Sunday 1 April 2012

I’m suffering a post gig headache.  It came on last night.  It’s funny how gigs always follow in a similar fashion: dreadful nerves beforehand, that lessen when you get on stage; the relaxing into the gig when the audience understands what you’re all about and you can start to enjoy your performance; happiness at the end of the first half because it has gone well and there have been no car crashes and then following the break, a quick costume break, change of costume jewellery, a change of lipstick to match the new dress and then back for the second half.  You feel more confident than the first half but then you have to keep the momentum going so nerves slightly set in again and then the end when all has gone well, you finish your set and you are lucky enough to be called on for an encore. Post gig euphoria follows, followed by tiredness knowing that it all is over.

I have been preparing for this gig since September. That was when Paul Pace at Ronnie Scott’s agreed to me doing the slot of Sunday 1st April.  It was important for me to do that slot because not only was it Doris’ 88th birthday coming up (3rd April) but it was exactly half her lifetime ago that she finished her film career (since then had been the announcement in January of her Los Angeles Film Critics award for her lifetime achievement in films and her own announcement of two forthcoming album: one to celebrate her studio work and the other to celebrate her songs in film – so timely!)

The gig itself is the cherry on the top of the cake of hard work that starts with trying to target as many people who you think would be interested in Doris Day, after all this is a tribute so people come because they like to hear the songs that Doris sang.  So I started on the people around her own generation, followed by the vintage crowd – people like myself who are into all things vintage then the jazz press, after all I have a great swinging band so I like to think we are full of jazz credibility and lastly her gay following, who there are many.

Because this is a new show I was keen to really delve deeply into the life of Doris.  I have read all there is to read on Doris on both Internet and in books and then of course the real research comes from watching her films and as mentioned in the show, in her relatively short life in films she made an amazing 39 films. I have to confess there are some films I haven’t seen – Julie, Storm Warner, My Dream is Yours, It’s a Great Feeling, just because I either couldn’t get hold of them or I couldn’t afford to buy them! But all the others I watched, taking notes, followed some of my notes up with historical research into the social and cultural issues of America at the time of the films to try and put the material into context.  I know from previous shows that people enjoy the talking in between the songs so I wanted to extend this part of the show this time. 

Finally after 7 months of preparation the show was ready, Simon Golding skill fully did the new arrangements (as he does them all) and all I had to do was practice until the day. The MD of Ronnie Scott’s Simon Cooke says I like doing this show because I love dressing up and yes, that’s part of it.  I love to source original 50s dresses, jewellery and since I started on my Doris show I have become rather obsessed with all things 50s and 60s that my house is starting to resemble a Doris set.  The night before, knowing that the show was a sell out I baked my cakes as usual because there are always lots of birthdays, especially as it was Doris’ and as I mentioned in the show a 50s housewife would always prepare something for her guests.  This time I extended my range: a Victoria sandwich, buttermilk with lemon icing and a banana and chocolate.

The day had arrived.  I went through my script one more time while trying to eat some breakfast; nerves are a terrible thing.  The sun was shining and we had an easy journey into town; it was all going well. We had a quick run through of the new songs and then got ready.  The chaps dressed in their usual smart Mad Men outfits – black suits, white shirts and black ties.  I had my pastel dresses; one pink and one yellow.

By 12.30 the room was full, Tim, our lovely sound engineer called us onto the stage, ready to start the show. It was my chance to look at the audience.  It’s great at Ronnie’s because you can see everyone because of the room size.  It always feels so special to be on that stage, a privilege I didn’t ever imagine I would experience.  I feel so lucky to have such an expert band: Gabriel Garrick on trumpet, Ross Stanley on piano, Simon Golding on guitar, Spencer Brown on bass and Simon Pearson on drums. 

We have two legendary photographers at Ronnie’s: David Sinclair and David Redfern.  It was great to see David Sinclair and his sister in the audience – both big Doris fans.  Simon Cooke, who rarely comes in at the weekend also made an appearance.  It was also lovely to see familiar faces of friends and Russell who I met at The Spice of Life, a hairdresser who once trained one of Doris’ own hairdressers.
The first set went well apart from a mic malfunction so I pretended to do a little dance, drink from my cup and saucer until Tim could supply me with a wireless mic so I could carry on singing Makin’ Whoopee, I dedicated to Michael Jolly who had got married earlier that day and had brought the wedding party to Ronnie’s to celebrate the occasion – how lovely.
We opened the second set with Secret Love.  I had received a note about an 80th birthday celebration in the room – John Fleming, who had been a member of Ronnie’s since it opened in Gerard Street.  He had recently been very ill so I am so happy that he felt well enough to join us for his celebrations. He wasn’t the only octogenarian in the room celebrating!  Next was 70-year-old Evie and then 60 year old Mick Harris from Herne Bay, roller-hockey player extraordinaire!!!
The thing about Doris day is that on film she had such a sunny disposition that you would never be able to tell what sadness and tragedy she suffered in her life and I wanted to share some of those aspects of her life to show was an amazing strong woman she is, even if the occasion is a joyous one.


We were shouted back on stage for an encore so I put it to the crowd.  Someone shouted Whip-crack-away but I know Davis Sinclair hates that song so we went with the next suggestion of Secret Love and I stayed on stage to cut cake for the many birthdays and to speak to all the lovely people (it’s the best bit about the cake cutting is being able to speak to the audience).  It’s great to see such large family gatherings of many generations coming down on a Sunday lunch and to impart Doris’ music to the next generation.  I had a great compliment from one young girl who said can we buy your CD and of course I answered you can’t get better than buying the recordings of Doris Day but it was nice to be asked.


With the room emptying I packed up my things, sad to say goodbye to the gig.

Thanks to the band, to Barbara for making me feel so welcome, Tim and Miles for the great sound, Simon Cooke for inviting me into the Ronnie’s family and to Paul Pace, for giving me constructive criticism and for booking me in the first place!