I posted this last year and as promised/threatened, I'm posting it again. Because it's my favorite Chrsitmas memory.
Both of my parents were/are totally nuts. Not usually bad (although Big Lou had a temper and Mom could handle herself in a fight) but funny, and, if you were their kid, often embarrassing to some degree.
Everything I am about to tell you is true. I witnessed it first hand.
In December of 1993 my father, Big Lou, worked for an auto company has never taken a loan from the government.
One of his friends was given some tickets to the Kenny Rogers Christmas Spectacular which was playing at the Fox Theater in downtown Detroit. Three of those tickets found their way to Big Lou.
So I put the folks in my car and we went downtown to see the show. When we got there it turned out that we had front row seats. Big Lou sat on the left-hand end of the row, then Mom and then me.
The opening act was Shelby Lynne, who, despite having a Sinead O’Conner haircut was pretty cute and very enjoyable.
When the curtains opened up to start the main act the music started and out comes Kenny Rogers. He’s carrying a bunch of tambourines and he starts tossing them into the crowd.
My mother suddenly turned into Arnold Horshack, waving her arms in the air, bouncing half out of her seat and yelling Oooo! Oooo! Kenny (I call him Kenny) sees her, and sensing her desperation tosses Mom a Tambourine and goes on with his opening number.
Then he talks to the crowd a bit and tells the lucky few Tambourinists how and when to provide accompaniment and goes on with the show. He does a song or two and then stops. The house lights come up and Kenny starts to talk again.
He tells the audience how much he likes to watch the crowd as he performs. He can always tell who his fans are when he sees them singing along to every song in his repertoire. And he can also spot people who have been dragged in against their will. “People like this guy” he says, pointing to my Father.
The subsequent conversation went something like this:
Kenny: What’s you name?
Big Lou: Lou!
Kenny: Lou, tell me the truth now, you won’t hurt my feelings. Would you say you’re a big fan and you know all my songs, kind of a fan and you know some of the songs, or not a fan at all?
Big Lou: Kind of a fan.
Kenny: Kind of a fan. OK, Lou. Prove it. I’ll tell you what. For every one of my songs that you can name, I’ll give you $10.
Naturally, Big Lou freezes like a skinny dipping Inuit. Mom and I start trying to feed him answers. “The Gambler, Ruby, Lucile, Coward of the County...”
But we get shushed by Kenny. “No helping” he says.
Big Lou: The Gambler
Kenny: The Gambler. (Sighs and rolls his eyes) Fine. Here you go.
And he tosses Big Lou a ten spot!
But now Big Lou is out of answers and Mom and I are just dying because this is freaking great.
So Kenny say’s “Tell you what Lou. Every time you hear one of my songs you know just raise your hand and I’ll give you $10. But you have to be honest. I trust you.”
Big Lou: OK!
So the band starts up again and here we go with Coward of the County. After the first few bars up goes Big Lou’s hand and Kenny stroll over to the corner of the stage. Without stopping the song he tosses Lou another $10. He does two more songs and the same thing happens. So now Big Lou is up $40 on the free tickets he got.
The band starts up again and within a few notes his hand shoots up. He’s not going to miss any of this free money. Kenny starts singing Happy Birthday and Big Lou gets busted. But we all laugh, a fifth song starts up and bam, another $10 for Lou.
So now Kenny stops to talk again. He says that now is the time in the show where he asks for volunteers from the audience. He says that there are some rules. If you get picked you have to come up and you can’t volunteer anyone else. But he can.
Kenny: Lou, you have $50 of my money. Come on up here.
So up goes Big Lou and Kenny shows him where to stand. Then he asks for more volunteers.
Again, Mom goes into her Ron Palilo routine and again, sensing her need, Kenny points to Mom and up she goes. Ten more people get picked and they all form a line on stage with Big Lou at the far end of stage left and Mom right next to him.
Meanwhile I’m loving every minute of this, it’s a riot.
Now Kenny grabs a stack of what look like 8x10 pieces of poster board and hands one to each of the people on stage. He announces that they’re all going to sing The 12 Days of Christmas. Each person will sing the line on the card while Kenny sings the rest of the lyrics.
The music starts up and Kenny sings “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”
Dads up first and even though he’s really a Baritone he’s always thought he was a Bass. In whatever the opposite of a falsetto is, he croaks out “…a partridge in a pear tree”.
The music stops.
Without a word he takes my father by the arm and moves him to the other end of the line, takes the last guys card and gives it to Big Lou and gives Big Lou’s card to the guy on the end. That guy gets moved up to the front to stand next to my Mom.
It’s a good crowd and they’re all laughing like hell and applauding. Big Lou is laughing along too. I’m in there in the front row and I must have been laughing harder than anyone else.
The music starts up again and Kenny sings “On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”
Now it’s Mom’s turn. She used to sing in the church choir. She sings “… a partridge in a pear tree.”
Kenny is shocked.
The music stops and he tries to tell her it’s two turtle doves but Mom isn’t having it! She starts arguing with the man on stage in front of a packed house! She knows the words, and it’s a partridge in a pear tree! He finally points to the card in her hand and eventually it sinks in. Vintage Mom. It was absolutely perfect!
The audience is howling and I am sprawled across all three of our seats, laughing hysterically, and hoping that if I do actually die laughing that someone will resuscitate me fast enough to see the rest of the show.
They try it again and this time Mom comes through.
Finally it’s Big Lou’s turn again, the crowd applauds, the song ends and my parents and the other 10 people on stage all shake Kennys hand and return to their seats.
Kenny does a few more songs, Shelby Lynn comes out and they sing a duet and then the show ends.
As we leave the theater people are calling out to my Dad and he’s waving back, loving the attention “yeah, I got $50” he tells people who ask. I just walk along with Mom and Big Lou, smiling and bemused.
That is probably my favorite Christmas memory. If I ever get the chance to meet Kenny Rogers I fully intend to thank him for the great time, the great show and the great memory.
If you live in a place where he puts on a Christmas show, go see it. Even if you don’t end up in the front row I expect you’ll still enjoy it.
Now please, share a fun and funny holiday memory of your own.