Martha’s Vineyard, MA – “Sharing Mom’s Spotlight” – Hot Tin Roof – August 28, 1999

This stage is where I had my first taste of the spotlight. Back then I knew, curled around my mom’s stems, shaking from head to toe with nerves, I never wanted to leave. I’d sung backup “Lalas” on a song called “Jesse” for my mom’s most recent album and she invited me to join her on stage for a live performance of it.

Sally on the “Lalas”

I was both terrified and enticed by the invitation. I thought “Maybe, if I’m good enough, I’ll get a record deal and go on the road and get to skip school and my friends will like me because I’m famous and not just because my parents are famous and then I’ll feel worthy of being my parent’s child and not have to feel ashamed of being unworthy of the life I was born into and try to make myself invisible or people please to make up for not being good enough, pretty enough or talented enough.” I probably didn’t have words to go with these last thoughts, the nuances of those would come to the surface only after years of excavation in therapy, but that was the spirit of them. I stood in the shadow, stage right waiting for Mom to say my name, and then finally…

Photo Credit: Peter Simon

“For this next song, I’d like to introduce my daughter Sarah Maria, or as we call her ‘Sally’ to the stage.” The Hot Tin Roof was packed to the gills. A roaring cheer erupted from the crowd as I stepped into the spotlight and took my first hit of off the stage light. It electrified me like heroin. I knew immediately, the way a junkie knows the first time they taste their drug of choice, I’d need more. My eyes adjusted to the light as I approached my mom. She’d pulled her mic off the stand and held it to my mouth. I said something nervously like “hu-llo,” which lit up the crowd with laughter and more applause and made me wish I’d said more cause it felt so damn good to feel their attention and adoration.
Mom counted off and I stared up at her waiting for my cue. There were other performances, other “lalas” on other stages. But after the Hot Tin Roof, I was only ever chasing the dragon. That performance was the closest the stage has ever brought me to seeing God. It was an out of body experience. I felt my feet go numb, my breath caught in the butterfly netting between heartbeats, the room spun and all the smiles in the audience were pumped, like one big jucy hit of cold air into my tiny 4-year-old body.

Now, it was my turn to hold the spotlight at the Hot Tin Roof and invite my mom to the mic. It was one of those moonless, chilly, fall nights and trees whirled their leaves like pompoms in the dark. The venue was packed to the rafters with familiar faces and I joked between songs, “I think it’s fair to say I’ve either kissed most of you or that we’re related.”

When I introduced Carly Simon, the applause came in deafening waves. She sauntered out swinging a strut so familiar I almost forgot we weren’t back at home in our living room. I was so proud to have her on stage with me and imagined how she must have felt, 20 years ago, watching little Sally, wander into her spotlight. Mom was as shimmering—perfect, gorgeous, dazzling, and mesmerizing as ever. We sang in perfect harmony, hamming it up for the crowd and dancing in moves we rarely displayed outside of the privacy of our backyard. Being together on stage, on THIS stage in particular, was the most fun I’ve EVER had, and at the end of the night—after the stage lights were cut, and the doors had been kicked open and the scent of wood fires filled the air, and the August winds rushed around the club like a Tasmanian devil, I was still intoxicated from the buzz of the stage.

The leftovers from the crowd huddled around the bar, in patches of ferrydust-filled halo lighting. It was just like old times. As a summer job at 18, I used to take tickets at the Hot Tin Roof and I remember sitting slumped over, shoes off, throwing limes, and slinging beers down the bar to the other staff after the last encore had been sung. It was nice to see the post-show tradition lived on.

Jeremy Lichter
—the guitar player who didn’t work out—was there. He said he was playing in a cover band called “Weed.” While we’d parted ways under not-so-good terms, there were no longer any hard feelings. Just goes to prove time does heal all wounds.

Reader interactions

4 Replies to “Martha’s Vineyard, MA – “Sharing Mom’s Spotlight” – Hot Tin Roof – August 28, 1999”

  1. I’m sure it wasn’t easy living in the spotlight with famous parents. Your writing reflects that. (Didn’t your parents own that venue?) As I read your diary notes I can’t help but think there is a book in there.

    1. Yes, my folks started that club in the early 80s I think. My mom has always had an association with it and it was a BIG part of my childhood.

  2. Ms Taylor, I enjoy your “Tale from the Road” emails, and this most recent where you mention singing in the song Jesse.
    I sent your mom a letter about a decade ago, via the address of the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, who published Touched By The Sun. My questions were 1) Who is Jesse and 2) who is Davy? Do you know? Thanks so, so, much, from a lifelong fan, in Branford CT

    1. Hey Catherine, I don’t think I DO know. Isn’t that funny?

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