I share this story to inspire you.
Our daughter got married this year. It was in March and the wedding was in Baton Rouge. William and his family are from that part of the country and our daughter now lives there. She has a great job and two dogs.
Instead of flying, Tim and I decided to drive from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge, straight south. It's a two-day drive, actually a lot shorter than I thought it would be. We both thought it would be nice to take our own car (it has 180,000 miles on it) and take our time. It would be our only vacation this year and we'd be there a week. On a fun note, Tim volunteered to be the DJ at the wedding reception (can you imagine how great he was . . . ), so we had a lot of sound gear to pack and bring along. For me, I liked the idea of driving because I thought it would be nice to just sit and do nothing. We work so hard.
About six hours into the trip, I had my iPad out and told Tim I had heard that some of my retired and out-of-print music books were starting to become valuable. It was rumored that people were trying to sell some of my books on Ebay for big bucks. I've never looked at that kind of thing before, but because I had time, I decided to look on Ebay and see if there were any Lorie Line music books for sale. Sure enough, Music From The Heart was the first book that popped up. Two people were trying to get $300 to $500 for their book. (Personally, I have one copy and there is a sticker on the cover that says DO NOT SELL. LORIE'S COPY.) Well, I scrolled down and here comes up another book, VOGUE. The seller was asking $1700 for the book. Are you kidding me?! Now, they probably won't get that kind of money for the book, but how flattering was that!
Here's the deal. Some of my books are retired and/or out-of-print because the licenses are just too expensive to purchase again. With about 50 books in our inventory, we have to decide if the cost (and the risk) is worth it. Because of this, some of my books have become valuable.
Well, the next book that is out of print and starting to become valuable is SIMPLY GRAND.
So, today I'd like to share with you the story of SIMPLY GRAND.
Seventeen years ago I recorded this solo piano album and published the music book. I made the horrible mistake of giving it to our local Minneapolis music critic, Jon Bream. Now I would describe Jon as "old and curmudgeonly." I would never be his type. No matter what (although the most flattering thing he ever said about me was that I was a modern-day Audrey Hepburn). But I'm not his type because I'm not a granola girl. I love beautiful things. I have a different faith. And I'm happy.
Jon is the kind of critic who says a few nice things about you, then takes you down. Oh, so low. It cuts straight to the heart. Or really the gut. For my album SIMPLY GRAND, he said a few nice things, but his last sentence is one I will never forget . . . something like . . . "this album is nice, but really it is just a little more simple . . . than it is grand."
Straight to the heart. My heart. Of course I recovered, but I never passed along another album to him, and to this day I have never seen or heard another word from Mr. Bream.
In church the other day I listened to how Abraham waited and waited for God's promise to be fulfilled. How he begged God to give him a son, bless him and multiply his family. How God took him outside and showed him the stars in the heavens. How he waited and waited, until it was impossible to even conceive a child. But God said, "oh, you just wait. . . ."
Abraham was in his 80's. And then it happened.
So here I am . . . 17 years later. And now I'm almost 60 years old.
Here's how my story ends. Today, if you type in my name (Lorie Line Radio) on Pandora (which is the most popular digital music radio station in the world), guess what comes up? A song off of my SIMPLY GRAND album. It's called Time To Say Goodbye. I would have never predicted this. It's been playing since Pandora came into existence.
So . . . guess how many times this one song has played on Pandora over the years? 100,000 times? Ah, that's a good guess.
A half million times? That's a very good guess.
A million? Really? You're kidding me . . . but you're getting closer.
Ok Lorie! Five million spins! (that's what they call it on Pandora . . . "spins").
10 million times.
So. . . I will now tell you.
Are you sitting down? I am. Because it's so hard to believe. It's like God taking Abraham outside and having him look into the heavens and count the stars. So let's go outside. Come outside with me. Look with me into the heavens.
Look up. Count the stars.
Are you ready? Here we go.
85 million times.
Yes. I will type that one out. Eighty-five million spins for Time To Say Goodbye off of SIMPLY GRAND. One song. And I have 14 additional songs off the album that have been played a total of 64 million times (In The Looking Glass; Norwegian Wood; Sweet Dreams; Nevada Skies, and more).
I don't think I could ever count 85 million stars in the sky.
I guess sometimes it pays to be . . . simple.
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior forever.
SIMPLY GRAND is Lorie Line's best selling music book of all time.
If you are interested in hearing Time To Say Goodbye and other songs off of SIMPLY GRAND, just type in Lorie Line Radio on Pandora and the songs off this album will come up on your play list.
Time To Say Goodbye is the number one Lorie Line download on SheetMusicPlus.com, an official web site that sells copyright music. You can purchase it on this web site.
Nevada Skies is currently the featured FREE download of the month (September) on the official Lorie Line web site.
Pandora pays a fraction of a penny for every 1500 spins.
To this day, Jon Bream remains a critic at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Thank you for listening to Lorie's music on Pandora.
About four years ago Tim and I were invited to a dinner party just up the road. I would consider this group my smart, entrepreneurial group of friends and we get together a couple times every year. We all own our own businesses. The host owns a very successful driving school. His wife owns (and most recently sold) a large equestrian retail store. The next couple - he is a surgeon in a private practice and she produces independent documentary films. And then there's Tim and me in the music business. It's an interesting group, that's for sure. We have nothing but everything in common.
I know you're not supposed to do this at a dinner party, but we can't help ourselves. We are all super passionate about the world and we typically end up talking politics (and religion . . . to make it an even trickier night). We don't always agree, but we always end up friends at the end of the evening. Obviously, because we've been doing these dinner parties now for 20 years.
This one particular night four years ago is one I will never forget. We were all speculating who was going to run for President and the host said, "I don't care if our next President is a Republican or a Democrat. I just want a business man to run our country."
And there it was. The first time it was ever said out loud. Well, maybe the first time I was listening and heard it. A business man. Someone who might understand our complex and difficult business world. Understand and rally for the entrepreneur.
Who in the world would that possibly be?
Two years later Donald Trump came down that escalator. A Democrat? A Republican? The "business man." Most of our entrepreneurial friends said the same thing. "No matter what, we are voting for him."
A year later (during the primaries when the 17 Republicans were dropping out) we happened to be invited to another social dinner at a country club. We were seated next to a Congressman and Tim asked what he thought the chances were of Donald Trump becoming our next President. The Congressman laughed and said, "he'll never be the President."
Underneath the table, Tim and I were kicking each other. We just knew. We were out there hearing the people. He was going to win.
And he did.
I tell you this story because, no matter what your politics are these days, you can't help but to be fascinated watching the daily news and all the gatherings at the White House. I get excited when I see the chairs lined up all in a row in the press room. I love the beautiful gold draperies behind the desk in the Oval Office. A reporter will be standing on the perfectly groomed grounds. President Trump will walk down that famous walkway to the helicopter. Yes, I get excited.
Because I've been there.
The year was 2000 and I just so happened to have a Christmas concert at Constitution Hall, located across the street from the White House. There was an intern from Concordia College (Ms. Marty Hoffman from Moorhead) working for President Clinton who was a huge fan of mine. She saw I was coming to D.C. and asked if I might play the next morning after the concert for the families of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It was a transitional day. President Clinton was leaving, President Bush was coming in. And this particular day both Presidents would be in the White House.
Well, of course! Yes! I'd love to play!!! Are you kidding me??
It was so exciting. When we arrived we went through the security gates and they took us to a holding area underneath the main common area at the White House. Actually, truth be told it was kind of scary. We were in a very small room. A holding tank. Waiting. Once we got clearance, we headed up some stairs and it was like a magical wand waved over me. I was walking . . . quickly . . . in a crowded area with family members from both Presidents on both sides of me, shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall. There were beautiful Christmas trees and Christmas decorations EVERYWHERE. It was spectacular. The security guards hurried us along until we came to a roped-off area.
There it was. The famous Steinway underneath the John F. Kennedy portrait. And my bench for the morning.
Everyone was gathered around the portrait and behind the ropes. I started to play and it was as though I wasn't really there. I was watching with everyone else.
Off to the side were two musicians from my Pop Chamber Orchestra . . . Kenni Holman on soprano sax, and Carolyn Boulay on violin. These two musicians had been with me the longest, so I selected them to join me for the day. At first, the woman in charge would not let them play, said it would be "too loud." But after an hour or so, I politely asked if we could try one song. She agreed, and Carolyn and Kenni joined me for the remainder of the morning. I think we could have played together all day.
The following morning we were all invited back to have breakfast in the Mess Hall, and take a tour behind the scenes. They said I could bring four guests (and Tim of course). It was tough to decide who would come. Since Kenni and Carolyn went the previous day, I selected vocalist Robert Robinson and Tricia Lerohl (horn) to join me as they were next in line in seniority. That left two open spots.
It just so happened that in the year 2000 our sales team was made up of (none other than) our dads. Yes, my dad and Tim's dad sold merchandise for us in the lobby that year, so we invited them to come along that morning. They were thrilled. Neither had been to the White House before.
The Mess Hall was a tiny restaurant where all the Representatives and Congressmen dined. Back then, Tim and I weren't so politically savvy, but we recognized a few famous politicians eating in the area. Following breakfast our cute little Concordia intern asked if we wanted to go and see the Oval Office. President Clinton was gone that day. She knew his secretary and had cleared the way.
Sure enough, next thing we knew we were being greeted by President Clinton's famous secretary, Betty Curry. She put her lipstick on, and took a few photos with us around the President's desk.
Socks the cat walked by. Was I dreaming?
The last stop was the China Room. It was my personal favorite room in the White House (well, that . . . and the kitchen). All First Ladies have had the privilege of designing their own pattern of china. (I would love that assignment!) On display in beautiful cabinetry were one-of-a-kind place settings of china designed by all of the former First Ladies. It was tough to pick the winner.
This was truly an experience of a lifetime. Democrat or Republican. business man or professional politician. Whomever the President, I hope to have another opportunity to play, even just one more time, underneath the beautiful John F. Kennedy portrait.
To this day, my favorite piece of art on my wall in my home is a simple framed thank-you letter from President Clinton's Social Secretary at the White House.
There were no cell phones back in 2000, so I only have a few precious photos of this day.
Last week we had dinner with our entrepreneurial friends. We got caught up on life, talked about our careers, our kids, religion, and of course . . . politics. Not everone voted for President Trump.
From left to right: Intern, Betty Curry, Lorie Line, Dale Porter (Lorie's dad), Mark Line (Tim's dad), Tricia Lerohl,
Robert Robinson, Tim Line, and the Concordia Intern.
On the holiday tour, I'm almost always the first one up in the morning, and the first one to bed in the evening. My days are long . . . 16 hours . . . 9:00 AM to 1:00 AM. It takes me a few days to get used to that kind of a schedule. Some mornings I will wake up and I do not remember having crawled into my bunk the night before. Seriously. But I love it. I sleep all night on a bus in a dark, tiny, freezing bunk across the aisle from Tim. I will crash eight hours straight, without waking up once.
I'm also the first one out to the bus after the show. I always have a late dinner menu in my head and am anxious to start chopping and cooking for the band and crew. Everyone will be starving. I get about an hour to pull it all together, before the last person . . . Tim . . . (you guessed it) . . . gets on board and we drive all night to the next city.
My meal is always simple and easy, mainly because I don't have a stove or an oven. So, it's soup and sandwiches, fresh fruit, and maybe a special salad. I'll put out pretty cheeses with nuts, and dips that I think even the younger kids might enjoy. Many nights I use a pannini grill or a crockpot. Honestly, everyone is always so hungry that it doesn't matter too much what I put out. They all think it is fabulous and by midnight it will be gone.
A couple days before we leave on tour, I typically go through my kitchen at home and pack up all my favorite things and take them along with me. There are items I just can't live without. Simple things like . . . my knives.
We were almost halfway through the tour this year, show #14. It was a wonderful sold out evening in Luverne, Minnesota. It was a contracted private show for Main Street Financial and it was a very festive night. Many people had never seen me before . . . you know . . . most of them thought they were going to a piano recital. (I love playing to a brand new audience. It's easier to exceed expectations.)
After the show, the executives of Main Street asked if I might greet everyone in the lobby on their way out and take pictures. So as (hundreds of) guests left, I posed for about an hour with anyone and everyone who wanted a photo. (It was cute. I have some of the nicest fans ever.) After taking photos, they kindly asked if I might continue on and attend another "meet and greet" at the bar and restaurant across the street. I declined. After all of the extra festivities that day, I was particularly tired, starving, and I simply couldn't talk anymore. Time to start cooking.
I said "good night" and headed out to the bus. All the other musicians were over at the bar with fans from the show, so it was quiet. I loved it. I was all alone. Ahhhhh. My own space for a very brief moment in time. Tim and the crew would be getting on board in about a half hour now, so I started hurrying a bit and pulling out the food. The very first thing I did was get out my cutting board and some fresh oranges. I pulled out my favorite serrated knife and started cutting beautiful wedges. Three slices into the first orange, I came down hard, and cut the top of my left thumb.
Oh it hurt. No, it really hurt. I pulled back as quickly as I could, and blood gushed and poured on the floor. I was in trouble. The bathroom was only one step away, so I opened the door, turned on cold water and braced myself to see what I had done. My very first and only thought was, "I think I cut it on the top left side. I play on the lower right side. Please God."
It was bad.
In my cosmetic case in my bunk, I had Band Aids. I frantically unwrapped three of them, but they weren't going to do the trick. So I wrapped my finger in a paper towel, sat down and just held it, wondering what to do next. Looking around, we always keep super glue (for our minor cuts on our hands) on the shelf. I took the towel off and poured glue on my open wound. Tears came to my eyes and because no one was around, I admit I may have jumped up and down and screamed in pain. Super glue was not going to help me right now. So, I took gaff tape (which we always keep handy in the top drawer) and wrapped it around the paper towel and my thumb as tightly as possible. When everything was under control again, I cleaned up the floor, re-grouped, and calmly finished making dinner.
The band started coming on board. I didn't tell a soul except the girls . . . Merilee (oboe) and Michele (my assistant). But I didn't make a big deal out of it. Aaaaa, I had a little accident. When Tim saw me, he knew something was wrong. I took him into the galley where the bunks were, closed the door and told him I thought it was pretty bad. Hopefully it had stopped bleeding. I didn't want to unwrap it. We'd look at it in the morning.
All night long the tip of my thumb just throbbed. How in the world would I play a show on it? Not one show. But 16 shows! This would be one night when I would barely sleep at all. I was full of pain. And worry.
The next morning it was just Tim and me at the Cimbali machine. He made me a cup of coffee and I carefully removed the gaff tape and towel. When I showed it to him, he calmly said, "you cut the very tip of your thumb off."
Here's the deal. I don't see up close all that well these days (without reading glasses) and maybe it was a good thing I didn't know this. I knew it was bad, but not that bad.
I stretched my hand out on the countertop, pretending it was a piano. Would the cut area hit the keys? Maybe, but just barely. But could I make it work? Could I possibly play without the use of my thumb? No way. And there was no way I'd be able to play with a Band Aid on it. It would just fly off. And gaff tape? Not going to work.
So our plan went back to my original thinking. Super glue. The bleeding had stopped. Maybe the glue would adhere to my open wound and protect it.
The first round of glue was again very painful. But after it dried and the second round was applied, it was better. Much better. The third round I couldn't feel a thing. And the four application gave me my first ray of hope that I would be able to continue the tour. My biggest concern was my opening winter white dress with white fox fur. One accidental hit too hard on a key, and my thumb would be a gusher. The dress would never be the same. Not to mention that I'd be so embarrassed. (How do you explain that in the middle of a show?!!)
We were now in Alexandria, Minnesota. I wouldn't sit at the piano until 5:45 PM for a sound check. All day I kept applying layers of super glue and letting it dry. When I first sat down to play at the sound check, I played carefully and very lightly. No pain. I couldn't feel anything on the tip of my thumb. The injury was just missing hitting the piano keys. Octaves would be out because the stretch hit the cut, but that would be OK. I could do that. Single notes only in my left hand that night.
The show must go on.
Alexandria ended up being a wonderful show. I made it through. The layers of glue protected me from bleeding and feeling the pain. The cut was already healing, it was amazing.
After the Alex show, members of the band and crew started hearing about and seeing my ailment. Some were horrified! But I didn't want to tell anyone as I didn't want it to be a distraction. Talking about it wouldn't make it any better. (Although I am not Norwegian or a native Minnesotan, I guess I've "become" one.) But everyone said the same thing.
"This is a good blog, Lorie. No one would ever believe it."
I've been through almost everything on a tour. Storms and bad weather (of course), busses breaking down, bats dive-bombing me on stage, tripping and falling, the electricity going out, sickness, theft, guns, drugs, affairs. A tragic suicide in my family the day of a show. I've literally personally flooded a theater. Once my bus was stolen at intermission and my piano tuner was on it and was held hostage. No kidding. The most interesting thing about being an entertainer on stage is that no one knows what happened to you that day. So I hope to be able to share more stories with you as they are compelling, interesting and unbelievable. Whenever I have new cast members on a tour, we always have to have one night of "Lorie's tour stories."
Obviously the story I have shared with you in this blog is brand new.
Tim took this photo on day #2 after my accident and after three applications of super glue. I played that evening and 16 shows after this injury.
Today my thumb is completely healed. If you look closely, you can see that a little piece is missing. I have a weird sensation, but I think that too, will eventually return to normal. I highly recommend super glue (gel).
I know there are a lot of people (my super fans who are my guardian angels) who keep me in their prayers when I'm out on a tour. Thank you for watching over me. It could have been a lot worse.
I have quickly learned to cut citrus with a new knife technique, always pulling back my thumb.
Tomorrow I am scheduling lasik eye surgery.
* * * *
On a completely different note, those of you who have been following the story of the turbulent politics of the City of Orono, (the city where I live), here is an article that was published this week in our local paper. I thought you might find it interesting.
I really don't like social media. Those of you who know me well. . . are you surprised? Twitter, Instagram, facebook . . . not really my thing. Seriously, I don't have the energy, time or genuine interest in all of that. (There are so many things I'd rather do.) But several years ago a fan emailed me and said, "Lorie, I'm so glad you are on facebook! I friended you today!" I wrote her back. "I'm not on facebook, never will be." She replied, "oh, yes you are. Your site launched a couple days ago and I am already one of 200 fans!"
Sure enough, I typed up my name and there it was. Lorie Line. Whoever she was, "she" already had over 200 active fans, and was talking to them like she knew them . . . owned them. Many of my professional photos were on the site. (She . . . or he . . . stole them!) The site was very professionally done. It seriously looked like it was me. The original Lorie Line. But it wasn't.
Do you know how hard it is to get rid of an imposter on a social media site? Oh my goodness, I had to humble myself and take a photo with a big sign next to my face that said "I am the real Lorie Line." I wore one of my tour sweatshirts that had my name on it. One week later, facebook shut down the site. Phew. I'm glad that's over.
One month later it was back up. A new Lorie Line imposter. Oh no. Here we go again.
This is what forced me into facebook. I reluctantly claimed my name and launched an official Lorie Line site. I didn't want to have anything to do with it, so my office manager posted photos and blurbs every once in a while (which I approved). In a short time, I had 5000 personal "friends" and that moved us onto a fan site which today hosts about 6,000 additional fans who "like" me. The interesting thing about facebook is that everyone thinks it boosts your business. Not mine. Not really. It's mainly just a social thing. The heartbeat of my business is, and will always be . . .
"Mainstream" media is a hot topic right now. I have many stories, some which are so fun to tell, and some which are so heartbreaking that I'll never be able to share them (until my book comes out). I've lived through almost 30 years of media, from the beginnings of a career . . . to the uprise, to the fall, to the "recovery," to . . . well, I guess, still being out there. All of this has happened to me while raising two complex kids, and being married to the person I love and work with every day.
When you are first starting out and have a new idea and it seems to be going well, the media LOVES you. It is a fresh, new story and they can't wait to talk to (and about) you. They actually listen, quote you accurately, and praise you for your bravery, entrepreneurship, creativity, stamina, brillance, beauty, talent, and style. This happened to me when I first had the inkling that I might be a successful pianist/composer/arranger. I think my story was told in every newspaper and magazine in the midwest and I was even published in a few books and national magazines. I framed just about every feature, and at our Lorie Line Music office in Wayzata, when you walked in it looked like a museum.
After our success and "rise to fame," the articles stopped. We actually had a full-time public relations person whom we let go because no one was interested anymore in the Lorie Line phenomenum. In defense of the media, many of the writers lost their jobs. Newspapers were barely in business. The entertainment section disappeared. No one was writing about or reviewing shows anymore. There was no budget. And not much has happened since then.
Today, if there is a writer on staff, I'd say most of them are young and have no connection or history with the community or a story like mine. They weren't even born when my story was born, and they have no ties to the area. So, when a story starts out, "Minnesota native vocalist Lori Line . . . " I know it's not going to be good. (I'm not a Minnesota native. I'm not a vocalist. And they have misspelled my name which is a big part of my brand.) When a feature article starts out like that, I can promise you I don't even read it (and neither does Tim). I throw it away. Because tomorrow I have to wake up, jump out of bed, and make beautiful music for the fans who love me.
When we held The Living Room Series in our home this year, I dug out and hung one of the framed articles that was once on display at our Wayzata office. Everyone loved it and every time I walked by people were reading the article and looking at the beautiful photography. I wondered if I shouldn't go out to our warehouse and get all the remaining framed pieces. (I had so much I could create a gallery.) After the June series, I brought them home. Slowly but surely the hallway on our lower level turned into . . . and is once again . . . the Lorie Line museum.
I am so grateful for the many positive and beautiful stories that many dedicated journalists have written about me (and Tim) in my career.
The above photo launched me into social media.
The photo at the top is the new Lorie Line gallery in our home. There is an empty wall around the corner.
I could never be a singer. It's not that I can't sing. It's just that when I'm really touched by beautiful music, nothing comes out of my mouth.
When I was a senior in college I had to take Choir. I loved it. It was the first time I learned and sang The Hallelujah Chorus. We worked all semester on it. Now I know most people have sung this beautiful masterpiece, but growing up in my small a cappella church, I don't ever think I had heard it before, let alone had the opportunity to sing it in a big group with great singers. So, here we all were, standing on a riser singing Handel's most well-known and beloved piece in front of about a thousand people. We were ready. The intro played and then the first word came . . . "Hallelujah . . . "
That was the only word I sang. I broke down in tears, it was just so magnificent to me. "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords . . . and He shall reign forever and ever . . ."
So when Jane (from Gilman, Iowa) walked up to meet me in my driveway the second night of The Living Room Series and she couldn't speak, through her tears I got it. I call it The Sisterhood. My new sister Jane. We embraced and I knew we'd have a chance to catch up later in the evening.
The concept of The Living Room Series was a dream come true. Honestly, we went on sale a year in advance, not knowing if anyone would even come. Obviously, it was a hit and the whole thing gave both Tim and me a boost of confidence that we really needed.
We started to physically work on everything in March. We had three months to make our place beautiful. The weather was nice enough to start scraping the gardens, so when the sun was out, we were out. I made a set list of what I'd perform and started to play the music in my head and hands when I was in the gardens. When I wasn't sure about things, I'd go inside and sit at the piano, play the music and then go back outside.
In April the gardens were clean so we took on bigger projects. We decided to paint a "few" things. First we'd paint the trellis in the shade garden. I painted the sides and Tim got on the ladder and painted the top. Because of the rain it took us the entire month. Next it was time for Tim to start hedging so I painted the dock. While he trimmed and edged, I stained our three garage doors, the entry gate door, the outdoor kitchen cabinetry and then I spray-painted an old bench where my guests would sit when they arrived.
Another month had passed. It was now May. Tim turned the dirt and the earth was warm enough for planting, so I spent the next week installing the 700 flowers we had greenhoused all winter. While I was in the dirt, I started memorizing the show and thinking of all the stories I wanted to share with everyone who was coming to see me.
Before dinner, each night I'd run inside and sit at the piano and play the show top to bottom. I'd revise and tweak it, eat and go back outside. One night I got into bed and noticed my hands were sore from hoeing, planting, painting. And practicing.
It was down to the wire. We had one week to go before opening night. At the last minute we decided to paint the mailbox, the entrance antique pillars and the front retaining wall. I don't know why, but Tim and I barely spoke as we silently rolled on five gallons of paint. Those were happy days for us. We were coming to the end. It was here.
The day before opening night I gathered Tim, Michele (my assistant) and Jackson (my son) and we met at the entrance of the driveway. We physically walked through everything, from the moment guests would arrive and checking them in . . . to the garden tour (and what to say), to seating everyone, to taking a group picture, to ushering everyone to the lower level (where we'd serve dessert and coffee), to finally walking guests out of the house (with a bottle of water when they'd leave). Every detail was in place. We were all excited. And super nervous.
It was 3:00 pm. Guests would be arriving in four hours. At the last minute, I decided to bake my Sticky Toffee Date Cake. (Was I insane?) No. I was ready.
Fans came from all over the country. Some nights up to 10 states were represented (from North Carolina to Florida, from Wyoming and Oklahoma to California). I was so touched having people come from all over the country to celebrate the evening with me in my own home. These fans weren't just "Linebackers." After doing this for 27 years, a new name came to me.
The Super Fans.
After the concert, Jane met me at my signing table and once again tried to talk. It was the cutest thing ever. She said, "you know what I love about you Lorie? You're just like us. Plain and simple." Her sisters stood next to her and gasped and said, "she is not, Jane!" I laughed and looked at Jane, and she said, "you get it, don't you, Lorie? You know what I mean."
Yes. I do.
Plain and simple. From scraping, hoeing, painting, practicing and memorizing music and stories in my head while planting flowers in the dirt. And . . . at the last minute baking my favorite cake for my favorite people in the whole world. Fans like Jane. My Sisterhood.
I've played in many special places and for many special occasions, but nothing has been more exciting, exhilarating and meaningful in my career than playing The Living Room Series in my own home. So when people now ask me "what's the most favorite place where you have played?" I have a new answer.
Plain and simple.
The above photo was taken at dinner a week ago on my birthday, June 20th. We took a week off and went on a cruise to Alaska. I took two naps a day.
My Sticky Toffee Date Cake was a hit. It is from Ina Garten's FOOLPROOF (purple) recipe book, page 220.
If you are coming to the August series, look for a package in the mail and an email from us end of July. See you soon!
This new little church Tim and I are attending believes in spiritual gifts. Neither of us grew up with this and it is all-new thinking . . . which we are actually enjoying. Personally, I've never seen a supernatural gift or a miracle. However, I do believe certain people have a gift that manifests itself through the Holy Spirit. They have an extraordinary thing going on.
My obvious gift would be the gift of music. But my other gift which isn't so obvious is the gift of gut instinct. I have an unusual ability to read a person or a situation pretty well. Some mornings I will wake up and tell Tim about a new insight that was revealed to me in the middle of the night. When I first started sharing my early morning thoughts, Tim would half-listen to me or maybe laugh a little bit. He doesn't do that anymore.
When my two kids were little, they'd say "but Mom, how do you know?" I'd joke with them innocently and say "the Holy Ghost told me" and we'd laugh. Today they still challenge my insights, but at least they listen. Well, maybe just a little bit. Admittedly, most of what I say just comes from experience.
So when I walked into my interview and sat down with a new panel of national judges at the America's Junior Miss pageant and they called me "Lenne" instead of "Lorie," I knew it was over. She was going to be the winner.
Miss Washington had just walked out and I was next. I would describe Lenne Jo as cute . . . not pretty, or beautiful . . . but cute. Snappy. She was short, had a bubbly personality, a fun smile and a cute short haircut. It was 1976 and shorter hair had just come back into style. (Someone talked me into cutting mine too, and looking back I wish I hadn't done that.)
After winning Nevada's Junior Miss, I had about two months to prepare for America's Junior Miss. We were serious now. The first thing was to up the ante on my piano piece. Alleta said we needed something more showy, more demanding. We selected Malaguena. It fit the time constraints, it was a more recognizable tune, and it was difficult. So I got up early before school and started learning it. With the average-size stretch in my hands, I dedicated my after-school hours to mastering the octaves.
It was a ton of work getting ready to go. I decided to enter the national sponsor scholarship programs. The national sponsors were Kraft, Kodak and Breck. For Kraft you had to host a dinner party and document the event, complete with photography and original recipes (utilizing their products). My mom and I had so much fun pulling this together and we invited a school friend and his family to join us for the dinner party. For Kodak you had to prepare a photo album/scrap book of the Junior Miss experience utilizing their film. For Breck you had to do a hair photo shoot.
The most fun part of getting ready to go was the shopping!! There were a ton of local Reno stores who donated clothing and pretty items to take along with me to Mobile, Alabama. So it seemed I was shopping almost every weekend in stores I'd never been in before. Honestly, I had really never "shopped" before and it was a breathtaking experience. I couldn't believe I was walking out with something beautiful in my arms that was donated to me . . . free.
The Junior Miss committee went with me on most of my excursions. We picked out two pageant dresses and Alleta helped to select my performance dress which had a Spanish flare to it . . . perfect for Malaguena. It was hand-embroidered and had big wide panels, so unusual and very couture for the time. They made sure I had pretty jewelry and casual clothes to wear for the events during the day. I felt so spoiled. I was seriously overwhelmed with all the attention and everyone's generosity.
It was such a special event that my parents saved everything they could and bought plane tickets to go. My grandparents jumped in too, and it was thrilling to think they would all be there with me for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
When I arrived to Mobile, Alabama my host family walked me into the great exhibition hall where all the cameras were setting up for this nationally televised event. There in alphabetical order were all the girls and their states they represented. Nevada was in the middle and there I was. It was the biggest photo ever and I started looking at all the other candidates from the remaining 49 states. We all kind of looked the same. . . no one was "the most beautiful of all." We were just a bunch of ambitious girls up there on a wall of fame with dreams.
The first day we met the Master of Ceremonies, Michael Landon. It just so happened his dressing room was right next to mine, so I saw him often and shyly said "hi" in passing. Yes, he was as handsome in person as he was on Little House On The Prairie. My goodness, he had great hair.
All the girls nervously met and everyone wanted to know what their talent was. It ended up that out of 50 states, about 5 of us were going to play the piano. I couldn't wait to hear what the others had selected.
And it came time. The old Steinway piano from backstage was rolled out and the pianists had a chance to practice and play on it. The first girl sat down. She played her first notes.
It was Malaguena. Oh no.
The second girl stepped up onto the stage, sat down and played her first notes.
It was Malaguena. Oh no.
And then me.
The two remaining pianists played simple pop songs, but for the three contenders playing Malaguena it was a phychological nightmare. The other two pianists had edited their version (leaving out some of the harder parts). I played mine unedited, top to bottom, but I knew the judges wouldn't notice this little detail.
After a week of working on the pageant, my parents and grandparents flew in. "Everyone is playing Malaguena." I felt I played the piece the best, but it wouldn't matter as our idea wasn't unique enough. Too many girls were playing the same thing.
The night of the pageant came and we were all excited to be on national TV. We all got to walk up to the microphone, say our name and the name of our high school. I swear when it was my turn I heard everyone back home cheering me on. They announced the top five talent finalists. None of us playing Malaguena made it. The evening was going to be oh so short, but oh so long.
Miss Washington made the top five. There she was, her cute little self, and for her talent she showed off her public speaking abilities and recited a poem, using that wide smile and swinging her cute bob side to side.
I did not win anything that night, but the national sponsors later announced the winners. Unbelievable, I won both Kraft and Kodak awards. Kodak gave me a $1000 scholarship and a new camera and enough film for a lifetime. Kraft gave me a $2500 scholarship. And funny thing, you'd think the first thing ever published in my lifetime would be a piece of music. Nope. Kraft published my recipes from my Country Cookin' dinner party in their 1976 Hostess Awards cookbook. Today that cookbook proudly sits on my shelf in my kitchen (right next to every volume of Ina Garten . . . my hero as you know).
It was all adding up. More scholarship money to go to the "college of my choice." And the Junior Miss program also offered full-ride scholarships to a dozen different schools across the country.
I now had enough money to get there. And you can bet I was going to go.
Many thanks to the Junior Miss program.
Florida College, here I come!
The above photo was taken during the talent competition at the America's Junior Miss pageant, May, 1976. Lorie Line (then Lorie Porter) was 17. The photo now sits on a shelf in Studio L, Lorie's recording studio.
The America's Junior Miss Competition is no longer a pageant. Today it is the Distinguished Young Women Program.
Miss Washington's parents won Congeniality Parents of the Week. (The force is strong.)
Below is the Kraft cookbook publication which featured Lorie's Country Chicken Casserole. She never made it again.
There have been a few very special occasions or moments in my life that I will never forget. I suppose the most memorable day was when I married Tim. Next might be playing at the White House (which I hope to some day blog about). Certainly adopting each of our kids would be at the top of my list. And selling out my first concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and also performing at the Crystal Cathedral in California will be days I will reflect on all my life.
But one of the favorite things that happened to me took place 40 years ago. 1976. I was a 17, a senior in high school.
It was so unexpected.
I had bought my first car (from piano scholarship competition money) and needed to buy car insurance. It was $300 and I didn't have the money. Someone at school told me about a pageant I should enter, simply to win the Talent division. It was kind of like Miss America, but for teenagers. The talent scholarship alone paid $300, which was perfect for my "situation." I never saw myself as a "pageant girl" but I signed up, actually having no idea what I was getting myself into. The pageant was called Nevada's Junior Miss.
Once I entered, we got all kinds of forms and material to read in the mail. Of course the thing I was most interested in was the talent portion. There was a performance time limit, so my piano teacher, Alleta Gray, would have to come up with something that I could learn fairly quickly that would be within their time constraints. It would have to be "showy." She decided on Debussy's Valse Romantique. It was very pretty and quite stage-worthy . . . had a little drama at the end. I began to learn and memorize it, and we were off and running.
My mom and I went to K-Mart to buy fabric for a new dress that she would make for me. We selected a pretty pale pink velour. The dress was simple but somewhat special as it had a little bolero jacket that she creatively trimmed with pink ostrich feathers. Pretty fancy for a small-town girl from Reno.
I was set.
When I arrived at the pageant I realized I didn't know a soul. I hadn't even thought about this but there were a ton of girls who were already friends, but no one from my school entered the competition but me.
And then we heard the plane had landed. The Las Vegas girls had arrived.
My mouth about fell open when they walked in. They looked and acted like they were 10 years older than me, so sophisticated. They had it all down . . . the make-up, the hair. The walk. And the dresses! Oh my goodness, some of their dresses were so big they had to pack them in trunks. They were pageant dresses, the real deal, not at all like mine. At that moment I was glad I didn't know or have to talk to anyone because I was speechless.
They put us into host homes and I was assigned to a very successful host family with a beautiful home in the prettiest part of town. (I didn't know anyone who lived in this neck of the woods and the only other house I'd ever seen that was as nice as this was Alleta's.) My little room was so clean. All-white. Divine. There were twin beds and I shared my space with another girl in the pageant.
When we settled in and unpacked, my roommate slipped out so I called my mom on the hard line in the bedroom. I cried. I told her about the beautiful Vegas dresses and wondered if we could come up with a store-bought gown. My mom felt horrible and said we just couldn't afford it, but to "use your personality" and "play that piano . . . like you always do and you'll do just fine." To this day I still remember her words.
It was a three-day event at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks. Right away, we were learning routines and they scheduled us for interviews with the five judges. If I remember correctly, there were 48 girls in the competition. My interview was scheduled for the last day. I would be number 47, second to last. They'd be exhausted.
Surprisingly, my interview actually went just great. They were easy to talk to and seemed to really like me. I was only stumped by one current event question about a third-world country. In that time of my life I didn't keep up with the news. (Ask me today and I would know). But, I made up something funny and they all laughed. (I guess I can be funny sometimes).
The divisions were Poise and Appearance, Physical Fitness, Scholastic Achievement, Talent, and Congeniality (the interview). I knew I wouldn't win any of the divisions except maybe Talent (please God). I had my eye and my fingers crossed on that one.
The pageant night arrived and I had made the finals for Talent, so I'd perform. It went well.
We did the Physical Fitness routine, the Poise and Appearance walk-around (in my simple pink dress) and now it was time for the awards . . . the moment we had all been waiting for. The Master of Ceremonies started in . . .
The Physical Fitness award goes to . . . .
I didn't win.
Poise and Appearance goes to . . . .
I didn't win.
Scholastic Achievement goes to . . . .
I didn't win.
And the Talent goes to . . . .
I didn't win. Did you hear me? I didn't win.
At this point, I saw my entire family in the upper balcony (cheaper seats) get up and start to put their coats on. It was Saturday night, we had church in the morning. I literally saw the back of their heads as they were walking out.
Oh wait! There's more! My mom and dad turned and sat down and insisted everyone else do the same. The Master of Ceremonies continued.
Third runner up goes to . . .
I didn't win.
Second runner up goes to . . . .
I didn't win.
First runner up goes to . . . .
I didn't win. The family is back up again. Coats back on.
And the 1976 winner of Nevada's Junior Miss is . . . .
That's me. Is that me? Yes, that's me. I couldn't move. Really? I won? Now what do I do? Walk Lorie. Walk forward.
I never . . . ever . . . for a second thought I'd win. What's even more, I never ever thought about the implications of winning and what Nevada's Junior Miss might mean, what it would bring to me and the new journey I'd instantly be on. That night I received a $1000 scholarship to the college of my choice. It was the first time I ever even thought about college and that I might be able to afford to go. College of my choice? Yes, it was a big moment for me.
A new wardrobe, numerous gifts, jewelry and cosmetics . . . plus an all-expense-paid trip to Mobile, Alabama was coming my way. Not to mention, a real pageant gown.
Now I had a new dream. I would be preparing for America's Junior Miss.
Maybe I just might be able to win the Talent division.
(to be continued in April's blog)
Photo above - this is the pink dress my mom made with the ostrich feathers. She recently told me it cost $7.50 to make it. She was my first couturier and I am forever grateful.
On a personal note, my bedroom today is all-white. Divine.
I bought Tim a Fit Bit for Christmas. If you're not familiar with this, it is a fitness band you wear that measures everything from your number of steps to good solid sleep. I think I really surprised him as he didn't ask for one, expect or even hope for this little gadget . . . wasn't even on his radar. It was fun to see him open it and have to think about how he'd use it.
Tim is the most "hip" and "fit" 55-year old I've ever seen. Surprisingly, he never works out, just gardens (in the spring, summer and fall), and off-loads and on-loads my piano and all our gear when we tour (16-hour days).
As many of you know, I am out on my very first solo piano tour. It has been so nice getting out of the below-zero Minnesota winter weather. It's also thrilling to see some of my southern fans whom I only get to entertain about every four years.
Touring is extremely expensive. A tour bus with driver costs about $1000 a day, then there is the driver's hotel room, his per diem, diesel gas (200 gallons) for the bus (thank God for low gas prices right now), venue rental, daily piano tunings, water to keep everyone hydrated, groceries and two to three meals a day for everyone. We also pay lobby sales commissions in some venues on our CDs and music books (10 - 20% in most cases) and permit fees to park in various towns. Big downtown cities often require union labor and that typically triples our costs for the day. And then of course . . . ahhhhhh, taxes.
It's crazy . . . and scary.
This year, we knew if we were going to do this tour, because I'd be playing to smaller audiences, we would have to be extremely efficient. We'd eliminate a truck which normally carries our gear and the expense of another driver. Instead, we'd hook up a trailer to the back of our bus. Next, we'd have to do everything by ourselves . . . no crew . . . and with the help of only one person . . . my faithful assistant Michele. She would help us load in all day and in the evening she'd sell tickets and merchandise in the lobby. She also volunteered to learn how to run the lights during the show. Michele is creative, quick and smart.
Before we left, Tim spent the month of January with my studio engineer, learning how to run the sound. He was nervous, but felt he could do it. They pre-programed many of the settings for a smaller venue and a smaller audience. He would "tune" the room every day.
My job would be easy. I would design a simple but elegant set and be responsible for placing it nightly. I'd also design my costumes.
So, "The Three Musketeers" would unload, set up and tear everything down that you see in the photo above (which is a shot of the back of our trailer that we pull behind the bus) every day.
Plus . . . oh, I almost forgot . . . do a two-hour show.
The most difficult part of our day is off-loading the piano and getting it to the stage. And then the reverse . . . getting it off the stage and back into the trailer at the end of the night. Because there are just three of us, we are always looking for brave volunteers to help us pull it out of the trailer, push it inside the venue, and then most days up a ramp (which we carry) and to the middle of the stage. Not only is Michele smart, but she is pretty too, so she uses her wide smile to go and find big guys who might be of help. Can you imagine? It is the funniest thing. She walks down the street and says, "Sir, can you come and help us move a piano?" She doesn't dare tell them it is a nine-foot concert grand that weighs 1450 pounds. We crack up every day about this. Many nights we hit the bunks barrel-laughing about that part of our day.
The piano travels in a custom case that will go through any man-size door. It's pretty amazing. It travels on its side. After we find two volunteers, we move it in its case to the stage. From here, the whole front of the case is removed and while the piano is still on its side, Tim puts the lyre and two front legs on. With leverage, the five of us pull it down out of the case to rest on the two legs. Tim then moves to the back side and with one fairly easy pull-up, we set it in its perfect place. Tim now sits and puts the third leg on and we are now ready to move it to the center stage. We roll the custom travel case (now empty) down the ramp and out of site for the show.
We make it look easy. And after Michele's two brave men leave they always say, "that wasn't bad at all."
My piano has been on over 2000 stages. It is probably 22 years old now. In the old days I would have to play anything and everything. It was horrible and every night I was miserable. Then, one year we asked Yamaha if they had a piano in the Minneapolis area we could borrow for a tour. There was one available at The Ordway in St. Paul. They loaned it to us . . . and we never gave it back. I couldn't give it up. It was the finest piano I had ever played. Well, it was perfect timing because I became an endorsed Yamaha pianist. And they sold it to me at cost. One of my tuners originally gave the piano a name: Sven. Not me. I called him Black Beauty.
Moving Black Beauty requires leverage and strength. A couple of times we have almost had a tragedy. Once, a few years ago, we were pushing it out of the truck down the ramp. It was raining and the ramp was slippery. Tim was on the downside (which carries all the weight). He slipped and fell on his back. The piano was not going to stop. Quick thinking, he stayed on his back and put his feet up on the case and slid down with the piano to the bottom of the ramp. I was inside the venue, setting up the stage, and I heard it. I knew something had happened. His back was scraped up, but because he put his feet up on the case and just slid down and went with it, he survived. Had he put his feet down, the piano would have rolled over him and crushed him.
A couple of nights ago we were (once again) faced with the challenge of moving the piano to the stage. The off-loading back alley was too steep and narrow, and the piano would not turn and fit through the door. After a couple of frustrating hours, we ended up moving not just the piano, but the entire show from the theatre to the front lobby. The Three Musketeers moved the piano two times that day (with a little help), and we set up all individual chairs for our fans for a prompt 7:30 show.
At the end of that day Tim told us we walked over 20,000 steps. Over 10 miles. That was just the walking part. It did not include the physical exertion of pushing and pulling. I don't remember crawling into my bunk that night. But I do remember waking up the next day.
Touring is a very physical job. I know why many musicians just can't and won't do it anymore. It's the fatigue (and hunger) that gets to you. Michele says to me about every other day, "Lorie, your fans have no idea what you do during the day. They think you just walk out onto the stage every night looking all pretty and glamorous . . . waaalaaa." Not true.
For me, walking out onto the stage is the best part of my day. We have arrived.
Tim and I want to personally thank all of you who have come out to see me on this solo piano tour. You don't know how much we appreciate having a good audience after working all day to get to your city and set up a show. We love having loyal fans . . . who have now become our lifelong friends too. You make it so joyful . . . and oh . . . oh, so worthwhile.
The gear in the back of the trailer pictured above weighed in at the truck station at 9,000 pounds. The Three Musketeers will move it 24 times for a total of 216,000 pounds.
Last night we drove 520 miles to get to the next city.
We walked 18,000 steps today. About 9 miles. It was a good day.
Michele has worked for me as my personal touring assistant for 7 years. She is from Iowa.
Pictured below is Tim, Lorie and Michele. This is our typical day of moving the piano.
For tickets to my upcoming show http://www.lorieline.com/tour.php. If you want to be one of the two volunteers to help tip and load the piano, we'd love the help!
When I started doing concerts and moved to the stage, it was difficult because my pretty black dresses weren't what I call "stage-worthy." My music editor at the time had a theatre background and knew of an older gentleman who was a local costume designer named Jack Edwards, and she thought he might be a good fit for me. Jack had a huge resume, had previously designed in New York under Bob Mackie and had been a costume designer at The Guthrie Theatre for about 18 years. He was semi-retired, working seasonally as the costume designer for Dayton's annual 8th floor auditorium Christmas show. So I called him, introduced myself, and he gave me directions to his house so we could meet. When he came to "turn left on Wildhurst Trail" I laughed. I had followed him in my mind the whole way. I said, "well, if you turn right on Wildhurst Trail, that's where I live. We're neighbors."
Who would have thought. It was the beginning of a magical 16-year relationship.
Yes, Jack lived around the corner from me on the lake. At that first meeting when I walked into his home, I gasped. Here was this 63-year old man who looked like a king (or maybe Santa during the holidays) standing at the door. "Hello, darling," he said with his long, drawn-out sophisticated and slightly forced European-sounding voice (I later heard he was originally from Pennsylvania). His house was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It could have been out of a storybook. First, the knots in the white pine beadboard ceiling had all been cut out and replaced with tiny mirrors so that "my candlelight will reflect off the ceiling." He had perfectly polished silver and mercury glass EVERYWHERE, a huge mirror over the fireplace made out of white sea shells, a real brown bear skin rug (complete with head and open mouth) on the floor, rich dark blue velvet chairs, and day beds (instead of couches) that faced his floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. His blue and white china in the kitchen sat on open shelves and the dishes were slightly unorganized, just "off" enough to be interesting. He had a collection of personal black and white photos in silver frames of all his friends (I would one day join the ranks). They sat on top of an old out-of-tune closed up grand piano, and above that was a very authentic self-portrait. King Jack.
Around the corner and through the kitchen there was an open shower that was a transition area to Jack's bedroom. (Openly gay, he joked that anyone was welcome to use the shower at any time.) His private quarters were all-white with a hand-painted pine floor. Hundreds of books were scattered in every possible space in the room. French doors opened to an outside paver deck that had a fountain and a small pond full of colorful koi fish. No one lived quite like Jack. Well, not that I had ever met.
He agreed to design a costume for me. We would try it. I knew I was in for a very fun ride.
Jack was super talented. Actually, he was more than that . . . he was gifted. (And you know from reading my blogs that I love to hang with that kind of a person.) He could put textures and colors together better than anyone or anything I'd ever seen before. It was always unpredictable, but it worked. He was patient and detailed, and he could ornament a garment with jewels and stones that could compete with a top New York designer. He was fun. He loved to laugh. He loved pretty things (oh boy, my weakness). He loved nice champagne, and could tell joke after joke that would make him the life of every dinner party. He fit in with anyone and everyone, and was always included at my home for holidays and special events. He loved my kids and was actively a part of their lives (we spent many Christmases together and some of my prettiest gifts came from Jack). We traveled several times to New York City to just shop for the most exquisite fabric we could find in the textile district. In the spring we'd go to Hawaii for a couple of weeks to vacation with friends. Over the years Jack changed my common look to be more glamorous, and I couldn't have done that without his input. I learned a lot from Jack.
But Jack was stubborn. Holy cow. He spent way too much money. Holy cow. And he did not take care of himself. Holy cow. He was what I would describe as an unorganized diabetic (continually forgot his insulin) and in the end, Jack sadly lived almost like a homeless person. His health deteriorated so badly he could barely walk. He could not manage day-to-day tasks. After several car accidents, everyone insisted that he stop driving. During those days I'd pick him up once a week to run errands, go grocery shopping and see the doctor. Our last trip ended with him falling at the grocery store. I was just too small to hold him up or steady him. At that point, I knew he was not long for this earth. There would be no more New York shopping trips or vacations in Hawaii.
Our last project together was memorable. I knew Jack needed both the income and something to do, so I pitched a scene for my upcoming holiday show. We designed cute cowboy outfits with all different colored cowboy boots and hats for the Fab 5 (and me) and rhinestoned everything with coordinating colors. It was so much fun. One was orange, one green, one blue, one pink and one purple. Every time I visited Jack during those days, he was quietly at his kitchen table listening to classical music, glueing stones on the costumes, hats and boots. Being he couldn't walk, he was content to just sit and glue for hours.
Jack died shortly after the project was completed. I visited him the day before he passed away in the hospital. He had just had several toes amputated and was joking that he wouldn't be able to paint his toenails silver anymore . . . or maybe they'd now give him a discount at the nail shop. Half price. When they moved him into his (shared) private room, he had a heart attack. Those of us who knew Jack well said he probably didn't want to have a roommate and decided to call it quits right then and there.
I miss him as a friend, my costume designer, the "Uncle" to my kids . . . and my sweet neighbor who lived around the corner, "left on Wildhurst."
Cheers to Jack Edwards. (1934-2013)
The above photo was taken seven years ago, March 29, 2009. This was our last vacation trip together to Hawaii. Funny enough, the earrings I am wearing in the photo were a Christmas gift from Jack that year and the black top I am wearing was one of the classic designer pieces I purchased at Dayton's. I found this photo after I finished writing this blog. Pretty crazy.
Over our 16-year working relationship, Jack literally designed hundreds of costumes for me, The Pop Chamber Orchestra and The Fab 5. To this day, I still have most of them and may own one of the largest privately-owned costume shops in the country.
Thanks to Jack's training, I am now in the second year of designing my own costumes for my shows and I have two fabulous fabricators who collaborate with me.
Jack requested that his ashes be taken to France.
Photo by Heidi Hrbek
Liberace was the first person I ever saw who could string together a few tunes into a medley. I saw him on TV when I was a kid and was mesmerized. He wasn't just "trained." He had an ear too and although his performance was pretty much memorized note for note, he could really make the piano sing. His medley was fairly short, probably three songs . . . maybe because it was on TV and they had to go to a commercial. His repertoire was fairly standard, but he was good, oh, so good. The best.
Fast forward. It was the mid-80's and I was in college, getting my degree in piano performance at the University of Nevada, Reno. I wanted to play the piano professionally so badly, but there were very few opportunities. I met up with a guy named Tom, who was the keyboard player for Harrah's, specifically the lounge act or what we called the "review" in those days. It was the place to play because it was a stable job. They performed six nights a week. I asked if he would be interested in letting me sub for him if he ever needed a day off as I was working my way through college. I needed both the experience and the money. I actually think I humored him . . . so much so that he taught me the show, and I became his "go-to" when he needed a vacation or a break.
So I became a sub keyboard player for the Brent Zane Orchestra. Sounds really big, doesn't it? But we were merely a five-man "wrecking crew" who played nightly for the lounge act. I was the first "girl" to join in the fun with this band. It was also the very first time I played to track and we sounded huge. Although I had played for a lot of competitions and recitals, this was the most exciting thing I'd ever done musically. The music was hip, current, edgy, super fun, almost naughty. We were positioned up above the audience where no one could really see us fully, so whenever the Master of Ceremonies looked up and acknowledged us, Brent would stand up off his drum set, look over the edge and wave. You could only see his face. Thank goodness because he was shirtless, almost naked because it was so hot in this very small space. He was a hard-core rocker with long wild hair and darker pilot glasses. (Now that I think about it, in writing this I realize he was probably high most shows . . . but I didn't know what that looked like back then.) I guess the whole thing was in fact naughty. The review was topless. It was another world.
One night I heard there was an American pianist in town named Vince Cardell. He was Liberace's only claimed protege and was appearing over in the lounge at The MGM Grand, so I popped over to watch him. Like Liberace, he too did "the medley." I hadn't seen this in years!! He had a five-piece band that played along with him, so it felt a little rehearsed and predictable because they all did it seamlessly together. Again, it was probably only five pieces, but it was terrific. I was inspired.
When I was 15, my mom got really sick. We all knew it was something serious when she actually went to the doctor. It wasn't merely the flu. She came home and closed the curtains, crawled into bed and shut the door. She had shingles. I'd never seen her like this. She didn't get up. With five kids to care for, being the oldest girl I did my best to put food on the table. Now that I think about it, it was probably my first time alone in the kitchen. Some nights my dad brought home fast food, and that was a real treat for our big family. Other nights we went to the Gold & Silver, a local diner that served great burgers and milk shakes.
I know there are a lot of teenage girls who get irritated with their moms. I never felt that way. When she had time for me, I would hang onto her every word. I decided to buy her a present to make her feel better. Of course I didn't have any money, but I had been saving S & H green stamps for quite some time (remember those?). I had collected a small pile and looked in their catalog to see what I could afford to buy. Nothing, really. Well, no one cared that much about S & H green stamps, so I started asking everyone if they would be willing to give their stamps to me. My stamp collection started to grow. There was a guy at church that I had a crush on . . . he was poor and basically homeless (long story . . . another blog). Well, of course he had piles of green stamps. Lucky me. He also had an old rickety Beetle Volkswagon (no back seats, he lived there), so together we went down to the local S & H green stamp store to shop.
And there it was. The perfect gift. So shiny and beautiful. And, hallelujah, I had enough stamps. I cashed them in and walked out with a set of silverware in a wooden box that was lined in red velvet. We had nothing like this in our family. It was fancy and would be perfect for Sunday suppers after church. I came home and at my mother's bedside I presented to her the pretty wooden box. To this day, I remember the expression on her face when she opened it. She loved it.
One morning, about two weeks later, I woke up and there she was standing in the kitchen, cooking all of us breakfast once again. Life returned to normal.
Anyway, I started thinking about that silverware. I had never seen anything like it before, and loved it so much that I began to save my green stamps again. I wrote my grandmother. And my aunt. Before long, I had enough stamps to go back to the S & H green stamp store again. But this time I was going shopping for me. They didn't have the exact set of silverware that I had purchased for my mother anymore, but one very similar, and I bought it. What in the world would a 15-year-old do with this? I tucked it away underneath my bed with dreams of opening it some day in my own happy home.
This was the very first beautiful thing I ever bought.
Trust me, I know life isn't about "stuff," but I've always loved pretty things. I admit it. It is in my DNA. When I was 20, I bought my first set of china. Back then, I didn't use it much, I just wanted to look at it. As I matured, I started collecting more sophisticated things. Crystal ink wells with sterling silver tops, antique magnifying glasses, sterling silver boxes, antique cutlery with horn handles, and the most beautiful of all, small Baccarat crystal boxes with keys. For 26 years, every time I stopped in a city while touring (and had a moment to shop), I was on the hunt, hoping to add pieces to my collections.
About 20 years ago, Tim and I decided to build our dream home, the "prettiest" project of all. After a long process, we selected a builder who took one look at us and said, "I have the perfect architect for you." In walked Blake Bichanich who would be our life-long friend. He was my age (I'm two years older than Tim, don't tell anyone), and because Blake and I were both the creative types (and loved pretty things),we hit it off instantly. After we found our property, together Blake and I sat and drew the conceptual layout of the entire house, top to bottom, just the two of us. In five hours . . on a yellow pad of paper. The design and construction of our home was the project of a lifetime, and one year later Blake completed the detailed blueprints of what we had drawn, and we started construction. Eighteen months later, the house was done. When I say done, I mean installed window treatments, all specially painted walls, chandeliers hung, custom bedding waiting to go on the beds, hand-made iron railing, rhinestone cabinetry nobs, special cabinetry furniture pieces installed, and all-new furniture waiting in the wings. Done. It was the most exciting time of our life.
While the house was in it's final stages, we were out on the holiday tour. We came home and moved in Christmas Eve, 1996, after a show (and a huge snow storm) in Sioux Falls. We arrived at the house at 5:00 pm (it was dark) with only our tour suitcases, set them aside and collapsed on mattresses on the floor. (A moving company put our furniture in the house in all the wrong places). But in the morning, it was Christmas day and we woke up to the sun pouring into our home, a place where we've lived now for 20 years. I gasped. It was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. And it still is.
After Blake designed our house, it was published in quite a few national magazines. People commissioned him from all over the country to design for them. We remained friends and celebrated his success. After many single years, he re-married, and they moved into an old church outside of Eau Claire that he had turned into their "home." He's eccentric, and that's what I have always loved about him, and most recently we talked about designing and building a modern and clean, two-bedroom, one-level house for the semi-retired, empty-nester. Us. Something on our bucket list.
A couple of weeks ago, we got a call late in the evening from his wife. I don't keep the phone by my bed, so I knew something was wrong when I woke in the morning and saw Jennifer had called. I immediately called her back, and through her tears she told me their home (church) had caught on fire the previous day, and that Blake did not make it out. Tragically, he died in the fire.
Life is so fragile.
The thing of it is this. Everything around me, every day . . . is a memory of our dear friend. I am surrounded by (and will always love) all the pretty things that he designed. As long as I've lived here, I still notice something new almost every day. A detail. Blake was gifted, one-in-a-million. I am so saddened by this loss and will miss him dearly. May he rest in peace.
By the way, about a month ago I hosted a dinner for some of our very close friends. Like Tim and me, they are "foodies" and hard-working entrepreneurs who own their own businesses. One couple in particular has been very successful (the Louvre in Paris borrows pieces and paintings from their home. Now that's a whole different level of "pretty"). You'd think I'd be intimidated, but crazy me, I actually cooked that night. And guess what I pulled out?
The S & H silverware in the wooden box. All these years. It is still just as beautiful as the day when I brought it home. One day, it will get passed along to someone special.
And the story will live on.
Lorie's mom turned 78 a couple of days ago. A few years ago she got a shingles vaccination.
The above photo is the original S & H green stamp silverware and the china mentioned in this blog. They are now "antiques."
Three years ago, when I was out on the holiday tour, we came to a city where I had family members attending that night. We were in the middle of a recession, and everyone knew that it had been a rough year for people in the music business. We were all sitting around a table in my dressing room, which was actually a teacher's conference room. While we were talking, an extended family member turned to me and said, "well Lorie, are you planning your farewell tour?" My head started spinning. All I could picture was Cher and The Judds. Rather than answer the question, I asked him if HE was planning to retire at his job in the near future. (He is older than me.) Well, heavens no. Times were tough, but I was not going to just lay down and die. I realized he was just trying to be nice, create conversation. But a farewell tour was the last thing I was thinking about that night.
When Tim was a teenager, he used to mow Mr. Miller's yard. They lived across the street from the Lines in a cute farmhouse in a modest neighborhood. Mr. Miller was young (probably early 20's), handsome (still is), full of life . . . ambitious. Over the years he became very, very successful. They enjoyed watching him become semi-famous. When he was in his late 40's or early 50's, he sold his business and retired. Cashed in handsomely I figure. We have been friends for years and every time I see him he says, "Lorie, don't retire. You become insignificant."
So a farewell tour? I don't think so. Not now anyway because I get the whole "insignificant" thing. I like getting up every day having to look at my calendar. I like new projects, planning my year, multi-tasking and almost being what I call "insanely crazy busy." I also love my lifestyle and that would all change if I decided to sit at home.
I am not going to sit at home.
Recently I have been making a few appearances playing all by myself, just solo piano. Like the Dayton's days, but more of a show. I guess the one comment I hear a lot is "I just want to hear YOU, Lorie." Last week I got an email from a fan that said, "pack up your piano and come and see us. Just you."
So, that is exactly what I am going to do early next year. A solo piano tour. My FIRST solo piano tour in my career. February and March.
This is kind of fun to think about. I am going to 30 cities, just Tim and me, and we will travel city-to-city, back-to-back. We are going to rent a tour bus (a star coach) and hire a professional driver so we can travel by night (like we always do on the holiday tour). Typically we share a bus with 10 kids and Tim and I have bunks with everyone else, but not for this tour. Like most businesses, managing people is the most challenging thing we do, so it is quite exciting to think we will have the bus all to ourselves. A real bedroom in the back (no bunks), a living room, kitchen, and a bathroom with a shower. We'll bring our own cappuccino machine and I'll stock the frig with our own beautiful food. I can't imagine this, but I will be able to hang my clothes in a closet (instead of dragging out a suitcase from underneath the bus in the snow). And instead of cooking nightly for 12, I will be just cooking for two. It will feel like a vacation! (I told my son about all of this today and he said, "oh Mom, you are going to LOVE this.")
We are traveling to towns where we know we have fans but can't get to them on the holiday tour. So . . . Florida, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Colorado . . . here we come. If it is successful, we will continue on and go east in March. Oh, I almost forgot to mention this. We are going to hitch a trailer on the back of the bus and pull my piano, wardrobe case and our sound board. All self-contained. I know you are probably laughing, but there's more. Tim is going to set up our two state-of-the-art microphones that we carry for the piano, he'll hook up the sound and turn it on. And then he is going to get up in the rafters and focus the lights. And just turn them on. Simple, but beautiful. Meanwhile, I will decorate the stage, steam my clothes, prepare meals and set up the merchandise on the sales table in the lobby. And of course . . . bring a fluffy cappuccino to Tim from the bus.
Whaaaaaaaalaaaa. Show time.
We have already started booking this tour and tickets will go on sale Monday, November 2nd. I will be sure to keep in touch with all of you regarding cities and dates. All of the venues will be VERY SMALL. 200 seats. (If you have any suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.) We are going for a living room setting. Oh, speaking of a living room setting, in June I am continuing THE 2016 SOLO PIANO TOUR and will host a private concert six nights in my home on Lake Minnetonka. Seating will be for 40 people each night. We will serve champagne, wine (or sparkling water), beautiful cheeses from all over the world, dessert (made by Lorie) and fluffy cappucinos (made by Tim). More on that later, but if you've always wanted to come and visit Minnesota, and specifically Lake Minnetonka, June is the prettiest time of the year. And we'll fit in a personal garden tour.
Before I sign off, I wanted to thank all of you for your nice comments about last month's blog PRAYER. I received more letters and emails on this blog than any other blog I've written. I thought all of you would like to know how it went having Zeus over for coffee. A senior pastor read the blog and called Zeus to inform him about the story. Last Sunday he stopped and thanked me for all the kind words I said about him. It was cute. He wanted to follow-up about that coffee date, so I invited him for lunch AND coffee. It was a cooler day so I made homemade chili with corn casserole, and a rhubarb and blueberry crisp for dessert. His story and where he comes from was so inspiring. He is amazing. And delightful.
Of course Tim said the prayer.
All my best, and farewell. For now.
Lorie and Zeus having lunch.
For about a year now, every day we have been driving by a new church under construction on our way to the Post Office. We couldn't help but notice and talk about it, as it is on a very special property. It's fairly small, but well-constructed, with a few architectural elements that are really pretty. (I love the charcoal gray paint color they selected.) We wondered what type of church it might be. We'd never heard of it.
One day, before it officially opened, no one was around and Tim popped in to see the new interiors. There was an enthusiastic young man named Zeus in the front lobby (you can't possibly forget that name). He greeted Tim at the door and showed him around. He took him to the worship area which was a 300-seat dark room (no windows) with a step-up stage. Tim noticed the state-of-the-art sound system (we're in the "biz") and the over-the-top lighting rig, and then the well-appointed interiors in the well-lit lobby area . . . complete with a coffee bar, a living room and a children's wing. He came home from the daily Post Office run that day and said, "it's pretty neat. Maybe we should try it."
After it opened, because it is literally three miles from our house, we decided to attend a service. It was "buzzing." I'd never seen so many teenagers, young families and babies. The music was nothing like we'd ever heard. (I didn't know one song, actually.) All of the musicians on the stage were under the age of 25, and it didn't seem like they were just "hired" for the typical Sunday morning professional fee. Sure, maybe they were paid, but you could tell they were all Christians. They were all in. Rockin' out.
In the audience, there were people of all ages, young and old, singing and raising their hands, lifting and opening them in praise, all with different gestures, styles and personalities. There were so many people who were not afraid to show their love and conviction to Jesus. Everyone was almost dancing while standing and singing. The energy was over-the-top.
Here's the deal. I was so uncomfortable. Standing there in my pretty dress and high heels, it was just too much for me. I couldn't do it. I didn't fit in. I was raised in a very stoic conservative church. And as you know, Tim grew up Lutheran. (Ha! Need I say more?) We'd never seen people showing their emotions THAT MUCH. Raising hands? Looking up? Clapping? Moving to the music? Where I came from it was all very controlled emotions. Hands folded. Head bowed. Lots of silence. Maybe a few tears (of guilt) here and there, but no way did I ever in my life see anyone raise their hands to Jesus. And although I confess it was "too much" for me, I did find myself holding back tears and choking down a huge lump in my throat.
We went back to our regular (comfortable) church, but something started nagging in us to pop into that little church about once a month. We blamed it on convenience. Each time we attended, we got a little more comfortable. And when our son would visit us from college on the weekends, we took him there (more kids his age) and he loved it. In fact, he went back to college and found a similar church where he now attends regularly.
A few months later, I felt brave. Just from experiencing what these people were doing, I told Tim that I wanted to start praying together, every single night, no matter what, at dinnertime. OUT LOUD. Even if we were in a restaurant (my grandparents did this when I was a kid, and I was so embarrassed). Well, Tim is used to me and these things. Holy smokes. "OK," he says.
If you've read my blogs, you know that Tim can really say a beautiful prayer, but out loud, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT? I chimed in that I would help, that I would say the prayer every three days, and if he was stuck, I would add to it. Mind you, I did not grow up with women having any role or presence in the worship service, none whatsoever, so for me to utter a prayer, it was scary (especially because Tim is so eloquent).
I could not remember the last time I said a prayer out loud. Maybe when I was two years old at my grandparents table? But, recently I have been moved, and as I expressed to my beloved husband, "the world is upside down. Times are different, like we've never seen before. I want to know what you are thinking, what is important to you, what is on your mind. Please share it with me."
So, this year we did another brand new thing in our 30-year relationship. We began the journey of praying together every day. At first, it was so awkward. After all these years of being married, I will admit I was almost embarrassed. We stumbled, we rambled, we had extra long pauses, we said the same thing twice. And then, with a little practice, we started getting really comfortable, less self-conscious and good at expressing our thoughts. Too good. So good that one night, after a stressful day, we both found ourselves in tears. It was humbling. "I need thee, oh I need thee, every hour I need thee."
A few months later, on one miraculous day, before the salutation "Dear God" was uttered, Tim and I looked at each other and instead of holding hands, we bravely turned them up and opened them to receive His blessing. It was so hard, yet so easy. In all my years, I had never done that. I sobbed. It felt as though I had missed out on 57 years of adoration.
Today we pray for our country, our President, our future President (whomever that might be), we pray for the chaos in the middle east, the thousands of victims who are persecuted and executed because of their faith. On a personal level we pray for creativity, excellence, wisdom, energy, we pray for our children, our marriage, our business, you . . . our fans. There is so much to be said.
Last night we sat down and almost forgot about our new daily activity. I said, "oh . . . our prayer . . . " It was silent for about 30 seconds. I looked up and said "is it my turn?" Tim whispered, "no, I'm just praying to say a good prayer tonight." I confess. I may have lovingly giggled. That one sentence totally describes Tim. Never have I met anyone so excellent.
So . . . maybe one day I will be comfortable enough to raise my hands in a church service. Maybe not. In the meantime, I do love our three-minute daily ritual. And there was a surprise for me in all of this. I love good conversation. Prayer might just be the highest level of intimate daily conversation you can have with your partner.
And what woman doesn't just love that?
Tim and Lorie Line visit River Valley Church at least once a month, in Minnetrista, MN. The staff hasn't quite yet figured out who they are ("you're a piano player?"), but the friendly greeter, Zeus, was most recently promoted to the campus pastor. Last Sunday, on their way out he handed them his card and asked if he could get to know them better. The Lines are going to invite him over to their home for coffee soon. Won't that be a fun day.
About this time last year, I was getting a little bored. Not that I don't have enough to do, it just all felt the same to me. We're a "machine" at Lorie Line Music (we've been doing it for so long). And we've always had a full-time assistant to take care of the details. Honestly, it just felt like I was a little bit on cruise control. I didn't really know what to do to fix it, spice up my life. But it was definitely on my mind.
Six months later, in January, we went to brunch with another couple after church. She's always been a stay-home mom, but her kids are like mine, grown and gone. I asked her in a very serious tone, "what do you do all day with your time?" She's into golf and tennis. They travel quite a bit. Head down to Florida. Well . . . wow, I could never do that. I don't like sports and I travel enough (in a tour bus). I like being home when I'm not working.
A week later, we were hit with a surprise. Our assistant gave her two-week notice, said she was going into corporate America. I get it. Working in our home for four years is enough. It probably felt the "same" to her too. Well, typically when someone leaves, we get a month's notice, we find someone and train them in, but we didn't have time. So guess who learned the job?
In 25 years, I had never turned on our accounting and order entry system, had never processed an order, had no idea how to manage our web site, or blast emails to all of you. I didn't even do my own Facebook posts. Sure, I wrote everything, but always handed it over. So I sat down, and "started from the very beginning" as the song says.
At first, I was so nervous I was shaking. Believe me, nothing felt the same. It was all new. But almost overnight I found myself excited to jump out of bed in the morning, get at that computer to look at the orders. It felt like Christmas morning many days in a row. It was so good for me, as I connected more with our business, got to see what all of you were saying, what was popular, what you were ordering. I saw areas that needed to be changed, improved upon. I had more to talk to Tim about at the end of the day.
Two months blew by and April arrived. My new album, Heritage Seven, was scheduled to be recorded, so I got up extra early, processed the orders and had my headphones on and was sitting at the piano by 10:00 AM. I was full of emotion (which is perfect when you are recording). Good emotion. Happy. Not bored. My mind was full. No more cruise control.
Heritage Seven released, and I (lovingly) processed and packaged every single order. And then came my birthday sale. It was a huge hit this month. With the new album and the sale, I packed thousands of orders all by myself.
Adding onto all of this, on our list of "things to do" was the warehouse sale. Tim and I had planned it for a year. Just down the road, we have a 3000-square foot warehouse that stores all of our touring items - costumes, set pieces, sound gear, lighting, confetti canons, bubble machines . . . you name it. We've had it for 20 years. It was full. Both Tim and I knew if we didn't have the sale this year, we'd never do it (talk about physical energy!). So last week we sorted, sold and threw out everything we didn't need to run our business for the next 10 years. Whatever was left after the sale, we donated to a shelter organization. The charity truck that left our dock that night was full. And now our warehouse is empty.
Last, but not least, there was one more thing I learned this year. I learned how to drive a tractor. This was the first year our son didn't come home from college for the summer. It was taking Tim six hours to do all the mowing. Who more could he trust to do a good job but me? So one day I asked Tim if he would teach me to drive our John Deere. He patiently taught me how to operate a zero turn tractor. While I'm mowing, he stays by my side and does all the detailed hand-mowing, edging, hedging, and weed-wacking. Always a team.
So, another year has passed, and as I reflect, boy did it ever change. I am no longer "a little bored."
Life is good. God is great. Happy Birthday to me.