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The Memorybook and My Misadventures in Atlantic City

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times......LOL

My adventure started on January 1 with a dead battery in my car. Little did I know it was just a harbinger of things to come! The battery was quickly replaces and it was All Systems Go.....yeah right! LOL The next day I picked my friend Patty up at her home bright and early so that we could get to Atlantic City in plenty of time to get settled and meet up with friends. After a quick breakfast, it was smooth sailing......but only to the Throgg's Neck bridge, where the clutch in my car died. Undaunted, we called AAA to get a tow truck which was supposed to arrive within 45 minutes. Two hours and several phone calls later - still no truck. What else could we do? We found a way to make the clutch work sort of, and we limped the car into New Jersey where I was able to leave it at a friend's home for the weekend. But that still left a problem - how were we going to get to the city for the show? We were still over an hour and a half away! Thanks to my friend Phil, we tracked down a car rental place called Rent-A-Wreck. Talk about truth in advertising! The car they gave us was dented on one side, had one door that was hard to open, another that wouldn't open at all, and it made terrible noises every time we turned right. But it got us to Atlantic City! And just in the nick of time too. We arrived in Atlantic City at about 6PM, giving us just enough time to check into our hotels and get to the theater. We made it!

And we were not alone. It seems like half the online fans I know were there Saturday night. (And I won't name names because I know I'll leave someone out by accident.) We spent quite awhile in the lobby just chatting and getting to know the people behind the email addresses. That was fun in and of itself. pretty soon it was time to take our seats and watch the show.

Strangely enough there was no opening act. I was expecting to see the comedian who always opens for her (and I was expecting to be able to recite his act along with him! LOL Does he EVER learn new jokes?) But the house lights dimmed, the music started and out came Donna! She looked and sounded fabulous as usual, but the crowd was a typical casino crowd - which means they were more interested in getting back to the slot machines than they were in seeing the show. And I have to say that the show seemed a bit rushed for some reason. But no matter - after the adventures of the day, I was just happy to be there! One very welcome surprise was the return of backup singer Michael Mallet who had not been with Donna for the last few shows. Hearing him duet with Donna on No Ordinary Love Song was just heaven! As for the rest of the show, it was the same one she's been doing the past couple years  - although on Saturday she dropped My Life.

After the show a few of us tried to get backstage or at least talk to some of Donna's people) but Taj security chased us away. I have encountered venue security on many occasions and most of the time they politely turn you away. Taj ranks right up there with Foxwoods for security people with attitudes. It's okay to turn me away - but at least try to be nice about it. So with nothing left to do, we went to the lobby where we met up with other fans again. We spent quite awhile comparing notes and just chatting. I even took out the memorybook and let the fans pass it around. Then I got another surprise.

Usually at casino shows, some members of the band eventually leave the theater through the lobby (which is how I've gotten to talk to some of them briefly.) But Donna of course leaves by a back way and usually her sister Mary does too. But not that night! There I was talking to people when my friend said, "That's Mary!" Here was my chance! I went up to her and told her that I had a gift for Donna and would she mind giving it to her for me. Somehow the memorybook wound up in Mary's hands (and I honestly can't remember if I handed it to her, or if someone else did.) But Mary was having none of that! She wanted us to have the chance to give the book to Donna ourselves. So she took my friend's cell phone number and promised to call us the next day. (Mary is a class act!) Meanwhile there was another lady looking at the book who said that Donna would love it. I didn't know it then, but that was another sister - Jeanette. They finally went on their way back to their rooms or wherever and a number of us stayed in the lobby talking for awhile longer. Then Donna's assistant, Denise, came out and since she knows my friend Phil, she stopped to chat a little too. And of course she got to look at the memorybook. Denise seemed impressed and she said Donna should see it. Then after a few more minutes she went on her way too. By that time I was starving (as were the innocent victims who had the misfortune of riding to Atlantic City with me!) so we went to dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe (which had NO Donna memorabilia - shame on them!!!) and then we went gambling for awhile. Phil ran into Denise again in the casino, and by that time Donna had been told about the book. Denise told Phil that now DONNA wanted to see it. So now it really was All Systems Go!!

The next day after about 4 hours of sleep and a massive rainstorm, Patty, Phil and I met for brunch and some more gambling. Strangely enough we never got the expected phone call from Mary. After losing Patty in the casino for about 2 hours I found out why. When I tried to call the cell phone I found that it wasn't working properly. Now Mary had NO way to reach us! So there was nothing else we could do but bother the heck out of Denise. ;-) Phil called her room with no luck, called backstage and left a message, and then finally had her paged. She came out and told us where to wait after the show and who to look for. We were ON THE LIST!

By this time it was time to go wait in the lobby, so we did. Unfortunately we didn't run into as many fans this time, but I did get to see someone I don't get to see very often so that was good. And the show itself was better than the night before. It was paced much better AND Donna put My Life back into the show. I have to say that sometimes in a casino My Life becomes a dead spot in the show because the spoken introduction disrupts the momentum that was built up by the back to back to back dance hits. This time Donna didn't introduce or explain the song - she just sang it. And the crowd got into it like they did with the hits! It was great! And the crowd was much more lively on Sunday. People were up and dancing and having a good time. It was almost like being at a regular venue instead of a casino. ;-)

As the house lights came up, Patty and I made a beeline for the appointed meeting place. We met up with a few others and Taj security promptly told us we were in the wrong place. So we went where they directed us and were met by Donna's sister Jeanette who brought us backstage. That's when I found out that the memorybook was famous! LOL There we were standing in this little corridor surrounded by people who wanted to look at the book. I felt sorry for the people who were just trying to get past the traffic jam we created! LOL Then DONNA came out! She was so warm and friendly - just like everyone says she is! I actually didn't feel a bit nervous (which is amazing in and of itself.) She looked at the book briefly and then told me to give her a hug. (Needless to say, I didn't make her ask twice! LOL) Then she chatted with us some more and looked at the book some more. She was genuinely impressed and touched and at one point she even said it was her favorite gift this year. :-) Then she said "So what do you have for me to sign?" and she took a few minutes to autograph some things and pose for pictures. (Yes - I will share some of them as soon as I can get them scanned!) I have to say Donna is just one of the nicest people  - actually the whole family seems very nice. (Hmmmm - I'm starting to fawn now aren't I? Okay, I'll try to tone it down a bit! LOL) Anyway, the bottom line is that the memorybook is a huge success and Donna now has it in her possession.

And that is pretty much the end of the story. A few of us went to a late dinner together after the show and the next day we headed back to the real world. After a  2 hour drive to Phil's, 5 hours in a transmission shop getting my car fixed, and another couple hours to get back to Long Island, I arrived home just in time to download my mail (which I STILL haven't had time to read!) and get some sleep so I could go to work the next day. One funny thing though - I didn't call my family to tell them I got backstage, but they already knew when I got home. It seems that one of the friends who went backstage with me called a mutual friend overseas who then called my house. I can't believe I was scooped in my own house! LOL  And for the record - my car troubles are still not over. The day after I came home I put the car back in the shop for more work! 1999 is shaping up to be an interesting year, I wonder what's going to happen next? LOL

 

The Book Itself...

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A few of you were lucky enough to see it, but for those of you who weren't let me tell you a little bit about it. It's called Pages From The Heart, and it is something like 150 pages long (I forgot the exact number) and over 70 fans from mostly the US, Europe and South America contributed. It features a hand painted cover  (yes, painted by me) that looks like the Live And More lp cover (see pictures below) and it must have weighed 100 pounds (or at least that what it felt like after carrying it around all day! LOL) Other than your contributions, I added a few other things as well. There was a list of all the fans who sent something, a list of all the fan-created websites out there, the results of my recent online poll (you know - the poll about favorite albums, etc) AND I included most of the birthday wishes you guys posted on the online messageboards. (Having said that, I know the Endless Summer board was down around Donna's birthday . So after I printed all the messages from the other boards, I mentioned that Endless Summer was down and that had it been working there would have been messages there too. Then I wished Donna a Happy Birthday on behalf of all the Endless Summer posters - so you guys were represented in some way! I wouldn't leave you out!) And of course there had to be an introduction to the book to explain to Donna exactly what it was. And since there's no longer any reason to keep it secret - here it is:

I think what makes an artist so special is when that artist carries us through the good and bad times. Those are the artists that we tend to embrace and hold on to. And I find that this type of association happens to occur with just one artist. Not to say, we don't adore other artists -- its just we always find that special someone. And once we make that connection, the bond becomes strong and everlasting.

Donna, for us - you are that special artist. You have celebrated the good times with us, consoled us through the bad times, and inspired us with your talent and your positive outlook. Through your music you have become a very special part of all our lives and we are forever in your debt.

And so, in honor of your fiftieth birthday we would like to share our favorite Donna Summer stories with you. Some are happy, some are sad, some are uplifting and some are just silly. But all express our devotion to you.

We dedicate this book to you with all of our love. May God bring to you all the love and joy you have given us through the years.

-Your Friends Unknown

 

SPECIAL THANKS:

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Taihisha - thank you for getting me involved in this project. Thanks for supporting it all along, and thanks for all your help in getting it to Donna. It's just too bad that we didn't get to meet each other in person. Maybe next time?

Mary, Jeanette, and Denise - you ladies went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that we got to present the book to Donna. I never got to thank any of you properly in Atlantic City, so I am publicly thanking you now. You're the best!!

Donna - thank you for taking the time to see us. I know you're a busy lady and I know you had a whole bunch of family there to see you too.... so thanks for finding time for a few crazy fans too. And thanks for being to nice and down to earth that I forgot to be nervous! LOL

Steve - thanks for starting the thread on AOL that inspired me!

Patty, Phil and Albert
- thanks for your patience with my car troubles. Next time will be easier! (I hope! LOL)

Veronica - how did I forget to mention you the first time around? You were the one who offered to get me backstage if all else failed. When you offered to take me back with you - that's when I knew for sure that I could scrap the plan to throw myself in front of Donna's limo as a last resort! (It's too bad in a way - the limo thing probably would have gotten me on the news.... LOL)

And to EVERYONE who contributed to the memorybook - what can I say? You guys REALLY came through on this one! I personally was blown away by the things you sent in, and everyone who got to see the book was amazed. Thanks to all of you, the book came out even better than I ever expected or hoped it would. Give yourselves a huge pat on the back because you earned it! I may have been the lucky one who got to hand it to Donna, but you guys did most of the hard work and it's you guys who deserve the credit. Cyberhugs to all of you!

 

MESSAGE FROM DONNA!!!

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A couple of weeks after the concert I was surprised to find a card in my mailbox . AND - it was addressed to all of us.  :-)

January 7, 1999

Dear Cathy & All of My Friends Unknown :

I was so overwhelmed with the "Pages From The Heart" book that you all put together for my 50th birthday. It truly blessed me to see how much you have enjoyed my music through the years. Thank you so much for such a labor of love and hard work putting this together. I will always treasure it. God bless you now and always. Have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Love,                            
Donna Summer + family

 

The Poll

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I asked - you voted - and here are the results as published in Pages From The Heart.

Favorite album - Casablanca years (and before)

Bad Girls
Once Upon A Time
Live And More
Four Seasons Of Love
I Remember Yesterday
Love To Love You Baby
A Love Trilogy
Lady Of The Night

Favorite Donna Summer album - Geffen years (and beyond)

The Wanderer
Mistaken Identity
Christmas Spirit
She Works Hard For The Money
Another Place And Time
Donna Summer
I'm A Rainbow
All Systems Go
Cats Without Claws

Favorite unreleased song (from recent concerts)

My Life
Dim All The Lights (unplugged)
Someone To Watch Over Me
I Don't Wanna Work That Hard
No Ordinary Love Song

Favorite duet

Does He Love You (Liza Minelli)
Love Has A Mind Of It's Own (Matthew Ward)
Enough Is Enough (Barbra Streisand)
Heaven Knows (Joe Esposito)
Shut Out (Paul Jabara)
Whenever There Is Love (Bruce Roberts)
Only The Fool Survives (Mickey Thomas)
Something's Missing (Paul Jabara)
Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor (Paul Jabara)
I Believe In You (Joe Esposito)

 

The Photos

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