June 20, 2011

Was it Rod, or was it Memorex?

It was the Sunday before Mardi Gras, 2007, that my wife and I with a friend entered the fabled Carousel Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone for a wetting of whistles.  To our disappointment, we found the turntable out of order, leaving the carousel in a stationary repose.  Fortunate to find three empty seat awaiting us straight ahead, we seated ourselves with our backs to the lounge entrance.

Vicky, our friend, is a cute little blond with frizzy curls that remind one of Sally Struthers.  Recently widowed, we had brought her to Carnival seeking to brighten her spirits.  It was a stranger, however, who would be the first to light up the little lass.

As we sat visiting, a couple entered from our rear, the man moving directly behind the unwary Vicky.  He lowered his face to her shoulder and began quietly singing the lyrics of "Maggie May" in her ear.

Started, Vicky spun around to find herself face-to-face with a grinning Rod Stewart!  The artist and his female friend broke into raucous laughter, as did all within earshot of the vocal goings-on.

As if old friends, Stewart and his friend began engaging us in small talk, laughing, cajoling, acting silly.

In keeping with the decorum of the festivities, I wore a purple bowler hat purchased specially for the Mardi Gras weekend.

"I want that hat!," the girlfriend/wife jovially demanded.  Resisting, I insisted that the hat might be available, but for quid pro quo.  After a brief session of haggling, the lady ended up with my derby, and I with her sunglasses.

Becoming the new best friends of Rod Stewart and his gal pal, the five of us chatted and bantered as the starring pair ordered a couple of Corona's, and began to work their way down the bar, visiting along their way to a pair of waiting seats.  Rod and his winsome companion had by now drawn the full attention of the room.  Politely declining to be photographed, Stewart settled in at the bar and kibitzed with his gathering fans.

Not fully assured that we were indeed in the presence of the famous singer, I turned to Marvin, the tenured bartender at the Carousel Lounge. He would  be considered a trusted source of information on any such event as might transpire in the hotel.  Candidly, I asked if he could confirm if this truly was Rod Stewart, the singer.

"He's been in here before, and I really don't think its HIM," he confided.  "But, I've been wrong before," Marvin added, only stirring the pieces of the puzzle.

Carefully I drew my camera-equipped cell phone and snapped a few clandestine photos of the subjects for later review.

Deciding to challenge the artist, I asked him quite directly to explain why he had an English accent and not a Scottish brogue.  His answer was swift.

In a polished articulation of the King's English, Rod asserted, "Rod Stewart has spent most of his adult life in the North of London."  Pausing with perfect theatrical timing, and with a twinkle in his eye, he then said, "...as have I."

With a broad grin on his face he tried to turn away.  "Wait," I said, "If you are a true Scot, perhaps you could recite some Robert Burns for us."

Smiling and effervescent, Rod without hesitation burst into an artistic recitation of "Daffodils," emoting with timbre and motion the full four verses of the poem.

I was impressed, but still, something wasn't right. As the afternoon wore on, we left to return to our rooms to prepare for the evening.  I fired up my trusty computer at the hotel and began Googling up some answers to my burning questions.

It was not surprising when "Daffodils" turned out to be the work of Wordsworth, not Burns.  That was the first chink in our subject's armor.  As search of Rod Stewart photos revealed an amazing likeness to our bar buddy, save for a mole on the chin of the singer.  The quality of the sunglasses that I took in exchange for my prized bowler suggested that my end of the bargain was in deficit.

My conclusion was that we had been taken in by a clever imposter, but the experience was such that we would have been no less thrilled by Rod Stewart himself.

Three years later, a local Texas friend and Baton Rouge native was telling a tale of sitting in the bar at Commander's Palace when Rod Stewart entered wearing golf attire.  Bellying up to the corner of the bar immediately adjacent to my friend's table, Rod struck up a conversation with any and all, relating his round of golf at English Turn, and welcoming others to join him tomorrow at the TPC course.

Listening to the story until its end, I confided to my friend that he, too, had been hoodwinked by the imposter.  To shore up my hypothesis, I provided a photographic comparative via email the next day. Reflecting upon our experiences, we later agreed that it was more fun to think that we had truly enjoyed happy visits with the raspy-voiced singer. 

After all, maybe it really WAS him!