GABRIELLE: It’s 7:34 p.m. and Todd and I are seated in our parked car behind a chain link fence in Huntington Long Island. We take in the surroundings: A ten foot stuffed grizzly bear towers by the front door of the building in front of us. A wooden sign, artfully painted with the words “Dragon’s Lair,” lies to the right of the steps. I shudder as we approach the Dragon’s Lair.
A man with a long silver ponytail opens the door and we enter. The walls are completely covered with animal heads, spears, Native American artifacts and Medieval Celtic swords in all shapes and sizes. “This is wild!’ Todd sputters.
“I hope that’s a good thing,” says Dan, the man with the ponytail. (Dan’s name is altered.)
“Oh, yes!” I nervously jabber, “Todd loves it or he wouldn’t have said anything!”
Hand in hand, Todd and I walk upstairs to Dan’s ‘office’ and take a seat on a mildewed brown canvas sofa across from Dan’s chair.
“So, I have to ask you,” Dan begins, “why did you come all this way from Manhattan just to see me?”
“Um…you would only show us DVD’s in your office,” Todd answers.
“Well, what are you looking for?”
“What kind of music do you sing best?” Todd asks.
“What kind of music do you want me to sing?” Dan asks.
“Can we listen to your music?” I ask.
“I want to tell you about me. I’ve been doing weddings for over 17 years. I do not have a song list…Do you know why?”
We are silent.
“I like to read the crowd. I take notes,” he leans in conspiratorially. “I used to be Sinatra’s band leader for years.”
“Can you do jazz?” Todd asks
“I was a professional jazz musician for years. Can I do jazz? Let me tell you why you want me. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” he says, “If it’s going to rain it will rain. If there’s a caterer, there will be food issues. I fix problems. That’s why you want me. Let me show a DVD before you hear my music. I think it speaks volumes.”
Dan pops his video into the DVD player and dims the lights. Ocean waves appear on the screen. They crash in the background as gulls fly through the luminous sky. Dan’s voice booms from the speakers…
“I am the music for the bride! I bring the romance of the special day…”
I squeeze Todd’s hand to contain my laughter. Ten minutes later Dan plops in a DVD of his white bread band performing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” He leans in over the microphone and sings in falsetto, horribly off-key. I squeeze Todd’s hand: “I want to go!” my hand begs. After 28 minutes the DVD ends.
We are silent. Dan speaks first. “If your wedding is August 5th, you need to book me today.”
“We’ll let you know as soon as we can,” Todd replies diplomatically.
“I have another wedding that day,” Dan continues pressing, “and they really want me. But you seem like a nice couple and I want to do your wedding.”
“We’ll let you know tomorrow,” says Todd rising from the couch and putting out his hand to shake Dan’s.
“I’ll throw in the cocktail hour,” Dan offers desperation creeping in.
“Thank you,” Todd looks at his watch. It’s 9:29. “We really have to go now.”
“I’ll be booked by tomorrow!”
We edge towards the door, Todd repeating, “we have to go.”
“It will be too late!” Dan pleads with us.
We scurry out, past the towering grizzly, past the Dragon’s Lair sign and seek comfort in our car’s bucket seats. Todd whispers: “Let’s get the hell out of Dodge.” He turns on the ignition and reaches for my hand.