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Paul Shaffer Plays Downtown

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, October 22, 2009, at 10:24PM
PaulShaffer Ed Fuentes

Paul Shaffer playing "It's Raining Men," a tune he penned with Paul Jabara in 1979.

Downtown hit new heights in hipness on Thursday night with the visit of David Letterman sidekick Paul Shaffer. After a brief introduction, he peered out to the GRAMMY Museum audience and asked if anyone in the nearly-full house was from the Westside. Not many hands went up.

He bolted to the Baldwin piano to play a few swingin' bars of Petula Clark's "Downtown." No doubt, Shaffer knows how to play a room.

The Musical Director is touring to promote his new book "We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Showbiz Saga," a bio written with David Ritz that looks back at his career, including his days as Musical Director for Saturday Night Live.

"Why the book now?" asked GRAMMY Museum director Robert Santelli. "It's a nutty story," says Shaffer, who began to weave the tale of his life with veteran stage timing.

Shaffer began his career in 1972 when he was invited to be Musical Director for the Toronto production of "Godspell." The cast included Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Victor Garber, Martin Short and Dave Thomas, many of who later formed Second City Toronto (and later Second City Television).

Then there was the one about of him doing musical arrangements for Sammy Davis Jr. for a Letterman show in Las Vegas; or his role in forming The Blues Brothers; meeting James Brown for the first time; learning the "wall of sound" from Phil Spector so Darlene Love's annual Christmas Eve appearance could remain authentic; or the story about they he winged it during the unexpected Sonny and Cher reunion where they sang "I Got You, Babe."

The 200-seat Sound Stage theater was made for this kind of storytelling, and the scene almost made one wish Shaffer would just take the book and read it while at a piano.

If that idea ever makes it to a stage, Shaffer could introduce himself, while doing his impersonation of Don Kirshner, of course.


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