My editor has agreed to let me stray from wine this week. I have enjoyed a long and somewhat privileged career. Privileged, because I have attended many special events and met hundreds of people who fall comfortably into the category labeled VIP. I am never overwhelmed in the presence of those who popular culture refers to as “celebrities” or “stars.” I am, indeed, in awe of their talents and their art, especially in the case of dancers, singers and theatrical actors. I am also equally humbled when I find myself in the company of heart surgeons and cancer specialists.
On Saturday evening, June 21, I turned the corner of 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and I gasped. I was in awe. Before me, surrounding the theater like a human moat, were a queue of orderly people, basking in the sunshine, high on the anticipation of what awaited them within the walls of the building they hugged with their chairs. These people were patiently waiting to see a 74-year-old man perform the songs they have heard him sing countless times before over a period stretching back six decades.
My own experience, from the moment I entered the theater for afternoon sound checks until I walked onto the stage at 8 p.m., was truly memorable. I was in the company of consummate professionals who welcomed me as if I was an old friend. And not one of them, including Sir Cliff Richard, displayed the slightest trace of a prima donna. They were much too passionate about their work for that. They were focused on one thing and one thing alone: Making the fans’ experience a truly special one. From my first encounter with the fans when I entered the theater in the afternoon, to my last exchanges with them when I left the theater at 10 p.m., I was struck by the pure, unadulterated love that they exuded for the legendary performer they had traveled far and wide to see on the Gramercy Theatre stage. And that same expression of love was felt within the theater itself from the man they would soon applaud on the stage. Cliff Richard adores his fans, and it shows.
As I sat on the stage feeling the exchange of love between the audience and the artist, I read some lyrics to Sir Cliff from the song he had just sung:
“You ask how much I need you, must I explain?
I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain.
You ask how long I’ll love you; I’ll tell you true:
Until the twelfth of never, I’ll still be loving you.”
I said to Sir Cliff: “These words perfectly express the love your fans feel for you, and the love you feel for them.” He looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds and then he shook his head in agreement and confided that he had never really thought about that before. I believe he will think about the significance of those words every time he now sings them on the stage and it will serve as a musical love letter from the most loyal performer on this planet to the most loyal fans who ever lived.
Thank you Sir Cliff, and Sir Cliff’s fans, for affording me the opportunity to be part of one of the most rewarding evenings of my career. Rewarding because in this age of hate and violence and war and the erosion of social sensibilities, I witnessed and savored unconditional love. Cheers!
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