Thursday, January 26, 2006

More on Fayard

Throughout most of the 1990s, dancing superstar Fayard Nicholas, who died Friday, lived at the famous Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, CA. I had the pleasure of visiting him and his second wife, Barbara, there on numerous occasions. I was always impressed by the place, as it struck me as a model demonstration of the way that senior citizens should be treated by society. I met a lot of famous and talented people on those visits, including Mary Astor, Mae Clarke, screenwriter Henry Ephron, character actor Whit Bissell, et al. But that's another story.

Often Fayard and Barbara would invite me out for the monthly birthday parties that were held there for the residents. There was almost always top drawer talent that would contribute their services for the afternoon occasion. Usually, I knew in advance who was performing. But one day the Nicholases invited me out, and this time Fayard would not tell me who was on the bill: "Just get out here. Trust me." And he was right. It's a double bill I'll not soon forget. Perhaps the hippest double bill in history, for it was Donald O'Connor followed by---hang onto your hats---Little Richard. Perhaps two of the finest performers of their respective disciplines. O'Connor came on first, accompanied by a pianist, and was quite terrific. And you'd have thought it would have been he (more of the audience's era) who would have garnered the lion's share of the applause that day. But it was, in fact, Little Richard who truly captured the adoration of the mostly octagenarian crowd. If you'll pardon the expression. . .he killed.

It was a Richard Penniman that relative few have had the opportunity to see. He spritzed and riffed and rapped and goofed till the audience was dizzy with affection for him. He was on for only about forty minutes or so, and only dabled at piano for less than half that time. But at the end of his set, the crowd was so overcome that they literally threw away their crutches and walkers, leapt up out of their wheelchairs---HEALED--- and rushed him like a pack of rabid teenaged fans. It's an afternoon I'll not soon forget: like I wrote in a previous post about Fayard, I can remember with great sense memory near every moment I spent with him.

Fortunately, I happened to have my tape recorder with me that day---I was probably going to also interview Fayard---thus I recorded the set. And so now, thanks to the late, great Fayard Nicholas---it is the twilight of the gods I tell you, the twilight of the gods---here is, like you've never heard him before, Little Richard! "Live From the Motion Picture Country Home" (link for a limited time only)

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