I often bragged to people at work that my senior year in high school I sang a solo in the Linsly Military Institute talent show. When my fellow associates prodded me to sing for them, I always refused. However, I did foolishly agree to sing a solo for everyone at the Lexus headquarters office, but only if we achieved our goal of 16,000 sales.
While the high school story is true, my singing abilities are deficient in every way possible. Misako Togo, President Yuki Togo’s wife, heard about my singing and inquired if I would be willing to sing at their home when they had guest for dinner. I declined.
I had hoped the commitment to sing would be forgotten but it was not. Fortunately, my assistant, Linda, devised a plan that would prevent me from making a fool of myself. I would sing in the lobby of the headquarters building after 5:00 p.m. Linda hired a live band to back me up and play over my singing. Her idea was that I would not appear because I had fallen seriously ill. A friend would sing in my place. I would dress like Elvis and sing two songs, “Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender.”
I assumed everyone would want to get home and wouldn’t stay to hear me sing. But as I waited to go out on the stage, I could hear a growing volume of voices coming from the lobby. I peeked out the door, and to my dismay the lobby was packed to overflowing. Worse yet, my wife Cynthia had decided to bring some of the other wives and was sitting in the front row. Next to Cynthia was Senior Vice President Bob McCurry. To my horror, Mr. Togo and his wife were also in the front row dressed in formal attire. They were to attend a Long Beach Symphony charity event later that evening. My heart sank. I was trapped.
The band was playing, and the audience was getting restless. An announcement was made over the public address system that I had taken ill and had asked a friend to sing in my place. A noticeable groan arose from the audience, but as “Elvis” bounded onto the stage the roar was deafening.
I looked down at the front row. McCurry gave me a withering look. He was making a slashing sign across his neck. I could read his lips. “Get down! Get down!” He turned to Cynthia, “Tell him to get down.” Cynthia had a helpless expression, pleading with me to do something. Yuki Toga was wide-eyed, but his wife seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself. I forced an uneasy smile.
With a deep southern drawl, Elvis apologized for Illingworth’s failure to show. The band started to play “Hound Dog.” Elvis flashed the rings on his hand at the audience, waved his white scarf, and started sing. He was flat and off key, but it didn’t matter. Everyone was clapping and cheering.
When he finished “Hound Dog” the crowd went wild. Cynthia approached the stage and gave Elvis a dozen long stem roses. Flowers, fruit, panties, and all sorts of things started pelting Elvis. The cheer went up, “Encore, encore!” Elvis was a hit! Standing in the glow of unending adulation, he became intoxicated with the idea that he could have been rock star!
Elvis relented and agreed to sing one more song, “Love Me Tender.” Cynthia folded her hands over her heart. The audience swooned and sang along. Then it was over. The audience protested, wanting more, but Elvis was exhausted and knew when to quit.
After Elvis left the stage, the audience crushed all around him. Some in the audience praised him, knowing how difficult it was for a good singer to sing poorly. McCurry seemed confused by it all and just shook his head. Misako Togo was not confused. She came excitedly running up to Elvis, grinning broadly, and grabbed his right hand in her two hands. She enthusiastically shook his hand and exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Illingworth! You were wooonderful!” Cynthia rolled her eyes and looked away.
“There’s an opportune time for everything, a right time for everything on earth. A right time to cry and another to laugh.” Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 (MSG)
One of the most coveted and highly prized awards announced at the Detroit International Auto Show is the Motor Trend “Car of the Year.” Competition in 1990 between Infiniti Q45 and Lexus LS400 for “Import Car of the Year” was intense and being closely watched by all the engineers in Japan. Company pride was at stake. The results would stun everyone.
(To be continued in “1990 Car of the Year”)