Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Remembrance of Zaniness Past
Some silly thing I saw on TV the other day awakened a long-buried memory of a moment of truly inspired silliness.
Back in the day, we were amazingly poor. A jazz musician in those days did not make much money. They were exploited by club owners, underpaid, not aware of what they were worth and often scorned by the Union when they went there seeking work. We couldn't afford to go anywhere, so we took walks. Living in San Francisco, any place we walked was probably written up in a tourist guide. At the time, we were living in a Victorian four-plex on Octavia Street in Hayes Valley, a stone's throw from City Hall, the Modern Art Museum and the Opera House. Behind City Hall was a park with a long reflecting pool, some well-manicured trees and long stretches of lawn. At the end of this and across the street was the main branch of the Public Library. It was a nice walk at any time, but this particular evening was especially tasty.
It was one of those amazing warm San Francisco Indian Sumner evenings. It was the magical hour just before dusk. Bob and I took our usual route up the street toward City Hall. It was not until we approached the Opera House that we realized it was opening night! The limos were lined up and the opera-goers were arriving in all their glittering finery, each trying to out-do the other. While some actually were there for the opera, many were there because it was an annual ritual --a de rigeur fashion throw-down of epic proportions, one of the High Holy Days of San Francisco Society. The absurd contrast to our own circumstances struck us as hysterically funny, and by some divinely naughty inspiration, we both spontaneously began dancing and burst into song.
"Who wants to be a millionaire?"
We sang at the top of our voices, a duet from the Frank Sinatra-Grace Kelley film, High Society. We continued singing, dancing and laughing the entire length of the opera house, onward across Van Ness Avenue and down the side of City Hall, then the length of the park and pool, dancing sometimes on the sidewalk, sometimes up on the rim of the pool as we went.
As we approached the end of the park, a deep male voice announced firmly, "Stop! Don't come any closer!"
We stopped dead in our tracks, wide-eyed and startled, then fell onto the grass laughing so hard we could barely breathe. We had both simultaneously recognized the source of that stern command: a man, parked at the end of the park, had set a small TV set on the hood of his car and was watching it through the windshield. It was a voice from the TV that had told us to stop.
That is one of the mental video clips of my life I will always cherish. I am really delighted to have experienced it. I can't remember ever spontaneously bursting into song and dance again, but I highly recommend it.
*** Here is the original duet with Celeste Holm and Frank Sinatra instead of Bob and MaryAnn Marchesi... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_9QstdWGC4
Photo: Google images.