Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker, A Love Song -- The Balm Before the Burn, Take 1:
He claimed his fame as the all-American boy, singing sentimental ballads to middle-aged America while their children were, as he put it, "burning down the barns" in the late '60s. She was singing then, too -- she was all of 13 at the time, musical jailbait who knew how to hot-wire the fantasies of men more than twice her age.
He sang, "Gentle on my mind." She sang, "Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone?" Now they're singing together from time to time, Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker, and together they've become what the fan magazines like to call one of America's Hottest Couples, a phenomenon whose half-life on the cultural radar screen falls somewhere between the latest fad diet and Jackie O's last millionaire. He is 44, she is 22, and while the harmony is good, the counterpoint is better:
"Success is not getting what you want, it's enjoying what you have," Campbell says.
"He's such a learned person, and I'm such a hardheaded person," Tucker says, watching him closely. "There's definately competition. Both of us have enough ego for the whole country. Right now I think I'm more ambitious than he is. He's already made it across the board -- country music, popular music, you name it. I haven't really made by mark. I'm not a crossover artist yet. But," she says, "I will be." m
"I'm with her 24 hours a day and I don't find her boring at all," says Campbell, from the vantage point of a man who is learning "about living in the now."
"I can't believe we've been together for almost a whole year and I'm not tired of him," she muses.
She is wearing a pink sweater and pink flowers in her and blue jeans that fit her small, slender body like the bark on a young pine tree. The boots are pink as well, but they have brass tips on them, lest anyone forget this is Tanya Tucker, who swept across her adolescence like a prarie fire and never looked back.
She no longer looks like a countrified Lolita. Her face, with its petulant prettiness, is only beginning to find its final form, but she has an awesome assurance as she gazes out in patient boredom during a recent rehearsal in Washington. The ice-blue eyes begin to glow only when she is looking at Campbell, whose gray-flecked brown beard enhances a seemingly unsinkable affability -- though she warns that it has been known to sink fast enough. They lock eyes. She smiles.
"I've never been in love before," she says. "The only thing that's changed, and I hope it's for the better, is that I've found something more important than my music. People can get destroyed by this business. Both of us find that being together means we don't have to carry the whole load on our shoulders."
Still, there can be complications in a relationship between an established star who's been hauling his songs down the middle of the road since his inamorata was in kindergarten and a young blond bent on burning her throaty vibrato into the hearts of millions before she's mined the morning of her life.
Sometimes, when Tanya talks about The Two of Them, it comes out just the way you might imagine from the mouth of a young woman in love, as in, "If it proves not to be a long-lasting relationship, I'll know it's all my fault," and "Glen is just a wonderful guy who loves people. He has a great hope for people, and he'll be patient with them forever."
Then again there are times you know that when you play with Tanya, you're playing with fire. As in, "No, I'm not jealous. Glen is insanely jealous, but I'm not jealous at all. I don't worry about him when he's out on the road, about other women. Of course, what's good for the gander is good for the goose. I don't look at anybody else -- which is not to say I couldn't have a few, if that's what I wanted. I just tell him, if that's what he wants, well, then go for it."
Or, looking at the diamond ring that flashes on her finger and touching the diamond necklace that gleams against her sweater, she says, "Oh, I'm a bought woman now, I'm being kept." She smiles. "And if you believe that, there's some swampland I'd like to sell you."
Campbell finishes his rehearsal and they go up to their hotel room, Campbell throwing playful punches and verbal one-liners all the way. "I ain't fightin' with you, boy, you're on my side," she says serenely.
"I could be dating Marie Osmond, you know," he says. "I'll become a born-again Mormon." She gives their audience of one a look of what-did-I-tell-you, the bemused mother with her rambunctious child.
"She's a smart - - -, all right," Campbell says, watching her for a reaction. "She could sit on an ice cream cone and tell you what flavor it is."
"I'd only sit on vanilla," says Tucker.
They both point to their country roots as the basis of their closeness, and Campbell particularly emphasizes that side of himself. "We were raised the same sort of way, the same moral values," he says. "I'm from so far back in the sticks that they had to pump the light in there. I saw my first indoor bathroom when I was 9."
That was back in Delight, Ark., where Campbell, the seventh son in a family of 14, soon discovered, as he likes to say and says often, that "picking a guitar was a lot easier than picking cotton." He went to work in his uncle's band in Albuquerque, and toured as a substsitute Beach Boy before scoring on the charts with "Gentle on My Mind." In 1968, he won four Grammys and the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year Award, before becoming a familiar face on "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour."
Tucker was born in Seminole, Tex., and moved from there to Arizona to Utah, and then to Las Vegas before hitting Hollywood after "Delta Dawn" became No. 1 on the country charts. She quit school in the ninth grade and ran with it, drinking good whiskey and driving fast cars, her success outdistanced only be her dreams.
All of which accounts for a whole lot of Hollywood grafted onto those country roots, and when Campbell and Tucker talk of their close friends, they're talking Steve Lawrence and Edyie Gorme, not to mention Sammy Davis Jr. When they talk of hobbies they mention hunting and fishing but they also mention raising racehorses (Tucker) and golf (Campbell). She's bought him a Rolex and he's bought her a Rolex and she's bought him a mink (black) and he's bought her a mink (white) and a fox (purple).
Still, Campbell says, "The country is still the whole shooting match to me. I've been every way there is to be. It's like the guy says to the gas station attendant, 'You don't change the tire when the car's moving do you? And the attandant holds up a hand with a couple fingers missing and says, 'Not anymore.'"
Campbell had been married three times before he hooked up with Tucker, whom he got to know when she called to offer consolation after she heard about his breakup with wife No. 3, Sarah Davis, former wife of Campbell's former friend, singer Mac Davis, a tale which manages to contain the plot of nearly every Country & Western song ever written. "It seems like every five years I'd find a girl I liked and give her a house," says Campbell. "Now I got a girl who can afford her own. I guess," he says, "they all mistook kindness for weakness."
Campbell has already proposed to Tucker, though they have yet to set the date. "It was in Scotland," he remembers. "I took her out into a little flower garden and said, 'Now, I'm gonna be real corny.' And I got down on my knees and went through the whole thing." His intended said yes, of course, and the two of them plan to live in Arizona, where Campbell is buying a house.
By the time they get to Phoenix, they say they will have left the fast lane far behind in favor of their rural roots. Right now, he has a house in the Hollywood Hills, and she lives in Century City, though Los Angeles "really gets to be boring." California, says Campbell, "is closing in on me. The reason there's so much smog in L.A. is so God can't see what they're doing down there." He sings a line from "Rhinestone Cowboy" -- "There's been a load of compromisin' on the road to my horizon." "Don't I know it," sighs Campbell.
But that's all over now, he says. Now he's grown up, and looking at things from "my own perspective. You begin to realize that the buck stops at God. That the most important thing in the world is honesty." And, of course, love. "We've got it settled," Campbell says. "We'll take it as it comes. Tanya and I are mates. That's forever. We're like two eagles. If the one doesn't come back in the spring, the other one knows it's dead."
Last Tangle in Washington -- Campbell-Tucker, Take 2:
The eagles have landed for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel. She is wearing black mink, smoked glasses. He is wearing black mink, hold the glasses. They sit down. She takes off the glasses. If Tanya Tucker's eyes were icebergs, she could sink the Titanic. She looks like the ultimate prima donna. "I am a prima donna," she says. "I deserve to be."
Campbell takes off his coat, a brave move considering the psychological wind-chill factor emanating from his companion. The red silk lining is embroidered with the inscription "Glen Campbell. Tanya's Man."
Tanya's Man touches her on the shoulder and then draws back quickly, making a sizzling sound, as if he'd been burned by dry ice. Her eyelids lower ominously. A conversational safety zone is earnestly sought after. Tanya's career?
It is noted that she is still on the way up, and she talks of the problems of combining marriage and a career, and taking time out to raise children. "Hey, I'm still on the way up too, you know," he says laughing. "It's lonely in the middle." No response. "I'm proud of Tanya's career," he says. "I never want her to give it up. There's got to be equality in the relationship.
She eyes him warily, beginning to warm. She is after all very young yet, and she is still trying on personas, looking for the one that will cover the quicksilver changes in her mood. "It's not just a matter of careers," she says. "You have to be equal no matter what you do. If it's a housewife, for her to equal him, she has to do her job, and if she does her best, then she's equal to him."
"That's very true darlin', that's very well put," says Campbell, encouragingly.
The subject turns to her changing image, the way in which the raw sexuality of her act is growing more subdued these days. "It just comes from being in the business," she says. "You're constantly changing, constantly learning new things. I don't want to stay the same. It gets old. It's like an old pair of jeans that you get tired of wearing. You want to get a pair of gabardine slacks after a while."
"That wasn't well put, darlin'," says Campbell. Bad move. She remembers that she's mad as hell.
. . . three, two, one. Ignition. Blastoff.
"Of course, you wouldn't think so darlin', but I don't really care," she says, her voice trembling just slightly. "It gets very boring to be around someone who thinks he knows everything."
"It was nothin'," Campbell says, by way of explaining the events preceding the contretemps. "I just told her to stop doin' something and she dept doin' it."
"What was I doing?"
"And then I said 'I'm sorry' and what did you do?"
"I said 'You're not either.'"
"Well, you sure weren't forgiving and forgetting this time, were you?"
"Oh, honey, you know better than that. I want to kiss and hug you."
"You should have thought about that before."
"Now you're hurtin' my feelings."
"Well, you hurt mine enough, so we're even."
She stalks off to the rest room, hurt child and indignant woman competing for top billing. Campbell sighs. "She'll get over it," he says. "She's almost over it now. But I'm glad I didn't give her a ring this morning or she'd a given me the finger," he says as the talk turns to country music lyrics. "I'll make an honest woman of her before she's 24. We'll be married by then." And is he at all worried about the differences in their ages?
"Not really," says Campbell cheerfully. "If she dies, she dies."