"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Here at Broadsheet we’ve been planning to turn a blind eye to the upcoming nuptials between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Sure, we’ve written about TomKat now and again, but those were darker times, back before the midterm elections. Today, however, our best-laid plans were scuttled by Reuters reporting that “when Tom Cruise marries Katie Holmes this weekend, like many a devout Scientologist, he may promise to provide her with ‘a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat.’” How can we overlook the fact that Operating Thetans pledge their love using language straight out of “Goodnight Moon”?
But, of course, it gets better. The “perhaps a cat” line comes at the end of a short primer on women in the traditional Scientology wedding ceremony, which notes that “girls” require “clothes and food and tender happiness and frills, a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat” — amenities husbands are expected to provide. Still, a bride shouldn’t get bent out of shape if her groom doesn’t follow his vows to the letter; the ceremony also notes that “young men are free and may forget” their promises, Reuters reports.
Scientology certainly isn’t the only, um, faith with sexist marriage vows; traditionally, Protestant Christian brides vow to obey their husbands, and Mexico recently amended its official vows to remove a dictum that wives “avoid awakening the most brusque, irritable and hard part of (their husbands’) character.” But Scientology isn’t grounded in ancient, or even particularly old, tradition. L. Ron Hubbard’s seminal tome “Dianetics” was first published in 1950. In this context, Seuss-esque turns of phrase like “a pan, a comb, perhaps a cat” wear less well.
Still, we have to thank Tom and Katie (who, of course, may not actually use the traditional Scientology ceremony when they wed — who’s to say Tom won’t go wild and promise Katie a hamster?) for keeping us on our toes. As the tipster who sent us the Reuters link observed, “Golly, celebrities are so entertaining in their weirdness!”
Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.More Page Rockwell.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)