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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

Name dropping. Who did you meet?

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Showing 51-66 of 66 posts in this discussion
Posted on May 2, 2011, 5:56:29 PM PDT
bejart7092 says:
Since Mozart deleted his original post, I have only a guess as to what his intent was for this thread. All of my stories of brushes with famous people are confined to the dramatic arts --- theater, dance, film, etc.

Although I did share a house one summer with the composer Michael Kamen and his family.

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2011, 10:32:28 PM PDT

Your stories are amazing. You have truly lived. Now that I mentor young people, I always tell them to go for whatever opportunity comes their way. I have tried the same approach, but opportunity has stealthily avoided me. Oh well. I just tell them to dive in head first but mind the concrete (and make sure there's water in the pool). Maybe one day I can start a company: Superhugefatass jeans (TM).

Posted on May 2, 2011, 10:42:29 PM PDT
<<Maybe one day I can start a company: Superhugefatass jeans (TM).
if you use 'i'm too sexy for my shirt' in the commercial, I'll buy a pair.

Posted on May 2, 2011, 11:33:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2011, 8:53:06 PM PDT
I have a number of second hand stories, from friends who met or knew famous musicians, or composers, or actors/actresses/directors over the years, but alas, only a handful of my own.

In the 1980s I had dinner with a group of period instrument musicians, among them was violinist Jaap Schroeder. At the time I had been listening to Christopher Hogwood's LP set of Mozart Symphonies, for which Schroeder had served as concert master, and mentioned it to the fellow sitting next to me, a cellist--explaining that it had been as if I was hearing Mozart for the very first time. The man nodded, and replied, "Oh you should tell Jaap that." He then called down the table, "Jaap, listen to this", and back to me insistently, "Go ahead tell him." Schroeder now fixed his gaze on me, and I suddenly realized that everyone at the table was staring at me expectantly. "Um, Mr. Schroeder", I said, "I just wanted to tell you that when I first heard the Mozart Symphonies you recorded with the Academy of Ancient Music, I felt as if I was hearing Mozart for the very first time." For a moment the expression on his face didn't change, and my heart sank. He then slightly nodded, and said a polite "thank you", and nothing more to me for the rest of the entire evening. I got the feeling that he thought I was completely out of my mind.

A second story. I've told this one before on the forum. For many years I lived across the hall from the late Spanish pianist Alicia De Larrocha in NYC. Of course the temptation to linger in the hallway when she was practicing was more than I could resist sometimes--fortunately, our building had carpets, so I could steal away quickly, if need be. I also found that if I left my bathroom door open, I could often hear her playing if I got into the shower and pressed my ear firmly against the tiles. One day after exchanging pleasantries at the elevator, she suddenly turned to me with a serious look on her face and said, "I hope that my piano doesn't bother you?" To which I replied, "As far as I'm concerned you can bring your piano into my living room." She laughed.

A third story. Years ago, I had a friend who was actively involved in the classical music world, who knew everyone it seemed, and he used to tell lots of funny stories about musicians and composers who were his friends. Unfortunately, at the time I didn't know much about classical music. Then later, when I moved to London to go to school, he urged me to look up two of these friends, Ollie and Simon. However, being busy with my studies, and rather shy, I didn't go through with it, even though he wrote to give me their phone numbers, and to say that they were expecting me to ring them. But I never did. Years later, after I had become more knowledgeable about classical music, and remembering his stories, I realized that Ollie and Simon were Oliver Knussen and Simon Rattle. Regrettably, I never met either man.

Posted on May 3, 2011, 3:05:55 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2011, 4:00:11 AM PDT
bejart7092 says:
One night, after finishing a show in NYC, I walked into a crowded bar where other actors hung out. I stood behind a small, slim silver-haired man sipping a Heineken by himself at the bar and watched the Yankees play on the TV overhead. After spending a few moments trying to determine the score, I called out above the din of the crowd, "Does anyone know what the score is?"

Paul Newman turned around, fastened those legendary blue eyes on mine, and said "The Yanks are leading 4-2."

"Uh. Thanks."

He turned back to his beer and watched the game, undisturbed in the crowd.

Several years later, I worked with him on 'The Verdict' on a huge sound stage in Brooklyn. His voice was so far gone to the point of needing to wear a body mike just to be heard. He was moody, needing lots of quiet huddles with the director, Sydney Pollack (EDIT:Should be Sidney Lumet). The highlight of that experience was watching Pollack (Lumet) work so differently with Newman and James Mason, the 2 leads. Lots of discussion with Newman, and none with Mason.

In one scene, a long extended take in the courtroom was most telling. Playing the lead defense attorney, Mason started his speech seated behind the counsel's table, stood up and promptly blew a line. Lumet didn't move. The cameras kept rolling. Mason sat back down, took a moment to compose himself and began again. He stood up, blew the same line and sat down once more. Lumet still didn't move. Mason composed himself one more time and began a third attempt. This time, he got the line right and continued with the extremely long complicated speech, crossing the entire courtroom to complete the scene, a cross examination of the key witness on the stand.

When he finished, the entire cast erupted into spontaneous applause.

A postscript -- Mason was 6'3'', Newman 5'6" -- they never stand side by side at any point during the entire film.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2011, 3:17:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2011, 5:49:54 AM PDT
club 7 says:
my father's a professional classical musician of many years and was freinds with henryk szeryng who i met in mexico after a performance.
Mr. szeryng came to my father and greeted him then talked then henryk asked my father "is this your kid".
He came over and put his arm around my neck and hugged me then asked me "would you like to take lessons with me?"
and i responded "if i'm going to take violin lessons then i'll takeit with my dad"
Mr. szeryng laughed at my uninhibited honesty and said "i love this kid" as my dad said "oh no"
but szeryng liked and respected my father because he knew of my father's notable talent, reputation, and achievements in classical music be it orchestral or solo.
when i grew up i realized how valuable and special a meeting this was and when i listen to szeryng it makes it all the more special knowing that i met such a great artist.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2011, 6:24:18 AM PDT
D. Pugh says:
David Friedlander, I came across this interview of Frank Zappa a while back that suggests you probably made the right decision. In my opinion, life's too short to suck up to a_holes, even famous ones.


Here's the relevant excerpt from the interview, Zappa's thoughts on working with other musicians:

JON WINOKUR - One of the things that I appreciate about your music is its precision. Are you a taskmaster?

FRANK ZAPPA - Well, I'm not murder on them, but I don't let them mess around. Just because it's a rock 'n' roll band is no reason you shouldn't have the same discipline and precision that you ask for in an orchestra- after all, you're handing a guy a paycheck. You try to hire people who can actually play, but even people who can play get lazy. Musicians are unbelievably lazy. And the discipline that you have to create in order to get them to show up on time, to get from place to place in a group- it's a little bit like running an army. Working with live musicians tends to take some of the fun out of life, I won't make any bones about it. You may life the results when you finally listen to it, but it's just like making sausage: not a pretty process.

JON WINOKUR - Would you prefer not to have to rely on it?

FRANK ZAPPA - Yes, and that's the way I live now. The things I can do with the synclavier are mind-boggling. It truly does give you the ability, should you choose to do so, to do away with human beings as musical performers. All you've got to do is get a sample of a single note. If you can get a guy to blow one note on the clarinet, he's gone.

JON WINOKUR - Do you miss performing in front of a live audience?

FRANK ZAPPA - I used to love going on stage and playing the guitar, but now I don't play unless I've got a reason. Why make your fingers wiggle if you already know what the notes are?

Posted on May 3, 2011, 9:16:18 AM PDT
Bejart--Great stories, but you've mistakenly confused Sidney Lumet with Sydney Pollack. I adored that film, it's one of my all time favorite American movies, and am fascinated to hear your stories, especially that Newman needed a microphone. Stellar cast too, particularly Newman, Rampling, and Mason. Thanks.

I stood next to Newman at the premiere of a Coen brothers film years ago (The Big Lebowski), and was struck by how small he was--not what I expected. I've found that film actors (not stage actors) often have big heads and small bodies. Jeff Bridges was the exception--'the dude' is big guy.

Posted on May 3, 2011, 5:01:58 PM PDT
bejart7092 says:
M. R. Simpson says:
"...you've mistakenly confused Sidney Lumet with Sydney Pollack...."

You're absolutely correct. That's what happens when the mind begins to go.

Posted on May 3, 2011, 6:03:06 PM PDT
Dichterliebe says:
I worked at a small boutique hotel (the Alexis) after I came back from college and REM was staying there. I took an order up to Michael Stipe and he remarked that the staff was filled with nice people. I replied that we were shiny, happy people. :)

Posted on May 3, 2011, 7:05:50 PM PDT
I've sung under James Conlon, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, John Williams, Harry Ellis Dickson (his last concert), Keith Lockhart, Paul Daniel, and Harry Christophers. I don't tend to go to post-concert receptions or wait at the stage door, so I haven't met a ton of famous musicians. Yehudi Wyner (Pulitzer-winning composer) was one of my professors at Brandeis; his wife used to sing at the MET and now conducts.

Probably the nicest luminary I've met was Menahem Pressler, several times. When giving a master class, he discovered that the music library hadn't pulled scores for him and he asked if anybody had them. I raised my hand since I had brought my own, and when I tried to pass them up to him, he insisted that I come and sit next to him so that we could both see them! During the performances, he'd whisper to me "I didn't like that, did you?" or "That was very good, I wouldn't have thought of that!" A couple of years later he gave a wonderful recital that included the Debussy Éstampes, the Schumann Faschingsschwank aus Wien, and the Chopin Preludes. In the third movement of the Schumann, he lost his way and improvised until he could find a way to end the movement, brilliantly I might add. I don't think that anybody in the audience who didn't know the piece would have noticed. After the concert, he was greeting people and he walked over to me and asked me if I'd ever played any of the program. I replied that I had done some of the Chopin, and all of the Debussy and Schumann. He turned a bit pale, put his hand on my shoulder, and said "sometimes we do things like that with the best of intention!" I did convince him to sign the second volume of my Beethoven piano sonatas, even though it's the Henle edition which he doesn't like.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2011, 8:26:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2011, 8:29:55 PM PDT
D. Pugh - The Zappa interview you found shows he might have been even worse than I thought. It certainly explains why that guitarist was leaving. That last line is a "WTF!" Maybe he was pulling Winokur's leg, but those words sound pretty arrogant to me. After all, "if you already know what the notes are" doesn't the discovery just begin? - Find new ways of putting those notes together. New melodies, new direction, new combinations, etc. IMHO, someone who truly loves creating music is never done exploring and creating. Then - share it with your audience. It sounds like he could care less about all his fans and he his turned his back away from giving them joy.

Of course a person never knows what might have been but there was something foreboding and dark about the scene that night.

Posted on May 4, 2011, 2:56:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2011, 3:57:39 AM PDT
bejart7092 says:
My Jane Fonda story ---

During the imminently forgettable movie Rollover Kris Kristofferson and Jane Fonda are introduced to each other in a crowded elevator in NYC's Rockefeller Center. Alan J. Pakula liked the Art Deco elevator door, but using the real thing instead of a set piece meant that after each take, the actors had to ride up one floor, have the doors open and close, and then ride back down to the floor where the shot was being filmed for the next take.

The supporting actors were arranged according the height, the taller ones generally toward the back and the shorter ones in front. With her high heeled boots, Jane was just an inch shorter than I was at 5'9", so I was chosen to stand in right front of her as the scene ended, turning to face the camera as the doors closed. It was pretty tight in the crowded elevator, and after each take, we would ride up and down in complete silence.

After a couple of takes, we did the scene once more, only this time when I stood directly in front of Jane, she grabbed my a**. My eyes bugged out as I faced the camera. As before, we rode up and down in silence, and I glanced at her as we took our places to run the scene again. She had a slight smile on her face, but didn't acknowledge my presence as she strode past me to take her place for the next take.

Needless to say, that take didn't make it into the final version. In fact, the whole scene ended up on the cutting room floor ---

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2011, 9:43:48 PM PDT
Fascinating to read your anecdote about The Verdict. I just watched it on DVD a couple of weeks ago (one of those films I have the itch to watch again every 7 years or so.) In his commentary, Sidney Lumet says of James Mason something to the effect of his needing no direction -- pretty much what you observed, I'd say!
I can't say what astonishes me more - Mason was 6'3", or Newman was 5'6"!

Posted on May 31, 2012, 9:12:29 PM PDT
This thread belongs with the "What are your other interests..." thread. Too bad we can't just blend them together.

Posted on May 31, 2012, 9:26:38 PM PDT
I once heard the following story from a friend-of-a-friend of the protagonist:

A double-bass player in the Los Angeles Philharmonic was in the orchestra during Carlo Maria Giulini's tenure as Music Director. Apparently Giulini was looked upon by the members of the orchestra as a saint -- a courtly, old-world Italian gentleman whose relationship to music was spiritual in the extreme. They venerated him, and rarely approached him off the podium due to a combination of awe and respect.

One night the bass player had an amusing dream in which he was a cab driver, and happened to pick up Giulini as a passenger.

The next morning, he went to rehearsal and was riding up in the elevator. The elevator stopped and on stepped its only other occupant for the remainder of the ride -- Maestro Giulini. The bass player, who had barely ever spoken to Giulini before, except to say "Good morning" or "Bravo", summoned up his courage and said, "Maestro, you were in my dream last night."

Giulini raised an eyebrow. "Really?" he said.

"Yes," said the bass player. "In my dream I was driving a taxi-cab, and I picked you up as my passenger and took you to your next concert."

Giulini broke into a wry smile, and asked, "Did I tip well?" They both had a good laugh on their way to the stage.
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