Saturday, August 30, 2008
nightclubs - 1954

Many people ask me, 'What were these Nightclubs like?' Well, no surprise: people 'smoked like chimneys' and 'drank like fish' in these clubs. They truly did, of course. And the last thing that the customers were interested in was 'the show', except for the "Exotic Dancer". And the management was only interested in what you did if it helped to sell drinks. The third singing job I had was in a small but rather interestingly decorated Club on Staten Island called. "The Miami Club". It had fake Palm Trees and everything else that signified "Miami".....and it was quite a challenge to get there. Back then, there was no Verenzanno Bridge to get over to Staten Island from Long Island. You had to drive into New York City, if you weren't already there---which I wasn't----and take the then only way to get to S.I., The Staten Island Ferry....It was a rather picturesque little trip because you not only saw all the buildings in the skyline of Manhattan, but you also saw The Statue of Liberty, coming and going. In those days these clubs didn't close until 4 AM, though usually they let you go around 2:45 am or so.....Anyway, they loved me at The Miami Club, and so I was asked back there to perform, four or five times. Just as an aside, one of the "Exotic Dancers" that played that club with me billed herself as "Whirling Janet From Another Planet". Great name, isn't it? And she was a really nice fun young gal with a great sense of humor.

People like Whirling Janet made the job bearable, because the reality of these clubs was that they were "toilets". Yeah, that's what everybody called them back then, and that is because, in truth, that is what they were. They were the bottom of the barrel 'clubs'. This was kind of sleazy show business. (Though a lot of people felt and still feel, that all of the music business is pretty sleazy and always was.....) This is the way things were, back in the day----Waaaaaay back 'in the day' in these lowest of the low clubs, which is where one had to start out. I guess you could say most of these 'clubs' were one step up from just being a 'bar'.....After all there was 'a show'. And the "show" set-up usually went something like this:
There was the MC/Comedian, who started 'the show', and who came back in between acts to tell a few jokes and then to introduce the next 'act'....Then usually next would be 'The Singer', and then after that there was "The Headliner"----the headliner in those days and in those clubs was 'The Exotic Dancer'.....better known as The Stripper. Depending on the place, the 'stripper' could either be pretty good, or really terrible. And in some clubs, besides these three main acts, there might be a line of girls....Dancers in scanty costumes, who also "worked" the bar. The overheard conversations in the Dressing Room could be pretty raunchy, but that was okay. It was sometimes humorous and that broke the tension of nerves. This line of girls might do two or three numbers. They would Open the show, then come back after each act and then, they were done, except for working the bar. How humiliating was that? Well, it could be very humiliating. They never knew what they might encounter......

They were basically 'shills' for the club. Customers would buy them drinks which the bartenders made sure were watered that way the girls wouldn't get drunk, but they would keep the customers company and then the customers would keep buying drinks and more drinks. What else they did with the customer later---if indeed they did anything----was not the managements business.....Although in some places there were strict rules about that. No dating the customers. No hanky panky. Other places, the management didn't care.....Anyway, I was 'The Singer' but I did not have to work the bar, Thank God! Though the first time I worked at The Miami Club, the Bartender said I did have to work the bar. He was wrong. Poor Whirling Janet did have to work the bar and she was terribly unhappy about that, and very angry with her agent because he had not told her she would have to do that. I told the Bartender I had not been informed that that was part of the job. The Manager saved the situation, telling me that I did not have to do that. It's a good thing too, because I was ready to walk. There was no way I was going to work that bar, or any bar.

I worked a lot of these joints....I mean, a lot! And ultimately, it was deeply deeply depressing. Why? Well, for one, the caliber of musicians was just horrific. And, unfortunately, I couldn't afford to have my own accompanist with me on each of these jobs. If Nat Jones had been able to go on all these jobs with me, well, that would have made a huge difference, but, I was getting paid peanuts and so it just wasn't possible to have Nat with me on each of these 'gigs'. So, this meant that I was stuck with whatever each of these clubs had to offer, musician-wise, and the pickings were slim, slim, slim, and sometimes embarassingly so....

I remember in detail, my first professional job as 'The Singer'. It was a club called "The Neck Inn" was in Throgs Neck, just on the edge of The area just outside of New York City, considered sort of on Long Island.

At "The Neck Inn", (Get it? Throgs Neck?) the so called 'dressing room' where I was supposed to put on my make-up and change into my "show" dress was this tiny little horrible room where they stored the extra cases of soft drinks that were served to the customers. It had a large broken mirror leaning up against the wall sitting on top of some cases of Club Soda, Coke and Ginger Ale. I am not kidding you. A broken mirror. This was where I had to get ready to 'go on'. There was a naked light bulb hanging down from the ceiling and that was all the light that there was in this little horrendous store room/dressing room. I know this sounds like I made this up. I didn't. This was exactly how it was. And let me tell you, I have never felt so lonely and frightened in my life, except when I was nine years old and in a hospital about to have an operation---but this, this singing in a nightclub, was supposed to be a happy exciting experience. I was 23 years old, and I had been preparing for this night for years. All the coaching; all the singing lessons; all the hours of rehearsing; all the hours and hours of rehearsing the nightclub act written especially for me. And now, here I was at 'The Neck Inn, about to make my nightclub debut. And I am dressing in a sift dribk store room.

Back in the day, it was a must to have a "club act". Your very own very personal club act that was tailored to you and your particular talents. It included fantastic arrangements where there were key changes and 'special lyrics', and everything. So you brought all your music with you and there was a rehearsal of sorts. In my fantasy, it was going to be like it was in all the movies I had ever seen...This night was going to launch my career. This, was going to make me, 'A Star'.
So there I was with this fabulous "nightclub act" (And that broken mirror and that naked lightbulb) that dear wonderful Kenny Welch had written for me. And it really was amazing and brilliant. Kenny is a genius, after all....and as dear a man as anyone I've ever known.....
There was a flow to the whole "act", like a play---A beginning, A Middle, And an End. And that particular night, for my very first night club debut with my "act", my dear accompanist, the wonderfully talented Nat Jones, did play for me and that included rehearsing with the band and me, thank God. The band. Oy! Six musicians, including Nat.

Well, it was quite clear almost from the beginning that this "act" was too smart for the room. But considering that, it actually went quite well, mostly because of the 20 or so people who were friends and loved ones who were out there sitting at tables who had come to support me. After the show, I came out and sat at one of the tables----this table full of loved ones....a table full of dear people that came specifically to be there for me And, I cannot tell you how incredibly lonely I felt sitting there with all these people who loved me. And I realized that working in nightclubs was very very different than working in "The Theatre". Performing in a club, alone, there was no one to share the experience with---good or bad----as there was when you were in a play....No one to say..."Oh wasn't that scary", when someone forgot a line.....You were all alone....You were out there swimming around in this sea of oil....and desperatelytrying to look like you knew what the hell you were doing, and enjoying it, to boot.

Working in these clubs almost killed my spirit. Each club was worse than the next. All of them were not about the work or the talent or my great club act. They were about selling as many drinks as possible, and if you could do that...well, you could work all over the United States....I was offered that plumb in my second nightclub job. This man with one arm and a hatchet-face called me over..."Hey Singer"....he said...."Come 'ere..."...Yes, New York Accent, and all. He was very scary looking and it turned out he was one of the owners of that club....He ended up speaking to my 'manager'....They liked me, he said. They could book me in 70 places all over the country, if I would just sign a contract....My manager, Buster Newman, knew and understood what this was all about....he told them, 'No'. He said.....'She is just trying out her material here'. "One Arm" kept trying to persuade him, telling him what a great opportunity this was for me. I could be working all the time---eight months out of the year, if I wanted. Buster was polite, but firm. He understood that this was the so called 'syndicate' put in more bluntly, 'the mob'. He also understood that if you signed with them you were with them for life. He had been around the nightclub business for a long time and he knew that if you signed a contract with these gentlemen they actually owned you forever, and you had to do whatever they said, forever. He said, 'Thanks, but no thanks'. That was probably the wisest decision of my entire Nightclub Career.

More To Come......

Thursday, August 28, 2008
close on succulents +

Here are a few close-ups of one Succulents that lives out on my deck.....The variety of colors and shapes just takes my breath away...... Another slightly different view of the same section of this beautiful plant.....The way one color changes to another almost imperceptibly....this is the miracle of nature..... This is sooooo sooooo pretty, isn't it? There are many more pictures of this amazingly intricate beautiful Succulent.....for now, here is just one more......

And, on another very high note.......

This week is a monumental week in the History of our beautiful wonderful country. I am so deeply moved by so very many things that I have witnessed throughout my lifetime, not the least of which has been watching the Democratic Convention.....Today is the 45th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's great great "I Have A Dream" speech....I watched that as it happened, and was deeply moved then, too. Moved by the possibilities of would 'could be'. Moved by the dedication of all the people who stood on the Mall.....Moved by the bravery and courage it took to be there.....And deeply moved by the speech that Dr. King created and gave that hot August afternoon.....What a day it was.And here we are 45 years later, seeing history made before our eyes, once again. Tonight, we will watch Barack Obama make his acceptance speech for the Presidential Nomination of The Democratic Party.....What a Historic Day and Night this is. I think Dr. King would be thrilled about this if he could have been here. We have come a long way since those 200,000 people stood and held hands on The Mall in Washington and sang, "We Shall Overcome". Is the fight over? No, not yet. But, indeed, progress has been made..... Blessings on Barack Obama and his dear wife Michelle and his two little girls. This is the day we are given---and what a day it is---Let Us Rejoice And Be Glad In It!

UPDATE: This was a Great Great Speech. Memorable in every way. I'm really excited, Now, more than ever! Hooray Hooray! (9:47pm)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Here are some more close-up pictures of some flowers from that same arrangement as my last post....I love seeing things in a different way than we are used to singing them. Even if the pictures are not in perfect focus. In fact, that often adds to the look of abstraction.....! The above is, of course, an Orchid...... And so is this one below.....a different Orchid than the one above, to be sure....But, an Orchid, never-the-less. All the colors in these flowers just knock me out. I love, love love, color. Any color---all colors. And I love the way nature shows you that there really are no rules where color is concerned.....Everything is right. Everything "works"! Another subtle beauty, in the Orchid department....To me, it is so very very exciting to get in close as possible---With the digital cameras I have at this time----and see things from a deeper point of view....from a sweeter point of view, if you will.....And, speaking of a 'sweeter' point of view....I bet that wonderful little bit of nectar that is hanging there is just about as sweet as it gets! And below, another view of this amazing phenomenon. This one was taken a bit earlier than the one above it. Is it my imagination or is that little drop just a teeny timy bit lower than this one? I love the little bit of green that you can see on the bottom of that drop---a reflection of the stem that it is on....Amazing! This is in the middle of a different flower in that arrangement.....This one hasn't quite reached the same stage as that other one....It is shiny with the nectar gathering, but no nectar drip yet. And backing up a bit from this particular flower we have this view below. And that wonderful round flower over on the left that is somewhat out of the picture....well, here below is a little closer look at that baby. There were quite a few of these in this arrangement----a new flower to me---I had never seen these before. (Tell us what this is, please, Judy....) And just as it is true with any living thing; Plant, Flower, Animal Human: No two are exactly alike.And here below is another one of these beautiful complex little circular ball-flowers. And I got in closer to there to see what else was going on that I couldn't see all that well with the naked eye....Here below are a few of these closer looks. And then there is this...... And then, this, too..........As well as this........ Well.....that's it for now. But as always........

More To Come.......

NOTE: If you are watching the Democratic Convention Coverage, the only place to watch it and see everything without all the Pundit Commentary Crap is the wonderful C-Span! You'll see and hear everything and you won't miss one moment of it because there are no interruptions by people who have an agenda and there are no commercials either.....! It's GREAT!

Saturday, August 23, 2008
close-up and personal

I had a great time getting in close on some of the flowers that were in that Beautiful Flower Arrangement I got for Seemah's Birthday Lunch that sat in the middle of my Dining Room table that afternoon.....There is an abstraction to some of these pictures that I just love...... And, again.....If you really look closely you see things you just didn't notice in the bigger picture. I believe the true and real information is in the details of photographs....Especially when it comes to flowers.... Including the 'out of focus' details....In fact, I kind of like the out-of-focus-ness of these a way, that's where the abstraction enters into it, you know? I love seeing the variations of color, this case---the purples and the dark red/maroons---not really an accurate description, but then describing "color" with words, is almost impossible..... I love the look of the petal behind this one, too.....there will be more of that in another post, though.....I love the feathery look of this lovely flower and the little bit of white and/or yellow that is here and there.... And above....the more visible sprig that some of those other shots came from....Below, a different Sprig......And back to an abstraction of sorts....
Isn't this a gorgeous color? Yummmmm! Needless to say, do click on all these pictures to see them bigger.... I love the little bit of pale yellow on this one....This is close to the smaller end of this Sprig....It is so artful! A bit further back on this same Sprig as the two pictures above.....And look at the little yellow flowers in this Flower Sprig! Plus that lighter shade of salmon? Pink? Running down the! I don't know the name of this 'sprig', but Van used it throughout the arrangement almost like a 'garnish'.....It sure is pretty....!
And below....I slightly closer look at the 'sprig' in a partial view of this beautiful arrangement!

More To Come.......

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
a visit with jamie & jason

The wonderful Jamie Dawn, who lives in Arkansas, was here in L.A. to visit her brother Jason, and before they drove up to Northern California to visit their dear parents, I was lucky enough to see them both, twice! They were scheduled to come to my house for a bit of Lunch on the Thursday of that week, but I noticed that those magical Night Blooming Cereus Flowers that only bloom for one night once a my amazement and delight......going to be open on Wednesday night---the night before our Lunch date.....So....When we spoke on the phone I told them about this rather "special" happening, and I urged them---if possible---to come by on Wednesday night at around 10:30pm. They were pretty excited....And, they said not only could they come, but that they indeed, would come on by....! So there, in the picture above is dear Jamie taking pictures of these amazing blooms....(I'm sure she will post some of her pictures too, once she returns to Arkansas.....) Meanwhile.....This is part of what they saw. There were 9 flowers that opened that night....And it is really very exciting to see this many wide open and know that in the morning they will be completely closed up.....Here below is brother Jason looking at the flowers and taking pictures, too..... And here is a closer look at the very handsome Jason concentrating on those wonderfully magical flowers..... And below is another example of what is so special about these wonderful flowers.......I will be doing a post soon showing more of these and showing them closer-up, too...... And there was a "bonus" that night.....Jamie and Jason got to see another Night Blooming Cereus that is blooming at this time. This plant lives in the 'bed' next to my Garage and is quite filled with flowers this time of year....When those flowers die, they drop off and what is left turns into this delicious fruit, which the birds---specifically The Finches----"sup" on when the fruit is ripe! These flowers are smaller and the centers are quite different and they have a lovely gentle fragrance......After we had our fill of all this fantastic 'night' activity, we then went into the house and out on my Deck, which you may recall faces the city, and sat and talked for quite a while.....They both took some pictures of the city at night and then, they took their leave, coming back to my house about twelve hours later. We had a lovely lunch and I think Jamie took some pictures of that....And then both Jamie and Jason went down into the Garden....I stayed up on the deck and took pictures of them down there on that steep but beautiful hill....... And then, we took pictures of each other 'taking' Then Jamie and Jason began taking lots of pictures of the plants in the garden....I haven't seen any yet, but I know I will after Jamie gets back home to Arkansas, or, as she calls it 'Hicksville'. (That is so funny to me because out on Long Island, N. Y., where I grew up, there is an actual town called Hicksville.....) Then, they began to explore a bit....... Though Jamie changed her mind about going down that path because there is a plant that almost covers the walkway.....But here us a closer look at Jason---kind of hidden behind those Euphorbia Amak Variegated plants...... You can kind of see how tall these Amak's are, knowing that Jason is quite a tall man.....Meanwhile, Jamie went to a different path---One that was less cluttered..... But then she decided to stay where she was and take a lot of pictures right there....Then Jason came back and they both went onto the Deck that is there, close to the bottom of my property.... They both were just snapping away like crazy...I love that! Jason saw something once he was down there that he wanted to show his sister.....So......I meant to ask them what it was he was pointing out to Jamie....Was it the City? Was it a Hummingbird, possibly....(He did say he saw one down there)....Once there, Jason took some close-ups of some of the plants.....And then he checked what he photographed..... And I got a close-up of him, from way up above on my deck.....Then....they began going towards the other side of the garden, where they would be out of sight to me from my vantage point......So before they went out of sight completely, I got a lovely closeup of dear Jamie.....And so, another lovely special visit with Jamie Dawn came to a close, (She was here last year about the same time, and that was when I got to meet her and her dear brother for the very first time.....) Jason and Jamie came up stairs from the garden below, and we sat out on the Patio in the front for a little while and then they left these Hills on their way back to Pasadena. And then they left early the next morning for Northern California. It is such an amazing thing to know that without blogging, I would never have had this very special and lovely friendship.....Isn't Blogging the most fantastically amazing thing?

More To Come...........

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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