Tuesday, February 21, 1995

Old/New York

Old/New York



9/13/03
6:30 AM

Ad introibo ad altare...
30 E. 60
Converted Apt. Bldg.
French Book Store on the ground floor
Doorman in the front
Lobby with white marble floors
Starter and elevator operators:
“floors please”

We were on the fifth and the eighth and various rooms in between
My father and his two partners’ Ad Agency
Clients were the Sri Aurobindo Library,
Martex Towels, Playtex (Living bras and girdles)
Union Bag, Camp Paper ,
and the guy who sold rose bushes by mail order , Greystone Press and the Fiction Book Club of America and a couple of dozen more

On the street: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor stepping out of their house across the street almost bumped innto Rex Harrison who lived on Park.

The Gabor sisters (clients of the Agency) had their jewellry store a couple of blocks up
On Madison Avenue. Zsa Zsa told us “Darlings, look at that guy taking the bracelett out of the showcase. In Hungary he was a Count and my family were peasants- now we are the Owners of this business and he works for me and Mama, Jolie and Eva”

Going west on 60th: El Morrocco - the wise guys from downtown
“White on white”shirts and big cufflinks” having cocktails with some of the folks from the nieghborhood like Jimmy Roosevelt and Faye Emerson, Rex and the Duke (who wasn’t too bright but sure dressed well )

Around the corner, on 59th -FAO Schwartz (the greatest toy store in the world) hand painted lead soldiiers, Scotts Guards, Commandos , Red Coats and hundreds of other regiments, armies and tribes.
Bloomingdales was three blocks east but it really wasn’t part of the neighborhood.
Plaza -2 -14300, Murray Hill was downtown in the east thirties. Did they name the hotel after the Phone exchange or was it the other way around. Actually the hotel and the exchange were named for the place in Central Park - the Fountain that was in front of the Plaza Hotel but that that was way over on the West Side (you know the Story) and not a part of our neighborhood.
We never went to the West Side at all except to go to the theater or the clubs.
I took my girl friend to see South Pacific with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza we had seats in the fourth row orchestra. She was really impressed but I never made it past first base (with her)

I lost my virginity at sixteen to a forty year old divorcee who picked me up in a bar on Madison (the one where the art dealers hung out) and took me back to her place “for coffee”
Veda Clark was a copy writer in the Agency, she’d been working with my Dad for quite some time - in fact she’d known him and my mom since the early days in Chicago (where I was born) We left there and came to New York when I was three but I never told anybody that I was born in Chicago.
Veda was born in Indiana (that’s even cornier than Chicago) but she was the epitome of sophistication and in those days in our neighborhood, that wasn’t a pose or an attitude
It was a religion.
Birdland was on the West Side, not far from the Brill Building where I took trumpet lessons.
Louie, my teacher had a small room on the fifth floor of the Brill. He was kind of jammed in between a couple of rehearsal rooms. I wasn’t all that talented - a good ear but I couldn’t read a note. If you gave me a minute, I could recognize a b flat on the sheet but I couldn’t play anything unless I heard it and memorized it first. But I could remember almost anything I heard. I even worked for ASCAP for a while, listening to the radio and logging the songs that were played.
The big bands (and some smaller groups) held their rehearsals in the Brill (unless they had a gig) I remember coming out of lesson and seeing the Duke noodling on the piano while the guys in the band were warming up.
I think I paid my teacher around five (maybe seven) for a lesson but since I never practiced enough I ‘d bring him a bottle of sweet sherry every other week or so.

The Paramount Theater was about three blocks south of the Brill Building, on Broadway.
I saw Frankie Sinatra play there- I can’t remember the band. The Paramount was a really big theater and it was packed when Frankie played there. Hundreds and hundreds of bobby soxers, screaming, jumping up and down (one fell in my lap- we were both excited).
All the big bands played the Paramount
Duke Ellington- Mood indigo, A Train and all that jazz. The theater jammed fool and the hush when the Duke hit the opening bars of Sophisticated Lady and the way the whole building rocked when the whole gang got into A Train.

Stan Kenton played the paramount too. He was almost as sophisticated as Duke but he had the power. When they got into the Peanut Vendor, I knew that the only thing I ever wanted to do inn my life was play like soloist (it might have been Shorty Rogers but I’m not sure.

My mother had a reataurant downtown on 24th St. just off Fifth Avenue. Not an uptown place at all. In those days, all of the big insurance companies had their headquarters in that neighborhood and at five o’clock - Monday through Friday, they’d be standing four deep at my mom’s forty foot bar. She had two regular bartenders plus a couple more who just worked the rush hour. She had a freind, kind of an uncle who had owned clubs and bars since prohibition when he rode shotgun on a beer truck. Once she told him that she was sure that one of the bartenders was toweling change.
(A customer would pay for his seventy-five cent Manhattan with a five - George , the bartende, would break the five and put three singles and five quarters on the bar . Each time he wiped the bar , he’d “towel” a quarter. )
My “uncle” listened to Mom and started to laugh. He said “Bella, if the worst that happens is a little toweling - your lucky. All Bartenders are on the take one way or other and George’s game is pretty harmless. The one’s that don’t towel ‘forget’ to ring up a tab, Others pimp and some guys gamble and their Bookies are at the bar every night.)
Mom was a little naive so when the representative from our local precinct came in at Christmas time and handed her “The List” she didn’t have ay idea what it was soi she asked:
“What’s this?”
“It’s The List”
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
“The stars are the Captains - they get fifty, diamonds are the lieutenants they get twenty five, Sargeants, like me get five and you work it out for yourself with your beat cops usually a good meal and a couple shots on a cold night will keep them quiet”
She looks at The List for a while and then:
“That looks like almost three hundred dollars, I can’t afford anything like that”
The cop picks up his drink and takes a sip-
“Lady, I ain’t gonna tell you what to do but if I was you, I’d get a loan or something”

When she tells Uncle Bill he says:
“You’d better pay Bella, they could really make your life miserable”
7:26 AM

1 comment:

Anna said...

the list? that's hilarious. it's like a film noir movie, or something. that really happened? i love that your mum didn't get it at first. i'm sure i would have thought the guy was kidding.

and i can't believe you saw all those bands. jeeze louise. i recently ran into a man who met vita sackville west, and everyone else to boot. it made me feel like there was nothing interesting left to do, and no one interesting left to meet. he assured me this wasn't the case, but seemed hard pressed to name anything worth getting too excited over.

pooh.

i was born in the wrong generation.