-Humor – 6 Pages –
Up until that point, I’d never been much of a Tom Jones fan. He was more my mother’s generation, not mine. Oh sure, I knew he had some hits here and there since the mid-sixties. I’d danced to “Sexbomb” and “Kiss” while I mindlessly hummed along to his Welsh baritone. Still, I didn’t own any of his CDs. Didn’t know the lyrics to most of his songs, save for a few bars of “What’s New Pussycat?”, “It’s Not Unusual”, and “She’s a Lady”. But that’s only because I recalled them from endlessly listening to my mom’s stereo. Had I any alternative, I would have changed the record. Of course, as a child, I had no alternatives. It was mom’s way or the highway, so to speak.
So when my friend Sheila invited me to the concert, I was ambivalent at best. Would I be the youngest woman there at thirty-two? Would watching a middle-aged man gyrating on stage gross me out? Would my friends tease me mercilessly? Would I have to pay to witness the spectacle? Ah, the last question was the deciding factor. And, no, I didn’t. So, yes, I went. Free is free, after all.
Besides, even I had an appreciation for the concept of “legend”. And it’s not every day you get to see one up close and personal, regardless of your feelings towards that person beforehand. Plus, Sheila couldn’t find anyone else to go with her. I was tempted to give her my mother’s phone number, but decided it was best not to put my friend through the torture of three hours alone with her. My mom would always be my mom; Sheila could easily erase me from her speed dial and forever be done with me.
At eight o’clock on a warm Saturday night, I found myself fifth row center in a lovely outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by a thousand or so fans, most of which were women. The men, I assumed, were beleaguered husbands and boyfriends. Sheila was already grinning from ear to ear. I was on my second glass of wine, hoping to catch up with her sense of joy. It turned out, I didn’t have long to wait.
Tom appeared on stage, dressed in an all black outfit: pants that were a good two sizes too tight (too help him hit the high notes, I assumed), and a shirt opened two buttons too low (too better afford us a glimpse of all that manly chest hair, I assumed as well).
“How old is he?” I asked Sheila; well, shouted to her anyway. The crowd was on their feet and madly screaming their undying devotion to him. The noise was nearly deafening.
“Um, I think sixty-four,” she shouted back in between her repeated screams of, “I love you, Tom!”
My dad’s sixty-four. He wears Sansabelt slacks, extra-large golf shirts (sansa-chest hair showing), and brown Penny Loafers. That’s all. I tried to imagine him in Tom’s getup. It wasn’t a pretty picture. In any case, Tom didn’t look sixty-four. Fifty-four, maybe. In certain lighting, such as the glow from the stage lights, maybe even forty-four.
As soon as he opened his mouth to sing, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)”, I found myself intently listening. By the second song, “Daughter Of Darkness”, I was on my feet with Sheila. And by song number three, “She’s a Lady”, I was screaming my “Whoa, Whoa, Whoas” right along with the rest of the crowd. In short, I was hooked. The guy definitely had “It”. Sad to say, my mother had been right all along. Of course, she’d never hear it from me. Sheila, on the other hand, was getting it loud and clear.
“I thought you didn’t like him,” she shouted in my ear midway through the first set.
“What gave you that idea?” I shouted back, never taking my eyes of the stage.
“Because you said, and I quote, ‘I don’t like him’.”
I ignored her comment and sang along to “Delilah” instead. Maybe I did say that, but that was before; before I’d seen him, heard him, danced with him. At that very moment is also when I noticed something very unusual. I casually glanced over my shoulder at the throng behind me and was shocked to see rows and rows of adoring fans with their panties flying high over their heads. Even quite a few of the men had their boxer shorts waving in the air. This, I had assumed, was something that had gone out of fashion with bell-bottoms and wide lapels. Yes, again I assumed incorrectly. Surprisingly, nothing about that night was going as I thought it would.
Things were about to get even stranger.
On pure impulse, and with a considerable amount of adrenaline coursing through my veins, I reached down and, much to Sheila’s shock, I too removed my panties.
“What are you doing?” she shouted at me.
“What’s it look like?” I shouted back, circling the pretty, pink undies over my head.
“But everyone else brought theirs with them.” She yelled into my ear. “They’re extras!”
Still, it didn’t stop Sheila from following suit. Hers were a lovely blue number with white lace trim.
Oh well, I thought, next time we’ll bring extras. Besides, the breeze down their felt nice. At least they were clean, I figured. As soon as the concert was over, I’d put them back on. And really, that was what I was planning on doing. What I wasn’t planning on was when Tom broke for intermission and the crowd rushed forward and started throwing their undergarments onto the stage. Ours were grabbed by assailants unknown and tossed along with the others.
“Uh-oh,” I murmured as Tom waived to the audience and danced off the stage. I watched in horror as a roadie ran up and swept all the unmentionables over to his left and out of sight. What did they do with all of them, donate them to charity? Did Tom keep them all? Should I have signed something nice on mine? Better yet, did anybody have any spares for me?
“We’re nuts,” Sheila said as we waited in line to buy a program. And a CD. And a t-shirt (for my mom). Okay, two t-shirts. But no panties. I guessed they figured they had enough of those already. Too bad for us.
“Guess we got caught up in the moment,” I said as we headed back to our seats in eager anticipation of the second set. “Besides, what’s the worst that can happen?”
Just then, the lights dimmed and Tom’s band returned to the stage, followed shortly thereafter by Tom himself. He opened with a ballad, “Green, Green Grass of Home”. Gosh, the man could really sing. My heart skipped a beat as I sat there picturing the rolling hills of Wales. That, and me and Tom rolling down them, hand in hand. Luckily, before I delved even further into the concept of May/December romances, he snapped me out of my reverie with “What’s New Pussycat?”. Again I shouted the “Whoa, Whoa, Whoas” along with the crowd.
The rest of the set went by too fast for my liking. Tom played more of his hits, plus quite a few songs that I’d never heard before, and several phenomenal covers of songs that I felt were sung even better than the originals. Then, sadly, it was over. He waved to the crowd, said his goodnights, and was gone. Gone from my life, forever. But not forgotten. Not by a long shot.
“Well, that was fun,” Sheila said as we made our way to her car.
“Fun? Is that all you can say? Fun?” I stopped walking and turned to face her. “That was amazing. Stupendous. Incredible. Why isn’t he on the road more often, performing in huge stadiums instead of rinky-dink arenas?”
“Well, he is sixty-four, you know. How much gyrating can a man do before his hips finally give out? Besides, he’s no Neil Diamond.”
I nearly slapped her, but, realizing she was my ride home, I chose to ignore her comment and instead walked the rest of the way to the car in silence.
“You mad at me?” she asked, as she pulled out of the parking lot. “You’re awfully quite.”
“Neil Diamond can’t hold a candle to Tom Jones!” I shouted. “How could you say such a thing?”
“Oh, okay. Um, I’m sorry. But two hours ago you couldn’t have cared less about the guy.”
“A lot can happen in two hours.”
“Apparently. Can I make it up to you with a drink?” she offered.
“Fine,” I accepted. “But no more talk about Neil Diamond. I’ll take ‘Delilah’ over ‘Sweet Caroline’ any day.”
“Agreed.” And we were off. I popped in my brand new Tom Jones CD and cranked the volume way up, oblivious to anything else but his magnificent voice. Minutes later, we pulled into a nearby Westin. I guessed it was the closest bar Sheila could find and, with all the night’s excitement, I really did need a drink and I wasn’t about to start complaining. Besides, I’d never had a drink in a hotel lounge before. All of a sudden I felt very grown up. And to think, it only took thirty-two years.
The lounge, it turned out, was very nice and very crowded. We were lucky to get two stools at the bar. There was, apparently, a large convention of lawyers staying at the hotel, so the place was teeming with men.
“We start the night with all gals, and we end it with all guys,” Sheila said and promptly ordered us our drinks.
“Better than the other way around,” I added and gladly started sipping mine.
“Agreed,” she said and lifted glass up. “A toast.”
“To Tom,” I said.
“To Tom,” she echoed. And we turned around to face the crowd.
After a few minutes Sheila said, “You know, these attorneys are kinda cute.”
In truth, some of them really were kinda cute. And quite a few were giving me the eye. Granted, we were practically the only female of the species there, but still, it was nice to be noticed. Up to a point.
“They sure are looking our way a lot,” Sheila said, saying what I had been thinking.
“Well, we’re two hot women out on the town.”
“I wouldn’t call the Westin the town, but I’ll take it as a complement. Still, I’m starting to feel a bit like a rabbit in a wolf’s den. It’s creepy.”
“Relax, there probably just lonely,” I said, but it was getting sort of creepy, as Sheila had said. And it wasn’t that a few of them were looking over at us; it was more like the vast majority of them were. One would make a quick peek and then quickly turn away when I’d nod a hello, and then another guy would do it, etc., etc. You’d think one of them would make eye contact or come over and say hi, I thought. But no, they just kept making casual glances our way without ever making full, head-on stares.
Just before we started to pack it in and head on out, the free drinks started arriving. And creepy or not, a girl should never turn down a free drink, especially when she doesn’t even have to talk to the guy who’s buying it for her. There was, however, a price we were paying, but we didn’t find out what it was until thirty minutes and three drinks later; and by then the staring thing wasn’t bothering us as much anymore.
That is, until I felt a tapping on my shoulder and a timid, little man in a blue blazer with his name pinned across it whispered into my ear, “Um…ma’am…um…the management would like it if you two left the lounge.”
“Excuse me?” I said as I turned to face him. “Do you not allow women in this place?”
He turned three shades of red before he answered. “Certain types of women, no.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I practically shouted at him. “We’re not doing anything wrong.”
To which he replied by gesturing to the crowd of men, most of which were now, finally, staring intently our way.
“So we have a few admirers,” I said to the man. “So what, is there a law against it?”
“Well, yes, there is, ma’am. There are indecency laws, and, well…”
“What?” I shouted, but just as I said it, it dawned on me what exactly was going on. I think it occurred to Sheila at just about the same instant, because she grabbed my arm and started to lead me out of the lounge. And that’s when the real trouble started.
No sooner had we stood up to go when, one by one, the men started booing at the poor man who had come to ask us to leave.
“Let ’em stay!” They each shouted, but that soon turned into a group chant, followed by a rhythmic pounding of their fists on the tables and their feet on the floor. A scary sound to hear, especially when you know you’re the cause of it.
Still, there was no way Sheila and I were going to stay there a minute longer, all things considered. The men, however, who had all been sitting and drinking the entire time we were there, saw it differently. They rushed the poor manager, who they saw as the reason for our departure, and threatened him in no uncertain terms. Sheila and I tried to intervene on his behalf, but our requests went unheeded; and unheard, as by then there was a significant din emanating from the once peaceful lounge.
The three of us feared for our lives and were ready to make a mad dash out of there when all of a sudden a hush fell over the place. The men in front of us were no longer looking our way. They were now staring intently at the entrance. Sheila and I turned to face what had quieted the mob. We were as stunned as they were.
“What’s this about?” came the by-now-familiar Welsh brogue.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Jones,” the manager said, cowering beneath the legend, “we have a bit of a…um…problem here.”
Tom, apparently, was staying at the Westin, much to our amazement. And honestly, he was even more striking up close. Though, truth be told, he no longer looked forty-four. Maybe when I’m his age I’ll install stage lighting throughout my house. It seems to do wonders.
“What kind of problem?” he asked. “Do these nice, young ladies need some assistance?”
Sheila and I blushed. Tom Jones was referring to us! Holy cow!
“Well, you see, Mr. Jones, these young ladies are the problem.”
“Nonsense,” he said. “What could such lovely women have done to cause such a…”
But I interrupted him. I quickly leaned over and whispered in his ear exactly what we had done to cause the mess we were now in.
“Ah,” he said, grinning his glorious grin. “Happens all the time.” Then he surprised us yet again by reaching into a large, leather attaché case he had with him. I peaked inside as he rummaged around. There were literally dozens of panties inside. They must have been his favorites from the night. Gee, I thought to myself, I really should have written something nice on mine after all. I spotted ours right away.
“Those two,” I said. “The pink one and the blue one.”
“Nice choice,” he commented, and then he handed us back our underwear. The crowd of men let out a sad, collective groan, but Sheila and I were beside ourselves with joy, especially after he autographed them for us. We were certain to never wash them again. Too bad we had to put them back on, though. Then, seeing as we were no longer causing a stir in the place, the manager let us stay, which we gladly did. Gladly being a gross understatement as Tom, who insisted we call him that and not Mr. Jones, took the seat next to ours and joined us for a drink. We were, in fact, joyous.
“You were really terrific tonight, Tom,” I gushed.
“Yeah, awesome,” Sheila added.
“Thank you ladies. It was a pleasure to perform for you both.”
We grinned and toasted our newfound friend.
“By the way,” I said. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but funny enough, you and my dad are the same age. Do you think you can give him some fashion tips sometime? All he ever wears is Sansabelt slacks, extra-large golf shirts, and brown Penny Loafers.
Tom smiled at my comment and motioned for me to look down at his pants. Then he slipped his finger inside the waistband and gave a pull. “Smart man, your father,” he said. “I wouldn’t be caught dead without mine. Neil Diamond’s been wearing them for years, and if it’s good enough for Neil…”
Originally posted 04/27/2005