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Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Linda Lavin

Happy birthday to Linda Lavin! Since it is such a special day (and I am especially hungover today), I am reposting this story about the time I "met her." Please take a moment to "like" this or share it or Tweet it or whatever the fuck so that maybe she will somehow see it. Thanks.


I was at my place of employment this week, but as a patron, not an employee. As you know, I work at a music venue where singers perform as I serve drinks during their show. Sometimes the show is good, sometimes the show is bad and sometimes the show reaches deep into my soul and finds my tiny hardened heart and makes it break a little. I went to see Linda Lavin perform and it really felt like a surreal moment.

Linda Lavin is most known for her iconic role of Alice Hyatt from CBS's Alice that ran from 1976-1985. Of course I loved the show. Most people don't know that she is an accomplished singer and Broadway actress with a Tony award and many nominations including one for her most recent Broadway role in The Lyons. I knew she was a singer because I loved how she sang the opening theme song to her own television show. Ms. Lavin had done a show at my club  years before I worked there and every time I saw the poster of it that hangs in the lobby, it hurt that I had missed it. When I learned that she was doing another show, I was thrilled. Could it be that I was going to get to see this woman in person? The same woman who’s show I watched every week through junior high and high school?  How can this be? And her pianist was going to be the amazing Billy Stritch, so it was like icing on the Bitchy Waiter cake.

I got to the club and was surrounded by famous people who came to see the show just like I did; Diane Sawyer, Mike Nichols, Stockard Channing, Tommy Tune, Sheldon Harnick were all sitting next to me and if I had been at work that night, I would be serving them, but that night I was there to see the show. The lights dimmed and a voice came over the speaker. “Ladies and gentleman...Linda Lavin!” There she was, not five feet from me, smiling and tossing her hair and scanning the crowd to see her friends. “Oh, look at me!” I thought. “I’m right here. Make eye contact with me. Please, no one wants to be here more than I do. Look at me!” She started to sing her first song and then the night began melting away into a fog of sense memory. Her mannerisms were the same as they were when she made a smart remark to Mel. Her smile was as warm as it seemed when she had a scene with her son Tommy. But this wasn’t Alice Hyatt. This was Linda Lavin. And then she sang the theme song to Alice. I know it’s silly, but I started to cry. All of a sudden I was 12 years old again and laughing at Vera with an exploding box of straws and thinking that Alice was such a cool mom and that Flo was so funny. My husband reached under the table and held my hand and it was one of those “I am so grateful” moments that don’t come often enough.  Well, honestly, those moments probably come plenty of times, it’s just that we don’t take the time to acknowledge them.

The next song she sang was one I had never heard of called “The Song Remembers When.”

I was standin' at the counter
I was waitin' for the change
When I heard that old familiar music start
It was like a lighted match
Had been tossed into my soul
It was like a dam had broken in my heart.

She was singing about what I was just thinking; that music has the power to transport you to another time. To this day, whenever I hear the song "I Melt With You" I float back to 1986 when I was in Judith's living room watching a slide show that my best friends in college put together. I can't hear that song without feeling nostalgic, happy, and incredibly sad all at the same time. When she was finished with the song, she verified what I already knew; music can move you. That is "the good of music," she said. It can do that for you and she had just done it for me. She had a lot of wonderful things to say. "Fear is your friend," she said when talking about the nervousness that we all face on occasion and how we have to use that to our advantage. "I love my life," she said. "My life is a big surprise to me." She was so grateful to be there and to be working and she wanted to remind us to all be thankful for the moments that we receive on a daily basis. It was like she was reading my mind. I know she only played a waitress on television, but it was like we were wearing the same apron.

For the rest of the show, I relished every second of it. I was taking in every moment because I knew I never wanted to forget how perfect the evening was. And it all happened because she was performing at where I work. Because I am a server, I knew about this show and got to come see it. Thank God I am a waiter at this club. After the show was over, my cheeks hurt from smiling. I rubbed the tears out of my eyes and went to the lobby. There she was, greeting her guests under the poster of her show from three years before; the same poster that had taunted me. I was scared to talk to her. I had already forgotten her advice that fear was my friend and I walked past her too afraid to shake her hand and thank her for the evening. Why didn't I do that? Several days have passed and I wish would have swallowed my fear and said this to her:

Ms. Lavin, I know you hear this all the time, but I loved Alice. I'm a waiter and you gave the character of Alice such realness. She was never ashamed of her job because she knew that it was just a job and not her life. Alice was a singer who waited tables. I am a writer who waits tables. Thank you. Your show tonight moved me more than you could ever know. I will never forget how happy I felt tonight when you were were talking about how grateful you are for your life and your husband and your career, because I feel the exact same way. Thank you.

It was a very good night indeed. Please "like" this so maybe someday it will make it all the way to Linda Lavin and she'll know what I was too scared to tell her. Thanks.

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Bryan Austermann said...

This is a really great story. I'm glad I took the time to read it.
Also, I LOVE The Song Remembers When. I only know it from Kristin Chenoweth's album As I Am (if you wanna hear her version), but hopefully someday, I'll get to listen to Linda's.
I feel similarly about meeting and talking to people, I just generally dont have anything super meaningful to say, and so I avoid it because I don't want to take up their time.
I will share this on Twitter right now!

Rhiannon said...

I'm fb pals with Billy, so I'll pop it on my page and tag him. What a beautiful piece.

Anonymous said...

As a self confessed bitch, you will appreciate my telling you: I liked it the first time.

As I liked all of your other recent repeats the first time.

Enough reposts already.

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