Getting ready for a black-tie event is stressful: no matter how much time I have to get ready, I always feel so rushed 10-15 minutes before we’re supposed to leave. Last night before the Fall Gala for Jazz at Lincoln Center, there were the typical stressors. Things like, “where is that freaking green wrap?!” and “dammit, I really need to iron this shirt but we don’t have an ironing board anymore! GAH!” “Hmm, I don’t know who this tux belongs to, but I’m wearing it”, etc. etc were all shouted through our little apartment just before we were supposed to leave. And now that we live in New York, newly thrown into the getting ready mix is the question of transportation. I was a little nervous because trying to get a cab during rush hour can be challenging, and though we don’t live far from the Time Warner Center where Rose Hall is located, I’m new and I don’t know how long it takes to get from place to place in traffic. I did know, however, that I did not want to be late and wanted to leave by 6:15 for the 7 pm show. We left around 6:25. Eh, we tried.
Luckily the transportation gods were on our side last night as we got a cab pretty immediately and made it there with what we thought was plenty of time. We walked into 60 Columbus Circle where I was instructed to go, checked in at registration, confirmed my name on a list, and we were taken upstairs to a small event room. “Hmm”, I thought, “This isn’t what I was expecting. And what are these people wearing? I mean, I know black tie in DC can mean just about anything, but I was expecting a little more from New York. That guy is in jeans. Geez, doesn’t anyone care about the rules of propriety anymore?! Is there elegance left ANYWHERE in the world? Not even in Manhattan?! And wow, this is a really small room. What is this?” John, sensing my confusion and mild disappointment asked innocently, “Is this not what you were expecting?” Uh . . . well, no, not really, but who am I to complain? “Maybe this is a pre-concert cocktail hour or something? I mean, they walked us up here, they wouldn’t take us to the wrong place, right?” No, of course not, what is the likelihood of human error . . . like one in a billion? Two billion? Something like that. So we got ourselves a glass of really good wine, ate some hors d’oeuvres, and remained out of place among the generally sloppy crowd. When it looked like something was about to begin, we sat down . . . because that’s what you do, right? When the crowd sits, you sit! God help us if we had been offered any Kool-Aid.
Seated, we looked over to our right and saw a projected caricature of some fat guy – “who is that supposed to be?”, John asked. “Uhh, hmm, I don’t know”. The “show” starts and some old white dude tgets up and says he’s from First National Bank.We STILL remain sitting there like, “uhhh, well, maybe they sponsored the cocktail hour? Uhhh. Duhhhhhhh.” If you’re imagining glazed eyes and drool slowly dripping from our mouths you clearly would not be far off. OWD then proceeds to introduce our very special guest for the evening, acclaimed actor and comedian Jason Alexander!!!! Applause, applause! Yay! George Costanza! What a pal to the First National Bank! And what a treat to have him speak to us, this lovely group of sloppy First National Bank employees! What a special night. John and I look at each other, said, “we need to get out of here immediately” and faster than you can yell “SERENITY NOW!” were out the door, our brains finally working.
I mean really, what the eff? Who does that happen to? Who bolts on George Costanza? Who even accidentally goes to an event where George Costanza is headlining? If this isn’t a lesson in “question authority” I don’t know what is. But we were in formal wear, around what we assumed were rich people, and I’ve been taught to believe that rich people know what’s going on. I mean, we’re just the lowly Facebook contest winners, we’re here for free, we can’t be trusted with things like knowing where to go! Hello, you people run the world for a reason!
I was so annoyed, and mildly embarassed, but mainly worried that we were missing even ONE NOTE that Wynton Marsalis was playing, and that would not be cool, Costanza, not be cool at all. Luckily the show started the prerequisite ten minutes late, and we rudely shuffled into our seats (right smack in the middle of the first row of the top mezzanine, love!) as quickly as possible. I was finally able to relax and enjoy the beautiful, modern Rose Theater, comfortable in my lovely vintage 50s frock, feeling like yes, this is where I belong. I’m here, this is happening, and it’s gorgeous. Bliss.
Oh, remember that wine that I realize was now stolen from the bank event? I didn’t mention that it was really, really good?I pretty much downed the whole glass in a matter of minutes, because that’s what you do when you’re in a fancy dress and you don’t know what to do with your hands.
Yeah, the reveling didn’t last long. Moments after I took my seat I was in severe gotta go gotta go gotta go right now agony. I don’t get many miles to the gallon. Sweet mother of Seinfeld, why? Why is this happening to me? Why can’t everything just go right? And because we were in the middle of the row, I couldn’t in good conscience get up as the show was about to begin, plus I didn’t want to miss anything. So I sat. For nearly two hours. In bladder purgatory. I really need to grow a pair.
I had an uncle who used to tell us when we were in any sort of pain or discomfort to “offer it up”, meaning basically suffer in silence and offer your pain up to the baby Jesus. Now that I think about, it’s a really ridiculous and cruel thing to say to a child, but whatever, I did old Uncle Jim proud and offered that pain up to Wynton Marsalis and Frank Sinatra and it was worth every minute.
I had the opportunity to meet Wynton Marsalis a few years ago, a legend, but he won’t let you know it. Despite the fact that he is the most talented jazz musician of his generation, he’s so humble and unassuming. This was obvious last night as he and the band opened with a swinging arrangement of Paper Moon, he spoke for a bit, and then took his seat in the back row with the other trumpeters. Who does that? They then did the most haunting, spooky arrangement of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; it was so wonderfully odd the way it started off with the creaky bass and began to slowly unravel with the languid (in a great way!) brass section. Really, really cool. Gives me a whole new appreciation for that song.
Wynton and the band were incredible all night, but to me, the real standout was Diahann Carroll. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t really familiar with Ms. Carroll, but she is a true force. With all of her gusto and energy you wouldn’t ever guess that she’s 75, and if she performs this well today, I can’t imagine what her days singing in Vegas with Frank Sinatra must have been like. Wow.
Michael Feinstein also sang, and while you can’t argue that the man has a great voice, he’s just really not my style. Very showy and lounge-singer-ish, and I caught myself rolling my eyes during some numbers. Oops. A highlight, however, was Birth of Blues, a duet made famous by Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, done in the style of Feinstein and Marsalis. The show ended with For Once in My Life, which is a song that Sinatra apparently really loved to sing, a fact that I wasn’t aware of. Michael Feinstein went on to tell a story about how Sinatra used to say, “there are songs being written and I’m going to sing them”, meaning that with each generation new classics are being made. I can’t really think of any from this year . . . Party in the USA? All in all, everything was magic. How could it not be with that kind of talent singing and playing those beloved songs?
After I made a beeline (what’s faster than a bee? Cheetah? Ok then, cheetahline) to the bathroom where I seriously considered giving the chick in front of me $10 to cut in line, we had a beautiful dinner in the Allen Room, which has gorgeous views of Central Park and Columbus Circle. John used to have a client that lived at the top of the Time Warner building and so was basically looking down on the entire city. He ended up moving to the lower Trump Tower next door because it was so high he felt like he wasn’t part of the city. Nice problem to have, eh? Sounds weird, but I get it. The view from the Allen Room is perfect because it’s high enough to have a great view, but low enough so that you still get the energy of the location. If I had a ton of money and were to have some sort of event, it would be there.
We sat at our table, which were decorated as modern nods to Little Italy, realized that the fat man in the caricature was Jason Alexander, laughed for a long time about how dumb we are, and then just enjoyed the red and white checkered tablecloths, antipasto salad, lamb osso bucco with butternut squash ravioli, and ricotta cheesecake. So delicious. The whole night was, mixups and all.
But the best part was when I asked John what his favorite song of the night was, and he answered “Time After Time”. Though this may not be his favorite style of music, he certainly does a good job of playing along. A fabulous New York evening if there ever was one.