Blog No.3: My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind – Part 1 – Harry Nilsson & Stephen Sondheim


In my 40-odd years as an actor, puppeteer and movement choreographer in theatre, television and film I was fortunate and honoured enough to meet and work with some music legends – both human and places – from David Bowie to Capital Record Studios in LA. It’s only recently that I realised music has been with me my whole adult working life, in one form or another, and I thought I’d share these close encounters with you. So here goes….

Harry Nilsson in the 1970s

Getting drunk with Harry Nilsson – My first encounter will only be appreciated by those of a certain age or with knowledge of music history. For me, this one was totally unreal! My first job when I left Stanley, Co. Durham for the streets paved with gold that was London, was at the Mermaid Theatre as a printer and office boy during the day, and an usher in the theatre at night. One of the shows playing in 1975 was Harry Nilsson’s musical The Point. Now, Harry Nilsson was huge at the time, and one of his songs, Without You is an all-time great, and I was a big fan. So, imagine my amazement, when one night as I was sitting alone in the bar, Harry came in and asked this (almost) 18-year-old from Stanley if I’d like a drink? Of course, I said yes! Well, he was known for liking his brandy, it’s what help destroy his voice along with the cigarettes, so he kept buying me drinks and we got drunk and started discussing how you weighed a flame…as you do when you’re drunk. Oh for selfies in the ’70s! (Blue text are to external links.)

Sondheim in 1974

Stephen Sondheim asked me what I thought of his show? – Another unreal encounter at the Mermaid Theatre – where there were many of the non-music kind too – but this one was another strange one. There was me standing at the back of an almost-empty auditorium watching the technical rehearsal for Side By Side By Sondheim, which was a celebration of his music, when I became aware of someone standing next to me in the darkness. Then, this soft American voice asks: “What d’ya think?” Just as I was replying and saying I thought it was fantastic, but I was biased, I turned to see the question was emanating from Sondheim himself. Good job I didn’t say I hated it!  He just smiled and said, “Thanks”.

In Part 2 there’ll be more strange close encounters, this time with Elton John and Paul McCartney.

Thanks, as always, for reading and please do leave a Star Rate it at the top of the Page (good or bad, I don’t mind), or Like it below if you’re a member of WordPress. You can also leave a Comment below. Until next time,



Harry Nilsson- From Wikipedia:

Stephen Sondheim: From Wikipedia. Public Domain

7 thoughts on “Blog No.3: My Close Encounters Of The Music Legend Kind – Part 1 – Harry Nilsson & Stephen Sondheim

  1. This is eerily like my youth, and from one usherette to usher in the theatre at night, I’m afraid if I shared my close encounters, with one of my favorite composers who is still on earth, there would be interesting comments. I will say this led me from Baltimore to NYC, and beyond. Anne Terri


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