Beautiful but unhappy Angel decides to spend her Saturday afternoon by wandering around at the Birch Tree mall contemplating her habit of ‘telling stories’- well rather, they’re lies. Helen Cavanagh is one of those delightful authors who remembers to paint imagery ( the kindof stuff that barely gets a sentence nod in Sweet Valley High ) – she describes Angel as having special coloring – rose tawny skin , soft light brown hair , clear blue eyes just like her mom’s favorite color scheme apricot , gold , cream and blue a detail that has Angel musing as to wether she was adopted. At Hot Sam’s ( remember that old pretzel franchise? ) the gooey cheese on her hot pretzel drips onto her beautiful sweater the final straw for her emotional state. Tears dripping , along with the cheese , she gropes for a napkin becoming more annoyed when total strangers seem to flock to help her because of her looks. Restless she stops by the Silver connection to look for a new charm for her charm bracelet. ( I always wanted a silver charm bracelet even though they really weren’t in when I wanted one – I kept seeing them in old movies – I seem to recall Ann-Margret wore one in State Fair , Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame had a jangly bracelet that jingled her right out of an acting job while Carroll Baker as the sweetest Babydoll had nineteen charms for nineteen charming birthdays.)
Angel however feels the charms must represent her in some way and though she loves her charm bracelet, the charms her parents picked out, only seem to reflect that they don’t know her at all. At least her friends saw her as a person , Tania picked out a roadrunner ( representing last years jaunt on the track team ) and her other friend Jody who loves acting and believes everyone should want some part of the theater gave her a tragic/comic tiny face mask. Angel scans the charms – skipping the piano , the darling mushroom , the silver unicorn and tiny telephone. No to the roller skates , tennis racket , silver ballet slippers and the tiny comb. Nothing to represent the real Angel, the one nobody knew about and then she sees it – a tiny Pinocchio and asks to buy it. Seeing that it’s right next to the ballet slippers the woman automatically assumes Angel wants them and is disappointed in Angel’s choice but Angel’s used to it , a lot of people even total strangers seem disappointed when she doesn’t live up to her angelic name. We quickly discover the root of Angel’s problems when she calls up her dad for a ride home he is annoyed that she – left the house without letting anyone know, and second, that she’s interrupting his brunch with her mother. Angel being an only child ends up constantly feeling like a third wheel in her parents marriage.
Fortunately she has some good friends and has become the stage assistant next to the often ornery director Mr. Damien ( nice pun – seeing as how Damien was the demon-child in the Omen ) for the school’s production of Grease. Jody who is playing Sandy is trying to talk her good friend Jay Butler into trying out for Danny. Angel who has been looking at Jay differently over the summer is glad when he asks her to eat lunch with him until he spoils it by commenting how beautiful she is causing Angel’s knee-jerk lie that she’s on a three day fast. Later she feels foolish and accepts a date for pizza saying that her fast is coming to an end anyway. Jay gets the part of Danny in Grease and though Angel is pleased , Jay is a no-show for the first rehearsal causing an outburst by Mr. Damien with some mean comments directed at Jay’s understudy the introverted Steve. Curiosity and jealousy both eat away at Angel as she begins to realize that Jay’s best friend Jody is in on Jay’s secret family problem and not her. Angel finds herself twisting what the director whispered to her after his outburst , not the actual apology but a further derision of Steve. Tania and Jody realize that Steve has overheard and Angel is close to panicking. Unfortunately she doesn’t show much remorse for Steve who feeling rejected has quit the drama club thinking the director hates him. At home her parents continue to behave as though their love hinges on how Angel looks causing her to become more jealous of Jody’s friendship with Jay. ( I love Angel and Jay’s first date! )- Her mother surprises her by actually purchasing a dress for Angel at Bloomingdale’s ( she was feeling bad for going out with Angel’s father for the night and leaving Angel home alone feeling ill ) a gorgeous white jersey with a v neck , and a Japanese style sash in hot colors of pink , yellow , emerald green and turquoise , with matching turquoise earrings shaped like Japanese characters meaning love. They go to a place called The Wooden Nickel to eat fettuccine by candlelight , while a Woody Allen movie plays and afterwards they head upstairs to dance to oldies but goodies like Somewhere over the Rainbow. Angel’s newfound happiness however doesn’t last long , as she wonders wether Jay only likes her for her looks because he looks at her as though ( and I love this phrase! ) as though she were his favorite candy! When Jay breaks a date to babysit again. Angel decides to sneakily weasel Jay’s secret out of Jody by pretending Jay has already sort of confided in her. Jody then lets it slip that Jay’s mother is an alcoholic. Angel starts to wonder if it was such a good idea but after a fun date of relaxing with popcorn and laughing over a good movie – Bill Murray in Stripes! Jay discovers she not only knows but demands to know who told. Angel panicking admits it was Jody. Her lies have finally caught up with her and as her friends start to compare notes they discover Angel is not so angelic – Jay’s tell off is downright chilling -‘ “You are the pits, you know that? I can’t stand your face anymore. Angel – what a joke you are.”’ Given the cold shoulder by all her friends, weeks go by but Angel doesn’t quit the shows production. On an interesting note their was a build up of an idea – Tania’s father had planned an autumn hayride which as far as we know never took place or if it did , Angel never went on it. Finally on the premier night after Mr. Damien has forgiven her over a shared lunch of tuna sandwiches , the others forgive Angel and Angel herself comes to terms that her parents will never love her quite as much as they love each other.
Excellent story , well written – but the beginning was superb! Love that mall wandering the imagery of a hot , fat pretzel oozing with lava-like cheese! Memories of a bygone era and a defunct franchise – makes me think of my own bygone days of mall pizza. And those hot dogs on their own little fiery ferris wheel. And the most wonderful moist big cookie!
One aspect of the story however got my 80’s memories peculating – Angel’s charm bracelet jarred me back to those charm bracelets of the 80’s, remember those? Simply groovy plastic charms that hooked onto bright lightweight chains ( also plastic I think ) and the charms had little jingle bells attached to them. So cute! It was one of the most colorful accessories of the early 80’s! Terrific paired with jelly shoes and kooky socks and those vivid short sets. The charms came out around 1984 and caught on quick as Care-bears and soon everything was charming ( pun intended ). Charms dangled from safety pins , from zippers , even lapels! The zipper-pulls , they were called, came in all kinds , Pvc , plastic , rubber , stuffy. I recall in third grade a little redheaded trouble-making imp presented me with a wee box at recess astonishing me and my friends. Crushes usually didn’t merit anything but an Indian rubber burn ( sorry for the name I can’t think of anything else they were called – it’s when a boy grabbed your wrist and twisted the skin in opposite directions all at once. ) but there I was with a present. A diabolical present – I knew by taking it , it was like an engagement ring. I would have to stop running at recess when he chased after me ( not a very plan considering he was already striving for second base before even getting up to bat – a grabber! ) Inside was a cute little pvc lion zipper pull. I put it on and should’ve known better ( accepting a zipper-pull from a boy is probably one of the worst symbolic gifts ever even when you’re only nine! ) but anyway I digress it wound up in a dresser drawer and was later lost but I think of it sometimes remembering how much fun it was to be a kid! The designers came up with such neat things – remember the plush grabbers? I’m not sure they were called that but they were usually teeny tiny replica’s of Care Bears , Pink Panther , Garfield , Rainbow Brite , Popples and oodles of other characters, that had stiff arms that would pinch on like clips to your windbreaker , book bag or purse strap. Kids were forever trying to see how long they could hold out with them pinched to their lip , and unfortunately when trying to discover other places to hang them from like shoelaces they often got lost and you’d come across one lying like a lost fad , dirty and wet in schoolyard puddle.
Shall I mention Grease – is it the word? Has it got groove and feeling? I probably shouldn’t , everybody usually has a soft spot for Grease and though I do too one part in the book gave me a kind of teeth gritting moment of oh-no. They ( because of budget ) went with pink t shirts for the Pink ladies instead of satin jackets – that is one thing I loved about the pink ladies – in fact it was quite possibly the only thing I loved about the Pink Ladies, were those jackets , their attitude could be rotten, along with their taste in men ( honestly if you think Sandy was a prig you could take away the r and sum up Danny ala pig – and unfortunately by the end of the movie you got the feeling maybe Sandy compromised more than Danny. Then again a few bars of together forever gave one a glimmer of hope , you just knew Sandy wasn’t going to be another Rizzo. Passed onto sidekick Knicky ) I’ll have to skip Grease for another day cause I could go on and on about favorite moments vs most infuriating moments , funniest lines ( you look like a beautiful , blonde pineapple! ) , best songs and wow! That final Sandy transformation – lick n’ stick shiny black slacks , cork heels , raunchy curls , and sliding straps on a skin tight top. I could also start a huge debate over my almost preferential soft spot for Grease 2. Does everybody’s high school do this play or what? ( Grease not Grease 2.) I think they must have racks and racks of poodle skirts and molding t bird jackets at several old high schools in my district cause every season you can drive by the school and see on their display board – Tickets for Grease on sale!
Hope you like the pics I’ve included several on an article about the 80's plastic charm bracelets that I found. Isn’t the model a cutie – she looks just like Soliel Moon Frye!