I worked my way through college at a restaurant in Dallas called the Old San Francisco Steak House. The place was enormous with a large balcony surrounding the entire lower floor and a second kitchen upstairs. Two grand pianos sat face to face on a stage up front, and on some nights I was the girl in the red velvet swing, performing an act set to the music of duel pianos. On this particular night I was waiting tables.
It was someone’s birthday so I brought to my balcony table a piece of candy crunch cake ready with a candle and everyone I recruited to help me sing took position around. We lit the candle and began when suddenly a man at the table stood up.
He was heavyset with a beard. He sang so clearly and powerfully in Italian, we stopped and listened.
The grand pianos downstairs that were engaged in a duo fell silent. You could hear silverware clinking against plates for a few seconds as people stopped eating and put their utensils down. Staff from the kitchen came out into the dining area and stood quietly in white aprons. There was no talking. Nothing but the sound of this man’s incredible voice. He finished with a huge smile on his face and said, “For you. Happy Birthday, my friend!” He held his hands out toward his friend and the entire restaurant burst into a standing ovation.
Other waitresses asked me to request he sing for their tables and so I asked him if he would. He said, “No. Tonight I sing only for my friend.” Then he pulled me aside and told me what just happened was magical. He said the greatest honor a performer can receive is a standing ovation. He couldn’t top what had just happened. He said if he sung again and again there that night, people would grow tired of him and he wanted to enjoy that wonderful moment exactly as it was.
Thank you for the song and for that incredible moment. Farewell, Luciano Pavarotti.