Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back to Back: Paul Shaffer and Gloria Gaynor at the Grammy Museum

No doubt that the GRAMMY Museum is one of my favorite new Los Angeles places and every time I go to an event or wander around their exhibitions of musical history, discussion, and interactivity, this knowlege is reinforced. My practically back-to-back event attendance at the museum last week with Paul Shaffer (Wednesday, October 21st) and Gloria Gaynor (Thursday, October 22nd) reminded me of a specific reason I appreciate the museum's offerings and programming: diversity.

There's something about stages. They're like a blank canvas, or a piece of unmolded clay, but instead of being host to a single, eventual output, a stage is home to the influx of continuous possibility. Having been at the GRAMMY Museum Soundstage for a number of programs, I know that the museum has had a number of guests from different genres and formats, from modern Latin music with FONSECA to the wordless and moving jazz stylings of Charlie Haden. But it was only when I attended two very different events in the same place on two consecutive days, did it really hit home the power held in this 200-seat theatre.

Both Paul Shaffer (to those who are unfamiliar, David Letterman's band leader and co-author of recently released memoir We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives) and Gloria Gaynor (singer of many disco era hits but perhaps best known for I Will Survive) had great interviews that touched upon nuances in their lives. Shaffer's interview naturally fell into reference of his recently released memoir as Gaynor's was obviously shaped and shadowed by the 30th anniversary of her hit song "I Will Survive".

Shaffer's interview with the museum's Executive Director Robert Santelli leaned more toward laugh out loud comedy - assisted also with his co-writer David Ritz on stage - with references to his musical career. His interview was peppered with stories of his time on Saturday Night Live, his relationship with the Blues Brothers, and humorous stories of the Letterman show (from Sonny and Cher to trying to rehearse with an elusive Sammy Davis Jr.).

Gaynor's interview with its many amusing, poignant moments leaned more toward inspirational. She appreciated the hard work she put in as a musician before being a star (unlike some young celebrities today) and an amazing story of how one woman's inability to catch a flight home eventually led to her seeing Gaynor's performance, and Gaynor's rendition of "I Will Survive" ultimately helping that woman stray away from commiting suicide.

Musically, Shaffer performed bits and pieces as it related to the story being told on stage. His was almost more of a piano and vocal soundtrack to the live interview. Gaynor's performance followed after her conversation with Gail Mitchell (as are most of the events I've attended), enrapturing its audience in covers of Barry Manilow's Somewhere Down the Road and The Police's Every Breath You Take. There was even a surprise guest performance with Days of Our Lives actress Nadia Bjorlin. Of course, I Will Survive was the big finale number complete with audience sing-along participation.

I hope those reading will take the time to schedule not just one visit to the GRAMMY Museum and its programming, but many. Perhaps not back-to-back on two consecutive days, but this is definitely a place that deserves more than a casual stroll. I believe I appreciate the museum more - and music more - because of the opportunities it hosts to experience music in so many ways.

For more information about the GRAMMY Musuem, visit ExperienceLA.com.

-Charity Tran

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