A Chicago Story
Volume 3 Book 8 Part 6 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Steve & Alexandra.

[ Book 3-7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

March 20-21, 2004.
Becoming Family.
It's hard to believe we're only in our second week here with only one week to go. We've done so much and been to so many places, I feel like we've been here a month. Saturday night we played to a full house and the reaction was atomic. We are also seeing more and more familiar faces as people who came last weekend returned this weekend and brought friends.

Also, Jeff our stage manager said people arrived early and were standing in line for the best seats starting at 7pm. He said, "I've never seen that here. You guys seem to really have an effect on people."

On Sunday afternoon, Dr. Betty Orlandino threw a party for us to introduce us to her friends. We had met Betty at Sue Carey's party and she immediately, after hearing us do a portion of Big Voice there, wanted to introduce us to her friends, all of whom are avid theatre fans. This was a wonderful gesture on her part because, as I mentioned earlier, word of mouth is our only "advertising" here in Chicago. So our short run is completely dependent upon this kind of generosity.

Well, what a wonderful party! When I first arrived, there was a very attractive lady there who immediately asked me my birthday. I told here October 4th, 1953 and she said, "You're going to have some big challenges this year. But you'll be okay if you confront them head-on." Things will smooth out later in the year.

And I thought, "Who is this??"

Turns out it was Laurie Brady. Remember the big flap Nancy Reagan got into because she was consulting an astrologer for some of Ronnie's personal appearances? Well, Laurie Brady was that astrologer!

Jim Brochu, Laurie Brady, Steve Schalchlin.
Jim Brochu, Laurie Brady, Steve Schalchlin.
To Jimmy she said, "When you were born, the planets were under the horizon so your fame would come late in life. Are you ready for the fame that this show is going to come you?"

We looked at each other and said, "YES!"

So there you have it, folks. I'm on the road to hell and Jimmy is gonna get famous. Later in the car he assured me he would bring me along. (Thanks.)

Dr. Betty's apartment was beautiful. It has three stories. So we went up to the top floor and for the first time in this whole trip I finally got to see the whole Chicago skyline. Wow!

Chicago Skyline.
Chicago skyline.
I also finally got a shot of the Sears Building, the tallest building in the United States. It's amazing how it dwarfs the rest of the skyline. Now here's what's funny. Last week, as we were traveling around we kept seeing this other building -- that's it on the left, the tall black one. We thought that THAT was the Sears Building and Jimmy kept saying, "That doesn't look so tall." And we'd see it again. "That doesn't look so tall."

We were just never in the part of the town where the Sears Tower was so we never saw it! Someone at the party said that it had the same architectural firm, so it kinda looks like the Sears Tower.

After we all hung out and got to know each other, Betty introduced Irene Alexander. Irene is 84 years old and has had an amazing career as a concert pianist among many other great accomplishments. She said, "Steve told me at Sue's party that he loves Chopin and Rhapsody in Blue. So Steve, tell me what you'd like to hear."

I felt so honored that she would ask. So I said, without hesitation, "Rhapsody in Blue." She smiled and said, "I'll play the abridged version."

Betty Alexander plays Rhapsody in Blue.
Irene Alexander plays Rhapsody in Blue.

Linda Delayen was there, visiting from Virginia. She reported to the TLS list:
"It was a lovely affair, and I've never met so many obviously loving and welcoming people all at once. (And there wasn't a dud among them!)"

Smiling faces at the Big Voice reception.

Judy, Zorba & Linda D.

Jimmy with Jeff our stage manager.
Blaine with a cute dog.

"She then played Chopin for Steve.  After that, she announced to everyone there that she thought that  Jimmy and Steve were two of the most incredibly talented men she'd ever met.  (She'd initially met them at Sue Carey's party.)"

"Then Steve and Jimmy sang a few songs.  When Steve sang "Connected" I saw a couple men wiping tears away at the end.  Everyone was completely taken by the boys...I asked Steve to sing "The Group" because I knew several there would surely appreciate it, and especially for Betty who, as a psycho therapist, had years of experience with groups."

Steve sings "The Group."
There were a lot more people than in that photo above. The piano was in the middle facing the wall, so there were a lot of people sitting behind me and on the other side.

One guy, after we sang, came up to me and asked, "Who are you?"

I wasn't sure how to answer.

He continued, "No, I mean it. Who are you? Why haven't I heard of you? I can't believe the music I just heard."

I had no answer. I finally just said, "I'm just Steve."

"Betty announced it was time to eat, and we enjoyed an amazing spread of food she'd laid out to accompany the bloody marys and champagne."

Never serve ham to an actor.
It makes them feel self-conscious.
Now, as much as I enjoyed meeting all the people, the truth is I'm more comfortable around kids and dogs than I am strangers. At a party you will usually find me on the floor playing with them. At this party, there was a little girl named Alexandra. She was absolutely gorgeous, but terribly shy. At first she was very stand-offish.

But then I finally coaxed her onto the piano with me and while she pecked out white notes, I started playing accompaniment. It was a four-handed improvisation for adult and child. She hit notes at random and I found chords to fit them. It was so fun!

After than, of course, we couldn't peel her away from the piano. Some day she'll be a concert pianist just like Irene!

That night, almost everyone at the party came to the show so we had this wonderfully full house on a Sunday night. Sue Carey attended again with her husband Tom. At intermission, she got so excited so stood up just before the lights went down and shouted, "Everyone is invited to join us after the show for drinks across the street to meet the creators.!"

And sure enough, like a sketch out of Andy Kaufman, after the show about 20 people followed us out of the theatre, across the street and we all sat and had a big party! Jimmy and I felt like we had known them all our lives -- but it was they who adopted us!

The nicest moment was a quiet one. David, one of the attendees, leaned across the table from me and said, "Do you know how special it was that Irene introduced you like that at the party? Everyone adores her. And everyone respects her. She doesn't say that unless she really means it."

I looked back at him, my eyes burning just a bit at the corners and I said, "Yeah. I did. I really did know how special it was."

He said, "I knew you knew but I'm the kind of person who says these things out loud." His partner Andy took his hand. 20 years they've been together. The love that passed between them was shared equally by everyone else. This is the group that had been at Betty's party. By the end of the evening, I observed an incredible dynamic between them all, each one with very specific personality and role in the group.

They were more than a collection of friends. They were a true family.

[ Book 3-7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
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