A definition of depilated Beauty: The Birth of...

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Image via Wikipedia  The club was called The Venus, and yes, there was a reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus on the Half-shell above the piano. The menu was Italian and the piano was a spinet, set on a platform above a dining banquette.                            I was there to play dinner music. No vocals for this gig, I had to rely on my keyboard skills, which were minimal. So you can imagine my dismay when Errol Garner walked in and took a seat right below my piano. Garner was at the height of his career as a jazz pianist -not only that, he’d written the melody to Misty. A major figure in pop music, with a distinctive, clustered, percussive style that was most engaging. And on recordings you could hear him kind of grunting along with the melody in a low growl. The minute he came in my heart sank; OH NO -not ERROL GARNER! And I wasn’t even singing the vocals, which would compensate for my keyboard stumbles: my lack of style and technique would be nakedly obvious, exposed to his contempt and ridicule! I jumped off the stand. “Mr. Garner -” I cried, “oh my God.” He stuck out his hand. “A pleasure,” he said, “what’s your name?”  “Well…it’s John Meyer,” I stammered, haltingly, “but really…I can’t continue until you…leave.” “Whut!” his cheeks blew out in a jovial riposte. “Now don’t you be like that,” he said, “you just get up there ‘n do the best you can and that’ll be good enough for anybody!” He said this with such conviction that I had to obey him (it would also have been humiliating to have to explain to the owner, Jerry, why I was taking such a long break). I climbed back onto the bench and searched my mind for a tune that would impress and tickle Mr. Garner; I’d actually learned a rare Sammy Cahn/Saul Chaplin tune from one of Garner’s albums. So I played it. It was titled If It’s the Last Thing I Do and the minute he recognized it, Garner broke into a huge grin. He was sitting directly below me, and now he gestured to me with his fork, jabbing the air. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, his mouth full of fettucini alfredo (with shrimp). “Whut key you in?” “C” I told him. A few drops of alfredo sauce splattered the velour of the banquette, but this did not deter him. As I approached the finish of the tune, he blinked up at me again, his faintly hooded eyes shining: “Yeah, yeah, now slide into The Impatient Years, you know that one?”  And I was so grateful that I did. “You can go right through a B Minor Seventh.” he ordered me. “Another Sammy Cahn lyric,” I called over the spinet to the top of his head, below me. I saw the head nod vigorously. “Okay, now,” he called to me, “when you through with that, My Shining Hour; that’s in F, so you hit your G Minor.” This went on for forty minutes, this icon programming my set. I took a break and he beckoned me into the chair opposite him. “Where you learn all these songs?” he wanted to know. I told him if the tune was from a show or a movie, I knew it; then we went through a brief recap of my biography…and that’s when I saw my mother come through the door. Christ, what an evening. “Mom–!” I cried. She was with a pal from Bloomingdale’s; my mom worked in the furniture department. For all her life, till Herbert went bankrupt, Marjorie had been a chaise-lounger, a bob-bon popping Helen Hokinson ‘Society Lady’ complete with the fur stole about her shoulders that bit its own tail. Now she sailed in grandly, one had the feeling she was almost slumming, here in this out-of-the-way spot on a dim stretch of West 58th street…but her son was working here and they’d decided to pay me an impromptu visit. Garner beckoned them to his table, and stood up, his napkin trailing down his jacket front. “This your mother?” he asked. I introduced them, and Mom smiled, but I could see the name made no impression on her. Garner insisted we all sit down at his little table. “I’ll have a Chivas and water,” said my mother, a working girl now, but unwilling to abandon her Champagne tastes. Garner beckoned the waiter over. “Put it on my check,” he said. My mother didn’t even hear that, but suddenly the atmosphere was very convivial, Marjorie had her Scotch, Garner was onto brandy, the talk started flowing, and somehow we got around to the subject of favorite cities. Marjorie mentioned San Francisco.  “I like Boston,” I offered, “I think it’s the real San Francisco, with the energy of the north-East, makes it more exciting.” My mother’s co-worker, Bob, said he liked Seattle, in spite of the rainy climate. Marjorie turned to Garner. “And where would you visit, Mr. Garner?” asked my mother. “If we gave you the choice?” “Mm,” said Garner, wiping his lips with his napkin, “I like Montreux.” There was a prolonged beat of dead silence, as my mother suddenly had to readjust her thinking, her estimate of this buoyant, yet somehow discordant, happy little fellow who had thrown this unusual town into the mix. I knew she had absolutely no idea who she was talking to. Facing him, she raised an inquisitive eyebrow: “Are you in the music business, Mr. Garner?” Well, I wanted the ground to swallow me -but Garner was magnificent: “Yep,” he said, indicating me with his fork, “I am. Just like he is.”