~ Niles Reddick
The Kool 100 Oldies Concert began at 6:00pm at the Civic Center, but for an extra five dollars, the geriatric crowd could come an hour early and get to meet the stars, get autographs, and take photos; the VIP upgrade also gave them seats in the stands closest to the stage. I bought the tickets for Evelyn’s birthday and it was the first time we’d been. We’d even invited our daughter, in her twenties, to come and she’d thought it would be “retro.”
There had been thirty concerts through the years, and we met one fellow who had attended all thirty and had a notebook, with tabs, alphabetized by author, with autographs to himself he showed us. Some people had their 45s or album covers for autographs, and the six stars sat at tables with pens in hand ready to meet another wave of fans that must’ve seemed somewhat depressing, like a zombie scene from the twilight zone. Several had canes, a few had walkers with hollowed out green tennis balls on the front legs, most were overweight, men were bald or had hair slicked with products one could only purchase at a drugstore, and women wore slacks or tights with long shirts and clanky jewelry.
We only made it half way through the stars long lines before the call to begin the concert. We had taken the photos with my daughter’s new i-phone. My flip phone didn’t have a camera feature, and our daughter had gone to find our seats, and we had to get strangers to take the photos and then check them to make sure they turned out alright before giving up our place in line. One lady had taken a photo of the stage and we could only see the tops of our heads and had to get her to retake it.
I hadn’t wanted to stand in lines for photos with male singers I hadn’t really listened to, except random songs I heard on the Oldies station when I was in the car with Evelyn. She knew the songs and the words. She even told John Ford Coley all her friends thought the lyrics in his song “I’d Really Love to see you Tonight” said something like “I’m not talking about a millennium,” when she knew the words were “moving in”. He’d laughed and told her he’d heard that before. When Mr. Coley mentioned this before he sang that song, Ev grabbed my hand. That meant the world to her, but what impressed me about John Ford Coley was his down to earth attitude and his talent---playing both the keyboard and the guitar.
John Ford Coley did several hits and was followed by Johnny Tillotson who did “Earth Angel”, “Send Me the Pillow You Dream on”, and “Poetry in Motion.” While Tillotson was eighty, his voice sounded strong. He didn’t move around much on the stage, however, and I wondered if he had arthritis and if he took any fish oil. It seemed to help mine. I thought if we got the chance to get his photo at the break, I’d mention it to him.
The last act before the break was Rex Smith who’d had a big hit with “You take my Breath Away” and shared he’d sung a duet with Rachel Sweet titled “Everlasting Love” and had been in the Broadway production of Grease. I had seen the movie, enjoyed it, and when he did a couple of songs from that film, he was really all over the stage and seemed in pretty good shape. He even had a group of women who were apparently in his fan club and wore special lanyards to the concert. He dedicated one to them and they all stood up, fanning themselves and screaming out, like they were still teenagers. I rolled my eyes at Evelyn and she laughed. She pointed to another group of women a couple of rows in front of us who kept pulling up photos of the stars when they were young and comparing them to how they looked now, and while Rex Smith looked like one of the brothers Gibb when he was younger with long hair, he didn’t seem to look much different to me, but then I often imagine myself to look the same as I always have, too, when in reality, I don’t. At my last high school reunion, I kept driving through the parking lot at the football tail gate because I couldn’t find my group when Evelyn finally said, “That’s them over there.” I’d said, “That can’t be them. Those people look old.” She said, “Well, what in the world do you expect? It has been forty years.”
At the break, we met Tom Garrett from The Classics IV, Pepe Cardona from Alive and Kickin’, and Denis Tufano from the Buckinghams and had our photos taken with our daughter’s phone. I noted the fan club of women hovering around Rex Smith, one of them lingering after the singer had signed, taken photos, and hugged each. She eased up to him and said something and I noticed she whispered in his ear. I nudged Evelyn to watch and she looked that way. He shook his head back and forth, whispered something to her, and tears came in her eyes, causing her mascara to run black down her face.
She wiped with a tissue and moved away into the crowd. I wondered if she’d invited him for coffee and desert after the show, maybe asked about breakfast the next morning. I wondered if she’d even tried to get him to go out with her, maybe go home with her. I wondered if she’d been with him when she was younger, maybe that was her reason for still being a fan. Whatever she’d said, he turned her down or didn’t remember, and it must have hurt her. I felt a little bad for her, but knew that just because the singers can be with fans in their homes, cars, and showers through their music doesn’t mean they want to be there in person.
The rest of the performances went off without a hitch, even though one of them wasn’t sure which song was after his first one and someone had to remind him. He’d made a joke about it, and I felt like the audience could relate and appreciate his lapse of memory. In fact, near the end of the show after the three of us had split a box of popcorn, I remembered I’d forgotten to tell Mr. Tillotson about the fish oil, but I figured he had his own Earth angel to tell him.
Niles Reddick is author of the novel Pulitzer nominated Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over a hundred and fifty literary magazines all over the world including PIF, Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, Cheap Pop, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Slice of Life, Faircloth Review, With Painted Words, among many others. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was just released. His website is www.nilesreddick.com