[BB King died Thursday night, May 14, 2015. He was 89, and I knew he’d been sick. For some reason, though I could see this was the end of his life, I didn’t expect him to die. The last footage of him I’d seen,, he seemed unchanged, ageless. Now though I suspect this was because the footage I saw was several years old, and also I wanted him not to die. Since, I’ve seen more recent footage of him in which he was undeniably ageful, which gave me pangs, realizing how selfish wanting im not to die could be.. What I saw unconsciously, prepared me for his death. When I learned the end had come, I wasn’t disturbed. Saddened, a little, but not dismayed or cut off or in any way disposessed or disconnected. Just another stripe on the zebra’s ass. Just another part of the blues.]
This is a difficult story for me to tell. I don’t have the chops, and finding the workarounds is an unholy bitch.
One morning about ten years ago, I was scheduled to begin work on a film, shooting (of all people) Helen Hayes in Central Park. I was to meet Herman the producer in the lobby of the Edison Hotel, a great and ancient establishment on 47th Street at the northwest corner of Duffy Square, itself the northern triangle of what is commonly called Times Square, which is in fact the name of only the southern triangle of that space.
We were to meet at 9.
I got there about 8. There was a coffee shop off the lobby that I knew had excellent pancakes.
At 8:55, I came back into the lobby. I guess my back had been to the glass door to the street, because this was my first indication that it was raining. Pouring, in fact.
I saw Herman as he came out of the elevator.
“We’ll wait,” he said. “It’s supposed to stop around eleven.”
He went back to his room.
The lobby was quite large. In fact, it extended through to 46th Street. I chose an easy chair, near the elevators, and sat. Uncharacteristically, I had brought a book. Normally I scorned crew people who brought books on location. But I was in a hotel lobby, not on a set, and I’d known this could arise.
At 11 it was still raining. Herman came out of the elevator, said “Hmmm,”, and went back to his room.
About 11:15, though, the rain began to thin. At the same time I began to sense … something, underlying everything in the lobby. Not exactly a tone, it nevertheless ran through everything. Not a tune, it energized everything, like a score.
It was like, everything was moving to a beat I could feel. It reordered all that I could see, everything that was real. Everything was in movement, organically. Everything was alive, and part of the same deal. Doing exactly what it should.
The Blues came and got me, just came right up the sidewalk and then on in right through the front door. It came up 47th Street and then turned through the revolving door. It came across the doormat and then it rolled across the lobby floor!
I heard the Front Desk saying, “Can I book you in a lovely two-room suite?” Yeah, I heard the deskman saying,”Can I book you in our finest two-room suite?” I heard the guest replying, “A normal room with bathtub, if you please.”
I hurried out the front door, to see if there was music in the street. I say I hurried out the front door to find a musical element in the street. There was rhythm in the air, all right, you could feel its funky blues-based beat.
Far to the east, something comes up 47th Street. From where that street merged with Destiny, was something coming towards me up the street. A whole bus came ‘cross Times Square come d’rectly to the place where we would meet.
As it crossed Seventh Avenue I could see it plain as day. A huge, blue ‘n’ green bus comin in to play. On its destination plaque, “BB KING” was what it say!
Just then, Herman came out through the revolving door. He had my equipment with him. The sun was shininn, the wet street was gleaming. He handed me my grip bag and the case containing my tape recorder and mikes.
“Come on!” he said. He walked into the street, flagging a cab. “We’re keeping Miss Hayes waiting!”