The Hamlisch Maneuver

Several years ago, I found myself on a Holiday Pops concert with the wonderful Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, under the mighty baton of the late Marvin Hamlisch. Luckily, for all parties concerned, this concert took place quite a while before Marvin passed away. And, because Marvin played a few numbers, the piano was situated front and center, right next to the podium. Except for those few numbers, I was also situated front and center.

Now, Marvin was quite the showman. He was very quick-witted, and engaged in a lot of clever banter between songs. At one point, he started riffing on how Christmas was a much better holiday than Hanukkah, and it was going quite well until he decided to include me in his shtick.

He asked me which holiday I celebrated, and his eyes lit up when I indicated the Jewish one. “Tell me”, he asked, “What was the best Hanukkah present you ever got when you were growing up?” Putting that moment in super-slow motion, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would analyze my thought process thusly:

1. How can I respond in a manner that does justice to my true Smart Ass self?

2. Can I be a Smart Ass while keeping it Family-Friendly?

3. Someone once told me that the “K” sound is funny. Can I work that in?

Marvin stuck the mike in my face, and I looked at him for a couple seconds and then said, “Well I once got a canned ham.” It got quite a big laugh, and I heard Marvin mutter “Canned ham”, then I saw him quickly go dead behind the eyes. My response had proven to be the end of our interaction and the end of our potential comedy act, which I now picture to have been a combination of Ferrante & Teicher and Martin & Lewis.

Oh, well. That’s Show Biz.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

2 thoughts on “The Hamlisch Maneuver”

  1. I was Marvin’s road and stage manager from 1990-1997. Would have been fun to work with you. Especially fun were the times we played Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony.

    • Did you ever do any Marvin gigs for which the Manhattan Rhythm Kings opened? I did one or two of those. That’s where I met Michael Keller, and that’s how I ended up playing Lion King and Wicked in Chicago.

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