Lionel Richie: Wow, Wow, Wow!

Lionel Richie with Marsala Rypka, An AgeNation Relationships ExpertBy Marsala Rypka (, reposted with permission)

When I think of weddings, I can’t help but think of Lionel Richie. The reason is because when I got married in 1983 (I’m blessed to be married to the same man for 27 years) the first song my husband, Steven and I danced to was a Lionel Richie song. Actually, that’s not exactly right. I couldn’t make up my mind between “Endless Love” and “Truly,” so much to my husband’s dismay, I chose both songs. Needless to say it was a long first dance.

Flash forward to April 2010. I’m scheduled to interview Lionel for the June “Wedding” issue of Luxury Las Vegas magazine and I’m hoping that he will be as wonderful as I imagine, or else memories of my wedding day will be tainted.

Everything is set and then I get a phone call pushing the interview back to the following week.  No problem. I understand celebrities have very busy lives and anything can happen at the last minute to change their plans. Now we’re scheduled to talk on April 16, the very day Lionel is supposed to arrive in New York from Geneva, Switzerland.

That worries me. Anyone who’s ever flown international (Many years ago I was a TWA International flight attendant) knows about flight delays and jet lag, and I wonder if the interview will actually take place.

I expected a delay or jet lag, but never, and I mean never, in my wildest dreams did I think that on April 16, 2010, an enormous, menacing cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland would blanket much of the sky across northern and central Europe, causing thousands of international flights to be canceled.

As reported in the New York Times, there was chaos as people traveling within Europe did everything they could to get to their destinations. Some took trains, some took buses, and some rented cars; while those who had to cross the Atlantic had to just sit tight and wait.

LESSON: When unexpected things happen in life, it doesn’t help to panic or get angry. Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. Do what you can to remedy the situation and find a solution. If it’s out of your hands, then all you can do is change your attitude. Accept what’s happening and go with the flow.

Of all days for a volcano to spew ash, I thought. As it turned out Lionel’s personal assistant, Michael called me and said that their flight had been delayed, their route had changed, but thankfully their plane was one of the last allowed to leave Europe.

Michael said that the interview would have to be pushed back a couple of hours, but that it would definitely happen. If I loved Lionel Richie before, I TRULY loved him even more now!

Sure enough at the appointed time, that recognizable voice came on the line. “Well, we’ve only been trying to do this forever,” Lionel joked. “I thought maybe you’d start to think I didn’t exist.”

We were off to a great start. So far the wonderful memories of my wedding day were still intact.

Lionel Richie and I were like two old friends having the most amazing, relaxed conversation. From the moment we started talking until we hung up two hours later it was “Easy Like Sunday Morning.” No pun intended but I could have talked with him “All Night Long.”

He shared some fascinating and touching stories about growing up during the Civil Rights movement in Tuskegee, Alabama and about the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first black military airmen. He told me what he is passionate about and what makes him angry. He spoke with reverence and humor about the people who influenced his life. He talked candidly and with obvious love about his relationship with his daughter Nicole and his two other children, Sofia and Miles. He talked about how music can bridge the gap between people on opposite sides of the world and create a commonality. He spoke of Michael Jackson, “We Are the World,” what he’d like to do in the future and so much more.

Shortly after the magazine came out with Lionel’s interview, I took my friends Thomas and Deborah to see him at Caesars Palace where he was performing for two nights. Before the show we went backstage to say hi and once again I wasn’t disappointed. He greeted me with a big smile and an even bigger hug. He said he loved the article and we laughed and talked for about ten minutes before we were escorted to our seats only moments before Lionel walked out on the stage and rocked the house.

There were over 4,000 people at The Colosseum that night, yet Lionel created such a feeling of intimacy, as if he was entertaining you in his living room. It didn’t matter if he was sitting at the piano singing a Commodore ballad like “Ballerina Girl,” “Penny Lover,” “Sail On,” “Three Times a Lady;” or if he was bringing the crowd to their feet with something upbeat like “Running with the Night. The songs went on and on and every one was a hit.

I’m always looking for the gift in my interaction with people, because everyone brings something to the table. Reflecting on my conversation with Lionel, one of the things that most impressed me is how fully present he was. He was engaged as well as engaging. He was so animated that when I asked him one particular question he said,  “Wow. Wow. Wow! What a great question!” What a great response.

LESSON: Be with people in a way that you would like them to be with you. Are you warm and friendly? Do you ask questions and show an interest in what others are doing? Or do you hold back and wait for someone else to initiate the conversation? Or even worse is the conversation always about you?

I will always cherish the memories I have of my time with Lionel. Even more important, the memories I have of my wedding day are “Still” just as wonderful.

My interview with Lionel Richie is available online.

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