Timothy Edward Levine had a rough beginning in life. A diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect, caused his lungs to be underdeveloped. Soon after his birth on December 11, 1983, Timmy was life-flighted for emergency surgery from a hospital near Spring, TX to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston’s Medical Center. The surgery was a success. However, for the next several years, Timmy would wake up in the middle of the night screaming. His parents thought that he was having nightmares from memories of his traumatic early beginnings.
They would hold Timmy and rub his back, but the only thing that soothed him was when they played the music of Crystal Gayle. When Timmy’s mother, Margaret, was pregnant with him, she frequently listened to Crystal Gayle’s music. Apparently, Timmy listened to her music, too, “in utero”. Until he was born, nothing traumatic had happened to him. Perhaps hearing Crystal’s music innately transported him back to a time where he felt the most safe and secure.
In 1987, Timmy was diagnosed with autism, and it became very clear why Crystal Gayle’s music was very much an important part of his life. Timmy’s father, Steve, explained, “Autistic individuals depend upon rituals, routines, and schedules to make sense of their life, and Crystal Gayle’s music was part of Timmy’s daily routine and ritual.”
Once Steve and Margaret understood how important Gayle’s music was to Timmy, they made sure that he always had new CD’s, tapes, and videos of her music. Sometimes, Timmy would turn off the sound of the video and turn up the volume of a CD and listen to a completely different song than what was on the video. Steve believes that in Timmy’s mind, he has “two for one” because he knows exactly what she is singing in the video and he’s hearing her voice on the CD. Steve says, “I guess he thinks it’s like Crystal in stereo.”
In 1987, the Levine’s heard that Gayle would be performing at a conference they were going to attend for the National Apartment Association. Steve wrote a long letter to the booking agent of the association to give to Gayle’s manager about what a big “little” fan 4-year-old Timmy was.
Steve wrote, “I’m sure she has a lot of fans who love her music, but for one in particular, my son Timmy, it’s part of his daily life and has a calming effect on him when he is upset. He listens to it every single day.”
In the letter, Steve asked if he and his wife could visit with Crystal after her performance. Their request was granted. At the end of the performance, the Levine’s were ushered to the end of a very long line of National Apartment Association dignitaries. A gentleman by the name of Bill Gatzimos was asking for them. He said that, if they would wait for everyone to leave, he and Gayle would sit and talk with them about Timmy. It turned out that not only was Gatzimos Crystal’s manager. He was her husband too! The four of them spent at least 45 minutes talking with each other about children, autism, and Timmy.
At that concert, Steve bought Timmy a Crystal tour shirt, and Timmy wore it as a nightshirt for many years until he eventually outgrew it. Fast forward 20 years later to December 2007. Steve (now divorced and remarried) phoned Margaret to ask her what she thought would be a good birthday present for Timmy. Margaret replied that Timmy would probably enjoy a new Crystal tour shirt.
Steve went online to order a tour shirt, but the website had a glitch and wouldn’t process the payment. Out of desperation, Steve contacted Gayle’s office in Nashville and asked to speak to Bill Gatzimos because Timmy’s birthday was rapidly approaching. Bill was very accommodating and said he would be happy to help with the shirt. He added, “By the way, did you know that Crystal will be performing near Houston at The Stafford Center the first Saturday night in January, and I think the tickets go on sale tomorrow?”
The next morning, Steve rushed over to the Stafford Center and was the first person there. He was able to purchase six front row center tickets, so that he could take his new wife, Barbara, and Timmy to see Crystal. The night arrived, and Steve worried that Timmy would not want to sit for an entire concert. Those fears were laid to rest as soon as Crystal came out on the stage. Timmy was mesmerized by Crystal. It was an amazing experience to watch Timmy’s reaction when he first saw her in person. Being autistic, he could not express it in words. But, the look on his face said everything.
Timmy was sitting in between Steve and Barbara. He would repeatedly look up at Crystal who was on stage just a few feet in front of him, and then look back at Steve and Barbara as if to say, “Look, that’s Crystal in real life, right in front of me. And, she’s singing just to me!” Throughout the concert he clapped his hands and stomped his feet with the music as he gazed at Crystal, never once trying to get out of his seat.
Crystal, who had been told where Timmy would be sitting and had received a picture of him from Steve, kept winking and smiling at Timmy throughout the evening. Indeed, it did look like it was a concert just for Tim. At the end, Timmy handed a single rose to Crystal purchased by his Aunt Tracey for the occasion. The gesture truly impacted Crystal. The impact could be seen in her eyes, the expression on her face, and how she put her hand to her heart.
After the concert, Timmy and his family were escorted to an area where they waited for Crystal to come out. She autographed Timmy’s shirt and CD’s and took pictures with him. Steve later had a special picture of Crystal and Tim enlarged. He called Bill Gatzimos to see if Crystal would be willing to autograph it and send it back to him. Bill put Steve on hold for a moment. He came back and said, “Only if Tim will autograph a picture for her.”
Steve had all of the autographed memorabilia including the tickets, tour shirt, and photograph framed. It all now hangs prominently on Timmy’s bedroom wall in his group home.
Fast forward, again, to July 2010. Three years have passed since this “chance of a lifetime” for one special fan of Crystal Gayle. Recently, Steve and Barbara Levine received a phone call from their good friends Steve and Ann Magoon. Magoon is a member of the Rotary Club of Fort Bend County, which is part of Rotary International–the largest community service organization in the world. Magoon recalled a story the Levine’s shared at a dinner party the year before about how Timmy loved Crystal Gayle.
He then elaborated that his Rotary Club always supports Wharton Junior College events. He went on to say that there was going to be a fundraiser for the college, and Gayle would be performing. He continued and said his Rotary Club had a table. He wanted to give their tickets to Timmy and Steve, so they could go see Crystal in person once again.
Steve and Barbara were thrilled by this gesture. The Magoons are also active with the Special Olympics, so they recognized that the concert would be a “Second in a Lifetime” event for Timmy.
Steve Levine sums it up, “I told this to Tim, and he is so excited. Thanks to the Magoons and Rotary Club of Fort Bend County, I was able to give my son a second ‘chance of a lifetime’ gift!” With few words, Tim expressed how he felt when he found out by excitedly saying, “Crystal, yes!”
Tim has had several opportunities since then to see Crystal perform live in the last few years. Most recently, he saw her perform on April 13th of this year at Dosey Does in The Woodlands, TX. Each time he sees her perform, she smiles and winks at him in the audience. She usually dedicates one of Timmy’s favorite tunes to him (“Rocky Top”) and always treats him as her VIP.
Obviously, Tim and Crystal are “Big Fans” of each other!