In 2004, I got a call from someone at Miramax from their Music Department. My dear friend Suzie Katayama had given them my number, but I was told that I had been recommended as an excellent rag-time piano player. The truth was my entire experience in that genre was playing "Maple Leaf Rag" & "Kitten on the Keys" a few times each.
I was told that if hired, I would be playing on the Queen Mary with a band in the 40s for a film release party taking place in the movie. I needed to learn a couple of fast rags, & at some point the camera would film me playing on a special piano (that allowed me to strike the keys without any sound coming out).
I took the gig, stressed for weeks about learning the songs, & finally showed up on the day we were filming. We were all there by 8 am. I met the other musicians (including some that I knew) & we all got our hair greased back & got makeup. Then we sat for hours.............
"I took the gig, stressed for weeks about learning the songs, & finally showed up on the day we were filming."
Finally we were called. We played the damn songs numerous times for multiple takes. Then there were close-ups of my hands playing the rags, along with shots of other members. For some stupid reason, I had been advised to memorize the charts- as if musicians in that era didn't use sheet music. Fortunately, it all went well.
The bell went off telling us all to take a lunch break. A buddy & I thought we found a shortcut to the cafeteria, but instead we opened a door to a room that had Director Scorsese, & actors DiCaprio, Blanchett, Reilly, & Baldwin in a discussion. We apologized, but everyone knew it was lunchtime so suddenly there was a whole group of us all heading to the cafeteria.
"To my surprise, not one bit of footage was devoted to my hands on the keyboards during the songs. At least I was paid."
As I was looking at these legends while walking I remembered
something that happened in 1976 to me & Randy Waldman (buddy & amazing pianist). I got the nerve to pull alongside Martin Scorsese & say "Sir, I want to thank you for helping me get out here to L.A." He turned, looked at me, & said "OK, I'll bite. What do you mean ?"
I told him that years ago, Randy & I were out of college, & we discussed whether to go live in New York or Los Angeles.
We decided to go see a movie & walked into "Taxi Driver". At the end of the movie, the lights came up, we looked at each other, & I said to Randy, "I don't know about you but I'm going to L.A." & he said "No fucking way I'm living in New York now!"
Scorsese took it in, laughed hard (all while maintaining a fast pace), & said "That's a good one. I haven't heard that before", & ran off.
That was the last I saw of him..
I couldn't wait for the movie, & saw it the first day it opened.
To my surprise, not one bit of footage was devoted to my hands on the keyboards during the songs. At least I was paid 🙂
I'm on the far left in the pic…