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Mel Torme and the op­ti­cian

Reminisce - - Spotlight - BY JOHN ZILLIOX • WIL­LIAMS­BURG, VA

My wife, Joan, and I were big Mel Torme fans, so when he opened in May 1965 at The Royal Arms night­club in Buf­falo, New York, the two of us, along with an­other cou­ple, at­tended the per­for­mance. I took a chance and half-jok­ingly sent my busi­ness card to his dress­ing room, by way of our waiter, with a note re­quest­ing a visit with the per­former.

For the next hour we fully en­joyed the en­ter­tain­ment as part of the en­thu­si­as­tic crowd. We were about to leave when the waiter in­formed me that Mr. Torme wished to see Mr. Zilliox. Joan looked at me and noted, “He said Mr. Zilliox, not Mr. Zilliox’s party. We’ll wait for you here.”

So I got up and ac­com­pa­nied the server to Mel’s dress­ing room. He was chang­ing into a ca­sual robe, and I was sur­prised by his greet­ing. “What luck,” he said. “Af­ter land­ing my plane at the air­port, I can’t find my fly­ing glasses. I must have lost them, and who walks in my dress­ing room but an op­ti­cian.”

Af­ter some in­tro­duc­tory small talk, I stum­bled into the only ques­tion I could think of—did he like be­ing called the Vel­vet Fog? He didn’t, and the con­ver­sa­tion turned back to his con­cern about his lost glasses.

They were not pre­scrip­tion glasses, but a type of Ray-Ban sun­glasses with the bot­tom half of the lens clear for read­ing the in­stru­ment panel in­side the dark cock­pit. And yes, I had a pair of these spe­cial sun­glasses in stock at my of­fice in South Buf­falo.

“I’ll be there to­mor­row morn­ing,” he said. “How do

I get there? I can bor­row a car from my man­ager.”

About 2 p.m. the next day,

Mel ar­rived and I was ready with a pho­tog­ra­pher. I thought it best to ask per­mis­sion, so I said, “Do you mind, Mel?” With a smile he said, “Not a bit.”

Af­ter I fit­ted him with the pi­lot glasses, he stayed around for a while and chat­ted with the other peo­ple in the of­fice. We had a won­der­ful visit.

Ever since that day 53 years ago, lis­ten­ing to Mel Torme’s records has taken on a per­sonal touch for Joan and me. And we still talk about the day Mel Torme came to our of­fice.

JOHN GAVEMel Torme, right, a peek into his eye­glassbusi­ness.

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