An air of confidence filled the room the moment Raphael Baptiste swaggered into the parlor area of his Presidential Suite at the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. As we exchanged greetings before an exclusive one-on-one interview, I couldn’t help but recall my initial meeting with him at the start of his career a little over eight years ago.
As a veteran entertainment reporter, I’d finally landed an interview with the man the music industry knows as Ray LaSalle, pianist and founder of the jazz band Les Croisés. Unlike the celebrities I’d interviewed in the past, I was immediately struck by LaSalle’s persona. He’s a master at holding people away and observes cautiously. He’s perfected his uncanny ability to use his charm as a shield to appear outgoing, perhaps spontaneous when in fact, he isn’t.
However, the man whose thoughts are very much his own, opened up in a way that shocked me when I questioned him about a recent tabloid report about his involvement with a physician researcher named Laney Houston. I inwardly chuckled. Whether he’s ready to admit it, LaSalle cares deeply for Laney. He’s on the edge and like every other man who’s found his soul mate in life; he’s ready to topple off the mountain-top of bachelorhood faster than a condemned soul on its way to hell.
Ray leaned over with his hands clasped between his legs.
Q: So, Ray, sources have speculated that you’re involved in a relationship with Dr. Laney Houston. Is this true?
Q: You been linked with several women in the past. Are things serious between you and Laney?
A: I’d like it to be, but I don’t know if that’s possible.
Q: Oh, I see. Why do you feel that why?
A: She ignores me as though I don’t exist.
Q: Is your ego bruised?
A: Hell no! It’s downright deflated.
Q: Do you know the reason why Laney ignores you?
A: When we first met, I told Laney upfront I’d never settle down with one woman. Now I realize telling her that was the biggest mistake of my life.
Q: Why do you think it was a mistake?
A: Honestly, I thought I was immune to love, but Laney proved me dead wrong. I’ve tried to push her out of my mind, but the mere thought of her has caused me too many restless nights. At first, I thought what I felt for Laney was lust. Maybe it’s infatuation. I’m afraid though, it’s much more.
Q: So, you’re not denying that Laney is your soul mate?
A: I might be a lot of things, but a fool I’m not. Laney is everything a man could want. She’s the complete package.
Q: Have you told her how you truly feel?
A: Not yet.
Q: Well, wait are you waiting for?
A: I recently learn I have an illness. I need to put some distance between us because the last thing I need now is a pity party.
Q: As a happily married man for over thirty years, can I offer you some advice?
Q: Does your illness matter to Laney?
A: She said it didn’t, but I’m not sure things will ever be the same.
Q: There’s a quote by Josiah G. Holland. Ever hear of him?
A: Yes, he’s a famous poet. Why do you ask?
Q: He coined a phrase years ago that you’d do well to remember. Want to know what he said?
Q: The most precious possession that ever comes to a man in this world is a woman’s heart. Do you love Laney enough to go after her heart despite your illness?
A: Aaah, you’ll learn the answer to your question when you pick up a copy of If I Were Your Woman, March 4th.