Whatshisname Transforms a Young Life

This story was told to me by Peter Baldwin, an actor turned director. In the 1980s we worked together on an HBO movie that got us both fired and had so much fun we teamed up on pitching a novel about women’s softball to.... I can’t remember. Some production types and I think one network. What I do remember is Peter's describing a certain flight to New York on which he found himself seated next to the great pianist.... I want to say Israel Horowitz, but he’s a playwright. I’m terrible at names, but tell me a story, and I’m with you, ready to make up quotes and fill in the blanks.
So there Peter was seated next to Jascha Heifetz, Ferrante & Teicher, Segovia, it doesn’t make any difference. Somebody who could play the piano, and I mean good. They got to talking about what they did. Directing, tinkling the ivories, fending off wannabes who begged to be hired, blessed, referred to whomever could get them a ticket on the Success Express.

“I’ve made it my policy,” said the great pianist, “to turn them all away. If someone plays horribly, maybe they are just having a bad day. How can I judge that? Or if they are great, what can I say? You know as well as I that talent doesn’t necessary get you a job or make you a living. How can I play God and encourage someone into a life of poverty?

“Ah, but it was on this very same airline, the very same flight number. Four and half, five hours, it felt like twenty. At first sight she seemed like such a nice Jewish lady. But as soon as the wheels were up and we had exchanged pleasantries, she was the Stage Mother from Hell. Her son, her son, I must listen to her son. On and on, and for just a moment’s peace I finally said, ‘Yes.’

“We arranged an audition for ten o’clock the next morning in my hotel suite. I went to bed that night, dreading the dawn. She arrived on time with her son. A wholesome looking lad. I gestured to the piano. I held my breath as he sat down. Then he began to play.

“What relief! He wasn’t having either a good day or a bad day. He simply had no talent, and it was clear that happened every day.

“When he was finished, I said to him, ‘Young man, you have a great gift. A love of music that will be with you all the days of your life. You can entertain your friends, fill in the hours of solitude. But I am afraid you should never think of a career—

‘“You see!’ his mother cut in. ‘You see! Your father has tried to tell you! I’ve tried to tell you! Your teachers have tried to tell you! You’re no good! Now, for God’s sake, will you finally listen to the great....?’”

Jimi Hendricks, John Philip Sousa, I wish I could remember his name.