Paint me a Promise & A Hundred Bucks
~A Hundred Bucks~
One never knew what to anticipate from night to night when one was a traveling DJ....
I traveled from town to town most every weekend playing at weddings and anniversary parties. I had completed a big gig in Detroit at a plush yacht club and was fairly tuckered out. The agent called on the sweltering Sunday afternoon during a heat wave. “Hey RJ, you gotta do a job for me tonight.”
“Yeah.” I could tell he was desperate. He often made promises and then had problems backing up his sales pitches.
“Yeah, a call came in and I figured you could handle it. It only pays a hundred bucks—“
“I don’t know, a hundred bucks— that sounds pretty puny to—“
“We gotta do this for the Gipper. Let me tell ya, I tried to get the fee up a bit and explained that most everything is booked a year ahead. It’s a Sunday night and found money. Hey, we call all use an extra hundred. I’m gonna skip my commission. Keep the entire thing. It’s only ten miles out of town.”
He knew I would do it before he called. I loved entertaining. “OK, tell me where it is and I’ll do it, but you owe me one, buddy.”
“It’s some hillbilly hall out in the middle of a cornfield north of town.”
Yeah—he was correct. The corn was seven-feet tall in every direction and the hall was somewhere in the middle of it. I was tell’n myself that I would get in—get out—and call it a night. I could see the waves of unholy heat wavering over the hall and the corn. Beat-up jalopies filled the parking lot. I arrived inside hoping for some air-conditioning. Nope—no air-conditioning—God help me. I looked around and could see this was not going to be the usual tux affair like the night before.
The groom shook my hand dressed in jeans and tennis shoes. “I’ want to thank you for coming on such short notice.” He was pleasant enough and his bride was equally gracious.
It was a ramshackle affair in one of the tiniest halls I had ever seen and I estimated it must have held around eighty people or so. Moose heads lined the wall, no kitchen, no stage—I hope they have indoor plumbing and electricity. “What about air-conditioning? It is hotter than the devil in here.”
“They don’t have it, sorry.”
He proudly pulled an envelope from his back pocket. “Here’s the hundred. The agent said to pay you the moment you walked in the door.”
I stuffed the envelope into my pocket and was beginning to think I should have told the agent to take a hike. This is not going to be a picnic. I began dragging in my equipment and felt anger taking over. Forget the tux. I was already covered with perspiration. I brought out the fans that I carried with me and knew I would make it with fans blowing the hundred degree heat all around me. I would need to stay in front of the fans all night or I would pass out.
Yep—I gotta do this gig and get the devil out of here. I looked at my watch. At midnight, I would be gone. That was the contract—not one minute more.
I had everything set up and then strolled to the back of the hall.
It was a “bring your own dish to pass” affair and the homemade dishes sat strewn about helter-skelter. Guests spooned cold macaroni, and beans onto paper plates and made a sandwich.
I chatted with the bride and groom. “We are going to Montana and I hope to get a job at a dude ranch.”
“You have the job all lined up, then?” I decided I wasn’t that hungry.
His bride hugged his side. She was radiantly dressed in jeans and broadcast a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. “There are no jobs here. It is his dream to work at a dude ranch. We’ll make the rounds when we get there. I love horses too. Maybe we can both get work there.”
While I was listening to this, I glanced at the table near the back wall.
There it was—the wedding cake.
It sat in a Meijer’s Thrifty Acres box—a sheet cake that probably cost around $12.95. Grandma had brought her tubes of icing and drew their names on it, “Butch and Marsha.” She must have picked up the plastic cake top at Meijer’s too and sat it in the middle. There were horses at one end with a corral holding them in. The icing was melting off the cake and sat in little puddles.
I was swept with emotion when I saw it.
I stood there beside the cake, looked at the ragtag guests, the dilapidated hall, the corrugated box to hold the cards…and then I knew. The one hundred dollars was a fortune for these people. They had never planned on entertainment because they were penniless. Such an extravagance could never be considered. Someone had come up with a hundred dollars at the last moment and it was a dream come true to have music by a local celebrity. If there was any chance of this affair being a success, it would because I made it so.
I took another look at the guests. There was not a bad bone among them. No drunkenness, no feuds going on behind the scenes. The children were not running wild around the hall. It could have been worse—much worse. In fact they were more gracious than the yacht club crowd the night before where I was considered to be the “hired help.” I was so put off by their antics that I started the evening with “Putt’n on the Ritz” and they never caught on.
Tonight was different.
This was two families celebrating the wedding of their son and daughter in the in the barest of surroundings. The future before them was uncertain at best. Hope filled the air.
I decided at that moment, this would be the best show I ever put on in my lifetime. I would use every crowd pleasing trick I had come to learn from decades of experience. Yes, this will be an event they will remember for a lifetime.
I began the music while the fans kept me cool. I ran contests and turned the affair into the party of their dreams. Grandma hobbled for the door. “Where are you going?” I asked.
“I gotta get home.” A cane propped her up.
A little girl at her side said, “It’s Grandma’s birthday!”
“What? You are leaving the party and it’s your birthday?” I was incredulous.
I had the microphone in my hand. “Hey everybody— it’s Grandma Vern’s birthday. I’m officially declaring this to be a wedding reception AND GRANDMA’S BIRTHDAY! How old is she? “I’m sorry; we are keeping that a secret—shame on you for asking!” We sang happy birthday to Grandma Vern and had the guests taking turns dancing with her. She was there right to the end along with everyone else.
I took the bride aside and ran “Paint me a Promise” by her. We sat the groom on a chair while she sang it to him. She possessed the voice of an angel and everyone was in tears when she hit the last notes. I brought out the hats and canes and we put on a spectacular song and dance review of “New York,New York.”
The midnight hour came and went with little notice as we all were having a great time of it.
One AM arrived.
Guests were shaking my hand and everyone chipped in and carried out my equipment for me. The cake was half eaten and being packaged up by an aunt. I looked around the nearly vacant hall. It was a grand reception that they will talk about for many years to come. I knew that with certainty. I smiled, and wiped a speck of dirt from my eye. It must have been the dust blowing off the cornfields.
It was true more than ever—one never knew what to anticipate in this business. I remembered the agent’s word, “Do it for the Gipper!”and dropped the pay envelope into the card box on the way out.
Paint Me a Promise
I'm not going to promise you the rainbow,
Nor riches of silver and gold.
I'm hoping that you'll simply love me,
You'll be mine to have and to hold.
Please whisper sweet nothings in my ear
And say you want my love tonight.
Say the words I want to hear
Put your arms around me, turn out the light.
PAINT ME A PROMISE that says you love me;
A Promise that you'll always be true
PAINT ME A PROMISE that will last forever
And darling I will fall in love with you
2. I know forever is a long, long time
For a lover to be true.
I'm just looking way down the line;
I want to live my life with you.
You ask me if I will be your lover
You say you want my love tonight;
But I wonder, “Will it be forever?"
Or is the passion in the quiet of the night?”
And darling I will fall in love with you!
@1986 Reynold Jay
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Paint Me a Promise
© 2011 Reynold Jay