Rock and Roll and Elder Care in “Goldie”

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For forty years, Tim Goldrainer has been the front man and lead singer of the Menus, a popular rock-and-roll cover band based in Cincinnati, Ohio, taking the stage dressed in unorthodox silhouettes and every color of the rainbow. When the documentary filmmaker Billy Miossi saw Goldrainer perform at a local festival, several years ago, he was “not prepared” for what he saw. Goldrainer, or Goldie, as he is affectionately known, gave an especially energized performance, “doing the splits and kicking balloons, constantly doing costume changes.” Soon thereafter, Miossi found out that, starting in 2015, Goldrainer had taken on another kind of gig—one to which the singer brings the same commitment but plays in a very different setting. Miossi’s film “Goldie” shows Goldrainer giving concerts in local nursing homes.

Miossi was taken by the idea of such a wild, exuberant performer spending time in front of much smaller, quieter audiences. He tracked Goldrainer down after the festival and learned that the singer lived in a house behind his own. “He just walked through my back yard, and he was at my front door in, like, five minutes,” the filmmaker said. Before long, Miossi attended his first Goldie show, as Goldrainer’s nursing home performances are known. “When he starts, the audience is sort of unsure, like, ‘What is he doing?’ He’s joking with them and he really interacts,” Miossi said, but “he gets up close and sings,” and soon they’re hooked.

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In Miossi’s film, Goldrainer walks into one facility where he’s going to put on a Goldie show, a woman working at the front desk announces that she has a bone to pick with him, because he’s made her mother, who is cared for at a different living facility, fall in love with him. It’s easy to see how this might happen. Goldrainer doesn’t dip into his trove of whimsical costumes for his Goldie shows—he doesn’t need to. In one scene, he skips over to an elderly woman sitting in the first row who surrenders a girlish grin and begins to sing along while Goldrainer belts out Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” He then singles out another audience member to gift her with a pink rose, after which he jokes that he’s “gonna need that back.”

Goldrainer admits that he never planned on performing for the elderly. “Come on, man, give me a break. I sing in a rock band—I’m not ready for the seniors tour yet,” he remembers saying, when his wife suggested it as a daytime pursuit. But, when Goldrainer’s mother developed dementia and had to be admitted to the nursing home at which she’d worked, he’d visit her frequently and started getting to know the other seniors. He’d pop into their rooms to sing a song. When he saw their reactions, he recalls in the film, his “whole perspective changed.” Goldrainer decided to “go a hundred miles an hour with this,” because “why would they not deserve it?”

While working with Goldrainer, Miossi watched in awe as some seniors would go from looking bored or uninterested to completely enchanted by Goldie’s songs and stage patter. “Music is so nostalgic. It’s, like, the most nostalgic thing there is,” Miossi told me. “So, if you hear Frank Sinatra, or hear Nat King Cole . . . it immediately transports you, and that’s got to be good for the soul.”

Throughout the film, it’s clear that Goldrainer is being transported to a place of exhilarating joy as much as he’s providing an escape for the seniors in his Goldie audiences. “Whether it be with the Menus in front of thousands of people or a nursing home,” the way he plays music for others is ruled by a piece of advice his father once gave him: “Ten or ten thousand people, give them the same show. Give them the best show you possibly can.”


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