Always entertaining

I’m angrier than a banana without a monkey over the fact that this happened to begin with, but I find it hilarious that the matter was hit head on.

I am a big Billy Joel fan.  I am.  I celebrate his entire catalog, and for my money, it just does not get any better than River of Dreams.  Perhaps that’s why I liked this 1994 GRAMMY’s performance of the song.  But the fact that he was performing it was not the best part per se.

The most hilarious part is when Joel hits the natural break and has a little message.  Hilarious, right?  But it needs context.  You see, just prior to his performance, Frank Sinatra was giving an acceptance speech for an award.  The next thing viewers knew, he was cut off mid-sentence and they broke away for a commercial break.

The matter of who ordered the cutaway is a matter of controversy.  Some say the director is at fault and some say Sinatra’s people requested it because he was rambling and starting to not make sense.  This, of course, angered a lot of people, and Joel was apparently one of those people.

He looks at his watch and says, “valuable advertising time passing by…valuable advertising time passing by…dollars, dollars, dollars.”  The look on his face is priceless, because he knew that there was no way the show, which obviously was live, could cut away or make it go away.  It was unplanned after all, because the Sinatra snub wasn’t scripted.

Some say that what some called a stunt was planned.  Not so!  The camera was set on Joel because of the natural break in the song.  It was planned.  But rather than stay silent during the break, or the false ending, he did what he did.  The camera was going to be set on him anyway.

So, no, the stunt, as some people called it, was not planned, because of course Sinatra had just been cut off and there was no time for Joel to do something new.  It just so happened that since there was a natural break, he could take advantage of it, something that any true performer can run with.

It’s funny to watch even without context, but as usual, context is best.  I remember watching this when it aired.  I was one of the people floored by the fact that he got cut off mid-sentence.  At the time, I was in my high school video production class and we produced the daily morning announcements show.  We rotated jobs and I had my share of director tasks.  I would never have dreamed of cutting anyone off, especially when we were live.

Even after all this years, it’s amusing and Joel basically gave the show’s producers and director the middle finger without giving them the middle finger.  Good for him!  That’s why he’s a musical legend.

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