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Roger Smith


Is Ann-Margret in Love With Elton John?

Many people who saw them together that night in New York may have found the picture a little unsettling. There was Ann-Margret (long considered to be almost on a par with the most popular teenage-type doll), glittering and shimmering in her pale green, Bob Mackie beaded gown, make-up perfect after hours spent in front of a brightly lit mirror, long red hair carefully coiffed and combed, eyes sparkling with excitement. And next to her (at least for part of the evening) lounged the current king of rock, the guy who's been collecting more gold records than anyone of late, whose public appearances are sold out even before they are announced, whose presence elicits familiar, but long-thought vanished shrieks of joy from an astonishing number of otherwise ordinary-appearing teenage girls. Neatly clad in black velvet, stars and sequins, with a cunning derby tilted toward one oversized, rosy, glitter-framed eyeglass, the dubious beginning of a beard clearly visible on his cheeks, he was, in short, Elton John.

And what he and Ann-Margret Olsson were doing on a specially reserved and decorated New York City subway platform (yes, truly!) was co-hosting what was undoubtedly the publicity party of the year, so far; to celebrate the smash opening of the film rock opera, Tommy.

It doesn't take much to bring people out to parties these days, but even so, this one was jammed - not just with show-biz personalities but with society types as well.

More than 700 guests competed for the 600 available seats, which led Elton John to mutter, "I've never been so frightened in my life," while Tommy composer and Who guitarist, Pete Townshend just stood around and said woefully, "I just hope none of these people turn up at any Who concerts."

Despite the funkiness of the scene, however, Ann-Margret was the undisputed queen of the evening - and in the old-fashioned Hollywood sense. And, compounding the schism still more, the role Ann plays in Tommy - Iustful, gross, walloing, in one scene, in the assorted gook and garbage spewed forth from a malefic TV - is very far from the image she has worked so hard to create and to live - solid, square, happily married and definitely unfreaky .

"I live quietly with my husband and, sometimes' his children," she says in her small, littlegirl voice. "We have a nice family life and at night usually the most exciting thing we do is screen movies."

It would sound almost cozy if you didn't know that the simple family life the lady is talking about takes place in one of Hollywood's legendary mansions that has been reconditioned and rehabilitated to A-M's taste - including a whole room that has been converted into a huge closet to house part of her wardrobe. She needs the space, I'm a very female person," she explains. "I do love the glamour. The little girl in me has never grown up and I love soft and sensuous things like feathers and things that sparkle." Like five or ten carat diamond rings. She's got a few of those, too.

Ann-Margret is not just a vacuous, self-indulgent creature, however. She is tough, spunky, determined and disciplined and she is known as one of the hardest, bordering on compulsive, workers in Hollywood "I'm in this business for the love of it, not the money primarily," she says. "I really dig performing for a live audience. I just love those people out there and I love the feedback they give me. The greatest charge for me is feeling those waves of love coming across from the audience. I can't get enough of it. That's what keeps me going.

That's on the one hand.

On the other hand, there is the domestic A-M, who sighs, "I want to have a baby more than anything in the world, but I can't find the time to stay home and take care of it. When will that be? Why, last year I was hardly home at all. We have this beautiful home and we're really not there to enjoy it."

She gets tired of working at times, that's cIear. She also gets tired of defending husband Roger Smith against the charges that he makes her work. "He has taken so much abuse," she declares. "The thing is, he protects me, he helps me, I couldn't survive without him".

How will Ann-Margret's latest triumph - her venture into Elton John's world of glitter rock affect her? Particularly since she is known as especially sensitive in reacting to the roles she plays.

When she did Bobby in Carnal Knowledge, for instance, she found it a thoroughly traumatic experience which, years later, still can bring remnants of depression to her. The more serious the work, the more lasting the impression. Her earlier, poorly received pictures don't seem to bother her at all, even though she was often wounded at the time by the cutting comments about them.

"I've never known who that girl is up there on that screen and probably never will. l don't see rushes and I only see my films once. An actor or actress sees some merit in any project they are involved in... No one ever makes bad film intentionally... But you make three or four dogs in a row and people start saying that girl is a real ding-a-ling. She only how to move her hips!"

She doesn't have to worry about being accused of being only a hip mover anymore. But the question still remains - where does she move next?

As we've said, she was never really comfortable till now in Elton John's world of rock - either professionally or personally. And while they share a mutual liking and respect for each other, there was, despite speculation, nothing deeper or longer lasting that happened between them. Ann-Margret as a kid knew the fright and insecurity of poverty, of having to sleep in the parlor of a funeral home her mother was the caretaker for. And Elton John was a former fat kid, lonely and unsure, whose parents were divorced and who never felt really wanted or loved. Undoubtedly they felt a recognition when they met, an affection that perhaps contributed tributed to the "phantasmagorical nightmare" energy that was brought to Tommy. The truth is they were never able to get much closer than that.

But Ann's friends are now wondering if the huge success of Tommy will almost force her into a personally looser, funkier lifestyle than the one she and Roger have shared till now. Annie, they know, is very susceptible to change, almost plastic, at times, in the way she can be molded They fear that the hard, tough, drug-oriented, loose world of glitter rock is the last thing in the world she needs.

If her life should move in this direction, however, Elton John could prove - in the long run to have more of an influence over her than was even hinted at now.

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By Peter Palmer

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