A couple of years ago a very funny thing happened at the Lyric Opera of Chicago involving orchestra musicians, administrators, and wacky street musician hustlers. I did not witness any of this, but I have heard the same tale from several Lyric musicians, so I hope I’ve got all of my facts right. Several people who read this blog witnessed this, so please feel free to chime in and let me know if I missed anything or otherwise screwed up the story.
A few years ago the Lyric Opera of Chicago decided to offer for sale some really high end jackets. They basically looked like high school letterman jackets, with the Lyric Opera logo on them, patches on the elbow, and the like. They were very pricey jackets with the person’s name on the front and the Lyric logo on the back.
One of the Lyric Opera musicians (I’ll call him Biff) had always wanted a letterman jacket like that, and he decided to get one of them. After he got it, Biff realized that it actually didn’t look very cool at all. If you think about it, it is kind of strange to walk around wearing a letterman jacket and not be in high school. It’s not exactly a fashion statement in the grown-up world.
Now, outside of the Civic Opera House (home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago) there are always these really annoying hucksters playing loud bad saxophone and asking for change. In the world of Chicago street hucksters these guys definitely fall on the more annoying end of the spectrum. It is always jarring to walk out of the opera house and immediately be assaulted by these wild and annoying guys.
Anyway, Biff was walking out of the hall after a performance and one of the saxophone hucksters started trying to hustle him (as usual).
“No….. Hey, would you like this jacket?”
Biff gave the huckster his new Lyric Opera jacket and the guy put it on.
A few days later some patrons stated complaining about this annoying Lyric Opera of Chicago musician named Biff who was out on the street playing loud bad saxophone. This huckster’s new jacket made him look like an employee of the Opera, and this crazy “employee” begging for change was not exactly what the Opera administration wanted their well-heeled patrons to have in their mind when they thought of the Opera.
“I say, Chesterton, they must not pay those opera musicians very well. As soon as the opera is done this Biff fellow puts on his jacket, takes out his saxophone, and plays for spare change!”
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who gave the annoying saxophone guy the jacket, and the Lyric management wasn’t too happy with Biff. They sent someone out to the saxophone guy to ask for the jacket back. The saxophonist said that he’d sell it to them…for $500! I believe that the management took the guy to a store and ended up buying him another really nice (and expensive) jacket to replace it.
[note factual correction in the comments below. -J]
I like the idea of this crazy guy hanging outside the hall in Lyric Opera of Chicago garb honking away on his saxophone and bugging the patrons. I’ll bet that buying jackets off of street musicians wasn’t in the job description of the person who had to go confront the guy.