Friday, April 22, 2011

How I finally met West Hills Sybil

So, I'm sitting on a bench outside the Clarence Brown Theatre waiting to see "The Music Man."

I had purchased a cheap ticket to the preview show because I love this musical. Jenn couldn't go due to a prior commitment; I was there by myself.

The doors weren't open yet, so I'd stepped outside to wait, since it was such a pretty night. A minute or two later, up walks an old woman using a walker.

I glance up. She looks familiar. I can't quite place the face.

We make small talk at first, about UT, about the play, about the director. She tells me she sold tickets for years at UT's Carousel.

Then she proceeds to tell me her life story.

Her husband ran a store down in the Old City. She's from New Jersey, met him in Miami Beach, at the beach. She had a hip replacement a few years ago and all of her children came to be with her. Her youngest is now 57.

"I'm famous," she says, and pulls photos out of her purse of her with Bruce Pearl and Russell Biven. She says Ken Schwall has had her on WBIR. She says Bill Snyder has had her up on stage at the Tennessee.

She tells me about the regulars down at the food court at the mall, including, "one of those Elvis Presley jerks." She tells me she grew up on a chicken farm in northern New Jersey. She tells me she misses it.

I'm thinking, "This woman would be a story."

It's getting close to curtain, so I ask her her name.

"Sybil," she says.

And it clicks.

"You're not West Hills Sybil, are you?"

"Yes, I am!"

West Hills Sybil has been a fixture in our West Side Shopper-News for several years. She is a regular at Long's Drug Store. I had never met her.

Pulling out a card, I say, "Wait until you see which paper I write for."

She pulls out a Shopper clipping of herself at Long's, grins, and asks if she can keep my card.

"Of course!" I say. "You are famous! I can't wait until I tell Sandra Clark about this."

"Sandra Clark?" she says. "The writer? I know her!"

"That's my boss!"

West Hills Sybil grins.

"I hope you enjoy the show," I say, and I go into the theater, shaking my head, amused and amazed and affirmed again that Jake Mabe is right where he's supposed to be.

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