Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Weeknd

Tuesday nights at around 3 A.M. -- that's an interesting time of the night for a taxi driver in New York City.  It's the time when the streets are not only at their emptiest, but when the "creatures of the night", so to speak, are most likely to appear from the shadows -- and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the creature.  I was getting ready to end my shift at that time a few months ago, not in a creature-of-the-night mood, really, so when I saw a relatively normal-looking pair of humans hailing me at the corner of 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, it was a welcome sight.  The two of them -- an attractive, young white lady wearing a tight-fitting party dress and a hip-looking black guy carrying a guitar case -- jumped in and the guy said they wanted to go to the Affinia Hotel at 31st Street and 7th Avenue.  The doors closed and we were on our way, but we went barely a block when there was a problem.

The guy suddenly realized he'd left his card (credit card) in the bar.  This meant we had to loop around to 5th Avenue, cross over on 53rd Street back to 6th Avenue, and then make a right turn on 54th Street, where the bar, a place called Connolly's, was located.  This was okay with me, of course, as it meant more mileage on the ride, assuming he went into the bar, got his card, and we continued on to the hotel.  The young lady, however, was not comprehending the problem.  She thought he said that he'd left his card in his car and didn't understand how that could happen.  After a prolonged discussion, the guy finally realized her confusion and told her the card was in the bar, not in his car.  "My car's in LA," he said.  They both laughed.  Well, he laughed.  She guffawed.  This misunderstanding was not merely funny, it was hilarious, from her point of view.

Overhearing this little episode made me curious about this couple so I kept my attention on them as I made my way back to Connolly's Bar.  I took note of the way they were.  She was clearly a bit tipsy -- a happy, but not drunk, attractive female.  She spoke to the guy ebulliently, full of agreement, listening carefully to his every word, and sitting so close to the guy that a cab driver could only assume that they were more than friends -- or were about to be so.

The guy, though, was much more subdued, laid-back, cool and calm, but not in an off-putting way.  I could see that he liked the girl, liked the affinity and attention he was receiving from her, and was perhaps playing his cards a bit carefully, not wanting to blow what surely must have looked like a winning hand.  He wasn't doing a lot of talking, though.  The girl was the gabby one.

We circled around and in a couple of minutes we arrived at Connolly's on 54th Street.  The guy opened his door and stepped out onto the street, leaving his guitar in the cab.

"Be right back."

"Okay," she beamed back.

He gave her a half-smile and walked into the bar.

The moment the guy disappeared from sight she turned her attention to me.  With wide-eyed  enthusiasm she exclaimed:

"Do you know who he IS???!!!"

I, of course, had no idea who he was, so I said, "The guy who left his guitar in the cab?"

My quip went unnoticed by my passenger and continued on its journey into outer space.

"He's The Weeknd!" she squealed.

"What do you mean?  It's Tuesday."

"No, no, he calls himself 'The Weeknd'."  She became a bit serious for a moment.  "It's his stage name.  But it's not spelled the same.  You leave off the 'e' after 'week'.  So it's not like you say 'The Week End'.  It's more like you say 'The Weakened'.  It's like a double-meaning."


She lowered her voice a notch.  "His real name is 'L.J.', she said, "but he doesn't want anyone to know."  Suddenly she seemed worried.  "Don't tell him I told you who he is when he comes back, okay?"

"Oh, sure, don't worry.  It'll be our little secret."

Her smile returned.

"Okay, so who is The Weeknd?" I inquired (of course).

Her unbridled enthusiasm returned.   "Oh, he's a singer.  He's the hottest thing around right now!  He's HUGE!   I mean HUGE!!!  He's on all the radio stations!  He's all over the place on YouTube!  He's HUGE!"

"Really, wow!  So who are you, his girlfriend?"

"Well, ha-ha, not exactly... we just met in the bar."  She then giggled in the way that people often do  when they're about to engage in a guilty pleasure.  A "My Bad" grin appeared on her face and remained there.

"Ohh, I got it," I replied.  I smiled back, as if to say, "I'll be your secret coachman."

So now I did get it, indeed.  She was his Thank-You-For-Choosing-Me-Sir pick-up of the evening.  And the place they were on their way to is also known as the Shagalicious Hotel, by Marriott.

"So how did you and The Weeknd wind up in a bar at three in the morning?" I wanted to know.

"Ohhh, well, he just played at a big fund-raiser at MOMA," she said.  "$50,000 a plate!  Can you imagine that -- $50,000 a plate!  He was the entertainment."

It did make sense.  Although the main entrance to MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) is on East 53rd Street, there's an open-air terrace that extends to 54th Street, right across the street from Connolly's Bar.  So I assumed The Weeknd and his people must have headed there after the show.

We continued to chat it up for a couple of minutes which meant that she went on bubbling all over the top about how big a star The Weeknd is while I pleasantly acknowledged whatever she said.  But then, suddenly, there was a hitch in the plan: the guy who calls himself "The Weeknd" returned to the cab, sat himself down, and announced to my passenger that he was having a problem with his card, so there would be a bit of a delay.  He suggested that instead of waiting for him in the cab that she come back into the bar until he could clear up the trouble.  The girl said, "Oh, okay," and took out her own credit card to pay the fare, which was up to $9.80 at that point.  She swiped her card, the transaction (including a $1.96 tip) went through, and they left the premises, he with his guitar in hand.

"Sorry," he called out to me, which I appreciated.  I like that in a celebrity, no attitude.  He seemed like a nice enough guy.

Well, there I sat in front of Connolly's Bar.  There were still quite a few people inside, so I thought I might as well hang out and see if I can get another fare, or better yet, maybe I could get the girl and this guy The Weeknd again.  It would no doubt be a fascinating eavesdropping situation, based on what she'd already told me.

But no.  Ten minutes ticked by and then finally a middle-aged couple, whose destination was the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue, came out of the bar and got in my cab.  As I pulled out from the curb I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the girl and The Weeknd re-emerge from the bar and get into another taxi.  I cursed my luck, missing them by just seconds, and drove my new passengers to their destination.  It turned out to be my last fare of the evening.

I was curious about The Weeknd, so the next day I decided to check him out online. I found that he is, indeed, quite the rising star.  He's got dozens of videos on YouTube, with many millions of views, and has performed at lots of major events.  His latest venture was doing the soundtrack for the movie Fifty Shades Of Grey -- very impressive!  I watched one of his videos and found (unusual for me) that I liked the sound of a new recording artist.  This guy was good.  So I clicked on another one, this time paying more attention to the images than I had before.  And then...

...hey, wait a minute...

I looked more closely.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, just a minute, there!

I watched the video again.  Could it be?

Oh my God, yes, it was true.


On further investigation, I found that there's a fellow called "L.J." in his band who plays the bass!  Aha!

At first my feeling about the attractive young lady in the tight-fitting party dress was one of sympathy.  Poor thing, she'd been duped by what may be the oldest band-member's trick in the book.  But then I became more critical.  I mean, what a disgrace to the good reputation of groupies everywhere.

Come on, honey.

If a guy tells you he's Mick Jagger, you've got to do a little vetting.  Does he know the words to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"?  Can he at least hum the tune?

Come ON!