After viewing my photos from the weekend, Wendy asked me to blog about my experience of being serenaded onstage by Gloria Estefan. Little did either of us know that the story would continue in Canada, where I came face-to-face with Gloria (again!) after the show...
The following are two excerpts from my LiveJournal.
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Yesterday, I had the good fortune of being able to "upgrade" my seats for tonight's show from row N to row A in the orchestra. (As in front row, baby!) So, with some encouragement from my Conga friends, I decided that this would be my best shot to "have a moment" with Gloria. I bought her a bouquet of flowers-yellow roses and sunflowers, just like I was told!-and made a sign that read: THIS IS MY BACHELOR PARTY. (AND "I SEE YOUR SMILE" IS "OUR" WEDDING SONG.) HOW ABOUT A HUG? I held up my sign as the band played the first bars of "I See Your Smile" and Gloria made her way to my side of the stage. And the next thing I knew, she was beckoning me to join her. And then she was holding my hand. And then we were dancing...slowly! And then I was kissing her cheek. Twice. (It's probably a good thing Chelsey wasn't there...) And the entire time, she was serenading me with my favorite song. My gaping face was on the jumbo-tron, flashbulbs were going off like crazy, and my legs went to jello. (I almost fell down the stairs on the way back to my seat!) Right now, it's all a blur-or maybe that's just the exhaustion from three shows in three nights! Luckily, my new friend Heidi took my camera and snapped pictures the entire time. That's how I know it's not a dream...
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You know, I didn't think that it could get any better than an onstage serenade from the beautiful Gloria Estefan. But it did. Chelsey and I drove to Canada for the Tuesday night concert, leaving at 2 AM. We arrived at Casino Rama-miraculously, I might add!-around 11:30 and took a look around, finally deciding to fill up at the buffet before checking in at the Days Inn across the street for a little siesta. As we dined on a sampling of this and that, in walked Clay Ostwald, keyboardist for the Miami Sound Machine. Followed by none other than Gloria's husband, Emilio (who is also her manager, producer, and a multi-Grammy Award winner). Chelsey tells me that my jaw hit the floor as I screamed, "Oh, my God! That's Emilio! That's Emilio." I quickly recovered and followed him up to the carving station, where I cornered him with his cut of pork, offering my hand. Hr recognized me from my onstage appearance at Foxwoods and was very kind. He then went to eat with his small entourage as I stared from across the room. (Yes, all my good manners and shy-boy tendencies went out the window...) And the it hit me. I had packed a few of my Gloria pictures from Foxwoods "just in case"-not really expecting a just in case moment. So we quickly paid the bill, and I ran out to the car to grab a photo as Chelsey yelled, "Hurrry! Hurry! He's already on his second dessert." When I returned, picture in hand, Emilio and the others were still chatting, so Chelsey and I set ourselves up at the slot machines immediately across from the buffet exit. (Subtle, huh?) While Chelsey proceeded to lose $20 as we waited, I borrowed the hostess's pen to scribble my name and address on the back of the photo. When Emilio exited, he was deep in conversation, and so I decided not to interrupt. Chelsey, on the other hand, does not sit around squandering money without purpose, and so she grabbed the picture and went running after him, screaming, "Emilio, Emilio..." She thrust the picture into his hands and asked if he could have Gloria sign it. He said that he would but questioned how he would be able to return it to us. Chelsey showed him the address on the back, and that was that. We returned to the casino at 7 PM, my camera tucked discreetly down my pants. I sold my tickets for the Wednesday show to two new friends from Conga and we headed inside. We met up with Cynthia and Allison and Allison's sister and had a good time catching up before Gloria took the stage for another excellent performance. At the end of the night, I met up with the other Conga members in hopes of participating in a meet-and-greet. Security hassled us, but we stood our ground. It was eventually determined that the meet-and-greet for Conga would be held the following night, as Gloria had to meet the high-rollers after this show. As you already know, I had just sold my tickets, so desperation took over. When Frank Amadeo, a VIP at Estefan Enterprises, came over to say hello to the group, I greeted him by name (though we'd never met), explained that Chelsey and I would be unavailable for the following night due to a ten-hour car ride back to Connecticut, and asked if he could make an exception. He recognized me from Sunday night, and quickly got us backstage passes. He also returned my photo, now signed by Gloria. (It reads: TO JOHN, MAY YOU HAVE MANY BEAUTIFUL YEARS OF MAKING LOVE AND LUCK..) We were ushered backstage-you can imagine my satisfaction as security watched this-where I grew increasingly more excited. I finally asked Chelsey for her last piece of gum, which she had been offering me all night long, and which I had declined repeatedly-again, "just in case.". (I'm telling you, this was destiny...) As we waited in the hall while Gloria met Casino Rama's biggest customers, Emilio walked through, greeted me warmly, and posed for a picture-without once making the "not you again" face! And then it was time to see Gloria, who I must say looks even better in person than she does onstage. She recognized me immediately, and offered a sweet hug as she called me her "bachelor boy." We posed for a picture together, and then allowed Chelsey in for a shot of the three of us. Gloria and Emilio-who will be happily married for thirty years in September-offered us their best wishes, and then we said our goodbyes. It was the perfect ending to an unbelievable experience.
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Feel free to check out my journal for amusing stories, beautiful photos from Canada, and my musings on just about everything: http://oyejohn52.livejournal.com/