I have a bunch of video tapes (I almost said “OLD video tapes”). I’ve been transferring them to discs off and on over the last five years. Occasionally I run across one that affects me a little too much.
The other day I picked up the tape of Bill Nave’s 1996 concert on the Guignol Theatre stage.
I miss Bill and frankly, as much I cherish living in present-day Lexington, it was an even better place when Bill was here.
Bill established two dinner theatres in Lexington; the Red Mile Dinner Theatre (1970’s) and the Diner’s Playhouse (1980’s). There are still veterans of those theatres haunting Lexington’s theatre scene today. I’ll let them raise their own hands.
Bill performed and performed well. The list of shows is long, but my favorite was his starring turn in Most Happy Fella (1983, I think) directed by Dr. Jim Rodgers in the Guignol. I was rehearsing The Fifth of July in the Music Lounge (now the Dickens Movement Studio) next door. I’ve written about that experience in this blog before; “Hey, It’s What We Do”. During breaks and after rehearsal I would sneak into Bill’s rehearsals to watch.
Bill’s various efforts were all important to Lexington theatre.
But the best was Café Chantant.
Café Chantant was his French restaurant. It was elegant, it was tasty, and it was civilized (“civilized” meaning it had a fine wine list).
It also had Le Cabaret in the basement. It was elegant, it was tasty, and it was civilized (“civilized” meaning the ghosts of Noel Coward and Cole Porter regularly materialized). It was open until the wee hours, an unusual thing for Lexington in those days. You could go to the theatre and finish the night at the Le Cabaret. Who knew such a thing was possible?
The company of Le Cabaret was witty, boisterous, a bit tipsy, and fiercely talented. Just when an evening seemed to be spinning into mayhem, Bill would unleash that voice and stun the room into gratitude for just being there to hear it. I loved those evenings.
In the concert on the tape, Bill explains that his first singing teacher was Nelson Eddy. His grandmother had a bunch of Nelson Eddy records (I almost said “OLD Nelson Eddy records”). Bill would listen to them and imitate what he heard. Similarly, my first singing teacher was Bill. He would perform around town in shows and at the Café Chantant. I would hang on every song like a groupie. I would imitate his sound and his demeanor. I never achieved either, but trying led me to far better places artistically than I would have ever found on my own.
Bill was smart, gracious, generous, and he sang like a dream. All of that was in full view on the concert tape.
I still miss Bill.