MEETING PETER YARROW…THREE TIME’S A CHARM!
My friend Sally and I just went up to UCLA for the Festival of Books where Peter was performing and signing his latest 3 books, Puff the Magic Dragon, Sleepytime Songs and Favorite Folk Songs. While we have these books, and signed by him to boot, we wanted to hear him again, plus I needed to pick up the books for my younger daughter. (Last fall, she wasn’t interested. Now she’s teaching preschool and is VERY interested. Kids!!!)
We found the venue, went to one of the food courts to get lunch, and brought it back to eat and listen to the group who was on the Etc. Stage ahead of Peter – a Latin band that was very good. Once we finished eating, we moved to some front seats which were still available. I’m glad we did, as by the time Peter actually came on stage, the place was getting full. We could see Peter arrive by golf cart and then we saw him giving directions to the sound guys in the back of the venue, while the Latin group was still performing.
Once Peter came on, he did a little bit of sound check with bits and pieces of “The Marvelous Toy”, before he launched into that song. He brought up a young boy to help with the “whirr” directing, and that boy was not shy, or afraid of a microphone, and at the end, he took a big bow with Peter! Peter said after the end of the song that it was nice to see some familiar and also not-familiar faces in the audience today. I waggled a “hi” finger at Peter and he grinned back at me, so I knew that Sally and I were two that he recognized. Peter went into a plug for Operation Respect at that point, so I fully expected “Don’t Laugh at Me” to be the next song, but it wasn’t. Instead, he went into several songs from his new book coming out in August.
Of course Peter invited us all to sing along! “The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night” was the first one, then everyone could sing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” because most people know it! He invited us to do the echoes on “I’m on My Way” – his version goes a little differently than what I know – well, that’s the folk process!
Peter went into a political commentary at that point. Since he was only given 50 minutes for performance, he kept that very short, and went into “Don’t Laugh at Me”, adding a lot of extra stuff on the bridge to the song.
From there, Peter went into the song “Day is Done”, explaining that this is the 2nd book in the one-song book series. He gave us both a history of how the books came to be (not his idea, he said, but he jumped on them when asked) and what the words to the song “Day is Done” mean.
Our last two songs were “Going to the Zoo” (normally Noel’s song!) and “Puff the Magic Dragon”. During “Zoo”, he had the audience chip in names of animals and also words that rhyme with them so that he could make up new verses as he went (like llamas in pajamas, as Sally and I were trying to toss up at him). He invited any audience members who wanted to be able to say that they sang “Puff the Magic Dragon” with him on the stage, so I headed up. (My 2nd graders will be amazed.) I was one of several adults up on the stage, and didn’t get to share a microphone, but Peter saw me and just smiled at me in that way of his!
After the concert, Peter headed down to the signing booth. There were already loads of people in line. So Sally got in line and I went to buy the books – one Puff and Sleepytime for my daughter, and one Puff for Sally. As we got closer, I realized that there was another man sitting in the booth and signing with Peter – so I wondered if it was the illustrator. One of Peter’s assistants told me, “That’s Lenny Lipton.” My eyes about popped open – the man was signing just the Puff books, so I knew my daughter’s copy was going to have Peter’s and Lenny’s signatures!
Once up at Peter, he told me “hi” and didn’t mind signing EVERYTHING I passed to him quickly. That included the two books that I had just purchased, but also – he signed my PP&M original album back of the cover with Noel’s signature, and I mentioned to him that I’d met Noel 3 weeks ago in Ojai and thought he was a sweetie. He also signed my Puff DVD that had *just* arrived in yesterday’s mail (replacing some 20 year old VHS copies).
I asked Peter a couple of questions, which I received answers to. (Email me at teacherlady19 at hotmail if you want to know what I asked him and the answers I got.) He gave me a kiss again, and then I moved on to meet Lenny, who was busy signing my Puff video cover. I told Lenny, “thank you for your blog about Puff’s origins”, and that I’d gotten into a little trouble teaching Puff because of the drug story, but that the blog entry allowed me to keep teaching the song. He rolled his eyes and nodded and said something like how amazing it is that this rumor keeps on going 40 years later.
Sally and I moved on. We’d hoped to go over and hear Kristin Chenoweth. Unfortunately, she wasn’t singing today – only doing a Q&A. We couldn’t hear the questions and could barely see her to answer. We were also informed that the line for her signing was already closed, so we once again headed for another venue.
That also proved fruitless – I wanted to get to Eric Carle, a children’s book author and illustrator (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). His signing line for Target was already closed, and the one for 4:30 was almost closed. We headed home instead.