Hi, Boys and Girls, I’m Shirley Temple Black…

I have researched extensively and discovered that Shirley Temple Black and Jimmy Carl Black were not related.

No, indeed. The former dimpled queen of cinema, who, sadly, discorporated permanently in February, took the name “Black” upon marrying husband #2, noted aquaculturalist and oceanographer Charles Alden Black. With him, she had two children, C.A. Jr., and Lori Alden Black.

Whom you might know as “Lorax.”

Erstwhile bassist for Melvins. Ah, there she is.

But that’s neither here nor there.

More to the point: Frank Zappa was big in Prague.

The Velvet Revolution happened in 1989. In June of 1990, Czechoslovakia held its first democratic elections since 1946.

And before that, bands like the Mothers, Velvet Underground, and the Rolling Stones were not exactly on the approved listening list. Bootlegged or smuggled copies of these records could get a person disappeared.

So in Prague, Zappa wasn’t merely a fringe musician as he tended to be viewed in the United States. He was iconic to the ongoing political change. And, he was a personal favorite of Václav Havel, the new nation’s first president.

Zappa traveled to Czechoslovakia in 1990 at Havel’s invitation and was reportedly surprised at the reception he got. People there could sing along to his songs like pretty much anyone here could sing along to Wilson Phillips.

At the time, the ambassador to Czechoslovakia was Shirley Temple Black. And she happened to be at the airport at the same time of Zappa’s arrival. And a gaggle of reporters asked her what she thought of Frank Zappa.

She was notably at a loss.

The clip is in Czech, mostly. Her brief interview is at 1:45. She says she knows he has a son named Dweezil. Or Dweezy. Past that she did not seem aware of him.

Slate writer Joshua Keating came across this little story and refers to a Paul Berman work, A Tale of Two Utopias, here. According to Berman, this was a bit of a faux pas.

People had no way to account for the United States ambassador’s boorish airport behavior, except to mark her down as a cultural ignoramus who lacked the aplomb to boast to all of Central Europe about one of America’s finest sons, the brilliant Zappa, a world figure in the field of popular music.

Which is a shame, as the lady was actually rather storied when it came to that country. From the Wiki:

Temple was in Prague in August 1968, as a representative of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies and was actually going to meet up with Czechoslovakian party leader Alexander Dubček on the very day that Soviet-backed forces invaded the country. Dubček fell out of favor with the Soviets after a series of reforms known as the Prague Spring. Temple, who was stranded at a hotel as the tanks rolled in, sought refuge on the roof of the hotel. It was from here she saw an unarmed woman on the street gunned down by Soviet forces, a sight which stayed with her for the rest of her life.

She is also credited as being instrumental in fomenting the Velvet Revolution to begin with, and “…took the unusual step of personally accompanying Havel on his first official visit to Washington, riding along on the same plane.”

I wonder if they discussed music.

I guess not.

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