This week I am posting the stories from the Love and Hope Ball rehearsal, the fan gathering and the Ball itself. Let’s start with the rehearsal on Friday afternoon. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day!
My head is pounding; my eyes are dry. It’s not a “tension” headache, I decide. It’s an “anticipation” headache, a “the doors are about to open” headache, an “I’m going to be in the room with the Mythology band” headache, and yes, certainly an “I’m going to be up close and truly near Barry” headache. Thank God this is not an every day occurrence. I’m not sure I’d survive it without a serious health risk. I logically remind myself, “You’re WORKING Annie. Do the job.” Right. After the group in the hall has worked themselves into an adrenalin rush state where the cortisol and every other stress hormone is rushing through the air like an electric current, I, too, am unsure about my wobbling legs holding me upright much longer. I arrived with Fred from Holland, Daniel from Germany, Earleen from North Carolina and my cohort Debbi, who is a local and our chauffeur as well as friend. It is now 3:15 p.m. and since 2:00 p.m. I have been discussing with those present the many reasons why they revere Barry Gibb. There are a few round tables with side chairs for those who want to sit, but most of us are standing on the plush oriental floral carpet and greeting each other with excitement. There are three young men who have traveled from South America who are grateful to be in this waiting area. Ismael is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Maurico and Marco have flown in from Brazil. A beaming fan named Kathy proudly tells me she attended her first concert at the age of 14 in Avery Fisher Hall in New York City in 1974. She met all three brothers outside the artist entrance before the concert and considers it one of her greatest memories. The Facebook fan known as Gibbgirl54 for years finally has a name and face. Shaking hands with a beaming Gayle White is such fun, Now I will remember the blonde with the broad smile who is just as pumped up as the rest of us here. I keep turning to the large light oak doors, knowing that soon I will be walking through them into a major “Gibb encounter”.
Suddenly, Beverly the “sound check maven” signals the group of about 35 fans to follow her into the back of the ballroom, which is around the corner from where we have been waiting. Strict instructions are given as to how we should behave (remain seated, no walking towards the stage, be polite). We enter the large banquet room, which was previously a stark and cavernous empty space. It is now partially filled with round tables decorated in red and gold. Looming at the far end is the large stage, set up with the Mythology Band equipment and instruments. A lighting effect creates what looks like rows of streaming snowflakes. Stephen Gibb prepares for rehearsal on stage right and Ashley Gibb has come onto the stage left area to chat with some of the musicians. We are treated to Beth Cohen’s rendition of “Woman in Love” (amazing voice), and soon after Samantha Gibb comes trotting across the front of the stage and sings “Heartbreaker”. She looks sweet and shy, but she sings like a true pro.
As the band takes a quick break, we are blessed once again when Linda Gibb walks over to us and gives us an “Oh, boy” moment. She systematically greets each person with a smile, a hello and in some instances, hugs for the outstretched arms of the males in the little audience, who are mesmerized. I marvel at how beautiful she is, dressed down in black leggings and a simple pink top, her hair in a pony tail. She seems so tiny, much more petite than she appears in photos, with a small waist and slender legs and a beauty queen smile. Barry is a lucky man. Seated behind the rest of the fans, I am in between Daniel and Fred. She points at us and says, “Ah, here’s the trouble makers back here.” So much for my credibility.
After Linda leaves the area, Stephen comes bounding over and charms everyone he encounters with his infectious grin and great sense of humor. I adore him, no two ways about it. I sense a feeling of comfort from him as he interacts with the group engaging him in conversation. He listens and responds with interest.
Soon it’s time for the big man to arrive. Dressed all in black but wearing a red jacket and baseball cap, Barry appears, walking to center stage and carrying a black tote bag. He waves to us and says hello and proceeds to rehearse a few of the favorites. “To Love Somebody” is pure perfection, and I’m impressed with the beauty of his voice, as strong and powerful as ever. A young couple in front of me hug as Barry sings, and I later learn that Andreia and Daniel are on their honeymoon. They are from Brazil and met at a Bee Gee fan club meeting, fell in love and came to Florida to see Barry as part of their wedding trip. What a story!. It’s like a Hallmark movie. They are glowing and are treated to a mini-Barry concert, along with the rest of us.
After rehearsal ends, we wait and wonder if Barry will come back to greet us. He does not disappoint. After about ten minutes, he makes his way toward the group, who quickly swoop in and pose for photos and ask for autographs and hugs. I hold back, standing on a chair, trying to get some video of him as he works the crowd. He is gracious and patient, although I think it must be hard for him to be touched and hugged and hovered over by awestruck fans. I know this is part of being famous; but for some reason, I don’t want to impose on him and opt to stay back and watch as he responds to comments and questions and smiles on cue when the cameras are hoisted time and time again. I suddenly feel a protective urge to rush up and be a bodyguard and try to give him some breathing room, but I know he does appreciate the fervor of the fans, and I am thankful once again to be in his presence. As he turns to leave, Linda walks up to him and takes his hand, and they walk across the ballroom and head out the door.
A few minutes later I meet Ashley, and I see his son and wife sitting nearby. He must be told a hundred times a week how much he looks like his famous father; but man oh man, he looks so much like his famous father! He has a megawatt smile, and he, too, is gracious to the fans.
I finally have a one-on-one with the man of smoke, Dick Ashby, and I decide that he looks a little bit like Sir Walter Raleigh in shorts. I love his voice and think that some day I’d like to have a real conversation with him.
I turn to see Stephen standing by the stage talking with his friend Laz, and I stroll over for a quick hello and a photo. He draws Laz into the picture, and they pose for me. This Gibb man is funny, handsome and gives off great energy. I think I have a little crush on him and come to the conclusion that he is possibly the coolest guy in the band. Time will tell. Reluctantly, I realize it’s time to leave the ballroom. Rehearsal has ended. Debbi fetches her car and Earleen, Daniel, Fred and I climb in, definitely on an adrenalin high. After a draining two hours and fifteen minutes, we let out a collective scream AAAAGGGGGHHHH!!, and then start babbling blahbllggllblah blig…until we break into glorious laughter.
Next Up…our fan gathering for dinner and a visit with Beth Cohen……