Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Kiss From Cher

Sometimes I'm more-than-average lucky. I was driving home the other night along an unfamiliar street bordering some seldom used railroad tracks. A deep blue neon sign, like a beacon in the dark, spelled out, "Where the Boys Are," my favorite Connie Francis song. I'm often entranced by the oldies, and there was plenty of parking along the tracks. So I pulled over to investigate this place whose name paid tribute to one of the greats. It was past midnight and on this particular Thursday, it was the only place open on the block. The entrance was all black except for the neon sign, and when I entered, it appeared that, in my blue jeans, I was under-dressed. The crowd was mostly women, elegantly decked out in party dresses and gowns of every variety. It was as if they all just returned from a gala ballroom event.

The jukebox was playing Fabian's "Turn Me Loose," and before I even found a bar stool, I apologized to the bartender for my attire, to which he replied, "It's OK bud, anything goes in here." This put my mind at ease, besides he, too, was wearing jeans. I'd only been there a few minutes when the bartender places a drink in front of me and, while nodding over my shoulder, tells me it's the compliments of the woman across the room. I seldom turn down free stuff (except for the time when the hacking-cough lady was giving out cheese bits at the grocery store, coating the cheese with her own special potpourri of germs). So I raised my glass in the direction of a group of women huddled in a booth, as if to thank one of them. I'm not much of a drinker and don't know the names of too many drinks, but this one was pretty strong and had two cherries in the bottom and was served with a monogrammed Where the Boys Are swizzle stick.

When I finished my drink, another one immediately took its place. I reached for my wallet and the bartender waved me off, telling me the lady says my money is no good there. This was very flattering, as the last time someone purchased a drink for me was 1973. It was Doreen Grimly, and she only did it so I'd listen to her cock-eyed theory of how Barbra Streisand and David Brenner were the same person. And if I remember correctly, Doreen asked me to pay her back the next day. So this was a life-affirming event.

The drink-purveying lady was sitting in the shadows with two of her girlfriends. When the jukebox began playing "Put Your Head on My Shoulder," she approached me, held out her hand (with long, glittery purple fingernails), and asked me to dance. I was stunned by both the offer and the fact that this woman, in all her indigo-sequined and high heeled glory, looked exactly like Cher. I was speechless as we began to dance. After swaying in one place for awhile, I mustered up the courage to pop the question, "Has anyone ever told you... did you know... are you Cher?"
She pulled me closer and, in a low, sultry voice, whispered in my ear, "That's what they call me."

Holy-moly, Paul Anka was singing and I was slow-dancing with Cher. This is why I say I'm more-than-average lucky. We danced in silence, both enjoying every move. And at the point in the song when Paul steps up the key, she pulled me even closer. I'll say this, not only is Cher generous, but a lot taller in person, and solid, really solid. She must have a personal trainer; a lot of big stars have one. Her hair is still jet black, long and straight, and smelled like coconut. If only Sherwin Hikes, my friend who plays an earnest "I Got You Babe" on his trumpet, could have seen me.

When the song was over, she kissed me on the cheek and sashayed, like the graceful lady she is, back to her booth. It was a dream come true: I danced with Cher and there wasn't any of that wise-cracking banter like when she's on television. She knew she could be herself with me.

Sensing I was way out of my league at Where the Boys Are, I gave the bartender a tip and told him this was the best night of my life. "Sure thing," was all he said. I guess someone could get blase' about being around celebrities night after night, but not me. I pocketed the swizzle stick as a souvenir of the evening. All they way home I kept looking in the rear-view mirror, checking the lipstick smudge on my cheek, and vowed not to wash it off till morning. My wife would understand. After all, she must realize by now that she's married to a more-than-average lucky guy.
The swizzle stick will find a special place in my memory drawer.