Last Friday, Michael and Patty McManus visiting Washington, D.C. from Hoboken, New Jersey, were leaving their hotel when a familiar tune caught their attention.
In town for their 35th wedding anniversary, they couldn’t believe it when the melody, “I Only Have Eyes For You,” —their wedding song—was blasting from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s new exhibition,“SONG 1″ by artist Doug Aitken.
Kizmet, the couple thought. “Here we are, married 35 years, and our song is being broadcast for the whole town to hear,” McManus said. The two met as teenagers in 1969 at a law firm in New York City. Patty was a secretary and Michael was a part time office messenger about to start college. (Last week when the show opened, Smithsonian photographer Eric Long was on hand shooting images of visitors admiring the exhibition when he learned of the couple’s anniversary and gave ATM the heads up.)
In 1975, the year the couple became engaged, a remake of the then-41-year-old song, performed this time by Art Garfunkel, was popular on the charts. McManus said the simple message of the lyrics was perfect for their reception. They’re other contender? “Let’s Spend the Night Together” by the Rolling Stones.
“We thought that might not sit well with our parents,” he said.
The couple was feeling nostalgic, given the occasion, and so details of that long-ago wedding came tumbling out when a reporter asked. More than 300 guests attended the wedding—Irish and Italian relatives from both sides of the family. According to McManus,”it was quite the party.” His mother even arranged a bus service to transport guests from church to reception. McManus said he’ll never forget their first dance.
“I’m no Fred Astaire, but I was in heaven,” the former groom recalled.
The exhibition, which projects Doug Aitken’s film onto the Hirshhorn Museum’s exterior in a 360-degree display, uses 22 speakers to play the classic love song. McManus said the exhibit shed a different light on the song’s meaning. “It was so striking that it was just the first two or four lines in the song, but it never got tiring,” he said. “Every time the next artist sang the opening line, it was like experiencing all over again.”
Today, Mr. McManus runs a property management business and the couple have two children and two grandsons. When they made plans to visit DC to celebrate their marriage, this surprise was not on the itinerary, but McManus described the experience best, paraphrasing the song’s lyrics:
“In the past 35 years of our marriage, millions have gone by,” he said, “but I still only have eyes for her.”