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The Worst Article Ever

When do things ever go exactly as planned? Well, maybe not as we plan it, but Someone has it all planned out

We’ve all had negative experiences in our lives, where things didn’t go exactly as we had planned. “That was the worst time/show/meal I ever had/attended/ate…” we recount to anyone who will listen. But in this business, “the worst” can be a real disaster. Here are some that I remember.

I’ll start with the worst orchestra ever. It was about 40 years ago, when Mordechai Ben David was a rising star, invited to a particular city in the US where he was guaranteed a professional backup orchestra. Nowadays, when traveling to a different city, the performer usually brings his favorite keyboard player to guide the orchestra. But back then, he was at the mercy of the band they provided — and it was a no-go. The musicians were a group of rag-tag high school students who couldn’t get synchronized, and after trying one song with them, he threw up his hands, apologized to the audience, and said he would come back in a few months to do a make-up concert. True to his word, the two of us returned few months later, with a proper band and producer (me), and it became a night to remember.

The worst band-audience ratio? That had to have been back around 1984, when a producer came up with an idea to create a symphony orchestra called the Boro Park Y Philharmonic. These were people who had regular jobs, but they also enjoyed getting together once a week and play their instruments. Now, most people would not be interested in going to such a concert, which they assume would be a gathering of amateurs. In the end, there were more people onstage than in the audience — but it was their loss. The orchestra was amazing. It was conducted by Hershel Lebowitz, and the few who were lucky enough to attend had a great time.

The worst post-concert fiasco goes, hands down, to the 2004 fourth annual concert for Haazinu, an organization for hearing-impaired children. The organization made a deal with a parking lot nearby for a reduced parking rate for its concert goers, but for some reason, the lot management hired just two men to be responsible for returning a few hundred cars.

Now, while the show was unforgettable, headlined by Avraham Fried, the chaos that took place on that cold,20-degree night as people shivered, waiting for their vehicles while their extremities froze, was equally unforgettable. People were waiting close to two hours for their cars. One person was smart enough to take a taxi back home to Brooklyn, and came to pick up his car the next day.

Interesting tidbit: When Avraham Fried made his way to get his car, people offered to let him go ahead of them. But Avremel absolutely refused, and waited with everyone else, with his trademark smile.

Talking about Haazinu, the worst weather-related disaster happened during their seventh annual concert three years later. The Sunday afternoon concert was sold out and the line up was Avraham Fried, Abie Rotenberg, and mentalist Mark Salem. An hour after Shabbos, the snow began to fall. And fall, and fall. By Sunday afternoon, there was over 20 inches of fresh snow on the ground, and the airports were closed. As the producer of the show, I quickly had to replace the out-of-town acts. So Abie Rotenberg was replaced by Yaakov Schwekey (I think that was the first time they sang together), and mentalist Mark Salem was replaced by a local mentalist. When the concert began, Abie sent a message from Toronto, apologizing for not being able to attend (classic Abie) and then came up with the best line of the evening. “I understand that I couldn’t make it, but Mark Salem should have known better, if he’s indeed a mentalist…” Which got a hearty laugh from all the people who made their way to the hall in the snow.

Simcha Leiner told me about the worst electrical/sound mishap that took place at a wedding in Chicago in a huge, upscale hotel. It was an opulent wedding and no one thought of cutting corners, but the one thing they couldn’t anticipate was a city blackout. Now, what made it interesting was that the hotel was so large that it was located in two different municipalities. The ballroom/convention center had no electricity, but the hotel rooms did. Brainstorm. How about going to Home Depot to buy hundreds of long extension cords and use the power from the hotel rooms? It took a while to pull it off, but when the wedding started, the power reached the convention center via long cords and the band was able to perform as planned.

They were lucky, because really, when do things ever go exactly as planned? Well, maybe not as we plan it, but Someone has it all planned out.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1005)

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