Playing for RobertbyNigel Debonnaire©
"You want me to do what?"
Alicia Witt's face was counterpoint of contortions. The afternoon light shone into her agent's office, gently illuminating the faux antique furniture and ordinary trappings. She was wearing a brown print dress that brought out her lustrous red hair and beautiful blue eyes, her eyebrows were arched high in surprise at my request. At my request and with her permission, the two of us were alone in the room, since I didn't want her agent to know what I exactly what I was asking of her. My initial contact was about her playing some specific piano literature.
"I'd like to make a video of you doing something you enjoy, playing the piano," I said placidly.
"Naked from the waist up? You want me to play the piano topless?"
I took a sip from my waterbottle as she absorbed the full impact of my request. The lifestyle of the rich and famous was something I was just getting used to. I was playing it safe for the most part, setting myself up to be secure for the rest of my life, but I set aside some play money for strange little fun projects, and meeting Alicia Witt in person was a dream come true in itself.
I fell for Alicia when she was on the _Cybill_ sitcom in the '90s, and followed her career since then, buying her movies on DVD and collecting her pictures from the Internet. I read she was excellent pianist, working her skills in several of her parts, and I knew she'd done some scenes, like in the Sopranos, where she came close to showing everything.
She looked at me strangely, and began laughing hysterically, rocking back and forth. "Where's the hidden cameras? Where's Ashton Kutcher? This is a joke, right. Somebody's making fun of me." After taking a deep breath, she looked me in the eye and starting laughing again. "You're wonderful, I hope you get some more work in this town. You're playing this part beautifully." Another rain of giggles. "This is so, so funny. Playing Classical music on the piano topless. Kinda like having sex to benefit virginity. This is completely weird, this is sick, this is warped."
'Thank you. Interested?"
Her laughed faded as she looked around and found no hidden cameras. A gulp and a sharp intake of breath and she looked at me incredulously. "I'm speechless. What do I say? Tell me more, ah, while I think about it."
"Well, Classical music has been moribund for decades. It's fantastic stuff, stuff we hear in movies, television and commercials without realizing it, but it's appeal has been limited to a small group of literati. Like gourmet food, ballet, modern art, it has a deep indirect affect, but the general public doesn't really understand it. However, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, and other classical musicians weren't usually out there to play to the snobs. They were real people with real passions, and they wanted their music to be heard by the masses."
"Agreed, but how does this mean I should play it topless?"
"Kinda like Wagner's idea of Gestamkunstwerk. Something for all the senses, immortal music with a classical body to look at. Something living, breathing, moving."
Another look, slightly different and a shake of the head. "Well, I guess I should be flattered. You think I'm going to revive Classical music, which is crazy, but. . .."
"Excellent. I needed a beautiful young woman, a virtuoso, who's willing to tackle something different. You've worked on some different stuff, like Cecil B. DeMented.
Her lips pursed as she thought of it. "Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Chopin's Polonaise in A flat, Gershwin's Three Preludes for Piano. You're chosen music that has me moving around on the keyboard a lot. Wonderful music, music I'd love playing, very mainstream Classical music. I'm a very quiet player; I'm not going to bounce around all over the place while I'm playing this stuff. You may also want to find a pianist with bigger tits, as far as that goes."
"No, I need someone perfectly proportioned, as you are. You don't have to move around any more than you need to. Play it as you normally would clothed; there'll be enough motion."
The phone rang and was answered in the outer office. Alicia looked at me with laser eyes, trying to figure me out. I was glad she was still in the room. "All right, Fred, tell me where you come from and why you're interested in this?"
I held out my hands, palms up. "I'm from the midwest, Salina Kansas. I went to college at Bethany College in Lindsborg as an organ major, then to the Cincinnati Conservatory and Eastman School of Music to study composition."
"You were in the major leagues of Classical music. What then?"
"Well, since then I've been directing church choirs, selling some insurance and real estate on the side, making a living, just getting by. Would put on concerts and recitals and get maybe 25 people even though I advertised my head off. Never could think of marrying or raising a family because I could never afford it. Some of my classmates had to go into other fields after they married so they could make enough."
"You've been a kind of monk, haven't you? Dedicating yourself to your art far from the spotlight. How romantic. And then you won the lottery?"
"Yes. 146 Million in the cash, after taxes."
"That's impressive. So why aren't you doing your own music?"
"I am, but this was a wild idea, and I always like to go for wild ideas. An inspiration from above, a message from my Muse. I'm also making short videos and whatever else my little imagination could come up with."
A loud laugh. "Like those crazy pornos; they're so stupid and funny. They don't make me horny, they make me laugh"
She stood up and paced around the room. "You know, I've been careful with the work I've done. An actress is very vulnerable at my age, and I could get typecast. Seen it happen many tines. I know hundreds of thousands of guys out there would like to see my tits. I'm not sure this is the medium."
I sat forward. "Here's what I'm proposing: I'll give you a million now if you'll do it, a million more when we make the recording. I'll underwrite a CD of whatever piano music you want to record, including the stuff we do, and market it myself, taking only 5 percent. We record in a hall we're both happy with acoustically and on a piano you choose prepared by a technician you chose. You can get it on iTunes where everybody can get at it."
"Go on, you've got me interested."
"We do the recording with the best classical engineer in town, who'll be set up where he can't see you directly. You bring any assistant you want to do your hair and makeup, as well as chaperone. I'll buy you some elegant slacks and whatever jewelry you want to wear."
"I'm the new Liberace? Should I learn how to play with rings on every finger?"
"I hope not, although I'd like to put a chandelier in the background. I'll do all the video myself on an Apple with the latest software, using four cameras, three of which will be static. I'll do 2 DVD's and unless you agree in writing, no more will be made, ever. If you like what you see and want to go ahead, I'll give you three million more and we'll market it. Once again, I'll underwrite it and take 5 percent. The classical world may gripe, the stupid puritans, but you'll reach a whole new audience."
She pondered for several moments. "It'll take me three months to get this music ready, at least."
I nodded. "Understood. Been there, done that."
"You've played topless?" Her eyebrows arched high in disbelief.
"No, no, I've prepared recitals."
"How about the lighting and editing?"
"I'll get a first class techs to set it up, whoever you want me to hire."
A smile crossed her face, and she paced a little as she pondered. "You want to see my tits that badly?"
"Yes, Alicia. And I'd love to hear you play."
She tapped her fingers on the armrest as she thought. "You realize you can get some model to sit at the piano while a real artist plays this music?"
I shook my head. "It wouldn't be the same. One of my few fetishes is I don't want any faking. I want to show as many sides of your beauty at once as I can: your fingers as they fly over the keys, your face, your ivory skin, your lovely red hair and of course, your perfect breasts in all their glory."
"You're so sweet. I don't know. This hasn't been done before, has it?"
"There's been nudity in opera before, in major houses. Maria Ewing sang Salome and did some nudity at the end of the "Dance of the Seven Veils." Convent Garden did a production of _Das Rheingold_ where the Rheinmaidens started out naked. Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin were very passionate about women. For all we know, Clara Schumann played for Robert like this."
A dreamy look came to her eyes. A thought came to me. "This is the role," I continued, "you're Clara playing for Robert. You're offering him everything, your heart, your music, your body, your soul. That's your motivation."
A wrinkled brow. "How do we work Gershwin into this?"
The phone rang again, and was answered outside. The California sun threw a square of bright light on the floor as it moved through the sky. Alicia's face grew dreamy, her mouth slightly opened. "All right, I love Gershwin anyway. This isn't a re-enactment of history. Clara plays for Robert. Strange, but I like it. All right. You've got a deal. But. . ."
"Yes?" My heart was beating through my chest.
"We include some music she wrote for him."
"All right. She wrote Three Romances, Opus 11 for him the year they married."
She stood up, walked over to me and extended her hand.
It was six months ago we shook on it and the paperwork was drawn up. Her agent thought she was crazy, but went along with it since she could block its release if she wanted. Getting the movie into pre-production was easier and made the agent a little less hostile. The rehearsal for the performance went well: she was ready to play the music in two months, but it took her a while longer to be comfortable playing it without clothes.
The recording sessions were a dream. Alicia chose to wear black pumps, with a diamond necklace and matching earrings, and nothing else. "I'm giving myself completely to Robert," she said. I focused one camera on the keyboard, to catch her long, strong flying fingers, one on her sweet nipples in their debut, and one gave the whole picture as much as possible. I took a hand held camera and roamed out of sight, finding new angles from the back and side to show her other fine curves and the light playing off her lustrous red hair.
The concert hall was a constant 72 degrees, so I let her put a robe on between takes. It was perfect for the piano, and made her nipples stand up lovely and rock hard. Once she got started, the temperature was no problem.
She played the music flawlessly, we did only three takes for each movement. The magic of her delicate breasts swirling slightly to the passion of the melodies was magic: the Chopin Polonaise generated the best choreography, although the final movement of the Moonlight Sonata, done in primarily blue light, was an electric vision as well. By the time we got to the Gershwin, Alicia got into the saucy spirit of the First and Third Preludes by adding some flirtatious bobs and weaves with her body that George would have loved, I'm sure. Her lovely nipples danced to George's syncopations so beautifully it took my heart away.
Editing it was a dream, and I asked for multiple angles to be made available. A viewer can see the main track, combining shots from all cameras in one presentation, as well as views for each one of the cameras for the entire performance. Sometimes I like quartering the screen and seeing all four angles at once: it's a joy to view the entire canvas at once.
Will Alicia Witt save Classical Music? Damned if I know. At least, I think Robert is smiling down at us.