You Light Up My Life

A young Scott Sanders snares the girl of his dreams in Paris, only to lose her to some old rich guy in New York. His pain amplified when rich guy pens a hit love song...about the girl of his dreams.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR, the "Fool's Gold" episode. My name is Glynn Washington and today we're chasing things that we are not meant to have. Our next story comes to us from SNAP favorite, Scott Sanders. He's been on the show a few times, but this time he comes to us with a story that starts out as a young man traveling in Greece.

SCOTT SANDERS: We walk into the cafe and immediately on my left I see this woman.

JULIA DEWITT, BYLINE: It was 1973 on the island of Santorini in the Greek islands. There's one town perched up on the steep Mediterranean coastal cliffs, supposedly Atlantis was somewhere around there. Just one of those magical kind of places - or at least a really great place to meet a woman.

SANDERS: She has long black hair, sort of piercing hazel eyes, but unusual in that you couldn't easily characterize her. Sort of knew without even knowing there's something about this woman.

DEWITT: Her name was Sarah. Scott was 21 and he was traveling around Europe hitchhiking, looking for just these kinds of unpredictable opportunities. So he started talking to her. Turns out she was a New Yorker like Scott, she missed the smell of the subways just like Scott. And that was it, just small talk. Then she left the island. He figured, probably never see her again, but he couldn't stop thinking about her.

SANDERS: The way she walked, the lilt in her voice, you know, the je ne sais quoi. From the second I laid my eyes on her I was totally fascinated by her.

DEWITT: But Scott figures that's it. He heads to Marcy, France where he plans to take a train to Paris.

SANDERS: Tired, I was hungry, I was feeling sorry for myself. And I was on the platform in the Marcy train station. There was wispy train smoke all around and in one of the windows, maybe this is about 200 feet away, I see Sarah. And she's gesturing wildly to get my attention. Then I start running down the platform, I spring onto the train. It was only going like 2, 3, 4 miles an hour but I was euphoric that I caught up to the train. I run down the aisle of the train.

DEWITT: Sarah comes down running down the aisle to meet him.

SANDERS: We hugged.

DEWITT: At that moment, he didn't kiss her, but they did have a chance to make up for it later because as soon as they got to Paris, they moved in together. Let's just say, they weren't in Paris for the food.

SANDERS: Sarah was five years older than me and she was a sort of very mature 26-year-old and I was a little bit of an immature 21-year-old as far as sexual experiences. It was very enjoyable also. It was very enlightening in the best sense of the word. And what's better than being in Paris and getting enlightened and educated in that manner?

DEWITT: But eventually it had to end. Sarah had to go home and Scott stayed behind.

SANDERS: Of course, within two days of Sarah leaving, I was frantically trying to change my ticket to get on a flight to New York as soon as possible. Changed my flight, booked a ticket and Sara met me at the airport.

DEWITT: And kind of just like that, Scott followed Sarah back to New York and into a real regular long-term relationship, one of those rare cases where a wild tryst actually turns into the real thing.

SANDERS: Our relationship seemed very good. I was totally into her, totally into her and maybe not so much in a healthy way to be so into somebody. And she loved me, but it was sort of disproportionate. It wasn't completely balanced. It was one of those relationships where I would see her walking across the street on the way home before she saw me and I would think, God, I'm lucky that I'm with this woman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUCKY SO AND SO")

DEWITT: They were together for two years living in what Scott figured was relative domestic bliss, until on one otherwise regular afternoon...

SANDERS: Sarah takes this phone call and, you know, sometimes you can just sense that something significant has just happened. And I said, what's up? Who was that? And she said that it was Joe Brooks, the film director that she had met, you know, couple of years earlier when she was an extra in one of his films - that he was inviting her out and that she was going to do it. I sort of knew it was more than a drink by her tone and the way she looked at me. And I sort of knew a little bit about Joe Brooks, that he was a bit of a ladies man and he doesn't ask somebody for a drink for a drink.

DEWITT: Joe Brooks was rich and famous and suddenly her life with Scott didn't look so glamorous.

SANDERS: Sarah had sort of changed channels. She was ready to move on and it happened in a blink of an eye. And the world sort of stopped for me. I was crushed. I couldn't understand it, it was inexplicable. If you wanted to like put a dagger in a relationship, this was the way to do it.

DEWITT: Scott's friends were watching this, so they started trying to take him out to distract him.

SANDERS: About a week after we split up, a friend of mine had really good tickets to a Knick game. And Sarah would never ever, ever go to a basketball game with me. I like tried to get her to go to a basketball game with me, you know, many times. It turned out that she was going to the game with Joe Brooks and they had courtside seats. Turned out to be a triple overtime, one of the biggest games in basketball history and the whole time instead of watching the game, I had binoculars trained on Sarah and Joe Brooks.

DEWITT: Of course, this was Scott's first love, so it was that kind of doubly terrible getting dumped kind of takes extra-long to get over. But after begging for her back, Scott started trying to move on. Tried to avoid places she might be, tried to forget her. Of course, this is never an easy task, but for Scott, it turned out it was going to be even harder because right then is when this pesky song came out on the radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE")

SANDERS: It happened to be written by Joe Brooks. I learned that it was inspired by his rendezvous meetings with Sarah. You light up my life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE")

DEWITT: "You Light Up My Life." You probably know it. And it was about the woman of his dreams lighting up the life of the very rich and famous man Scott was dumped for.

SANDERS: And I triple, quadrupley resented Sarah - OK, she can have a fling with somebody, she doesn't have to have a fling who writes a song about her written by Joe Brooks about Sarah played on the radio 230 times a day.

DEWITT: Everywhere Scott went, the song was playing. He woke up in the morning, his clock radio played it. Walking down the street, the cars that passed played it. He walked into the corner store for his morning cup of coffee, Sarah's song was playing there too.

SANDERS: Even your friends get tired of you suffering, so you have to sort of suffer in silence. And I couldn't suffer in silence 'cause I had to keep hearing this song. And it was like - just a dagger in my heart every time I heard it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE")

SANDERS: You know - and it's a bad song. It's a stupid, bad song that made a zillion dollars. In no way, shape, or form did "You Light Up My Life" light up my life. Thank you very much, Joe Brooks.

DEWITT: "You Light Up My Life" broke a record for the most weeks at the top of the charts. It haunted him for months. But during that time, there's no sign of Sarah herself until one day, that critical rite of passage in any breakup arrived. The random run in. The first chance to act like you're over it when you're not.

SANDERS: I'm taking the subway up to West 57th street. Sarah walks into the train onto the subway and sits down next to me. And, you know, it was awkward but, you know, we exchanged pleasantries.

DEWITT: He comes out of the subway a little shaken but feeling like hey, maybe that was OK. Maybe, you know, I can really move on. And then as he's walking by a music store, well, we'll spare you but you guessed it.

SANDERS: It's hard enough to break up with somebody in general, but to hear this song continuously and for whatever reason it would be referenced or, you know, I would hear it in the '80s, I would hear it in the '90s, I just heard this song and it was always a bummer.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE")

DEWITT: Sarah and Joe Brooks eventually broke up. And years later - let's just say the end of Joe's life wasn't as successful as the beginning. And for Scott...

SANDERS: You know, time heals all wounds and time went by and I got involved with another woman and sort of got my life together and I got over Sarah.

DEWITT: Years later, late at night Scott still occasionally would try digging around on the Internet to try and remind himself of this woman he once loved and that once loved him. But there's no digital trace of Sarah. "You Light Up My Life" on the other hand still comes on the radio every now and again always here to remind him of how badly he got burned.

SANDERS: So many relationships - good relationships embrace the song and have such good feelings about "You Light Up My Life" and all it does is bring misery to me.

DEWITT: I mean, that's what's so funny about this situation, right? Like all relationships have like songs, smells, foods, things that are forever attached to that person and to that relationship, but this is like that on steroids.

SANDERS: Yeah, it's embedded in my memory. So it would be a trip if Sarah actually - when this story's on the air, if she actually hears it. That would be a trip. That would be a real coda to the whole thing.

WASHINGTON: Scott Sanders, we feel your pain. And if anyone wants to donate their K-Tel record collection, do not send it to Scott Sanders, no. No, no, no, no. Send it to me because Sarah's coming over tomorrow night for kitchen. Scott, he's an actor, a writer. You can hear him at live storytelling events like Porchlight, the Moth and Fireside. Learn all about Scott Sanders at snapjudgment.org. That piece was produced by Julia DeWitt and Mark Ristich, with sound design by Davey Kim.

WASHINGTON: It's that time, you've hoped against hope but I'm afraid it's almost here. Not to fear because waiting for you right now, we've got full episodes, movies, pictures, stuff, it's all there - snapjudgment.org. Facebook - SNAP JUDGMENT, Twitter - SNAP JUDGMENT.

WASHINGTON: Now what do "Rambo", "Die Hard", "Men in Black" and "Avatar" have in common? Well, I'll tell you, it's not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Much love to the CPB. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange will give you two brand new crisp dollar bills in exchange for a wrinkly old 20 out of the kindness of their hearts, PRX.org. WBEZ in Chicago for place at WBEZ.

And now, you know, this is not the news. No way is this the news. In fact, you could trade a wine glass for a bottle of wine, a bottle of wine for a puppy, a puppy for a bicycle, a bicycle for a stamp collection, the stamp for an iPhone, the iPhone for a sofa bed, the sofa for a freezer full of venison, the freezer for a VW bus, the bus for a fur shop, the shop for a condo, the condo for 40 acres and a mule. And you would still not be as far away from the news as this is, but this is NPR.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.