Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Valentine from Johnny Mathis

Last night K and I went to see Johnny Mathis. If you don't know who that is, shame on you! Actually, we were probably the only ones there under the age of 60. All the wives dragged their husbands to the concert and made them wear sweater vests and comb their hair. During intermission two older gentlemen in front of us stood up to stretch their legs and joked they were going to stand for the rest of the concert. "You wouldn't mind, would you?" they asked us in a cute charming old man way. One of them said, "My wife would just tell me to sit down and shut up." It was very cute, this dynamic between persons from this generation, who probably conceived children to Johnny Mathis' crooning in the 50's and 60's.

The concert was amazing. He came out in a black tuxedo with bowtie, and opened up with that song from Willy Wonka ("if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it....."). It was just him and the stringy-haired balding conductor/pianist, who played a lovely loungey piano. Then he launched into a Mancini medley with the orchestra (all wearing white tuxedos and lit only by music stand lights), then a medley of his most popular songs, including Chances Are and Misty. When he started a familiar song, two little old ladies sitting in front of us gasped and clutched each other's hands as if they were recalling a lovely moment. Then people would clap. It was like being on a Christopher Guest PBS special, but in a good, warm fuzzy way. I was totally into it and clapped along with them.

Later he did a Brazilian medley (he was very fond of these medleys with one song bleeding into another) where he sang a few Jobim songs in Portuguese, and closed the show with Brazil--a very spiffy upbeat version where they had a backround track of voices and the conductor/pianist was conducting and blowing a whistle at the same time and the orchestra was playing behind them and there was a brilliant light show. He got a standing ovation and came out and did two encores. He was very cute and a little shy, and very friendly and classy when addressing the audience. His voice hasn't changed much since the 50's, except he can't reach the high notes as well as he used to. But he still looks the same--dark skinned with a halo of dark wavy hair. I loved it all. It was very romantic.

It was fun to listen to reactions after the concert:
"They don't sing romantic music like that anymore, where you can understand the words."
"He still has all his hair."
"Isn't he in his 70's?"
"He's so elegant."

I first heard of Johnny when I was in high school. My favorite movie back then was "Chances Are," in which Robert Downey Jr. played Cybil Shepherd's reincarnated husband. In the movie, Cybil's character loves to listen to Johnny Mathis, so after I saw it, I rushed out to Wal-Mart and bought a casstte tape of his greatest hits, which included a disco version of "Begin the Beguine," and other sexy songs, one of which was called, "It doesn't have to hurt everytime."
(I regret to say, Kelly, that he did not sing this song). So started my obsession. Two summers ago I found a double-record set of his greatest hits from the 60's at this great record store that has since gone out of business. That July of 2005, I played it on our portable record player while my mom, aunt, Kelly, K and I sat on our porch drinking whiskey sours and Kokanees. I'll never forget Aunt Cookie swilling a beer and looking (mistily) off into the distance, saying, "This music just sends me......."