The date: Friday, October 9, 1992. The place: the “21”, New York City.
I was in New York with my family for my brother’s wedding, and a private room at the “21” had been rented out for the rehearsal dinner the night before the the big event. The party was wonderful, with good company, good food, beautiful surroundings, and a not-too-bad performance by yours truly. (For those who don’t know me, I sing. If I recall correctly, the selections for that evening were “As Time Goes By”, and “New York State of Mind”.)
The hour was late, people were heading home, or to hotels, or elsewhere. My brothers were off to a bar to finish off the night, and seeing as I was a) tired, b) 19, and c) never much of a drinker, I was pretty much ready to head back to the hotel with my parents. I wandered down the stairs, and went over and looked into the bar on the main floor.
It was a fairly large room, dark wood panelled, and there were not a lot of people there. Almost immediately I saw my parents and several family friends sitting around a table laughing and talking. I stood in the doorway and said something along the lines of “Are we going soon?” (Yes, I was a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. See a), b), and c), above.)
A friend of my parents (“Mrs. B”) jumps up and jogs across the room. By the time she reaches me and latches on the my arm, she’s talking a mile a minute — pulling me into the room and firmly steering me around and belly-up to the bar.
This is roughly what she said: “Hey Steve! Come on in! We’re not ready to go yet! Let me buy you a drink! Frank Sinatra’s standing right next to me!
This last bit comes in an urgent whisper just as we reach the bar. I pause a moment, blink, then look to my right — and as she said, there’s Frank having a quiet drink. He’s within easy arm’s reach.
Suddenly terrified of being thrown out of the bar if I say anything (I’m nineteen, remember, and breaking the law just standing there), and perhaps simply not wanting to disturb a man at his drink, I say nothing, sip my Coke, and drink in the presence of The Voice himself. After a few minutes, he finishes, stands up, and (with a small retinue of large friends from a nearby table) silently walks out.
As I look back on that night, I like to think that had I been older (or bolder), I would have offered the man a drink. His response would have then been to either accept the drink with his requisite good grace and then proceed to drink it in silence (possibly); said, “Leave me alone Kid” (more likely); or accepted the drink, and allowed me to strike up a conversation in which he would have proceeded to give me some sagely advice about the singing biz, calling me “Kid” the whole time, before shaking my hand and wishing me luck (Not Bloody Likely). That’s assuming I didn’t get my ass thrown out of the bar for disturbing their favorite customer.
So that’s the story. My fleeting brush with greatness (okay, there was also that one time I saw Sally Struthers on the streets of Oxford, but I digress). I hope you got something out of it — I’ll certainly never forget it.
Oh, and before I forget…. Happy Birthday Frank, wherever you are.