Since Aaron, our Artist Services Coordinator, works directly with the artists we serve, my role means I most often don’t work with the artists as directly. I mainly work with supporters, and indirectly with artists to publicize their gigs, releases, etc. – which makes it so special when I am able to take some time and really get to know any of our artists, whom I normally only visit with at shows.
This past week, Music Maker artist Ben Payton and I were speakers at a Leadership Triangle event that introduced Leadership Triangle participants to the town of Hillsborough, where MMRF has its offices and where Ben is a new resident. Ben and I got there a bit too early (my fault) and so we had a chance to grab a cup of coffee and chat.
I asked Ben if he’d liked the movie the students at the Center for Documentary Studies had made about him (which we’ll be able to show you soon!) He said he had, and then chuckled and said, “they really liked my shoes! The whole movie is about my shoes. They were really good about making sure all performance shots highlighted my shoes. I think the whole film is about my shoes!” Ben is referring to his shoe collection, which is quite impressive. He explained in the film that, growing up, he went without proper shoes for a long time, so now they’re something he invests in.
That got us talking about style – Ben has a lot of great stories about style. He told me “Style can be dangerous. It can make a person so they’re not showing who they really are, because they’re following a style. Not being themselves. And style almost got me shot in Chicago!”
I had to ask him to repeat that last part. Style almost got him killed? Ben said, “When I was living in the Chicago, this one time, it was the 1970s, and I was dressed in style. I had a long, black leather coat, and a real nice hat a borrowed from my mother’s boyfriend. I was out walking with my friend, and I saw a man run across the street towards me, in a big hurry. He looked at me, and walked right up to me and said ‘man, I almost just shot you! You’re dressed just like the man that’s messin’ with my wife!’”
I laughed. We both said “whew!” And he told me, “After that, you know, I put my mother’s boyfriend’s hat back on the shelf. And I went to the pawn shop, and I sold that coat!”
I think Ben looks pretty stylish with his awesome shoes and his incredibly put-together outfits, but I’m glad that he’s dressing for himself. And that his clothes no longer put him in danger!