One thing this pandemic has done is made me reminisce about the ‘good old days’, and some of the fun experiences I have had. One particular time was back in 2002, when I found myself with a major opportunity, which proved to be very memorable, and a little humorous.
I was invited to attend a dinner in New York. It was actually a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Opera House. Bloomberg had just replaced Giuliani as Mayor and his financial interests were not geared to the arts.
I arrived in a rented tuxedo and made my way to the lobby, which was surrounded by a few dozen people, who appeared to attend these functions on a daily basis. I quietly hid in a corner until the announcement for dinner was made.
I was shepherded along with the crowd and found myself on the stage of the empty opera house. A maitre d’ seated me at one of the six round tables, next to a lady with a heavy New York accent. She introduced herself as Judith, and said she was here with Rudy. I smiled, not really knowing any Rudy. A small orchestra began to play dinner music, and I prayed the menu would consist of things I would like.
A few moments later, a man was seated on the other side of me. I realized when I did a double take, it was Rudy Giuliani. After introductions, I offered him my seat, thinking he would prefer to sit next to his partner, but he declined and Judith shrugged her shoulders.
I suddenly heard a loud laughter from the table behind me, and when I turned, I found my face about half a metre from the beard of Luciano Pavarotti. We made eye contact and he smiled. I think my mouth was open, but I really do not recall. He wore a bright orange scarf around his neck and seemed much larger than I expected.
After a wonderful dinner, and some really interesting, albeit guarded conversation, the band played ‘New York, New York. Suddenly Pavarotti stood up and began to sing and everyone joined him. It was great, until he took his scarf off and started swinging it over his head.
Suddenly, the end of the scarf caught the ear of Giuliani’s partner, Judith, and I noticed it was bleeding. I immediately removed a clean handkerchief from my pocket and offered it to her. She gracefully accepted it, and I suggested she keep it as a memento of the evening.
I don’t know if she still has the handkerchief, or if she ever told Rudy (they were married the next year), but for me, the memory of that evening nearly 20 years ago, is as vivid today as it was the day after.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on Rogers TV, the Standard Website or YouTube.