Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, Lee discusses the reality of the right vibe.
As a music journalist, one of the biggest perks of my job is being able to speak to musicians I admire and whose work I've enjoyed over the years. If an interview goes especially well, I tend to think we've made a personal connection, one that will hopefully carry over if and when we actually meet in person. Of course, I also realize that at times, artists put on those affable airs for the sake of a favorable writeup, but if that's the case, most do a pretty good job of seducing me. I often hang up the phone thinking I've made a new best friend.
Some people tell me that I'm deluding myself and that as soon as the interview is over, the artist forgets about our exchange and merely moves on to the next person on his or her press schedule. And while that may be the case, I'm always eager to test my theory and find out if, in fact, the connection is credible.
In the past year, I've had the opportunity to do just that, and in two encounters, I found opposite results.
Last January, I had the chance to interview one of the most enduring names in pop music history, Art Garfunkel, he of Simon and Garfunkel fame. I have to admit, I was starstruck; after all, I grew up listening to this duo and songs such as "Sounds of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," "Mrs. Robinson" -- these songs formed the soundtrack of my youth.
To my surprise and delight, Garfunkel was as amiable as he was informative, and the casual cadence of his speaking voice -- with his casual asides and candid explanations -- convinced me that the conversation was going great. He ended the call by explaining that he had to go and take his kids to see the movie Gravity, and I told him I'd look forward to seeing him at his concert at the Broward Center a couple of weeks later.
During the Q&A session that followed the show, Garfunkel certainly left that possibility wide open. Person after person stood up after being called upon, recounting how they once lived next to him when he was a kid in the New York suburbs, explaining how his mother once baby-sat for them, or how they shared space in the school yearbook. Garfunkel graciously responded by inviting many of them to come backstage after the show, with the result that by the time he exited the stage, he had a substantial number of potential backstage visitors. My wife, Alisa, and I simply tagged along, even going so far as to walk into the unguarded backstage area with hopes that Garfunkel would be there to greet us.
We made it fairly far into those backstage corridors but then found ourselves herded into a waiting area, where we were instructed to wait for the man to appear. Forty minutes went by and there was still no sign of the singer, until finally, one of his reps came out and informed us that Garfunkel was tired and was simply going to return to his hotel while forsaking the promised backstage meet and greet. Most of the crowd left, but we found ourselves lingering around in casual conversation with a couple that also chose to stick around.
Then... surprise! Without warning, Garfunkel suddenly stuck his head out the door and offered an apology for not wanting to linger any longer. It seemed strange to see him so belatedly, especially after everyone had long since given up. Yet with only two or three couples remaining, I wasted no time in going to the door and offering a cursory hello. "Art, good to see you," I greeted him. "Remember me? I'm Lee. We spoke a couple of weeks ago and had this wonderful interview."
If you've ever seen a deer staring into the headlights, then maybe you can picture the look on Garfunkel's face. It was clear he had no clue. "No, I can't say I remember you," he replied blankly.
Flush with disappointment, I persevered. "But Artie," I pleaded, "we had such a great talk," I said, running down all the topics we had touched upon, before adding the reference that I thought would shake his memory, his closing remarks about taking the kids to see Gravity.
It didn't. Looking as dumbfounded as before, he simply said, "You know, I do a lot of interviews..."
Realizing this was obviously going nowhere, I forced myself to be content with an autograph and went on my way. In retrospect, I came to find the whole scenario somewhat humorous, and it became what I now call "the Garfunkel Effect," a description synonymous with apparent short-term memory loss.
On the other hand, my recent phone encounter with Lyle Lovett culminated with a great meeting after his show at Miami's Arsht Center, where thankfully he did remember me. I knew from having seen him in concert that Lovett is an unaffected, down-to-earth individual, one who lacks any airs indicative of stardom or an excessive ego.
In fact, when we were on the phone, he asked me almost as many questions about my life as I asked about his, and he even shared his cell number, inviting me to give him a call if I needed help going backstage. He was a genuinely nice guy, I concluded, and I became all the more determined to say hi to him after his show.
In this case, the artist lived up to my expectations. When I introduced myself to him at the intimate after show encounter, he recognized my name immediately and thanked me profusely for sticking around and taking the time to say hello.
He's thanking me? I gasped. Yes, and not only that, he was gracious enough to spend some time chatting as we recounted some of the subjects we had casually discussed the week previously. He remembered everything I brought up, and we shared several laughs. We took the obligatory photo, and in that moment, I got the sense the connection was complete.
Hence, "the Lyle Lovett Effect."
The saga continues no doubt. I interviewed the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward this past week. So I'm already wondering what, if anything, awaits if we get to go backstage after his concert at the Parker Playhouse. Suffice it to say, I think he's a potential pal.