Ella Fitzgerald Sings Happy Birthday to Steve [Recollections]

By

steve_jobs_drinking_tea

At Steve Jobs 30th birthday party, the jazz great Ella Fitzgerald sings him happy birthday. She seems to have no idea who he is.

Part 14 of “My Close Encounters With Steve Jobs,” Macworld founder David Bunnell’s personal history of the Mac.

Soon after the Macworld dinner, Andrew Fluegelman and I were invited to Steve Job’s lavish 30th birthday celebration in the ballroom of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. It was to be a black tie event, only with a twist. Everyone was asked to wear tennis shoes.

It surprised me that outside of John Sculley and the Macintosh development team there were few other guests. I felt truly privileged, but also a little sad, as Mike Murray had recently told me “Steve doesn’t have any real friends.”

For a moment, I wondered if I could be his friend–it would be my mission, I fantasized, to keep Jobs grounded and just to be there when he needed someone to talk to. Of course, this was totally ridiculous, and I didn’t do anything to pursue it.

Besides, Steve was late and some of us were speculating as to whether he would even show up.

His absence didn’t stop people from having fun. Everyone who came into the ballroom received a glass of champaign, there was tons of food and other drinks, and the place was decorated with Mac- and Apple-related images.

Oddly, the live music was provided by members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The sight of Andy Herzfeld, Burrell Smith and the others in obviously rented, ill-fitting tuxedos and floppy tennis shows made me laugh. It was even funnier though when they tried to dance to the Straus Waltzes the orchestra was playing.

After an hour or more into the event, Steve made his appearance. He stood with John Sculley for a few minutes and several people walked up to him to wish him a happy birthday. He seemed happy and at the same time strangely distant.

Turning 30 for Steve Jobs must have been like turning 80 for us mere mortals. He was rich, famous, accomplished and had no where to go from here, or so it would seem.

Sculley proposed a toast, calling Steve “technology’s foremost visionary.” People politely applauded and I assumed we’d get back to dancing, but I was wrong.

Unbelievable as it may seem, Ella Fitzgerald was suddenly standing on the stage with her jazz trio. I was stunned. “Hello,” she said, “I’m Ella Fitzgerald and for some reason a young man here wants me to sing happy birthday to him for his 30th birthday.”

She seemed genuinely puzzled as to why anyone would want her to do this and presumably pay her a lot of money. And it seemed obvious to me she had no idea who Steve Jobs was.

To Ella Fitzgerald, he was just a rich guy named Steve. Ella sang “happy birthday, dear Steve…” and left. The Orchestra returned with some more Waltzes.

Steve exited shortly after this.

Damn, I thought, no wonder Steve Jobs’ reality is distorted.

Part 1: Meeting Steve
Part 2: Seeing the Macintosh for the Very First Time
Part 3: We Met the REAL Steve Jobs
Part 4: Steve Jobs Tells Us to “Belly Up to the Bar”
Part 5: Steve Comes Up with a Really Weird Ad
Part 6: Steve Poses for the First Cover of Macworld
Part 7: Andrew Fluegelman Urges Apple to Delay the Introduction
Part 8: Pat McGovern Meets with Steve, the Deal is Done.
Part 9: Steve is F*cking Great!
Part 10: Steve Thumbs his Nose at the Apple II
Part 11: The Macintosh Speaks For Itself (Literally)…
Part 12: The Fat Mac Saves the Day
Part 13: Steve Brings Tina to the Macworld Dinner Party
Part 14: Ella Fitzgerald Sings Happy Birthday to Steve
Part 15: Steve’s NeXT Big Thing

Follow me on Twitter @davbunnell

Deals of the Day