The first time I heard the radio DJ announce the name Engelbert Humperdinck, I thought it was a joke. I mean who in their right mind would have the nerve to call themselves that, outside of the German composer, who in 1893 wrote the opera â€œHansel and Gretelâ€?
The song being sung by this new Engelbert was called, â€œPlease Release Meâ€, which I didnâ€™t care much for either. It was a long drawn out melody about a man who didnâ€™t love the person he was with and wanted to be free so he could be with someone else. Who could love a guy like this?
The day came when this unknown singer from England was to make his American television debut. It was on a Saturday night, and the show was called â€œThe Hollywood Palaceâ€. Finally, I was going to see the face behind that voice. And when I did, it was love at first sight for me. The well built 6â€™2 hunk who was dressed in a tuxedo made his way center stage, singing that song I had grown to hate–but it didnâ€˜t matter what he was singing, all I could do was concentrate on his exotic looks, sensuous lips, and those way too long sideburns. When he spoke, he had this delightful, charming, English accent. What I found even more endearing was his presence. He was on National TV in front of millions of people and yet, he seemed to be shy. And thatâ€™s when I became the number one fan of the English crooner, who would later be billed as â€œThe Last of the Romanticsâ€, because of all the romantic ballads he sang.
In the years that followed, I bought every new album of his as soon as it hit the stores. Not to mention I went to every local Engelbert concert, as well. Once, when I was in the audience, he actually took hold of my hand and serenaded me. Of course, I was mush for the next few weeks.
Because he had made guest appearances on some of the shows at CBS, I was given the chance to have my picture taken with him, during the different stages of his career (when he was clean shaven, bearded, with sideburns–without, long hair, short hair, dark headed, blond). With all of our encounters together, do you think he remembered me? Probably not. He had too many fans to keep up with. But thatâ€™s okay, I remembered him.
My most memorable meeting with Enge (as he called himself) was when I caught him coming out of a secret exit of the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas to catch his limo ride. I ran up to him and when I did, he held me in his arms and kissed me. This was a common practice of his with his fans. But instantly, the mood was spoiled when one of the guys from his entourage started to grope me from behind. The magical moment was gone when I turned around and told the guy if he didnâ€™t get his hands off me, I was going to slap him. The threat sobered him up quickly. When I turned back to Enge, he was inside his limo, ready to be driven away.
When I met up with him again it was at CBS, when he was appearing as a guest on The Jim Nabors Show. During his week of rehearsals I got to observe him, not as a fan watching her favorite singer, but as a show business insider, watching a professional at work.
For all the hours upon hours that I observed him at work (okay, letâ€™s call it like it is, stalked him in the studio), he was always on time and well prepared for his performances. The cast and crew liked him and I never saw him push his weight around because of who he was. He was also a perfectionist when it came to his music and knowing what he wanted from it. He had all the traits of a true professional.
All the times I saw him, he never denied me a picture whenever I would asked him to take one with me, and was gracious when I introduced him to my parents. As for them, they were so thrilled to meet him, you would have thought I was introducing them to their future son-in-law (if only).
Iâ€™ve also seen Engelbert at his worst, when he was in so much pain that they had to shut down production early so he could be rushed to a local dentistâ€™s office because of a nagging toothache that he had been plagued by all week. But seeing him at his worst also gave me the opportunity to see him at his best. As he was being whisked out the â€œArtist Entranceâ€ by staffers for his emergency dentist visit, he was stopped by a fan who told him that her little girl was his biggest fan. Putting aside his pain, he stooped down to the childâ€™s level. â€œCome here, babyâ€, he said coaxing her over to him. When she came to him, he put his arms around her and gave her a kiss. Then he was off to the dentist. As for me, I fell a little bit more in love with him that day.
I remained a loyal fan for many a year, until the ballads he sang werenâ€™t as romantic as the earlier ones were. The shyness he used to display was no longer there and his act was replaced with silliness. The same way Elvis changed his attire from wearing black shirt and pants to wearing jumpsuits, Engelbertâ€™s trademark tuxedo was replaced with flashy outfits. But I suppose all of it was just a sign of the times.
My infatuation with the superstar truly ended when I learned he had had numerous indiscretions with women he had picked out from his audiences. Several of these liaison produced illegitimate children for this father of four, who was still married to his wife.
Although knowing what I know about rock stars and super heroes today, this probably shouldnâ€™t have surprised meâ€¦but I guess I had expected more from someone once labeled â€œThe King of Romanceâ€.
Would I ever go see another one of his concerts again? I have and I will. I mean, if his wife has forgiven him, I guess I can. I did buy his autobiography but havenâ€™t gotten around to reading it yet. Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™m ready to read about all of his â€œnaughtinessâ€ (as he calls it) in print.
I will always think back fondly of the time I was enthralled with the singer called Engelbert Humperdinck. His voice, his looks and his charm, just made me fall more in love with romance. And what could be more inspirational for a romance writer than that?
That’s right, not a fairy tale, a Tale Faery. A genuine hetero, cis Tale Faery. We’re rare.
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