Adulthood, A Pilot

I’m writing about a scene from Rocketman. 

About “Take Me to the Pilot.”

I have always loved Elton John. 

I grew up on him. 

First the Beatles, then Queen, then him. 

Rock entered me young. 

While I met the Beatles in the womb, Elton did not enter my life till later—let’s say 9. My dad has a massive CD collection and he used to burn specific albums for me as gifts.

When I turned 9, he gave me a burned copy of Elton John’s “Elton John.” It was a gold CD-ROM with “Elton John” written atop it in sharpie. We sat in his home office, the size of a closet, and he played me “Your Song.” He meant it to be our song. He would speak-sing the lyrics as we listened. He is not a great singer. 

He played me “Your Song” to express his love as a parent. His other favorites—which became my other favorites—included Bitter Fingers, Pinball Wizard, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, Candle in the Wind, Captain Fantastic, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Elderberry Wine, Tiny Dancer, Honkey Cat, and Crocodile Rock, in no particular order. Funnily enough, the only song he doesn’t like is “I’m Still Standing,” but I didn’t learn that until later. 

In high school I fell into musical theatre. I guess it’s odd, considering I was raised on rock, but according to my brother, I have a “Broadway voice.” 

That’s what he says when I ask him to jam. 

He’s a percussion major with roots in Nirvana. 

Me and my mask resonance do not belong.

How did I find musical theatre? My parents hate Broadway. 

Well, that’s not true. They LOVE Rent. They saw the original cast.

They introduced me to the cast album when I was in 4th grade, and I’ve been in love with it ever since (especially with Maureen). 

Rent is my all-time favorite musical. 

After Rent come Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Next to Normal, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Clearly, I’m heavily rooted in rock.

In addition to finding theatre in high school, I developed anorexia.

This is widely known, as it drives much of the work I do artistically. 

I went to rehab in Miami during senior year. 

It was my choice. 

While I soaked-up-the-sun of my treatment, as opposed to the Miami sun outside, my dad cried himself to sleep at night listening to Trey Anastasio’s “Miss You.” 

I didn’t learn this until I came home. 

Now when I listen to “Miss You” I cry. 

In treatment, I dove into my background: my family dysfunction, my attachment traumas…

I got to the root of my issues with control. 

But I missed something.

I missed one factor.

I missed my sexuality.

My journey in recovery is one of self-expression and self-acceptance. 

Anorexia shrunk me; it is the opposite of bold. 

And my life mission to is to be true and be bold. 

This is what I see in Rocketman.

I saw Rocketman in theaters twice this summer: first on vacation in California with my girlfriend, then with my parents in New Orleans. 

I had chills the moment the movie started. 

Elton BURSTS through a door, which we later learn is a stage door, clad head to toe in orange feathers and supported by huge wings.

He charges down a hallway, serenaded by the “ah, AAAAAh, aaah, AAAHs” of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  

And THEN he sits down in THERAPY

“My name is Elton Hercules John,” he says, 

“And I am an alcoholic. 

And a drug addict. 

And a sex addict. 

And a bulimic.” 

It immediately resonated with my story.

It starts with him leaving his commitments behind and forgoing what others expect of him.

It starts with a commitment to his health.

It starts with rock bottom.

It starts with a choice. 

It is simultaneously an ending and a beginning, as is every moment of our lives. 

Something special was happening, on screen and in my body. By the time the movie would end, I would know why I love Elton John: he takes up space, he is big and bold, and his journey mirrors mine. 

It moved me that this was the story Elton wanted to tell publicly. That he wanted to focus on his personal life—on his addiction and recovery—rather than his career. It affirmed the work I do artistically, the work I do around my eating disorder. It resonated with my concentration: “Personal Narrative On Stage.” 

About one year into recovery, I discovered I liked girls. 

To quote Elton John in the movie, “I’m a homosexual. A poofter. A fairy. A queen.” (Lesbian women and gay men are subject to different stereotypes, but that is beside the point.) To watch that scene, click here! It’s good.

My self-discovery is also good. 

But it sent me back a few steps. 

I learned that fear and shame about my sexuality had been at play in my disease. 

I began developing anorexia when I was 12, but it did not manifest physically until age 16, right when I would have been exploring my sexuality. Coincidence? I think not. 

Why is this relevant? 

Because of the moment.

My favorite musical moment.

My favorite Rocketman moment. 

“Take Me to the Pilot.” 

The only song in the movie I did not recognize.

Which funnily enough, according to Google, is on the same album as “Your Song.”

The moment goes like this:

Elton sits with his manager, John Reid, who happens to be his love interest. 

They have some real sexual tension.

Elton looks cute, young, innocent, and shy.

He wears glasses.

He listens to John speak and raises his eyebrows.

REID
Where there is darkness, there is light. You, Elton John, you can do anything you want, you can be anyone you want, and it’s going to be a wild ride.

BAM! Music.

If you feel that it’s real I’m on trial
And I’m here in your prison
Like a coin in your mint
I am dented and I’m spent with high treason

Through a glass eye your throne
Is the one danger zone
Take me to the pilot for control
Take me to the pilot of your soul

Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger

Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger

Na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na na
Na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na na

Well I know he’s not old
And I’m told, and I’m told he’s a virgin
For he may be she
What I’m told; and I’m never, never for certain

Through a glass eye your throne
Is the one danger zone
Take me to the pilot for control
Take me to the pilot of your soul

Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger

Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger

Na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na na
Na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na na

Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John

Take Me to the Pilot lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

The first half of the song underscores a sex scene between him and John Reid. It is a pivotal moment in the story—one that the artistic team and Elton himself felt strongly about including—because it is Elton’s first time with a man. 

His life is beginning. It is taking off. 

After the first chorus, the intimacy ends, and a montage of performance reviews fill the screen. The music continues, underscoring reviews being read out loud. 

Elton has been born. 

That’s what that moment is for me.

Birth.

Re-birth.

Adulthood.

Stepping into one’s full self, full purpose, and full power. 

It helped that I saw it with my own romantic partner, who I am experiencing my own rebirth with.  

Fortunately, I have been able to relive the moment over and over with the help of YouTube. To taste the rainbow, click here: 

Let’s skip to the end of the movie.

Elton comes out of rehab singing “I’m Still Standing.”

When I watched it with my parents, my dad said he dislikes the song. 

I, however, loved the song, and I embraced the opportunity to differentiate from him and have my own experience of an artist he introduced me to. 

Elton John speaks to both the addict and artist in me.

But he also speaks to my individuality. 

Since seeing Rocketman, I’ve had “Take Me to the Pilot” on loop on my Spotify. 

It serenades me as I walk down the street.

It symbolizes a pivotal point in my existence. 

It reminds me of my power.

And I’m sure I’ll love it for years to come.

Thank you, Dexter Fletcher (Director).
Thank you, Taron Egerton (Star).
And finally, thank you, Elton (Icon).

In closing, I’d like to remind you that these thoughts and opinions are my own, and not meant to be forced upon anyone. They’ve been filtered through my own experience. 

Keep tuning in, keep sharing, keep coming back – but most importantly, keep being you. That’s all that matters. 

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