1987 into 1988

I had just returned from a grueling six-month tour of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Song and Dance. I was, effectively Song as I occupied the stage alone for the entire first act. I’d never learned so much, never worked so hard and never dug so deep, emotionally and spiritually, to stay strong and sane. I was performing eight shows a week and, as the sole star of the musical, I had to do press on every day off in a new city. I also had my nine-month-old son, Nathan, with me, along with his father, as well as my parents, sharing the journey.

We were quite the tribe. At the end of said tour, I found myself happily exhausted and pregnant with my daughter, Hannah – although for a moment I considered naming her Souvenier – but I digress …

Home at last with, New Year’s Eve approaching, my darling friend, Harriet, and I thought we should co-host a Black and White party at my house – meaning everyone would dress in any number of black and white clothing combinations. Finally, New Year’s Eve was upon us and the house was filled to the brim, with family and friends, in all sorts of black and white garb – tuxedos, white dinner jackets for the men and jeweled gowns for the women. Food, music, champagne and lots of laughter flowed from the front door through to the back yard where I was making the rounds, mingling with dear friends, thrilled to be re-connecting with so many after being gone for so long. Well, into the evening I heard my future ex-husband yell across the backyard to me, “Melissa, Bette Davis is here!” I responded, “I don’t know a Bette Davis”. He then frantically said, “No, not a Better Davis … the Bette Davis.”

I scrambled to greet her. There she sat, perhaps eighty five pounds soaking wet, wearing a prim black hat with a veil, happily chain smoking and holding court. My chums did their best to stay calm in her presence, but really … the great Bette Davis, in my house, in the Valley? !!! WOW!!!

A night or so later, she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She mentioned me, the party, the Valley. It was touching. I knew both of these giants. I had appeared on The Tonight Show with the great Carson several times. Now that clip lives on, on YouTube, and lives among the golden moments in my life.