I see Diana Ross is playing the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Saturday night, billed as the “MGM Grand First Anniversary Celebration.”
I remember the night I opened for Diana Ross.
It was Spring, 1970. We played Caesar’s Monticello on Route 9 in Framingham, MA, a supper club that drew all the big names. Miss Ross (as she preferred to be called) had just left the Supremes, and her first solo engagement was booked at the Monticello.
Sure, Willie Tyler and Lester was the official opening act. But before Miss Ross, before Willie and Lester, there was a testimonial dinner for Mr. Francis J. Cavanaugh.
Mr. Cavanaugh was retiring after many years in the Framingham school system, including long stints at Saxonville elementary school and North High School. When I happened to attend both. (Plus, my father was Mr. Cavanaugh’s plumber. So no transgression went unpunished.)
I suspect Mr. Cavanaugh’s testimonial was booked before Miss Ross’s engagement, but whatever the circumstance, our worlds collided on stage that evening. I was one of the student speakers on the very stage Miss Ross was about to adorn. (And lemme tell ya, I killed!)
Miss Ross quickly graduated beyond the supper club circuit. As for Mr. Cavanaugh, unbeknownst to me, he had moved to Connecticut in his golden years to be near his son. He turned on his television one day and saw a guy with big hair and a mustache and a familiar name.
He wrote, asking if I was… And I responded that yes, I was. I suggested lunch, but I never followed up, which I regret. After all those years, maybe I still wasn’t ready at the time to sit down, as two regular guys, with the biggest authority figure of my life, after my father.
But if Miss Ross wants to get in touch and reminisce about our evening together over lunch, I promise to be available.
Or Willie. Or Lester.