Unless you’ve spent way too much time watching Sesame Street, The Count can only be one person.
He was in a class by himself, and I was fortunate enough to work with him twice in my career. The second time was for a benefit in Los Angeles a few months after our first daughter, Rachel was born. We were in a Lamaze class and our coach, Sandra Jaffe asked me to help put a benefit together. The Count Basie Orchestra played at our fundraiser and it was a great success.
But one of my favorite stories happened a few years before that, when I was working as a production assistant for Sammy Davis Jr. on his talk show Sammy and Company. There are some great stories from those days, which I will recount at a later date. For now, let’s me tell you what happened when I met Count Basie.
It was the morning of what was certainly going to be an amazing day. Mr. D and his team had booked an all star list of some of the greats in jazz music to appear together on his show. There was Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, and Count Basie.
My job was to pick up ‘The Count’ at the airport. Now, before you get ahead of yourself, I picked him up without mishap. With his pick-up information in hand, I headed out to the National Airlines Terminal at LAX to meet his flight from Miami.
It was a hot day in LA, and I was dressed in my usual attire, jeans and a t shirt. I was 23 and that was about the extent of my wardrobe. I parked the car and went to the gate to meet The Count and his group.
The plane was on time and we managed to get the luggage and everyone into the station wagon without a hassle. The Count decided to ride shotgun as I started back to the studio.
He was quiet for a few minutes. Then he looked at me and said; ‘How’s the weather?”
“Hot” I said. And with that came a line that only Count Basie could deliver.
“Well, it’s cool now”, he said. “The Count is in Town!”