Sunday, August 21, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins, B. B. King, and Joyce Keener

I probably wrote this before, but it came to mind while watching one particularly touching, inspired scene in "Florence Foster Jenkins." Many years ago, just after the invention of mud, I worked on the TV crew at WITF. We did a series of folk concerts. One was called "Dark as a Dungeon" and was staged in Eckley, PA shortly after "The Molly Maguires" was filmed there. Several facades were built, and one building constructed with a train station exterior and a general store and something else inside. There was a porch, and that's where the concert would be taped. Merle Travis, who wrote the song from which came the title, was a guest, as was B. B. King. Merle's guitar apparently booked a different flight; at least it didn't show up with his luggage. So you're one of the featured performers in a TV concert minus your instrument. How does the show go on? It goes on when one person offers another what he needs. In this case, B gave Merle his beloved, treasured guitar, "Lucille." That act of generosity has stayed with me for decades.
Joyce Keener was a friend for many years.  She worked at WITF as assistant producer at that same time.  She wrote a movie, "The Silence At Bethany," shot locally, for which WITF threw a fundraising premiere at the Hershey Theater.  I think that's where my late spouse, Jack Veasey, me her.  He was a poet and was impressed by her poetry.  He booked reading for a Harrisburg organization named Paper Sword and asked her to read next time she was in Pennsylvania.  She did.  During the reading she began to cough. We got her some water, but she continued to cough. Finally, she simply could not speak.  At that point, I was an announcer and I told her I could read for her, if she wanted. Fortunately, I can read ahead a couple of words, so I read her work with a slight knowledge of what was coming and, thus, how to read it.  In a thank you note, she compared what I did to what B. B. King did for Merle Travis.  I never thought about it that way.  I never thought about it, period.  It's what you do.  You help.
It came to mind yesterday while watching "Florence Foster Jenkins" because...and I don't want to give away too much since you really should see it...Florence was an aspiring concert pianist who lost the use of her left hand. She tells this to her accompanist as she sits at the keyboard of his piano. With her right hand she starts to play a Chopin Prelude. After a few notes, her accompanist, standing, supplies the left hand chords.
I want the world to be like that. Please?