Christine Lavin is a storyteller. She naturally breaks into stories as she talks: about baking, about the airport, about her New York home, about chance encounters. Her talky tales answer questions or illustrate other vignettes. It's what she does for a living, and the words bubble out of her spontaneously, willy-nilly. Sometimes they become songs. So it's hard to classify her style as an entertainer. Part folksinger, part philosopher, part class clown and part best girlfriend, Lavin will tell her stories -- and sing some, too -- this week at a pair of benefit concerts for Boulder County community radio station KGNU.
A whimsical stage personality who claims to be quite shy when she's not working, Lavin really didn't start out as a performer; in fact, she had every intention of becoming a nurse. "I was the most studious little girl. I was valedictorian of my kindergarten class," she says without batting an eyelash. But one day twenty years ago, at the age of 32, she quit her day job to sing songs. She made one-third of her previous salary but had never been so happy in her life -- and she's never looked back.
In spite of the successful formula, Lavin's act is constantly changing. "I've really gotten a lot more interactive on stage since I saw Dame Edna on Broadway and became an acolyte," she says. And since learning to knit two years ago, she's begun hosting pre-concert knitting circles -- for real, girls -- and invites all ticket-holding knitters to join her for stitching and, more important, networking an hour before the show. "I'm the Cat in the Hat," she jokes. "I get people together, shake things up and leave town." But not before leaving a lasting impression, if only because we see ourselves so clearly in Lavin's cheerful banter.
For instance: "One thing I really hate is if I'm carrying an umbrella and the rain has stopped," she'll begin, and suddenly, it's a story about an old Frenchwoman doing exactly that on the streets of New York. Samaritan Lavin stopped her to tell her, but instead of thanking her, the woman haughtily barked at her, "Eet ees not your beezness! I carry zee umbrella because eet keeps ze humidity off my hair!" Lavin continues, "So I said, 'Well, your hair is lovely,' and she said, 'I know!' And we thought the French were only rude to us in France!"