Sunday, March 22, 2009

Apologies to Paul Simon

A few posts ago I expressed my outrage over a rude and insensitive comment made to a handicapped individual by a performer I refer to now as Paul Simon's back-up singer. I'm still talking about that concert. It still irks me.

It's not just because I worked for ARC for several years. Or because I ran my own business -- Incredible Journeys -- where we took adults with developmental disabilities on vacations. It's not that I have an acute understanding that music appreciation transcends disabilities.

It's not even that I consider myself a poet and Paul Simon's back-up singer may have been published by better publishers than I have been, but I don't believe that speaks to the quality of his writing necessarily.

There's no excuse for being mean. To anyone. And Paul Simon's back-up singer was just plain mean.

Some of you have seen photos here of our music room. There's always music playing in our house. I have decided to "retire" all of our Simon and Garfunkel LPs, reel to reel tapes, cassettes and CDs. RELUCTANTLY. Because I truly love the music. But I fear that every time I'd listen to one of these songs in the future, I'd no longer hear Paul Simon's magical lyrics; I'd only be reminded of Paul Simon's back-up singer's egotistical mean streak.

I will continue to play Paul Simon. I own every one of his solo CDs and love them all. His music has brought me great comfort over the years.

And I am very proud to say that I own none of Paul Simon's back-up singer's attempts at singing songs other people have written. And I intend to keep it that way. Hope you will, too.


Christa said...

I was at that concert and I totally agree with you. Not only was he rude, but ignorant and arrogant...arrogant for absolutely NO reason - as you said, he's "Paul Simon's backup singer" :) I too am a huge fan of Simon & Garfunkel - I became interested in them as a teen, about 20 years after their heyday! I wish I had walked out of the "concert", but he probably wouldn't have even cared. Someone at the show actually said that we were seeing the better of the duo! I almost climbed over the table to knock sense in him, but I thought better of it. He'd be nowhere without Paul Simon, especially considering more than 3/4's of the show were S&G tunes! I saw Paul Simon years ago and he was fabulous, and not a rude comment out of his mouth...imagine that.

Ann said...

Hi, Sunny. I discovered your wonderful blog while doing an Internet search for more information about Art Garfunkel and his derogatory remark about a person with a handicap at his March 12th concert. I am outraged by his arrogance and insensitivity. I am even more so after having seen him in concert last night on Staten Island, in a stunning venue, the lovingly restored St. George Theater.

Before the concert, the management had announced that no flash photography would be permitted. Most in the audience went along with this, although from time to time flashes did go off. I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the front for the show. Well into the second half, while Garfunkel was taking a bow, I took a flashless photo of him. When he saw that I had, he looked at me and said in the most condescending of tones, "Did you get it? We can wait for that till later." His meanness and arrogance were astounding. Also, during much of the show, he made comments to the sound people to adjust the sound, and he even asked the theater management to close a door in the balcony area from which distracting light was entering. I can't imagine how terrified his band members must have been to be working with him.

I've been a fan of Simon and Garfunkel, and of each of them individually, for more than 30 years. Their music has inspired, amused, and comforted me. So, it was a delight to attend last night's concert with my husband and three of our dearest friends. Even more special was the fact that our 19-year-old daughter attended with us, and that I had the chance to share with her a singer who had meant so much to me when I was her age. What a fabulous opportunity this could have been for Garfunkel to appeal to a younger generation! When I asked her on the way home what she thought of the show, she said, "He's a jerk, and he doesn't even write his own songs" (until his recent feeble attempts). What a pity that such talent (or former talent?) is embodied in a person with such mean-spiritedness and self-absorption.

I'm going to continue to think about this experience last night and the one on March 12th. I'm not done with this yet--I can't be, when a singer whose talent had meant so much to me for so many years and who had struck me as so intelligent proves to be so disappointing a human being. Will it be possible to revel in his music again? Do I even want to?

Bill Smith said...

Rudeness -- or, in this case, meanness -- is a weak man's imitation of strength.

Ouch Website said...

Hi Sunny.

I'm a (disabled) researcher for the BBC's disability website, Ouch.

The concert incident's been only vaguely reported in the UK and we're trying to figure out exactly what happened.

It's interesting to read your experiences... If you feel so inclined, could you drop us an email at so we can ask you a couple of things. If not, feel free to ignore this message and thanks for writing about it.

Thanks very much

The Ouch team

Sunny said...

Christa: Thank you for reading. It's comforting to me to have someone else who saw the incident the same way I did. I deeply regret not walking out. Hope you keep listening to Paul Simon!

Ann: Thanks for reading. I love the St. George Theatre! Was lucky enough to see Joan Baez there once. Such an itimate venue....sorry your daughter thinks AG's a jerk, although I think I have to agree with's quite painful for me to do so, as I so love the music. I, too, am struggling to come to terms with the arrogance and ego on display when all I wanted was an evening of memories and song.

Bill: Very well said! Thanks for reading!

OUCH: I sent you an e-mail and am happy to answer any question you may have.

Renie said...

As we all know there are always two sides to a story.

It appears to be your intention of slandering Art Garfunkel’s reputation due to his recent appearance at the Turning Stone Resort in New York. As those of us who were there know, there was an unknown constant and dissonant sound during Art’s poetry recital. It was quite difficult to ascertain where or from whom these sounds were coming from. It disrupted the show to the point Art stopped and waited for quiet so the audience would be able to hear him. He did this more than once. Eventually it was evident the behavior was from a developmentally disabled person in the audience. After several attempts by Art to proceed with the show, he stated "I'm as sympathetic as anyone for the handicapped, but I am trying to do a show.” At this junction, the person accompanying the disabled person got up to push the wheelchair bound person out of the theater. Art’s remarks were in no way insulting or berating to the disabled person. On the contrary, we believe the remarks were geared toward the insensitive person accompanying the disabled person who didn’t seem to notice how disruptive this was for the audience or, if they did notice, didn’t care.

In our opinion, fault lies with the behavior of the individual who accompanied the disabled person. How could this person not know they were going to a concert where the atmosphere would be more on the side of ‘easy listening’ music rather than ‘stadium rock’ music? Were they not aware of the involuntary or untimely behavior many disabled people are challenged with?

Is it appropriate to allow unruly children to disrupt worshippers at church services because they are children; or is it appropriate to keep a crying baby in a theater because babies cry. Obviously it is not. Why then is it wrong to ask to have any disruptive person step outside. Are we carrying political correctness so far that the right of one outweighs the rights of many because the person was disabled?

It seems you believe your interpretation of Art’s actions reflects Art’s opinion of all developmentally disabled people. You, along with a few people appear to believe you have the right to judge Art’s entire character and career due to observance of one incident without making any attempt to learn his intent. We have known Art Garfunkel for ten years and can attest to the fact that he is not at all an insensitive person to the challenges of developmentally disabled people. One of his closest and dearest friends is one of the chief architects of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This is an issue of great significance to Art. He has performed at multiple benefits where all proceeds are given to charities for the disabled.

It appears that we are witnessing here a rash and carp behavior. The irony of your act is your own blindness to your offensive behavior. It seems you are attempting to malign Art’s reputation with childish and insulting remarks for the sole intent of spreading uncultured comments.

You can recount the incident
anyway you like but you should realize you were not the artist performing on the stage nor do you know Art or his intentions. We each see events through our own filter. If you wish to interpret events through a negative filter that is your right but it doesn’t mean it is reality. People are people. Disabled and not disabled. You want Art to show respect but you fail to give him the same.

Sunny said...

Renie.....You are entitled to your opinion, as I am to mine. From where I was sitting, I had a good view of what happened. These people were not intentionally disruptive. In fact, had the music continued, any noises may have gone completely unnoticed as these folks were enjoying the concert initially, as I was. Several others chose to leave after his comments, people I believe to have been unrelated to those with the handicapped individual.

It would never be my intention to slander. I know that nothing I can say will alter anyone's career in any way. He's still Art Garfunkel and I'm nobody. And that's fine with me. But I also don't want to live in a world where people just casually look away when something like this happens. I understand what goes into putting on a performance; I also understand that it can be done without being mean to a paying guest.

I can't help it if others have chosen to pick this up and run with it. The purpose of my blog is for me to keep in touch with friends and family....I don't know how so much attention to these posting has been generated. That has not been my doing. Obviously I hit a nerve. I am not sorry about that. Too many people in that Show Room left as uncomfortable as I was after what should have been a lovely concert.

Had I wished to be disrespectful, I could have hollered and made a ruckus during his concert instead of sitting through the rest of his concert. Instead I will choose not to listen to his music again.

Anonymous said...

Art was recently having lunch at a restaurant I work at. This is in a small city in Kansas. He came in with his road crew/band. After they were seated, I wandered out to see if I could get an autograph or photo. My mother (who is now in her late 70's) was a huge fan and once traveled 4 hours to go to a Simon & Garfunkel concert in Wichita in the late 1960's (that was a big deal for a working class family with 4 kids.) I so wanted to give her either a photo or autograph. I walked up to his table, and he was having a conversation with someone in his group, so I just stood off to the side for a moment. He finally looked up (glared daggers at me was more like it - I will never forget the mean look in his eyes!) and said, "Excuse me, but we're having a conversation here." I mumbled that I just wanted to ask him something and he said, "Well I do mind, I'm having a conversation here!" My face turned beet red and I left feeling totally humiliated. Now I can understand his not wanting to be bothered and I can respect that. But his manner was incredibly and unnecessarily rude. I guess I would think at his age, he might still appreciate that anyone still cares who he is.

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