Monday, February 09, 2009

"My Name is Blossom, I Was Raised in a Lion's Den"

In the mid-90's, I dated a cokehead named Steve.  

That's probably a bit harsh, but he did do a lot of coke. And his friends did a lot of coke. 

He and his friends were those extremely colorful people you see in bars at around 1:00 a.m., just when the night is hitting its peak, dressed somewhere in the netherverse between "colorful," "fashionable" and "trashy." And as you watch this semi-glamorous, overly twitchy group from across the room, you think to yourself...

"God, I may be drunk,
 but at least I'm not THAT!"

This boyfriend, Steve, and his entourage introduced me to two things. The first, of course, was cocaine. After constantly bating me to do a line - - "All the cool kids are doing it..." - - I finally said yes late one night and was presented with my first line on the top of an Olivia Newton-John cd case.  (I know. Sacrilege.)

My boyfriend's friend set up the line and just before I snorted it, he actually said, "Welcome to Hell." I should have told him that Hell was being the only sober man in a group full of incessantly talking, teeth-grinding cokeheads, but instead I just did the line. And then, Steve and his friend did a line. And after a few minutes of them droning on and on about God only knows what, I looked at them and said...

"When does this become fun? 
Because, right now, this just really sucks."

And that was the end of my cocaine use and the beginning of the end of Stephen and Steve.

But before we broke up, Steve and his friends introduced me to one more thing - - cabaret.

Being the "champagne taste and beer bottle pocket" people that they were, they frequented the now-defunct cabaret room, Toulouse on the Park - - a very small cabaret room with walls that seemed to liquify the music being created there. Everything sounded so amazing. And it was in that room with Steve and his friends that I first saw and heard Julie Wilson, Liliane Montevecchi and the first cabaret performer I ever saw in person, Blossom Dearie

Going into her show, I didn't know the name, but the second she started singing, I knew her voice. Any child of the 70's knows her voice. It's embedded in our brain in multiples of 8 from her Schoolhouse Rock! song "Figure Eight." I'll bet you hear her voice anytime you "Unpack Your Adjectives."

Hearing her that night was a thill for me. Her unique voice, her gentle command of the room, the incredible jazz takes on standards. I really fell in love with her. 

After her show, Steve, his friends and I went to another piano bar and it just happened to be open mic night. And they badgered me to sing. And I did. And a couple of months later, I was doing a mini-cabaret show of my own. At Toulouse. 

So, no matter how cheesy it sounds, seeing Blossom Dearie really changed my life. And I am deeply saddened with her passing this past weekend. She was 82 years old.

Here she is on the Jack Parr Show singing, "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." Yes, THAT "Surrey with the Fringe on Top." How do you sing a song about a carriage and not sound like Elly Mae Clampett? Watch and listen to Blossom swing it...


Kevin said...

As a kid, I used to think the lyrics were "Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry when I take you out in Missouri, when I take you out in Missouri with the fringe on top."

Never made sense to me.

yellowdog granny said...

I want you to know I saw her sing that on Jack Parr show..I never missed the jack parr show..he was my hero ..I have all his books..He was one of the funniest people ever...have you ever heard julie london? she's good too.

Project Christopher said...

You have the ODDEST sense of introduction.... I think that's why your comedy works LOL

Viking Zombie Boyfriend said...

I love Blossom, too! I only discovered her in the last year, when I heard "I'm Hip" on a cable radio station. She was quirky, charming, and endlessly creative. It's a shame about her passing, but it sounds like she had a very full life.

Mark in DE said...

I love that name: Blossom Dearie!!!

Anonymous said...

I am very sad, and in a small corner happy.

I adore Blossom Dearie. Her takes on When in Rome and Rhode Island are literally without equal. My brother and his bride danced to her Our Love Is Here To Stay as their first dance at their wedding. I am incredibly sad to hear of her passing.

The one small happiness? In a weird way, I'm glad I heard it from you Stephen, even via blog. Somehow that she was important not just to me, but to an artist I admire so much makes me feel better. It's a reminder that her artistry truly is immortal.

David said...

I had no idea she passed away! Awww...,

Bunny said...

When I saw the name "Blossom" in the title I was afraid this was going to include a Mayim Bialik flashback. Praise the Lawd and hallelujah it did not!