Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sonny


Once upon a time in 1992, there was a live show I was involved in called “Seventies Celebration” or something like that. A lot of music and TV stars from the 70s were involved including me and several other Bradys. We were doing a "comedy sketch" which Barry Williams co-wrote. Florence was supposed to be Sally Jesse Raphael and I never did figure out what I was supposed to be. I couldn’t remember the lines because they came out of nowhere and made no sense to me. I just knew the thing sucked and I began to get performance anxiety like I've never felt before. I was sure that I would pass out on stage and make a fool of myself. It was hours between rehearsals and show time which was live on stage at the Wiltern. 

I was feeling pretty insecure which is something I really do have a talent for. Then I saw Olivia Newton John which didn’t help. Not that I don’t like her, on the contrary we had worked together and I found her to be wonderful in every way. I had done an illustration job for her. She and her psychic were writing a children’s book to teach kids about the environment. I had designed and illustrated the proposal. They loved what I had done but the publisher wanted to go with their own in house art department. It was one of those “Gee Susan, we’re really sorry but they have the final say…” things. It really wasn’t a bad thing but still mildly embarrassing and I just didn’t want to hear her say again, “I’m so sorry about what happened…” I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable mostly because that would have made me more uncomfortable.

So I was mildly avoiding Olivia Newton John which made me a little hyper aware of faces. I became aware that I was seeing the Bee Gees pretty much everywhere I looked. This was strangely unnerving, but everything was unnerving. The whole thing started to get very surreal with all of these oddly familiar faces. It would take a while to register if I actually knew these people around me or just knew them from TV. I think everyone was feeling that way so to play it safe they all acted like long lost friends. It was really very nice. Meat Loaf gave me a hearty “Hello” and I had no idea where I knew him until he started rehearsing and I realized who he was and that we’d never met. Coupled with the surreal hyper awareness anxiety imparts, it began to feel like I was coming on to a hit of acid. And there were those darned Bee Gees. It seemed that everywhere I looked, there was a Bee Gee – sometimes two. I was studying their faces and the brotherly resemblance. I know there were only three of them but it seemed like 20, maybe 50.  It was like they were inter-dimensional and could be in two places at the same time. I’d start to feel a little better and then I’d look up and see another Bee Gee. Totally nice guys but they were freaking me out. I was sitting in the Green Room, humming a little mantra to myself for comfort. “Bee Gees Bee Gees everywhere, in the green room, on the stair…” then someone said “Hi Susan”. It was Sonny Bono, always a friendly face. I had met him a couple of times before, but we weren’t what I would call friends.  Our mothers were in a club together and knew each other well, maybe that’s why he knew my name. Since most people don’t bother with our real names, having him say “Hi Susan” surprised me and drew me to him.
“Your sketch is cute, it will go over well.” He said. Poor guy was just making small talk and didn’t know that he was in for an interrogation. My nerves made what little social grace I have fail me, I just blurted my thoughts..
“Really?” I shouted.
“Sure, it’s funny.”
“REALLY, Sonny?”
“…Yeah?....Why, don’t you like it?”
“It’s terrible! I don’t even understand it! Do YOU think it’s funny?”
He could have lied again and walked away but instead I guess he sensed my distress and he came over to me with compassion. He nodded his head from side to side as if to say he’d seen worse – point being, no,he didn’t like it either. But he smiled and said, “Hey, it really doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. The audience will love it no matter what you do.”
“I’m really nervous, I’m afraid I’m going to pass out on stage.”
He laughed and said, “Even if you did, you would still get a standing ovation! No matter what you do, the audience will be on their feet. You can do no wrong, relax.”
“Really?”
“I guarantee, they will give you a standing ovation when you walk on stage and won’t get quiet enough to even hear the skit.There is absolutely NOTHING to worry about.”
What a sweet guy. He made me feel better.
“I promise, it will be great. I PROMISE!” He extended his arms to hug me.
I hugged him and I saw another Bee Gee over his shoulder.
“The Bee Gees are freaking me out.” I blurted.
“What?”
“Everywhere I look there is a Bee Gee.”
And it was like he could read my mind and now he decided to mess with me like one messes with someone who’s high; he leaned in close and whispered, “They’re EVERYWHERE!”

We did our bit and Sonny was right. The crowd was on its feet and never heard a line of dialogue. When we came off stage, God bless him, Sonny had come to the side to watch.
“See Susan, what did I tell you?”
I hugged him so hard I may have hurt him bad.


I got a little taste of what Sonny might have been like as a Dad, and I felt a tiny portion of what Chaz must have felt when he passed away so suddenly.

To prove this was not just an acid flash back:


4 comments:

Frank Janosko said...

That's kinda what the 70s were like, there weren't alot of BeeGees songs, but they were EVERYWHERE!

Love the story about Sonny. I know that people in the entertainment industry can be two faced but always came across as a genuinely good person.

In the few months I've known you a little more personally, I've come to realize that you're a genuinely good person as well and good people tend to find one another and help each other out.

I'm glad I stopped to read this-thanks for sharing!

-Frank

Susan said...

Thanks! I think Sonny was very genuine, my Mom had some good things to say about him too. He would do things for his mother and her club that my Mom was in. Real deal!

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mellodee123 said...

Wow!!!! Awesome story!!!