Being a musician, I am used to stage mothers, spotlight whores, and microphone monsters, all stock characters at lessons, rehearsals, and performances. Being a teacher who often runs the show, I exercise a certain amount of control over the egos that show up to strut and fret. But here’s a tale of an ego so bloated that when it walked into a private party, it flattened the rest of us against the wall.
It was a hootenanny at my friend Davey’s house. Everyone brought instruments, music, and song sheets; arriving mid-afternoon to sing the sun down. It was a gorgeous fall day; there was a huge spread of food and many of my favorite people were present. It was a luxury to not have to direct or accompany. I sat in the corner and harmonized when we sang together. We entertained with solos and duets, we taught each other songs. We videotaped us singing “Waltzing Matilda” to send to friends in Australia.
We were entering the third hour of music making when a guest arrived, a friend of another guest. No one else knew her. She carried a big music case which housed a Celtic harp. We made introductions and she got herself settled.
Davey asked her to play something on her harp.
She advanced regally to the center of the room, set up her harp, serenely introduced her song and played. It was lovely.
It took her five minutes to introduce the next song because she included a short history of the Celtic Harp.
Unfortunately someone then asked her why the harp’s strings were different colors.
Fifteen minutes later, she had given a lecture on music theory.
The same someone, clearly in a romantic trance, asked if she ever wrote for the harp.
“Why yes, of course, I do,” She made eye contact with half a dozen guests. “Several of my compositions are on my second CD.”
“Would you play one of your songs?”
I looked at Davey. Was this her idea? Davey appeared stunned.
Harpzilla played one of her own compositions. She mentioned again that she had recorded two CDs.
I looked around. Everyone appeared stunned.
I said in a loud voice, “Rich, when are we going to hear from you?”
Rich didn’t respond quickly enough. This was Harpzilla’s cue that the crowd wanted another song so she played another composition after a lengthy explanation which included the information that she had several CD’s in her car in case any of us wanted to buy one.
No one moved. I couldn’t even detect any breathing.
After 45 minutes I walked out of the room. I went to the bathroom. I wandered over to the food table. I went out on the porch and planned my escape.
I sat down on the couch next to Crystal, who sings in my choir, The OK Chorale. Harpzilla had finished a song and was starting in about her CDs again. Crystal suddenly turned to me and said conversationally, if just a shade loudly, “We’ve made CD’s.”
I turned to her like this was an act we had rehearsed. “Yes, we have.”
“You have?” Harpzilla’s fingers froze on her strings
“Yes,” I said, “Five or six, I think.”
Davey piped up, “I have one right here. Shall we put it on?”
“Which one is it?”
“Our latest, when we were on the Intiman stage!”
Now Harpzilla appeared stunned, but only briefly. “I play for Hospice patients, you know, and it’s always devastating when they die,” she announced.
Another silence. A resentful silence. Somebody sighed. Nobody said anything.
I thought, “Well, after you get through with them, I’m not surprised they die; after all, you’ve sucked the life out of a party of thirty people in less than an hour.”
Davey’s joyful hootenanny dried up well before sunset.
This party actually took place ten years ago, but we still talk about; still enjoy our righteous indignation. It’s a tale of what not to do at a party. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether I refer to the behavior of the one guest or that of the group who put up with her.