I studied the politics of the People’s Republic of China in college (which, I can tell you, has been extremely useful to me in my life as a twenty-first century hobo).
I have a very clear memory of seeing footage of an event put on for Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States,
in which John Denver took the stage, said something in Chinese that he either butchered – or pronounced perfectly, but was terribly offensive – judging by Deng’s expression, then launched into a rendition of “Rocky Mountain High.”
I would say that Deng’s expression was, at best, perplexed, in response to this musical selection.
I cannot say this for sure, though, because the internets have failed me. I can find confirmation that such a performance did in fact occur, and one compilation video on YouTube that is apparently from a documentary, but not the opening moment of the John Denver performance.
I ask you, interweb, what is the point of you, if I cannot sit in a secondhand butterfly chair in the Great Plains and view the David-Lynch-esque moment of the man who followed Mao as the leader of Communist China without ever taking the title of “Chairman,” who was in power, a decade after this visit to the U.S., when the massacre in Tiananmen Square occurred, being serenaded by a man starting a year appearing at a Presidentially-hosted gala, who would end the year appearing in a Christmas duet with Kermit the Frog, all while President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn looked on, thirty-five years after it happened, but within ninety seconds of thinking of it, on the tiny screen of my cell phone?
I suppose so I can share a very long run-on sentence via an app on my phone, and hope that someone somewhere has seen whatever educational film it was I saw that contained this very odd moment, and can provide me with its title, if not a YouTube link.
© Lisa Hurley