I got wind about the television special on the release of Neil’s “Tennessee Moon” CD. I submitted my request for tickets and waited, and waited, and waited. One day, my husband called me at work to tell me that an envelope from Sony had arrived in the mail — TICKETS!
A girlfriend, Joyce, and I drove from Paducah, KY to Nashville to be a part of the afternoon taping of the special. We hung out around the Ryman Auditorium to see if we could see Neil, but no avail. The closest we got was seeing his costume designer.
When we went finally went inside the Ryman, I was surprised to be standing next to the infamous Chet Atkins. What a great man! When we got inside the auditorium, we were thrilled to have seats behind the cameras under the balconey, right off the center aisle. The audience was told that anyone under the balconey would have to move upstairs. I told my friend, “we have good seats; let’s stay put.” Then they said there were some holes in the crowd to be plugged and ushers would indicate the number of seats available. An usher up front held up two fingers; I held up two fingers and we were waved down to the front row! Right off stage right!
Then Neil came out — I will never forget his smell! Neil in leather smell!! (He really smells good!) Neil was so relaxed and having fun. He really liked the crowd and even though we were told that Neil wouldn’t be talking to the audience, he did. Everytime he walked on and off the stage, he walked right past us.
As the taping waned, you could tell Neil was tiring. He had only been performing for close to 3 hours — anyone would be tired! Neil was standing right in front of me for what seemed to be a long time. My friend was punching me and saying, “Talk to him, he’s right there, say something!” All I could think of was “Neil, thank you for letting us come to your show.” I said it in a normal voice — he was that close.
You could see Neil’s interest piqued. He cupped his hand up around his eyes and he started scanning the audience in front of him. Joyce was punching me again, “he’s looking for you…he’s looking for you.” I guess Joyce’s actions caught Neil’s attention and he stared straight at me. I twiddled my fingers at him, half afraid I was going to get kicked out of the show for talking to him. But his eyes locked on mine and softly said with a slight smile, “No, thank you. Thank you for coming today, really.” And you could tell he was very sincere. Then he did a sweeping wave and thanked the whole audience for attending the show.
I have heard from others that when you meet Neil Diamond, you know it. When Neil’s eyes were on mine, I knew it — I don’t want to say it was a connection, but I could tell at that moment, my words were what he need to hear. That someone was enjoying themselves, someone liked his show, that someone reached out in appreciation. Not that I was being special; just that I happened to be the one at the time. He can make you feel special, too, in a quiet, humble fashion.