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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY
June 14, 1958
Ted and Sara got married today. I was best man — probably on the grounds that I had been their landlord for so long. (“If this were the Middle Ages, you’d be entitled to droit du seigneur ,” Sara joked.)
It was a simple affair for complex reasons. To begin with, Sara was Episcopal and Ted, of course, Greek Orthodox. Not that the Lambros family was making any sacramental demands, mind you. But Daisy Harrison seemed to have thought it best to have the ceremony on more or less neutral grounds: in Appleton Chapel, at the back of Mem. Church, under the aegis of the distinguished George Lyman Buttrick, Preacher to the University.
This, as I interpreted Daisy’s strategy, solved a multitude of problems while preserving at least a shimmer of class.
Naturally she had always dreamed of marrying off her only daughter in Christ Church, Greenwich, that extraordinarily imposing sanctuary built to the glory of God — with considerable help from some local worshippers of Mammon.
But two things had precluded this pomp and ceremony. For one, she was not all that eager to parade her in-laws before le tout Greenwich. For another, Sara said she would get married there only over her dead body (which would take some of the joy out of the occasion).
Thus, it boiled down to the intimacy — but unmistakable patina — of Harvard’s chapel, the exquisite singing of the University Choir, and, perhaps most important, a short guest list, almost exclusively students.
Let posterity record that I did not forget the ring. In fact I guarded it with my life during the twenty-four hours it was in my possession, since it was a Lambros family heirloom from the Old Country.
I stood in a unique position, able to watch both participants and audience, and thus could note the more intense pockets of emotion. It came as no surprise that Mrs. Lambros did most of the crying. And of Sara’s entire family, only one person had difficulty holding back the tears. Phil Harrison himself.
I guess I shouldn’t have expected Sara’s mother to be sentimental. And she wasn’t. In fact, she sort of acted as if Ted’s family were merely poor relatives one simply had to invite. I heard her remark to Mrs. Lambros, “I hope you appreciate that your son is marrying into one of the oldest families in America.”
Daphne translated this to her mother and then gave Mrs. Harrison the response, “Mama says you carry your age very well.”
Something may have been lost in translation, but it certainly wasn’t love.
For the reception Daisy hired an opulent suite at The Ritz. To add to the ecumenical nature of the occasion, the sparkle she chose was Dom Perignon, a sort of homage to the Catholic inventor of champagne. Anyway, the blessed bubbles from Dom’s discovery filled every glass, and quite soon every head.
I think Mrs. Harrison was surprised by several things that afternoon. The first was that the whole Lambros family came attired in recognizably Western garb (a great deal of it Brooks Brothers via Joe Keezer). According to Sara, she had expected them to show in babushkas, or whatever Greek peasants wear.
Secondly, the grossest behavior of the occasion was, hands down, that of her own elder sons. For Phippie and Ev rather recklessly thought they would take on the mighty imbibers of Eliot House in a sport of which we are clearly the masters.
They found, to their chagrin (and no doubt subsequent headaches), that there is not enough champagne in France, much less Boston, to bring a hollow-legged drinker like Newall to his knees. Even Jason Gilbert, who is always in training, is a veritable sponge when it comes to champers.
Anyway, feeling that my obligations as best man superseded even the rare opportunity of unlimited vintage quaffing, I remained (relatively) sober so I could dislodge my duties to the very end.
This gave me a chance to chat with Old Man Harrison, who, by happy coincidence, was celebrating his Twenty-fifth Harvard Reunion concurrent with our commencement. He said he’d found the whole occasion deeply moving.
I mean, I personally found it impossible even to think of where I might be twenty-five years from now. I’m still confused from one day to the next about what I want to do with my life.
No one knew where they were honeymooning. Except me, of course. For, despite their protestations, I had insisted that the newlyweds take advantage of our family’s empty summer house up in Maine. It gave me pleasure to know the place would be used for such a worthwhile purpose.
It would be misleading to assume that I’m always on the giving end with Lambros.
In fact, when Sara’s bouquet was caught by her cousin Kit from Chicago, she called out to me to take care of her.
I got the message, and happily entertained her for the next few days. And nights.
Weddings do that sort of thing to you.
Danny Rossi could never have imagined that his childhood bouts of asthma would ultimately serve a useful purpose in his musical career.
For while most of his Harvard classmates who did not have student deferments were marching and saluting in fulfillment of their military obligations, he had been declared 4-F. And was therefore free to roam the world and be saluted as a rising star.
At a first glance it might have appeared that Hurok had merely booked his young discovery indiscriminately — one might almost say promiscuously — with any orchestra he could. But the veteran concert manager had a very well-thought-out master plan.
He wanted to expose Danny to demanding conductors, sophisticated audiences. To become inured to harsh, critical scrutiny. In short, polish his musical techniques while hardening his psyche.
What the old man didn’t realize was that Danny was also a virtuoso with reporters. His press was uniformly favorable.
He captured London playing Brahms with Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic, then flew on to Amsterdam for Mozart with Haitink and the Concertgebouw.
Paris was next, with a solo concert at the Salle Pleyel (Bach, Chopin, plus Couperin and Debussy to please the locals). In Le Figaro ’s opinion Rossi was “Un nouveau Liszt en miniature ”; Le Monde had a similar opinion if a different metaphor: “pas seulement un géant pour son âge mais an gêant de son âge .”
On the evening after Danny’s last appearance in Berlin, von Karajan arranged a midnight supper at the Kempinski with the director-general of Deutsche Grammophon Records. The next morning Danny had a five-album contract.
“Well,” said the young pianist as he sat proudly in Hurok’s portrait-laden office, observing the impresario leaf through his folder of reviews. “What do you think?”
The old man raised his glance and smiled. “What I think, my boy, is that you have just done New Haven.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Are you not familiar with the theatrical expression? Whenever a producer wants to open a show in New York, he always tries it out first in a small place like New Haven.”
“Are you suggesting that London, Amsterdam, and Paris are ‘try-out towns’?”
“I am indeed,” Hurok said without blinking. “For New York, every other city on earth is New Haven. When you make it here you’ve really made it.”
When do you think I’ll finally be ready for the ‘Big Time’?”
“I’ll be glad to let you know exactly,” the concert manager answered, casually reaching for a document that lay upon his antique desk. “February 15, 1961, with Lenny and the Philharmonic. He suggests you play one of the Beethovens.”
“That’s another whole year. What do I do till then — besides bite all my nails oft?”
“Danny,” the impresario said paternally, “am I a booking agent or a nursemaid? You will go out and do more New Havens.”
Such was the success of the pre-concert propaganda campaign that the audience filling Carnegie Hall on the night of Danny’s New York debut was more predisposed to worship than to judge.
During the lengthy standing ovation at the end of the concert, Bernstein pulled Danny onto the podium and held his hand aloft like a victorious boxer’s. Danny was indeed a new world champion. He had won where it counted most.
The reception was held in the sumptuous penthouse of one of the Philharmonic’s trustees. Although Danny was now indisputably a major star, by no stretch of his own imagination (or ego) was he the greatest luminary present.
There were famous actors who, just a few years earlier, he would have shyly asked for an autograph. There were other world-renowned musicians, as well as important political figures. Cover girls were as abundant as the uniformed waitresses serving caviar.
And yet, incredibly, they all were flocking around wanting to meet him .
Not unexpectedly, he was asked to play. A Steinway grand was wheeled into the center of the living room and its lid propped open.
Danny had anticipated that at this hour of the night, after so arduous an effort, he would not be at his best in some classical piece. He had therefore prepared a little jeu d’esprit .
Before sitting down, he made a short speech.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “my thank yous could go on forever. So forgive me if I mention just two people in particular. First Mr. Hurok for having such faith and supporting me all this time —”
“Excuse me, my dear boy,” the impresario joked, “it’s you who have been supporting me.”
“And if Lenny doesn’t mind, I’d like to express my gratitude to him at the keyboard.”
Danny began with a fortissimo rendition of the piano entrance to the concerto he had played that night. He then quickly switched to a jazz medley of the tunes from Bernstein’s West Side Story .
The audience was enchanted and would not let him leave the piano.
“What now?” Danny asked ingenuously. “I’m running out of material.”
Bernstein smiled and suggested, “Why not do unto others what you just did unto me?”
Danny nodded, sat down again and for nearly half an hour poured forth jazz versions of My Fair L ady as well as standards by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and Irving Berlin. Finally he pleaded exhaustion.
Later in the evening, a dapper executive type waved a business card in front of him and murmured something about doing an album along the lines of that night’s improvisations.
Just as the man retreated, an extremely elegant brunette approached Danny and said in dulcet tones, “Mr. Rossi, I very much enjoyed your performance this evening. I hope Jack and I can entice you to come and play for a small group at the White House sometime.”
Battle weary and a little high, Danny had at first merely nodded politely and said, “That’s very nice. Thanks a lot.”
Only after she had gracefully turned and walked off did he realize that he had been talking to the wife of the President of the United States.
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