Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A magical moment of Wonder

I just received an invitation to attend and cover a benefit concert at B.B. King's Blues Club this weekend. I jumped at the chance when I learned that Stevie Wonder will be performing there. In my e-mail reply to the woman who sent the invitation, I found myself transported back to a most magical moment in my life. Here's where the story picks up:

When I was a very, very young person, the TV program “Where the Action Is” invited me (and any other Burbank High School students) up to DeBell Golf Course’s Luau Grounds where they were doing a day-long taping for a show that would air later. They needed hip young kids to be in the outdoor audience, but they had to settle for a few kids like me who bordered on boring. Of course there was a lot of set-up time required between performers, so we had to mill around and wait for a while.

But anything's better than being in school, right?

I was quite shy in high school — I had a few friends who were equally invisible. That’s pretty common, I guess. Between the tapings that day, I felt more comfortable wandering off in search of a more quiet place.

I noticed a little thatched-roof cabana off away from my acned peers, so I went there to escape for a while. I pulled the canvas door open and there was just enough room for a spinet piano and a bench. A young man was sitting there alone, playing the piano. He was about my age and I could quickly tell that he was blind. I felt the urge to quietly close the canopy flap and quietly slip away, unnoticed. But before I could he turned his head my way and, still playing, he said, “Hi. Come on in. He moved slightly to the right and, with a sort of gesture with his head and his shoulders, invited me to next to him. I didn’t recognize the melodies he played — probably because he was creating them at the moment.

I wouldn’t have known back then how to describe the way the music touched me — I still couldn’t today. But it was beautiful. He even sang a phrase now and then as he played. Of course, it was Little Stevie Wonder, as he was known up until about that time.

It was one of those most wonderful fifteen or twenty minutes of my life. I had seen him playing the drums and harmonica, I believe, in one of the Frankie Avalon & Annette Beach Blanket movies a year or two earlier. Now he was older – maybe 14 or 15. The encounter that day was as comfortable as any chance encounter could be. His warmth filled the cabana. His music fascinated me and his talent overwhelmed me.

After a while, however, some of the other kids discovered him and the piano and crowded in. Stevie was happy to have them squeeze in behind him as he continued playing and singing. But somehow the group went into “Ohmygod, it’s a celebrity” mode and my brief time, sitting next to this great kid came to an end. Within an hour or so, Little Stevie’s manager or someone guided him into the center of a wide circle of my classmates and we watched him lip sync aloud to “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”.

We all clapped and marveled to the music of a young singer who was already famous. The other kids probably went home and told their folks about Stevie Wonder and the other popular singers and groups they had watched that day. I left there feeling as if I had made a new friend.

Over the years as a journalist, I would meet and interview other famous people. Most of them were kind and gracious, but a few would want you to believe that they were somehow more special than anyone else. Sure, what they did may have been special, but I always knew that they were no more human than any other person I encountered.

Everyone has a gift. Some people discover theirs, harness it, package it and ride it to fame and fortune. Others discover their gift and apply it to their own little world. Some go through life never knowing the gift they have.

Somehow, I’ve been blessed with my own gift — the ability to see and hear what people aren’t trying to show and aren’t meaning to say. Often, in enables me to discover the precious qualities that no one else sees in them.

Looking back, I wonder if maybe I witnessed for the first time that kind of vision in that kid playing piano that day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I must say that this is one of the reasons you are and shall always be my friend. We occasionally have differences in our political views and even our social views at times but you are and always will be one of the most insightful and caring people I've ever met. This article proves my point.

Now, any extra tickets for Saturday nite??? ;-P


Tim Harris