Bessie on Stage


Fame will go by and, so long, I've had you, fame. If it goes by, I've always known it was fickle. It's something I experience, but that's not where I live.―Marilyn Monroe.


Bessie made her first public appearances since being featured on the cover of our book “BESSIE’S STORY - Watching the Lights Go Out”.  She attended a book signing at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Connecticut and starred in a presentation at Rumsey Hall School in the same town.  In the process she picked up lots of new friends and cemented her notoriety.  Bessie must have received a thousand pats and scratches―people just wanted to touch her.  It was amazing.  She now knows what the Beatles felt like in the 1960s.

It was comforting to witness the calm, controlled way Bess handled her temporary celebrity.  During the book signing she came over and nudged my arm. “I’ve had enough of this,” she seemed to be saying.  “Let’s go somewhere fun.”  Three days later she fell sound asleep in an auditorium with 300 people watching from their seats.  There she was, ignoring her fans like some bored Hollywood star, except she wasn’t pretending to be aloof.  It was genuine.  From her perspective the room was empty.  

Two moments stand out from the student assembly.  We showed a video of Bessie carrying a long stick in her mouth which she tried to negotiate over a fallen tree.  There were oohs and ahs from the kids as she struggled to find a way past the obstacle without giving up her treasure.  Finally, when she figured it out after a full minute of trial and error, the crowd erupted in an unexpected, enthusiastic roar of approval.  I’d like to think that the students were resolving to have the same perseverance when they returned to their classes, friendships, families and other interests.

The second thunderclap of applause came at the very end of the assembly.  I woke Bessie from her nap and called her up on stage.  Sitting alertly, she faced the audience as I placed a cookie on her nose and told her to stay.  For Bessie, that cookie was the absolute center of the universe.  When I said, “okay”, she snapped at it and… missed.  Three more times she failed to capture the treat as the groans and encouragement escalated with each attempt, blending like tea and honey.  On the fifth try Bessie caught the cookie in her mouth and the audience exploded.  It sounded like one of those class cheers at the end of a graduation ceremony.  The place went NUTS!  It’s a good thing Bessie can’t sign autographs.

Here is what Bessie and I hope the students (and teachers) took away from our meeting that day:

  • We all have insecurities and flaws that can hold us back if we let them.  Accept your weaknesses, deal with them and move on.

  • Asking for help and giving help are essential to being successful and happy.

  • Being around people with physical or intellectual handicaps or disabilities should bring out the same characteristics Bessie elicits.  Share your genuine interest, offer assistance and show affection.

A final thought:  I am glad Bessie didn’t hear all the positive comments from her performance, though I doubt she’d change one little bit.  That’s what makes her such a star.