Chris Isaak Chose Doni … Or Did He?

I knew it was my lucky night when out of all the armrests in the entire Cascade Theatre that the supremely dreamy, super sexy Chris Isaak could have chosen to sit upon, he chose mine.

I mean, literally, he was almost on my lap with nothing except that skinny wooden armrest between his behind and my thighs. I could have let my hands wander. But I didn’t. Yes, I did get so caught up in the excitement that I squeezed his bicep. He was that close. How could I not?

Chris Isaak perched upon the arm of Doni’s seat during his concert at the Cascade Theatre. Photo by Matt Grigsby.

I later joked with a friend that Chris Isaak probably sized me up as he walked down that aisle as someone who would behave herself, someone who wouldn’t take advantage of him in that very close, highly charged proximity.

Chris Isaak photo courtesy of

What kind of woman am I? Only in my dreams am I the kind of woman who feels comfortable enough to leave the safety of my seat to dance without inhibition in the aisles. And, horror of horrors, if I were invited on stage to dance – as some women were selected to do during the Redding concert – and they rocked it – I am not the kind of woman inclined to fling undergarments to the audience. I’m too uptight. Believe it or not, in my heart of hearts, I’m kind of shy.

I’d have my shoulders scrunched up to my ears, swinging my L-shaped arms from side to side, T-Rex style – dryly snapping my fingers, awkward moves to rival Elaine’s Seinfeld-episode dance.

I’m just not a par-tay concert girl. Oh, how I wish I could be more like those unrestrained women who leap to their feet and let the music carry them away with total abandon. In fact, if people around me get too crazy and loud, I sometimes feel frustrated because no matter how raucous the concert, I’m really there to hear an artist perform; not watch audience shenanigans.

In fact, many years ago I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert with a friend, and our seats were so high up in the arena that it was difficult to see the stage. I made the mistake of asking the woman in front of us if she would please sit down, and she came unhinged. No, she did not sit down. The only way to see was to join her, and stand. I stood. I did not dance.

That’s why I believe Chris chose me – I mean, my armrest. I think he sensed I was a trustworthy female who wouldn’t abuse my privileges.

It was the last thing I expected that evening. First, Chris left the stage, which I thought was a nice touch, you know, literally coming down from the stage on high to mingle on the same level with his fans. Then he walked up the aisle – MY aisle – and I was delighted to realize that he would probably walk RIGHT BY ME. ME! My seat! Was I lucky, or what? Yes, lucky! Oh, for the chance to be that near him, or to even touch the hem of his sequined jacket.

But then he slowed, slower still, and finally, he came to a complete stop near my seat, row J.

J for jubilant. J for joyful. J for sweet Jesus, Chris Isaak placed his derriere upon my armrest!

I freaked out a little inside, because here was a performer I adore, sitting right there with me. I was so spun out, so happy, that I leaned forward to catch the eye of friend Matt Grigsby across the aisle, who captured the whole thing with his cell phone. Gosh, it’s great to have a friend who’s an expert photographer at times like this. (Thank you, Matt!)

Look, Matt! Chris Isaak is right here! With me! Can you believe it? He chose me, me, me!

I was so caught up in the presence of Chris Isaak at that moment, that now, in this moment, I cannot recall for the life of me the song Chris was singing. It’s as if my brain checked out, and with it went my ability to recall the song. (Somebody else who was there, help me! What was the song?)

I flashed back decades to the time I was in Washington, D.C., walking in front of the White House exactly as Nancy Reagan’s motorcade was returning. Suddenly, it was a flash mob of Secret Service and the efficient corralling of we sheeple tourists. Reagan’s limo passed right by me, and as it did, I saw her through her window. We made eye contact. She lifted her thin arm and did a small wave, with a slight smile. I waved back like a wild woman.

Hi, Nancy! Hi, Nancy! Nancy! Nancy! 

I did all that, forgetting in that star-struck moment that I wasn’t even a Nancy Reagan fan.

But that was absolutely NOT the case at the Cascade Theatre and Chris Isaak’s concert. I am a fan! I have loved his music for years. In fact, I even have a Chris Isaak Pandora station I’ve created, which I carefully edit, thumbing down anything that isn’t purely Chris Isaak.

The thing is, after my close encounter with Chris Isaak, I did a little online stalking research. I read somewhere that Chris said he liked to be touched in those kinds of fan situations. What? Seriously? Total missed opportunity.

Chris, please come back! Give me another chance! I have already denounced my love for Paul Hollywood. I promise! I have coffee cake! 

One more thought about my unforgettable Chris Isaak moment. It dawned upon me a few days later that perhaps he chose to sit on my chair arm for another reason. Maybe he sat on my armrest because I was sitting beside Valerie Ing Miller,’s own Mistress of the Mix.

You probably know that Val also represents Jefferson Public Radio in Redding, which is why you’ll often see her introduce acts at the Cascade Theatre. In fact, the whole reason I was able to attend the Chris Isaak concert that night was that I was Val’s guest, something I’ll be thanking her for for a long, long time. (Thank you, Val!)

Now it occurs to me that maybe Chris was actually heading for Val, and because I had the aisle seat, it so happened that my armrest was the closest to her’s.

If you know that to be true, please don’t burst my bubble and tell me.

Well, there really isn’t anything left to say, except although I understand that Chris Isaak’s magical stop at row J was just part of a choreographed routine that he repeats over and over during a tour, it was something that brought me indescribable joy; frankly, in a week that had been kind of a downer.

That’s why I’m not going to overthink why Chris stopped at my seat. I’ll accept it as a gift – heck, I consider it part of my birthday gift, which was yesterday.

And, by the way, speaking of birthdays, I happen to know that Chris Isaak is exactly two weeks older than I am. Just added that for no particular reason. Never mind …

OK. That’s all, I’m done. I’ve moved on. Really I have.

Life will go on.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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36 Responses

  1. Hope yesterday was almost as special. Headed for a trip through Lassen NP then Farwood Grill. See you soon.

    • Yes, I enjoyed a very special birthday (I’ll share more about it in an upcoming column.)

      And happy birthday to you, today, my fellow Moon Child friend. Enjoy your special day. I’m so glad you were born!

  2. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    It really was a great moment. As it was happening I thought, “Wow, he’s actually in the audience, Doni’s going to see him up close!
    He’s right there!
    He’s stopping in front of her!

    The fact that I could get that photo, with you smiling ear to ear, while I was freaking out in excitement for you, was an amazing thing. Chris Isaak might never know how perfect that moment was, but we sure do. You deserved that.

    • Oh, Matt, your being there to chronicle this moment in a photograph really was the topper to an incredible evening.

      Have I told you lately that I love you? I love you! Thank you! (btw, thanks for the beautiful beach shot this morning. Gorgeous.)

  3. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    We’re not only back to “normal” (Doni’s column appearing on Thursday), but we can bid her happy birthday month and rejoice with her over her close encounter with her music idol. Thanks for the day brightener, Noni Doni.

  4. Ah, magic — when artists exceed expectations and deliver thrills. Your smile says it all.

  5. AJ AJ says:

    Oh Doni . . . . what absolute FUN, FUN, FUN . . . . Exactly the right fantasy, with the right artist, with the right venue . . . and the fantasy all came true. The bonus here being that the reality of your fantasy did not disappoint. And thanks to Matt for the full color, living proof!!

  6. Avatar Marcie says:

    Oh my gosh, LOVE this! So glad you had a very special birthday!!

  7. Deb Deb says:

    The giddy joy shines through both your words and that fabulous smiley oh-my-gosh-is-this-really-happening photo. So glad you had such A Moment, Doni! Kudos to Matt for capturing it for posterior… er, posterity!

  8. Jon Lewis Jon Lewis says:

    For the record, he was singing ‘Big Wide Wonderful World’ during your little pas de deux. A fitting song, it turns out:

    Look at the sky
    The sky just got bluer
    Look at those eyes
    They’re calling me to her

    It’s a big wide wonderful world
    Wonderful world
    I´ve just been give in
    It’s a big wide wonderful world
    Wonderful world
    Yeah, that we live in

    And I know, yeah baby, I know
    We’re gonna keep on swinging

    Look at the sky
    Things just got better
    Everything’s changed
    Now that I’d met her

    It’s a big wide wonderful world
    Wonderful world
    I´ve just been give in
    It’s a big wide wonderful world
    Wonderful world
    Yeah, that we live in

    • I should have known to ask you, Jon! Thank you
      And of course, I am jealous that you actually got to spend time with Chris.

      • Mistress of the Mix Mistress of the Mix says:

        I’m pretty darned sure it WAS your eyes (and your welcoming smile) that were calling him to you Doni! What a great night that was! I got to have lunch with my friend who dated him in high school last week while I was in Oregon, and I shared the story with her! I had such a fun time recounting that moment!

  9. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’m apparently one of the few people, besides critics, who liked The Chris Isaak Show on Showtime.

  10. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    Doni, I think he’s in love with you, and just can’t find a way to tell you.

  11. Greg Greenberg Greg Greenberg says:

    As I was reading your article I kept thinking about one of my favorite movies, Defending Your Life. If you’ve never seen it, it’s worth watching.

  12. Avatar Cathy says:

    What a fun article! You really captured all the excitement you were feeling because I was feeling it too just reading your description of the event. I know nothing about Chris Isaak and couldn’t name one of his songs if my life depended on it, but I’m so very happy for you for being so close to someone you admire. What a thrill! And happy birthday too!

  13. I have some Chris Isaak stories from back in the day too racy to tell in A News Cafe’s comment section. It was always well known that Chris had a magnificent … well you managed to get through the whole story without saying ass, among his other salient features. Hard to believe both of you are older than me … just slightly.

  14. I’m on the road. I just stopped for caffeine and to check comments. I’ll pop back later. (p.s., R.V. , let the record show that Chris is older than I am. ;))

  15. Avatar Jorgi B says:

    What a wonderful article. Yes, I could tell you were thrilled even without the great picture.And, tho late – Happy Birthday.