On The Beauty Of Show Business

Les Rencontres D'Après Minuit, Paris, by Jens Haas
Les Rencontres D’Après Minuit, Paris, by Jens Haas

This from a conversation between Elvis Costello and Tom Waits (Innocent When You Dream: Tom Waits, The Collected Interviews):

ELVIS: I went on this television show in Italy. I recommend this one when you’re there next time. This is the most extraordinary idea they have a whole TV studio sort of decked out like a club with layer upon layer of images of musicians. And you’ve got a picture of Louis Armstrong right next to a picture of somebody from some group in Italy you’ve never heard of. A picture of Maria Callas next to Mick Jagger, Prince next to Arturo Toscanini. And they’ve got one of those mechanical balls in the middle of it. I looked at the audience and I thought, this is very strange. This audience is incredibly glamorous. They had these girls with manes of hair and long legs and short skirts, very elegant fellows in suede jackets, striking all kinds of fantastically attractive poses. So when the show starts, there’s this young fellow that sings a little bit like Sting, and I go well, this is a happy-go-lucky show, they seem to be enjoying it. What are they gonna make of me? I didn’t think I was really fair for this audience. And they go wildly happy the minute I come out. And then Buckwheat Zydeco is the next thing on there. There’s Buckwheat and his band completely horrified because the audience is digging them so much, they can’t understand why they haven’t come to live in ltaly before! ‘Cause they’ve never seen girls like this at their shows. Then I said. what’s the scene of this, that all these young people in Italy dig R&B and zydeco and music like I play, whatever that’s called? And they said no, they pay them 25 pounds a day each to be on this show. Really genius. He’s presenting R&B and jazz. They go [he rants in excited pidgin Italian] and you think they’re going to introduce the new George Michael video, and you know what it was? A clip of Ben Webster (giggles).

TOM: That’s the beauty of show business. It’s the only business you can have a career in when you’re dead.