Category Archives: Memories

Purple Haze…

 

My life-long love of music was fueled by the fact that, growing up in Hollywood, I was constantly exposed to some amazing talent.

Like Nino Tempo.

I went to Hollywood High with Nino, who originally hailed from New York. He and his older sister, April Stevens (their birth name, by the way, was Lo Tiempo),  went on to become one of the hottest acts in the early ’60s.

Signed as a duo with Atco Records, they had a string of Billboard hits and earned a Grammy Award as “best rock & roll record of the year” for the single “Deep Purple”. “Deep Purple” was originally released as a “B-side” by legendary producer Ahmet Ertegun, who was dubious of Tempo’s belief that it would be a hit, calling it “the most embarrassing thing” the duo had ever recorded. When the “A-side” song, “Paradise”, flopped, Ertegun relented, and the song achieved notability as the longest running hit B-side, a title it carried for 21 years. The version I’ve posted above is from an American Bandstand broadcast of the era.

Music journalist Richie Unterberger has described the later song “All Strung Out” as Nino Tempo & April Stevens’ “greatest triumph”, declaring it “one of the greatest Phil Spector-inspired productions of all time”. For years following their charting singles, the duo continued recording, but failed to achieve continued sales success.

However in March 1973 they scored a #5 hit in the Netherlands with “Love Story” on A & M Records, two years after Andy Williams took that same song to #13 in the Dutch Top 40.

Watching and listening to this old clip from the most popular music program of the era brings back a flood of memories.

I haven’t been able to ascertain what they’re up to these days — or even if they’re still with us. I do know that they were inducted into the city of Buffalo’s Musical Hall of Fame in 1999. And  that in November, 2007, Nino performed Amazon Moon (formerly Bahia Manhattan, from his Nino album) at Carnegie Hall at the request of the great Mike Stoller, who labeled Nino’s version of that song one of his all-time favorites. On an evening hosted by Rob Reiner, designed to pay tribute to Stoller and his songwriting partner, Jerry Leiber, Nino was joined on stage by the likes of Natalie Cole, Ben E. King, Sally Kellerman and the late Marvin Hamlisch.

Not bad for a kid from Hollywood High. 

 

All that jazz… California style

dave-brubeck

When someone talks about “West Coast jazz” or “cool jazz,” they’re almost invariably referring to a style performed by jazz musicians in California (and primarily in Los Angeles) in the ’50s and early ’60s. As opposed to the hard-bop sound dominant on the East Coast during that time, the West Coast sound was a bit mellower and more lyrical, with blended harmonies and — broadly speaking — more interest in composition and arrangement than improvisation.

So starts a cool bit on National Public Radio’s website — an article called West Coast Cool: the Jazz Sound of ’50s California.

Check it out!

A reunion of car model makers

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PHOENIX — By 1953, Anthony Joslin’s parents had saved $3,000, and earmarked it for sending their son to college. But Mr. Joslin was able to pay for his own tuition, room and board at North Carolina State University after winning a scholarship for the 1/12-scale car model he designed and built.

Like millions of other teenage boys from 1930 to 1968, Mr. Joslin entered the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild, an annual car-building and design competition sponsored by General Motors, which asserted that eight million teenagers participated in the guild.

Mr. Joslin and many other guild alumni gathered here last weekend for a reunion, sharing their stories and the model cars they have cherished all these years.

FisherBodyCraftsmansGuild1965_1500

The models are worthy of being cherished. They are futuristic visions of the highway from the 1950s and ’60s, much like a miniature version of General Motors own Motorama dream car shows. Typically, a young man spent 700 to 800 hours creating his scale-model car from wood or plaster or in a few cases, from metal.

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In the early years of the guild, boys were challenged to use a set of plans they were provided to build an elaborate scale model of the horse-drawn coach that was Fisher Body’s emblem. Fisher Body manufactured car bodies for all General Motors divisions.

In the early years of the guild, the goal was to identify young men with those skills that might be employed in making cars.

After World War II, it was future car designers the company sought, and thus the original 1/12th-scale models.

At North Carolina State, Mr. Joslin studied industrial, not automotive design, and afterward had a career designing instruments, computers and other products for Hewlett Packard.

For Paul Tatseos, winning a Craftsman’s Guild scholarship not only enabled him to go to college, but also to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., a school known for its automotive design program. After college, Mr. Tatseos worked as a designer at G.M. for 35 years.

Mr. Tatseos grew up in Boston. “My father said, ‘You live within walking distance of M.I.T. and Harvard and you’ve decided you want to go to college in California?’” Mr. Tatseos recalled at the reunion.

The scholarship program had an even more striking impact on the Simone family from Providence, R.I. e brothers Jerry, Eugene and Anthony all entered and won scholarships. Jerry Simone spent five years as a designer at Ford before going to pharmacy school. After college, Eugene Simone worked for 45 years at Merrill Lynch. Anthony Simone became a teacher and international school administrator, working around the world and at the United Nations.

“Our father was a tool-and-die maker,” Anthony Simone said at the reunion.

“Mother and father always said we were going to college, but that there was no money in the till for it,” Eugene Simone added.

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But with the scholarships they won for their car design and building skills, the Simone sons were able to attend college.

The Fisher Body scholarships benefited the boys who won and their families as well. With Mr. Joslin attending college on his scholarship, his parents could use the money they’d saved to buy the only house they ever owned.

Ciro’s & the Trocadero

CIRO’S

1941, Ciro's Nightclub

 

Ciro’s (also known as Ciro’s Le Disc) was a nightclub in West Hollywood, California, at 8433 Sunset Boulevard, on the Sunset Strip, opened in January 1940, by entrepreneur William Wilkerson. Herman Hover took over management of Ciro’s in 1942 until it closed its doors in 1957. Hover filed for bankruptcy in 1959, and Ciro’s was sold at public auction for $350,000.

Ciro’s combined an overdone baroque interior with an unadorned exterior, and became a famous hangout for movie people of the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s. It was one of “the” places to be seen, and guaranteed being written about in the gossip columns of Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Among the galaxy of celebrities who frequented Ciro’s were Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Sidney Poitier, Anita Ekberg, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney, Cary Grant, George Raft, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Judy Garland, June Allyson and Dick Powell, Mamie Van Doren, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Benny, Peter Lawford, and Lana Turner (who often said Ciro’s was her favorite nightspot) among many others. During his first visit to Hollywood in the late 1940s, future President John F. Kennedy dined at Ciro’s.

In the 1960s, Ciro’s became a Sunset Strip rock and roll club, and was the only major venue to make such a transition while keeping its original name. The Byrds got their start there in 1964. Accounts of the period (reproduced in the sleeve notes to The Preflyte Sessions box set) describe a “church-like” atmosphere, with interpretive dancing. The club also served as the host during the recording of the 1965 Dick Dale album “Rock Out With Dick Dale: Live At Ciro’s.”

Co-founder Wilkerson also opened other nightclubs on the Sunset Strip such as Cafe Trocadero, and later The Flamingo in Las Vegas.

The site of Ciro’s became The Comedy Store in 1972.

Notable performers

 

THE TROCADERO 

 

trocadero

In West Hollywood, California, the Cafe Trocadero was the center of jitterbug craze in the 1930s. Today, a ” new” Trocadero stands as a nightclub at 8610 Sunset Boulevard on the Sunset Strip. A black tie, French-inspired supper club, the original Trocadero, now demolished, was considered the jewel of the Strip in the 1930s, and became synonymous with stars, starlets, movie producers, and fun. Founded by William R. Wilkerson in 1934, the successful publisher of The Hollywood Reporter who owned other nightclubs nearby on the Sunset Strip like Ciro’s and LaRue. It was also the scene of many famous movie premiere parties. There was a mid 1940s low-budget film about the Trocadero and its history starring Ralph Morgan which bore little resemblance to reality.

Among the celebrities who frequented the Trocadero were Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Jackie Gleason, Henry Fonda, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Jean Harlow, and Norma Shearer. The Trocadero was featured in the 1937 movie, A Star is Born starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. That same year, vaudevillian and Three Stooges manager Ted Healy died shortly after a fight in the parking lot, allegedly at the hands of fellow contractee Wallace Beery and MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix. A 2004 documentary film claimed that Healy’s assailants were actually Wallace Beery, gangster Pat DiCicco, and DiCicco’s cousin Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.

Actress/comedienne Thelma Todd, who died mysteriously in December 1935, spent an evening at the Trocadero at a party thrown by Ida Lupino and her father Stanley. Todd had formerly been married to Pat DiCicco, and was angry that he had shown up there with another actress, Margaret Lindsay. The party was one of the last times she was seen alive.

The dance club was parodied in the 1938 Warner Bros. cartoon, Porky at the Crocadero. The club also received a brief mention, via actual film footage, in 1944’s What’s Cookin’ Doc?.

 

Fame, Hollywood style

 

Along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California, is the The Walk of Fame. It was established in 1958 and attracts more visitors,  about ten million annually—than other LA area attractions such as the Sunset Strip, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

As of November 8, 2012, the Walk included 2,484 stars, spaced at 6-foot intervals. Each star consists of a coral-pink terrazzo with five-points, trimmed in brass (not bronze), inlaid into a charcoal-colored terrazzo background. In the upper portion of he pink star field, the name of the honoree is inlaid in brass block letters. Below the inscription, in the lower half of the star field, a round inlaid brass emblem indicates the category of the honoree’s contributions. The emblems symbolize five categories within the entertainment industry:

 
– Classic film camera, representing motion pictures;
– Television receiver, representing broadcast television;
– Phonograph record, representing audio recording or music;
– Radio microphone, representing broadcast radio;
– Comedy/tragedy masks, representing theater/live performance (added in 1984).

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce maintains The Walk. They, or the Hollywood Historic Trust, grant “special stars” unique to the honoree. They are not part of the Walk of Fame; instead, they are located nearby on private property. These “Friends of the Walk of Fame” monuments vary from the trademark “star” shape, in that they are charcoal terrazzo squares, rimmed by miniature pink terrazzo stars displaying the five standard category emblems, along with the sponsor’s corporate logo, with the sponsor’s name and contribution in inlaid brass block lettering. Examples include the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) star emblem, a replica of a police badge indicating the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, displaying the team’s logo.

Then there are the uniquely shaped monument for the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, consisting of four identical, circular “moons” bearing the names of the three astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.), the date of the first moon landing (“7/20/69”), and the words “Apollo XI” set in each of the four corners at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. The “moons” are silver and dark gray terrazzo circles rimmed in brass on a square pink terrazzo background, with the television emblem inlaid at the “twelve o’clock” position on the circles.

The original selection committees chose to recognize some entertainers’ contributions in multiple categories with multiple stars. Gene Autry is the only honoree with stars in all five categories. Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Roy Rogers, and Tony Martin each have stars in four categories—Rooney has three of his own and a fourth with his wife, Jan, while Rogers also has three of his own, and a fourth with his band, The Sons of the Pioneers. Thirty-three people, including Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Gale Storm, Danny Kaye, and Jack Benny, have stars in three categories.
Seven recording artists have two stars in the same category, for distinct achievements: Michael Jackson, as a soloist and as a member of The Jackson 5; Diana Ross, as a member of The Supremes and for her solo work; Smokey Robinson, as a solo artist and as a member of The Miracles; and John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and Paul McCartney as individual performers and as members of The Beatles. Cher forfeited her opportunity to join this exclusive club by declining to schedule the mandatory personal appearance when she was selected in 1983. She did, however, attend the unveiling of the Sonny & Cher star in 1998, as a tribute to her recently deceased ex-husband, Sonny Bono.
The only two fictional characters to have two stars are Kermit the Frog and Big Bird, each with an individual star and one with The Muppets.
George Eastman is the only honoree with two stars in the same category for the same achievement—the invention of roll film.

Run for it!

A participant in the LAPD’s Challenge Cup, Baker to Vegas Relay

 

NOTE FROM JESS WAID: Sergeant Alex Shearer, a good friend, now deceased, is the man the character Alex Strait is based on in my Mike Montego novels.

 Alex, who truly liked being called “Uncle Alex,” was a member of the LAPD’s long-distance running team that ran relays across the nation.

 In a letter to me dated March 22, 1994, Alex wrote the following:

 

It was early afternoon and I was getting ready for my leg when a squad car with three local deputies drove up. I soon learned that one of the deputies was going to “run a ways with me.”

         Now you know how I hate these unscheduled running partners, so I walked over to him. Bob Hickey was probably only 15 minutes away.

         The deputy was in full uniform, complete with Sam Brown and Smokey the Bear hat.

         I asked him, “You going to run with me?”

         “Yup.”

         “You going to wear that hat?”

         “Yup.”

         “What about the gun belt and gun?”

         “Yup.”

         My pissed-off point went up a notch or two.

         “You are going to change those cowboy boots, aren’t you?”

         “Nope.”

         That did it. This guy would rue the day he met me. He was about to undergo exquisite punishment.

         As Hickey and I made the baton exchange, I cranked along fast enough to let my fellow runner know that he had made a grievous error, but not fast enough to make him drop out.

         After a few hundred yards, my struggling companion removed his hat and threw it in the following squad car.

         I chuckled.

         A hundred yards farther on, off came the gun and gun belt.

         My floundering companion could not stop long enough to remove his cowboy boots. It must have been pure agony for him.

         I loved it!

         As we approached the town I decided the deputy had learned the folly of his ways and was ready to put it in gear and leave him to his blisters and misery.

         Starting to sprint off, I looked ahead and spied a fairly large number of the population had gathered along the street to watch. I figured they had come out to watch one of their locals run through town with a runner from the Big City.

         I don’t know whether it was because he was a fellow police officer, or I didn’t want to humiliate him in front of his fellow citizens, but I decided to drop back.

         We ran through the town together.

         Upon leaving the town folks behind us, he dropped off.

         I’ll never forget his last words, “Thanks for cutting me some slack.”

         I finished my leg with a good feeling. But I would probably have felt better if I had punished him a bit more.

         What nerve running with me in that outfit!

        

The birth of cool

Legendary cool jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker

1958-1964 bore a different look, attitude and sound than anything that had come before. It was that brief, eventful era that bridged the gap between the old-school glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and the, hipper, harder-edged times that would follow. It was during these years that rock and roll was born, and, while not marking the birth of the blues, was the period when this form of distinctly American music finally received broad public recognition. Blues had been around for decades, but mainstream America paid little attention, until it was discovered that the blues were the root of rock and roll.

A new generation began to emerge, embracing music and fashion that directly expressed the changing times. It was this sexy combination that soon inspired the rest of the world to get with the new program. Blues and rock and roll were this new wave’s musical meat, and folk music was their potato. Then punks came on the scene, along with rebels, hipsters, potheads, and loud ‘n fast guitars.

The times, they were a’changin’.

The atmosphere in the smoke-filled jazz clubs of that era was stifling. Windows and doors were opened to allow some “cool air” in from the outside, to help clear away the suffocating smoke. It was inevitable that the slow, smooth jazz style that was typical for that late-night scene came to be called “cool.”

Marlene Kim Connor connects cool and the post-war African-American experience in her book, What is Cool? Understanding Black Manhood in America. Connor writes that cool is the silent and knowing rejection of racist oppression, a self-dignified expression of masculinity developed by black men denied mainstream expressions of manhood. She argues that the mainstream perception of cool is narrow and distorted, that it is too often seen merely as a style or a sign of arrogance, rather than a way to achieve respect. Designer Christian Lacroix is onside with Connor, noting that, “…the history of cool in America is the history of African-American culture.”

While speaking of cool, anyone interested in this “new” jazz phenomenon is well advised to check out Ted Gioia’s excellent book, Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz.

Postwar cool

World War II brought the people of Britain, Germany, and France into intimate contact with Americans and American culture. The war brought hundreds of thousands of GIs to these countries, men whose relaxed, easy-going manner was seen by young people of the time as the very embodiment of liberation. They brought with them came Lucky Strikes, nylons, swing, and jazz, in addition to this laid-back attitude—the new American Cool.

To be cool or “hip” at the time meant hanging out with buddies, pursuing sexual liaisons, displaying the appropriate attitude of narcissistic self-absorption, and generally expressing a desire to escape the mental straitjacket of “old-fashioned” ideologies. From the late 1940s onward, American popular culture influenced young people all over the world, to the great dismay of the paternalistic elites who still ruled the “official” culture.

The stage was set for one of the greatest eras of social unrest and upheaval in Western history.

Signs

I was born under the astrological sign of Aries, the ram. Two days later and it would have been Taurus, the bull. Mother, bless her heart, told me she really wanted her baby to be born on a Sunday. I don’t know why. I don’t think she thought about astrology. Well, ever the doting son, I arrived just after noon on a Sunday, as scheduled. I suspect I actually wanted to come days earlier. Maybe that explains why I tend to be impatient.

According to mythology, in Hellenistic astrology the sign of the ram was associated with the golden winged ram that rescued Phrixos and his sister Helle from the altar, where they were to be offered as a sacrifice to Zeus. The golden ram carried them to the land of Colchis, but on the way, Helle fell into the sea and drowned. When Phrixos arrived at Colchis he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and presented the Golden Fleece to his father-in-law, the King of Colchis. The fleece was then hung upon a sacred oak and guarded by a dragon, until rescued by Jason and the Argonauts. The myth recounts that Zeus was so moved by the ram’s fate that he gave it the greatest honor possible, that of being moved to the heavens.

Although the zodiac element of Aries is fire, I am not passionate about many things, but I’ve been known to blow up on occasion. Still, I don’t see myself as a fiery person.

Another Aries quality is cardinal. All I can say is that deep scarlet is my favorite color. Maybe reading about the zodiac sign has unduly influenced me, but I doubt it.

The ruler of the Aries sign is Mars, the Roman god of war. Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace; Mars had a love affair with Venus. I hesitate to comment on how that might affect me, however, considering that Venus is seen as a detriment in the Aries sign, I wonder. I’ve been wedded four times, although my last marriage, nearly 23 years ago to Barbara Kay, took. Perhaps, like John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex, suggests, my first three marriages were doomed — it was a Venus-Mars matter. No further comment.

Under Aries, the exaltation is the sun. All I can say is that I like being in a sunny clime. That’s why I’ve decided to settle in Mexico. Thankfully, Barbara loves the area we’re headed to, too.

Anyway, most of my life I paid little attention to the astrological sign I was born under. Yet, as I grew older and thought about events in my life, and my behavior generally through the years, I thought about Aries and the ram sign. I considered what I’d experienced in life, and compared those experiences with what people who specialize in horoscopes wrote, like the late Sydney Omarr.  I often found I could fit what astrologists stated to some small event that had happened to me on any given day. It was easy to read in what I wanted to see.

The bottom line is, while I’m unsure about a connection between the alignment of planets and my individual actions, I do feel we humans generate energy that can cause things to happen. I say “things,” because I can’t put a label to it. I’ll leave that to the specialists.

I recall seeing a large billboard on Cahuenga Boulevard, where the winding pass from the San Fernando Valley entered Hollywood, when I was a youngster. It displayed a couple with clasped hands, and the phrase, Prayer Changes Things. I wonder about the energy thing and the power of group prayer. I have read that when people concentrate in unison on one specific thing, positive results sometimes follow.

Anyway, I am fascinated by astrology and phenomena that can’t easily be explained; but, honestly, I rarely read books on the subject.

One other thing. For years, number 48 was my favorite. I was born in the fourth month, when there were 48 states, and World War II ended when I was eight. But the number has never been lucky for me. I have never won a thing by betting on it. I still like the number, though. A good reminder that winning isn’t everything!

The lady singer at Sardi’s in Hollywood

 

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in fall. My army buddy and I were on leave before being shipped out to our next outfits. I would be heading for New Rochelle, New York, to attend the Army Information School. My friend was going elsewhere. We’d just completed three months of boot camp in Fort Ord, and had flown to L.A. from Monterey the day before.

We were wearing our “greens,” the brand new dress uniform that replaced the OD, olive-drab, dress wear and the old Ike jacket.

Every once in a while, as we strolled down Hollywood Boulevard, servicemen from other branches, seeing us, saluted as they passed by. Being courteous guys, we returned the greetings, and then laughed our asses off each time, once we were out of earshot. It was obvious that the enlisted men from the other armed forces branches were unaware of the Army’s new uniform. To them we looked like officers in our saucer-shaped hats.

As we strolled by Sardi’s, we heard cool jazz music wafting out. Neither of us were twenty-one, the legal age for consuming alcohol, but we tacitly decided to see if we could get served. We were relying on our uniforms to avoid being carded by the cocktail waitress.

Inside the dimly lit lounge, we were shown to a seat in the rear. We ordered beers. After the waitress went to fill our drink orders, we winked at each other, our faces beaming.     We had passed the test.

On the low stage a woman began singing some scat jazz. She was good, and her style had me grooving. I was already into jazz, having been hooked by Johnny Hodges’ tenor sax while attending city college a year earlier.

After our beers were served, we relaxed and settled into our seats to suck up the suds and the soulful sounds.

At one point, while the lady on the stage sang, the cocktail waitress, carrying a tray of drinks, walked right in front of the singer to serve a front row table. Since the stage was low, the waitress blocked our view.

It was apparent the singer didn’t appreciate the interruption. Her frowning expression displayed that; still, obviously a pro, she continued singing.

When the music set ended, the singer stepped off the stage and came around the room heading toward the rear. Her route took her by our four-person table.

As she passed by, I called out, “Great voice, ma’am. That wasn’t very polite of the barmaid.”

The singer paused, studied us momentarily, and smiling, stepped closer.

I quickly stood. “Please, join us,” I said, nudging my friend to get to his feet. He did.

She said, “Don’t mind if I do.” She drew up a chair and sat across from me.

The waitress immediately stopped at our table.

The singer ordered a soda water with lime, then looking at me, she asked, “So, you boys enjoying the music?”

For the rest of her twenty-minute break we chit chatted.

When she got up to go back to the stage, I scrambled to my feet. “I love your voice,” I said. I’ll be buying your albums.

She looked back. “You boys are sweet—do enjoy the show.”

To this day I will never forget my afternoon sitting with Lady Jane, the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.