Now,before I start hearing from people telling me how ungrateful I am to my audience,let me just say that,generally,I have a deep appreciation of my fans’ “love’….After all,there is ,and should be, a certain intimacy between performer and audience.It’s just that there’s a certain type of person who uses this “relationship” to get out the same kind of passive/aggressive behavior they would normally save for their spouse-behind closed doors!This,then,is our subject for today…Now let us begin…..
There she was-the sweet,kindly-looking little old lady timidly approaching me at a jazz festival to tell me something.This is how the conversation went.
“Excuse me,Mr. Peplowski?”
“I bought your last album….”
(As my chest burst with anticipatory pride)”Why,thank y-”
“I was very disappointed.”
What does one say to this?In my case,I looked at her and replied,”Well,I’m glad to know that-I’ll have the rest of them recalled immediately.”
She just walked away,as we both shook our heads sadly….
That was the “fan-as-critic.”Now we move on to the personal attacks.
I just happened to catch his eye from across a crowded ballroom,where we were playing at a jazz “party”.He was in a wheelchair,breathing through an oxygen tube,and was beckoning me with a wizened claw to come all the way over to where he was,across a sea of people…I dutifully walked over,carefully negotiating all the chairs,tables,waiters,and general bustle,and bent down to hear what he was trying to tell me.It sounded like….wait-it was-
“You don’t look like you’ve been missing many meals.”And,in case I didn’t quite get the gist of what he was saying,he followed that zinger with: “You’ve really gotten fat.”I staggered away,with my frozeniloveyoualliloveyoualliloveyouall smile pasted on my face.
There’s also the “I remember you when you had a full head of hair” personal-attack variation,usually coming from a person who remembers when Abe Lincoln had a full head of hair!
Then we have the “insider.” He sidles up to me with a conspiratorial glance,and this conversation ensues:
“Now,we both know each other-how much would you charge to play a concert for me-and I don’t want to go through your agent-I want to negotiate directly with you!”
As my butt-cheeks clench vigorously,I refrain from saying,”How much would you charge me for a gall-bladder operation-and I don’t want to go through the insurance company,I want to deal directly with you!”
Instead,I hem and haw,and make some lame excuse that I’ll have to get back to him/her.
Then we have the jazz “expert”,who already knows the answer they want me to give them before they even ask the question,which is inevitably,”Who’s better-Artie Shaw or Benny Goodman?”There’s also the shorthand version,where they just jab me in the stomach and bark out,”Benny or Artie?”There’s two points to be made about this:1.I really don’t care who is or was better,and 2.Thanks for taking me completely out of the equation in your list of all-time greats!
There’s also the “I prefer you on saxophone/clarinet”,or its companion piece,”I hate the saxophone/clarinet!”We’ll just move on from this one for now,though,and skip to my all-time favorite:
THE “RECORD-COVER HOLDER”
This is a person who usually has a copy of my first record (preferably the giant LP-size version),who sidles up to me,eyebrows akimbo,arms behind his back…..
“I’ve got something to show you…”
My heart is already sinking (for I know what’s coming) as my face registers (fake) bafflement and curiousity.”What is it?” I gulp,knowing full well what “it” is.
From behind him,he whisks out the Giant Record Cover With My 25-Year Old Head on it.”What do you think about that?”
I ask you,ladies and gentleman of the jury,what should I reply?”Oh-I didn’t know those were for sale.”or “I thought I had the only copy” or (closer to the response they really want), “You see,I did look good 6,000 gigs ago!”
I guess the best answer I ever heard was from trumpeter Warren Vache,who,when accosted with a double dose of,”You’ve gotten fat andbald!”,leaned down,graciously shook the message-bearer’s hand,and sweetly replied-“Thank you-and may I say that you look exactly the same as you did twenty-five years ago!”
Bye for now! Ken “I love everyone” Peplowski