A short time after I first talked with Andy, I came across the following quote that struck home and made me smile: 🙂
“Our unlikeliest fan, Cary Grant…popped in one day, introduced himself, which is something Cary Grant need never do. I immediately gushed like a teenager and told him how much I loved his work and a lot of other things he had heard too many times…
“For the next few weeks Cary would phone from time to time…I was thrilled…and even more thrilled to hear that famous voice talking to me!”
— Carl Reiner, My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir
Carl Reiner… in awe of Cary Grant… talking to him. I love that. Because I can relate — still thrilled to hear Andy’s famous voice, talking to me.
Yet, I wonder if Mr. Grant might not have felt a little in awe himself, talking with someone like Mr. Reiner, whose talent he admired. Because I know from his biography that his own humble beginnings left him never taking his star persona too seriously, even a bit…shy. And that’s one of the things I learned in conversations with Andy, too… that he, even now, marvels at all the famous people who have come into his life… people he at one time could never have imagined talking with, let alone becoming friends with… Because a part of him is still that young unknown boy in Iowa who simply loved singing with his family, not yet imagining where life, and his gifts, might take him. Just one of the things I was about to chat with Andy about…
One reason I’d chosen this date was that it was NOT the usual weekly time when the gardeners zoomed and clattered and made an outrageously roaring racket, mowing just outside my apartment door. So much for carefully made plans. For here they were, at a deafening decibel, just beside my window. I held my head in my hands… this has to stop, this has to stop… Then…just as suddenly as they appeared, they whooshed off – literally minutes before I was to dial his number. Jangled nerves…a few calming breaths…and there we were again, saying… Hello!
Used to giving hundreds of interviewers the standard history, I’m sure, Andy plunged into the parts of his story I already knew well… Iowa born… brothers singing in church as children… I was just listening and scribbling, when he seemed to intuitively pick up on my wanting to go a little deeper, talk about things he maybe didn’t always share (a nice quality of keying into the other person that I’d noticed the time we met, too). Things that would tell me more about him as a person. I wasn’t sure where we could get in 30 minutes, but I wanted to try. Easy warmth like a dawning smile came into our chat then and I could feel us each relaxing to genuine conversation. Before I knew it, we were at the 30-minute mark and I hadn’t brought up nearly enough of what I’d hoped to ask.
“It’s been a half hour,” I felt I had to say, giving him an out… “Did you have to stop?”
“No-o… that’s okay…,” he said, comfortably, sounding as though he too would like to go on. “I have time…”
And so we continued… for a little over an hour in total… talking of some things I already knew and so many others I didn’t. Insights that made me know him better. Some that touched me, others I could relate to myself, and still others that can inspire anyone who is looking to follow their “second chapter” dreams… At one point, he even demonstrated for me the way he builds up his breathing with vocal exercises… and revealed some lovely “behind the song” secrets that made me know just why I’d always heard an extra beauty and fun in his recordings like “Yellow Beach Umbrella” and “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face…” (More to come on that later…) We talked of sorrowful losses, like the passing of his little brother Buddy, at just two years old… Joyful moments he remembers with his own children, his deep love of every note in the orchestra, his ongoing passion for creativity… And how he fought overwhelming shyness at the height of his career, oftentimes wondering if he “was really all that good.” Tricks he used to get past that fear and doubt when he was recording. The set-free delight he now has in performing and how he wants to keep singing “as long as people want to see him.”
Until, finally, he said he really must go.
“Thank you SO much for talking with me, Andy,” I said warmly. “I’ll send you a copy of the story to look over…”
I could hear the lift in his voice as he answered… a tinge of that wonder he’d told me he could still feel at times when he questions his own talent, as if he’s been pulling the wool over the world and himself for seventy years.
“My pleasure,” he said.
I hung up the phone, replaying our conversation in my mind like a song I wanted to remember. Quickly, I moved to transcribe it all to my computer while his voice still rang fresh in my thoughts. Soon I would organize it all into a feature article. For now, I just needed to think about it all… How did Carl Reiner put it? Yes… sometimes…all of us have anecdotal lives… 🙂
To be continued…
© Pam Depoyan
🙂 FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LOVE TO READ THE MORE COMPLETE INTERVIEW: I’ve just attached a copy of the article I wrote based on this interview to my header page, Portfolio. You can read it in the BONUS section at the lower part of that page. Enjoy!