Now, I got to tell you, my daughter is very smart. I know this because she explained to me that as she was watching the film she thought the score sounded similar to the music from “West Side Story.” Turns out, she had good reason to think that. Leonard Bernstein scored both!
So, as she was filling me in on her experience and what she learned about the film and the McCarthy Era, she uttered what is probably Marlon Brando’s most famous line from the film:
“I coulda been a contender.”
And that reminded me: I coulda been a contender, too!
For in the early 80s I had a brush with fame. Yes, I was beltin’ out the tunes and dancin’ up a storm. I was hitting the high notes and smacking the low ones, much to my voice instructor’s chagrin.
My voice instructor who once said, “Kid, you’ll never play in Topeka. (Or Cleveland, or Baton Rouge or Bayonne, New Jersey, for that matter.) But that didn’t stop me. No sir!
For about 15 minutes, I was convinced that fame and fortune were at my fingertips. Mine for the taking. I was sure I was headed for the Great White Way! “The hip hooray and ballyhoo, the lullaby of Broadway.”
Yep that was gonna be me. But I had to start somewhere and that somewhere was off, off, off, off, off, off Broadway. Totally off, as in off-your-rocker off. In other words, somewhere in Seattle—not too far from where Jimi Hendrix had been buried–at a little deli in Capitol Hill, once known as Matzoh Momma’s.
Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little. Maybe all this talk of fame is a bunch of malarkey. Who knows what could’ve happened had I played my cards right. Don’t blame me. Blame the ham inside me hankering to belt out a song like there’s no tomorrow.
So, where was I?
Oh yes. There I was, at Matzoh Momma’s singing on Open Mike night and believe you me, I went all out. I was accompanied by the best pianist in Seattle: Clare, my good friend and a member of the folk-rock group known as The Righteous Mothers. And together, we’d swing to the tunes of the Big Band Era, including my signature hit, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” by Cole Porter. I certainly gave Mary Martin a run for her money, I kid you not.
Anyway, I was so, ahem, talented, the restaurant’s management invited me back the following week, and this time I brought the house down. Yes, I was so loud and off-key, that an ordinance was issued bringing the house down and banning me from ever again singing in public.
Yet, despite everything, I’d do it all over again if I could and wouldn’t change a thing. I had fun. Gads of it. Besides, dressing like a songstress from the forties was okay by me. Not sure you can tell, but that dress I wore was purple which, thereafter, became my favorite color.
Come on along and listen to
The lullaby of Broadway
The hip hooray and ballyhoo
The lullaby of Broadway
The rumble of a subway train
The rattle of the taxis
The daffydils who entertain
At Angelo’s and Maxi’s
When a Broadway baby says good night
It’s early in the morning
Manhattan babies don’t sleep tight
Until the dawn
Good night, baby
Good night, the milkman’s on his way
Sleep tight, baby
Sleep tight, let’s call it a day
Back in the day, I knocked that song out of the park. Glory days. Me and Marlon Brando. We coulda been contenders. And somehow, just maybe we were.