I've been going to see Bill Medley since he and Bobby Hatfield did the club circuit back in the '60s. He was always my favorite Righteous Brother, though Bobby was a soulful inspiration too.
But it was Bill's deep, velvety smooth and emotionally stirring bass-baritone, displayed most hauntingly in songs like "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin,'" that sent me directly to heaven when, as a high school virgin, I stopped breathing and melted into the arms of my date in the smoke-filled lounge of the Coconut Grove.
Illicit cigarette in hand, I'd brazenly try to attract his attention (while my boyfriend was in the men's room), fantasizing about being in the arms of such a tall, dark and mysterious-looking older man. Not classically handsome, no. But that sexy, outlaw energy spoke to the woman in me, not the girl.
And when I closed my eyes, his voice sounded like the blackest of black singers, so much the better for taboo-shattering in the mind's eye of a privately schooled, 17-year-old white girl.
So, when I found myself in the front row of the Lido Theater balcony Aug. 10 for an Evening with Bill Medley, benefiting Lupus International (after at least a decade since my last Medley concert), it mattered not that my teen idol wasn't quite the rocker he'd once been. That he had a few, laugh-out-loud senior moments on stage. Or that his band was a bit too amped for him and the venue.
All I heard was that steamy, X-rated voice, transporting me back to the days of smoky nightclubs, cars with one front seat and garter belts holding up iridescent hose under micro-mini-skirts.
And all I saw was what I'd always seen. The slender, towering, magnetic young man who could bring the Rendevous Ballroom to its knees. Could always make me cry when he sang "Baby, I can't make it without you" in Soul and Inspiration. And who could still transport a jaded older woman like me back to a time when the world, rock n' roll and romance were so much more, well … exotic.
And eminently more interesting.
Thanks, Bill. My only complaint is that my balcony ticket didn't rate a picture with you. I thought about crashing the downstairs photo ops, but lost my nerve.
Perhaps next year.
SHELLEY ERVIN is a freelance writer from Newport Beach.