Mel Torme and the optician
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.