Thursday, August 23, 2018

"My Randy Newman Story"

I only met him once.

Look out!  Here comes my “name-dropping” sentence.

I ran into the incomparable Randy Newman while attending a “Premiere Party” for a show hosted by the legendary George Burns – whom I had visited at length in his dressing-room trailer – held at (the show’s Executive Producer) Steve Martin’s sumptuous Beverly Hills home, at which, at my request, Lorne Michaels – whom I have known personally for decades – generously brought us together.

(That’s it for “egregious name-dropping” which, you may notice I rarely indulge in, only partly because I know hardly anyone famous.  Which is good.  Dropping names is exhausting, especially when you are pretending you’re not.  Which is not what I just did.  It’s the non-satirical version that’s exhausting.  This one was just fun.)

Setting the scene…

We are at this big Hollywood party, feeling uncomfortable, not because there are famous people around but because we feel uncomfortable at allparties.  It’s nice when your spouse shares your anti-social proclivities.  There is no, “What’s the matter with you?” 

Anyway, there we are… you know the song “Mr. Cellophane”, from Chicago?  We are the evening’s quintessential “Cellophane Couple” – You can look right through us; nobody knows we’re there.  Which is fine.  We are busy. Counting the time till we can politely go home.

It is then that I spot Randy Newman.

(Note:  Here’s why Randy Newman was attending the party.  {As well a Lorne Michaels.}  George Burns Comedy Week debuted on television in 1985, coinciding with Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman’s classic collaboration on The Three Amigos.

I say to Dr. M, “There’s Randy Newman.”

And she says,

“Why don’t know go over and talk to him?”

Like suddenly she’s shy but I’m not.

I tell her I can’t do that. To which she responds,

“Why not?  You’re both in show business.  Go on.”

The “You’re both in show business” rationale makes no sense to me.  It’s like if I told (future) psychologist Dr. M,

“Isn’t that Freud over there?  Go over and say hello.”

I want desperately to talk to Randy Newman.  

But I can’t.  

Then I see him, getting ready to leave.  Suddenly, I propel myself into action.

I do not approach Randy Newman, but I do approach Lorne Michaels, asking him to introduce me to Randy Newman.  Lorne Michaels, lacking my constricting inhibitions, immediately says, “Sure.”

And before I know it, Randy Newman’s standing in front of me, and I am telling him this story. (Making this “a story within a story.” Same charge.)

I attempt to relate this personal anecdote without insinuating “You owe me.”  You know how you sometimes say “You owe me” but you don’t really mean it except a part of you actually does?  That’s probably how it came out.  (Although it is possible my story began with, “You know, you owe me.”  Hoping he’d catch the “unserious twinkle.”)

Anyway, here’s the story I told Randy Newman.

I had a date once.  I believe it was my third.  Ever.

This was back in Toronto in the early seventies.  We were new together, and I wanted to impress her.  A night on the town seemed like a plan.  “We’ll see Randy Newman at this local coffee house.”

At this point, Randy Newman says, “Grumbles.”  I was amazed he remembered.  Such a trivial venue.  People in Toronto didn’t know “Grumbles.”

Okay, back to the story…

So there we are, wining and dining, the remarkable Randy Newman on deck.  I am thinking great rewards – undefined at that juncture – must inevitably follow.

I remind Randy that his opening act that night was the late Jim Croce, who, ironically, had more hits that the headliner.  Randy himself alluded to that, introducing one of his songs saying, “This song is Number 143 on the Billboard charts”, a self-mocking comparison to Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”, then slotted at “Number 9.”

Till then, the date couldn’t be going better.  The conversation was relaxed, the shared glances encouraging, there may even have been even hand-holding involved.  The show, as I knew it would be, was sensational.  Small crowd in an intimate setting, relishing one of the best singer-songwriters of his time.

Yeah, this was going to be good for me.

Finally, Randy concludes his prepared “Playlist.”  He then swivels to the audience and says,

“Anything you want to hear?”

This is my “Seal The Deal” moment.  Randy Newman’s asking for requests.  And I have a truly impressive one.

I explain to Randy that I am normally not a request-shouting person.  But I was sure my esoteric suggestion – of a moving, meaningful song – would brand me a savvy Randy Newman “savant”, after which, it would be clear sailing for the rest of the date.   

Finding a opening, I confidently shout out my request.

“Old Man.”

And with not a moment’s hesitation, Randy Newman sonorously replies,


At which point, the night’s upbeat ambiance suddenly altered.

And it never changed back.

How couldit?  I had shouted a request and the performer had said, “No.”  That does not happen; they are supposed to do the requests.   Unless it is some kind of “stink bomb” of a request. Which mine, apparently, was.  Casting an instant condemnatory shadow on the “requester.”  

Whose date suddenly wanted to go home.

The unspoken message of the anecdote:

“That’s why you owe me.”

Listening patiently to my story – maybe he thought there was an agonized biographical song in it – “I was doin’ all right till I opened my mouth…” – a gracious Randy Newman confided the reason for not accommodating my request.

“When I do it,” he explained, “I can never get the audience back.”

And that was our meeting. No suggestions of staying in touch, but still memorable nonetheless.

Maybe he was right not to do “Old Man.”  It might have been tough getting the audience back.

All know is,

It really messed up my evening.

And now, at the risk of not getting you back, here’s “Old Man.”  
I can't do it.  They changed the way you "Embed" things from YouTube, and even with direction, I am unable to pull it off.

Go to YouTube and "Search" for "Randy Newman "Old Man."  Don't be lazy, like I'd be.  The song with stay with you.  It's stayed with me since 1972.

As an alternative, call me up and I'll sing it over the phone.

P.S.  Somebody helped me.  Maybe this will do the trick.  If not, try it the long way.  I mean, how busy are you?

Enjoy.  (Either way.)

<iframe width=“450" height="344" src="" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

And, in a blizzard of blogatorial postscripts, birthday "Shout Out" to my big brother, my personal hero, inspiration, and comedy superior. 

You still got it, "Double Sevens."

(Hart's birthday was actually yesterday but I moved this post without remembering to relocate the birthday "Shout out."

And a reprise of "Sorry."

Ken Levine's podcast interview of me will appear next Wednesday the 29th.  I guess I jumped the gun because I was so excited.  Or I'm just stupid.  Pick one. (Although the previous postscript may give you a clue.)  



JED said...

The song you linked to points out another of the things I like about Randy Newman's recordings. The string arrangements are always good. I wonder if he does them himself or if he gets one of his relatives to do them. It would be interesting if there was ever a documentary of a Newman family reunion. Who would get to write the soundtrack?

frank said...

What a great double bill! Bet your date is still talking about seeing Jim Croce. Great story.

Pidge said...

We saw that same concert! Unforgettable.