Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I wear a tuxedo to work. I wear it when I perform with a symphony orchestra. I wear it when I promote Beethoven’s Wig. I wear it a lot.
That wasn’t the plan. For me a career in music meant jeans and t-shirts.
When I made my first Beethoven’s Wig album, I wasn’t thinking about tuxedos. Beethoven’s Wig was a “studio” project. A “concept” album. I didn’t plan on taking a show on the road.
Then the album came out and I got invited to perform on the Today Show. Jeans and a t-shirt were out of the question. It was classical music. I needed a tuxedo. But my act was comedy. And for kids too. It had to be something different than Sir Simon Rattle dons to conduct the philharmonic. It needed to look historic. Maybe I needed a big wig too!!
I went to a costume shop. The wigs were over the top. But the place had some “period” tuxedos. A few looked like Beethoven himself might have worn them. Unfortunately, they were stiff, musty and there wasn’t one even close to big enough to fit me.
“Here, try this one,” the saleswoman said sensing the authentic 18th century look wasn’t going to work for me. “It’s vintage. It’s got a hint of history. But it’s more functional.”
I eyed the thing on the hanger. It was a dusty - obviously been sitting on the rack for a long time. But it was large enough to fit a modern man and looked like it would hold up for more than one performance. I tried it on. It fit.
“A hundred bucks and it’s yours,” the saleslady said. I handed her the money and ran out of the store. What a deal! Any tuxedo for slightly more than the cost of a rental would have been a bargain. I was set.
I got home and admired my new purchase. I imagined how good I’d look in front of six million TV viewers on the Today Show. Then I looked at the inside pocket. In my heart I suppose I was expecting to see the name of some long gone German tailor who had hand sewn the tuxedo for Wagner or Brahms. But no. The label said “Christian Dior – Monsieur.”
It was vintage all right. But not vintage 1800’s. It was from the 1970’s or 80’s. Undoubtedly it had started life as a top of the line garment gracing galas. Now it was a hundred dollar throwaway at a costume shop.
But it was mine. And to this day I wear it proudly. I’ve given that tuxedo a new life. People who don’t look too closely sometimes compliment me. “Hey, that looks a little like something Beethoven himself might have worn.”
“Thanks,” I say. But I’m thinking, “Don’t you mean Dean Martin?”