On a recent Friday evening we were at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion waiting for the theater doors to open.
A man walked into view, sat on a stone bench, took a trumpet out of a bag, set a hat before him, crown down, and began playing and singing.
He was Jack Sheldon, formerly of the "Merv Griffin Show." It was a sad sight.
What happened to him?
"It's true. That's me," said Sheldon, a hard-working jazz trumpeter and jivester who's been employed by Benny Goodman, among others. But nothing dire has happened to him. He was just practicing that night, he explained, which he has to do several hours a day. And since he likes to practice outside, he's been playing standards like "Laura" to prerecorded tracks at the Music Center between 7 and 8 p.m. for years. But Sheldon's become rather bummed out and annoyed by people who recognize him and complain--they've even written worried letters to Merv--without realizing how great he's playing. "I have a God-given talent and I like to share it with people--but I don't want to do it anymore. I'm not panhandling. I've got money. Let them pay to see me." Yeah, but does he get any money in that hat? Just "a few pennies from little kids."