So much of what happens to us in life is out of our control. This was never more apparent to me than on the evening of September 11th, when on a stunning, golden Long Island evening; I made my way to The Paramount Theatre to see Gentleman Hugh Laurie in concert.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
This was a long journey which actually began nine years earlier, but I am not intending to go THAT far back in this little story. I will instead take you back just a few months to when @MKSoftball18 (herein referred to as “MK”) and I decided to write a little letter to Mr. Laurie and his representatives in the hope that he would visit our little village to perform with his Copper Bottom Band.
We didn’t hold out much hope we would achieve our goal, but we are spunky and the persevering sort. We also realized that his performance schedule seemed to barely allow him time to breathe, let alone add yet another concert venue or two. Then there was the NY question. NY can be intimidating no matter WHO you are, but lo and behold, an announcement came down that two new dates had been added to Mr. Laurie’s already exhausting schedule and they would take place in NYC and Huntington. We’d like to think our little letter had something to do with him coming specifically to these places –one of which is five minutes from my home.
My colleague from work who accompanied me on this concert evening, had shed her “teacher personae” and simply transformed herself into what I will call a “club vixen” I almost didn’t recognize her when we met up and I’ve seen her every day for 20 years!
I mention this because this would come in handy later on.
We ate dinner on the block of the theatre, got there quite early and then made our way to the theatre. It was now about 6:45 with doors opening at 7pm.
Oddly enough, the town, while electrified and full of visitors by 6:30, did NOT have a line in front of the theatre. My colleague from work asked “Are you sure you have the right night”? After I stopped laughing, we joined some other true devotees who arrived very early and were entertained by their stories of how they were first “hooked on Hugh.”
We met an artist carrying an extremely large portrait in charcoal she had made, complete with frame. We enjoyed her story of how long it took to make, picking out the frame, getting it to The Paramount and her current problem of where to leave the portrait so Hugh would actually receive it. She was accompanied by her friend (A Brit) who, complete with lovely accent and smoking a brand of cigarette I had never seen, explained that she had been to 7 previous Hugh concerts that summer. The task at hand though was to get the artist portrait to Sir Hugh. You see…this lovely artist had NO PLAN! Can you imagine?
Now, one of the managers was in charge of the crowd outside at the current time. A distinguished gent in a lovely grey suit and tie who found my colleague quite attractive. One could almost “see” his admiration for her and in typical fan girl form, I told my friend to “get to work” and find out where this lady artist could leave her portrait. My colleague launched into her mission with all the vigor of one of the “IM” force. Mission accomplished and the manager took the nice artist lady and her portrait into the VIP Lounge, gave her a VIP bracelet and we had one happy fan. She was assured Mr. Laurie would receive it and now SHE had a bracelet to get into The VIP Room after the show.
Of course, being me- I asked my colleague where OUR bracelets were and she answered: “There’s only so much I can accomplish in a minute”, Pam.
This gentleman went away and I never saw him again for the entire evening, although my colleague did☺
A lovely young girl walked by and I would have known her anywhere and I called her name. This is my friend MK. I have seen her grow up online and shared joys and sorrows but we had never met so you can imagine what meeting her meant to me. Finally, someone I had known from this fandom, cared about, whom I could talk to and meet face to face. To me, astounding. This night would have many of these encounters with people coming and introducing themselves as I became aware they knew where I was sitting, after having posted this information on twitter. I hadn’t realized when posting that this would bring such gifts!
We ALL hugged, shared a few stories and the excitement we all felt was palpable. It was definitely something none of us would ever forget.
Now inside the venue, our seats were even more amazing than I had realized. The idea of using a bungee ladder would have worked after all, and without much effort. Now seated, most of the house was still empty and I was so “antsy” I couldn’t sit still. I thought that it would be a great time to buy those T’s and see what I could see.
We had at least two really great plans that seemed mostly foolproof but experience teaches us that there are just SO many things that can go awry. During the pre-concert planning sessions I would frequently ask: “But what if such and such happens” I was full of “what if” scenarios and so we made plans, then backup plans until we were comfortable we had covered the bases as best we could.
Now, one plan initiated in early July involved someone with access to the band. They were kind enough to offer to try to set up an “audience” of some kind so that our book could be presented. We had this plan down cold and even knew who would capture the “golden moment” for all time on film, video.
This plan was put on a big back burner one day before the concert when our contact could not be certain about where/when the principles involved would be at previously planned times.
We thanked them for their help, told them we would keep all options open and they reminded us that someone (insert name we were told) might be there to accept all gifts if we didn’t hear anything further.
We kept on planning.
Our second plan involved someone else who had ties to the band and they told us to make a sign. On this sign we were to write VERY SPECIFIC WORDS and that when Mr. Laurie came outside to sign autographs, he would come, receive the book because he would recognize our “signal”. If all else failed, this was the final backup plan.
For this phase of the plan, I inducted my school colleague (hot looking art teacher) who would make frantic phone calls to me during the summer and say: “Do you think day glow glitter will be better than crimson”?
She decided on gold glitter and the sign was nothing short of amazing. It was made out of a tarp type material that I could have folded into the size of a quarter if I wanted… and I wanted. My bag must have weighed 50 pounds what with the book, the cameras and all the special things I had inside. Of course, it was easy to see the inherent problem with this plan:
What if he didn’t come out and sign?
We need another plan.
One day before:
Out of nowhere, it was announced that there would be a Founder’s Party after the show. The Founder ‘s are wealthy patrons of the venue and they would have a private party in their special room. It was expected that Mr. Laurie would attend briefly. What? How much was it to be a founder then? I could go into my pension fund if necessary ☺
How do you get into it? A special card? Bracelet?
Left this option open, as there were no clear answers for now.
So, now I have my T’s, I’m walking around and this is important to know: My pre-reconnaissance trips during the summer took on a new importance. I realized that I knew the theatre quite well and where most things were located. This is simply amazing because when I was created, TPTB simply eliminated all directional sense in my brain so that when driving, I could as easily end up in Spokane as Huntington. Thank goodness for Miss Garmin.
You may recall my “bad girl” self guided tour through the venue playing secret agent and going where no one was supposed to go, right? I was stumbling around in the dark on the stage and backstage and up and down as I just wanted to see and be where Hugh would be performing. I stepped everywhere on stage I could, so that I could gain a sense of what Hugh would see. I exited quickly thinking that if I didn’t, I would probably fall into a black hole backstage and never get out or that my hubby would have to come and bail me out of the Huntington jail. Not a good visual. This trip proved essential in the end.
I now made a quick decision. People were just starting to enter en masse and I walked over to the ushers with walkie talkies and asked them if they could page the manager. They said: “You mean Kevin”? I said: “Yes’ although I had no idea of the managers name.
I thought they were going to get the man from outside who liked my colleague ☺ and had assisted the lady with the portrait and the VIP lounge. Imagine my surprise when a totally different person with a headset walks out and says: “Hi. I’m Kevin. Did you want to go to VIP”?
Trying not to let the combination fright, panic and delight register on my face, I answered: “Yes…I am going to leave something for Mr. Laurie there”. No problem, he said. I asked, “Is __________ around”?
This was the assistant I had been told might be in VIP.
“Hmm…Just wait here.”
Out of nowhere came one of the several assistants for this show and I recognized her. Out of respect for her and others, there will be no names mentioned here but I am certain that many of you might be familiar with her. “HELLO”, she said and it ended with her taking the fan book and promising me it would make its way to Mr. Laurie that very night.
In total disbelief and walking on cloud 9, I returned to my seat, told Mk what had just transpired and we both realized that as great as this was, MK had gifts to give as well and they weren’t with me when I dropped off the book.I felt badly about this and told MK I would make another trip downstairs before the concert ended to try to give the additional gifts to the assistant and MK left her items with me.
The omission of MK’s presents is key to the final outcome.
The show began late about 15 or twenty minutes. The audience had started to clap in hopes they could make the show begin and no sooner did they start the clapping, than Mr. Laurie appeared onstage.
What follows is probably a total fan girl reaction although I assure you I have never felt this way before (cue song).
I felt his presence before I saw him. When the lights came up he was standing center stage and looking up. He glanced briefly to the center mezzanine and then looked DIRECTLY AT MY BOX . I started screaming and waving wildly without any thought at all of what anyone might think and it was one of those “out of body experiences” you hear about. He was right there. I could almost reach out. When his eyes connect with yours…this is something you remember! My colleague seated next to me, could not stop laughing. She said she never knew I could be this crazed by anything or anyone and threatened to film my reaction and share it at school- or put it up on YT to the great amusement of faculty and staff alike. I gave her my notorious “teacher stare”.
A very brief overview of the show
I was most VERY impressed with two songs: Evenin’ and “Lectric Chair, the latter featuring Sista Jean.
“Evenin” was so spectacular in every possible aspect: the vocals, the instrumentals (especially Hugh’s vocal part). I had a new favorite song from this tour along with “Green, Green Rocky Road”.
Lectric Chair- simply put, brought down the house.
It was one of the most electrifying performances I’ve ever seen onstage. Sista seemed to draw from an “inner reserve” I had never heard before and both in her interpretation and execution (pun intended) of the song, left me speechless. After the song Hugh said “Now How do you follow that”?
For a brief moment it was one of “those moments” that you will carry with you and see in your minds eye forever. It was a bring down the house (no pun this time) Broadway type moment and I wished I could freeze time. This performance, Hugh on piano. Unforgettable.
Hugh’s “911 tribute (the whole band was “fully hatted) was lovely. He mentioned that he was not a deeply religious man, wasn’t certain he believed in g-d and that others could make poems far better than he to express their feelings for this day but that he did want to “take a moment” in silence. It was a lovely, appropriate and moving opening for a New York audience on this day and greatly appreciated.
I want to say upfront that everyone just adored this concert. There’s really nothing to say about Hugh or The band that you haven’t heard so many times before.
Those who have attended a Hugh Laurie concert will know what I mean when I say that you must EXPERIENCE this band LIVE to know just how powerful their performance is.
Videos are wonderful but nothing can prepare you for the live concert.
They have now honed their artistry to the point where it is flawless. I loved being able to see the genesis of this tour and all the videos people took from around the world. We were witness to how it all began, saw it developing and then in NY we saw the results of months and months of practice, revision, work and effort and it was pure joy!
The only thing I could add from my own perspective would be that Hugh’s piano skills have increased almost exponentially from where they first began and he was always lovely to listen to. Now however, he is comfortable with these arrangements, making them “sing” so that I think there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t agree that he shares his passion and love of this music with the listener and the listener becomes a new fan of the genre. Circles.
The band now performs like a well oiled machine but one in which there is freedom to alter and experiment while keeping the charm and comfort of the music alive & with respect for it. By sharing his talent and love for the blues with fans all over the world, Hugh Laurie has given great joy and new experiences to fans all over the world.
This is a lovely, polished nuanced performance on his part and that of The Band.
I was asked by a friend to “keep an eye out” for Hugh’s sister. I did not spot her at this concert although it’s quite possible she did attend as she lives very close to the concert venue.
The Band performed several encores which were full of energy and excitement. I did not see any of the encores, except on video as I had left the building the minute they went offstage the first time.
I still had things to do.
At this point, my plan was to drop off the load of things I was carrying and to make one last attempt at my goal.
You know how some people can “pack light”? I am not one of them. I try, but I just cannot accomplish it. Much like the plans made here, I constantly feel the need to have backup items in case something is needed. I suppose a good armchair psychologist would say this has to do with “fear” of being “without” or something of this nature☺
I fled outside. I now had MK’s gifts to still get into the hands of someone, try to get into Founders Room or VIP Lounge so I could meet “the man” or see him.
I walked back to my car and unloaded everything (including cameras, jackets (brought in case it got cold), assorted snacks and water…you get the picture. Oh, and those gorgeous “heels” I never wore as I can’t put them on and walk anywhere. This accomplished, I walked briskly back to the theatre.
Outside the theatre, I could hear the strains of song coming from inside and at this point, I met someone who was with MK but who had “lost” her and I said that she was probably still inside as they were playing the 2nd encore. She mentioned an “alley”, the relative said. “Yes, I replied but won’t be there yet. Hugh is supposed to come out after the show and maybe he’ll sign autographs”. MK will go there after the show.
I now realized I had put “the sign” in my trunk. Well, no time to go back now and get it and find MK. I thought, first one thing- then another. I knew I could make it back to my car and give MK the sign before Hugh would be out to sign.
I excused myself temporarily and went inside. My colleague was still listening and watching the encores as I went with MK’s presents in hand to see what I could see.
First off, I walked (sans bracelet) into The VIP Lounge without any difficulty. I simply smiled and the “security” in the room smiled back and they seemed to be letting anyone into the room. Ok, I thought. I can come back here if I need to.
Now the show was over and you could hear people starting to leave and buzz of excitement and comments from the crowd. I decided to go to see what this Founder’s Club was and to my great surprise…anyone could have walked in there as well. A smile, a nod and you were “in”. OK…I can come back here I thought.
Meanwhile, tons of tweets had now started on my phone. “Where r u?”my colleague wanted to know. She informed me she had just entered the VIP Lounge LOL. She saw the first gentleman (who had eyes for her) inside the room and he invited her in.
I told her to “do her thing” and I would get back to her. She said “But they say he’s coming here”. I knew who “he” was.
I tweeted MK but got no answer. I did this several times but had a feeling that she either wasn’t receiving these or that her battery was very low. I found out later that the latter was correct and that her phone was practically dead. She had left, found her relative and was now waiting outside around the corner where we knew the buses would be parked (pre-reconnaissance tour on her part this summer) and Hugh might sign autographs before boarding.
I never gave her the sign, as I didn’t see her.
From summer reconnaissance, I remembered my walk in the dark behind the stage and how I entered there. There were two very large doors as you first entered which led to backstage and only THE BAND and close friends were allowed to enter there. There was security and big signs saying “No one Back Here if They Are Not With The Band” and the dressing rooms were located near here. Of course, I entered during the summer but for now…..
I knocked on the door. I had nothing to lose.
The door opened! The manager (2nd one) who had originally assisted me with the fotobook and had brought the assistant ‘round, opened the door.
He smiled. I said “ Hi. I am so sorry to be such a pain but I left this out when giving the fan fotobook to the assistant (insert persons name here).
He said: “Absolutely no problem.
“Wait right here”.
I was waiting, inside this dark little area. You could see that there were some not very attractive rooms up the ramp and to the sides of the corridor. The manager said, “You’d better follow me”. What to think? Get me “out of the way” as there would be people needing access to the ramp and area?
He brought me about 20 steps up the ramp and left me standing near the entrance to what I thought I remembered as office or dressing rooms.
I waited…and then I waited some more.
The assistant came out once more, smiled and said “ The fotobook is just gorgeous”. I thanked her and gave her MK’s presents and she said:
Just wait here.
I waited and about 3 minutes . LONG 3 minutes.
Then it happened.
“Someone” was standing immediately to my right and I knew. I was actually frightened to look because I knew HE was standing there. He is huge. You never realize this until you are 5’2” tall and this “presence” is standing somewhere near you.
At this point I need to tell you that any poise I may possess abandoned me and I turned into a total, dribbling moron. I swear I almost bowed to him! And all this before we were introduced.
Now I’ve seen these videos for years of people who just lose it but you will see when it happens to you…you are not yourself any longer. Something entirely different takes over and you just want to thank everyone you ever knew, do good works for mankind and donate all your belongings to charity because YOU are being given this glorious, golden moment.
His assistant introduced me as “Pamela”. I put out my hand to shake his and called him Mr. Laurie. In retrospect, I doubt whether he remembers any of these encounters with fans- yet to me…I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.
“Pamela, pleasure to meet you. Lovely book and please make certain to thank all the fans from me”.
…and like that…he was gone.
No!!!! Come back I wanted to say. What? I have so much to say. I will talk about piano and “Swanee River “and…… no. He was gone.
I actually think I stood there for a minute with my mouth wide open. I walked outside and didn’t move. If my colleague hadn’t texted she was now in the Founder’s room and where the heck was I…I would have stayed motionless in the street for about an hour. I was now numb . No kidding!
Sadly, there are NO pictures accompanying this story.
We had 2 professional cameras (art teacher besides being “vixen par excellence is also a professional photographer) two point and click cameras, 3 iphones and 1 new android phone amongst us and yet…..I had deposited everything in my car, my colleague was partying in The Founders Room and MK was standing online waiting for an autograph.
MK has autographs and more from Mr. Laurie but she had hoped (as we all do) that maybe she could meet him this time around. He did not sign in Huntington. He got on the bus around midnight. As the bus drove off, MK tells me that he made eye contact with her. She will never forget this.
My only regret is that MK wasn’t backstage with me.
She sat in a different part of the audience and I couldn’t reach her on her phone. I would have loved to have seen her face when she met Hugh and also think he will love her gift every bit as much as the fanbook. She taught herself to play certain “Let Them Talk” pieces and I placed them on a CD for her to give as a present. She recorded an extremely heartfelt introduction in which she thanked Hugh for introducing her to the piano and all the joy that performing brings.
If you’ve taken the time to read this and waited until I finally had an opportunity to post it, I thank you.
It meant more to me to meet people from this fandom that night than I could ever fully express. Such an odd journey these 9 years and still going. Such a blessing.
To everyone who helped make my dream a reality by supporting, contributing to the Fan book please know that I had instructions to thank you all and do so most humbly.
Please wait here. ☺
"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry"
This is when fate steps in if you are very, very lucky.