This is a little bonus story about another Derby Party hosted by Phyllis & John Y.
My phone rang. It was my new friend (by now) Chief of Staff Liz Dahl. She told me I’d be needed for two Derby parties this time; one on Derby Day, Saturday, May 3rd and a brunch given the next day. The guest list was as illustrious as ever. The big white event tent and Up With People troupe would be in full swing. I would be seated at the Baldwin grand in the family room as usual. All sounded good to me.
Derby Day arrives. I’m wearing a brand new three piece cream colored suit. The piano had been freshly tuned and The Great American Songbook was dancing in the air. After a myriad of guests were coming to and fro, the room emptied out. I switched tunes and while playing I could feel a presence sitting behind me in that little chair with the embroidered seat. I wanted to turn around and take a glance but knew I couldn’t.
After about 20 minutes of playing, the person behind me pops up from the chair, comes around the far end of the grand piano, looks at me, pulls up a Minox 35mm camera from around his neck, snaps my picture then scurries out the side door.
The person who took my photo?
I noticed as he headed outside there were two tall men that I assume were bodyguards (or at least assigned to keep annoying people away) on either side of him. I was blown away that Pop Art genius Andy Warhol just snapped my picture! Now I was bound and determined to meet him. But it didn’t happen on Derby Day.
Well, I thought, maybe just maybe he might be back for the brunch tomorrow and I’d have my chance.
Tomorrow (Sunday) couldn’t come fast enough. I arrived (in a blazer this time) and I played. After a couple hours I took my break. I wasn’t sure I’d have a chance because Andy Warhol is notorious for being shy and avoiding people at this point in his life. But I have my English charm, Irish wit and Polish tenacity on my side(wink).
I made my way to the “big top” and felt certain I’d find a way to meet Warhol. Up a With People just finished a number and Phyllis was on stage acting as emcee. She told the audience,”We have a very special guest today and this is his first trip to Kentucky. Please welcome, Andy Warhol!”
Applause and cautiously Warhol makes his way to the stage next to Phyllis. Now, Phyllis as an interviewer is hard to resist but try as she may, every question she asked of Andy was met with silence. So she just filled in with comments like,”Andy’s really enjoying himself.” I believe he even donated a piece of art to be auctioned off for a good cause.
After that awkward exchange I watched Andy and the route he was taking to leave the stage. I saw which row of tables he was walking down and lined myself up to meet him almost at the end of the row. I grabbed a menu of the event lineup off a table and with pen in hand, said to him, “Mr. Warhol. Would you be so kind as to sign this for me?” He took my black Pilot pen and started signing. Then he suddenly stopped, looked up at me and said, “You’re the young man who was wearing a cream colored three piece suit yesterday at the piano.” I said,”Yes I am!” With that he looked down, finished signing, handed it to me and away he went.
My first reaction was, HE SPOKE TO ME! He wouldn’t say a peep onstage but he spoke to me! I finished up my playing and left Cave Hill a little lighter than air. The sun was shining bright on the old Kentucky home as I drove down the tree lined path.
Within the year, Liz Dahl asked me (because Phyllis and Gov. John Y would be needing me more) “Instead of traveling from Michigan, would you consider moving to Louisville?”
A great little restaurant/bar on the Ohio River called Captain’s Quarters was looking for a pianist. So…I drove down, auditioned, got the gig and a week later moved to Louisville, Kentucky. I started playing 6 nights a week from 7:00pm ‘til 1:00 am.
But THAT’s another story. Thanks for listening and remember that music brings people together like nothing else in the universe.
Until next time…