The Lost Lamb
For Katherine Day
Warner Brothers Studio A, January 1954
There's a saying old says that love is blind
Still we're often told "seek and ye shall find"
So I'm going to seek a certain girl I've had in mind
Looking everywhere, haven't found her yet
She's the big affair I cannot forget
Only girl I ever think of will regret
Ira Gershwin, lyricist and erstwhile lesser known brother of George Gershwin, sat at the piano off to the side on the sound stage, pounding out a melody from the composer, Harold Arlen. A Star Is Born was in the can, and he and Arlen were considering a rewrite on one of the songs. A few moments later, he gave up, feeling frustrated over the block he had reached. He sighed deeply and went to take his glasses off to clean them, but realized he wasn’t wearing any. A few minutes of just leaning on the music stand gave way to a familiar tune and lyric that he and his brother had written years before. And a few seconds after that he was interrupted by the presence of a smallish figure and a very slight, almost birdlike voice.
“Mr. Gershwin? Can I ask you a question?” The boy sat on the edge of the stage, his broom leaning up against the set. He was quite nervous; maybe not as nervous if he had grabbed George’s attention, but the composer was chatting up a chorus girl. Ira, on the other hand, was less in demand as far as fans go, and while Ira wasn’t upset that he had gotten the boy’s ear, so to speak, he would have been much happier if the lad wasn’t a lad at all.
“Sure, kid. Shoot.” He stuck the pencil he was holding behind his ear. He had been spending the better part of an hour pounding out the Arlen’s melody, trying to make some sense with his elusive lyrics.
“My Mom says you wrote this ‘spressly for Miss Lawrence. Do you do that with all your songs? I mean…write ‘em for friends?” The boy looked back at the set. George Gershwin was leaning up against the cardboard wall and the girl in front of him was happy for the attention. Ira watched it play out a thousand times, no matter where they went or who they saw.
“Yeah…well, a lot of times, for sure. Why do you ask?”
“I…” The boy put his head down.
I'd like to add his initials to my monogram
Tell me where's the shepherd for this lost lamb
‘Mom says…I gee, Mr. Gershwin!” Ira looked at the boy, his eyes squinting ever so slightly to make do, since he had left his eyeglasses back at the hotel.
“You’re Mary Cohen’s boy, aren’t you? I’d recognize you anywhere!” The boy lifted his head only long enough to nod before lowering his face once again.
“Your mom and I go back a ways,” Ira said with a wry grin. He realized that he had just looked at a child with a leer on his face over the boy’s mother.
“Geez, kid…sorry. But ya gotta admit that your mom sure is a looker.” Ira found himself staring at the boy, and as he gazed, his eyes widened in wonder.
“You sure you’re a boy?” He kidded, but the boy took it for the observation it was, and his face reddened to a dark crimson.
“Oh, come on, kid…you gotta admit you do look a lot like your mom.” Ira shook his head at his own words and stared at the boy again.
“Mr. Gershwin? Mom says you’re a man of honor.” Ira didn’t know about that, but he had always done right by her, even if he never proposed. After a while, between his schedule and commitments and his lack of commitment, they drifted apart. And now she was a single mother with a boy nearly grown up. How time flew!
“Yeah, kid. I try. So what if I am; what’s it to you?”
“Mom says you….well…she said to ask you to look at my eyes, okay. Just that. She said you’d know what’s what.” The boy put his head down once again.
“Well, I can’t very well look at your eyes if you ain’t lookin’ at me, kid. Let me see.” Ira laughed, but the boy still stared at his shoes.
“Okay…you got me. Let’s see those eyes.” He reached over and cupped the boy’s chin and lifted it. He leaned closer and stared. In an instant Ira’s expression had changed from lighthearted to fearful and anxious; changing once more in another moment to awe and surprisingly elated.
“She say anything….Who’s your father, kid?”
“You are, Mr. Gershwin.”
“Holy shit! Sorry, kid!” Ira was tempted to deny it, but the boy’s eyes favored Ira’s and George’s mother Rose Gershovitz.
“Gee, kid. I’m really sorry. I didn’t know. I swear to God I didn’t know.” Ira shook his head; more out of embarrassment than denial. The boy stood and stared back, his eyes filled with tears.
“Where’s your mom, kid? And hell, what’s your name. I can’t keep calling you kid.”
“Mom passed a couple of years ago. I live with the Mr. Marchioni...the Key Grip... ‘n his wife. They’re nice folk and all.”
Ira became very uncomfortable. He didn’t know what to say to a child he had unwittingly abandoned years before, and nothing he could say would bring back the boy’s mother.
“Gee, that’s great that you’ve got someone. So what’s your name?”
“You promise not to laugh! I couldn’t handle that, Mr. Gershwin.” It was so strange; the boy and he had acknowledged their relationship but he kept calling him Mr. Gershwin. Ira wasn’t about to correct him, since he wasn’t ready for a brand new thirteen year old baby boy. Leonore wouldn’t be very happy with it at all, but he knew her enough to believe she’d accept the child…maybe by the time he was twenty-one or so.
“Well, folks here call me Danny, after Mr. Kaye?”
“So your mother named you Daniel?”
“No sir, she did not.” The boy’s face reddened once again.
“Okay, I give…what did she name you?”
“She was really fond of Jeffrey Lynn.” The boy sighed.
“Well, Jeff is a fine name. Jeffrey Cohen. Nice American name!”
“Well, yes, it is, Mr. Gershwin! But she didn’t name me Jeffrey. My cousin’s name is Jeffrey and she didn’t want to get her sister…my Aunt Betty? She didn’t want to get her upset, so she named me….” The boy started to tear up again, but the look in his eyes didn’t seem all that angry or sad; he had a melancholy look about him. Ira tilted his head and stared at the boy. The boy who bore a very strong resemblance to both his mother and the grandmother he never met. And Ira smiled.
“Well, I guess if Mr. Dana Andrews can be a Hollywood star? I suppose Hollywood might just be ready for Lynn Cohen?” He laughed softly and the boy leaned closer and burst into tears, holding on to the father he had never known. Ira pulled the boy close and patted him awkwardly on the back.
“Do you mind, Mr. Gershwin?”
“That you have a girl’s name? Oh, Hell, there are a lot more important and serious things in life than having the wrong name. It’s okay.”
“No, Mr. Gershwin. I mean do you mind that you got stuck with a daughter instead of a son?
There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he turns out to be
Someone to watch over me
I'm a little lamb who's lost in a wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me
Although he may not be the man some girls think of
As handsome to my heart
He carries the key
Won't you tell him please to put on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me
Someone to watch over me
Next: They're Writing Songs of Love
Someone to Watch Over Me
Words and Music by
Ira and George Gershwin
as performed by Miss Linda Ronstadt
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