On Thursday, May 12 the Field Museum kicked off its birthday celebration for Sue, the museum’s famed the T-Rex. Although the dinosaur is really 67 million years old it just celebrated its fifth birthday at the Field, since it was on May 17, 2000 that Sue’s restored skeleton went on display there.
The May 12 event preceded the four-day birthday celebration on May 14-17. And to make sure Sue realized her importance, the museum brought in five-time Grammy Award winner Al Jarreau, who was joined by chef Wolfgang Puck, who’s recognized all over the world and especially during Oscar Awards parties.
The birthday event took place in Stanley Field Hall where elementary children from various schools had gathered for the festivities. All of the children wore “Sue” T-shirts, given to them by the museum staff.
Puck had the children help him decorate the variety of cakes and cupcakes. A very special chocolate dinosaur skeleton?”a replica of Sue?”was a very fascinating, edible creation. And Jarreau joined in the decorating of the chocolate creation as well. It appeared he had more fun than the kids decorating and eating cake. Puck made sure Jarreau had his fill of chocolate by squirting lots of chocolate sauce in his hand.
Jarreau, a gifted artist, displayed that unique sound he’s made famous all of his life. Jarreau is the only vocalist in history to win Grammy Awards in three different categories (Jazz, Pop and R&B). After singing Happy Birthday he performed “Bones” from a new CD “A T-Rex Named Sue” produced by Music for Little People.
All of the children came up front and helped Jarreau sing “Bones.” When different verses about the body were sung the children demonstrated using their hands and arms. Lots of dancing, singing and fun was had by all.
It was so much fun Jarreau was asked to sing “Bones” a second time. After the celebration, Jarreau signed CDs in the museum’s main hall. The CD is very interesting because Jarreau narrates beginning with Sue’s discovery in South Dakota by Sue Hendrickson, a fossil researcher. “Bones” is a very lively and groovy song?”(Al sings) “Sue’s got a whole lot of bones, a stack a bones, and a rack of bones, a huge gigantic pack of bones …”
For those of you who are regular AUSTIN WEEKLY NEWS readers you might remember I interviewed Al Jarreau in 2003. Al and I both grew up in Milwaukee, Wis. As neighborhood buddies, everyone knew he was wonderful singer, but I always thought he would be a teacher or social worker.
After graduating from Lincoln High School, where my brother Dennis also graduated, Al went on to college in Ripon, Wis., and completed his master’s degree in Iowa in social work. So it was a surprise when I happened to see his name in the newspaper appearing at the old Ivanhoe Theater in 1976.
Finding old friends, family and schoolmates can sometimes be uneventful. This was not the case with Jarreau. Al was the same friendly and happy man in 1976 as he had been in 1960s Milwaukee, playing basketball on St. Francis Church playground.
Today, Jarreau is still that same fun loving guy. Unlike some celebrities, Al will talk to fans into the wee hours until his manager stops him so he can get some rest. Here’s a snippet of the conversation we had at the Field Museum on May 12.
Austin Weekly News: Did you write the song “Bones”?
Al Jarreau: No, and this is not really my CD so much as it is a project for the Field Museum and dinosaur Sue. The song was written by Mike Himelstein, and I only sang “Bones” on this record, I narrated.
AWN: When will you be back in Chicago?
AJ: Ravinia in September, on September 1.
AWN: You’ve been out of the country almost one year?
AJ: Yep, and I’m going again. I’ll be out this summer on the continent in Europe.
AWN: Last time you were in Chicago you had back surgery, how are you doing now?
AJ: I’m doing pretty good; I’m not having any kind of pain or anything. I’m coming along fine.
Jarreau told one of the TV reporters that “I’ve always loved dinosaurs. In fact, the movie “Jurassic Park” is really Jarreau-sic Park.”
Thanks to Field Museum PR Staff member Kristin Guiter for her assistance and to Westside music coordinator Darlene Sandifer, wife of jazz musician Howard Sandifer in making Sue’s birthday bash lots of fun.
The wonderful thing about the children is that they were not phased by celebrities such as Wolfgang Puck or Al Jarreau. These were just two men having fun with them, and I think both men had as much fun as the children.