Once Upon a Time There was a Great Dame

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In 1997, I met a man named Patrick Feren. He was my acting teacher and I went on a trip to Los Angeles with him and my acting class. We went to workshops and met casting directors. We were all making the decision of whether or not we wanted to pursue an acting career in Tinsel Town, otherwise known as Hollywood.

One night while everyone in the group was going to a workshop we’d chosen not to attend, my girlfriend and I, who were singers, decided to go to an open mic at a bar called the Oasis in Studio City. We walked in at 9pm. We marveled that people actually stayed up past 8 and that there was a place to go that was open and alive. There was a lady at the piano. We sat down and listened to her sing a song from La Cage Aux¬† Folles of which she had changed the words. Lori Donato sang, “I Am Not a Man!” a parody on the famous Broadway tune, “I Am What I Am!”

That was the very first time I saw Lori Donato. She invited me up to sing, but I was too shy. I just listened as she sang song after song. I was enchanted by her talent, her sparkling personality and her audacious and sincere patter.

I eventually moved to Los Angeles and she became Patrick and my cabaret mentor and one of our closest friends. I remember the first time I sang at one of her open mics at the Oasis. She was a brilliant accompanist and just picked up the music and followed me. Later, she told me she had taught herself to play the piano by learning chords. She encouraged me.

Patrick and I sang three cabaret performances with her at the Gardenia Room and the Caveran Theater in Los Feliz. We sang endless open mic nights at places like the Otherside and the Oasis. Several we drove to Long Beach to sing with her.

I am a trained opera singer, and Lori encouraged me to go off the page and improvise a song. She introduced me to my lower register. She never said no to a version or choice of a song that Patrick and I would pick for our shows. She merely made it better with her coaching and additional fun ideas. We sang everything from classical to Broadway to Standards and not so standard.

As our relationship deepened, we found we had the same Faith – The Science of Mind and Spirit. On her 60th birthday, we took her to the NoHo Arts Center for New Thought and introduced her Dr. James Mellon. She went on to become a practitioner and my husband remained her prayer partner to the end of her life. She also stayed at NoHo Arts Center (now GTC) with Dr. James Mellon to the day she left the planet on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

I will always remember Lori as one of the kindest, loving and most talented people I know. She made her living in the music world, traveling around the globe, creating her own shows, singing night after night at different joints in Southern California and teaching all of us how to attempt to do what she did so naturally. She taught me to take musical chances and to know that you can never make a mistake with a song if you sing it from your heart.

I will miss you, Lori! I celebrate you! I love you and I look forward to singing with you again in the Cosmos!

Love and Aloha,

Rev. Rita

PS If you do not know Lori and you want to know what Spirit can do through us, visit her website that capsulizes in a small way her amazing life http://www.loridonato.com/travels.html

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