31 January 2014

"Enough About Me"

I have a number of interviews I'll be posting in the next few weeks and most of them went like this.

30 January 2014

Mr Pitt & Penance Hall Socks

"You're hired, Penance Hall. Hello!" Mr. Justin Pitt, Doubleday Publishing

Shortly before Mr Pitt's death, he sat down with the boys at Penance Hall and designed a sock that would stay up but that wasn't too tight. "Pitty," as the boys at Penance lovingly referred to Mr Pitt, and who  loved to say, "Stay up, but not too tight -- Sounds like a cocktail to me." And of course it is, Fino Sherry and Mezcal, shaken and served up with a slice of orange.  But I digress.

Mr Pitt promised a story of 500 words to The Trad about the Penance Hall sock but we wound up in a dispute over a non-compete clause that I thought was only right to include. I didn't think two years was too long for Mr Pitt not to write for anyone else. I was, after all, paying him $1 a word but he didn't think so and sadly things escalated. Finally,  after five years the matter was settled…with Mr Pitt's death.

Despite the contractual language, Penance Hall and Mr Pitt really knocked the cover off the sock with this one. Merino wool, in classic Ivy school colors, and only $20 a pr. Mr Pitt suggested they retail for $20 per sock, but the boys felt differently and agreed on $20 a pair. If you invest in their Kickstarter, they'll lock you in for life on the $20 deal. The fine print is around here somewhere.

As a quick aside, Mr Pitt, before his death, offered a personal tour of NYC to Kickstart investors with Elaine Benes but... that has sadly fallen through. Pitt is dead and Benes is no longer in NYC.   Instead, Penance Hall has offered up, for the paltry sum of $5,000, lunch (and all we can drink) with myself and G. Bruce Boyer at the Four Seasons as well as a shopping excursion with yours truly that will blow your nuts off.

So open your check books for a good sock. You would make Mr Pitt very happy.

26 January 2014

Bobby Cole: Home's Point of View

"Few are like him. He is for late hours and smoke-filled rooms and maybe broken hearts. He brings solace to torch bearers." Hollywood Gazette

Bobby Cole (1932-1996)  was suggested as an overlooked Jazz performer by Dave in his comment from the Gene McDaniel's post a couple weeks ago.  Cole had a reputation for being a self destructive hard ass not to mention a serious drinking problem.   Consequently, I'm quite fond of him.

Cole was hired by Judy Garland for her TV series after the executive producer fired the musical arranger, Mel Torme.  There were rumors Cole and Garland had an affair.  Check out this clip from the show and you just might see it.

'Poor Butterfly'  condenses into a four minutes exactly what my childhood thought it meant be an adult.  My Ex was fond of saying my idea of being an adult was booze, Playboy magazine, cigarettes and big breasts.  But somewhere deep inside was a connection to a style of music that, while it certainly has, "booze, Playboy, cigarettes and breasts…" it also offers quiet intelligence, reflection and in the end, a home that is all about Growing Old.


A Point of View 1966

Judy Garland at home at the Palace 1967
(accompanied by Bobby Cole)

Mr. Bojangles (single) 1968

A friend of Mr. Cole remembers his friend on the blog Ill Folks. It's loaded with remembrances and unique demos. It's also very funny. Fuck the Grammys -- I'm spending tonight with Ill Folks & Bobby.

The Omen

When daylight was still sleeping under the sea
And a few lingering stars in the heavens shone
Up from her pillow rose the blushing bride to be
It was the last time she was to sleep alone

Twas a handsome youth she buried her heart and her soul in
and she vowed to make the last tide just before noon
and it's been said that once the heart of a maid is stolen
the maiden herself will steal after it soon

She looked in the glass which few women miss
In which all women find time for a sly glance or two
A young butterfly fresh from a night flower's kiss
Flew between her and the mirror shading her view

Enraged at the insect for hiding her graces
She brushed him aside, and he fell, never to rise
Ah, said the girl, such is the pride of our faces
For which the soul's beauty and innocence too often die

14 January 2014

Apologies & Forgiveness

Walter Cichon

I occasionly get thrown into dark places by friends who know not what they do. Wallace Stroby emailed a MP 3 of Bruce Springsteen's, The Wall, which was released today and unknown to me even though it's been played at concerts for years. It is an intimate poem to Walter Cichon, lead singer of the mid-60s Jersey Shore band, The Motifs. Later, a drafted Army ShakeNBake NCO who served with the 4th Infantry Division and was killed in the Central Highlands in early '68.

Major Reed asked me to join him in his tent with Major Dunbar.  Reed had a 4th Infantry Division patch on his right shoulder from a tour of Vietnam in '67 and '68 as a young butter bar. Almost ten years later he was running the briefings for the corps commander and I was his starched up map pointer.  "Slap the map acetate, Tinseth…that way we'll keep these fuckers awake." 

Walter was reported MIA but only because his body had been hacked up by the NVA.  His unit knew he had been killed but it was impossible to identify him -- This is Walter introducing the song and singing lead on "Molly," the B side of The Motif's first and only single.  I like it better than the A side because you really hear Walter's voice…deep and spooky but fun with some major attitude and a melody that that reminds me of Sexy Beast.  Walter, who had a truckful of talent, had damned little luck.

I applied to West Point Prep School and my acceptance was delivered to me by a mail clerk in the back of the briefing tent.  Prep school was for enlisted men who lacked the GPA to get into West Point.  My history and english were just barely adequate but  science and math were a mile deep in a shit hole.  I told Reed and he congratulated me.  I told him I wasn't sure. 

 A year of prep and four in the academy meant five years of payback to the Army.  "10 years of my life in boots." I told Reed looking at the dirt floor of the briefing tent and at Reed's spit shined boots. What I really knew?  I seriously doubted I could make it -- Even thru prep school.

In this video, Springsteen refers to a newspaper article about Cichon sent to him by a friend. I'm guessing it's this 1999 Asbury Park Press  piece that is so  beautiful.  Although Bruce gets the branch of service wrong in the song, everything else is on.  The Wall, after being played by Springsteen at concerts around the world, is finally being released today on, High Hopes.  It's not Veteran's Day or Memorial Day…it's just the right day.

I join Reed and Dunbar in their tent.  Reed asks for my canteen cup and pours three or four glugs of Usher's Green Stripe while Dunbar asks if I want soda or water. At 19, I've never had scotch -- only gin, bourbon or beer.  "Water," I say and Dunbar leans over from his cot with an OD green plastic canteen and shakes a short glug out while I wonder where the fucking soda could be.  Dunbar tells me he was a drama major at Northwestern.  I have a hard time associating this man with performing Shakespeare.  

I ask Dunbar how a drama major winds up in the army.  Dunbar smiles, it's a warm smile on a big man with light brown hair that's cut high and tight.  Shaved sidewalls were not just a fad but had purpose in keeping hair out of head wounds. I see the actor in Dunbar.  Good looking, tall, loads of presence and charming.  I barely notice Reed is in the tent.  "I didn't think I could cut it," Dunbar says.  A lot of competition for a handful of jobs -- That, and I didn't really fit in."  "No shit," I thought.  

The Motifs played:

The Ship's Wheel, Hoffman House, Mell's Lounge, Buckwalds, The Cave, Playpen, Stanley Prinston, Big Ray, Little Vinnie's... the list goes on… The Jersey Shore will always be more limited by what it could be than what it is -- Like its inhabitants.  And maybe Walter, if he lived, would've wound up as an insurance salesman.  Or, maybe… he would've been the leader of  a rock and roll band.

Both Reed and Dunbar argue for prep school.  A PFC drinking with two majors offering career advice was not lost on me.  A couple days later Reed offered me to a detail that was setting up the corp commander's mess.  The tent came with a hard wood floor and a small bar.  I stole a bottle of Johnny Walker and knocked on Reed's tent pole.  Reed's face lit up when I handed him the bottle. "Where'd you get this?" It will be the very first time but hardly the last in the Army when I say, "You don't wanna know, sir."

I will ignore Reed and Dunbar's advice mostly because I don't know or trust them.  For years it will sail across my horizon as a huge ship of regret, not that I think about it every day -- Only when I see a bottle of Green Stripe or hear about someone from the 4th Infantry Division. 

11 January 2014

Happy Birthday, DB

Belated birthday greetings to old friend and frequent Trad contributor, DB. Dave did an hysterical impression of a fly in high school using two halves of a tennis ball. In the 38 years since then, he has changed little save the minor hair loss. I do hope he lost the ruffled shirt.

10 January 2014

Discovering Gene McDaniels

After expressing my intense dislike of  Frank Sinatra over a pre-Christmas dinner, I was asked who my favorite "Crooner" was. Was it Mel Torme? "No," I said while thinking Mel was more obnoxious than Frank.  "Tony Bennett?" I shook my head and added, "Only if it's Alec Baldwin doing Bennett." "Well…who then?"  I thought for a moment and finally blurted, "Harry Nilsson." My dinner companions feigned an ersatz, "Hmmm, interesting…" and returned to their Welsh Rarebit appetizer.

If I had only seen Gene McDaniels.

Hidden away in the white watusi world of Dixieland Jazz and Brit Pop that is, "It's Trad Dad," which I do love, is the elegant performance of Gene McDaniels lending soul to an equally white watusi Bacharach and David standard, "Another Tear Falls." It's timeless, smokey and sadly too short -- McDaniel's creamy but blasting vocal gives me goosebumps.

My cynicism was not at all surprised when I discovered Gene McDaniel's singing career never took off the way it should have.  But Gene wrote the hit, "Compared to What" for Les McCann and in this video shortly before his death in 2011, he goes into fascinating detail about his struggles and his eventual success as songwriter and music producer.

I'm just beginning to discover Gene and have no business writing about his career or music.  But if you, like me, never heard of Gene and are as moved by "Another Tear" as I am, then you'll have an answer when asked who your favorite crooner is.

Eugene McDaniels Website

08 January 2014

Wrong Pitti - Right Sbagliato

The Tweets & Instagrams coming in from Pitti this year are like a 155 artillery barrage. And while this year's street fashion is consistent with years past, I'm seeing a lot more images of folks eating and drinking. Which is what I'd be doing 24/7 at Pitti.

For those of us stuck in this 'Witches Tit in a Brass Bra'  deep freeze, click on the You Tube video below and watch the charming and erudite, Maurizio Stocchetto from the Bar Basso in Milan show you how to make a perfect but wrong, Negroni Sbagliato   That is, a Negroni but with Prosecco instead of gin -- The smart cocktail for anyone sitting at a bar 24/7.

05 January 2014

Nothing Lasts...

...except memories.

02 January 2014

Help Is On The Way

The Beatles film, "Help," for many years, has been self administered as a cure for getting over the post holiday depression that will settle in. Eight foot piles of brown frozen snow in a client's parking lot and lunch at Ruby Tuesdays in a flat western suburb will be plunged even further down the black hole with the blood-red cellophane Hallmark of Valentine's Day.  It's enough to make anyone drink but my client has a thing for Bailey's Hazelnut with shots of Jägermeister.

Back at the office, your new revenue goal is upped 40% without any corresponding monetary increase -- Only an inference you won't have a job if you don't make it by a man named Rick but who you call Dick.

At home, your welcomed by a wife who is back from a three day business trip with a freshly waxed 'hooh-hah,' which she admonishes you for questioning because she has always liked the cool feeling, this despite she was in St Paul where it's twenty below and it'll be another eight months before the two of you have intimate relations again.

Somberly… and with lead feet, you walk to the flat screen, dig out the Blu Ray DVD and slip "Help" into a black tray and punch the remote.  Backing away from the TV, you stare at the screen and, since you've seen it more times in one month than you've had sex with your wife all year, you smile and feel like you're 15 again... because you are.