Stories From My Life, #14: How the pop star Tony Orlando played a part in snagging my wife, Becky
I met Becky in early 1983. I was thirty-seven years old at the time, and my parents were convinced that I would never marry. As the months passed, I realized that my chances of ever again finding another female as beautiful and smart as she were tiny indeed. Add to that the fact that she had the stamina to tolerate the antics of a classic Virgo (all ducks in a row, that sort of thing) was noteworthy. And so, I started to make plans. Somehow, I needed to trick her into thinking that I was worthy of consideration as a long-term mate.
Fast forward to the fall of 1983 when I decided to impress her by taking her to Lake Tahoe for a weekend, to see some live stage shows. One that was playing at Harrah’s was Tony Orlando. Many of you will remember Tony Orlando and Dawn and their 1970’s hits, including “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” and “Knock Three Times.”
Determined to demonstrate that I was someone who could get things done, I made sure that Becky saw me slip the maître d’ a bank note of significant size, accompanied by my whispered comment: “Any chance of getting a better seat somewhere near the front?” I expected a better seat, but was surprised indeed when he marched us up to the very front tables. So far, so good!
Before the show began, we had the usual drinks served at the table. Soon the show began. Not long into the show, Tony began perspiring, took off his jacket, and threw it back to the band leader. Becky and I were having a good time, particularly being so close to the stage. And then it happened! Tony asked for someone from the audience to join him on stage. After making a show of looking around, his eyes found mine, and he motioned for me to come on stage. My mother raised no dummies; I was keen to the opening I was being presented: Here was my chance to impress the hell out of one Rebecca Ann Tolbert.
I arrived on stage, and Tony explained that he wanted me to help him out, but that I needed to be more relaxed and casual. I was wearing a jacket and tie (common back then). In one smooth motion I took off my jacket and hurled it directly to the band leader standing to the rear, just as Tony had done earlier. When the audience started whooping it up, I knew then that I had them where I wanted them. Tony then mentioned my tie. I took it off, balled it up, and flung it into the audience. By then, the audience was howling and thought that I was a plant.
The rest of my appearance involved leading a song that had me alternately leading the left and right sides of the audience. That went well. Because there was music involved, I proceeded to dance and displayed a fancy slide step I had developed years earlier. Tony seemed particularly impressed with that and tried in vain to duplicate my move. The excitement ended with me returning to my seat where Becky and I shared (with others at our table) a bottle of champagne that I had earned for my hard work.
Addendum Number One: As Becky and I left the table, we were presented with the picture you see above. I asked the photographer (Barb) if she would please ask Tony to sign it. She did, he did, and you see his written words.
Addendum Number Two: Becky and I were amazed at the number of people who afterwards came up to us and wanted pictures. A twenty minutes of fame kind of thing. The most common question: Was I part of the show (see Addendum Number Three)?
Addendum Number Three: To this day, Becky has no idea how much of that evening had been planned ahead of time and how much was pure coincidence.
Stories from My Life, #13: A Tribute to my Stepbrother, Bud Lancaster
We remember things differently, you and I. What stands out to one person from the distant past means nothing to another. This is often true for siblings. And so it happens that one will say to the other, “Don’t you remember when Dad did this or Dad did that?” “No,” the other says. “But surely you remember this.”
And so it is with my stepbrother, Bud Lancaster, who passed away about a week ago. I won’t embellish the accolades that family and friends have given him. They’ve emphasized how he was patriotic, how he and his wife, Therese, raised three wonderful daughters, and how much fun he was to be around. All of these statements are true.
To understand what it is that I remember about Bud, and to set the stage, I need to take you back some sixty-two years, to 1958 (I was thirteen). That was when my mother, Ottilie, remarried. She became Ottilie Tag, and her new husband, Herbert Tag, adopted me. He was my new father.
During one Christmas period around that time, I remember Dad putting together a package that he was mailing to California. I don’t remember when it was that I figured out that he had a son from a previous marriage to whom he was mailing presents. That son was Bud Lancaster.
Let’s now move ahead in time another two decades. In the late 1970’s, Bud made the decision to reach out to his original father and, in so doing, he met me. Coincidentally, through circumstances tied to my job, I moved to California in 1972. I lived just a two hours’ drive from Bud and Therese, who lived near San Francisco at the time. That marked the beginning of a friendship between me and the Lancaster family, which then evolved to include Becky (we married in August of 1984). That relationship continues to this day.
What happened shortly after Becky and I married is the point of this story. In December of 1984, Mom and Dad went for a vacation in Hawaii. As fate would have it, only a couple days into their vacation, it happened: Dad had a significant heart attack. He would not be going home anytime soon.
While Becky and I were coming to grips with the situation, Bud took immediate charge. My recollection tells me that he was on an airplane to Hawaii the next day. Long story short, he found an apartment for them, where they stayed for about a month before Dad was allowed to fly. Bud did not leave until he made sure that everything was in order and that Mom and Dad’s needs were taken care of. I arrived a week or so later.
Over the history of time, few will recall what happened back then. But to the people involved, it was a significant and thoughtful contribution. I am proud to remember Bud Lancaster as the unselfish person who knew what to do and made things right in that singular moment. I thank him, Therese, and his three daughters, Jenny, Kelly, and Andrea, for allowing me to become a part of such a generous and kind family. And knowing Bud and Therese as well as I do, I can report that the apples have not fallen far from the tree.
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