Here’s how my first meeting with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor went down:
I was opening for her (and other author-acts) as this festival in Carmel.
I had just done my routine and was coming off the stage as she and her brother arrived, escorted by the superintendent of schools who was set to introduce her to the auditorium of high school kids that had been bused in for the day.
“Oh, that looks interesting,” said Justice O’Connor, noticing my guitar. “What are you going to play for us?”
I had to tell her that I’d already played, and, to my surprise, she asked “and what songs did you play?”
So I told her that I had written a book called King Dork, so I had opened with the theme song to it, “King Dork.”
“And then I played a song called ‘I Wanna Ramone You’ and after that another one called ‘Even Hitler had a Girlfriend.’”
“Oh, we don’t like that one,” the superintendent said.
“He had a hell of a lot more than that!” said the Justice simultaneously, and somewhat cryptically I thought, though I have no doubt she was right. I was a little worried that she was as offended by the song title as the superintendent appeared to be. Then, however, she added: “I’m sorry I missed it.”
I was asked to play a short song to open the second session for intermediate school kids even though I wasn’t on the schedule. I did “Knock Knock (Please Let Me In)” and it went fine even though the kids never quite figured out when to say “who’s there?” every time. And then, as always, I played “Hitler” again because if I’ve learned anything from all the years of doing this it’s: [a] nothing charms a hostile audience like “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend”: and [b] there are no audiences more potentially hostile than middle school students. As always, it worked on them.
When I came off stage, there was Sandra Day O’Connor sitting in the wing applauding and nodding, and she ended up getting there early and watching the whole set the following day. So, I learned a third thing [c]: it works on Supreme Court Justices, too.
I hadn’t known what to expect, or if I’d even get a chance to speak to her at all, but she turned out to be very nice, very sharp, extremely interesting, and quite a good conversationalist. We actually ended up talking quite a bit back stage and at various events. She knew a lot about Scotch.
Lots of other stuff happened at the festival and there were all sorts of other interesting people there, but the main point of this post has been to explain how it was that things happened to arrange themselves so that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wound up listening to me play “I Wanna Ramone You” and “Even Hitler had a Girlfriend.” And that’s how it was.
[I posted a version of this story on my old blog on 9.30.2008.]