It happened at Jazz at Chautauqua.
I was idling around the tables of compact discs when I heard a woman say to someone else, “Yes, I saw Lee Wiley.”
I waited for a discreet interval and went over to the woman — and after apologizing for eavesdropping, asked her to tell all. It’s a brief story. She was meeting friends for a drink in Newark, New Jersey, about 1953-54, and they had agreed to meet at a swanky Chinese restaurant called “The Hour-Glass.” A woman was at the piano, playing, and she sang a few songs. That was Lee Wiley.
I grilled my Chautauqua informant a bit. How did she know the woman was Lee Wiley? Well, she thought there had been a sign on the piano. I said, “I didn’t know Lee played the piano,” to which the woman said that Lee did, at least on this occasion. She didn’t recall much more, except that she loves the sound of Wiley’s voice and was sure the woman was Lee.
It didn’t have the ring of invention, and my Chautauqua friend (whose name is Mary) sounded sincere, enthusiastic, and clear-headed. Can anyone explain?
A second chorus: while searching online for a new picture to illustrate this post, I found the lovely portrait above, and it led me to a site called “People vs. Dr. Chilledair,” http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/ which has posted the Japanese documentary I referred to in an earlier Wiley posting — about a young Japanese actress / singer who searches for people who knew her beloved Miss Wiley in America. One posting is from February 10, 2008, called “My Lee Wiley” (http://people-vs-drchilledair.blogspot.com/2008/02/my-lee-wiley.html) and a four more postings follow — I gather Bill Reed, the writer and creator of the blog, has made it possible to see the entire documentary. Bravo!