April 20, 2011 § 8 Comments
How does an ordinary young girl find her place in life after a superstar has, even in the most miniscule way in the eyes of the world, touched her life? At nineteen, being kissed by singer Tom Jones only served to solidify my purpose in life, which was to meet him. Imagine every song that memory could recall that had the word “kiss” in it, and you could imagine what was going on in the limbic system of my brain. Songs like “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” sung by Mel Carter, “Then He Kissed Me,” sung by The Crystals, and most especially, “Kiss,” sung by Marilyn Monroe flittered around in my head like butterflies. The really good ones like “Kiss,” by Prince and later covered Jones, hadn’t even been written.
While other teens were socializing, studying in college, working, partying, and living the MTV life before there was MTV, I was attending school part-time, hiding in my room, and trying to figure out how to make Tom Jones fall in love with me so that I could feel beautiful, worthy, and, well, loved. I knew there was something wrong with this picture, but it was the only picture in town, so to speak. And since life seemed so limited, and I was living this narrow life in sepia-colored hues compared to others my age, Tom Jones added the Technicolor to what was my personal version of Reese Witherspoon’s movie, Pleasantville.
But of course, in order to make Mr. Jones fall in love with me, I had to meet him. And this is where that old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it,” comes into play (attributed to the short story, “Monkey’s Paw,” by W.W. Jacobs). Because of my genuine, but failed, effort to nominate Jones for a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, the “Tom’s Booster’s” Fan Club president asked me to be the contact person with Tom’s road manager for a “meet and greet” when he came to play at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
What? Be still my palpitating 19-year-old heart! I AM GOING TO MEET TOM JONES? Oh, my God. (That’s how we said it in the old days, when we didn’t have the modern, abbreviated version of OMG.) My first thoughts were that this is what I’ve dream of, what I’ve hoped for, what I’ve put out in the universe as an intention, and is actually my wish come true. I am going to meet the man who has occupied a good portion of my mind when I was sad and lonely, and whose voice resonated through my being, lifting me up, and sending endorphins throughout my body. Mr. Jones = Mr. Excitement = Mr. Feel Good. Not in a sleazy way – in a positive mental health kind of way.
But wait – do you hear the sound of tires screeching in their tracks? There was just one problem. At nineteen, I was still shy and afraid of my shadow. How on earth was I going to arrange a meeting a superstar? How was I going to meet him in Los Angeles, when I couldn’t even walk to my mail box or fly to Las Vegas with my mother without having a panic attack? How could I call the Hotel Bel Air, where Tom’s road manager, Mr. G., was staying and arrange a meeting when I tremble just ordering lunch at the local drive-through Jack-in-the Box?
Again, “Be careful what you set your heart upon – for surely it will be yours.” (this saying is attributed to James Baldwin). My Higher Power had to have had something to do with this, because I was just this tall, skinny kid who mostly hid at home, trying to connect with someone so far out of my connection zone that there had to have been some kind of divine intervention. Anyway, this is what I did, and what I still do when I get nervous: I wrote a script of what I wanted to say, I called the number, and when I reached Mr. G. on the telephone, I read the script. BAM! I had a date, a time, and a place to meet Tom Jones.
The shows were still a family affair and Mother and the sisters were in tow at the Greek Theatre; plus, my fears held me prisoner to driving long distances and going places without familiar faces. I was to check-in with Mr. G. on the first of two nights of performances at the Greek. We – the president and vice-president of “Tom’s Booster’s” Fan Club, and a club member from out of town and her young daughter – waited at the stage door for Mr. G. I don’t know about the other ladies, but my thoughts were racing and my heart was pounding. I was on the verge of meeting the object of my teenage desires, and what I learned many years later was also the transitional object in my teens and early twenties, the thing supporting the development of the self, my self. For babies, the transitional object might be a blanket, something they can hold onto when mommy isn’t by the crib and they need comfort. I didn’t know it at the time, but in many ways you could say Tom Jones was like my warm, fuzzy blanket I held onto when I needed comfort.
We waited at the stage door until it opened. I met Mr. G. for the first time; he was a friendly man with whom I had many contacts over the years. On our walk to Jones’ dressing room we came across a multitude of musicians, roadies, and Jones’ son, Mark Woodward. It felt like the Red Seas of my tangled, ordinary life had parted and we were walking through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, where the famous singer would fall in love with the tall, skinny girl and we would live happily ever after. Right? Another door opened and BAM! I made it to the goal, the purpose – my object. There was Tom Jones in all of his glory. He looked so gorgeous that I had difficulty maintaining my façade of maturity.
All thoughts of trying to get Tom to fall in love with me absolutely disappeared. In the words of Sigmund Freud, “Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.” One thing that threw me off when we first arrived to his dressing room was that he did what so many people do, and men in particular, which is to assess my height with the once-over with his eyes, checking me out from the top of my head and then looking the full length of me, all the way down to my toes. Do men do that to see if I am wearing high heels?
It rattled me a little. I got caught off-guard. I mean, this is TOM JONES. This is Tom Jones, man of my teenage dreams, and my singing savior from being bullied; my go-to-guy for expressing feelings and emotions in song; the man with The Voice that calmed me the moment I heard it anytime, anyplace. And here I was, finally in his presence, and I was… mostly thunderstruck.
Needless to say, Tom Jones did not fall in love with me the first time we met. Nope – not at all. I have to admit, however, I became more smitten with him despite his assessing my height. I mean most people focus on the most obvious physical characteristic that stands out like a sore thumb, so why should he be different? The backstage “meet and greet” was wonderful – the physical contact with a real flesh and blood man standing on terra firma and not on a stage added more fuel to my fire. When I look at my old photograph with Tom in ‘72, I notice that he was that smooth and handsome superstar, and I was giddy and euphoric, slightly pulling away from him, like an immature young girl the first time I met… the singer who saved me.