Memories: Andrew Lloyd-Webber

Photographed by the Author in 1979 (photo coming soon)

I have been friends with The Lord Lloyd-Webber for 35 years. Robert Stigwood– who produced "Jesus Christ Superstar" when he wasn't repping Cream, The Who, Rod Stewart and Bowie– made the introduction in 1979, when they were in New York to launch the Broadway production of "Evita."

Sir Andrew is the most commercially successful composer in history. He has to his credit 13 musicals, owns 6 theaters, and has 4 Grammy Awards, 7 Tonys, 7 Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, 3 wives, 5 kids, the largest collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings on the planet…and one billion dollars.

That Andrew was married to Sarah Brightman has fueled all sorts of fanciful images of what it must've been like around the Lloyd-Webber manse whenever they gathered around the piano.

I was invited to attend the premiere of "Evita" in New York, with Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che. Quite frankly, I did not have much interest in the subject matter as I couldn't figure out just what the hell there was in an Argentinian dictatorship to sing about. I came down somewhere in between one critic's assessment that "Evita" was "an unparallelled fusion of 20th century musical experience" and another who called it "one of the most disagreeable evenings I have ever spent in my entire life." But to have seen Patti and Mandy at the top of their game was, in itself, worth the price of the ticket.

I did an interview with Andrew for several publications in which we discussed his future plans. "What is the subject of your next musical?" I asked him.

"Cats," said Andrew.

"Yeah, that'll never work," I thought. A musical about cats.

The next meaningful exchange I had with Sir Andrew was in 1984, when I found myself in dire straits and needed to raise cash. All I had of any real value was a Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece by a 19th century Belgian painter named Albrecht DeVriendt, and knowing his interest in the genre, I mailed a transparency of the painting to Andrew hoping to whet his appetite: he already owned hundreds of others, and had an insatiable desire for the Brotherhood of Millais, Rossetti and Hunt.

"The Chess Game" by DeVriendt, however, was the only painting I owned. I had begged and borrowed the money to buy it in 1978, as it was the single most beautiful painting I had ever seen– an allegory of unrequited love– and it was so painfully exquisite that I couldn't bear to look at it. Instead of hanging it in a place of honor in my home, I rather perversely kept it in a wooden shipping crate all the years I owned it. I couldn't bear to look at it and I couldn't bear to part with it, and therein lay a most interesting lesson in Attachment.

For the rest of that story, you'll have to resort to my memoirs, "When Elvis Meets the Dalai Lama"…I've run out of time and space here.

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