The last two days have been amazing days to be in New York City.
A little backstory: My mother (Queenie) is a big fan of the arts. Theater, the Symphony, and most of all, Broadway. She’s such a fan of Marvin Hamlisch that she has only referred to him by his first name for years and chatted with “the Maestro” once in Georgetown. “Hey, I’m off to see Marvin at Wolf Trap, wanna come?” That most recently occurred on July 13th – just a month ago yesterday. Turns out, that was the last time she would ever see Marvin Hamlisch perform. And, regrettably, I declined her invitation.
Marvin passed away on August 6, 2012 in LA, but was brought back to NYC to the place of his birth, training and performing for so many years, to be remembered and honored. And that he was.
As was stated in his eulogy today, he was often referred to as “the people’s composer.” (But, I’m getting ahead of myself.)
So much a man of the people, in fact, that upon his passing, family and friends saw to it that everything celebrating his life was open to the public. So, seeing that the visitation was seven blocks from “my house” in NYC, I had to go. It’s what the Queen wanted, so it’s what I did.
Now picture it, OK, it’s Monday night, August 13th and I find myself walking up to a funeral home on Madison Avenue. Of course, I have no real-life connection to this man and I was ten minutes early, BUT… I saw a nice man walking in with a backpack on that was all black and read “A Chorus Line” across the middle. “Ah! He must be going to the same place I am, so I’ll follow him,” I thought. So I did. The doormen weren’t letting us in as of yet because family hadn’t arrived, so I chatted it up with this nice man, like only my mother has taught me to do. I said, “So, umm, (like duh, I’m thinking to myself) were you in “A Chorus Line?” “Oh, yes, ma’am, I was. Marvin gave me my first job out of college. He kept me from being a starving artist!” WOW! Cool! OK This guy has reason to be here (and is also on a first name basis) and I still, clearly, do not. So I tried to top that with “Oh, yeah, well, I can say Al Gore gave me my first job out of college, but…you can have your victory!” I said it lovingly and very ha ha ha and he laughed. Then he tried to make it all better by saying, “Honey, neither is one to turn your nose up at on our resumes, huh?!”
I went on to tell him that I was here because my summer job is close by and my mom wanted me to be here in her stead and yadda yadda. He was very nice.
Then – it was time to go in. I hate funerals. OK, yeah, the flowers are pretty, but the tears were plenty. There were 8, count ‘em, 4 guest books on each side as you enter. I paraded in right behind Chris Matthews and signed my mother’s name (I was her surrogate) right underneath “Chris & Kathleen Matthews, Chevy Chase, MD”. So, that was cool, then I just helped myself to a pew and sat right next to Chris and just watched and took it all in.
Can’t quite paint a picture of what it was like for you, but let’s put it to you straight: Liza Minnelli was directly in front of me by a mere 2 pews. Roberta Flack walked in. Jessye Norman came in very sad and extravagantly. Idina Menzel was there looking as beautiful as ever. Paul Shaffer was there in his signature pinstripes and cute round classes. Last but not least, the great Joe Torre “of the Yankees” (as Terre introduced him to Idina) was there with pictures for Terre. A kind, talented man agreed to play tunes that Marvin had written and composed on the grand piano in the corner the entire time that the visitors came thru. As it turned out, it was the guest pianist at that last concert my mother saw that hot July 13th evening at Wolf Trap just a few weeks ago. That was an all Gershwin concert and this man, David Cole, is a Gershwin family favorite. He was phenomenal. Mom got to see Marvin and David playing Gershwin simultaneously, but last night, David was the lone pianist, playing Hamlisch.
As I was leaving, I said farewell to my new friend from “A Chorus Line.” I overheard him telling someone he started in 1977. I told him, “good year, my man, that’s the year I was born.” His response: “You’ve done your momma proud by being here, Honey, see you tomorrow!”
… (to be continued) …