A Private Concert

Dateline; September 1986

Mission: Mayor Feinstein’s Reception at San Francisco City Hall Rotunda for Philippine President Corazon Aquino.


San Francisco Children’s Chorus

Presidio Honorary Color Guard

Various and Sundry State and Civic Leaders

Joan Baez

Producer/Director: Me.

About two weeks before the event, I met with Ms. Baez’ Personal Assistant to walk through City Hall and talk through the program in situ. A tall, imperious, all-business woman; she was as on top of things as any Secret Service I’d ever worked with, before. All business and details.

After the walkthrough, we stood on the dais at the foot of the Grand Staircase (photo above) which serves as the “stage” for such civic ceremonies along with the spectacular stairway behind it, and talked through the program, entrances and exits, stage positions, et cetera. I asked if she could tell me what Ms. Baez planned to sing, so that I could place and frame it appropriately in the program. 

The PA (I am sorry, I don’t remember her name) told me she’d ask Joan and let me  know.


Then, I brought it up. 

“So, Mayor Feinstein knows that President Aquino’s favorite color is yellow, and would like for Joan to join the Children’s Chorus in singing ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon (‘Round the Old Oak Tree)!’ 

She looked down at me and said, quite frostily and with a look of disdain on her face, “I can ask her.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m being paid to ask such questions.”

She looked at me…with a glint of sympathy…”I will ask.”


A few days later, the phone rang in my apartment (a land line). 


“I’m calling for Kile Ozier…”

“This is Kile…”

“Good Morning, Kile! This is Joan Baez. I understand you need to know what I’ll be singing for Cory Aquino, next week.”

“Yes, Ms. Baez; I want to be sure to position it appropriately in the program.”

“Great. I’ll be singing “Oh, Freedom.” It’s the song I sing for Cory every time I perform for her.”

“Thank you! Can you tell me what album it’s on? I have several of your albums, but I don’t know that I have that song.”

“You won’t be able to find it, as I’ve never recorded it. Do you mind if I sing it for you, now?”

“Uh…” I uttered, intelligently, “…not at all!”

And she began to sing. Full on, full voice, full emotion…not singing to give me a sense of the song; rather, singing The Song to me. I put my phone on speaker, leaned back against my kitchen counter and looked out the window at the garden below as her voice took flight and soared with her full-hearted notes. 

I could only stand there and marvel at the moment; that my life is such that something like this could just happen; unselfconsciously, unpretentiously and with complete and generous sincerity. It was beautiful.

When she was finished, I thanked her and she said, “You are quite welcome, Kile; I’ll see you next week at City Hall…” and hung up.

(She did not mention “Tie a Yellow Ribbon…”)


Show Day.

The Rotunda is packed, the surrounding balcony is shoulder-to-shoulder, the Grand Staircase is full of children’s chorus, myriad dignitaries and the Honor Guard up at the top. Energy is high.

Joan (I did not call her that) meets me on the Mayor’s Balcony so that I can wire her with her microphone. A warm and VERY pleasant greeting and handshake…

She is a beautiful woman. Exuding power, confidence, dignity…and I’ve been an ardent fan since 8th grade.

I’m on my knees, hooking her battery pack to the belt of her dress as I hear, “By the way, Kile?”

I look up, she’s looking down at me…

“Tie a Yellow Ribbon…”?

I winced. “Yes?”

“Not my style.”

<silence and quick thinking>

I stood up. “Would you consider simply standing with the chorus as they sing it, Ms. Baez?”

“Yes. I will do that.” 


The ceremony and performances proceeded to run without a hitch. Happy Audience, Happy Joan Baez, Happy Kile and the Mayor’s Office of Protocol.

After the ceremony, the Mayor came up from her Front Row seat to the Mayor’s Balcony, where my team and I were gathered in debrief and relief…

“Kile, I couldn’t hear Joan Baez singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon…” with the chorus.”

I opened my mouth to speak as my good friend and number one on all my Mayoral Show Teams, John Twomey, said, “Oh, you could hear her perfectly from up here; she was killer! It mush have something to do with the sound system and all this marble.”

The rest of the team (and the Protocol Officer) chimed in, “Yeah, she was great…” “It was perfect…” “I can’t believe you couldn’t hear it on the floor!”

“Oh,” she said, “well, that’s too bad… Thank you.” And she proceeded to her office. 

I had a great team.

Like No Business I Know.

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