Thanks to all the fans for making Back to Basics a sucess! We've sold out shows in King of Prussia, PA and The Golden Banana outside of Revere, MA. As a little thank you, we've included another zany story from Crystal's act. Enjoy!
Whenever I’m introduced to new people, they almost always ask me the same questions: “How did you meet Burt Bacharach?” and “Can you please get up, you’re on my coat?” And I always tell them the same thing: “I’m not answering any questions until you get me a sloe gin fizz and a leg of lamb.” But, I figure I’ll answer the first of those questions now (hopefully so people will stop asking in the future and head straight towards the gin and lamb, which will invariably answer the second question).
I met Larry in 1965 (he likes when I call him Larry, only myself and the extraordinary Sandy Duncan are permitted to do so) in Calcutta at a piano bar called “Montenegro.” The details on our first rendezvous are a little hazy since Geoffrey was on vacation in Provincetown at the time and was not around to document the situation in its entirety. But, I will say that he was rather tall and I was wearing an extravagant necklace I had nicked from Golda Meir’s private collection when she thought I was going to vomit in the bathtub.
Now, this whole thing was happening during my 30 year long feud with that ratfink bitch Crystal Gayle. And I think that Larry had been made aware of this (if not from the tabloids then definitely from that long-haired hussy herself) so he was acting rather demure. I, on the other hand, was quite enamored with Mr. Larry and I had asked him to play me one of the old songs on the baby grand that was currently being neglected by the Indian piano boy. He obliged and I kissed him squarely on the lips which I think threw him for a loop because he began playing a toe-tapping rendition of “Send in the Clowns” that Calcutta won’t soon forget. When the applause had died down he said, “Crystal, I need you desperately. Sing on my next record.” I, of course, said yes, but only after he had gotten me a sloe gin fizz and a leg of lamb and I begrudgingly relinquished his coat.
Who can believe it, but at that very moment Crystal Gayle burst in the door yelling and screaming like the crazy bitch that she is. She said something about me murdering her chinchilla. I very calmly told her that her ugly little rat probably got tangled in her hair and hanged itself. She was quite upset at this comment and, though I don’t remember much after this, I do remember that Larry was a gentleman the entire time and I’m pretty sure Crystal Gayle never came back to Calcutta. I did have one last encounter with that slattern, but it was well into the 70’s and a little too involved to be included in the “How I met Larry Bacharach” story.
So I ended up singing several songs on Larry’s record as you all might remember (the most fun of which was a duet of “Flight of the Bumblebee” with a fetal Bernadette Peters). His record, as you can imagine was a hit. I can remember leaving the studio after our last day of recording and we were mobbed by a mob of what I can only assume were reporters (although they may very well have been the mob).
Now these reporters starting snapping pictures and asking all sorts of personal questions about Larry and my relationship. Luckily Geoffrey had come back from his vacation by this time (he had gotten his hair done in those delightful corn-rows that vacationers and housekeepers tend to have) and he informed me that pictures had been leaked (by who I can only assume was that damn Gayle woman) of myself and Larry in a carnal embrace. Larry and I had never had a carnal embrace or even a vegetative embrace separate from that first kiss in “Montenegro.” Well, I was livid. I asked Geoffrey for copies of the photos which he happened to have in his backpack. Sure enough, Crystal Gayle had positioned me and Larry in a compromising way long after we had passed out on the piano that first night in Calcutta. I assured Geoffrey and Larry that I would get that bitch for this and I hoped it would not jeopardize the success of the new record.
Well, did those little shenanigans ever backfire on Miss Gayle, let me tell you. That record, which Larry later entitled “Hit Maker! Burt Bacharach Plays the Burt Bacharach Hits” became an overnight success regardless of the fact that Larry hadn’t included any of my songs. He did assure me that it had nothing to do with the Crystal Gayle debacle, though Geoffrey couldn’t find Ethel Steinberg, his dog, for several weeks.
So many young kids who want to get into showbiz always ask me, “Ms. Gomes, you can’t have always been the international superstar that we are blessed with today. How did you get your start?” Most people think that it was something that happened overnight, or that I worked my way to the top. Well, none of that hogwash is true. I’m not going to beat around the bush; it took a little elbow grease and a lot of sleeping around. But there was a moment it my life when I thought, “Hey,
get off the can and open your eyes, you’ve made it, sweet heart!” Crystal
It all started when I stepped off the bus in the windy apple itself:
. I was down on my luck at the time (yes, Crystal Gomes had humble beginnings just like you, reader). I thought that I had gotten on the bus for Tallahassee New York City, but it turns out that giving the ticket-monger a what-for in the men’s room only gets you as far as Northern Florida. I had actually gotten on the bus in Northern New Jersey, but I thought the bus driver had hit some traffic on the George Washington. Nope, . I wasn’t deterred though, I put down my sack of oranges and said to myself, “Myself, you’re home.” Tallahassee
I decided that I needed to devise a plan if I was going to make it in this whirlwind called
. I went to a phone booth and looked in the yellow pages under “booze.” There wasn’t anything there. I thought, “What kind of rinky-dink town is this if you can’t even look up booze in the phone book?” I started to hyperventilate until I realized that across the street from that very phone booth was a gin joint just like I was looking for. I cursed the city of Tallahassee for keeping secrets from me (a curse that is still on the books today) and waltzed over to sell my wares. I said to the barkeep (this was in the days before Geoffrey was around to speak to strangers for me), Tallahassee
“Barkeep, my name is Crystal Gomes and I’m here in
to make it big. Do you have any room in your cabaret for a future star?” Tallahassee
That barkeep looked at me and said, “We don’t have a cabaret, sweet cheeks.”
“Get me a gin milk punch, hold the milk and give me some extra punch. I’m starting a cabaret in this here establishment and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Well I threw down my other sack of oranges and hopped on the piano. I yelled, “Is there anyone in this stink hole of a bar that can play a tune on this music box?”
Some one from the audience yelled, “It’s three in the afternoon and that’s a crate of Jose Cuervo. That’s the piano over there.”
Well, as I was embarking from the crate, a liquor soaked voice from the corner squeaked, “I can play it Miss Gomes.”
And do you know who that someone was? You guessed it, the incomparable Jimmy Tunes himself. He had a lay over for a flight from
Key Westto four years earlier, fell in love with the city, and never left. I didn’t learn that, though, until much later. I just said to him: Cincinnati
“Hey stranger, get on these ivories in the key of C.”
To make a long story short, he did, I sang, and we brought down the house like a crippling electrical fire (which was actually the final fate of this gin joint in 1993, ironically enough). That day, the two of us promised to stick together through thick and thicker. The barkeep came up to the two of us after the applause had died down and said,
“Hey kids, that wasn’t half bad. If you want a regular gig, you’ve got it.”
And that was the start of Jimmy’s and my time in
. We played to a packed house every night to the delight of the Floridian barflies and Japanese businessmen who frequented that establishment. I made enough in tips and drinks to pay our rent in a boxcar by the quarry. It wasn’t much, but it was home. In retrospect, I’m not exactly sure who I was paying rent too for that boxcar (I addressed the check to “Boxcar” and sent it on its way) but I definitely never missed a payment. Tallahassee
Well, after eight months had gone by, I looked at Jimmy and I said,
“Jimmy, this is it. If we don’t get on a bus and try to make it to
New York, will never let us leave. We’ve breathed a new life into this town, and it’s time we shared our talent with the rest of the world.” Tallahassee
Jimmy didn’t answer because he was asleep under the burlap sack that we used as a duvet. But he most definitely agreed and as soon as he woke up, we went to the bus station from whence this story began and made sure to get on the right bus (Jimmy supplied the what-for this time just for good measure). On that bus ride, I happened to sit myself down next to a gentleman and strike up a conversation about the joys and uses of beeswax that I found quite engaging. After I told him about our little story and the gentleman stranger said to me, “Crystal Gomes. I am famous producer. I will make you a star.” Well, sure enough he was lying and Jimmy and I ended up tying him up and leaving him at a Roy Rogers that we stopped at near
The next morning we found ourselves in the capital of the universe,
. We both immediately felt like we had found our home away from the boxcar and made it our first order of business to find me an agent. We both ditched our sacks of oranges in a Port Authority locker and got to work. New York City
Now, you all know the rest of this story is the basis of the movie, “The Muppets Take Manhattan” so I needn’t bore you with the details. But I want to get back to the point at hand, which is the moment that I realized I had hit the big time. I think it was when Jimmy and I were tying up that dirty liar in the Roy Rogers bathroom. I looked over at Jimmy and I thought to myself, “This is it. This is what show biz is about. If Jimmy and I can win over
, survive in a box car and take down this stranger with a doozy of a two fisted wallop, there’s no telling what we can do. The only other time I’ve felt a surge of euphoria like that was when former President Jimmy Carter goosed me at the Kennedy Center Honors (turns out he had actually mistaken me for Ladybird Johnson…which I get a lot). Tallahassee
So, what I want to impart to the future of show biz is this: even if you get on the wrong bus at first, don’t stop giving out what-fors because eventually you’ll make it to that shiny big apple in the sky.
"One thing I like to do occasionally after shows is a little Q&A talk back with the audience. While these are not as popular as my T&A talk backs I was once so famous for, I still like them. I remember one of these as if it were yesterday. I was in Boise, or Wichita, or one of those horrible places where everyone’s ugly and couldn’t make a good gin gimlet if their sorry lives depended on it. Well, whatever Stinktown I was stranded in, I had just finished a show and decided to spice up the evening by doing one of my unabashedly anti-Protestant and Irish Q&A’s. So this one little lady who looks like Don Rickles in an egg costume raises her hand. She wanted to know who was the one person in my life that I simply couldn’t live without.
I thought about this for some time. Surely my milkman, Dr. Barnabus Nickleby was invaluable. Or what about Eileen Dagmire, who gets the smell of schnapps and lost dignity out of my carpets? And who could live without Johnny Gielgud and his hilarious “dog-in-a-bee-suit” photo diaries? Many people in my life are reliably good for a laugh and a stiff drink, but in the end I settled on one person; my loyal assistant, possible illegitimate son, and valet, Geoffrey. Geoffrey has been with me for a number of years, ever since he found me wandering around downtown Encino looking for Barbara Eden’s Cadillac El Dorado. (As it turned out, Barbara had taken the car back to the shooting range and thought I would meet her there after she picked up Shirley Jones from the dry cleaners. But Barbara never told me that. Or maybe I forgot. Either way Geoffrey took me to a coffee shop to sober up and we eventually found Barbara and Shirley taking shots at old cans down by the water.)
Geoffrey is absolutely priceless. He drives me places, he books my shows, he picks little crusties out of my eyes while I sleep. While the last one may be a little strange, few could argue that those crusties don’t get really annoying after a while. Well, I guess all of this testimonial wasn’t enough because little Miss Rickles wanted me to tell a story about what Geoffrey means to me. What resulted was the preliminary ground work for my twenty-third album, “Sad Songs For And About The Late Carol Burnett: A Tribute to Carol Burnett” Now, I don’t remember what the story was, exactly. But I know it involved Geoffrey, sixteen pounds of Quaaludes and a young Nigerian boy named Tse-Tse. I do wish I could remember that story right now. If you want to hear it, listen to the record. For now I’ll give you another little yarn about just how much I need Geoffrey in my life.
The year was 1986, Geoffrey and I had been on a whirlwind tour of the Dutch West Indies while I performed my show “A Black Thai Affair: My Oriental Travels with Harry Belafonte.” Well, when we finally got back to New York, we were exhausted. I had just one engagement that weekend, singing a small cabaret act down at Mr. Moriarty’s Midtown. Geoffrey, unbelievably, requested the weekend off. Now normally I don’t believe in giving anyone time off. What am I supposed to do, tie my own shoes? Take my own baths? Throw my own rotten yams at hobos from the backseat of my limo while I chuckle and sip sterling hooch straight from Noel Coward’s private stock? I think not. But on that day, maybe it was the look in his eyes or the seven glasses of bitters I drank on the plane, I decided to give in. Geoffrey jumped and clapped like a little girl and pranced away to Chelsea.
So later that night I was all alone and bored. I decided to call my old pal Yul Brynner and see if he wanted to have a few laughs. Now Geoffrey has warned me time and time again. He says he knows how Yul and I get, and he doesn’t want me getting into any trouble. But, Geoffrey wasn’t there to tell me this time, so I gave Yul a ring. Well, three hours later I’m wearing nothing but an old pillowcase, drinking Riesling from a salad bowl, making wigs out of spaghetti in Yul’s kitchen.
Now Yul really loved his spaghetti wig. The moment he put it on, he started running around the house singing Anna’s part from “King and I” in an Italian accent, occasionally stopping to yell “Etcetera” in a traditional Siamese accent. (Harry and I learned on our travels that Siam is now called Thailand. They do not like to be called Siamese. It’s just like how you can’t call Sumner Redstone “Ol’ Jewy” anymore.) I put my spaghetti wig on and began a five hour tirade against Annette Funicello, accusing her of rooting around in my trash late at night. (Which, as it turns out, she was. She was pretty heavy into Mescaline in those days and was trying to find her long dead cat, Inspector Jonathon. )Needless to say, I woke up the next day with a doozy of a hangover. Yul was lying halfway in the dishwasher, wearing an old Sears & Roebuck catalogue as underwear and sucking his thumb. I woke up on his terrace, still wearing the pillowcase, with a snow boot full of drinking ammonia next to me. I stumbled to the clock and to my horror saw that it was seven-thirty at night. My gig at Mr. Moriarty’s Downtown was in half an hour. Now, normally I would have called Geoffrey to come pick me up with a change of clothes, a thermos of Sanka, and some Doral Extra Longs. But, little lord Fauntleroy was on vacation, so I was without assistance.
After ten minutes of waiting on the curb, I finally caught a ride in a gypsy cab that cost me fifty dollars. I didn’t have the money so I gave him the boot full of ammonia, which I had brought along as a little pick-me-up. I got to the club at 7:55, just in time to run backstage, smoke a cigarette, and do a few quick “Red Leather, Yellow Leather’s”. It was very tight. I was exhausted. But all in all, the show went fine. The audience, however, was a little confused by my appearance as, in my hurry to get to the club, I had no time to pick up my bag of wigs at the cleaners, and so was forced to wear the spaghetti wig I’d fashioned at Yul’s the night before.
The moral of this story, really, is that I cannot function without Geoffrey. Where was he to remind me why Yul and I mix about as well as Michael Landon and a malignant cancer cell? Where was Geoffrey with my costume and bag of wigs? Where was Geoffrey later that night when I fell down a flight of stairs and engaged in a misguided late night lawsuit against the entire cast of “Starlight Express?" He was on vacation when I needed him most. Which is why I decided that Geoffrey should never be unavailable to me. The very next day (after losing my lawsuit in court because of what the judge called “flagrant disregard for the American legal system and violation of numerous New York state decency statutes) I set up a cot for him in my pantry where he’s been very happy for the past twenty years.
Come to think of it, I should have told that girl in Bumsburg this story. It has more zing than the Nigerian drug running story ever did. I think. I really wish I remembered that one. I should go listen to the album. Whose title, by the way, I changed to “Lovely Love, Love: Songs for Yakov.” I changed it because, as it turns out, Carol Burnett isn't dead. And you want to know who informed me of that (albeit seven months and several confusing conversations later)?
Yup, you guessed it.
My darling Geoffrey.
What a guy. "Copyright 2006 Gomes Group Inc.