Last night, Mr. Possibility and I attended the preview party for the new location of the Copacabana. For those of you unfamiliar with the Copa, it’s the iconic nightclub that launched the careers of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, a place frequented by performers like Frank Sinatra, and the inspiration behind Barry Manilow’s song.
Basically, ask your grandparents – or ask me.
After fourteen years of piano lessons, I developed a certain affinity for playing the greats, both classically and the songs bore from the Rat Pack. There is something romantic and beautiful about that period – where love hung on strings and was cherished instead of something we all felt entitled to. I’m sure those in the era worried about finding their match like so many do today, but at least then there was a certain innocence to relationships, and class was still in style.
I was excited about the event because I expected to be brought back to the time of the Copa dancers, to courting, and to dancing that didn’t involve grinding in spandex with bump-its in our hair. Not to my surprise, the crowd was primarily older – I was probably among the youngest in attendance. The food was incredible and bountiful, the music continuous, and the sangria refreshing – but something was missing.
Even with a new location and the same owner, the Copacabana had lost its luster.
Sure, the space was beautiful and I’m sure will attract tourists near-and-far, but that’s the problem. As I sadly reiterated my opinion to Mr. Possibility, he said, “Well, it’s not that time anymore, clubs pop up and have their ride and then they’re gone. We’re onto the next thing.” In the age of over-demand, where everything is simply a thought and a Smartphone away, we don’t grow attached to things as we used to. Even nightclubs that gave some of the best singers their humble beginnings.
Toward the end of the evening, a handful of original Copa dancers, now well over 80, graced the stage and told their story. They each held more enthusiasm individually than the current group of Copa dancers did collectively. You could see, even from far away, the love they had for the Copacabana and for New York. This place symbolized their youth, where they grew into themselves and their sexuality, where they mingled with artists who would become legends. This was part of their story; the Copa was a place that helped define them as girls, and now brightened their eyes as seasoned women.
As Mr. Possibility draped his arms around me and kissed my cheek affectionately, I looked at him and asked, “What will my story be?” I wasn’t looking for a direct answer, he knew that and didn’t give me one other than a few sweet compliments and words of encouragement, but as we walked through Times Square to another bar for some more sangria, I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind:
When I’m 80, how will I view this time in New York? Will I look back and replace all my memories of being flawed as visions of me young, healthy, and beautiful? Will Mr. Possibility be a fleeting face that I call the first man I truly cared for in New York? Will my friends, the ones that took me so long to find in this city, still be my friends then? What will I think of this blog? Or of my writing style as it is right now?
I’ve always imagined myself growing older and one day having the wisdom that only comes from experiences. I see myself still active, still pushing forward, still thinking creatively, if my body allows. Like the majority of Americans who fear being alone, I don’t want to be by myself rocking in a chair on the front porch of an old plantation house in Charleston, but I also want to make sure I have that look.
That look that those Copa dancers had. That look that says, “I’ve lived a good life. I’ve seen many wondrous things. I’ve tried things and tested my limits. I’ve explored my sexuality and what it means to be a woman. I’ve liberated myself and traveled this world and I know this city. I’ve loved and been loved. And I’m here, at my age, to show my face and my cryptic smile that’ll never reveal all of the joys I’ve had with people and places that you’ll never see again or meet.”
Daily gratitude: Today, I’m thankful for the laughs I’ve had to give me the lines that already appearing on my face.