MEMBERSHIP SPOTLIGHT


BettyLou Stevens

"Only through darkness, may we embrace the light that shines down from heaven's fo'c'sle." -- BettyLou Stevens

Dear sweet, Cello Chatters, It's me, BettyLou! I am here to unfurl myself unto you, to bask in the warmth of the Membership Spotlight, and to once and for all squelch all of the ugly rumors and innuendo that swirl around me wherever I go.

My parents were circus folk. My father was a trapeze artist, my mother, a showgirl who would spin under the Bigtop by her long flaxen braid, a gorgeous dervish sparkling under the lights. My father was fearless, and tried every possible stunt known to man, and even invented some of his own. I was an only child, and was showered with attention from my parents and all of the hard-workers that peopled my parent's circus. Perhaps it is through this wondrous panoply of character that has made me, BettyLou, Queen of Cello Chat!

We toured all over the world, and it was in Russia where I first became acquainted with classical music. A handsome musician from the Moscow Conservatory joined our ragtag troupe, whose primary instrument was the cello. As a pixyish 5-year old, I was afraid of Ivan, who seemed to scream almost all day long. (Later I realized it was his culture, and screaming was just the way he communicated!) Only at night, when the tent was dark, Ivan spun his gold from an ancient burnt-orange cello, was I under his spell. He played all of the classics, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, Shostakovich, Glinka, Brahms, Bach, R. Strauss, Martinu, Beethoven, Ibert, Milhaud, Rota, Finzi, Hindemith, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Korngold, and Dvorak. Ivan noticed that I had the "gift," when I swirled around trance-like, ecdysiast that I was, encircling the campfire one evening to his solo version of "Dance of the Seven Veils" from "Salome." The music had taken me to another place, far away from the horse and elephant stalls, and the scary clowns.


A typical BettyLou snack table for the rehearsal of Brahms, Bach and Barber.
Please note the high protein value with the inclusion of peanut M&Ms.

Ivan encouraged me to give the cello a try, and at first I said "absolutely not!" His continued efforts failed until he plied me with food. He had found his key! BettyLou had been shown Manna from heaven, by way of rugelach! Later, as he cradled his arms around me, showing exactly how to hold the cello and its bow, I never looked back. I learned the Elgar in one day, Fauré the next; scales and arpeggios danced from my fingers like ants at an abandoned picnic. I tore through etudes, hundreds per day, and began a lifelong secret affair with David Popper. It was a secret to Popper too, as he knew nothing about it. I started to give concerts at night to the enervated circus performers at age 6, and by age 10, had performed all of the major cello concerti all over Europe. I was a side-show freak of a different kind!

In a small German town, a wizened impresario with a massive body, and a tiny dried apple of a head, heard me playing, I think it was Prokofiev, and he begged my family to let him take me all over the world. I bid a tearful farewell to my extended circus family (who was now in the possession of one sack of gold coins) and a year later, was hob-nobbing with jaded Manhattannites at Andy Warhol's Factory in New York. I was 15 going on 34, and fast! Klaus the impresario had taken up with a New Jersey meter maid, and was otherwise occupied.

At 16, my cello was an abandoned friend that watched silently as I staggered from one party to the next, one happening after another, and waited patiently until every single primitive urge in my teenage body was extinguished. It was 1970. You see, Madame deFarge of the Pyrenees 1702 had waited for me in that dumpster where my father found here during a search for recyclables, and she could wait again, until my Muse had returned from her sabbatical and I was no longer living in the Valley of the Dolls.

This is when I met my best girlfriend, Varla, who showed me all about makeup, clothes, and stage deportment. Varla was a cabaret singer from New Orleans who was making it big in New York, and it was with her careful tutelage that I was able to make such a big splash in art salons all over Manhattan. "Don't be afraid of capes, BettyLou, they make you regal." Varla would say, as she applied yet another set of false eyelashes on my cat-like sapphire orbs. Varla had a cabaret show at a little club in Chelsea where she squirted the contents of a can of Cheez Whiz into her mouth while she sang her signature song "Dream a Little Dream of Cheese."

My manager was a patient soul, and when my sowing of wild, and I mean wild, oats was over, I was put on a touring schedule that would have had a stewardess reaching for narcotics. I played every major city in the world for three years, and performed all the major cello repertoire, and finally was so bored, that I went to the concerti of other instruments for variety. Then it happened. I was busking at a coffee house in Wien, when I practically collapsed at the sight of the man who would later become my husband. I mean, I was so taken, so smitten, so baffled by the wave of Kismet that came crashing over my head, that the cello in my hands could have been a broom, for all I cared.

The wedding was a spectacle, and took place in St. John's Wood, London. A small orchestra had been employed, about 70 colleagues from the world over, and was busy playing Elgar, J. Strauss, and, Martinu inside a church that seemed to be at least 900 years old. Nine herald trumpeters announced from a balcony that the wedding had started, as a processional of cognoscenti and glitterati from all over wended its way through the forest to the stone church in horse-drawn carriages. A dozen or so dancers from the Royal Ballet were on hand to perform the wedding scene from Don Quixote. Finally, after a solo interpretive dance was performed to the sound of recorded crickets, the wedding march commenced. As if by magic, I descended by a wire from the ceiling and was presented to the audience, a Queen spider arriving at her Coronation! I waved a simple scepter over the people, many of whom attempted to grab at my glittering gown with outstretched arms, and showers of shimmering pixie dust cascaded around me in what seemed like a slow motion waterfall of silver. After I was detached from my harness, I seated myself in an elegant armless throne, and performed John Rutter's unknown "Out of the Deep" with choir., which incidentally, was later published in 1985. The wedding party begun with the recessional from "Aida" and lasted 3 days. There were several arrests as a result of the merrymaking, but the British government has expunged all records, after some legal legerdemain was performed.


Don't let jewelry get in the way of a perfect bow grip. Anything 5 carats
or less should do just fine. Looks like I just made it!

Three children later, I happily became the free agent, playing concerts, studio jobs, and musical theater productions. This gave me time to make a home for my husband (non-musical, believe me) and three children (two violinists and a violist). Southern California became a virtual Wonderland for me and my family, and our lovely maid, Carmenita. As a homemaker, I quickly found all kinds of projects to fill my time: glass-blowing, ceramics, interpretive dance, yoga, phrenology, candle making, aromatherapy, scrap booking, batik, pickling, and of course immense amounts of baking. I have always found time for the cello, and respect and revere it for the many opportunities it brought to me. My children and I were in constant demand at various motels and libraries for unusual string quartet performances. (Unfortunately, hubby was absorbed in a witness protection program when he became involved in exporting wooden umbrella stands to underworldly types, and we have seen hide nor hair of him since January 2002.)

Almost three years ago, while surfing the ‘net for information about Area 51, I came across the Internet Cello Society and began observing the happy chatting, gentle braggadocio and the not-so-subtle bible thumping amid wonderful dialogues on everything cello! What a treat! The rapture! But it was not long after that when I observed a certain level of scurrility running rampant on Cello Chat, and that was the catalyst for my gorgeous debut here! People in the States seem to take themselves so seriously, and it was my challenge, my destiny, to inject some fun and frolic into an otherwise dry, sterile and stiff cyberspace. I think I have succeeded, and have many fans and supporters to whom I am eternally grateful. As a result of my efforts here, I have met many of you, and have formed, what I believe will be life-long alliances, and for that, I am so fortunate.

Gray Davis phoned me recently for advise, since he heard I had experienced something of a "recall" here on Cello Chat, staged by The Hatred, and I told him to stand strong! "Pay them no heed, Gray. The movement to have me ousted on Cello Chat was laughable! Just shake off your adversaries like I did, like a playful raccoon shakes off fat, beige, Lyme Disease-carrying ticks!" Gray said he would name a bus bench after me if he is not recalled.

Thank you all, for the opportunity to spout my opinions, share in the camaraderie, and to participate in the beautiful fellowship that is Cello Chat!

Your sister, your friend, your Queen,

BettyLou

P.S. If you wish to share your thoughts with me privately, like so many of you already do, just email me at bettinalou@hotmail.com.


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