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The Karen Miller/Rochelle Seldin Homepage

Karen's Last Night at Danny's (Cont'd)

Saturday, December 18, 1999

by John Kenrick

(Please note: All the photos below are thumbnails – click on them to see larger versions.)

Karen's last habit (20028 bytes)Karen kicks her last "habit."

Fred Barton took a deft star turn at the keyboard, and William Marshall brought his booming basso magic to "Ol' Man River" – bringing many of us back to when we first heard him sing with Karen at the Duplex nearly two decades ago. It would be impossible to list everyone who took part. Although emotions ran high, we kept the party rolling.

Then came the Christmas medley, with the fachachta "Merry Little" thing in it. Karen was reluctant to play the medley and tried to back out of it, but many in the crowd insisted – silly boys, not to trust Miller's instincts by now! The old Eighty-Eights booklets were distributed (Karen urged us to keep them as souvenirs - most did), and we unsuspectingly launched into the holiday songs we know so well. We mangled "O Holy Night" and camped through "Jingle-Bell Rock" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?" ("OUCH!") one last time, and we even kept our spirits up through "White Christmas."

Without really thinking about it, we segued into "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I will own up to being the first one to lose it, going to pieces during the first bars - I'm too damn lyric-conscious, and knew what was coming. "Once again as in olden days . . . faithful friends who are dear to us . . . through the years we all will be together." By the time we were done, Karen was a Judy confronted by a roomful of weepy over-aged Margaret O'Brien's. We pulled ourselves together for a spirited "Hallelujah Chorus," but the damage had been done. Kleenex flew freely for the rest of the evening as each of us took turns comforting friends – only to find the same friends comforting us moments later.

After a break, Karen – who admitted that she had spent the whole week trying not to think about all this – opened her last set with thanks to Danny and his super staff, who did so much to make us feel at home since July. She thanked Jennifer Pace and Luis for being the gems they are. She also told us how much she misses working with Rochelle, and assured us that change is a good thing. We knew she was right, and that her new career is a good choice for her – but even the best change can be a difficult thing to process. Sing-along was impossible at this point, so Karen called on two stalwarts to sing us to closing. Gentry sang a set, then Luis.

How appropriate that Luis should be the last Miller soloist. He has only been part of the family for a few years, but his talent and spirit have meant so much to Karen and all of the gang. Not for nothing has Karen called him "my one true boyfriend." (A statement Karen's wife and Luis's beaux have never minded!) He had already performed much of his repertoire that evening, including a showstopping "All That Jazz." He decided to finish with the song he sang with Karen when a friend first brought him into Eighty-Eights. "Mama A Rainbow" with its "What do you give to the woman who has given all her love . . . ?" was the perfect expression of what everyone there felt. It also left us all in a rather damp heap.

Daniel, Maggie and Fred (21963 bytes)Daniel, Maggie and Fred Barton stayed at the far end of the bar – something about not wanting to get soaked in the tears?

Brushing aside the tears, Karen said, "Okay, let's finish this," and played the inevitable "Dream a Little Dream of Me." When she finished, the ovation lasted for several minutes. She left the piano to get a hug from the incomparable Maggie, who had been there smiling and bucking her up all night long. The rest of us just grabbed on to each other and held on for a while. (If Danny's wasn't such a straight bar, the scene might have aroused Guiliani's suspicions.) "Les Millerables" share a genuine bond, and not seeing each other on a regular basis will be a loss to all of us. You know that old line about "a lot of love in this room?" Well, we put the truth to it that night.

Karen's faithful Les Millerables (22923 bytes)Les Millerables in their farewell appearance, as seen from Karen's perspective.

Phone numbers and e-mails were exchanged, and farewells stretched on for a half-hour or more. Stepping out into the icy night, I felt a genuine relief that this finale had gone so well. It is great to have Karen going on to a new career, one that she loves and that holds such promise. It's also great that we shared so many songs on so many evenings.

Facts be known, it's also great that she played "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." And I genuinely believe we all will be together – if the fates allow. Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow . . .

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