Sunday, December 03, 2006

Trekking Toward Tulsa Time

Trekking Toward Tulsa Time

As noted in my first-ever production “overview,” I took in the Tulsa stop of the Anne Murray concert tour. So what was I doing there in northeast Oklahoma just a couple days after the area experienced one of its worst winter storms in ages and taking in one of Nova Scotia’s favorite daughters?

This journey actually began in mid-October thanks to my razor-sharp and exceedingly fit 95 year old Grampa Charley. You see, when I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas this last October for business purposes, I was able to bring along a guest. I decided that since Gramps was about to reach a milestone birthday, I’d ask him to join me on the cruise where we could celebrate his big day early by sailing from Boston to Halifax and back.

Prior to boarding the ship, I asked Gramps if there was any one thing he wanted to be sure to see or do. I was practically stymied when his response was that he wanted to meet Anne Murray; he knew she hailed from the Maritime province on our itinerary. Whether Gramps was being facetious or merely fanciful didn’t matter to me. I knew that he was a fan and that’s all that mattered now.

But how on earth could I pull off such a feat? Was it even possible? Surely the songstress wouldn’t even be anywhere near her hometown of Springhill, Nova Scotia when we sailed into Halifax.

The first step on my Tulsa trek began by finding Anne Murray’s Web site. After locating a “contact us” e-mail address, I dashed off a note that explained my grandfather was a fan, while half-apologizing for what I assumed would be a futile attempt to see her. I wrote:

(Gramps) told me yesterday that the only thing he wants to be sure to do is see Anne Murray when we’re in Nova Scotia. Now, I’m not sure that Anne Murray will even be close to Halifax on 24 October, but just wanted to check-in to see what I might be able to do for my Grampa.

Much to my delightful surprise, I received a very warm note from a gracious stranger kindly explaining that Murray would not be in Nova Scotia during October. Instead, she invited us to consider visiting the Anne Murray Centre in Springhill. However, rather than just letting it go at that, she also asked for Gramps’ address so she could ensure a birthday greeting and autographed picture of the Canadian recording artist was sent to him.

Yet the biggest surprise came in telling me that Anne Murray would be on a concert tour of the United States in November and December. She indicated that if I could arrange to take my grandfather to one of the concerts, I should let her know so she could try to arrange a backstage meeting with the singer (she also provided the caveat that she couldn’t guarantee it, but would be happy to try).

The note alone impressed me tremendously. After checking out the concert schedule, I found that Anne Murray was slated to appear on December 2 in Tulsa -- the closest tour stop to Gramps’ home in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Since my grandfather is amazingly robust and extremely active (he still plays golf as many as three times a week and volunteers at his local cable access station), I realized I had better check to see whether his schedule permitted him to make the trip to Oklahoma.

Of course, I called to break the news that Anne Murray would not be in her home province while we would be there, but then I asked what he was doing on December 2 and was thrilled when he said he had no plans. That cemented it for me -- I asked him if he’d be interested in going to Tulsa to see Anne Murray in concert. He sounded so genuinely pleased, particularly when I said I’d take him myself.

The next step on my journey saw me purchasing tickets for Gramps, his lady friend (yes, my grandfather is quite the lady’s man) and me. I then contacted the individual from Anne Murray’s Web site once again and indicated that we would be taking in the Tulsa show. Almost immediately, I heard back and was told that Gramps, his lady friend and I would all be on the backstage meeting list for the concert (although she did also provide a similar cautionary note that things could still change at the last minute).

So yesterday morning, I flew to the Northwest Arkansas Airport that serves the communities of Fayetteville, Bentonville and my grandfather’s adopted hometown of Bella Vista and was met by this truly inspirational man, who was all smiles and more than just a little excited. We picked up his lady friend and hightailed it to Tulsa during daylight in the event the roads would be icy -- which they were beginning about 20 miles east of Tulsa.

Fortunately, despite the terrible snow, the show was still on. We arrived at the theatre early (I used the ruse that we needed to follow our hotel shuttle’s schedule, but the truth was that I needed to pick up the backstage passes 45 minutes prior to show time). None the wiser, Gramps and his lady friend took their seats and clearly enjoyed the concert. I was ecstatic, but knew that the big moment was still to come.

Once the concert was over, I took Gramps and his lady friend to a special holding area. From there we were whisked to a backstage area, along with about ten other excited audience members. Then, Anne Murray arrived and blew me away when she said, “Where’s Charley?” My surprised Gramps lit up immediately and before I knew it, the entertainer was chatting up my grandfather (pictured together above), his lady friend and me. Naturally, being so genuinely good-natured, she posed for a few pictures with us and talked a little more, giving me an opportunity to relay how our journey began -- she seemed touched.

Anne Murray, who is a very youthful looking 61 years young herself and even better looking up close and personal than in photos, now has my undying appreciation and respect for bringing incredible joy to my grandfather. She’s also brought further hope to me that some entertainers never forget that it’s the fans who are ultimately responsible in their quest for fame and success. There will always be a special place in my heart for this amazing artist.

As for Gramps, instead of being on Cloud 9, he is now floating in the stratosphere. Visibly touched and awed that his simple suggestion of wanting to meet the Pride of Springhill, Nova Scotia would actually come true, my grandfather and I have continued to bond not only as a truly grand-patriarch and progeny, but also as true friends. I feel so incredibly blessed to have him in my life, and I’m cherishing every moment I have with him.

I love you Gramps. Thank you for making this journey with me, and here’s to many more.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
Anne Murray (The SOB Overview) - Historic Brady Theater, Tulsa, Oklahoma (December 3, 2006)

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At 04 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful. What a lovely story. Bravo to all!

At 04 December, 2006, Anonymous Esther said...

Oh wow, I got a little choked up reading this. What a wonderful story. I loved the part about your grandfather having to check his schedule! And I enjoyed reading the article about him, too.

And isn't it great when you have some contact with a celebrity who's kind and gracious. I think the ones who are never get enough credit.

We hear about the big, splashy things they do, but I'm sure there are numerous examples like this, simply meeting some fans after a concert and giving them an experience they'll never forget.

At 04 December, 2006, Anonymous Esther said...

Ok, completely off topic, but in honor of Grandpa's Minnesota roots, I just wanted to mention one of my first "celebrity meetings." Not that there have been all that many!

In 1976, when I was in high school, I went to Washington, D.C., for the first time with a school group. The hotel we stayed at was hosting a dinner for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

With the help of a reporter I met, I crashed the dinner. I met, and got autographs from Coretta Scott King, Alan Greenspan, and Hubert Humphrey.

While everyone was nice, Senator Humphrey was the best. He went out of his way to be gracious, called me by my first name, introduced me to his wife, Muriel. I've never forgotten it.

I guess you could say, cynically, sure, he's a politician, it's his job to be nice. But he took that extra step that really made the experience memorable.

It wasn't just "part of the job." I think he was just a truly nice person. And I imagine it's the same for Anne Murray.

At 04 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks Martha and Esther,

I appreciate your comments, but they were so easy to write about since they came from the heart. Have to admit that I was a bit misty eyed myself as I was writing the piece on the plane last evening. I feel very blessed to still have this sole grandparent with me.

Being a former political guy myself, it was fun hearing about your meeting with Hubert Humphrey (you must have read the story on my grandfather's volunteer efforts from the link I provided -- good for you!!).

Given the timing of your meeting with Humphrey (known in some quarters affectionately as Minnesota Chats), it came shortly before it became known that he was suffering from the cancer that ultimately took his life. How fortunate you were to meet this great son of Minnesota. One can't help but wonder how different our country might have been had he had successfully parlayed his vice presidency to the presidency back in 1968. Fortunately, his legacy lives on.

At 04 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve! This is a marvellous thing you have done for your Gramps! And also for Anne Murray as she looks just as pleased as your Grandfather.

Thank you so much for directing me to here, and for your kind words regarding my own sweet grandfather.

All the very best for the Christmas season Steve :-)


At 04 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Merry Christmas to you, too! My thoughts are with you and others who will be going through the holidays without their loved ones.


At 22 March, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve On Broadway, I loved your touching story about your gramps and Anne Murray. I am so glad he got to meet her. She is one in a million.

At 22 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks for your comments. I can't tell you how wowed my Gramps and I were by Anne Murray, a delight in every way. Gramps is still talking about that magical evening.


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