‘Have I Condescended?’

In my Tuesday column, I related a story about Heifetz — a story I heard from Schuyler Chapin, who was once his tour manager. The great violinist was supposed to play a recital in one of the Dakotas. There was a terrible snowstorm. Just a few people had managed to make it to the hall. Heifetz came to the foot of the stage and said, “Seeing as there are so few of us, why don’t we just retire to my hotel and share a nice dinner?” A man at the back called out, “Mister, I drove for two hours in a blizzard to get here, and I’m not leavin’ until you sing something!”

This is what I wrote in my column — and I should say, before quoting, that I had not identified Heifetz as a violinist: “(Heifetz, please know, was a violinist, not a singer — hence the charm of the story.) (Have I condescended? One of the hardest things to know, in writing, is how much information to give.)”

A friend e-mails me, “The other evening on Jeopardy, not one of the three contestants could identify what instrument Heifetz played. None of them were young, either. So sad.”

By the way, Bill Buckley referred to his friend Schuyler Chapin — it was through Bill that I met Chapin — as one of the great raconteurs ever. I can only agree. Oh, what a storyteller. He could keep going and going, and never bore you, never fail to delight. An uncanny gift.

P.S. The only problem with the South Dakota story — or is it North? — is Heifetz’s kind invitation to dinner. He was known as . . . severe, let’s say.

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