It had become a little bit a of a holy grail for me – to find a clip of my appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. I began to wonder if it had ever really happened. And then the other day – it found me! I was looking for a good live version of Eric and I playing Tom Petty’s Walls and, down at the bottom of clips from dimly lit house concert appearances and sweaty club shows recorded on cellphone cameras angled to maximize every pockmark, flesh roll and wrinkle, I saw “Amy Rigby 2000 Oct 5”. That date felt familiar…a copy of a copy from somebody’s VCR…paydirt!
Nearly twenty years since glory was almost mine. I thought I remembered it all so well – the call that came a few days before, announcing a guest cancellation and could I be in New York City that coming Thursday by 2 PM? It just so happened I would be on tour promoting my new album and had a show in the city that very same night! Sure, me and my band would be in Cleveland the night before, but no problem, we could sleep a little while and drive the eight hours in time for setup and soundcheck, tape the show and be at the old Joe’s Pub for linecheck and gig at 8 PM.
Yep, I remember it like a crazy dream: checking out of a motel on Interstate 80 at 6 AM as another random musician friend happened to be checking in for the night. I remember making a stop at my former Shams bandmate Amanda Uprichard’s shop on Lafayette Street to pick up a dress to wear on TV. I remember the deluxe spread of sandwiches and treats backstage in the Late Night studio and how nice and professional everyone was. I was permitted only one of my own musicians on the show, so I asked guitarist Steve Allen to accompany me on Cynically Yours. The Late Night band, Jimmy Vivino and Max Weinberg and company, had worked up a note for note recreation of the doo-wop style backing on the album version of the song and we ran through it. I was amazed how good they sounded.
Then – the part I forgot, until I watched the video just now:
“And what was the thinking behind this?” The Late Night hairdresser held a wispy piece of my wispy hair between his elegant fingers as if bad layers were catching. He twisted it this way and that, fluffed my too-short bangs; poufed the back and let out a huge sigh. He widened his eyes at his own reflection. “I will do my best.”
I was going on TV in five minutes.
Who amongst us hasn’t suffered a bad haircut? This certainly wasn’t my first. But why – why – had it come just days before my first and very likely sole appearance on late night television? And why wasn’t I cool enough to just…do nothing at all about it, instead of letting a stylist pouf me even more hopelessly, with no time for it to settle?
I’d remembered feeling terrified as I stood in my spot waiting for Conan to announce me. I’d remembered getting through the song pretty well, and the thrill of being asked to sit on the Late Night couch. I’d remembered Conan admiring my green Greco guitar and proudly showing me his Gretsch backstage. I’d remembered Paul my drummer having a run in with guest Jackie Chan in the men’s room.
I’d remembered watching myself on a TV behind the counter of the original Original Ray’s Pizza on Sixth Avenue when the show aired later that night. “Huh, that’s you,” a guy said and then: “Gimme a slice, not too hot.”
I expected to watch this video thinking “aww, sure I was at least forty but forty was still kinda young, right?” I remembered how I felt like Rodney Dangerfield when the audience laughed in the right spots. ” I remembered it all, but not the part where I looked like a cross between Joyce from Three’s Company and a D minus on a Student Hairdressing Exam – Medium Length Wavy Division.
Is this what’s called a humblebrag? Maybe so. What good would it be to find the clip if I couldn’t share it?
But how can I share it without apologizing for looking kind of like a dork?
And reminding myself I got my wish by finally finding this clip of a proud moment in my life. Would it have been better to have it only as a memory stored in my head, where I looked more sassy, less shy, hit every line just right, and my hair was perfectly imperfect, instead of …this?
Maybe not. Then I couldn’t measure what a long way I’ve traveled since then. How lucky I am to still be doing this.
And how, it being from the year 2000, we were still kinda living in the nineties. Doesn’t that excuse any style error? Things were still real then, man – we didn’t know any better.