Dueling Invisible Pianists

After Alan Lindgren retired from touring in 2012, his rele in the band went to Mark Le Vang, who did a great job. The photo above was taken at Calgary's National Music Centre, just one more thing Canada has figured out that continues to elude this country. The photo shows Mark and I sharing a piano in a non-traditional way.

In our mutual backgrounds, Mark and I share another thing which you may not be aware of. At one time, each of us was an invisible pianist. Let me explain:

One of Mark's early gigs was playing and taking requests from visitors to the Magic Castle in Hollywood. The Castle is a club for magicians, frequently visited by tourists who can finagle an invitation, and a very entertaining spot on its own. One of its features is "Irma," an invisible pianist (who was actually Mark, behind a wall and unseen by the audience.) Irma would communicate by means of little piano flourishes, and playing songs, some by request, and some whose titles became part of the conversation.

I learned about this fascinating part of Mark's history after we'd been on the road for a while, and I had to share with him a similarly bizarre part of my employment history:

A year or so before I was asked to become part of Neil Diamond's band, I was playing on a television game called "Name That Tune." One of my duties was the "Bid a Note" section of the show, in which the contestant would bid on the number of notes it would take him or her to recognize a song. If the bid was, for example four notes, I would play the first four notes of the  melody on the piano. The funky old, otherwise unused, piano and my fingers were shown in a small circle at the top of the TV screen. Otherwise, I was not seen.

So Mark and I had that shared experience, but I one-upped him. A few years later, on a hiatus from the tour, I played piano on the pilot for the series "2½ Men." Like Mark at the Magic Castle, I was on the back side of a wall. But in this case, the other side of the wall was occupied by Charlie Sheen, who was pretending to write jingles at the piano. I was required to do a kind of mind meld that would allow me to intuit what Charlie would play if he was actually playing.

In retrospect, doing a mind-meld with Charlie Sheen doesn't seem like the safest kind of mental activity, but it seemed to go pretty well. However, by the time the series was picked up, the hidden piano conceit was gone, so I was unneeded. Also gone was the fine Broadway actress Blythe Danner, who had played the part of Charlie's mother. She had been replaced by Holland Taylor.

4 comments

  • Sherry

    Sherry Newark, CA

    Just fascinating...both of you! Thanks for sharing, Tom, and I miss you and Mark.

    Just fascinating...both of you! Thanks for sharing, Tom, and I miss you and Mark.

  • Edward

    Edward UK

    Interesting story Tom, I guess you and Mark were playing " Both Sides Now"?

    Interesting story Tom, I guess you and Mark were playing " Both Sides Now"?

  • Tom Hensley

    Tom Hensley

    At least!

    At least!

  • Tom Hensley

    Tom Hensley

    Thanks, Sherry.

    Thanks, Sherry.

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