I attended the concert at Madison Square Garden Friday night and the spring picnic after party for Bette’s NY Restoration Project. It was a fabulous night!! I had a front row center seat at the concert, so during “Chapel of Love” Bette sat on the stage right in front of me and when everyone started to sing the song, she got a bit teary eyed and she stopped singing and she looked right at me and mouthed the words, “It’s so emotional.” It was a very heartfelt moment. At the after party I got a chance to talk to her. She said, “I remember you!! You had a face like this” and she jokingly made this really somber face, like a lot of front row people do, so I laughingly said, “No I didn’t!!” and she said, “No no you were fine, I’m teasing, I actually couldn’t see a thing” which was funny but I figured she did remember my face from when she sang COL. So I told her this was the 4th show I had seen this tour, that I was a new donor who actually lives in Florida, but that I had been a fan for a very long time and she thanked me. I told her she was a master interpreter of song and she said, “Thank you so much, you know, I really appreciate that, no one has ever told me that in my whole career, you should have been a reporter.” which I took as a huge compliment, as my mom has a journalism degree and is a very good writer and she really influenced that in me so I was quite flattered. I gave her a bracelet that was made out of turquoise beads attached to a guitar pick that had painted palm trees on it. She immediately put it on her wrist and I told her I got it because I knew she had started playing the guitar and the palm trees were very Hawaiian looking. She thanked me and gave me a kiss on the cheek, which I wasn’t expecting and was very sweet. I told her I would be at the meet and greet on Monday and she told me, “Okay I’ll see you then”. So needless to say, I was beyond grateful leaving that night.
At the concert in Brooklyn, she was very emotional at the end. One of her band members had to bring Kleenex out to her because she was crying so much. I remember thinking in my head, as we were standing there giving her a standing ovation, that what I had to tell her at the meet and greet was going to affect her in a deeply emotional way, but I had been waiting 20 years to tell her so I knew I had to.
So at the meet and greet, I get up to her, her handler introduces me and so of course I say to her jokingly, “Long time no see” since I had just seen her Friday night at the after party, and she says, “Oh yea it’s you again!” in a very cute way. We take the picture and she grabs my hands and says, “You know, you are so sweet.” I’m thinking she is referencing the bracelet I gave her and I say, “Oh did you like the bracelet I gave you?” She says, “I loved it, absolutely loved it!” So I told her I had something really important to tell her. I take a deep breath and I said, “I had a very traumatic childhood.” Immediately she gets this distraught look on her face, starts shaking her head and starts saying, “Why are people like this?” She kept saying this over and over and shaking her head continuously as I kept telling her more and she kept growing more and more in disbelief. I said to her “My mother and I dealt with a lot of abuse from my father and there were many times where I had to intervene in a fight in order to save her life.” I said to her that when I was 14 I started watching her movies and listening to her music and that she brought me so much joy and laughter when I had nothing to laugh about in my life and when I was contemplating ending my life. The tears just welled up in her eyes and she starts to weep. I felt so bad- so I rub her hand and I said, “Oh please I don’t want to make you cry.” She said, “No no it’s okay, it’s been a very emotional evening. It’s better to let it out and not repress it.” I think in a way, she was hoping I would let it out too, but I was just so focused on what I had to tell her and I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of time and wanted to make sure I said everything to her that I wanted to.
So then I thought back to something she said at Friday night’s concert at MSG- she said to the crowd, “You’ve given me more affection than I deserve” so I said to her, “You deserve every bit of affection you get because you brought light into a 7 year dark tunnel for me. You give out so much love and I wanted to give some back to you.” She says, “I know, thank you.” This is when she really starts to cry more. I told her “I thank God every day for bringing you into my life and I love you very much.” We embraced. Then I told her because Friday night at the after party, she had remembered me from the front row, I said to her “I just want you to know, that was the first time I’ve ever sat front row, I’m a teacher, that was a big splurge for me” and she goes “Oh really?” I said “Yes I have a masters degree in literacy” Her face lit up and she said “Oh really?” I knew how much she was into reading and so I said, “Yes I am as passionate about that as you are, thank you for all you have done for that.” I hugged her again, said I loved her and walked away. When I got back to my hotel, I started crying for the next two hours on and off. I thought back to when I was 14 or 15, not knowing day to day if I was going to survive to see my 16th birthday, always dreaming of meeting her one day to thank her but thinking I wouldn’t make it out alive, and then 20 years later to actually meet her and be able to tell her all of that is pretty unbelievable. I’ll cherish it forever.
Bette, if you ever read this, I am indebted to you for life and I can never repay you for all you have done for me. You will be in my heart always.