Sunday, July 11, 2010

the other other lady

Music has odd effects on us.

For Anne Lamott, "music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath."

About two years ago, Babs told a story of losing her CDs.  Eventually, the discussion turned to music and sound quality: digital versus analog, CDs versus MP3.  Babs pulled us back to reality by pointing out that music was something to enjoy -- not to analyze and debate.

I could hear her voice today as I listened to Bernadette Peters sing Other Lady.  I ran across it by accident.  The last time I heard it was over twenty years ago.  And that is a tale in itself.

I was dating a woman at the time who was active in the theater.  We attended first night opening parties at least twice a month during the Portland season.

Like most local theater scenes, the parties were made up of almost the same group of people who seemed to move en masse from party to party.  What Stephen Sondheim calls "the blob."

We became friends with an actress and her boyfriend -- close enough that when they announced they were getting married, they invited us to attend.

Most weddings are staged events where people worry about things not going right.  The horror stories haunt brides.  As a result, most weddings are bled dry of any unexpected spontaneous occurrence -- and are about as interesting as watching paint dry.

I was hoping that a wedding of performers might be -- well, entertaining.  It wasn't.  There was the same predictable music announcing a pedestrian processional followed by the drabbest of Presbyterian vows.

But there were no errors.  No bits of excitement.

Until the reception, that is.

During the wedding, I noticed a woman sitting near the back of the church -- dressed in the brightest red dress I have ever seen.  When she was seated, a large portion of the congregation -- mainly the women -- turned and started whispering behind raised programs.  Looking like a group of southern belles sharing gossip with geishas.

I knew who she was, and I was surprised she was there.  Even though the groom and bride had been "cohabiting" -- the softer version of "shacked up" -- for almost two years, he had been seeing the lady in red on the side.

That was why we were all at a wedding.  He received an ultimatum from the bride.  We get married or I am out of here.  He chose the wedding.

So, there we were at the reception.  The band struck up a waltz.  The bride and groom danced -- beautifully.  After all, they were performers.  The various family members got in on the act.  Another tradition checked off the list.

Then the bride took the microphone -- announcing she had a special number.  No one was surprised, she had quite the pipes.  And certainly this was going to be a love commitment to her now-tagged buck.

But it wasn't.  I heard the opening riff and thought I knew the song.  Certainly not Other Lady.  A torch song about a wife wondering about the relationship between her husband and the other lady -- as if sung to her.

But that is exactly what she sang:

Do you ever, other lady,
As you're walking through your day
Think about the man we're sharing
Think: Which one of us is play?

You could have heard a pin drop.  Because the bride was looking directly at the lady in red.  Who shifted uncomfortably.  But occasionally looked the bride directly in the eye.

Do you see me in his eyes?
Do you feel me coming through?
Does he bring his scent in with him?
Does he have my funny smile?
The tension was thick enough to be a humid night in Acapulco.

Then, in a step only an actress could take, while singing, she stepped off the stage and started walking toward The Woman, as she had become in everyone's mind.

Let's be friends
There is nothing left to be
I have always known he loves you
You know he depends on me.

She then hugged her.

It was a show folk moment.  But it was pure grace in action.

It makes me wonder if Diana Spencer could have shown the same compassion toward Camilla Parker if the wives of Windsor might have been more merry.

Every fairy tale has an ending.  But this one is not so happy.  The women did not become friends -- even though they remained acquaintances.

And the marriage lasted only about six months.  At least, the woman in red was not the cause of the dissolution.

All of this made me think about Felipe's post last week about his family: No Brady Bunch.  He said his family was not a situation comedy "perfect" family.

I wrote him to let him know I was in the process of drafting a post about my family -- who had visited late last week.  A post that will wait until later in the week.

But my little reverie reminded me that life is often a lot more complex than mere entertainment would lead us to believe.  And it is that complexity that teaches us the better lessons of life.

For that, we should thank Lesley Gore for writing such an interesting song.


norm said...

Reading that post on a Sunday gets me out of church today. I would wager that anything in church is going to pale in comparison to your example of the human condition today.

- Mexican Trailrunner said...

Wow, what a good story! And what a brave woman.

Calypso said...

Summer in the city there amigo? Some like it hot!

Tancho said...

Wow Steve, I will have to say that this episode of the past painted an vivid crimson picture of the event! I would have loved to have heard the elocution of some of your barristorial arguments..... You have a knack for organized vivid banter. I enjoy your stories, thanks for sharing them!

Anonymous said...

Yikes, what a story!!! Loved it! Oh, and the "lady in red" at top of post was perfect a perfect companion to the story. Good work, Steve.

Alee' Robbins, Salem

Tom said...

Great story, Steve. Thanks. Something like an artist trying to imitate art in her life and finding out it's all just life anyway. But it was a good try.

Jonna said...

Great story and well told! I'd say point, set, match for the bride. Those great moments are worth it even when they rarely have a lasting effect.

Anonymous said...

I'm an 'old' Calvin and Hobbes fan (in both senses of the term) and today's cartoon ties in with your topic-families. Here's the link: Check it out and chuckle.... And I enjoy your ramblings. Always something to delight in.


Anonymous said...

Leslie Gore wouldn't be related to Tipper Gore by any chance?


Steve Cotton said...

Norm -- Grace comes in many packages.

Mexican Trailrunner -- Brave woman, indeed. And what a performance.

Calypso -- Hot it was.

Tancho -- Inside every trial attorney lurks a failed thespian.

Alee' -- I liked that photograph, as well. Are you going to stop by one of these days?

Tom -- As a performer, I think she was happy to live off the memories of That Moment.

Jonna -- It was a pleasure to see, though. Art imitating life imitating art.

Larry -- Thanks for the contribution. I have always been a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. After all, what is not to like about a theologian and a philosopher?

ANM -- Considering recent events, you might think there was more than a bit of resemblance.