Last night was the opening for Lonette McKee's show Can't Help Lovin' at the Algonquin Hotel. My family and I took our seats in The Oak Room around 8 p.m. and I began to get giddy with excitement. It was really happening. I'd designed an outfit for Patti LaBelle years ago, but I never got a chance to see her wear it. This was going to be the first time that I would witness a celebrity actually wearing one of my looks. It was almost surreal.
Before the show was about to begin, I excused myself from the table to go to the restroom. And I was hoping to see if Lonette was waiting in the wings. Then I saw her, standing in the hotel lobby preparing to enter the show space to begin her set. She asked, "Oh Wilbur, did you come out here to check on me?" "Absolutely," I lied only partially. She confessed that she'd had difficulty weaving the grosgrain ribbon through the button holes on her french cuffed shirt. I immediately went to work threading the cuffs with the ribbon. It took about 15 minutes before I had the perfect bow! And then I had to return to my table because the show was about to begin. Oh well, my bathroom break would have to come after the show! It didn't matter. My bladder issues took a backseat to Lonette's stage presence and the way she carried me and the rest of her audience on a journey through song of some of her greatest moments in show business. Songs from her films "Sparkle", "Round Midnight", and "Cotton Club" were pitch perfect fabulous and a couple of Billie Holliday faves were arranged in such a way that breathed new life into them. She also sang a few songs that she had written over the years and when her musical director Bette Sussman joined her at the piano for one selection it was an awe-inspiring moment that I will never forget. I never would have thought as a little boy of 9 years old that I would grow up and work with this woman from the silver screen whose beauty I dreamed about for so many nights. This was a wish fulfilled. And I hope there are many more dreams that turn into reality to come my way.