Monday, November 5, 2018

Dionne Warwick

On our recent flight to Europe, we met the legendary songstress Dionne Warwick. I am not telling you about this as a silly boast (there is nothing to boast about accidentally bumping into a celebrity, which I am sure has happened to many of you, and which in and of itself means nothing). No, I am telling you this because of the very fun and funny way in which it happened, and mostly because it was an excellent learning lesson for me:

We were on our way to Brussels, Belgium. We had just spent the night crossing the Atlantic, and we landed in Dublin, Ireland, for our connection to Belgium.

We had a couple of hours to spare, so we went shopping a little bit in the duty-free area. I was standing in line to pay the cashier for some minor purchases. Next to me stood a thirty-something man, also buying some trinkets. He courteously said to me “Go ahead, sir.” I thanked him, and we started chatting a bit. He asked me where I was going, and I told him - Brussels, Belgium. I asked him where he was heading. He replied that he and his family were going to some seaside town in England...he couldn’t quite remember the name of the place...

Figures, I thought to myself. Geography isn’t Americans’ forte. Could he mean London, maybe? The guy was probably not an experienced traveler; maybe his first time in Europe? I also thought, how nice, that “common folks” can travel overseas for leisure...

Presently, the guy turned towards a lady standing in line a few feet behind us (along with what seemed to be an entourage of relatives and friends) and he hollered at her, “Hey mom, what’s the name of the place we’re going to, in England?” Then, he said to me: “Go ask that lady over there, that’s my mom; she is Dionne Warwick...”

I was puzzled, wondering what he was saying. I asked: "what do you mean?" He repeated: "go ask my mom, over there. That’s Dionne Warwick..."

I looked. Sure enough, there she was, a lady with high cheekbones, older of course, but still beautiful, still recognizable.

I felt like shit. I realized right away how I had misidentified and stereotyped the thirty-something African American next to me in line, with whom I was chatting. “Common, inexperienced folks traveling overseas, ignorant of European geography?” My ass! My thoughts had been  those of a judgmental, patronizing idiot.

Since he had invited me to do so, as soon as I was done paying, I walked up to Dionne Warwick and said "I’m so sorry, I didn't understand your son at first. What a pleasure to meet you! I grew up with your wonderful music..."

My wife Anita joined us. We chatted for a few more minutes. Ms. Warwick told us that she and her entourage (family, primarily) were going to a jazz festival in England - as participants, not spectators. I asked her whether she had attended Aretha Franklin's funeral, just a few days earlier. While she had been invited of course, circumstances had prevented her from attending, she said.

Then, not wanting to impose, we shook hands and parted ways.

So this was a learning experience. My misidentification of Ms. Warwick’s son had been such a mistake! Although I was never OVERTLY patronizing towards him, thank God, just the fact that I made those stupid tacit stereotypical assumptions about him made me feel dirty. I now wondered: What’s the matter with me? I am a dumb fool! 

Here are some small pieces of Dionne Warwick’s legacy:

Walk On By, 1964
If you see me walking down the street
And I start to cry each time we meet
Walk on by, walk on by

Do You Know The Way To San Jose, 1968
Do you know the way to San Jose?
I've been away so long. I may go wrong and lose my way
Do you know the way to San Jose?
I'm going back to find some peace of mind in San Jose

I Say A Little Prayer For You, 1967
The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little prayer for you
While combing my hair, now
And wonder what dress to wear, now
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, forever, you'll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever, and ever, we never will part
Oh, how I'll love you
Together, together, that's how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

Most of her songs were written by Burt Bacharach.
Whitney Houston was her cousin.

The Movie: My Best Friend’s Wedding, 1997, with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz,  is a delightful comedy featuring a splendid scene with I Say A Little Prayer For You, 1967

© Tom Kando 2018;All Rights Reserved

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