O.K. That may be a slight stretch but hear me out.
Back in my days as an undergraduate at NYU, I started an A-Capella group with my buddies Brian, Greg, Chris and Wayne. We sang mostly in Washington Square Park under the arch. The acoustics there are amazing! We would sing doo-wop and modern songs, pass around the bucket on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and make a few hundred bucks. Not a bad take for five poor students.
This was the late eighties in Manhattan. It was the decade of greed in the financial capital of the world. We were doing our best to get our piece of the pie with the vocal talents we possessed.
Street performers need to grab people’s attention, and quickly, to draw a crowd. We would usually start our set with the fifties classic “Come Go With Me”. If you don’t know the song, our arrangement began with one voice; “Dom Dom Dom Dom Dom, Dom Bee Doo Bee Dom”. which gets people turning their heads. Then, the lead is joined by a second voice a third above the melody; “Dom Dom Dom Dom Dom, Dom Bee Doo Bee Dom”. That gets people turning around and stopping to see what’s going on. Finally, five part harmony; “Dom Dom Dom Dom Dom, Dom Bee Doo Bee Dom”. That gets them moving toward us which causes others to do the same. In twenty seconds, we would have a nice sized crowd. In twenty minutes, we would have a nicely filled, big bucket of cash.
Every now and then, when some other enterprising group of performers beat us to the arch, we would venture outside the park to hunt for prime spots that would lend themselves to both good acoustics and lots of foot traffic. Usually, we would position ourselves up against a building wall, underneath an awning or covered entrance. Most locations were duds but, every now and then, the stars would line up and we would hit paydirt! A big crowd under a covering that would bounce the sound of five voices singing in beautiful harmony directly at them. This would drown out the traffic noise, which is a street performer’s worst enemy…well, traffic noise and cops telling us to move on because we’re “creating a pedestrian traffic jam”. That’s kind of the whole point for street performers; Getting people to stop and listen, which causes more people to stop and listen…which leads to a big bucket of cash.
It was rare but, we would have the occasional brush with celebrities while we performed. One of my favorite memories was performing in front of Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant on Central Park South. In the middle of our set, we noticed actor/comedian Chris Elliot in the crowd. As he was enjoying the tunes, Pop legend Neil Sedaka walked up in a full length fur coat, while we were singing his hit song “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. We were so freaked out that we screwed up and had to start the song over. Well, at least, that’s how I remember it. Forgive me for possibly romanticizing and/or embellishing the moment. I’m not sure if it was his song that we were singing. I am sure that his song was a part of our repertoire and I’ll never forget that coat. It was fabulous! Sedaka was back in Blackglama!! He and Chris were very complimentary after our set and made our night for sticking around and speaking with us.
Which brings us to “The Day of The Donald.” On one of those occasions when we were too late for the arch, one of the spots we tried was right in front of Trump Tower. It had both elements we needed, a covered entrance to bounce the sound and lots of foot traffic. We were set for a bucket of monetary goodness! We started “Come Go With Me” and Paydirt!! We had at least fifty people, all with smiling faces, reaching for their wallets to show their appreciation for the show. It was a great crowd! thinking back, it was probably too great of a crowd. They were surrounding us and crowding the sidewalk all the way to the street.
That’s when he showed up. There was no mistaking that famous coif and pursed lips. We caught sight of him as he walked past us into the front entrance. How cool was that!! Singing for Trump in front of Trump Tower. We turned to each other mid-song smiling! I remember wondering if “The Donald” liked our sound. Would he become a fan?
It wasn’t thirty seconds after he entered the front doors before a Trump security guard came out of the building. Right in the middle of one of our songs, he walked up to us and said “time to go”. That was it. Paydirt turned into quicksand. Our bucket of potential cash never materialized. Like Trump would do four times in the future, we declared Trump bankruptcy that day.
So, saying we were “fired by Donald Trump” isn’t that much of a stretch. Maybe, we even inspired his future hit show! You would think that the future “Apprentice” star would have appreciated our tenacity and determination to make a bucket a full of cash. You would think. Maybe he “fired” us because it wasn’t his bucket. I knew we should have offered him a cut!!
Phil Dutra is a critically acclaimed, Austin based singer/songwriter. His philanthropic activities include donating free music to anyone who visits his site. Click here to become a recipient of his generous contribution to art and culture. He promises to never fire you.
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