Donna Summer and a few other things

When I teach, which I do as much as possible, I often talk about GOOD STORIES. What are they? How do we recognize them? What do they look like and sound like? How do we know them? And how do we know BAD STORIES? There are many (many many) pompous essays explaining stories but really, a good story needs no explanation. You just sit there and listen because you want to know what happened.

I have a few. I wish I had an infinite supply. Here’s one. For ten years I taught at Parsons School of Design, where I wrote a curriculum (it wasn’t really a curriculum but that was the word the Parsons OFFICIALS you should have seen them gave what I did. They couldn’t think of a better word although I gave many suggestions) to teach writing to visual artists. In one class I had a student I instantly LOVED (you’re not supposed to do that) who was enormous and adorable and a gay male in madras bermudas. It was the 80’s. I guess some gay men had madras bermudas. I told the class that they should come up one by one and tell everyone what they’d do if they could do ANYTHING because I have always believed that we could do ANYTHING if we say it, and if we’re lucky. This guy I’ll call him GARY he lived in Hoboken with his mother and grandmother he said he could only tell us if we turned around and didn’t look at him (instead of him turning around) but we all did. They he announced to our BACKS that he would like to sing in Donna Summer’s back up band.

It turned out the way some things do that my friend SHEILA was taking care of her first Alzheimers patient, a famous Broadway Actress who lost everything except her singing voice. Sheila was taking the famous actress to a famous singing teacher once a week. I called Sheila and asked if Gary could go to the singer. “Of course,” she said. “Just say that Barbara (the Alzheimers Actress) recommended him. Barbara won’t know, and neither will the teacher.” That’s what Gary did.

AND THEN it turned out that the famous singing teacher DID CASTING for his OLD FRIEND DONNA SUMMER. In the end GARY sang backup for Donna Summer (and I claimed a personal and entirely unjustified victory).

A few weeks ago after many years I got an email (how did he find me?) from Gary. Oh My God he said. Did I love Donna Summer.

It took him a while to say that, but he did.