old friend. During all those years of looking for and calling Gloria, she had also been looking for me. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I realized that what I had been searching for had been there the whole time, just waiting for me to find it. Somehow, the universe gave me a gift, and her name is Gloria.


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