Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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June 22, 2012

Finally coming out of the closet after 68 years of living

Athens — I'm going to do something today I have never done in this lifetime. I'm going to out myself.

I've been in the closet for 68 years, and soon as I die, the secret will be out, anyway.

Besides that, it's who I am, and I've reached the point where I can no longer pretend to be someone else.

My name is not actually Art Lawler. My full name is Arthur Presley Lawler. That's right, I'm Presley, and I'm here.

Deal with it.

It feels so good to get that out in the open. Heretofore, only my closest friends and state troopers who have pulled me over to look at my driver's license, have known I  have, what I've always thought, was the world's worst middle name. I mean number uno.

There's nothing wrong with it., once you get used to it. It's kind of like the first Volkswagens. We thought they were ugly. Now we think they're cute. Trust me. In time, you'll think it's cute, too. Presley, Presley, Presley...

No, seriously. I will look you straight in the eyes and tell you to your face. My name is Presley, That's P-R-E-S-L-E-Y.

Elvis lived with it for, well , 42 years. My grandfather, JP, as most people called him, was really, John Presley Lawler, who lived a quiet life while Grandma Lucy did all the talking, and he stayed mostly in the closet with that name for 85 years. Either that, or he was hiding from Lucy.

A few close relatives sometimes called him Press, which I guess was an improvement. I never knew who they were talking about until I was almost grown. You know, 'til I was about 50?

I thought it had`a kind of preacher's kid feel to it. A small, skinny preacher's kid feel to it. My first name was hard enough to accept. Being an Arthur, and a preacher's kid, and being skinny as a rail, along with the secret I guarded with my life, pretty well sealed the deal.

 I was named to be a sissie, and to get beat up a lot in life.  Well let me tell  you, fella, I struck back. I did, I promise. And I took some severe beatings in because of it.

I don't even like the name Lawler, to be honest. It's a simple name, Law and then ler. But people to this day are always calling me Lawyer, or Lolly. My name's not Lawyer, and if it was, I'd have the good grace to be embarrassed about it.

All I ever really wanted to be was a Bill, or a Don, or David, or a Mike. You start getting into multiple syllables and you're taking some big chances with your kid's future psyches. That's why my kids were given common, safe names like Shari, Brien and Annie. Actually, those all have multiple syllables, don't they? But at least they 're oh so common.

OK, the latter's real name is Analisa, which I think is a beautiful name. But nobody calls Annie, Analisa. See, if your kids have a fall-back, shortened, or more common nickname, they can fall back on, they can remain relatively unscarred.

Art was terrible, but at least it was a huge improvement over Arthur, a name I associated with people who had skinny fingers and played the piano when they should have been outside playing football.

As God is my witness, I actually grew up thinking my parents gave me the name Presley in the middle to spite me. I showed up in the middle of World War II just 13 months after my sister was born.

Well, that'd infuriate any parent. I can understand that. But hey, they were the grownups.  I was little more than a glorified swimmer. They could have read up on all of those thick sex books and been more careful. Why take it out on me?

But no. They named me Presley. They got me. Ho, yeah. They got me. Parent  revenge, if I ever saw parent revenge.

Every time I'd complain about it, my dad would just laugh.  “Elvis Presley doesn't have any trouble with his name. It's a good name. Be proud of it.”

“Don't ever use it when company's around,” I'd tell him. More laughter. But he kept silent when the company came. I'd have never survived childhood if he hadn't.

Understand, Elvis was tall, dark and handsome, had the best singing voice any teenager had ever heard and women never got around to thinking about his sissie last name, because they were too busy screaming and crying and throwing their underwear up on stage at him.

Nobody ever did that to me.

Maybe I should have come out in junior high. I had a duck tail haircut for awhile. I had white shirts with gold sparkles and red pants and white socks and white shoes. I was a dandy.  I knew all the Elvis songs and I even dirty-bopped a time or two when I got brave enough on the dance floor. I was semi-cool, man.

People don't realize this, but names go a long way in determining what we all turn out to be. Why do you think Nixon was such a bad man when he was president and couldn't trust anybody.

His middle name was Milhouse. I'm surprised he wasn't a serial killer.

What if your first name was Engelbert and your last name was Humperdink? I'm not saying it couldn't have been worse.

I just needed a break in those days. If I wasn't going to be tall, or a great athlete, or a good student, shouldn't I have at least been given the  gift of pipes? Me 'n' the Good Lord had some whine sessions about that, I can tell you that much.

I could do just two things better than most people in junior high. I could outrun the bullies, whose talents were in their fists, not their feet. Be it coward or hero, the Lord does provide.

And I could do more sit ups than anyone in junior high. Even then, those I defeated said it shouldn't count because I didn't have anything to lift off the ground. You'd have thought I had a spring in my back.

But as of today, I no longer think like that. My grandfather, who was built like the left parenthesis sign, was a good guy, who used to tell me stories and let me go out to his workshop — the one that was always on the verge of falling down. I gladly carry on his name.

Sooooo... I AM PRESS-LEE!!!  I AM PRESS-LEE!!!  And my first name is Arthur.  You can call me  Art, or you can call me Art Presley. Or you can even call me, Arthur Presley Lawler. I just don't care. Harumph!!! I love those stinkin' names, alright, already?

What do you mean, my name has made me a snarly, dip stick?

Get over yourselves.

Art Lawler is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.

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