How was I supposed to know that Billie Eilish is a 17-year-old female pop singer and not a 40-year-old gay comedian?
The first thing you should know is this mishap was not entirely my fault. My wife, Christine, asked me to see about booking Billie Eilish to perform at our daughter Emma’s Bat Mitzvah. Truth be told, I wasn’t paying full attention when she asked me to do this. I was in the middle of closing a large deal at work and had also just learned via a text message from my son Greg that his mother, my first wife, had gotten engaged to her boyfriend Dr. Marvin Westover, DDS. To say I was distracted is an understatement. Despite all that was on my mind, I told Christine that “I said I would fucking do it, now can you please leave me alone so I can finish my work!” and wrote down “Book Billy singer for Bat Mitzvah” in my Newton. I then turned back to my work until I became so mentally distracted by the news of my ex-wife’s engagement that I started looking through photo albums from before our divorce. God, life was so much simpler back then.
The next day I asked my assistant to contact the booking agent for “the singer, Billy E-something, the one the kids are into.” I am a 52-year-old bankruptcy attorney who has almost no time to spend with his children, so I am not up to date with the latest pop singers or any of my children’s interests for that matter. When my assistant came back and said “Billy Eichner?” I questioned her, “Is that who the children are into?” She told me that he was in the new Lion King movie, so I assumed it had to be him because I remember how Greg and his sister Elizabeth, also from my first marriage, loved the Lion King when it came out. I also remembered that I had forgotten to invite Elizabeth to Emma’s Bat Mitzvah on account that she refuses to talk to me or Christine, but I was feeling nostalgic after looking through the photo albums last night and asked my assistant to call Elizabeth, tell her it was her fault the invitation didn’t get sent, and invite her to attend. I’m sure Christine won’t mind.
At this point, you may be asking yourself why I would think I could get one of the world’s hottest pop stars to perform at my child’s Simcha? Well, like you, I want to do everything I can for my children. But unlike you, I have the millions of dollars necessary to do it. You see, I am a Skirball, and us Skirballs are no strangers to hiring A-list performers for our family events. When Elizabeth got married I was on an extended honeymoon in Saint Tropez with Christine and could not attend, but still arranged for Michael Bublé to perform at her reception. Even though Elizabeth never thanked us for arranging it, I’m sure she loved having Michael Bublé perform at her wedding. Christine had told me Elizabeth was a huge fan, a fact learned from her days as Elizabeth’s college roommate.
Billy Eichner was surprisingly easy to book and much cheaper than Michael Bublé. Christine and I decided to keep his performance a surprise from Emma, but she was being a real brat on the morning of her Bat Mitzvah, so I told her we had booked Billy and threatened to call and cancel the performance unless she got up in front of everyone and read from the fucking Torah. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have yelled at her in front of the entire congregation, but you should have seen how quickly her attitude changed and she was up there sing-talking in Hebrew. She must really love Billy Eichner, I thought. I am a great father.
Emma never treated me better than those few hours between the service at Young Israel and the party at the ballroom at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons. As she got ready that afternoon she sang what I assumed was Billy Eichner’s music. It wasn’t for me but was kind of catchy in an unmelodic sort of way. I prefer the Eagles.
Billy Eichner arrived at the Four Seasons two hours before any of the guests. As per our contract, he was helping to set up the tables and taking care of odd tasks before the party. When I arrived I was startled by Billy Eichner’s appearance. I had been expecting someone that looked like a pop singer, not a 40-year-old man in a tuxedo shirt transparent with sweat screaming at my caterer for placing the bowl of cocktail sauce too far away from the shrimp.
“Why would you put the pigs in the blankets between the shrimp and the cocktail sauce?” he yelled. The caterer tried to explain that she always puts sauces at the end of the table, but Billy exploded: “No! These are thirteen-year-olds, you can’t put cocktail sauce next to ketchup, they aren’t going to know what to do!” When the caterer finally agreed to move the cocktail sauce closer to the shrimp, Billy yelled “You wouldn’t be so haphazard with the food placement if this was Jeffrey Katzenberg’s daughter’s Simcha Bat!” before muttering both loudly and under his breath, “Then again, Jeffrey Katzenberg wouldn’t serve shrimp at a fucking Bat Mitzvah!”
As I watched Billy Eichner rearrange the hors d’oeuvres, I asked our event planner Janet if she had ever heard of the man yelling at the caterer. “Yeah, that’s Billy Eichner,” she sighed. “He was in Parks and Recreation.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I assumed it was one of those song-and-dance shows. I later found out it was not and also that Billy had berated Janet earlier after being told he could not “call” a centerpiece to take home after the party. “I get a centerpiece of my choice! That is the one thing that is in my rider! These are contractually my succulents!”
I approached. “Um, excuse me, are you Billy?”
“Yes, of course I’m Billy!” He yelled and then smiled at me in a way that made me unsure whether he was being threatening or felt threatened.
“Oh okay, great. You’re the famous singer?” I asked, to which Billy informed me that he had a song with Beyoncé in Spotify’s Top-10. When I gave him an encouraging “great” he flew into a rage. “Yes! I’m very famous! I have Judy Greer’s phone number! We text!” he said. I told him I didn’t know who Judy Greer is and he screamed “You would know her if you saw her!” and then exasperatedly walked away so he could write his initials on the underside of a centerpiece while Janet comforted our still crying caterer.
As I watched Billy write his name on a second, and then a third, centerpiece of succulents, Christine approached. “Honey, do you know when Billie Eilish will be here? The guests are starting to arrive.”
“Yeah, he’s over there,” I pointed and called over Billy to meet Christine.
“Who is that?
“That’s Billy Eichner. The singer,” I said.
“But where is Billie Eilish?” Christine asked as Eichner walked over.
“Holy shit, Billie Eilish is coming? I hear Jeffrey Katzenberg couldn’t even book her for his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah,” Billy yelled. I felt like such an idiot.
Christine and I knew Emma was going to be upset that Billie Eilish would not be performing. We called her booking agent to see if she was available at the last minute, but was told of course she wasn’t and that the best we could hope for was NSYNC’s JC Chasez who would not only perform but also mop up at the end of the night. Christine and I decided that our best option was to let Billy Eichner perform. For his part, Billy didn’t seem to mind that he was not our first choice. “I recently got second place behind Chris O’Donnell in a People Magazine poll of who wore a pair of Mossimo khakis best,” he told us, “so I know what it’s like to be disappointed.”
After the Billy Eichner mishap and the resulting fight with Christine over my “complete and utter lack of attention” or something, I was not feeling very festive. Nevertheless, I put on a smile and greeted our guests. Christine had gone to the dressing room to tell Emma that Billie Eilish wasnt coming, a conversation I was very happy to avoid.
“How you doing, dad?” my son Greg greeted me with a hug. It’s been over a year since I last saw him.
“Oh, you wouldn’t want to know,” I said, telling him about the Billy Eichner mishap.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Billy Eichner can’t be worse received than Michael Bublé,” he laughed. I didn’t understand his comment but hadn’t the time to ask about it when I saw my daughter Elizabeth walk up with her husband and two children.
“Lizzie!” I yelped. I didn’t think she would actually come, it’s been so many years. She gave me a hug and introduced me to my grandkids, Jakob and Eva, whom she named after my parents. “I’m so sorry, it’s been so many–”
“Dad, stop. Let’s not talk about the past.”
I spent a few minutes catching up with Elizabeth and Greg. We laughed about that time we went to Medieval Times and Greg slipped in horse poop and for a moment I swear to god it felt like I had gone back in time.
“How’s your mother?” I asked.
“She’s doing well,” Greg told me. “Her and Marvin were supposed to see The Eagles at Dodger Stadium tonight, but he got called into surgery at the last minute.”
“Your mother always loved The Eagles,” I chuckled. “You know, we went to an Eagles show on our first date?” He knew.
“Yeah, she was looking forward to it. She couldn’t find anyone to go with her,” Greg told me.
I don’t know what had gotten into me at this point, but the nostalgia of having my first two children around me caused me to blurt out “Call her up and ask her if she wants to come to the Bat Mitzvah.”
“Are you sure?” Elizabeth asked.
“Of course! She’s probably already dressed up, knowing your mother.” Did I even know her anymore, I wondered?
I excused myself from my family to say hello to some of the out-of-town Skirballs that arrived.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Christine ran up to me. “This is an absolute disaster, Billy Eichner has sung “Wind Beneath My Wing” three times in a row and keeps accosting Emma’s overweight male classmates and telling them that it gets better. “Look at me now, I’m friends with Beyoncé,” I could hear Billy Eichner scream at Jonah, one of Emma’s more portly friends. “Do you really know Beyoncé?” Jonah asked to which Billy screamed “We met at the Lion King premier!” before pulling out his phone and showing him Judy Greer’s phone number.
“I’m sorry, I was talking to Lizzie and Greg. It was so nice—“
“What the fuck is Elizabeth doing here?”
“What do you mean? I invited her.”
“How could you invite her without telling me?”
“Why would I need to tell you I was inviting my daughter to her sister’s Bat Mitzvah?”
“Step-sister, and maybe because she has tried to undermine our relationship since the moment we got together.”
“Christine, her dad divorced her mom for her college roommate. You have to see it from her perspec–”
“Oh, so I’m a homewrecker now? Like you were so happy when you decided to fuck your daughter’s roommate!” Christine screamed as she walked away, saying the last part loud enough that a group of cousins from Scarsdale gave me a look of utter disgust. “She’s talking about Elizabeth’s roommate. Not Emma’s,” I said, feeling that while this explanation may have confirmed I was a scumbag, it at least let them know I was not also a pedophile.
I went back into the banquet hall to see how Emma was doing. To my surprise, she seemed to be having a great time. By this point in the night all of the kids knew the lyrics to From A Distance and were singing along with Billy. I had not seen Emma look so happy in years. Then again, I hadn’t really seen much of Emma through the years. I had thought I was done having kids when Christine got pregnant. She wanted to keep it, which was her choice, but rather than fully embrace fatherhood I decided to focus on my work rather than be at home. In some ways, as horrible as it is to say, Emma is the manifestation of the biggest mistake I ever made. I wouldn’t have married Christine if she weren’t pregnant, and certainly I wouldn’t have missed Lizzie’s wedding and all of those years with her and getting to know my grandchildren if Christine and I didn’t have to ourselves get married so quickly. As I watched Emma cheer Billy as he started into From A Distance again–he really did have a nice voice–and watched as she laughed with her friends, I felt grateful she had turned out so great despite having me as a father. But I guess that is true of all of my kids.
It had been twelve years since I saw Diane, but as soon as I placed my eyes on her it felt like no time had passed.
“Hey stranger,” she said as she walked up to me. “You’ve gotten old, Dave.”
“It’s good to see you Diane,” I kissed her cheek. Her hair smelled like I remembered and I couldn’t help but think of how different our lives could have been.
“Are you sure it’s okay for me to be here? Christine won’t mind?”
“Of course it’s fine,” I lied. We took each other in for a moment.
“Who’s the singer? she asked as we both took a minute to watch Billy Eichner really lean into the crescendo of The Rose. “Oh, that’s Billy Eichner. He’s great,” I said as Billy dabbed sweat from his forehead and then screamed at Janet for a cup of honey tea and paprika. “Shakira swears by it!” he yelled.
“I was worried you were going to have Michael Bublé show up again.”
“You know, Greg made a comment about Michael Bublé too. What does that mean? Does Lizzie not like Michael Bublé anymore?” I asked.
“Are you serious?
“She’s always hated Michael Bublé.”
“What, no? Christine told me it was her favorite.”
“Look, Dave, I’m not one to come between a man and his wife,” she basked in the irony of the statement, “but from what I was told Michael Bublé was Christine’s favorite and she would go out of her way to play his music in the dorm when they were mad at each other.” This was all very shocking.
“So, when Michael Bublé showed up at her wedding,” I said.
“She was devastated. Elizabeth just wanted her dad at her wedding. Instead she got Michael Bublé as a reminder that her roommate took her dad away from her.”
“I had no idea,” I said, which was true. “But it was wrong for me not to be at the wedding anyway. Everything about the situation, the affair, it was all wrong. You didn’t deserve it. None of you did.”
“But we weren’t happy, right?” I asked.
“I was happy.”
Diane excused herself to go find Greg and Lizzie and I perched up against the bar. Emma was laughing with her friends and Christine, who had evidently seen me and Diane talk, was giving me a death stare and on her way over. How could she have gone out of her way to ruin Lizzie’s wedding day?
“You invited your ex-wife too?” Christine asked.
“I did. You knew Lizzie hated Michael Bublé?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“At Lizzie’s wedding. You told me that she loved Michael Bublé, but that was a lie. She hated him and you, what? Made me book him as what some nasty act of revenge?
“Oh, so this is what your ex-wife does? She crashes my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and brings up drama from 13 years ago?”
By this point, Christine had become aware that people were watching us fight. “We’ll talk about this later. Try not to forget this is about Emma today. Not your old family.”
As I stood at the bar I found myself standing next to Billy Eichner, who was halfway through his tea.
“You ever look back at your life and wonder how you got here?” I asked.
“I was a gay, overweight theater kid from Forrest Hills that would go on to share several on-screen kisses with Fred Savage. I think I know a thing or two about life being unpredictable.”
“You’re a great performer,” I said and at that moment our eyes connected and, as I think he realized how emotionally vulnerable and confused I felt, his façade softened.
“Tell Billy what’s wrong,” he said, and I did. I explained to him all of the complicated family dynamics, the revelation that Michael Bublé ruined my daughter’s wedding, and the overwhelming feeling of longing I had for my old life. “Don’t I deserve happiness?” I asked him.
Billy took a final sip of his tea and gave me a long look over. The serene, comforting spirit I felt from him as I opened up about my familial inadequacies was instantly replaced by the sort of blind sexual rage that I would come to find out is the very essence of his public persona.
“No! Of course you don’t deserve happiness! Malala deserves happiness and she was shot by the fucking Taliban! You made a bad decision and are living with the consequences of it,” Billy yelled. “But you aren’t in prison, like those S.O.B.s who shot Malala deserves to be. So if you aren’t happy then make different decisions and live with those consequences!”
Billy had worked himself up and was heavily panting. “Uch, I got to get back on stage, I promised Jonah we’d sing You Don’t Own Me again when I get back.” I thanked Billy for his advice and made my own song request. He objected at first, but agreed after I told him he could take another succulent centerpiece if he sang an Eagles song.
As Billy grabbed the microphone I started walking toward Diane’s table.
“Can I have this dance?”
She gave me a bemused look as the band started playing Take It To The Limit. It was the song we first kissed to on our first date and also the song to which she started giving me an inside the pants hand job that was interrupted by an usher, also on our first date. Diane took my hand and for the first time in thirteen years, since before Christine, since before Emma, since before all of my selfish horrible decisions, we held each other again, as if no time had passed. As we danced Billy sang.
All alone at the end of the evening
And the bright lights have faded to blue
“You still can dance, Dave–
I was thinking ’bout a woman who might have loved me
I never knew
“Let’s give it another chance, Diane.” I couldn’t resist.
“What are you talking about?”
And it’s so hard to change
Can’t seem to settle down
“You and me. It was a mistake, all of, all of the last thirteen years. It was a mistake. You and I should—“
“Dave, stop. This is your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Your wife is watching us and doesn’t look happy. And I’m engaged.”
But the dreams I’ve seen lately keep on turning out
And burning out and turning out the same
“Yes, but are you in love with him? The dentist?” I asked.
“Yes, Dave. And more importantly I’ve put this, I’ve put us in the past.”
So put me on a highway and show me a sign
“But it was a mistake,” I told her.
“There are no mistakes.”
And take it to the limit one more time
Diane let go of my hand and told me she had to go. “It was nice seeing you, Dave. Take care,” she said. Billy Eichner was still singing and I just stood there swaying on the dance floor, surrounded by teenagers who did not seem to appreciate the Eagles as much as Billy’s Midler showcase.
“How was your dance?” Christine came up to me. She was angry but let me take her hand.
“It was a mistake to invite her here, I’m sorry for that.”
“It wasn’t a mistake to invite her. Look, I haven’t been fair to you or Emma. I haven’t been there for you like I should.”
“Thanks. But let’s not, let’s not have a whole thing right now. Look at our daughter, isn’t she beautiful?”
“Yeah,” I said. “They grow up real fast.”
Christine placed her head on my shoulder and we swayed with each other as Billy sang the song me and my ex-wife fell in love to. Maybe this was where I was meant to be all along, and fetishizing my old life and my old marriage had just gotten in the way of my ability to appreciate all I have now. And I have a lot. Maybe Billy Eichner was right, I had made a decision, and now I have to live with the consequences of that decision. And it seems, at this moment, that the best decision I could make is to live with the consequences of that decision.
As Billy Eichner repeated the coda with his surprisingly angelic voice, Christine and I kissed. As we did I could see Diane gather her things to leave. Our eyes connected one last time. It was the last time we saw each other, and I was okay with that.
So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time…