Apr 24, 2016

Teenage Millionaire: The Teen Idol Career of Jimmy Clanton

Have you ever heard of Jimmy Clanton?

I thought I was an expert on teen idols, but I missed this one.

Born in 1938 in Louisiana, he burst onto the charts right after high school, eschewing the usual rock for rhythm & blues.  Between 1958 and 1962, he released six albums, and had three hit songs:

"Just a Dream" (1958) isn't heterosexist.  It could apply to a boy or a girl:

Just a dream, just a dream
All our plans and our all schemes
How could I think you'd be mine
The lies I'd tell myself each time

"Go, Jimmy, Go" (1959) is heterosexist, however.  He brags to his girlfriend about his expertise in sweet-talking, dancing, and kissing, and she responds with an open invitation: "Go, Jimmy, Go!"

"Venus in Blue Jeans" (1962), of course, is about a girl.

She's Venus in blue jeans
Mona Lisa with a ponytail
She's a walking, talking work of art
She's the girl who stole my heart

Jimmy got a lot of exposure in the late 1950s, including beefcake (or at least shirtless) shots in teen magazines and two movies designed to showcase his teen idol appeal:

Go, Jimmy, Go (1959), where he is renamed Jimmy Melody.  Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Ritchie Valens also perform.

Teenage Millionaire (1961) is about the millionaire son of a radio station owner, who goes undercover and woos a girl.  Zazu Pitts, the 1930s movie legend who was a lesbian in real life, plays Aunt Theodora.

At least there are poolside scenes.

But Jimmy was a little "un-hip," even for the Kennedy Era, and his star soon faded.

He continued to perform through the 1960s, and later became a disc jockey.  He is still in demand for nostalgia concerts.

He looks rather Liberace-like in this recent photo, but there's little evidence that he is gay.  He's been married since 1962, and has three daughters, two adopted, one biological.

Or a gay ally: he''s a member of the Lakewood Church in Houston, pastored by "homosexuality is a sin" Joel Osteen.

See also: Paul Anka; Beach Movies