Billy Vera: Forgiveness is the Doorway to Heaven


Billy Vera

Billy Vera was kind enough to contribute a terrific story about his hit song At This Moment to my book, Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything. But Billy also told me a second story that is both moving and powerful. I’m privileged to present it here for the first time. I’ll start it with a brief introduction:

Singer/songwriter Vera made his first record and wrote a chart hit for Ricky Nelson while still in his teens. In 1985, four years after his band, Billy Vera & the Beaters, had recorded At This Moment,  the song was used in the hit sitcom Family Ties, which rocketed both the song and Vera to stardom, Also an accomplished actor, Vera has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows and is a sought-after voiceover artist. Billy Vera & the Beaters has established itself as the quintessential L.A. band; Hollywood stars and other celebrities frequently attend their shows throughout the So-Cal area. For more information, visit Billy’s website and his MySpace page.

When I was very, very young, maybe nineteen, I hooked up with an older woman of twenty-two. In those days, the kinds of girls you met in nightclubs were kind of low-life. Nice people from good families didn’t go to rock and roll nightclubs. I got involved with this girl and some time later she accused me of fathering a child. Were it to be mine, it would have been the world’s first ten-and-a-half-month pregnancy.

But I was, shall we say, “convicted” of being the father in court and ended up paying eighteen years of child support for a child that was not mine. It had a profound negative effect on me, the injustice of it. As my lawyer at the time told me, unlike in the criminal justice system, in the family court system you’re guilty until proven innocent. And the reason for that is that they’re in cahoots with the welfare system, and they’re determined to find somebody, anybody, that the girl claims to be the father in order to keep her off welfare. So that was my little cross to bear for the next eighteen years.

Cut to twenty-some years later. During the time that my song At This Moment was big, I married an out-of-work actress—I know that’s a redundancy—because she was pregnant. This was my child so I decided to do the right thing. It was a very difficult marriage, to say the least. It ended in divorce six years later. I ended up paying more alimony than some very famous, well-off stars paid, and I was far from their financial class.

I’m now divorced and living in a new place. And all these years I had avoided this first girl because every time I had a hit record or a visible bump in my career, she’d come after me looking for more money and try to take me to court. And she’d bring the child to my mother’s house and torture my poor mother. When At This Moment got big, she went around my former hometown in New York telling everybody she was going to go to the National Enquirer and sell the story and that kind of thing.

One day—this is eight to ten years after At This Moment and several years after my divorce from my actress wife—the phone rings. Now I had always let the machine answer and never picked up unless it was somebody I knew or somebody I figured was legit. But I heard her voice on the phone and child support had long since passed. For some reason, I picked up the phone. She tells me this tale of woe. She’s in a hospital somewhere in the Bronx and she claims she has full-blown AIDS, which means she’s dying. And I’m thinking to myself, Why are you telling this to somebody that you haven’t spoken to in twenty-five to thirty years? She said that the doctor told her there was a complication and that If she didn’t have an operation, she was going to die in two weeks. And I’m still thinking, Why are you telling me this? She said, “I just don’t know what to do.” I said, “Well, if you have full-blown AIDS, that means you’re dying, right?” She said yes. So it wasn’t a matter of if, it was matter of when.

And I don’t know where this came from, but I said to her, “Do you believe in God?” She was a very ignorant and uneducated woman, and she said, “Oh, you mean like if I pray, I’ll be healed?” I said, “No, I don’t believe that those kinds of prayers are answered.” I said, “Do you have a piece of paper and a pencil?” She said yes. I said, “Write down these words.” I don’t know where the words came from, but I said, “Please give me the strength to accept your will.” I said, “Just repeat that prayer over and over again every half hour.” And I said, “That prayer will be answered.”

Like I said, I don’t know where those words came from or where the idea came from. But when I hung up the phone, I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I realized later that what I had done was an act of forgiveness. I was telling somebody about it, and they said, “Well, yes, forgiveness is the doorway to heaven.” And I realized that I had also been carrying around this bitterness toward my actress ex-wife, who was continuing to try to get more money out of me and use me in every way possible. I thought, if I can find a way to forgive her, maybe that burden will be lifted from me.

It took me well over a year, because she kept doing other things that needed forgiving. There’s an old saying, Fake it till you make it, so I started out by pretending to like her: “Oh, that blouse looks so nice on you” and “I like the way your hair looks that way.” Just saying nice things and being the biggest phony in the world until I actually began at some point to feel those things. In the end, I was able to forgive, and better able to go on with my own life. But it all came from that conversation with that first girl.

Click here to read an excerpt from Billy’s story about his hit song, At This Moment.

Click here to view all my forgiveness-related posts.


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4 Responses to “Billy Vera: Forgiveness is the Doorway to Heaven”

  1. Martha (TAZ31263) on twitter Says:

    Great Story … just loved it!!

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Glad to hear it, Martha!

  3. nequi Says:

    This is an inspiring story of forgiveness Phil. Earlier i included in my prayers those people who used to be my friends. I asked the Lord to give me the ability to forgive them for the hurtful things they did to me. I prayed too that they will find forgiveness in their hearts to forgive me for whatever wrong i may have done them. It’s been more than 3 years since it happened. There are still moments that i feel the pain. I continue to pray that true forgiveness will come into my heart.

    Thanks again Phil for this very enlightening story. I can learn from Billy Vera’s story.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m very glad you found Billy’s story so meaningful, nequi, and that you are taking the high road to deal with your own experience of hurt and betrayal. Forgiveness might not make the hurt go away but it sure helps and it provides a peace of mind that we never could get otherwise. My thoughts are with you.

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