Neither are significant connections, most-especially with Elvis Costello, but still... Hey, come on, give me a break here. This is Tony Bennett and Elvis Costello. And me-ish.
Back in 1982 I was working at Universal Studio in the P.R. Department. We had just released E.T., one of the most-fun times to be in the awful business of P.R., as you can imagine. And in the midst of that, the chance for a big promotion fell into our lapse. At the height of the E.T. phenomenon -- and it really was a phenomenon -- composer John Williams was going to be conducting his work at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And through Steven Spielberg's office came word that he would be making E.T. available for his first-ever public appearance -- to walk out on stage after Williams conducted a suite from the film.
It was my job to get the little creature and secretly bring him to the Hollywood Bowl in the afternoon, before even the orchestra arrived, and stay on duty protecting him out of sight of everyone in the bowels of the Bowl.
Along with John Williams, the other performer that night was Tony Bennett. (See! I knew I'd get around to him in the story.) He too was kept in the dark about E.T. being there, but only until the very last minute when we had to let him in on what was going to be happening. He came downstairs, excited, and even asked to have his picture taken with E.T., which we happily obliged. And as everyone was rushing to get ready and head upstairs, since the orchestra had started the E.T. suite, I did something that probably wasn't highly approved in the P.R. Standards Handbook -- though with the concept of "P.R. standards" that's more a pamphlet with a lot of wiggle room: I asked everyone in the room to hold off going upstairs for 30 seconds -- a risky thing, since we were on a very tight timetable with the music playing -- but I wasn't going to let the moment pass without me too having my picture taken with E.T. (The person who took the picture alas did a lousy job, and it's out of focus, but hey, it's still a keeper.)
(For what it's worth, I have a photo of E.T. alone that I took myself which is far better and actually in focus. But since I'm not in it, it sort of defeats the purpose here...)
Anyway, we rushed upstairs and waited in the wings as John Williams and the orchestra were finishing up the suite. The audience was going crazy, because the movie's craze was at its peak and the were just thrilled to hear the composer playing That Music. What they didn't know is that after the piece came to its big final crescendo, and they began cheering, the Hollywood Bowl had been outlined with fireworks. At the last chords, the fireworks began to explode, and the Bowl looked like a spaceship taking off. And the audience, as you can imagine, went wild, thinking that this was the unexpected surprise. What they didn't know was that they hadn't seen the real surprise at all, and that it was was yet to come.
There were about four of us in the wings during all this. And Tony Bennett came up to join us. Even he understood what a fun, dramatic moment this was -- and even though he was going to be performing soon, he decided that rather than prepare in his dressing room, he wanted to watch. He was as excited as anyone, and charming, and he really impressed me through it all.
As the 18,000 people applauding and yelling started to die down at last, we say, "Go!" and E.T. waddled out onstage towards John Williams. At first, the massive audience broke out into an huge roar -- but then to my surprise, they became instantly silent. Apparently, everyone didn't want to miss a thing and wanted to listen in case he said anything. (He didn't.) But E.T. wandered over to John Williams, the two shook hands, and then E.T. turned to the crowd, bowed and then wandered back offstage. And it was only as he near the side stage that the audience began cheering again.
I have a video of the entire E.T. segment -- music, fireworks and appearance. It's on VHS tape, though, not digitized. At some point, I'll probably get it done. I'm guessing there aren't many of these tapes around. But I made sure to get one.
My time with Elvis Costello was far less dramatic...
At the end of 2007 and into 2008, the Writers Guild went on strike against the AMPTP film studios and TV networks. I was assigned to picket outside Paramount Studios, and went there whenever I was called for.
On this one day, it turned out that Elvis Costello -- to his fine credit -- joined the picket line in solidaritiy and marched around Paramount with all the striking writers holding there picket signs. When my time was done, I turned in my sign, signed out and headed over to the parking lot for my car.
As I headed through the lot, I looked over and saw that Elvis Costello had finished for the day, as well, and was going to his car, too. I looked over and caught his eye. I gave him a thumbs-up in appreciation, and he returned it in thanks.
That's it. No music and no fireworks, and no little alien, unless that's how you think of Elvis Costello.
I was going to send you over to Mark Evanier's site to see the video -- and would if he had written extensively about it. But he just identifies the piece, so I figure it would be silly sending you there. You should check out his site anyway, on general principle, which you can get to here. But this is the video. You will not see me in it, but I'm there in spirit and in absentia...