Saturday, September 27, 2008
nightclubs - part 3

So, on the Monday after that demoralizing weekend where the pianist couldn't read music and/or play it either, I went into the Booking Agents office, which was in the Times Square area in Manhattan to pick up my meager salary. While there, I told him that I could not work these kinds of jobs anymore. I told him what a horrific nightmare it had been, and how deeply demoralizing it was, etc., etc. He than told me that the Manager of the Club had called him and told him what a trouper I was and what a great job I did and how totally professional I was, etc....

Well, that was nice, but it really didn't help me or this terrible problem that I had developed. I now dreaded working in these clubs. I now dreaded the idea of not knowing what conditions I would find, musically speaking, and how horrible the place might be, etc. And, I continued to dread the truly terrible loneliness of it all. Working these 'toilets' was becoming more and more disheartening and demoralizing and I really wasn't sure if I could do this for very much longer under these horrific conditions. George Libby, that was the Booking Agents name, had been around Show Business for most of his life and by that time he was in his late sixties. He was a really good guy; a sweet man. And he saw my pain. He truly did. And so he promised me there would be no more of these questionable situations where the musicians were concerned. He promised me he would book me into some better places....! And he did. The next job was definitely a 'new' situation. It was for two weeks in Detroit, Mich. Two whole weeks---not just a weekend here and there. And it was supposedly in a club that was a 'step-up' from these previous awful awful places....All sorts of arrangements had to be made concerning my housing, etc. I had never been to Detroit before. I knew no one there and I heard from somebody that this club was in a kind of not-so-good area. And once again, I was on my own. No accompanist to go with me-----having Nat Jones with me would have made all the difference in every way. Not only having the great comfort of a fantastic musician who knew my every move, musically speaking, but to be with a friend; someone to talk to and spend time with and someone to share the experience with---

Believe me, it would have made a huge huge difference....And this would be someone who of course would be staying in Detroit, too...and hopefully at the same Motel/Hotel I would be at....etc., etc., etc. Though the race issue in Detroit was very very bad back then, so he most likely would not have been able to stay at the same place as me. But, we did not have to deal with that problem because, once again, having my own pianist playing for me was not possible. There wasn't enough money involved to allow me to have Nat with me.....It was going to be another very lonely time, and this time, for two l-o-n-g weeks in a city I didn't know at all. As the time grew closer and closer to traveling to Detroit, I got more and more anxious.

A few days before, I began having physical symptoms that were not a lot of fun. Intestinal stuff. This was not good. I was a wreck, thinking about how lonely I would be in this new unfamiliar city, staying at a Motel with nothing to do all day but feel lonely. I started having terrible anxiety dreams....very typical 'show business' related anxiety dreams....I'm at Grand Central Station, ready to get on the train to go to Detroit. Suddenly I realize I don't have my briefcase. The one with all my music in it. It's not there. I panic. I am a wreck...Kenny Welch is in the dream...he says, "That's impossible, your briefcase has to be here. You can't go to Detroit without your music!" I wake up from this dream in a horrendous sweat, filled with anxiety----but, relieved that it IS just a dream.....but terrified still, that this could actually happen. The day before I was to leave for Detroit, I was in such a state that I knew I could not do this. I could not go. I knew I could not get on that train.

There was no joy, no looking forward, no positive anything...I just felt pure animal panic all the tine. I was like a Deer In The Headlights. I called George Libby and I lied. I said my mother was quite ill, and I was going to have to cancel. He was really nice about it...And, somewhere, I knew that he would fill that spot in no time at all. There were hungry singers right behind me that didn't suffer from all the crap I did.

I cannot tell you the relief I felt. It washed over me like a warm lovely soothing Bubble Bath! I didn't have to go do this torturous awful thing---I was let out of the Panic Prison. Such Incredible Relief, you cannot imagine. Wonderful Wonderful Relief. And yet, there was a big part of me that was ashamed that I was so Chicken-Shit. Such a baby. So unprofessional. But the other part of me knew I could not go to Detroit and survive....Let alone for two whole weeks, feeling the way I did. A part of me didn't care what people thought...Oh, I did, but not enough to make me do Detroit and go through God knows what. I truly did feel that I would die in Detroit. And I knew that THAT was unacceptable----no matter what anyone thought.

That really pretty much ended my Nightclub career. And you know what? That was okay. To me, working these awful jobs and having no joy in singing anymore----Having no joy in what I was doing and only anxiety.....well, somewhere in my being, I knew that this was not for me. If I didn't have the joy of singing anymore, I didn't want to work----at least not in those situations. See, somewhere along the way, I think I realized that I didn't want this Nightclub Career badly enough to get through whatever it was you had to get through! And I also knew--and there is no doubt in my mind---I knew that my drinking would have increased to a level that would have been truly a disaster for me. I was drinking for all the wrong reasons. (I didn't even like the taste of liquor, and still don't.) And the proof of that was, once I stopped working in Nightclubs, I stopped drinking.So, what I finally realized was this: If I was going to have success as a performer it was going to have to come in another way. And though I truly didn't know any longer what it was I wanted to do, I knew, (which is just as important---in fact, maybe more important), what I could no longer do. Career, be damned! I must admit though, that some part of me has always wondered 'what if' know? What if I had gone to Detroit? Would that have changed the course of my career? Well, on the other side of that is: Would all the things that followed that period of my life have happened had I played Detroit? Would "Spoon River" have happened----The most incredibly special Theatrical experience of my life....? Of course, I'll never know....But, what I do know is, not going to Detroit was the right decision at the time. And that, in the end, is really all that matters......Later....some years later...I moved to Los Angeles, and with the help of therapy, because I really had kind of lost my way----I realized a number of secret "dreams" of mine.....Starting with going back to my original theatrical dreams. I Produced a wonderful play called, "Call Me By My Rightful Name", by the very very talented Michael Shurtleff, at The Coronet Theatre...(Those three in the picture above are, Mitzi Hoag, George Brenlin and Bernie Hamilton....the three leads in the play...)....And that led me to realizing another one of my dreams.....This dream included singing, once again. There was this charming little Piano Bar/Cabaret/ Dinner place right there in The Coronet Theatre Building. They needed a partner and I needed a home for my singing. And so I bought a half-interest in this lovely little Piano Bar---Verney's----Where I could sing and truly enjoy singing once again. And I did sing, and enjoyed every minute of it! Why? Well, for one thing, I knew the man playing the Piano, and he was and still is, an incredibly talented composer and Pianist. The fabulous Billy Barnes was playing there every night and that was another dream come true. A consummate musician accompanying me! Needless to say, that solved one of the major obstacles in the Joy of singing, for me. And, it was a wonderfully warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere, which was a huge huge plus, too. And then I joined Theatre West, this young Professional Actors Workshop...and soon after that, "Spoon River Anthology" happened.....And I went to Broadway as a Singer-Composer, part of a six member cast----all sharing this experience together..........I was a part of something so incredibly special, something so rare, that we all knew what a miracle this was----that our little show could go from a tiny Workshop in Los Angeles to Broadway.....well, that was a real "dream come true" for each and every one of us. A few years later, "Spoon River" became a CBS "Special" and again, I got to perform in it, and, I got an Emmy Nomination for the music I had written for the show....Would any of that have happened had I gone to Detroit? Well, I do not honestly know, but.....I don't think so. So I am truly grateful that I listened to this very frightened little inner self----that I listened to the warnings that my body was giving me, Big Time.....The Road Taken, as it turned out, by not going to Detroit was "truer" to my inner self in every way, and I truly believe that one decision saved me from a life of a lot of despairing horror.....And the world that opened up to me in Los Angeles was my true path.......!

More To Come........

Links to this post:


had this to say:

It is very hard to second guess the 'what ifs' in life. It sounds to me that not going to Detroit was right for you in every single way and going to LA was right! So many wonderful things have happened to you since! Sometimes it's just as brave to listen to that inner voice, feel the fear and NOT do it anyway, just as much as doing it sometimes. The wisdom comes in knowing the difference and you seem to have had that in spades!

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 9:38:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

It's too bad that all of us don't listen to our inner voices the way you did, Naomi. You are right to assume that your life would have had a different path had you gone to Detroit - so it is great that you didn't go.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 10:25:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I so enjoy reading all this and the photos just add to the experience.

Funny coincidence, I was talking to an old client and we got around to what if - and one of the insights I had was that sometimes anxiety, fear, darker feelings DO lead to better decisions. It's as if the dark forces us to shine a light in a new direction.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 10:48:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a truly inspiring story! And such courage to be able to leave behind one career in order to step into another.

None of us know what is to come and we should all take a page out of your book, evaluate and act.

It is a pleasure to know you,

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 10:54:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh my dear,
for the first time ever I've bookmarked at blog spot.
This is ultimate history

btw. We have been busy lately due to the 3x20 event, but we are more or less back into normal life.
Anna has Fall Vacation while I have lot's to do at work - enough for 24/24. I like it that way.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 11:24:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I believe that, too; you weren't giving up or chickening out, you were following your true path even if you didn't know it at the time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 at 6:00:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

love the old pics. Turn rigt, turn left---changes everything or nothing. Sometiems I think our destiny awaits us regardless of which road we take. My partner did a lot of regional theater in Detroit, in the 1970s, after a brief stint in NYC. she often thinks what if...destiny, you can't change it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 3:04:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You are a woman of integrity. I think you did the right thing leaving the nightclub scene behind you. You weren't working at the right places with the right people, and in your heart you knew it wasn't for you. So much more was waiting for you and you are in a much better place in your life right now for the smart decisions that you made.

Again, you are a woman of integrity. That alone spells success.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 8:18:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing. It is a wonderful thing to share with younger people that good things can come from changing the path we are traveling.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 1:38:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I definitely think you should always listen to your gut. Things most generally happen for a reason!

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 2:58:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, thank you once again for sharing these incredible memories. It is so true in life that if we hadn't gone through the pain we would've never known the joys.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 3:51:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a very interesting life story! I am enjoying reading it!

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 4:17:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, it sounds to me that you did the right choise, choosing to go to Los Angeles. It's very important and wise to hear your inner and your feelings. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your history of life.

PS: Thank you for another lovely comment on my blog anniversary! Sure, October 6/7 is coming!!! And next 29, is the Anniversary of "Spoon River". I will come back here to give you a CONGRATULATIONS!
See you soon!
Big hug to you!

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 4:24:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Dear Naomi:
What a wonderful story. Nothing emphasises the feeling of loneliness like the ebb and flow of a busy city street outside your hotel window. I am sure, looking back, you know you made the right choice for you. It is always best to listen to your inner self. She knew what you really needed before you did.

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 5:12:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

The 'what ifs' syndrome hey? Thankfully you listened to your inner self and you made a decision that ultimitely changed your life path. A good decision at that....

And hey, little white lies never hurt anyone... You are right when you say that there were many more hungry singers behind you, ready to fill the gap that you left when you turned down Detroit. Think of it this way - you may have helped the career of someone else by turning down that job....

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 5:37:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Naomi, someone didn't level with you on how to build a career as a "chanteuse". Yes, you need experience before an audience, but not necessairly in dumps, dives or dark holes, as we called them. And, they should have paired you with another act when going on the road. There were 15 minute local radio shows, too. No liquor there except the bottle hidden in the piano bench by an alcho announcer.
Back in those days, before Vegas really took off, the good bookings were in uh- well-uh clubs like the one Barbara Walters father ran. That circuit included the Copa, the Chez Paree in Chicago, the Moulin Rouge--you get my drift!
You could score there by having a uh-shall we say mentor--or you could have a RECORD. You got a record to take off with a carefully orchestrated campaign--money helped--but aptness of thought and chutzpa often turned the trick. Personal promotion and a good team sometimes were more important than highpriced flack hacks. If you were free-lance, the game-plan was to show the disc had legs, then peddle it to a major label. That was the road you missed.
The one you took placed you on a more serious musical path, one which was not as subject to trends and constant pressures to produce a hit. Also, performing day after day can get old quick. It's not as much fun as one might think to be recognized everywhere, and not be able to stop in 7-11 for a bottle of milk without some idiot asking stupid questions about your personal life. So, I think it is safe to say--ya done good, kid!

Sunday, September 28, 2008 at 6:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I think that sometimes doing the right thing is going to be accompanied by pain. You felt bad about lying about your mother and feeling like a chicken, but that was the pain you had to fight through to be stronger in the future. And, oh boy, weren't you!?

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:03:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, I believe that things happen for a reason.....You weren't supposed to go to Detroit and you were meant to go to LA.....You listened to your inner voice and it told you what to do...

I know there are times when I ignore the "inner voice" and wished I had not.....

My husband always says, " Whatever happens, that is what was planned."

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 2:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Late to the party, but this is a very cool story.

I truly believe that we are led at times down paths, which at first may seem nonsensical or counterproductive to our best interests. Yet, it it only in hindsight that we see the wisdom in striking out in a new direction.


Monday, September 29, 2008 at 6:52:00 AM PDT 

Blogger VV
had this to say:

I think in the end, you have to do what is right for you, even if nobody else understands. I think you made the right choice for yourself at that time. On another note, I've deleted my blog. I don't know when I'll find the time to create or keep up with another one. Working 2 full-time jobs is beginning to kick my butt. I'll still keep my e-mail and I'll be checking your site still.

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 8:04:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You'll never know what would have happened or not happened when you got to Detroit, because you didn't go... and when I was reading this part of your story and you decided against the 2 week engagement, I felt a definite sense of relief! You obviously made the right decision.
I'm really enjoying the pictures you are using to illustrate your memoirs... they fit in perfectly. What a great storyteller you are.

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 9:38:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Dear Naomi,
CONGRATULATIONS on the forty-five years of Spoon River Anthology. I can imagine what amazing journey this remarkable show took. I reading again your fantastic post about Spoon River - September 29, 2007 - and I was amazed one more time with this wonderful post!

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 10:53:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You inspire me like no other when you share such pieces of you with us Naomi. What a difficult decision you had to may have been physically and emotionally reeling from the experiences you were having on the road working in those dives, but you had strength and courage to let go and move in a different direction.

we do get caught up in the what ifs stuff, no doubt about it....that's why we were given the ability to reflect and to analyze. Most never use those gifts. they continue to keep theirs heads covered in the sand because they think it's comfortable.....ah, but they don't know how enlightening and liberating it is to process our lives and to reflect on our decisions while making them and years later from many different angles.

this is what is so cool about blogging because it is such a perfect venue for this type of enlightenment.

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 12:21:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Golly, you wuz in the Big Time! I didn't know that. I think I'll say "congratulations past," since I didn't know you back then. Wonderful.

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 4:13:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Very glad that you listened to that inner voice that let you avoid Detroit as a career - and ended up in Los Angeles instead.

We are emotionally richer here with you and your talents and artistic gifts and wise, kind personality among us :)

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 5:20:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Just checking back.
I always want to say, "More, more, tell me another one of your stories." Because they define a time for me that in such specifics that I can see and hear the happenings of the time.

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 5:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It's funny how things happen for a reason, isn't it?

Not going to Detroit definitely changed your life for the better!

Monday, September 29, 2008 at 8:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It's quite possible that the trip to Detroit would have destroyed you. Who knows how bad it could have gotten during those two weeks had you forced yourself to go?? You listened to your heart and physical symptoms and made the right choice.
I'm so glad you did!!!
You ended up getting to sing in an atmosphere of YOUR choosing and with a terrific accompanist.
Your choices led you to acting and producing and writing and creating some great memories instead of painful ones.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 5:04:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I just found your blog and am catching up with all the past posts. But boy, do I love reading about you and your career.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 6:21:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I am so glad you said no to Detroit. I think you are right in listening to that inner voice and I do know the pure animal fear inside feeling. Not good at all. Sometimes we just try to open the wrong doors.

Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 5:36:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I like the way you tell this, with elements of a "now" perspective blended with the tribulations of when it was all happening, supported with enough pictures to help create a real sense of the time.


Friday, October 3, 2008 at 4:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I so enjoyed reading this Naomi!! I think you certainly did the right thing. That inner voice was speaking so loud that it just couldn't be wrong. You have led such an exciting life and I enjoy reading about it very much!!

Being able to sing at Verney's must have been just perfect!! Just relaxing and enjoying it without all the hassles you had while being on the road.

Great post Naomi!! xxx

Saturday, October 4, 2008 at 1:47:00 PM PDT 

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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