Friday, September 28, 2012

Andy Williams

There are many reasons to remember Andy Williams. Besides all of the obvisous like great entertainer, great singer, hip and classy, successful variety show host, and icon of the Christmas season, I have my own to add.
I was the opening act for  his last Andy Williams Christmas Show Tour. We had a plane to travel in and my seat was across from Andy. He was not always "on" like some entertainers. He was as easy as he appeared to be on stage.  His stories came out of those relaxed moments of conversation and he had great stories. Being a wanna be story teller myself I hung on every word and every chance to listen or ask a question that might lead him into one of these great stories.  My favorite Andy Williams story involves one of my other heros Edgar Bergen. 
Edgar Bergen died at Ceasar's Palace, Las Vegas.  He was performing in the Andy Williams Show. Andy was a big fan of Mr. Bergen who had recently announced his retirement. Andy begged him to do one more Vegas turn in The Andy Williams Show before he stopped performing. Andy said he didn't care if he did the whole two weeks of the run; if he wanted to he could do a week or just a few days. Andy just wanted him in the show.  Edgar agrees.  After mentioning it was their retirement show Edgar and Charlie took their curtain call to Andy Williams singing the "September Song". All of that I knew already, but here is the story Andy told me. 
Midway through the first week Andy's road manager comes to the suite earlier in the day than usual.  Tennison Flowers looks forlorne and Andy asks what's wrong. Tennison says, "Edgar Bergen is gone." Andy says, "Well, we all knew it might happen." Tennison agrees sadly. Andy continues, "It was good we had him here as long as we did. So what do you think we should do?"  
Tennison says that is exactly why he is there so early to try and figure it all out.  Andy says, "I guess we better replace him.  Can we get someone by tonight? I'm sure someone local can come in and do 20 minutes, right?" Tennison says, "Replace him, you just want to replace him...just like that?"  Andy relies, "Well, I don't think we have to make a big deal about it. "  Tennison says,"Are you sure we don't need to at least say something?" 
Andy, "I don't see why, I wasn't sure he would last the week. We just get a comic or someone and the show will be fine."  
"I don't know if I agree with that. The man was a legend,  his death is going to be big news." 
"Wait... Edgar Bergen is dead?"
"That's what we have been talking about."
Andy thought Tennison was telling him that Edgar had decided to go back home.  Of course it was a big deal, they did not replace and a tribute was done.
Andy's Birthday is in December so we celebrated it on the road in St Louis. I gave him a birthday card that said, "It is unsettling for a ventriloquist to be in the show that killed Edgar Bergen."  He laughed.
So it is another good bye to a friend named Andy this year.  They are gone but great memories remain.
As you were, 


P. Grecian said...

Thank you, Jay, for that story.

Anonymous said...

Great story Jay. I did not know much about Andy Williams, but the first thing I thought of when I read that he had died was that Edgar Bergen was performing with him in Vegas at the time of his death. I'll never forget that day. September 30, 1978. I was 10. I had just seen, and loved, the Vent Event on HBO a few months or weeks before that, and had many picture of Mr. Bergen and his characters hanging in my room. I was very sad. For many years, I kept a laminated copy of the announcement of Mr. Bergen’s death from “The Hartford Courant." RIP Mr. Williams and Mr. Bergen.

Julie riddle said...

As a daughter of the other act sharing the bill (the Lennon Sisters), I saw all 6 of Edgar Bergen's last performances. He was amazing- yes, he had aged, and maybe there was some physical slowness, but once on stage, he was a young man in his prime. And what a dear, kind man he was in person. Now the "rest of the story": One of the reasons Andy thought Tennyson simply meant Edgar had left is that his wife and children had come to Vegas for those last two performances, the night before he died. Frances, Candice and Chris were all there. He was tired, and seemed to genuinely be relieved they were there. It wasn't unreasonable to think he'd decided to just go home. Of course, that's exactly what he did. How very fortunate they were able to be there for his last hours. How very fortunate I was to be there, too.