On Hatteberg’s People, a piano tinkles in the background as we dine, it is comfort music. Pat McElligott has been at the keyboard for much of his life. First in New York and for the past few decades has called Wichita home. He talks of New York nightclubs and long-ago names of the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s where he knew the rich and famous. Now, rooted in Wichita, his classical elegance, wit and charm are on display at Larkspur Restaurant in Wichita.
“It’s been like Paris and New York in one place for me here.”
Pat McElligott plays softly with fingers barley touching the keys, a picture of old elegance and new renaissance.
“I think I’ve been about as content as I’ve never been.”
McElligott is well-known in Wichita Society. He was and is ‘their’ piano player.
“It’s very gratifying. I had no idea I’d spend this much time in Wichita.”
His fans are everyone including young women in pony-tail hair sipping chardonnay, and servers who dote on the man who once played with Barbara Streisand.
“You are a good man Pat.”
“Well, I am spoiled here for any other work….ever.”
It is this atmosphere that has been his life. He found his way to Wichita from New York via the West coast.
“I went to New York and left for Seattle and I met a couple said before you go back to New York would like to come to Wichita and I said ‘Oh yes, I’ve never been to Texas, I’ve never been there.”
These pictures are from his New York experience, but not that he is a name-dropper.
“Yeah, oh gosh yes, the name I would like to drop is Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman’s pianist and Billy Holiday’s favorite accompanist.”
“Mae West never missed a performance and we worked together in Night Clubs.”
His New York experience included close friends like Tululu Bankhead and Noel Coward. It was New York from the mid ‘40’s to the mid ‘70’s. It was the best of times and he was playing his piano in the middle of all of it.
“I can talk to you right now in the middle of it and still play this song I hope. Maybe not always….but it’s fun to do. It was an avoidance of doing anything people might think is worthwhile.”
His tiny home is packed with life’s relics…but home for pat McElligott is not here, it’s performing…and his stage is set among the waiting dinners, the darkened room of echoed voices, the shiny cadence of liquor bottles and one man and his music simply rejoicing in every note.
“And last night at Larkspur I will never forget. Lifetime memories!”
Pat McElligott can be seen doing what he loves, Monday Through Thursday evenings at Larkspur Restaurant at 904 E. Douglas in Wichita, Kansas.