Betsy and Bubbles, Take 2
Bernadette Peters, Roberta Peters, Beverly Sills, Betsy
"The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe." Oscar Wilde
Last week, in response to the death of opera star Beverly Sills, I told a story about my sister Betsy's memorable mistake involving the celebrated diva, familiarly known as Bubbles.
Like most Betsy stories--and Betsy herself--a few details got misplaced. It turns out the ones I missed include another of her legendary gaffes and make the story even better.
To catch you up, here's an edited version of the Betsy/Bubbles vignette:
Their meeting took place about 25 years ago in Manhattan's Russian Tea Room, where Betsy noticed the prominent Sills party.Betsy emailed to set me straight on some small details and remind me of the priceless epilog.
She went directly to Beverly Sills and said I'm sorry to interrupt but I know how close you are to my parents (mentioning their names). I wanted to tell them I saw you and said hello.
Bubbles didn't miss a beat. She smiled charmingly, shook Betsy's hand and replied, Oh yes, so kind of you to introduce yourself. Please give them my best. It was lovely to meet you.
As Betsy headed away from the table, she heard Ms. Sills whisper to the group, "Does anyone know that girl's parents?"
What?? Betsy's brain went into overdrive... opera... Sills... no... Beverly... no, not Beverly... who?? who?? oh, NO! Roberta...
The light dawned. Not Beverly Sills. Roberta Peters!
Sills' fellow Metropolitan Opera star, international diva Roberta Peters and her husband have been close friends with our parents for years.
They didn't know Beverly Sills and her husband at all.
I got the right venue in the wrong part of the story. The Bubbles meeting took place in Cafe Des Artistes (our sister Judy was there too).
Fast forward several years. Our parents were in New York having dinner with--as Betsy says--the real Roberta Peters and her husband. Where? You got it. The Russian Tea Room.
By then they all knew and had laughed over the story of Betsy's miscue with Bubbles.
Betsy's office was nearby, she relished the invitation to join them. She'd be smooth and sophisticated, make up for her mistake, do our parents proud.
[Important note: at the time, the famous I Love New York campaign was in full swing, featuring a virtual Who's Who of New York celebrities in a variety of advertising and promotion venues.
One of the more inspired (or annoying) promotions included taxi safety announcements. Every time you got in a cab, a different celebrity's recorded voice reminded you to buckle up.]
Betsy jumped out of her cab, hurried in to the Russian Tea Room, sat down, took a deep breath and proudly announced to Roberta Peters, "You just told me to buckle my seat belt."
Roberta gently replied, "No, Betsy, that was Bernadette Peters."
Way to go, Bets ... 0 for 2.