Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bill Crow

I have added bass player Bill Crow's site to Links Of Interest on the right. Jazz fans are familiar with Bill's work in bands led by luminaries such as Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn and Zoot Sims. His memory is air-tight and flawless. Two of my favorite books are "Jazz Anecdotes" (which features a cover photo to be treasured: Roy Eldridge has just said something to Lester Young which is causing Prez to hold his sides to keep from falling down), and "From Birdland To Broadway", both insightful, informative and beautifully written, not to mention often tear-inducing hilarious. Both are very much worth your dollar investment. Not surprisingly, Bill is also a funny, kind and generous man, not to mention an excellent musician.

If you have followed jazz and its practioners as long as I have, you will cherish these books. If you have followed jazz and its practioners as long as I have, you probably own these books. Time to share them with other addicts.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Rockies, The Sox And Dave

The Red Sox stomped the Colorado Rockies last night, winning 13-1 in a rather dull contest precisely because of the trouncing. We had expected a bigger fight from the much-heralded National League champs, even if we didn't recognize any of the names or faces on their side. Perhaps tonight the Rocks/Sox show will be more interesting. One can only hope.

The especially good news for all of you Dave Frishberg fans (please get behind me in the line) is that he has a new web site filled with amazing stories of his own experiences in New York and LA, his connections with hundreds of famous singers and musicians, all told in typically droll fashion by this master craftsman of the written word. I heartily recommend you make a visit here and enjoy the tales he tells.

Friday, October 19, 2007

On the mend ....

I told all of you about my husband's heart attack, the diligent and highly-skilled doctors and nurses at Mass General in Boston who took such good care of him, and the continued TLC administered at Youville Rehab Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He's been home for just two weeks, showing such remarable recovery, his visiting nurses, OT and PT specialists have officially signed off. He walks every day, eats a new but flavorful diet (I know it's fine: I not only prepare it, I also share the meals), reads a lot, has been making and receiving calls from business associates. All in all, it's rather astonishing.

Thanks to each of you for your kind wishes, cards, flowers and telephone calls. No wonder he's looking more and more fit every day. Your thoughts and prayers encouraged him enormously.

Ah, October. The Red Sox still have to deal with the very talented Cleveland Indians tomorrow night at Fenway Park. The Indians lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, meaning they still have two more chances to get to the World Series. We will watch every move on our vintage (1954) RCA color tv which has NEVER seen the inside of a repair shop.

I have more "Opening for ... " stories coming soon to this space.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Opening Act

Many performers have experienced the thrill of Opening For The Headliner. In my long career, I opened for comics (Jerry) Stiller & (Anne) Meara, Phyllis Diller, Jackie Vernon, Godfrey Cambridge, Jackie Mason, The Smothers Brothers, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby and Lenny Bruce (see June 18, 19, 2007 for Opening for Lenny Bruce, Parts One and Two).

In the 1960's, many successful night club formats presented a singer as opening act, followed by a headliner comic. The most prestigious venues were The Blue Angel and The Village Vanguard in New York; Mr. Kelly's in Chicago; the hungry i in San Francisco. Here are a few mini-stories about my interaction(s) with some of these diverse personalities.

******

Stiller & Meara: Intense, focused, charming people who were always very seriously running over their routine before taking the stage. They were "New Stars" in the 1960's when I opened for them, but they were enjoying frequent national television exposure appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Steve Allen Show, and continuing with Jack Paar and Johnny Carson in the enormously successful Late Show network slot. Unfortunately, I did not establish any sort of acquaintanceship with them, but very much enjoyed their intelligent, screamingly funny act.

*******

Phyllis Diller: Phyllis was riding high in the 50's and 60's, guesting on tv shows hosted by Merv Griffin, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Sid Caesar, as well as numerous Late Show appearances with Jack Paar and later with Johnny Carson. You could hardly turn on the tv and NOT see her. An outrageously camp figure, she wore gloves and flamboyant, over-the-top costumes, had stick-skinny legs and wore fashionable little ankle boots daintily sprinkled with rhinestones. She frequently embellished her dress with ostrich feathers. She sported a fabulous wig and carried an over-sized cigarette holder. She laughed raucously at her own jokes, often made at the expense of her husband "Fang".

We shared a dressing room at The Blue Angel in New York when I opened for her. One night she sported a heavy cast on her leg: rehab gear after a nasty fall. As she made her way to the stage for her first entrance that night, she cheerfully bellowed "I look like Chester in drag"!* Phyllis also told me she had carefully crafted "A Life Plan" which set specific career and personal goals she anticipated with wide-eyed enthusiasm.

P.S. Phyllis was a jazz fan, and proved it by patronizing Bradley's, the famous bistro in Greenwich Village,whenever she was in NYC and heard that Jimmy Rowles was playing there. She also expected to be invited to "sit in", so she always brought along her little C-Melody sax. Jimmy cheerfully obliged the lady.

*The name of tv character Chester Goode, played by Dennis Weaver. He was a regular character on "Gunsmoke", a popular 1950's tv western series starring James Arness as Marshall Matt Dillon and walked with a pronounced limp.

******

Jackie Mason: His act frequently targets hapless people in front-row-seats who have no choice but to laugh at zingers Jackie flings their way. Jackie's night-club material was exactly that which catapulted his huge one-man successes on Broadway.

I opened for Jackie (and subsequently for other comics during the 1960's) at the famed Chicago nightclub called Mr. Kelly's. Jackie's act never failed to make me laugh vigorously, even if I heard the same lines over and over again. Jackie understood that one person's laughter can often stimulate a similar response in the audience. So, on some evenings, I was his "plant". Jackie thanked me by taking me to one of Chicago's most popular delis for lunch several times during that two-week engagement. He was always greeted warmly by the staff. "Jackie! How're you doin'?" "Thank God I'm working", was his standard dead-pan reply.


Jackie Mason's career was unexpectedly derailed in 1964 after a furious Ed Sullivan blackballed him after Mason allegedly gave the finger when the show tried to cut him off prematurely. The truth of the matter is, the show ran long because of a speech by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, and someone backstage used gestures to try to get Mason to finish quickly. Mason told the audience "getting a lot of fingers tonight" and started making random gestures himself. Nothing obscene, but Sullivan didn't see it that way.

My husband and I went to see "The World According To Me" on Broadway in 1986 and chatted with Jackie in his basement dressing-room after the show. We reminisced about the Chicago gig and lied about how gracefully we'd both aged. I don't share much if any of Jackie's political point of view, but if you wish to explore his opinions, visit this site.

More "Opening For ... " coming soon to this location.