I was the optometrist of a musician on the cusp of fame.
J. DAVIS ARMISTEAD, O.D., LUBBOCK, TEXAS
The pre-teen boy, his hair slicked in an attempt to flatten its waves, presented to my practice with his mother, complaining of near-sightedness. His vision was 20/800 with slight astigmatism. When I told him he needed glasses, he responded the way all my young patients requiring spectacles did: He chose the most inconspicuous frames, which, in this case, were wire-rimmed. That patient was Buddy Holly.
Reception room concerts
Buddy started seeing me when he was in junior high school. He had a real fervor for music and was always looking to get involved in both school and community music events. This quickly made him well known throughout Lubbock.
I could tell immediately when he was in the office because he used to pat on a corner table in the reception room, like he was keeping time, and he’d hum.
A frame for legendary frames at NYC’s Hard Rock Cafe.
Contact lens wear
Buddy was not happy about wearing glasses. But, he was especially determined to get out of them when he started auditioning outside of Lubbock. He felt they hurt his ability to present himself as a hipster musician. So when contact lenses became available, he asked me to fit him in a pair. Contact lens technology at the time was nil, and I tried to explain this to Buddy, but he was dead set on wearing them. When he returned from an open audition in Tennessee, he told me it was “a total disaster,” because he had trouble seeing. After that, he decided he was through with contact lenses.
One night I was watching The Phil Silvers Show, a TV program about a get-rich-quick scamming Army Sergeant named Ernest G. Bilko. He wore thick black frames, and I noticed that every time he wanted to call attention to himself, he’d either quickly remove and replace them or handle them. I started thinking about Buddy and how showing off his glasses, rather than trying to hide them, would call attention to him during his auditions and performances. So, the next time Buddy came to see me, I recommended he try those frames. He apathetically agreed.
The frames were only available in Mexico, so my wife, Cora, and I took a vacation to Mexico City so I could get Buddy those frames. I came back with a pair in demi-amber and black. He chose the black ones and said he’d try them out on a gig he had coming up. When he returned from the gig, he popped in his head while I was examining another patient and gave me a quick thumbs up to let me know the new frames worked out well. That was the last time I saw Buddy.
I’ve had reporters ask me whether I realize how much of a role I’ve played in pop culture and fashion by getting Buddy those frames and/or how I feel about that. The truth is I haven’t followed any of it. And I probably shouldn’t say this, but I don’t know that I ever heard Buddy perform. To me, Buddy was just another patient whom I was trying my dead level best to help. It just so happens that those frames helped him. OM
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Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: November 2012, page(s): 72