Guest Blogger Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art, an educational service offering tours, lectures and program planning. She is a Commissioner of Cultural Affairs in Dallas and a member of the Public Art Committee.
Singer, speaker and visual artist Marty Ruiz is an entertainer. He is part stand-up comedian, part cruise ship social director and also part Mexican, Italian, Spanish and Jewish. His act is the cheapest ticket in town. There is no fee for those who get to hear him sing, but the cost is very dear. Ruiz plays to the residents of nursing homes. The admission is a lively life cut short. Instead of rolling up to the Winspear Opera House in a Lexus, his audience rolls up to the facility’s activity room in wheelchairs and walkers.
I caught him during a “gig” at the Silverado Senior Living facility in the Turtle Creek area. A rapt audience of about twenty-five elderly men and women and two well-fed and complacent Labradors sang along, swayed, clapped, tapped feet and wagged tails, as Ruiz jogged their memories and awakened their voices to the music of Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney. (Remember them?)
“Who remembers Frank Sinatra’s nickname”, he asked. “Ol’ Blue Eyes”, called out a wheelchair bound, but brazen resident. “And Dean Martin’s nickname?” he asked. “Dino.” “Yes! And Louis Armstrong?” “Satchmo.” “Right!”, he applauded and went right into a commendable Satchmo imitation. And don’t tell me hand-waving is only at teenage concerts. This group waved and swayed to “What a Wonderful World.” and for an hour on Monday, it was!
Ruiz personalizes the hour of “Music with Marty” even further, as he holds hands and sings to each woman, “Hey good lookin’, What you got cookin?” The ladies swoon. The girlish smiles, the engagement, the laughter in a facility that provides nursing and hospice services made me half wonder if there were not something in the peanut butter brownies being passed around or what was spiking the fruit punch. The joy was obvious, and the reason obvious. It was music, and it was Marty.
Ater an hour of non-stop entertaining, Marty was visibly tired. The residents were contentedly relaxed. The dogs were sleeping at their feet. Ruiz sat down singing “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.” which inspired me to write this letter to Marty. A thank-you letter from the Arts community. Music bring people to life, and YOU bring life to people.