Saturday, March 17, 2012


I was in my third year of high school and an ardent Celtics fan. Cousy, Sharman, Russell, Heinsohn and Luscitoff. With a bench of Havlicek, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, Frank Ramsey etc. The ultimate Dream Team. Lord, they were good. Their home was the Boston Garden, with an always-filled seating capacity of 13,909.

Occasionally, there would be hockey-basketball double-headers. Hockey first. Back then, the Bruins had a farm team, the Olympics, and they would precede the Celtics, after which there would be an extended intermission during which the famous parquet floor would be set down for basketball. While this was going on, entertainment, of sorts, would take place for the capacity crowd. Organist John Kiley would provide music and accompany anyone volunteering to sing. It was on such a night that I indulged my showbiz bug-bite and challenged the Gods of Probability. Believe it. There were 13,909 witnesses.

My friends and I were in our usual, kiss the sky, top balcony seats. Mr. Kiley was playing with vigor and a line of vocal aspirants had formed and was lengthening. I turned to my buddies and bursted,"I've got an idea!" and bolted for the steps. In no time, I was in queue, anxiously awaiting my turn. Those before me were the usual karaoke types, having their own good time, with absolutely no-one paying attention. Kiley's patience appeared strained at having to share the spotlight with such rank amateurs. Then, my turn came. The guy before me had just finished "Sweet Rosie O'grady", severely testing Kiley's sanity and sobriety.

 He looked at me and barked,"Whatsyaname!" This was where the genes of go-for-it took over.

"FRANK OX", I replied. Where did I get the name? I have no idea.

"Whaddayagonna sing, Ox?"

"It Had To Be You."

He went into the intro. Please try to imagine the constant low-level-but-consistent din of murmuring conversation coming from the increasingly impatient multitude. There was no backing out now, lest I be labeled a "chicken" on the corner and in the poolroom. I served it up.


That's right. I sang the song with just that repeating phrase. And an unanticipated, unique phenomenon occurred. An audio transition. Ever so slowly, the crowd noise began to dim, fade to silence, change to a sound of inquiry and understanding, then to a laughter of realization which quickly morphed into pure, unadulterated applause----and then a ROAR of approval.

These sounds reflected a picture of "stop--listen--do you hear what I hear?--that guy is singing just the song title, over and over--what a hot ticket--that's funny--let's give him a hand."

Kiley caught on almost immediately but he, too, picked up on the crowd reaction and, although truly pissed, held back on the hook and followed me right to the end.

I finished with a swaggering, old-time, Ethel Merman-type sign-off and raised my right arm in triumph. The crowd went nuts.

Kiley yelled,"Get the hell off!" The ovation had not diminished.

I began to leave the platform-stage and suddenly turned around and went back on, again extending my arm as a boxer after the final bell. Impossibly, the roar of the 13,909 crowd increased all the more.

I milked that moment for as long as I could, and then, finally, left the stage. People swear that it took a full minute for the cheering to subside.

'Tis an indelible page in my memory book.

The why of it all lies in my personal proclivities.

But, hey. Ain't youth a hell of a thing?

Life is an adventure.

Go for it.