"You're going to go
Smith to Vanessa Claire Smith after attending Louis & Keely Live at the
On Saturday, November 15, the legendary Keely Smith attended the show inspired by her life. Vanessa Claire Smith, the show's creator, co-author and co-star, tells us about the night Ms. Smith met Ms. Smith.
So I've been dreaming of this day for a while. If one were to be specific- say
five years? Keely Smith has now been in my head for that long. At this point,
she had almost turned into a fictional character for me. A heroine that I had
made up. So much so, that my writing partner and I were taking liberties with
her history as if she her entirely fiction. Well, she wasn't, and she showed up
to our show Saturday night.
And accompanied no less by Hollywood's greatest cinematic biographer, Taylor Hackford. Taylor, who has dramatized the lives of Ray Charles, Richie Valens and Chuck Berry. Apparently, Keely is now his subject-- and there we are... dramatizing the whole thing. *pant, pant* All these people watching. I had been afraid of this moment from the instant I started writing this story-- but I never thought it would happen. I never thought anyone involved would actually care enough about it to take it seriously. But here we are. Whose life have I been living? Serious bizzaro world stuff. Everyone all week had been trying to keep me from the knowledge that Keely was coming. I had said early on that if she had ever came, I didn't want to know about it. I didn't think I could handle it.
Saturday night before the show, everyone was acting very strangely. My family was suddenly in town-- to see the show and ready to attend the Ovations tomorrow. I wasn't paying attention to the fact that everyone was tentative around me all day Saturday. But I got it. Just before curtain, we weren't allowed at places. Strange, I thought. And then the crowd was over-excited. I was spooked. I had a feeling. I looked at the back row by Taylor. There she was. I knew it was her. I knew it. And throughout the show, I would hear a laugh. A knowing laugh that I knew belonged to nobody else. One that got it when Keely on stage would be defiant with her line "According to Downbeat: It's mine".... I knew she was there. I was shaking when I came to this conclusion. How often does an artist have the opportunity to write about a person, and then have that person come and see you portray them at the most vulnerable time of their life? I can't imagine seeing a musical written by some artist's interpretation of my own divorce 50 years after the fact. She was there. And it was alive. And she was watching me being her. Wow. In my mind, I sort of retained my own sanity by reminding myself that this was a real story, and there she was, and "Keely- this song's for you..."
Then there was after the show. I made it through. I was shaking, and confirmed my instincts that she was there. I was right. I put myself together and was introduced to her. "Ms. Smith-- meet Ms. Smith". We both looked at each other. Both speechless. I mentioned what an honor it was to meet her. She complimented my voice. And now I will try to recreate the dialogue:
ME: "I've been working very hard. With you I have very big shoes to fill."
KEELY: "I only wear a size seven."
ME: "You're amazing. I hope to hear more stories."
KEELY: "You don't want to know my stories."
ME: "Of course I do!"
I'm sorta crying at this point. Total geek moment.
KEELY: "Well the first thing you should change is-- I don't drink."
I look at Jake. We decide to change this storyline. Mom's coming in for a picture.
KEELY: (about my Dad) "Well, who's this?"
ME: "That's my Dad." (as everyone's squeezing in for a picture)
KEELY: "Well, you should move over here..."
Keely nudges Dad over next to her in the picture. She's flirting with my Dad! That hussy! We all take a picture and Taylor tells me that he wants to take them for drinks to find out what they really thought. But before they go...
KEELY: (to me) "You're going to go far. I could only sing. You're doing more than that."
My hero said this to me. And then she left.
And I am speechless.