Backstage at Orchestra Hall. Waiting to go on again. The building has several hundred kids in tuxes, it seems, and everywhere backstage the beedledee beedleedee bum of warm-up routines. This is outside:



That’s the Peavey Plaza I wrote about a few weeks ago, the triumph of 70s modernism they want to preserve and restore. Concrete is one thing, but rusty concrete, I draw the line. It's nicer when the water splashes down from the pools atop, but they've been offline for some time. Some want to keep it. Some want it gone. I say: thanks, but let's look ahead.


The Occupy people have occupied, by the way.



So I walk in the back door, hand the lady at the desk my keys because I’m parked in the Orchestra’s president’s spot, and may have to move if he shows up. Every time I do this. Fifteen years. Never happens. Drop my stuff off in my dressing room, wander back to the staging area by the stage. There’s Doc, hanging out by the main green room.

By Doc, in case you didn’t follow the tweets, or I didn’t mention this before, I mean Doc Severinsen. He was playing with the orchestra today.

I got to introduce him.

“Hey,” he says. Big grin. Now, he doesn’t know me from Adam, but he saw that spark of recognition people get. There are two kinds of celebrities: those who ignore it and those who appreciate it. Doc’s one of the latter.

Told him it was a thrill to be introducing him today, and that when I told my dad I was doing this, he was proud I’d finally made something of myself. Doc grinned.

“Well, me too!” he said.



Surreptious photo with Manny the Conductor, who's the first chair for the Minnesota horn section, and also displayed in a photo about 90 feet tall on the side of the building. Doc's a friend and a mentor. Manny got me into this MC gig in the first place, back when I was doing the Diner on KSTP AM 1500: one night I posed a trivia question, asking which composer is known for nine symphones but actually wrote 11. Yes, that was my recipe for talk-radio success! Manny called in with the right answer, and from that one connection a decade and a half later, I'm backstage with Doc.

Life. Things happen. Stuck my head through the door to see the crowd filtering in:


Bigger than it looks. I was just a traffic cop; as befits the last concert of the season, and the 40th anniversary to boot, there are testimonials and awards. The String Orchestra did a lovely version of the Brandenberg #3; they’re all grade-schoolers. Philharmonic did Finlandia, and the Symphony - good Lord, they’re on fire; everyone’s on fire. They did the last movement of Shastokovitch, and just “ate it up,” as Manny the Conductor said. Nailed the Tchaikovsky 4th, and then it was my turn to introduce Doc. Had a list of accomplishments, which seemed superfluous, but it was the script - so I held up the paper, said, I’m supposed to say some things about our guest, but really, it goes without saying that he was the greatest bandleader on TV for a quarter century. We know about the 30 albums, the Grammy . . ticked ‘em off, giving each one a bit more oomph - here’s another thing that goes without saying - until I came to the end, said all that’s really unnecessary, because all you need to say is LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, DOC SEVERINSEN and huzzah, the roof comes off, and Doc comes out, and gives me a handshake and a nod, and I bow - tempted to do the little cascading thing with the hand, but that’s his, just like the golf swing’s Johnny’s. You don't want to be that guy.

The performance was remarkable - Doc was searing and bright and electric. Started out with one of those tunes you associate with a bullfight, and seasoned showman that he is, he stopped to get the crowd to shout Ole. Here: I held up the iPhone to the speaker in my dressing room. It’s short. He plays the bullfighter theme, stops, gets the crowd to shout OLE, then continues. I've edited out some laughter and dialogue. Listen to that horn.

He’s 84.


Then came a Cuban piano player, Nachito Herrera, they kicked into this Latin number that was half improv - when you get musicians of this level they’re having a conversation, handing off riffs and motifs for the others to pick up and run with. So the concert began with Bach, moved through Sibelius, blared out some Sousa, shook the foundation with Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, then the Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, ending with this mad infectious jam. The Fortieth season came to an end and we all lined up for bows. A remarkable afternoon.

Not over: upstairs to the Green Room for a little dinner with Doc, and no, I don’t have pictures. I don’t want to be that guy who says “can I stand next to you and have our images recorded?” It’s enough to have shaken the hand of the man who played trumpet on “Stormy Weather” with Lena Horne.

So, best weekend ever. Friday was tops; I got things done on some projects that have been sitting around. Saturday my wife was out with a friend so Natalie and I went to the restaurant of her choosing, Panda Express. Eh. Then we did errands, which got an “awwwww!” of exasperation, and I’d say “oh, for the days when she loved to go to Target,” but that was when she was 3. She still loves it once I get her there. We make fun of the toys. She begs for sweets. I threaten her with asparagus. When we went to Cub I saw a rather ominous sign:


Were you aware of this? The imminent peanut butter drought? I bought two containers of crunchy. Daughted asked why I didn’t buy more. I said that would be hoarding.

What are you going to do with the ones you bought?

Well, hoard them, but that’s different. I’m not going to buy five or ten.


That would mean that other people couldn’t get two extra ones to put aside.

No one will know, she said.

Ah. This is one of those moments you hope sticks to the moral roof of the mouth, since we’re talking peanut butter.

I will know, I said. And just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean it’s right. You get that?

She nodded.

No seriously, this is important. A wise man says: it’s what you do when you think no one’s watching that counts. Or something like that.

But when you see someone like Doc lighting up a room, you know that's not all there is. What you do when every eye's on you -

That matters, too.

Oh: when Doc came on in his trademark spangly rainment, he took off the jacket and gave it to the conductor, a young kid who was handling the orchestra while Manny joined Doc. I wanted to be a conductor when I was in high school. This guy's going to do it. Name's Kelvin Ying. File that away for later. Snapped him when he came off stage:



The torch passed down the generations, right there.

















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