Saturday, February 25, 2006

What is it with marriage proposals at concerts?

Maybe I just don't get it. Maybe it's me. I mean, I'm sentimental and all, but I just don't get why someone would take their most intimate moment and put it on display for hundreds or even thousands of people.

But that's what I've seen now, 3 times in the past half year: Men taking time out from the middle of a concert -- twice on stage and once from the audience -- to propose marriage.

The first time was last September 10, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. I was there for the weekend, for the Springsteen symposium. The first night, I went with a few friends on a pilgrimmage to the Stone Pony to see Joe Grushecky. I'm not much of a Grushecky fan, really, and his following is rather modest -- though perhaps it's a bit more down on the shore, where his Springsteen connection helps.

Here are my notes from the show:
"Got to the Pony about 11pm, just in time for Grushecky. He was...Grushecky. Eventually Mary and I headed out to the outside area, I think so she wouldn't throw things at the stage when he did one of his Bruce covers. He did ok with I Don't Wanna Go Home as his closer, though. We got out of there at 1:15am. I gave Chris a copy of my paper, and the one hour drive to my parents' place suddenly seemed very long."

Mary is the one and only artisland, whom I'd known online for years but only just met in person earlier in the day. Chris is Chris Phillips, editor of Backstreets Magazine. My parents live a little less than an hour from Asbury Park. I put Mary in my write-up. I put Grushecky in there, of course. I put Chris in there, and I put my parents' house in there. I even put in the title of a song that Steve Van Zandt wrote for Southside Johnny, and wrote about it as if it were Bruce's (Bruce has played it, at least).

But I didn't put in one event that happened during the middle of the show: One of the patrons got on stage with his girlfriend, and proposed marriage. He held up the show for maybe 5 minutes or so while stumbling for the words, the audience starting to yell at him to do it already... and it was becoming pretty clear the girlfriend wasn't going to say yes. She said she'd think about it, and gave him a peck on the cheek. ok, here's a picture, so I guess it was a little better than a peck on the cheek. But she didn't say yes (not that it stopped Grushecky's webmaster from putting it on his website). Good theater for the bar, probably bad for that relationship.

Then there was the McCartney show at the Palace, on October 14. Magical night, magical show. Front row seats. Got the program signed. And, oh, yes, got to witness another proposal.

An excerpt of my notes from the show:
"One thing I wasn't expecting was the number of signs. They were everywhere. Paul was occasionally reading them, and commenting on reading them. After Eleanor Rigby, he spotted a little green one down the front row. It was, approximately, 'Tell Ben in the 4th row to propose to Melissa.' I'd seen a proposal during the Grushecky show at the Springsteen symposium last month; that one didn't work so well. This one fared a lot better. Sir Paul directed Ben how to do it, get down on your knees, Ben. Now all Paul has to do is come back for the ceremony."

ok, we're one for two so far. Maybe two for two -- that Grushecky picture looks better than I remember it.

Cut forward to this morning. We went to a Young People's Concert of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. My father in-law, Aaron and me. Should be pretty safe from marriage proposals, right?


Before the last number, conductor Thomas Wilkins called up viola player Shanda Lowery to help make a presentation to winners of the "What I See in Music Program," which is basically an art contest for children attending the shows. The presentation over, Wilkins told Lowery to stay with him, as he had one more presentation. Flautist Sharon Sparrow scooted in to Lowery's vacated seat and whipped out a little digital camera, looking like a kid eager for a moment. Wilkins called a gentleman on to the stage and gave him the mike. The gentleman got all nervous, stumbling for words, talking about love. It's happening again!! At a kids' concert!! The kids stayed with it, though, the gentleman got through the proposal, and when he took out the ring, half the orchestra was yelling at him to get down on a knee. And he did. And she said yes. He got a big hug from Wilkins. The flautist got the pictures. And everyone went home happy.

And, as I wiped a tear from my eyes, I realized, I still don't get it.
After the show, my father-in-law asked my if I got down on a knee to propose. "No," I said. "Me neither." Aaron just said, "I don't get it."

But I do get this: If you're going to propose in public, get down on your knees.

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