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A few years ago, outside the stage door of a Broadway theater, I found myself herded into a cattle holding pen along with about 200 other people.  My friends Michael and Kim and I were waiting for Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth to come out and greet us after a performance of the show she was starring in at the time, Promises, Promises.  And yes, this is the same Michael who often thoughtfully, eloquently, guest blogs here.

Michael and Kristin Chenoweth grew up in the same town and attended the same high school.  They walked the same halls, performed on the same stages, learned from the same teachers.  In fact, one such teacher, whom Michael is still close to, was the reason we were ushered into the front of the holding pen. There had been the possibility that we would get to go backstage, but it didn’t pan out.

It’s a humbling experience to be packed with hundreds of other people like that. There were security people yelling at us about where to stand, what to do. “No flash photography!”
To her credit, Kristin was gracious when she came out. Michael teased her by calling her Kristie Dawn, the name she went by when she was just a young Oklahoma girl with a big voice and a dream. She good-naturedly dead-panned, “Don’t call me that.” She and Michael talked Broken Arrow for a few moments, then she signed our programs, said hi to a few others and then climbed into a waiting SUV and was whisked away.

And I was both exhilarated and depressed by the experience. It made me us feel both special and insignificant. But while she and Michael stood talking, I felt an odd resentment boiling beneath the surface. I thought, Kristie Dawn, you really don’t know who you are talking to. Talk about a legend.

I met Michael several years ago when we did Party together. He was, even then, an available, funny, skilled actor. And through the years, I’ve been lucky to see him in many roles and he continues to expand himself. The last thing I saw him in was a production of Greater Tuna where he expertly and seemingly effortlessly became 20 different characters, 20 inhabited lives. And if Michael were only an actor, that would be enough to make him the kind of star around which the world orbits. (Full confession, I’m no Isaac Asimov.) But, I think the thing that makes Michael truly a legend is that he’s the best friend anyone could ever have. I know a lot of people, but I don’t think I know anyone as beloved as Michael Patrick Gaffney. And if you’re reading this and you know him, you know what I’m talking about. He remembers the details of your life, he reminds you of memories that you’ve shared, he does not pontificate, but always makes you feel he’s rooting for you. And I can never see Lucille Ball or peanut butter or a lady bug without thinking of him.

I don’t know if MPG will ever be as famous or as rich as the little one (his name for her, not mine.) If we lived in a world that made sense, he’d have Tonys and Emmys and 912,398 Twitter followers, too. But I actually think, in many ways, Michael’s life is richer than, well, richer than most. He is loved and he knows how much he is loved. And we’re just lucky to have him in our lives. Because I knew him, because I know him, I have been changed for good.

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Dream Come True

agrant-thumb-500x375-64086Last night, I went to see Amy Grant at the Grammy Museum here in Los Angeles.  About a month ago, a friend told me about these events that the Grammy Museum hosts where different musicians do a Q & A and then a short music set in a small theatre (200 seats) at the museum downtown.  If you live near LA, I would recommend getting on their mailing or email list because if you want to see your favorite artist, there is no venue more intimate.  

Last night, my friend Richard and I went to “A Conversation with Amy Grant,” a dream come true.  We were on the 7th row, but there are no bad seats at the Clive Davis Theatre.  It started with a guy asking her questions about her career, her songwriting process, her influences, her old music, her new music.  They opened it up briefly for questions from the audience and then she sang about 8 songs, including Jesus Loves Me, My Father’s Eyes, Love of Another Kind, Our Time is Now, and Better than a Hallelujah.

I had planned to ask a question, I was going to stand and say, “I have a comment and a question.  First of all, I would like to say that as a gay man who has spent the last 30 years listening to your music, I want to thank you that your message has always been about God’s love and God’s grace.  That being said, if you were a Golden Girl, who would you be?”  I’d tried it out on my friend Richard and he approved it.  Before the show, we met for drinks and food and rehearsed our questions to Amy, each of us taking turns responding as Amy. (“Oh, thank you, Richard, I would love for you to be the set decorator for my next Christmas special.” and “Ray, I’d be honored to do a guest blog for Easily Crestfallen, do I have to talk about William Inge, though?”)  Alas, the rehearsal was the performance because we didn’t get to ask our questions.  It was touching to hear the handful of people who stood with questions that were really just testimonials masquerading as questions.  We knew it before we got there, but Richard and I were not the only people in the room whose lives were deeply affected and enriched by Amy Grant’s music.

After the event was over, my little brain apparently did not get enough Amy Grant because she was in my dream last night.  It’s kind of embarrassing to talk about dreams with celebrities, but hey, if one can’t embarrass one’s self on his own blog, what other platform does one have?  It seems as though, I had been assigned the task of taking care of Amy after the show, although in my dream, it was now the afternoon.  We were walking around the area near La Brea Tar Pits, E! Network and no surprise, Marie Callender’s.  I asked her what she wanted to do and she told me she wanted to see a playground, so we set out to find a playground.  As we walked and talked, our conversation was intimate and personal.  At one point, I tried to get her to assess the skill level of a young woman she’d invited on stage to share a duet a la Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl.  Amy wouldn’t say anything bad, but she did give me a look to say, don’t go there.  In our travels, we wandered over to Park La Brea.  Somehow the topic of life dreams came up and she asked me, “Ray, if you could do anything, what would it be?”  Instantly, an answer came to mind and my face lit up.  “What is it, she asked?” “I can’t tell you,” I said.”  “You want to have a child, don’t you.” I laughed because having a child was definitely not what popped into my mind.  “No, I don’t want to have kids.” And then I quietly wondered, does Amy Grant know me better than I know myself? Not long after that, we were headed back to wherever Amy’s next destination was.  As we crossed the cross walk on 6th and Curson, she set down on the street a pair of sunglasses she’d found while we were walking around. I thought to myself that probably wasn’t the best place to leave them, but I didn’t say anything. As we were saying our goodbyes, I realized we had not found a playground. Amy said, “That’s okay.” We hugged and then the next thing I knew, I woke up in my bed. For a while, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I lay there wondering, what does it all mean?  What does any of it mean?  It’s just a dream and like most dreams, it might take a little time to be understood.

Dear Daisy

4453551996_b1d8ffa745_oIt’s rare for me to spend more than a few hours on a blog post, but I have been working on and off on this one since Thursday.  Up until, just now, I didn’t feel that I was saying what I wanted to say, in the way I wanted to say it.

On Thursday, by chance, I saw that one of the kids that had been in my youth group when I was a youth minister many years ago had unfriended me on Facebook.  She popped into my head and I thought, hmmm, I wonder what Daisy is up to? When I got to her FB page, I saw the little +1 Add Friend rectangle on her profile.  I was a little shocked.  Not surprisingly, it is not my first FB unfriending, but it’s the one that stung the most.

Thursday, not long after discovering the information, I started working on a blog, also entitled, Dear Daisy.  That blog was an actual letter to her which sortof snarkily started off, “I guess you will probably never read this because most people who find my blog, find it through Facebook and ever since you unfriended me, I don’t now how you would even know to look for it.”  Like I said, I’ve revisited that original blog every day, tweaking it, but ultimately, it never felt right enough to publish.

I will tell you a little about Daisy.  She is a singer.  I remember not long after I was hired to be the youth minister at her church, one of the elderly ladies was telling me bits of information about all of the congregation’s young people.  I remember Velda Blagg saying, “And Daisy!  Daisy has the voice of an angel.”  And she did.  When Daisy sang a special in church, usually an Amy Grant song, it was something the entire congregation looked forward to hearing.  Most who have heard her sing would say that she has a God-given gift.

Another thing about Daisy that I think about fairly often is when her mother died suddenly while I was her youth minister.  Her mother was a force: magnetic, beautiful, sharp-witted, opinionated.  Also, she was a teacher.  Her death was one of the first lessons in how fragile life is and how everything can change permanently in an instant.  I marvelled at the poise with which Daisy handled her loss.  She was just weeks from going away to her freshman year of college, yet the Daisy I remember continued to lend support to her father and three younger brothers.  In college, she studied music, because she wanted to glorify God with her music.

We have not had a lot of contact since the time that I was her youth minister.  Even before FB entered all of our lives, she did know that I was gay.  I know that she is still very religious, but I’ve never known her to post anything anti-gay on FB.  Our FB messages were usually about light things, like dreaming of meeting up in New York to go see Broadway musicals together.

At one point in the last few days, I thought I knew why she unfriended me.  Since I’ve started this blog, I talk about a lot of different things. Granted, every word I write, it’s with the cognizance that my mother will probably read it, but I would give my blog a PG-13 rating.  And I talk a lot, A LOT, about being gay.  I wonder if it might be painful for Daisy to see how different I am from the man who was her minister, her pastor, at a very formative time in her life.  If I was a man who once made her love Jesus more, what am I now?

I thought about Daisy and the rest of the youth group quite a bit all weekend.  Something about the action, unlocked some memories that I hadn’t thought about in 20 years, sweet memories.   Yesterday, I posted a blog about a young voice teacher, roughly Daisy’s age, who got to sing on stage with Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend.  I included a link to her account on BroadwayWorld.com where at the end, she talked about walking to her car after the concert with her dad and him reminding her that he prayed 11 years ago that she would be able to sing with Kristin Chenoweth.  That touching moment made me think of the beaming pride that Daisy’s dad always had for her.  He was a stoic guy, but whenever Daisy sang, whether it be at church or concerts or pageants, he always shed more than a few tears.  He was and is the kind of guy who would pray for his daughter to sing with Kristin Chenoweth, or maybe Amy Grant.

Anyway, I am not angry that Daisy unfriended me.  I do hope that if she did not hear about Sarah Horn from me, that she heard about Sarah Horn from someone.  Those magical musical moments that I talked about yesterday, are something Daisy’s knows a lot about.  So, Daisy, if you ever read this, and I hope that someday you will, know that, Facebook friend or not, I will always love you.  

For Good

300x300xkc.jpg.pagespeed.ic.KMhWl8swMzThere is a video going viral today of a voice teacher named Sarah Horn who was plucked from the audience of the Hollywood Bowl last night to sing a song from Wicked with Kristin Chenoweth.  The video is electric and I’ve included the link to her account of the experience on BroadwayWorld.com right here.  

In the interview, she talks about how she could feel the entire audience rooting for her, that she was doing what they all dreamed of doing, singing on stage with Kristin Chenoweth.  I don’t think Sarah Horn’s life will ever be the same again.  It’s been changed, for good. (Get it?)

There are moments that happen at live shows, whether it be plays or concerts or even comedy shows, where the moment is so magical, everyone who bears witness to it, whether on stage, or in the audience, they feel like they’ve been active in a rare, indelible experience.  As far as I know, the person who posted the YouTube video did not even know Sarah Horn and you can hear her gasps, her excitement, her thrill.

Even me, sitting at my computer, a little hungover, a little depressed about my job, fretting about that audition last week that I thought for sure I’d get a callback for, I did not know what I was in for when I clicked on the link to the video that my friend Michael posted to Facebook this morning.  I felt like I was in on the magic, too, like I was Sarah Horn on that stage singing in perfect harmony with Kristi Dawn from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  And it reminded me that this world is full of magic, we just don’t always know when or where we’re going to find it.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

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I did a storytelling show last night and that means I spent the entire previous evening trolling around youtube instead of working on my set.  I saw something on Kristin Chenoweth’s twitter page (don’t judge) that linked to this video of Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker chewing out a beauty queen who disrespected her sister Suzanne on Designing Women.  If you are of a certain demographic, you know this clip well.  At least, you should know this clip well.  I saw Dixie Carter at Bed, Bath and Beyond once.  I wanted to offer her my extra  20% off coupon, but I was too shy.  Anyway, this is one of her finest moments. It’s an episode that always resonated with me and judging from the 30 or so youtube videos of gay guys reenacting the scene, I’m not the only one.