Since the passing of the great Dr. Maya Angelou, there have been so many incredible stories shared about her, her contributions, her history. I would like to add one more.
It was the night before Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. I was emceeing the Constitution Hall Gala, a four hour show with incredible acts on the bill, including Melissa Etheridge, Graham Nash and David Crosby, etc. etc. I caught a glimpse of Crosby/Nash’s manager, who was very handsome. Unfortunately, I had one of my constant migraines (I think half the shows I’ve done in my lifetime were done with a searing migraine), and I was throwing up into a paper bag, so decided not to introduce myself just then.
The next day, Inauguration Day, was a sunny, freezing, breezy, gorgeous, headache free day. I had gotten my ticket to the inauguration and was headed from the hotel to the bus stop. A limo pulled up, the window rolled down, and Graham Nash and his wife Susan said, “You’re taking a bus to the inauguration? Don’t be silly, get in the car.” I got in and sat down right next to the manager, Bill Siddons. Graham, Susan and I talked and laughed. We all sat down on one of the long benches at the inauguration, and I ended up sitting next to Bill. It was stellar; the speeches, the excitement of the crowd, the feel of a new beginning with a new young president. We didn’t talk at all, we were rapt, and sometimes I’d be holding back tears, and I’d sneak a look over at Bill, and he’d be holding back tears too. And then they introduced Dr. Angelou:
“Please welcome the new Poet Laureate of the United States of America, Maya Angelou.”
The crowd went wild. She had such a presence, she was magnetic. She stepped forward. Again, we held back tears. She had written a poem for the inauguration, called “The Inaugural Poem – On the Pulse of Morning”. It was never published and sold, the only copies were the ones given out to the V- V- V -VIPs sitting with the Presidents up on the balcony.
She stepped forward, and waited, majestically, in silence. We were transfixed. She began, slowly, deliberately:
“A Rock.” (she waited.)
And then: “A River.” (she waited even longer this time.)
And then finally: “A Tree.”
And then, nothing. She stood there looking out over the crowd, waiting. A rock, a river, and a tree.
I couldn’t take it. I leaned over and whispered into Bill’s ear, “Walk into a bar”. And he swears he said to himself: “I’m going to marry her”.