Leonard Bernstein was one of the great composers and conductors of American music. This being the case there are great and bad legends that surround him. The following is an account of the legend that my father heard from a friend about Mr. Bernstein.

“My friend had just finished performing in a musical that had the music written for it by Leonard Bernstein. It was having its West Coast premiere and the musical was so anticipated that the musicians that were hired were getting paid very generously. He was making so much money he went out and bought a brand new sports car. I think it was a Datsun or something like it. He also got a few new mouthpieces. Anyways he had found out that Bernstein was going to be at the premiere and his friend was going to throw a little get together after the first performance and had invited Bernstein. So, my friend decided that it was going to be well worth the time to go and thought it would at the least be very interesting to meet him. Anyways he went to the get together and told himself that no matter what he was going to treat him like anyone else that showed up at the party. So time went by and things were going really well and no Leonard. It got to about 9pm and things were just going on as you would expect at an apartment during a party. There was a group of people at a small table drinking, smoking and enjoying a cheese ball. So he went over and began to talk with those people. At about 10pm the door to the apartment flew open and standing in it was Leonard in a cape, with his son who was at most six, and a lady friend, who was not the boy’s mother. Apparently everyone had stopped what they were doing and was staring. So much for treating him like just another person at the party. So, finally Leonard walks in and takes his cape off, and sits down around the table with the drinks, bong, and cheese ball. Once this happened things got back to how they were, so first the bottle of whisky made its way around the table, with each person taking a sip then passing it on, until it got to Leonard, who set the bottle down right in front of him. Following this the bong made its way around and again stopped at Leonard. This got on Eric’s nerves, but he never said anything. So now there really wasn’t much left at the table, but the cheese ball. And all of a sudden Leonard reaches out and grabs the cheese ball and takes a huge bite out of its, and placed it back on the tray where it had come from. To this day people wish they had said something.

Michael believes that this legend is important because it really shows how strange Leonard was, and how awe struck most people were around him, no matter what he did. He has also heard this story a few other times and in fact has told it to others who have in turn re-told it to me now that I am entering the music world.

I have noticed though that everyone has a slightly different take on what happened and the order of the events. A conductor that I once had told me that the bong was in fact a cigarette, and the very next year he changed it to be a cigar. I think the variation may be contributed to the fact that he is telling the story to very young audiences and is worried about getting complaints from parents. For the same reason I have heard the bottle go from a bottle of vodka, to a flask of wiskey, to a can of coke. I am also very curious to find out how this legend is changing as members of his bands are retelling the stories.

I know that I have found at least four other people who have heard this story from other people that my father, or my director. I also know that there are at least two hundred or more people from the bands that must remember parts of or the entire legend. The interesting part is that it is a legend that for the most part only musicians are going to hear of. It generally is told to us because we have a very high expectation of how Bernstein conducted himself, but this legend kind of pokes fun of how he really acted.