Thursday, September 18, 2008
1954-Part 2

So, I kept working these really lousy stinking clubs.....some a little better than others...some worse. One of these weekend gigs I was booked into The Officers Club at Andrews Air Force Base, in Washington D.C. I had never heard of it before. This was the 50's remember and Andrews had not become as High Profile to the public back then as it became after The Kennedy Assassination in November of 1963. The Officers Club was a big room, and pretty nice, too. And that turned out to be a pretty decent job, though very nerve racking at first, because I had no rehearsal with the band, just a "talk over".....Now a "talk over" is truly a scary thing to do when you don't know the quality of the Musicians. And this was a pretty good sized band. Like 11 or 12 pieces, if memory serves....with a "Leader". And there was only a few minutes to "talk it over" with The Leader. This meant looking over each song and making sure that the Leader saw the Tempo changes and the Key Changes, etc.Now, if you don't think it is a scary thing to go out and trust that the band would actually be okay, well....it was like doing High Wire work without a Net! It frayed ones nerves. But in this case, these guys were the best band I had ever worked with. Thank You, God. And for this gig, I dressed and made up at my Motel, because there was no dressing room there....Also, for this gig, I was the 'Headliner'. There was no Exotic Dancer in The Officers Club at Andrews Air Force Base. It was classier than that. More like The Persian Room of The Plaza Hotel...Well, not really, but it sure wasn't The Miami Club on Staten Island. There were other jobs. I played a pretty big club in Springfield, Mass. I don't recall the name of it. My Motel was right on the Highway. It was so noisy and kind of scary, too. I had trouble sleeping because of the heavy trucks that went up that incline all night long and, I was deeply lonely. I didn't know what to do with myself during the day. I knew no one and I didn't know the area, either. What saved me there in Springfield is really quite ironic.I had a great great friend who, it just happened, was in the Lock-Up Psych Ward of the Northampton V.A. Hospital nearby, having had a Psychotic Episode. I had promised him I would come visit him. When I first heard about his difficulty, it was really kind of scary and I worried about what it would be like to see him. But once I was there in the area, and as lonely as I was feeling----Well, I couldn't wait to see him. I was so lonely that seeing J. was something that I longed for----that I actually looked forward to---no matter what shape he was in. Lock-Up or not.And when they finally let me into the Lock-Up area, I fell into his arms, crying. He was sure I was crying for him. I wasn't. I was crying for me because I was so glad to be in his arms and be hugged by him---to see someone I knew and loved. That's how lonely I was and that's how much of a baby I was....And to tell you the truth, after that Springfiels experience...I wasn't sure it would be any different if and when I was in any other strange city.As time went on I began to realize that this was no life. At least, not for me. This loneliness was just unbearable. Combine that with the nerves of performing under conditions that were always a complete question-mark, and it's a wonder that I didn't become a full blown alcoholic. I did begin to drink a bit in these clubs, because there was nothing else to do. Nothing. And if you did two shows a night, well....you had to do something. And the idea of going off with a stranger made me even lonelier and more anxious. I was not a happy camper. This was not my 'dream come true'.Working closer to home was easier than these weekends away in God knows where, because people I knew could come to see me. And I could go home at the end of the night and be in familiar surroundings and during the day, I could be with friends and people I knew, or at the very least, sleep in my own bed and make my Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in my own Kitchen. The Motels had no cooking arrangements at all, back in those days...not even a refrigerator. One of the last jobs I actually worked was a place about 40 minutes from home....This was great! I could make-up at home and even dress at home if the Dressing Room situation was non-existent or if it was of Soft-Drink-Storage-Room caliber, which was the case in this place. Also, this was another situation where I was The Headliner. I got to the Club and was prepared with the proper musical arrangement-parts for the band, which was a trio---Piano, Bass and Drums. We went down into the basement where there was a little upright piano---Great! I would get a rehearsal. I handed the Piano Player my music....(I did 8 or 9 songs in the set.) He began with the Opening number..."The Best Things In Life Are Free"....a terrific upbeat cheery arrangement, and a perfect opener. Twenty minutes later he was still only about three-quarters of the way through that very first arrangement. It should have taken him two or three minutes at the very most. Any decent musician could have zipped through that number in about 30 seconds! By this time all my arrangements were simplified and there were no key changes or tempo changes anymore---trying to accommodate to the lack of musicianship one found in these 'bottom of the barrel' places. So it wasn't like these arrangements were terribly complicated....The 'flop sweat' was coming out on me in an obvious way. Fear and anxiety gripped me and anger too. This was unacceptable. This guy could barely read music! I finally went upstairs to find the Manager and I said to him, "This is outrageous! How do you expect me or anyone to sing with someone who cannot read music? I am embarrassed to even try to do a show! I don't want anyone to know I am here and I don't even want to use my real name.....", and so on and so forth......The truth of it was the Manager didn't know what to say....he hemmed and hawed and begged me to just get through it. I said "Oh, I'll do it and no one in the audience will know how unhappy I am about this because I am a professional, but this is terribly unfair to any performer and it is completely unacceptable and I want you to know that". It was a nightmare. A true Nightmare. But I did get through it and did the best I could under the circumstances, but....but.....the heart was going out of me. The joy of singing was nowhere to be found any longer. And this particular job was the worst.


Blogger is really a nightmare tonight, too....So I have to stop...I have no idea what will be here or what won't be here. Pictures---no pictures---Who the hell knows! The gremlins have taken Blogger over...And THIS IS A NIGHTMARE, TOO.....

So, bear with me.....the next part will happen, when it happens.....OY VEY!

Hopefully....

More To Come......







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33 Comments:
had this to say:

I know about those blogger gremlins, as I have been beset by them too.

This is such an interesting post, Naomi. I am sure that many of us would fantasize that the music business is all sweetness and light and great fun, but you have exposed the seedier side and shown the pitfalls. I don't blame you for wanting out, and wanting to be nearer home and friends.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 5:29:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I had a taste of that kind of life - for my first 2 years working full time I was getting sent around the country on various short term (2-3 month) placements.

I'd start my first week in a strange town living out of a hotel, knowing absolutely no-one and feeling very lucky if I got to where I was supposed to be working ... (no satnav in those days) By the end of that first week, I'd try and get into proper digs but I'd still feel lucky to know anyone. I think books and games kept me relatively sane.

Hell of a life knowing that in 2-3 months, you'd be heading off somewhere else to repeat the cycle again. Glad I've had settled conditions (with one big disruption) for the past few years - it's good to have a bunch of people around who you can have a natter to.

Thanks for sharing the story !

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 5:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Plenty of good stuff, dear. Are there any recordings around of any of these "live" sets?

Cheers.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 6:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You've painted a very real and painful picture of the truth that goes on in these clubs. The uncertainty, the loneliness, the frustration of the incompetent musicians. Naomi, I must say, you are EXTREMELY polished and professional. No one else could've pulled it off. I admire you and I wish I could've been around to see you perform in the 50s. J. wouldn't have been the only one giving you a hug. :)

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 2:18:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a life you have lead Naomi - and you came through alive!!

Moving to places and not knowing anyone I can kind of relate to, but I do have my husband and daughter with me... It is always a different experience if there is someone there to share it with you...

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 4:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi,

That was quite interesting to read. I wonder if life on the road has changed much since the 50s. Life of performers always appears to be so glamorous, but you have painted a different picture of the behind the scenes action.

Have a lovely week-end.

Ann

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 5:51:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I never knew you were a performer. I suppose I should have, given your picture and all. You are a beaut! (Notice I did not say "were".)

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 7:41:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

When I see singers, I have never stopped to think of how they got to where they are. It sure doesn't sound like a fun lifestyle.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 8:59:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You should certainly write a screenplay based on these days. I love hearing these stories. Also, since you use so many pictures, you might want to go into "settings" and then "formatting" and change your number of days (it's at the top of the page called "show") so that it doesn't take so long to load your site and make blogger work so hard. I don't know what you have yours set at, but if you change it to 4 or 5 I think it would help.

Friday, September 19, 2008 at 10:19:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Blogger is killin' me. Anyway, I always enjoy whatever I can get here. I have heard stories of the lonely lounge singers, lucky you got out. Insane asylums, sad to think they STILL exist. My great uncle died in one at age 37, put there by a wealthy, angry, father-in-law.

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 12:22:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I think I have an idea how you felt.. I played in a band for a while and unless close to home (which luckily I was) no one you know would come. But I did always enjoy the fact that people were happy to have a band and watching them all dance made me feel good

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 4:35:00 AM PDT 

OpenID Mar
had this to say:

I am glad to be reading about the human side of "there's no business like showbusiness"...
Hope blogger treats us all better and very soon!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 6:50:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

I think so many "outsiders" only see the glamour side of this business, never thinking about all you wrote about here. Especially that loneliness. It's a very tough profession, but you came through it with grace and style.
Hope Blogger improves for you.
Terri
http://www.islandwriter.net

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 7:24:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi- I just love these posts you do with the look back at your life. Fascinating and enjoyable to read

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 7:32:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a fascinating life you have led. All those singing gigs at small bars and hotels, with band leaders who couldn't read music... amazing! I love hearing about your life, it's so very different from mine!
Thank you for telling your story, I love hearing it. :-)

Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 7:20:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hey cool story, you should write the movie.....use notepad to write your piece that way you wont loose it if blogger bellies up, just copy and paste....
Peace

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 3:11:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I thought I was losing my mind over blogger's issues! Misery loves company....:) Well, at least it soothes my anxiety over whether i had done something to my own computer knowing that many others have been tripped up this week too. Id write something and then POOF, it would be gone after I thought I had saved it. It has been going on since mid week.

Loneliness can be so starkly soul destroying can't it? When it happens like you describe, it feels like it continues to spiral and grow in intensity. Discomfort magnified to a point where we have to almost surrender whatever our situation is (even if its a goal/dream of performing like yours) and try another path.

Loneliness it seems to me is such a complicated feeling because it houses so many others including anxiety, grief, doubt....and it taps away at our confidence.

I hadn't really thought about it in those terms until i read this part of your story Naomi....I can feel the visceral-ness of it....your example of visiting your friend clearly describes the desperation of it too.

can't wait to read more.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 4:46:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

"...and no-one will know how unhappy I am about this because I am a professional" Well, now we know. Thanks for exposing the unhappy side of the exotic life on the road. Your descriptions and your memories are a joy to hear.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 5:11:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow. These are the things the audience never thinks about. And all just to be able to sing. I'm anxious to hear what turn your life took next.

Do I see flowers down there?

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 6:31:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Blogger Gremlins, indeed! Yes, I know what you mean.

Great memories --you clearly describe a time that most people think was "easy," but in reality it sounds like a real scramble.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 7:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Very interesting to read your experiences. My mom was a professional musicians in the 30s and she talked about some of that back then too.

Blogger was causing me miseries on Friday also and I have no idea what it was as no clue bu6 saving was a disaster. Fortunately it was better by Saturday

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 11:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a great story---I can't wait to hear more. It is interesting to look back and reflect on the choices we've made, isn't it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 2:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi,
I LOVE reading your stories! As I said to you, you should certainly write a book based on your amazing memories. Thanks for sharing your story!

Have a nice week ahead!

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 4:39:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, thank you for your comments about the Chinese lantern Festival, you are right, these creations are truly spectacular. I had no idea what I was going to see before we got there, but I was amazed at the craftsmanship and the INCREDIBLE SCALE of these beautiful diplays. Unfortunately we went on a very rainy night, but that was OK as it wasn't crowded. I was soaked right through to my undies by the time we went home!!! A couple more pictures still to post!

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 7:28:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I can't imagine that lifestyle ... thanks for sharing :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 7:49:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, I really do love reading your stories....I guess part of being a musician is taking the bad with the good...Forest would say, "It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get." I think going through those kinds of things makes you appreciate the "good times" even more. Glad to be back reading you again....I survived!

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 7:38:00 AM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

You have the gremlins too? I thought it was just me.
I never realised before how lonely a singer's life could be quite apart from the danger of being alone in un salubrious places. Usually when one is acting one is in a team. You showed great courage and I'm sure your own persona would be a protectiion but it must have been very scary at times.

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 7:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Very interesting stuff Naomi! I just cannot imagine how hard that would be. You were VERY brave indeed!! No wonder you were lonely. I'm looking forward to the next part!

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 11:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love your posts. I gave you an award today. xoxo Me

Monday, September 22, 2008 at 8:10:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I really enjoy these glimpses into your past. You make it clear that clubs and singing in them was not the glamour and glitz that it is made out to be. For the most part, you never knew what to expect. That is VERY nerve racking!!
Jason has often talked to me about the "dumbing down" of musicians these days. It's hard to find young people who are willing to work hard and learn to read music and really study it intently over a period of years. Nowadays, it's the easy way out for most which means the quality of musicians has gone downhill.
You faced a lot during those days you wrote about.
It was quite an emotional roller coaster, and I can see why you began to tire of it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 2:44:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

After reading this I understand why you have such a good energy about you. You lived life..and passionately so! Do you have any recordings..we would love to hear you!
Extremely interesting!! Can't wait to hear the next part!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 8:00:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It's always hard to keep going when the joy is leaving, especially when it's something you love so much. Obviously you eventually found your niche, and you have great talent... I'm just sorry the road was so rocky.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 10:47:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love it when your posts are like this and share all the cicumstances you've made it through. You really were quite strong. I know this had to be so lonely for you. I wouldn't have made it as long as you did. I really am a big baby.

The photos you chose to go along with the story really worked well and I enjoyed them too.

Friday, September 26, 2008 at 7:58:00 AM PDT 

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