Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of being a king?
My father remarried in 2003. It was a small affair for immediate family and friends that numbered about a dozen or so. We commandeered an intimate bed and breakfast for a long summer weekend in Napa Valley. I let the family know I would be entertaining at the reception. They knew what to expect. I performed professionally for years as Tony Starlight, a Rat Pack, lounge singing crooner, but had retired from the music biz in 1999 and was busy performing in comedy theater in L.A. I didn’t miss music and it didn’t miss me. I was burnt out.
I knew what this event needed was Neil Diamond. My father doesn’t just listen to Neil Diamond. He receives Neil Diamond. Like a parishioner at a charismatic church receives the Gospel, hands outstretched to the sky, reaching out, touching the divine, being filled with the Holy, enraptured by “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.” I remember Dad listening to LPs around the house and I fell in love with the image of “a frog who dreamed of being a king” from “I Am, I Said”. Neil’s music moved me too, but so did lots of artists. I had turned the page on Diamond and somehow forgotten about it for over a decade. Having only raised $75 (this was before Kickstarter) to hire the real Neil, I knew I would simply have to become Neil for one special night. Santa has helpers, why not Neil?
I rarely do anything halfway, and like to make a production out of everything so I bought a couple Diamond karaoke collections (surprisingly hard to find prior to Amazon) and got my voice back into shape. A few songs, like “Stones” I could play on guitar, so I strummed those muscles back into shape. I practiced holding the mic to my mouth with the other hand above my head, taming the audience like a dominatrix. “You’ve been a very naughty audience!” After two months honing and crafting an acceptable impersonation, I was near ready.
A trip to the Salvation Army yielded a black wig, a necklace, a tan pleather jacket, some tight blue jeans and a pair of high boots. I went for the 1970s Diamond because it was easier and more affordable to simulate the wardrobe. 1980s Diamond was too glitzy and I had trouble finding the just right size of women’s blouses (again, a time before these things could be purchased discretely online. Although now I get more banner ads for women’s clothing than anything else. I’m a size 14 BTW) I now had all I needed to perform a poolside Diamond concert for a dozen screaming family.
When I came out on that patio dressed as Neil, started to move my hips back and forth and screamed “far, we’ve been travelling far. Without a home, but not without a star,” I, like the immigrants in the song “America”, found a fresh start in a new world. I was transformed. I fell back in love with music. Neil’s lyrics awoke a slumbering soft rock giant and rejuvenated me.
“This lame man he’s gonna fly!”
“I’ve been released and I’ve been regained”
“God of my wants, God of my needs, leading me on”
I’m honored to perform Neil Diamond’s music. I was born in March of 1970. Aquamarine is my birthstone. I was reborn June of 2003 and Diamond is my rebirth stone.
Come celebrate with us
The Anointed One turns 74 January 24, 2015
True confessions of a lifelong Neil Diamond fan:
1987: I had a cassette tape in my Walkman labeled “Judas Priest Screaming for Vengeance” that really contained Neil Diamond Moods. This is how I didn’t get clobbered on the bus during road trips in high school baseball.
1990: I got my first apartment and decorated the place with posters of The Cure, The Smiths and the usual cast of Eighties I’m-sad-for-no-discernible-reason-and-it’s-soooo-complicated bands. I hung a poster of Neil Diamond on the inside of my closet door. Always a closet Neil Diamond fan.