I had been waiting to see Jimmy Scott perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center since last fall when I purchased tickets for his entry in the Center's American Songbook series. Although Mr. Scott remains frustratingly under the radar - after all he is 82 and has been performing with all the legends since the 40s - just watch the above YouTube video to understand why he himself is legendary. I was fortunate to see him live three years ago at the Kennedy Center Jazz Club. Upon introduction, he gingerly mounted the steps to the stage with a fragile but determined delicateness. I was uncertain how the evening would play out. Would he be able to last through an entire set? But as soon as he began to sing, the life entered into his face and arms, and his voice, still fragile but now remarkably fiery, began to drop and wander - playing with the melody, teasing the notes, tossing them aside, discovering new sounds and joys. He was amazing. And not like "that shine-reduction powder is amazing" but God-creating-the-universe amazing.
So last Saturday, with my friend Sarah in arm (I had attempted to make it a date night with an unnamed individual, but that's another story and another quarter), we rode the elevator to the Allen Room in the Time Warner Center and passed those waiting in the cancellation line. I felt some self-congratulatory satisfaction that I was not one of them. After having our tickets examined twice, we entered into the theater, which has a fantastic view of Columbus Circle and Central Park South. But there were people in our seats. People who were supposed to be there. So we headed to the nearest usher to resolve the situation, and I looked at my tickets again (probably the tenth time I had done so that day) and read:
Sponsored by Pfizer
Fri, Feb 22, 2008 8:30 PM
The Allen Room
Frederick P. Rose Hall Broadway at 60th St.
Wait. Friday? FRIDAY!
A day late.
A plaintive moan escaped my lips. What kind of fool was I? It had been in my daily planner as Saturday since forever. Curse you, Mead! I was directed to The Lady at the Kiosk, where I explained my case, confessed that I was an idgit, and begged for anything she could throw my direction. The Lady at the Kiosk said, "Wait." For there were lots of people in the cancellation line (Damn.), and we wouldn't know anything until closer to the show. So we waited, and I watched those lucky cancellation line sonabitches pass me into the theater. I tried to excude sad-adorableness to win over their sympathies. After all, Sarah had just told me I was dressed cool, like a rock star. How could they not be moved by puppy-eyed, Guitar Hero boy? Just as we were resigning ourselves to sad fate and considering heading over to Landmarc to get drunk at the bar, a magic woman came to us with two tickets. "Here. Hurry. You need to run." Gratitude poured forth from every orficice as I grabbed the tickets and ran off down the hall, but we were stopped by another even more magical woman. "Wait! Take these. They're amazing seats. You'll love them." So we swapped tickets. Taking our new $90 tickets to our rightful spots at the very front.
We congratulated ourselves. This is how it should be done every time. The view. The complimentary wine. Good friends. And Jimmy Scott.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
What the ?
And a thousand little thoughts scampered through my head as I swung around: Wrong night AND wrong theater? Is that the piano player? If so, why is the audience standing up, cheering? Who is that white boy walking down the theater steps looking so fucking pleased with himself? Is he the opening act?
And that's when it came together. Jimmy Scott would not be singing tonight. He was making one and only one appearance. Which I had tickets to. But did not attend.
No. I was attending the concert debut of Mr. Young, Tony Award-winning former star of the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys, who would be singing your mother's favorite hits of the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Mr. Young was so excited for this opportunity to show his fans his true self, and, apparently, that true self is Frankie Valli.
Sarah and I admitted defeat. The Universe had won. I poured the wine, somehow sending the cork flying toward our neighbors. And I laughed like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.