Helen Reddy and the cabbie from hell

I am happy to see that Helen Reddy, who popularized the anthem for the women’s movement in the 70’s, is coming out of retirement to resume her singing career.

I had an interesting encounter with Ms. Reddy, a long-time idol of mine, in 1996. My husband and I headed a community concert series in the 90’s and we chose Helen Reddy as our very first act to introduce our series to the community. We wanted someone with a big name and reputation to let the community know we were a legitimate group. We got more than we bargained for when we booked Ms. Reddy. She had a big name and a big reputation, at least among entertainment producers. She had a reputation for being a diva and difficult to please.

Preparing for opening night

We began months in advance making all the preparations for opening night. We plastered the town with posters; we rented a Lincoln Town Car for the weekend to chauffeur Ms. Reddy; we had a large welcome basket in her room with snacks and an assortment of teas since she would be arriving late; and the stage was decorated with plants, twinkling lights, and borrowed props making it look like something to rival Vegas.

A welcoming committee, which consisted of my husband, myself, and Frank the driver (who was a member of the concert series board), met her at the airport. Before arriving at the airport we nervously reviewed the plans. (We desperately wanted to make a good impression and hoped we didn’t look like the neophytes which we were.) After greeting her we would then escort her to the baggage claim area and wait for Frank to bring the car around. All he had to do was meet us at the exit nearest the claims area. It isn’t hard to miss because everyone gathers there to catch their rides or a shuttle bus. This sounds simple enough, but beware of simple plans. Ms. Reddy traveled with a single carry-on bag and did not need to go the claims area. This added a few extra minutes to our wait time so we took advantage of the time to get to know each other.

Beware of simple plans

We waited and waited (and waited and waited) but Frank never showed up. When more than enough time had passed John said he would go out to the curb to look for Frank leaving me to entertain Ms. Reddy alone. What do you say to a recording star, movie star, and multiple-award winner? After we had exhausted the small talk I notice her expertly manicured nails are impatiently tapping the handle of her suitcase. Meanwhile, John is avoiding the gathering storm clouds by waiting on the curb looking for Frank. I go out and tell him that she is nearly at the end of her patience and we need to do something—quick!

We decide to hail a cab for Ms. Reddy and John will look for Frank and meet us at the hotel. I tell her the good news/bad news that we have given up on Frank and will take a taxi. We crawl into a cab with a driver who barely speaks English and tell him we want the hotel that is nearest the airport. At this he shouts something, jumps out of the cab, and runs down the middle of the street waving his hands in the air.

The cab driver from hell

Ms. Reddy and I look at each other and she says, “Is he coming back?” I see the scene developing out the back window and have a sinking feeling. “I don’t think so,” I reply. Now what do I do? I have a travel weary diva on one hand and a crazed cab driver on the other. At that moment I see a security officer and run to tell him what has happened. He looks at the driver running down the middle of the traffic flow and says he’ll be back.

The cab driver finally returns mumbling unintelligent sentences. He gives us a lecture all the way to the hotel telling us we should have taken the airport shuttle bus. I tell him, in no uncertain terms, we didn’t want the shuttle but he totally ignores me. This episode has taken quite a bit of time and I expect to see John pacing the lobby of the hotel when we arrive but instead they pull into the parking lot just ahead of us.

While I was dealing with the crabby cabbie, John searched the parking garage for Frank the chauffeur. John found him standing beside the parked car with the trunk lid open waiting for Ms. Reddy to haul her luggage to the car. John was surprised to see us arriving at the hotel so late and asked what happened. “You won’t believe it,” I said. “We had the cab driver from hell.”

You learn from experience

Everything seemed to be working against us that night. Both drivers must have gotten into the same batch of spiked juicy-juice which made them a little crazy.  Our patience were tested but Ms. Reddy saw we were trying hard to keep her happy and make a good impression. She couldn’t have been nicer. She gave us a splendid performance the next night and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

 After this difficult beginning all other shows were easy. As they say, “you learn from experience”.

 

 

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