When I saw the ad for my heartthrob teen idol Johnny Mathis performing in “The Voice of Romance Tour” at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury, I asked my daughter Samantha to get me tickets for my birthday. Two months later, I sat in row Q (too far back, but the only seats available ) among a sold-out crowd of 50-plusers, all wildly applauding the 82-year-old icon.
As Johnny walked down the long aisle leading to the stage, the crowd went wild. He took to the stage and immediately began his show, singing his classic, wildly popular songs first sung in 1956, “Wonderful, Wonderful” and” It’s Not for Me to Say,” bringing down the house as the audience screamed and cried, “WE LOVE YOU, JOHNNY.” I couldn’t help but scream my love too.
His songs were part of my growing up, my love affairs and then marriages, and he brought tears to my eyes with his lyrics and warm, timeless voice. Somehow, he looks just like I remember him as a teenager, goo-goo over his good looks and heartthrob presence. He is still slim, dressed in a power suit, white shirt and tie and matching pocket handkerchief. His hair is as thick and dark as when he began his career. But, most of all it’s his voice that’s still so unique, warm and mellow.
No wonder he has received awards from all the major award organizations and is even included in the Guinness Book of World Records for having an unprecedented 490 continuous weeks, almost 10 years, on the Billboard top albums chart. He has had a hit in every decade of his career and no wonder. He sings songs that fit every generation that loves hearing lyrics and his first hit “Chances Are” is still a beloved song.
After all, how can any woman resist its lyrics, “Hold me close, dear, Chances are you believe the stars that fill the skies are in my eyes!” Any heart would melt hearing those magical words.
Johnny grew up in the San Francisco area with a devoted dad, a cabaret performer who bought his son a $25 piano to help him practice his singing. When Johnny began his college career, he became a successful high jumper. Bill Russell, his classmate at San Francisco State University, destined to become an NBA Hall of Famer, competed with him and they were both chosen by the San Francisco Chronicle as “Best All-Around Athlete” to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area. He had a chance to go to the 1956 Olympics tryouts but chose instead to follow his dreams of a singing career and went to New York to record an album with Columbia Records. The rest is history!
A golden afternoon at “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
One of my all-time favorite movies is the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” starring the one and only brilliant funny man and great actor Gene Wilder. It’s the story of the contest created by Willy Wonka, a chocolatier with a dark side, who wants to reinvent his chocolate brand and creates a worldwide search for five golden tickets in the chocolate bars that are to be found by five children. The focus of the story is on a sweet boy living in poverty with his grandparents and mom. Charlie finds the golden ticket, and his grandpa takes him to get his prize.
The Roald Dahl book has been reborn as a captivating Broadway play starring, in the Gene Wilder role, brilliant two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle. The role of Charlie Bucket is played by three boys. On Sunday, I saw the remarkable Ryan Foust playing alongside John Rubinstein as Grandpa Joe and Emily Padgett as Mrs. Bucket.
The top-notch, sold-out matinee had an enchanting, beguiling performance by Christian Borle, who mesmerized my four grandchildren, who all gave the show a “10.”
When we entered the lobby, we couldn’t resist the snack bar, reinvented as a Dylan’s Candy Bar with chocolate bars and the famous gold chocolate bars too.
We had to have a chocolate fix before the show, and did we ever!
With great acting, dancing by the unique Oompa-Loompa Dancers and creative sets, the show will be remembered and cherished in our memory bank, and being together is priceless.
After the theater, we shared the unique family-style dishes of Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, and took plenty of leftovers home.
Get well fast
My best wishes to Linda Spiegel, the community relations director of Margaret Tietz, who fell and needed surgery on her knee. Best wishes on your speedy recovery!