Pat Foley: Small Package, Big Gift

One From the Heart

    Pat Foley is very petite. In fact she jokes about her height and claims her favorite song is the infamous "Short People." The funny thing, though, is the fact that she is and has been many different people in her life and in her careers. The common denominator is her music. Today, she plays piano and keyboard, sings, and brings joy to the lives of others, all over the Lowcountry, through the sharing of her gift. Let's get to know her better.

Q: I know you are originally from Rhode Island. Talk a bit about your career there.
A: I played the piano and sang in a kind of lounge, restaurant for more than 14 years. That is unheard of in the music business, because the same act gets stale. I had to constantly keep up with new songs and new everything. I know over 2,500 songs and I still have a network of e-mail friends who send an endless supply of jokes. I was always careful of the jokes I told. I made the place into a family restaurant and one in which corporate women and professors from nearby Brown University could come and feel comfortable. That was no easy task in those days.

Q: Do you have any funny stories about your nightclub days?
A: Well, my funniest story involves roses. One night a very handsome man with a rose in his hand came in, approached the piano bar, tipped me $50 and asked if, when a certain lady came in, I would play a particular song. I agreed, and a couple of minutes later, in walked a knock-out blonde. He approached her with the rose and I began to play his request. They sat down in a quiet booth together and spent the rest of the evening gazing into each other's eyes and drinking expensive wine and left holding hands. Ah, love, I thought. Well two nights later, same guy, same story, same request, same rose, same $50, different woman! As a pro, I knew what to do. I played his song, and minded my own business. The next Friday was supposed to be my night off, but I had to fill in for the other entertainer, and wouldn't you know it. Yes, same guy, but no rose, no tip, no story, no request, no expensive wine. He and his wife and two little kids came in, sat in the restaurant and had pizza for dinner. He nearly dropped his teeth when he saw me, but true to the code, I just kept on playing my piano and minding my own business. I never saw him again!

Q: Who is the most famous person you ever performed with?
A: Oh, that would be Englebert Humperdink. He came in one night and he was asked to sing, and I accompanied him. What a nice guy. I also saw, met, and sang with most of the local politicians and professors from town too. Sometimes I would find myself singing along with the mayor, the attorney general, the lieutenant governor, and the local police chief. I also met Itzhak Perlman once in the restaurant. What a thrill.

Q: What is the best and worse about being in "show biz"?
A: The best is always the people and the music. Music is my gift from God. I have played the piano since I was five years old. I played by ear and had lessons, too. The best part of the gift is that it makes other people happy. My dear father used to say to me, "Patricia, you have the only job in the world where people applaud when you are doing it." Think about it. No one claps for the doctor or the plumber, or even the teacher. They clap for me. I give people happiness. The worst, believe it or not, is what we call patter-talking-joking, greeting regulars when they walk through the door-that kind of thing. I am naturally shy, and that part of entertainment is the "job" for me-not playing the music.

You have a very different life here on Hilton Head Island. Will you talk about that?
A: Yes, I am so very happy here that I thank God every day. I never think of retiring. I play sometimes as a professional and sometimes as a volunteer. I play at Cypress, Seabrook, the Yacht Club of Hilton Head Island, Indigo Pines, three nursing homes, parties, and memorial services and on and on. It is a total win/win-I make people happy, and they make me happy in return. My wonderful husband, Dennis, and I moved here in 1997 and never looked back. What a life!

    And what a gal! If you don't know Pat or you have not heard her play and sing and just make people glad to be near her, you have not really had the ultimate island evening. She is also president of the Naughty Ladies Yacht Club Women's Auxiliary, is a volunteer at the Bargain Box, and is a founding member of the Shipyard Women's Club. So much talent, so much love, and so many lives wrapped up in one little lady!