It’s mid-1971 and I’m backstage at a theatre somewhere in Southern California, working with a singer who possesses a manufactured Irish swagger and a patently obvious paucity of talent. I dislike him immensely, particularly for his embarrassingly open assertion that he will soon be widely celebrated for the relevance and gravity of his message.
His inauthenticity offends me. He sings of Irish rebels and the oppressive, brutal nature of British rule — as if a Brooklyn-born American of only faintly Irish extraction would have firsthand knowledge of such things. And accompanying him on this little promotional juggernaut of ours is his trophy girlfriend, plucked from a galaxy of possibilities by an influential management team so blinded by their drunken charge’s ego as to ignore the fact that the exploited beauty quite possibly has dreams and desires of her own.
She is a jewel, a pearl of a girl. I have no idea who she is or that she is extremely talented and more successful than their newest discovery will ever be. And, perhaps wrongly, I feel disappointed by her apparent willingness to blithely go along with this cheerless charade.
Our budding star is off consulting with management and I find myself alone in a dressing room with the kind of beauty usually found only in dreams longing to be relived. We talk casually at first and I’m charmed and enthralled by her quiet, unassuming manner and her understated elegance. Her gracious smile alone warms the heart and tempts one to imagine what was once unimaginable, but then she asks me what I think of her unlikely consort.
I tell her that I’d rather not tender an opinion. This elicits the gently furrowed brow, the glance of mild curiosity.
Having no fear of unemployment, I tell her quite authoritatively that the object of her presumed interest has no alternative but to fail miserably in his quixotic quest for fame, as well he should.
Surprisingly, she smiles; a smile more released than worn. I sense relief in her unbearably beautiful eyes, as if some nagging suspicion has been confirmed.
The room quickly fills with the talentless minstrel’s noisy entourage and, of course, the brash centerpiece of their unmistakably labored attention. I gently smirk at their seeming indifference to my confidante’s presence. Noticing this, she once more smiles at me, as if connecting to a kindred spirit. Then she quietly but openly scribbles out her telephone number for me.
A friendship develops, but in time our our kinship is dulled by distance, professional responsibilities and a simple drifting of priorities. She garners more success and acclaim, while I flounder in predictable irrelevance.
She died some twenty years later, long after we had last spoken. She was far too young for such finality. I have a telephone number, scribbled in haste in handwriting that I adore. Place it gently in my casket before closing the lid, lest I live in nothingness alone.
The inauthentic Irishman also met his maker, although he underservedly lived much longer than the gracious beauty that his ego quite possibly insisted be forgotten. Those early and impracticable aspirations of his had quickly faded and he had become what he always had been. Ordinary