(excerpt pp. 158-159)
I hustled back to the dressing room and studied the
tenor sax charts for the midnight show. Nothing looked especially
complicated. Ten minutes before show time, Monroe came into the room
and threw his arm around me.
"I really appreciate this," he said in the luscious
baritone. Listening to him was like slipping into a hot bath.
"Hey, it's my pleasure, Vaughn . . . and I can always
use a job, however brief."
"Who've you played with, Charlie?" he asked.
"A whole shitload of hotel bands in the Catskills," I
told him. "Lew Brown, for one."
"How is Lew?" Monroe asked.
"The usual," I said.
Monroe chuckled. "Still cranky as hell?"
"Maybe more so." I was shameless. Once I started
lying, it was like running red lights--go through one, might as well
go through them all.
"Who else?" the singer continued. He wasn't letting me
off the hook so easy.
"Some other smaller bands, " I vamped. "Sy Glotzer,
Irv Tapp . . . house bands in the mountains."
"Don't know them." He looked into my eyes for a scary
moment. "But I'm sure you'll be fine. Any screwups, the boys'll cover
He started picking through the charts. "We'll start
with 'Let It Snow.'"
"Sure." I nodded.
"Then go to 'Ballerina.' I like to start with the
very familiar. Particularly with these yokels. Then we'll do
'Trolley Song,' 'Tallahassee,' and 'Haunted Heart."
"Great," I mumbled, and jotted the titles down on the
slip of paper.
"Then I just bullshit for a couple of minutes, tell
some lousy jokes, kiss the audience's butt, tell them they're the
greatest crowd I've ever played for." Monroe smiled. "Actually, the
audiences here are pretty damn good. Love almost everything; I think
half of them never saw a live band before."
"Lot of shitkickers out there," I said.
"Mucho shitkickers, but hey, that's not their fault.
Gotta play like you're playing for the king of England." I liked this
guy; he had very little pretension to him, show biz or otherwise, and
after the collection of assassins and con artist I had run with for
the past week, he seemed as honest and pure as Gary Cooper in a
mountain stream yammering about the Spanish Civil War.
"Then I finally stop my spiel," Monroe continued, "and
we do 'Racing with the Moon,' and 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady.' I
introduce the Moonbeams individually, pretend to look down their
dresses; that kills a couple of minutes. Then we finish with 'Riders
in the Sky' and 'Mule Train.' Then I come back and do 'Ballerina.'"
"Again. And they go apeshit. This is the Wild West,
Charlie. It's all news to them." He clapped me on the shoulder.
"Thanks again." He turned and walked out of the room, as
square-shouldered and upright as a general. I was ready to marry the
The show went without a hitch, and it was just as the
crooner had predicted. When he did the encore on 'Ballerina,' the
yokels were jumping out of their chairs with delight and a couple of
fortyish women rushed the stage. I played my charts and only got lost
once, during a key change on 'Haunted Heart.' Otherwise, I admirably
faked my way through the set and Monroe smiled at me a couple of times
and even gave me a thumbs-up during a little run on 'Let It Snow.'
The dialog between the protagonist, Charlie, and
Andrew Bergman's character of Vaughn Monroe gets progressively
coarser. Bergman colors Monroe as a well-seasoned, if somewhat
road-weary showman, with no false opinions of himself; a regular guy.
However, he seasons the whole episode with a healthy portion of
sarcasm from the mouth of our band leader in regard to the audience
and the routine of the show--a little
difficult to swallow for some of us Vaughn Monroe fans.
Can't argue with Bergman's descriptions:
" . . . luscious baritone."
"Listening to him was like slipping into a hot bath."
". . . as square-shouldered and upright as a general."
"I was ready to marry the guy."
"I liked this guy; he had very little pretension to
him, show biz or otherwise . . ."
Commentary by: Claire Schwartz