Dr. Hollander likes to talk and play at the same time. This afternoon he invites me to pull up a chair and keep him company. He hasn’t any sheet music with him but there’s no song he can’t play on the lobby piano. Aware of this, I ask him to play “when the red, red robin comes a bob-bob-bobbin’ along.” He does a fast tempo ditty that is extra-extra upbeat and cheery that leads into a whole medley of songs all by the red robin songwriter, Harry Wood. The lounge rapidly vibrates with a goofy joy so infectious that 1920’s flappers flap right out of the curtains of the nearest window to tap dance upon some of the empty tabletops.
Dr. Hollander doesn’t seem to notice the flappers as he plays and talks. He tells me that Harry Woods was born without fingers on his left hand. Even though he didn’t have ten fingers, he learned to play the bass and wrote many songs. He was also a brawler who’d use his deformed hand to bash people repeatedly in the head. Still, let’s remember that he was the songwriter of the wildly popular “Try A Little Tenderness.”
Dr. Hollander talks and plays the piano at the same time without getting even slightly frazzled. “I can just express my feelings in all situations, historical, literary. I can escape from the real world, most of the problems just vanish when playing,” he sighs. The more he plays a song the more he finds new ways to play it with his emotions. People ask home to play “Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By” all the dang time, but he doesn’t mind. He finds a new way to play them each time, and it always matches his mood.
When Paul McCartney stayed, he asked Dr. Hollander to play “The Very Thought of You.” It was a song McCartney had heard a lot as a boy in Liverpool. Today a hotel guest requests him to play the “matchmaker song” from Fiddler On The Roof. And this is when I must report that Dr. Hollander did make a boo-boo. He started playing a cautious rendition of “Chim-chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins. However, he knew he might be wrong and asked us what it was he was playing. We told him what it was and then sang for him the right song, “Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match, find me a find…” and Dr. Hollander started up with the correct song. He then played the entire song, including all the complicated bits that I forgot were in there. I am enthralled with the complete anthology in his mind.
Anthology enough to give those he meets individual theme songs. Like how the night time manager, Chris gets “The Music of the Night.” Dr. Hollander will play a person’s theme any time he sees them enter the lobby area. He may be playing a different song, but he will instantly integrate the theme’s melody into the song he is playing. A large portion of the Pfister staff can claim their own theme song, but Dr. Hollander frequently remembers what out-of-town guests request too, and when he sees them in the lobby lounge again months or years later, he will play that song. Their song.