Saturday, July 10, 2010

Meeting Ella Fitzgerald, part 2

So I ended up at an Ella Fitzgerald concert, totally, totally inappropriately dressed.  Read part one here.

I was entranced, thrilled, watching and listening to every Ella move, every note.  Thankful that the sun was setting, all eyes were focused on Ella on stage and hoping no one could see me in my grungy get-up.  Ella sang all the familiar favorites, and it really was a dream come true. About 20 feet away from my idol.

K no doubt noticed that I knew every tune by heart.  To her, Ella was someone famous that her father knew, but she clearly wasn't in the die-hard fan group with me.

Then.  Intermission.

All I wanted to do was cower in my seat, arms crossing over my lap.  I spotted the Deputy Mayor of Boston, a few other luminaries whom I knew vaguely and I just wanted to don the cloak of invisibility. You have to understand, I looked totally gross and shabby: windblown, unshowered, salty, sandy, wild mane of hair.  Everything unkempt one can look like at the end of a day at the beach.


"Let's go backstage!" says K. "With my VIP pass we can go back there, no problem!  You're such a fan, you can meet Ella."

Daggers of pain, angst.  "No, I can't possibly -- look at me!"

"Jeeeez, Polly, when will you ever have this chance again?  Don't be ridiculous.  Who cares?"

"I care."  Talk about being torn in two.  No. No. No.  Yes. Yes. Yes.

But I bit the bullet.  I rose from my seat, followed K past the "No admission" sign to the back of the stage, and after we waited outside the makeshift dressing room for a few minutes, out came Ella.  Elegant and larger than life in her long shining satin dress.  I think it was purple. Was it my imagination, or was there a halo-like aura about her?

I stammered.  What can you say to Ella Fitzgerald that isn't a cliche?  What can you say to explain meeting her while looking like a bum?  Nothing.  I shook her hand. And I said, "Miss Fitzgerald, you have been my idol since I was 12.  This is the greatest moment for me."

She smiled kindly and looked a little tired. I think she pretended not to notice my insultingly slapdash appearance. "Why, thank you, dear."  At least I think that's what she said. My ears felt filled with cotton.  My brain was in another planet.

"Could I have your .... signature?"  I had never asked for an autograph before.  Damn, that was the word I meant to say:  autograph.

"Of course."  She signed my program.  I think K winked at her or gave some other inside signal, and we left. 

My heart was pounding, and to this day, I don't know whether it was because I was actually meeting Miss Ella Fitzgerald, at long last.  Or whether it was from sheer embarrassment.


Anonymous said...

Great story, Polly! You really don't need to write about Paris or France all the time. People, I think, are more interested in stories about you, your life, and your memories like the one you wrote here about Ella.

I agree, there was no one like her.....well, maybe Sarah Vaughan!

BilliardTraveler said...

AHHHHH!!! I see from the ticket stub that Oscar Peterson was also there? Did you get to meet him too????

Polly-Vous Francais said...

To me there is a small French connection in this story. It was the first time in my post-1970's-who-cares-what-I-look-like life that there was finally a tiny fissure in that attitude. It dawned on me as a 20-something that it DOES matter how you present yourself all the time. Even when you least expect it. And that is 100% what I finally learned in France.

p.s. Gabe -- no, I didn't meet Oscar Peterson, but he was great.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed these two posts, and of course the rest of your blog!

I comment because my dad had the opportunity to meet Ella around the same time as you did...and his embarrassing Ella anecdote is that he was taking her to the after-party of the concert (long story of why he was the one doing so) and, as he was leading her across a big lawn to save time, the automatic sprinkler system went on and soaked them both. He was incomprehensibly mortified - he feels about Ella the way you do! I hear the same sense of awe in your posts as when he tells the story. :)

He also told me that when she had finished singing that night he complimented her reverently and she said "my nose was running so bad it dripped right into my mouth!!" I think of this story every time I hear Ella!

take care.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Great story! Thanks.

Reggie Darling said...

Marvelous story, and how wonderful that you saved the program and your tickets. Reggie

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