“Patricia Harrold at the Piano”

Seemingly Meek and Unobtrusive but a Dynamo on the Keyboard
Only those of us who live here really know what ‘Living in Hollywood’ is like. One day you see your neighbor’s goth girl busking at the Hollywood farmer’s market and slip her a $20 and give her a thumbs up, and a few years later she’s coming home with an armload of Grammys. (Yeah, that just happened!)

We look over at the very loud rambunctious two dozen middle-schoolers sharing pizzas and I turned to Pat.
“How are you ever going to get their attention?”
“With Frank Sinatra. Just watch me.”
The 5-foot snow-white-haired woman navigated with her walker through the noisy kids to the piano. A few pointed at her. She hunched over the keyboard, looked over at her audience, and burst out with a powerful rendition of “Strangers in the Night.”
The kids stopped talking. A few pulled out their cell phones to record her playing.
Patricia Harrold once again captures the attention of the guests of Miceli’s, the oldest Italian restaurant in Hollywood. Since 1949, Miceli’s has served up Italian food to Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Dean Martin and Perry Como, and many other superstars.
And since 1997, Pat has taken requests in the classic eatery where the ceiling is lined with Chianti bottles and your servers are likely to break out into song.
“They had better be good,” smirks Pat. At one time, being a decent singer was a requirement to be hired at Miceli’s.
Tonight, waitress Joanna Lynn-Jacobs breaks out in French to The Habanera from “Carmen.” The kids are mesmerized.
Later in the kitchen, Joanna talks about how she is a “freelance experimental opera singer” when she’s not working at Miceli’s.
“I love working with Pat, she knows a crazy amount of songs,” Joanna says. “And she knows how to do them in every key.”
Pat credits famed agent Billy Martin for talking her into “just a casual social gathering” at the restaurant. The late owner Carmen Miceli asked her to play the piano and that’s how she got her regular gig.
She began playing the piano when she was old enough to touch the pedals and reach the keys. She has lived in Hollywood most of her life and is classically trained, but has picked up on every kind of music that people could possibly ask her to play.
If you’ve driven down Las Palmas over the past few decades, you’ve seen Pat there, too. She’s a bit slower these days because of crippling arthritis, and sometimes she may ask for help, but mostly she prefers to do things for herself.
Don’t ask her for her age, it’s rude to ask a lady. “Age is irrelevant to what I do,” she insists.
Liza Minelli used to come to hang out frequently. So did gangsters such as Mickey Cohen. More recently, stars like Julia Roberts, Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey have popped in. But it’s the tourists from all over the world and the local regulars who Pat appreciates most.
“I play for people who have had a rougher day than I have,” Pat says. “And if they’re too rude to listen, or they start heckling when I play, well I have my insurance.”
Pat pulls out of her purse a rather large and heavy nameplate that she plops on her piano that reads: “Patricia Harrold at the Piano.” A knock on the head with that will silence anyone at least for a while.
Then she plays smoothly from John Lennon’s “Imagine” to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” from “Moonlight Sonata” to a “Mary Poppins” medley.
It’s almost as extensive a library of musical knowledge as the ghostly piano player Irma at the Magical Castle just up the hill. Visitors could ask the invisible Irma to play practically anything, and she would talk back via the piano.
Hold on, could Pat have been one of the famous pianists that once inhabited Irma the Ghost?
“I can confirm that I once worked at the Magic Castle, but I am forbidden to confirm under what capacity,” says Pat, with a wink.

You can catch Pat playing Thursday, Sunday and Monday evenings at Miceli’s in Hollywood at 1646 N. Las Palmas. She points out that tips haven’t been as good as they were before the virus.

You can reach the author at mikeszy@aol.com.