Friday, February 07, 2020

Louisiana, 1811 America’s Forgotten Slave Insurrection

Workers Vanguard No. 1113
2 June 2017
Louisiana, 1811
America’s Forgotten Slave Insurrection
The monuments and statues we would build are those that honor fighters for liberation, not least the men and women who fought to destroy the slavocracy: the abolitionists; the Civil War soldiers, including 200,000 black troops, who crushed the Confederacy; those who rose up against the slave order. Among the latter are the hundreds who fought for their freedom in the January 1811 uprising in Louisiana—the largest, though largely unknown, slave insurrection in U.S. history.
From 8 to 10 January, 1811, an army of 500 slaves spread terror against the slaveowners on the German Coast of Louisiana. They killed two slave masters, burned plantations and marched toward New Orleans armed with axes, sugarcane knives and a few guns. Chanting “Freedom or Death,” they aimed to establish a black republic. The suppression of this insurrection was instrumental in consolidating Louisiana’s French planters into the U.S., including recent émigrés from France’s former colony of Saint-Domingue. It extended the reach and power of the slavocracy, which would finally be shattered by the Civil War.
The foundation for the 1811 uprising was the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), which began in 1791 and ended with the withdrawal of French troops in 1803 and the establishment of a black republic on 1 January 1804. The Haitian Revolution both inspired the insurrectionists, among them transplants from Saint-Domingue, and haunted the slave masters who feared its replication on North American soil.
In turn, the Haitian Revolution was inspired by the French Revolution. Under the banner “liberty, equality, fraternity” the masses rose up beginning in 1789, destroying the entrenched aristocratic and feudal order. In 1792, the French Republic was proclaimed, followed shortly by the execution of King Louis XVI in January 1793. However, France’s new bourgeois rulers brutally fought to maintain slavery in Haiti, which at the time of the 1791 uprising accounted for 60 percent of France’s export trade. In the face of continuing black revolt, and with England threatening to attack France’s most lucrative colony, the radical Jacobin regime in Paris, which came to power in 1793, abolished slavery in Saint-Domingue in 1794. Five years later, Napoleon Bonaparte took power in a coup, reinstated slavery and in January 1802 dispatched an armada and 20,000 French troops to reconquer the colony—only to be driven out the following year.
With the loss of his Saint-Domingue cash cow, Napoleon saw little use for his other major New World colony, the Louisiana Territory. In 1803, he sold it for a song to the U.S., an acquisition that nearly doubled U.S. territory. By 1810, slaves made up more than 75 percent of the total population of the region—a greater proportion than any other slave society in North America. The brutal conditions they faced working Louisiana’s sugarcane fields were matched by the huge profits their labor generated.
The architect of the 1811 rebellion was Charles Deslondes, whose position as a trusted slave driver on the plantation of Manuel Andry enabled him to move through the sugar fields without suspicion. Deslondes spread word through small cells scattered up and down the coast. On the night of January 8, the uprising began with an incursion on the mansion of Deslondes’ master. After wounding Andry and killing his son Gilbert, the group armed themselves with muskets and ammunition from the basement. They then started a two-day march down River Road toward New Orleans, which was 40 miles away. Groups of slaves joined them as they passed other plantations. Later, maroons (escaped slaves) left the security of their wooded retreats to fight alongside the rebel army. Terrified white residents either fled to New Orleans or hid out in the backwoods near their plantations.
Fearing that the city’s majority black population (including many free blacks) would join the rebellion, Louisiana governor William Claiborne ordered New Orleans sealed and a 6 p.m. curfew for black people. General Wade Hampton, a South Carolina slaveowner, mobilized two companies of volunteer militia, 30 regular troops and a detachment of 40 seamen who halted the slaves’ advance 15 miles from the city. A second militia of 80 planters formed by Andry unwittingly flanked the slave army on the morning of January 10. Though outnumbering their pursuers, the slaves were outgunned. After quickly running out of ammunition, they were brutally routed. Sixty-six fighters were killed and many others captured. Shortly after, the planter militias, supported by the U.S. military, captured Deslondes, chopped off his hands, broke his thighs, shot him dead and then roasted his body on a pile of straw.
Over the next few weeks, more than 100 slaves were executed. Their heads were put on poles and their dismembered corpses were publicly displayed as a warning to others. The federal troops called in to suppress the uprising and secure New Orleans were drawn from those defending the bogus Republic of West Florida that U.S. settlers seized from Spain in 1810, foreshadowing the grab of Texas from Mexico two decades later. Extending from Baton Rouge on the southwest to Natchez on the northwest and Mobile on the east, this “republic” gave the U.S. control over the Mississippi River and eliminated a haven for escaped slaves and native tribes, while securing commerce on the river.
Louisiana’s French planters, who had been contemptuous of the Anglo government in D.C. and indifferent to West Florida’s annexation, now became advocates of a strong U.S. military presence. One year after the uprising, Louisiana was admitted as a slave state, as other regions of the Louisiana Territory were later—Missouri (1821) and Arkansas (1836). The Mississippi Territory, which had been ceded by Spain in 1797, was divided into Mississippi and Alabama; they were admitted as slave states in 1817 and 1819. Between 1820 and 1860, the population of the Deep South slave states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama grew over 600 percent to almost 2.5 million. New Orleans became America’s second-largest port—and largest slave market. This confluence of events, of which the suppression of the Louisiana rebellion played no small part, consolidated the bulk of what would become the Confederacy.
We hail Charles Deslondes and his comrades. We seek to honor their memory by finishing the Civil War through a working-class socialist revolution.

Traipsing Through The Arts-All 20th Century Art Is About Sex-Forget That Stuff You Learned In Art Class About The Sublime-Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock Unchained- In The Midnight Hour Gliding Through “Number 31” (1950) Without Wings

Traipsing Through The Arts-All 20th Century Art Is About Sex-Forget That Stuff You Learned In Art Class About The Sublime-Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock Unchained- In The Midnight Hour Gliding Through “Number 31” (1950) Without Wings

By Laura Perkins

Mercifully Sam Lowell has my back. The merciful part first. Recently I, with Sam as my sparring partner then, made my first big group of enemies at this publication when I had the audacity to suggest that late 19th painter John Singer Sargent’s Madame X’s birdlike nose was maybe a sign of profession beauty in her day but was strictly Bride of Frankenstein these days (with no disrespect to Mary Shelley and her divine fictional creation Frankenstein which we paid homage to on the 200th anniversary of its publication in 2018). I added a few off-hand remarks that professional beauties, and Madame X was no exception, in French high society then, maybe now too, slept their way to the top. That in turn was Sam’s central thesis which I thought was a little rough on the much- maligned woman. 

Then Sam, who has spent his career as a film review editor and writer and thus keen to find the back story, told me about the memoir of Madame X’s personal maid who gave details about her role as the one who let the “guests” up the back stairway, sometimes when her husband was down below. The maid had originally no ax to grind, would probably not have “told all” except Monsieur LeBlanc, Sargent’s paint supplier in Paris (and who would sent the paints over to London when  Sargent fled there since the finicky artist could find nobody else who could mix blacks, browns and greys like him) had been much maligned when he let on that he had shared Madame’s bed when she was “slumming” among the plebeians and Parisian high society bared their daggers at such impertinence and she wanted to set the record straight. So Sam at least was not far off in his understanding of this, his term modern day Whore of Babylon although I would have held back on her personal life since she took enough of a beating from that same self-satisfied Parisian crowd.                 

I, we, on that occasion went hammer and tong on the substance of John White Alexander’s (another three- name guy which I have noted elsewhere is so bourgeois, started out of some need to distinguish themselves from the two-name Joe Jones common man or to show their descent from some Mayflower stowaways or more likely to cover up their tracks around questions about their births) Isabella and the Pot of Basil (so-called) which was merely a cover for a kinky drug-induced (opium) erotic severed head cult which goes back to antiquity. As it turned out we were right, or I should say Sam a 1960s Summer of Love veteran and an Army veteran as well so very well-versed in the drug milieu while I choke the first time I even whiffed marijuana was right, that the pot contained the crucial poppies needed for the opium dreams. Sam the minute we entered the Museum of Fine Arts room in Boston where the painting hung sensed even before he went close to the painting that the basil, so-called symbol of love or something was the normal Victorian hogwash covering up not only Isabella’s, or rather the model who posed for Alexander, junkie drug addiction but the artist’s as well. Again, back story Sam pointed out that you never saw Alexander in short sleeves even on the hottest days the better to cover up the tell-tale tracks on his arms. Moreover along the way we found out that there had been an international modern-day crack-down on the devotees of this bizarre cult and even the Italian authorities back in the Renaissance were on Isabella trail once they got suspicious of all the well-bred young women who were hanging around when the well-paid executioners were doing their work.

I won’t even go into the hell broth we suffered from yahoos and high-brows alike when we exposed Whistler’s The White Girl as essentially an ad for a modern day Whore of Babylon (which I agree with Sam is what is true here although I still differ on that characterization for Madame X), the key being the symbolic wolf’s head and fur the model is standing on. This woman was allegedly four-name Whistler’s girlfriend, mistress, paramour so it makes sense, high Victorian hypocritical sense that he would not just put a big “A” or something on her head but something more symbolic but also making it clear she was “available.” Nice guy “pimping” his girlfriend just ti prove he could do art for art’s sake. Yes, Whistler was hard, very hard on his women. The high brows defending their own, in this case a three-named guy Doyle who was in deep denial about the real stuff going on among his forebears. Worse though and even Sam who always says he is beyond surprises at his age is that strangely, or maybe not given the times we live in we got most of our deep-freeze blasts from troll evangelicals worried about their kids maybe reading about sex and eroticism in art. Yes, I know, weird. We have already kicked that around and the good folk seem to have backed off once we got to 20th century art which to them must have seemed a cesspool of filth and vulgar sex but no self-respecting kid would be caught dead reading some old fogey take on the meaning of modern art. Yes, weird indeed.

Those storms passed by and Sam and I took the whole experience as the overhead of doing something a little on the tangent side, a little off-beat but well with the parameters of art work analysis even if we are not as Doyle thought was his biggest contention professional art critics. What solidified us though was our firm contention that all serious 20th century art all the way up to Pop and Op Art are centrally about sex, eroticism and sensuality. (We both agree the jury is still out on 21st art especially Minimalism although I have noted that Matty Gove’s works reek of pure sex, rough sex to boot and that Dan Blake’s later works are nothing but almost pornographic depictions of various sexual acts. Matty when he read the piece sent me a message mentioning how perceptive I was to see that his signature paint, Three Intertwined Shapes, was his homage to S&M culture.)

As with many of our joint projects we are solid on the central point and disagree over particulars. (Sam has been an advisor to me since the first Singer piece although in the background where he remains since he refused to take the on-going self-selected art works assignment when first offered by site manager Greg Green.) That was the case when we put our first painting, the famous one by Edward Hopper from 1942 Nighthawks under the microscope. I basically took that narrative as a busted romance which tottered on the woman being ticked off at her guy for being drunk (note the glassy unfocused distracted eyes of the classic midnight drunk) and not bed-ready. See my take was that Hopper was pissed off at his wife Jo who was the female model for not letting him use a younger woman he had contacted (and was sexually interested in and very interested in painting in the nude except JO nixed that idea, a non-starter as long as she still breathed). Sam I thought was crasser in his narrative that this scene was a classic late-night diner prostitute pick-up spot and the guy was a John deciding whether to go for paradise or not. Sam finally agreed with my contention that Hopper was pissed off at his wife for being a prude but as usual had a little back story to lay on me that the young thing he was interested in painting he was seeing her and painting her nude. She would be the young model in the roadside whorehouse painting where she was sunning herself while the old madame was counting the nightly take. So you see we have different takes on occasion within the context of the broader thesis.

I hope nobody laughs but I almost wish those troll evangelicals were still yapping at my heels. Reason: one Clarence Dewar, art critic for Art Today who somehow saw that Hopper piece and flipped out. Naturally Mr. Dewar had to sharpen his knife with the fact that I am not an art critic (and neither by extension is Sam Lowell). I have repeatedly mentioned that hard fact which is a great deal of the reason that Greg Green gave me the project and has supported my work all along against all-comers. A fresh quirky look is what he has called it and has said so to his various fellow editor drinking buddies when they question the wisdom of letting a quirky dame run amuck with the crazies and the paid professionals hugging their respective turfs.

Here is the dagger through the heart though-the so-called fatal blow. The one that will send me back to the cheap seats. Mr. Dewar is of the theory that since the Impressionists, and that grouping is an important divide in modern art all art has been a search for the, get this, sublime. His argument is that with the invention of the camera artists have moved away from representational art, away from the line, color combo that drove most previous art. Apparently the further away from line-color coordination the purer the art form and hence the closer to the, get this, sublime. So where Sam and I saw a classic 20th century sex scene one way or another Mr. Dewar sees Hopper say as making a big splash statement about the isolation of modern society and the decline of the individual. Individuals being afloat in a lost world which I guess can be cured by looking at some painting not with lust in their hearts but seeing a “terrible beauty is born” as the poet Yeats would have. To place that search in some midnight Joe and Nemo’s diner with a bunch of besotted drunks and a rum-dum short order cook who overcooked the hamburgers and recycled the coffee beans for the fifth time that evening is the epitome of, get this, sublime.         
Sam and I had a good laugh about that one although Sam says we have not heard the last of Mr. Dewar since he carries some weight, no what did Sam call it, some water, in art circles in New York and in the old days he was a student of Clement Greenberg who practically invented that silly sublime theory that has kept more lame art curators, art collectors, art directors, and so-called high-toned gallery owners looking in the wrong places than you can shake a stick at, maybe a brush too. One night Sam and I did get into a discussion about the place of the sublime in art history and how it has choked off more serious discussion than it has provoked. After a couple of hours, we were worn out by the place where the discussion was heading and reaffirmed our commitment to our own thesis about sex and sensuality (read eroticism, okay) as the driving force in modern art (and don’t forget maybe post-modern art too).

A couple of days later we saw Jackson Pollock’s Number 31 done in the late 1940s when he was the max daddy of what Greenberg called action painters and more generally the key figure to boost Abstract Expressionism, the so-called Greenberg search for the perfect break from line to pure form. Almost at the same time we both blurred out (to the annoyance of a couple of matronly art devotees at the next painting) “the thing reeks of sex” and I think I said primordial sex, trying to be polite with those old biddies present. Originally Sam and I were going to play off each other insights about Pollock’s place in the great sex and sensuality search presented by his drip paintings (although a serious argument can be made that during the early 1940s Jackson went amuck with the brush and in an earlier age would have been stoned to death by the sex police or at a minimum has his works burned at the stake).

Since then through internal meetings with Greg Green we have decided to give Sam an upcoming “unchained” space to run off his mouth about the genesis of his various takes on art before we put him back in the bottle. Basically I agree with Sam that Pollock was doing some very weird sexual things out there in Long Island in that shed, with or without Lee Krasner around. That recent testing has found some foreign materials which are not paint, which are some kind of human fluids, mixed into the brew. I will leave it there for now and let Sam give his, own take which will only confirm what those old biddies didn’t want to hear- Sublime terrible beauty sublime not old Dewar’s silly sublime but earthy tones down in the human grind and mud sublime.      

Memories Of Victor Lazlo-With The Anniversary Of Ingrid Bergman And Humphrey Bogart’s “Casablanca” In Mind

Memories Of Victor Lazlo-With The Anniversary Of Ingrid Bergman And Humphrey Bogart’s “Casablanca” In Mind

By Bradley Davis

[For those in America who do not know, or have forgotten, the name Victor Lazlo who died on January 20, 1989 he was a living legend during World War II as the key leader of the armed civilian resistance to the Nazi juggernaut that tried to permanently roll over Europe. First in his native Czechoslovakia where he stood in the main square attempting to rally Czech resistance as the Germans crossed the border to “claim” what they saw as their historic hinterlands. Hardly the first crew to run that argument to the ground before the wrath of the risen people put paid to that notion. Later after the Germans had captured Lazlo and put him in concentration camps he became one of the last hopes in those dark days for the average occupied European when he repeatedly escaped from the Nazi barbed wire enclaves to fight another day. That despite repeated German High Command announcements complete with photographs that the brave man was dead. Only to appear again and again until even the Germans saw it was useless to make an example of Lazlo once he made his way to Casablanca along with a very much younger woman companion, Ilsa, to forge a working resistance underground network to jam up the Germans as best they could.   

Strangely Lazlo came from a very well-to- do family who had done well in the munitions business (which the Nazis took over with every hand once they crushed benighted Czechoslovakia) and could have easily gotten out of Prague and into London or Paris before all hell broke loose. But the times demanded “no heads in the sand” and so some layers of society whom one would not expect to dirty their hands with the work usually left to the plebian masses found a calling. For a short time after World War II there were several statues dedicated to Lazlo’s service in Prague and other Czech towns, a few in other grateful liberated countries too, which were taken down during the Soviet period. They were eventually restored well after 1989 too late for Lazlo to bask in his well-deserved accolades.

Lazlo’s death prompted some of those of his comrades still alive, a dwindling number as the actuarial tables grind away, to write about their heroic leader. One whose article I had seen in the New York Gazette I contacted at the time through a friend who worked at the paper. His name Christian Berger, Danish by birth and subsequently a naturalized American citizen. He had been part of Lazlo’s underground operation and had actually helped get Lazlo and Ilsa out of Casablanca to continue his work without having to look over his shoulder every minute for some dastardly pro-Nazi assassin looking to get a name for himself.

This Casablanca period in Lazlo’s exploits has been the subject of some differences among those who have written extensively about the armed civilian resistance during the war. About those who fought the Nazis and their various national indigenous allies as best they could. The main bone of contention in the matter is who actually set the wheels in motion to get Lazlo out of Casablanca. During the war it was always, correctly it seems, assumed that the local branch of Lazlo’s operation-the Knights Templar- got him out. 

Immediately after the war though an American ex-patriate, Rick Blaine, who during the war and for many years after ran a gin joint in the Casbah, Rick’s Café Americian, claimed that as a gesture of love for Ilsa, who was actually Lazlo’s wife which they were keeping quiet for security reasons and to protect Ilsa if the Germans found out their real relationship, gave the couple a pair of “letters of transit” to get on the nightly midnight plane to neutral Lisbon. No such documents were ever found in any archive or file. The failure to not find the missing documents would not have been conclusive since in wartime all kinds of regular business are churned up and lost in movements and withdrawals but would have helped Blaine’s case immensely. For years after the war Lazlo, long after Ilsa had left him for an English nobleman and a country estate and not having seen Rick since 1941, insisted that there were no letters of transit and while not calling Rick Blaine a liar he always claimed the local Knight Templars were the agents through which he escaped.              

Since Lazlo’s death the Rick allegations have resurfaced and have had some champions, romantic fools mostly, who have bought into that long ago gesture of love business. The following is Christian Berger’s take on the matter from his perspective as the leader of the local ex-pat resistance which found itself stranded in Casablanca during those troubled times. Bradley Davis] 


Sure I knew Victor Lazlo, the great Czech World War II anti-fascist liberation leader, who passed away the other day at 91, the day George H.W. Bush was sworn in as President of the United States here in America. I first met him in Casablanca, down in Morocco, the part that the French, the Vichy French, had control of not the Spanish part. In those days, the days when one scourge Adolph Hitler, his minions, and his tanks were making mincemeat of Europe I, Christian Berger, having barely escaped with my life from my native Denmark got to Casablanca through the underground network that Victor Lazlo was the key man setting up once the night of the long knives set in over the benighted continent.

I have been a life-long working man, a dock-worker, a union man with the ILA in Copenhagen and Newark, New Jersey here in America who had been then a part of a small socialist resistance unit who had as the Nazis came waltzing into Denmark blown up as many tunnels and other impediments as possible to slow down their inevitable march. My, our, escape was a close thing since I, we, had to get through France, the southern part that was controlled by Vichy, by those damned French collaborators with the Nazi Germany regime which had set itself up in fallen Paris with papers that were not too good. Papers that claimed I was from the Ukraine since Russia was in some kind of devil’s pact with Hitler at the time. The customs officers at Marseilles had a hard time believing I was a Slav what with me looking like the map of Copenhagen and talking like some Nordic skier seen in the movies in one of those sports films in the mountains which dealt mainly with love interests back in the 1930s. I got through okay, took a derelict freighter across the Mediterranean through Algiers (again with papers problems but since I had been stamped by French officials in Marseilles less so) and down to Casablanca where I was to await orders to either head to America via the midnight plane to Lisbon, the only safe neutral spot at that point,  and then across the Atlantic to raise funds from among the Scandinavians sprouted throughout the Midwest or head back to Vichy France with some others stranded in Casablanca and join the French resistance which was beginning to be organized (mainly then by loosely affiliated individuals and later by the Communists after Hitler turned the tables on “Uncle Joe” Stalin and did a massive invasion of Russia).  

My cover strange as it seemed given my real background in Casablanca was as a jeweler since we needed to be able to move money without having the fucking French, fucking Louie the corrupt Captain of the [A1] [A2] [A3] [A4] [A5] coppers looking over our shoulders every minute. An out of the suitcase seller was my cover but mostly I was a buyer of high-priced gems at a fraction of the price since anybody who made it to that sullen town needed plenty of dough to not be condemned to die in the damn place. I was looked at as either a bastard for robbing the unfortunates who wound up there or a savior for giving that last bit of money they needed to make arrangements to get out of that hellhole. That made me look like the real thing as people either enjoyed my company or avoided me like some dreaded medieval plague.

I was in those days just hanging out in Casablanca awaiting orders about which way I was heading, hanging out mostly at Rick’s Café Americian where every transient exile went to do any kind of transaction, legal or illegal, or just to get the sand out of their mouths with some of Rick’s high-end liquor which he obtained on the international black market which had its heyday then for quality goods. I did a little work in that market as well to strengthen my cover and met some strange guys, a guy like Santo Diaz who would have stolen the shirt off your back and sold it back to you for twice what you paid for if the weather was too hot or too cold to go bare-chested but who had so many connections that I would have paid the price if he had taken my shirt. Some of the more bewildered and younger transients came just to dance and listen to a guy, a black guy everybody called Sam but whose real name was Dooley something, sorry I forgot his last name, play all the current Tin Pan Alley tunes on his piano (accompanied by a pretty good back-up band). Everybody went crazy over his rendition of If I Didn’t Care although Rick would make sure he played I’ll Get By every set although he once told me he hated the damn song thought it was pretty corny and not well-written ne but Rick was the boss and so the damn thing got played every set (the customers apparently once they got a load on didn’t know he played the song three times a night. As least I never heard anybody complain on the matter).

I will mention this Rick, Rick Blaine, originally from New York City in America I believe he said when I asked one time when he offered to buy me a drink after buying some jewels from one of his lady friends, Rita, a luscious redhead, whom he had picked up in Senor Ferrara’s whorehouse in the Casbah where he stocked plenty of loose European women for the local wealthy trade who seemed to have tired of their own kind and  whom he wished to get rid of on the next flight to Lisbon. (The  jewels which he had bought from me in the first place when his love was in fresh bloom as he expressed it to me upon purchase and which I had gotten on the black market and given him a good price on to help establish myself as a regular at Ricks’. Tiring of redhead and blondes, brunettes too was a luxury that Rick could afford with the proceeds from his gambling racket and letting his place be used by a guy named Frenchie for his pimping transactions. Yeah, Rick was that kind of guy even then.) 

Right now though I want to mention the first news I had heard that made me think we might win against that bastard Hitler and his henchmen like General Petain who was running Vichy France. Like I said I belonged to the same resistance organization that Victor Lazlo had set up after the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia-The Knight Templars was our code name and an old time Celtic cross our means of identifying each other. Mine I had placed in a ring that I would take out occasionally and look at as my own possession, so people, so the local Vichy cops, the swine, would not think to look there. Lazlo was so much the public face of the organization that when the Germans captured him the morale of the organization sank like a stone. Then we would hear that he had escaped, usually with the help of local Knights Templars. 

A few times the Germans claimed they had killed him and then he would be sighted again. A real old-time romantic revolutionary, old school no question even though he had been brought up in a very upper middle class bourgeois family. The last time we heard he was killed we thought that really was the end. Then one day out of the blue we got news that Lazlo was not only not dead but had escaped again and was heading to Casablanca. Elated we prepared for his arrival. That meant that the local organization that I had put together would have to insure that Victor Lazlo was able to get out of Casablanca and get to Lisbon and head to London or New York depending on what we could do for him.          

One night bold as we figured him to be Lazlo walked into Rick’s, walked in with the Nordic goddess, a Swede from her looks, a woman who I would later find out whose name was Ilsa, Ilsa Lund, whom he was either married to (privately) or was shacked up with. In any case a good looking dame although quite a bit younger that Lazlo. Lazlo by the way was a tall, kind of thin good-looking guy who always dressed like he had just come out of a men’s magazine. Everything about him spoke of coolness under pressure and strong nerves. I would not say that he was a lady’s man, more of a man’s man but not a few femmes in Casablanca threw glances his way so he must have appealed to a certain kind of woman. Frankly this Ilsa didn’t seem his type but she must have had her charms and some kind of unknown back story to be attached to his arm coming half way across Europe hunted in every quarter.

Now Rick’s was not only the favorite of the transients looking for something but also the favorite watering hole of the Germans assigned to watch over the local Vichy government and the Vichy cops and bureaucrats, especially Louie, everybody called him Louie except his men, the Captain of the cops. Cool as a cucumber Lazlo walked in, sat at a ringside table ordered a couple of drinks, martinis I think, for himself and his lady friend and checked things out. I knew at once he was looking for me. Although we had never met I knew he would have known that the local organization existed and that somebody would contact him once he was safely in Casablanca. Once I spotted him I went over and showed him my ring. We were in business, the business of getting him to Lisbon and whatever future work would come his way. Our relationship for the short time we were together then was cordial and he displayed no class superiority like some of the unattached intellectual French resistance fighters did. (Lazlo and I met a few times after the war when he came to America after Ilsa had left him from that British title and estate and after the fall of Czechoslovakia to pro-Soviet elements who had given him the options-exile or jail.)

I have read different stories over time about how some so-called letters of transit were what got Lazlo and his Ilsa out of Casablanca in a nick of time. I have heard that Rick, Rick Blaine, a guy who stuck his neck out for nobody somehow was holding them for a little two-bit con man named Peter Lorre who got caught and Rick was going to use them himself but gave them to Lazlo for him and Ilsa to get out of town as a gesture to love. Bullshit, excuse my Danish-etched English. Never happened, somebody must have been at the hashish pipe too long. But the story, stories, have persisted to this day and even the New York Times in its obituary for Lazlo mentioned that hoary tale as if it was the real deal. So it is worth going into before I tell what really got Lazlo and Ilsa out of Casablanca and allowed him to lead the freedom fighters of Europe against the night-takers.

According to the stories, I will use the story the Times used since in its particulars it gives most of the current view that has been going around forever. Rick, who passed away in the mid-1970s still stuck in Casablanca selling hashish to the locals in collaboration with a couple of unsavory characters in the Casbah when Rick’s Café went to seed after the war, knew this Ilsa, this Ilsa Lund who was travelling with Lazlo, in Paris before the war started. The stories mainly agree that they had some kind of torrent affair, some serious time under the sheets after Rick had escaped from Spain once Madrid fell in 1939.

Supposedly Rick had been at one time in the International Brigades helping the Loyalists defend the Republic against the military machine of General Franco who was aided in no small way by the Germans. Later when the Brigades were withdrawn he stayed on as a free agent until Madrid fell.  I had a chance later after the war to check out what Rick had done exactly in Spain, or if he had even been there with some guys I met from the Abraham Lincoln Battalion of the 15th Brigade, the American section. I could never get anything to prove he was, or was not, there but since everybody used aliases anyway I let it ride. I will say that Rick never let anybody believe otherwise than that he had been with the good guys but he didn’t talk about it much one way or the other. Ran his saloon business he called it and never let on about this torrid affair with Ilsa as the cause of his brooding many nights from what his head waiter, Charles, told me. Drank by himself stupid alone or with some whore or princess who needed dough to flee to Lisbon. Always discarded them or shipped them off to Louie when he was done with them.          

Everything changed when Ilsa came walking in hand and hand with Lazlo. You could feel the tension in the air when Rick spotted her after being told Lazlo was in the café. Even sitting at the bar later waiting for Lazlo to come and get the low-down on the local situation from me I could see that Ilsa and Rick had had a big thing in Paris. Could see too that it was not Rick who walked away from her. But I could also see, knowing Scandinavian women a little that Ilsa would not be found wanting for company, would always find a safe haven even hanging around with a guy like Victor Lazlo. I won’t say she was a whore, although in a tight spot she might have been a high class call girl to make ends meet. But that look, that pasted innocent look which certain jaded women can put on or take off like their daily make-up told of a few dark secrets that somebody less worldly than Lazlo (or Rick for that matter) would have gone screaming into the night over. But all of that is sheer speculation on my part about her past and it may have all come to being nothing like that. She didn’t need that, need to play the virgin whore since guys would be more than happy to give her whatever she wanted for a little attention, maybe a little loyalty too. But I insist to this day her rose-petal pure and simple young woman was a façade, was a game she played to insure her own future. Whatever had broken up her and Rick in Paris didn’t seem to have touched her at all. Just another affair and move on. That’s the best way that I can explain it.

You would have had to have been there to see her effect on men, tough men like Rick and Lazlo to get a real feel for what was driving everybody crazy. (I will admit that one time when she was waiting at the bar for Lazlo to show after a meeting and I was sitting a few seats down that her wayward smile my way and that scent she wore, gardenia, something like that had me going too since I had left my Danja back in Denmark and had not been with a woman for a while.) All I know for sure was that she was not leaving Casablanca alone and without resources.   

That part was real enough. What was not real and nobody ever to my knowledge ever produced any documents which would pass muster, would not fool even a gullible U.S. customs inspector were those so-called letters of transit. Of course if they had existed then many things would have made sense, or more sense. You have to understand how desperate people were who were able to get to Casablanca in those days and who either by lack of resources or no luck looked like they were never going to get out of there, were going to as Rick once said to Charles as I overheard a conversation between them “die” there. (There is a certain irony in the fact that he did die there pretty wealthy from what I heard about his take on the drug trade and a little off-hand pimping of the local Casbah girls). To hear about “no hassle” just sign your name documents fired many an imagination. Made people believe in what was nothing but thin air.

The whole thing was a concoction made up by this Peter Lorre, a two-bit con man, a German ex-pat of some sort, probably saw no benefit to himself to stay in Germany after 1933 since while Hitler had an assortment of hangers-on, flaks, devotees, and bone-crushers two-bit non-ideological con men were being run out of town and fast.  Hell he could hardly pay his bar tab never mind his rent. Borrowed money off of me (with interest which I never got as it turned out nor payment one on the loan) to get some stuff out of hock. He took advantage of the news, the real news, that two German officers had been killed on their way to Casablanca and figured that he could make a “killing” maybe several, by getting money upfront from those desperate people stranded and running out of hope by saying he had some fool-proof documents which real letters of transit would be no question about that. Of course this idea fizzled when Louie to impress the German officers watching the henhouse decided that Lorre was the perfect guy to take the fall for the killing of the two Germans. He staged a big raid at Rick’s one night for just that purpose, just to impress this bigwig Major Strasser nothing but a strutting fool if you asked me. They found Lorre out in the sand about twenty kilometers from the Casbah a few weeks later with two slugs to the head.

Funny Lorre just before the end in the café had passed a couple of crude documents that he called the letters of transit to Rick from what I heard for safekeeping. Those documents were of the crudest sort that even a half-wit would have been able to see that they were nothing but forgeries and bad ones at that. Would make the possessor who tried to use them prime bait for the concentration camps the Germans were setting up all over occupied Europe.                        

Rick was slick though, or maybe better love sick since he never let on at the time that Lorre had conveyed the “documents” to him or that he knew that they were crudely forged documents. So as far as anybody in Casablanca knew, or wanted to know, like I said they were still around town. Somehow Lazlo found out that Rick had these documents, or some documents and tried to bargain Ilsa, or rather Ilsa’s safe passage out of Casablanca for some sum of dough to be forwarded later. No sale even though while they were discussing the matter Rick let on about the torrid affair in Paris and Lazlo, eternally a European sophisticate, brushed it off as so much collateral damage of war. Lazlo probably knew better than anybody the slightly sluttish side of Ilsa when she wanted something so he probably went to Rick first before she made her charge at the love sick guy.

Which came the next night while Victor and seemingly half the foreigners in town, including me were at a meeting to plan his escape and our tasks after he left. (I was to go to Europe to join the resistance and did not get to America until a few years after the war when I married an American citizen whom I met in Paris right after Liberation day. I never saw Danja again after I fled Denmark and so do not know what happened to her after the fall).    

Ilsa must have really given Rick the business, the whole pitch since when she left his room all disheveled she had made a promise to go away with Rick and forget about Lazlo. Yes, I think I was right that she knew all the arts, probably gave him a blow job to seal the deal since most guys will buckle under if they have some gal “play the flute” for them. Since he had nothing to get out of Casablanca with Rick stalled her as long as he could until the Germans, using Louie as a front man, were ready to grab Lazlo. It was a close thing. When Rick came up empty he would wind up spending many lonely nights thinking about Paris and that last night up in his room with her because Ilsa was back in Victor’s fold when things were getting dicey. So much for the Rick legend which he pursued mercilessly I understand after the war when he claimed that that without him and those so-called letters of transit Lazlo would have been a goner, and by implication that Europe would still be under the Nazi boot heel.    

The real story which I can tell now that Victor Lazlo is in his honored grave, Rick is long gone to his rather shabby grave and Ilsa ever since a couple of years after the war is the Countess of Kent and not bothered by anything these days since she suffers from a series of mysterious diseases. The long and short of it was when that bastard Major Strasser ordered Louie to round up Lazlo with or without Ilsa we, the local branch of the Knights Templar, kidnapped the Major and executed him out in the desert not far from where Lorre had been found earlier. We then held Louie at gunpoint while we ordered him to clear the airport and allow Lazlo and Ilsa to board the late night plane to Lisbon. No big mystery just what freedom-fighters did when they had to face the facts of life at any given moment. The rest is so much thin air. RIP, Victor Lazlo, RIP.     


The Struggle In Ireland In Song-The Harp Beneath The Crown- With The Chieftains In Mind

The Struggle In Ireland In Song-The Harp Beneath The Crown- With The Chieftains In Mind

By Sam Eaton

“I’m as Irish as the next goddam bogger,” shouted Jack Callahan, “I just don’t like to wear it on my sleeve. I don’t have to break out in song every time I think about what my maternal grandfather, Daniel Patrick Riley and that should be Irish enough for you, called the “old sod.” For him it was the old sod since his own grandparents had come over on the “famine” ships in the 1840s after the bloody Brits had starved them out of County Kerry with their wicked enclosure policies so they could have grazing land for their sheep or something and they, the Brits hoarding enough food for a full larder for everyone and the starved broken bodied piling up on the roads after eating tree bark or something you wouldn’t feed a pig. At least that was the way my grandfather told me his grandfather told him.” 

Jack’s whole uproar over his heritage, over his bloody green flag, harp beneath the crown heritage had been brought about innocently enough as he and Bradley Fox, a friend whom he had known since his school days at Riverdale High, sat in The Plough and Stars bar on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge when Bradley had mentioned that the Chieftains would again be doing their yearly series of shows around Saint Patrick’s at the Wang Center in downtown Boston and had assumed that Jack would once again jump at the chance to show his green side.

And that outburst was the way that Jack had answered him with some put-upon air of righteous indignation that he had to prove himself and his Irish-ness. Prove it he added to a half-breed like Bradley whose own father was descended from the bloody Brits, had only with fire and determination on his mother’s part had he been brought up in the true church rather than some heathen Protestant chapel with those god-awful hail high Jehovah psalms beseeching an unjust god to forgive them their bloody heathen sins, and who had only been saved by his mother’s full-blooded Irish lineage (his mother’s great-great grandfather having come over on the famine ships with Jack’s maternal great-great-great grandfather if that was the right number of “greats”)from being totally ostracized in the whole neighborhood by the old “shawlies” who commented on every little deviation. So no this year he would not be going to the annual concert, maybe would not even go to the Saint Patrick’s Parade over in South Boston which he had been going to since he was a kid although less frequently over the previous few years as he had lost patience with the drunks, the rowdies and the one-day-a-year Irish. The Polish Irish they would call them when they were kids, the Poles being the other big ethnic group in the town, the ones who worked on the watch factories that had dotted the river in those days. They would come into school on Saint Pat’s Day all in green calling themselves MacWalecki or something. That was the way the two old friends left it that night, left like they did many a blow-up argument with a semi-smile since half the time after a certain hour or a certain number of whiskeys they would collapse in on their arguments. This one had that same fate.            

[What Bradley did not know that night, did not know for several more weeks, was that Chrissie (nee McNamara) Callahan, Jack’s wife of many more years than any of them wanted to count and who had been the classic high school sweethearts was giving signals that she wanted to leave Jack now that the kids were grown and they were “empty-nesters.” Wanted to in her words “find herself” before it was too late and that she had felt like a stranger in Jack’s presence. That fate weighted heavily on Jack since Chrissie had been his rock through those many years and he was not sure what he would do if she left him high and dry like that. Tried to argue her out of her thoughts always going back to the usually tried and true argument about how they had first gotten together and that night had pledged their eternal love. Bradley had known that story since he had been at Molly’s Diner the night it happened. Jack had had a crush on Chrissie since sixth grade when she had invited him to her twelfth birthday party and as such things went at “petting parties” she had given him a big kiss that he never really forgot about. But being shy and self-conscious he never pursued the matter. Time passed and as they entered high school it turned out that Jack was a hell of a football player who led his team to the state division championship senior year.

So Jack could have had any girl he wanted from sophomore year on. But he still retained his Chrissie thing and his shyness. Chrissie had been harboring some such feelings as well although as more outgoing and a beautiful girl she did not lack for dates and the evil intentions of guys. One Friday night in the later fall of sophomore year though she had had enough and knowing that Jack and the boys would be at Molly’s playing the latest rock hits on Molly’s jukebox while having their burgers and fries she went into Molly’s front door, drew a bee-line to Jack, and to Jack’s lap. The way Bradley always described it later was that Chrissie had had such a look of determination on her face that it would have taken the whole football team to get her off that lap. A look a Jack said that it would take the whole football team and the junior varsity too to get her off his lap. So that night their eternal love thing started. Jack had told Bradley in confidence that he could have had anything Chrissie had to offer that night when they left Molly’s for Jack to take her home. That would come later, the next spring when on Saint Patrick’s’ Day night after the parade was over and after they had both consumed too many illegal beers they went over to nearby Carson Beach and Chrissie had given Jack all she had to offer. So those mist of memories had been were driving Jack dyspeptic response to Bradley’s question.]              

Later that night after Jack got back to Hingham where he had his business, his Toyota car dealership (he was perennially Mr. Toyota in Eastern Massachusetts), and his too big house, Chrissie asleep upstairs (in one of the kids’ bedrooms, so that was the way things were just then) turned the light on and went into his den. Sat down on his easy chair and turned the light off. He had just wanted to think in the gentle dark about how he was going keep Chrissie with him but he found that he started to drift back to the days in Riverdale when he was a kid and being Irish meant a lot to him, felt he had to uphold the Easter, 1916 brotherhood, had to buck the trend that his parents and their generation had bought into-becoming vanilla Americans. Losing the old country identities that men like his grandfather held too with granite determination in the flow of too many other trends driving them away from what they had been, where they had come from in this great big immigrant-driven country.           

All the funny little rites of passage. First of all listening to his grandfather’s stories about the heroic men of 1916 (women too but they slipped through cracks in his telling the womenfolk being held in the background in that generation), above all James Connelly who had place of pride on his grandfather’s piazza wall. Then the times once his grandfather was in his cups a bit the singing of all the old songs, some he had never heard of then but which later he would find were ancient songs going back to Cromwell’s bloody hellish times. Later when he and his friends, usually not Bradley since his father was adamant that he not attend some frivolous doings, would sneak out of school, walk to the bus which would take them to the Redline subway station and over to South Boston and the Saint Pat’s Parade. See that day, March 17th was a holiday in Boston and Suffolk County, not Saint Pat’s Day but Evacuation Day, the day the colonial patriots drove the bloody Brits out of Boston during the American Revolution. But Riverdale in Middlesex County did not get a holiday hence the sneaking out of school.

Of course of all the Saint Pat’s Days the night he took all Chrissie had to offer stood well above all others. He thought about how Chrissie, all prim and proper on the outside, at first refused to skip school until he made a fuse over it that he wouldn’t have any fun without her. That got to her, and so they went with Jimmy Jenkins, Frankie Riley and a couple of other girls whose names he could not remember over to South Boston. They ran into one of Jack’s older cousins who gave them some beers. At first Chrissie balked at drinking the stuff but Jack said just take a sip and if she didn’t like it that was that. Well she liked it well enough that day (which was probably the last time she had beer since thereafter it was respectfully Southern Comfort, mixed gin drinks, and later various types of wine). They drank most of the afternoon, had somehow lost the rest of the crowd from Riverdale and Jack saw his big play. He asked Chrissie if she wanted to go to the beach to sit on the seawall and watch the ocean before going home. She didn’t resist that idea.  So they went to Carson Beach as it was starting to get dark, went to a secluded area near the L Street Bathhouse, and started to “make out.” Jack began to fondle her breasts and she didn’t push him away, didn’t push him away as he put his hand between her thighs either, actually held his hands there. And so they as they saying went after a Howlin’ Wolf song they had heard on Molly’s jukebox did the “do the do” for first time. He blushed as he thought about that first time and how they, foolish high school kids, didn’t have any “protection,” didn’t even think about such an idea. Later they got wise but then they were as naïve about sex and what to do, or not do, about it as any two Irish kids could be.

Jack as he sat there in dark then thought enough of this or he might head up those stairs, kids’ room or not. But above all that night he thought about his sainted grandmother, Anna, by his account, by all accounts, a saint if for no other reason than she had put up with his grandfather and his awful habits but also because she was the sweetest woman in the whole neighborhood and was not, it bears repeating, not afraid of the “shawlies” and their vicious grapevine (which had even caught wind of his and Chrissie’s trysts although they denied the whole thing every time somebody mentioned it-they were after all as good  virginal Catholics as anybody else in the neighborhood so there). He then remembered how when he was young she would sing the songs from the old country while she was doing the washing (the old-fashioned way with scrub board and wringer, clothesline-dried), Brendan on the Moor, Kevin Barry, The Rising of the Moon, and many others. He would always request The Coast of Malabar, ask her to sing it twice when she was in the mood. Such a song of being away from home. He always loved it when the Chieftains played the song as a part of their show.          

Jack had that song on his mind the next morning when after Chrissie had come down for her morning coffee he asked her, half expecting to be turned down, if she wanted to go to the Chieftains concert in March. She brightened and said “yes, yes of course.” Later that day he sheepishly called Bradley and told him to order three tickets for the Chieftains concert. Bradley chuckled. Enough said.         

In Defense Of Consumer Spending- With The Film Adaptation Of Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions Of A Shopaholic” (2009)-A Film Review

In Defense Of Consumer Spending- With The Film Adaptation Of Sophie Kinsella’s “Confessions Of A Shopaholic” (2009)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Seth Garth   

Confessions Of A Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy, from the novels of Sophie Kinsella, 2009

I can’t believe that I have been given an assignment dealing with the addiction of shopping, girl’s stuff, Confessions Of A Shopaholic starring Isla Fisher as Rebecca, a girl’s film that should by right be done by somebody who knows something about the subject, about shopping. For myself I am like the guy, like Luke the money magazine editor, played by Hugh Dancy have set world records for shopping and getting the hell out-fast. But this is the genesis of how I got this turkey, turkey for me not for the people who might get a few chuckles out of the film or could relate to this shopping mania. Greg Green, the new site manager who has very different ideas about the way forward for this site, has been looking, has been foundering as far as I am concerned trying to grab a larger, younger audience and has been running a streak of so-called super-hero bang-bang films and now has branched out to this kind of odd-ball comedy to grab the shopping consuming crowd which peaks on Black Friday after Thanksgiving Day I guess. He had originally approached Leslie Dumont but she balked having written two consecutive women-related film review and had expressed in print that she did not want to be tagged as the token “women’s page” writer. Rebuffed then Greg approached me under the principle of “broadening my horizons” and having avoided those super-hero films could not back off. So here we are.       

Here we are beyond the obvious boy meets girl theme which I will address later that Hollywood has been hatching and working for its entire existence. Rebecca is a shopaholic who also happens to be a journalist working for a low-rent gardening magazine who has dreams of working for the bigs, for a high end fashion magazine on her career rise. By hook or by crook she gets a job working for the aforementioned Luke in a smart money magazine owned by the same parent company who owned the fashion magazine. That will start the long haul attraction which will lead to their love affair by film’s end.

Along the way it turns out that the perky, vivacious Rebecca has not only a shopping jones, is purebred junkie, which is probably more common than expected but had been eaten up her credit cards. Proved that her eyes were bigger than her pocketbook. Something had to be done if she was to keep afloat, grab that high end job and grab that poor little rich boy (his parents were super-rich but he wanted to pull himself up by his own bootstraps ) while dodging the repo men, the debt dead beat pursuers. The bulk of the film, including a bout with Shopaholic Anonymous, at first as a lark then more seriously, involves her getting out from under without dear Luke getting wind of the idea. That was not be and the couple went through a period of deep freeze once he found out she was in debt up to her ass. Naturally that freeze would only last for a bit until she got out of hock. Got back to the real world, a world without going crazy over consumer goods. Beyond that the storyline could not carry any additional weight. Greg I have done my duty.             

Thursday, February 06, 2020

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- Johnny Prescott’s Itch- With Kudos To Mister Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night- Johnny Prescott’s Itch- With Kudos To Mister Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula


Well, be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby love
My baby love, my baby love
Well, she's the girl in the red blue jeans
She's the queen of all the teens
She's the one that I know
She's the one that loves me so
Say be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby love
My baby love, my baby love
Well, she's the one that gots that beat
She's the one with the flyin' feet
She's the one that walks around the store
She's the one that gets more more more
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula, I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula, she's my baby love
My baby love, my baby love

He had the itch. John Prescott had the itch and he had it bad, especially since his eyes flamed up consumed with hell-bend flames when he saw Elvis performing live on the Ed Sullivan Show one Sunday night. And he had it so bad that he had missed, unbeknownst to his parents who would have been crestfallen and, perhaps, enraged, his last few piano lessons. Sure, he covered his butt by having saxophonist Sid Stein, drummer Eddie Shore, and bass player Kenny Jackson from his improvisational school jazz combo, The G-Clefs (yah, yah, I know  a well-thought out name for a musical group) come by his house to pick him up. While standing at the Prescott door parents the sidemen went through the “well aren’t things looking up for you boys,” and “they seem to be” scene without missing a beat. But as soon as Kenny’s 1954 Nash Rambler turned the corner of Walnut Street Johnny was a long-gone daddy, real long-gone. And where he was long-gone but not forlorn to was to Sally Ann’s Music Shop over on the far end of West Main Street. Now the beauty of Sally Ann’s was that it was, well, Sally Ann’s, a small shop that was well off the main drag, and therefore not a likely place where any snooping eyes, ears or voices that would report to said staid Prescott parents when Johnny went in or out of the place. Everyone, moreover, knew Sally Ann’s was nothing but a run-down past its prime place and if you really wanted all the best 45s, and musical instrument stuff then every self-respecting teenager in town hit the tracks for Benny’s Music Emporium right downtown and only about a quick five-minute walk from North Clintondale High where Johnny and the combo served their high school time, impatiently served their high school time.

Now while everybody respected old Sally Ann’s musical instincts she was passé. She had been the queen of the jitterbug night, appearing weekly in the USO shows and dances  in waterfront Boston in the 1940s while the war was on, had been on top of the be-bop jazz scene, had been at Birdland the night Charley had hit the high white note, with Charley, Dizzy, Thelonius and the guys early on right after the war, guys whom the G-Clefs covered, covered like crazy. More importantly she had nixed, nixed big time that whole Patti Page, Teresa Brewer weepy, sad song thing in the early 1950s when some energy ran out on the music scene. Still around town, among the young who counted, counted big time with their newly minted parent-derived discretionary income she was passé, old hat when it came to the cool blues coming out of Chicago, and the be-bop doo wop that kids, white kids, because there were no known blacks, or spanish, chinese, armenians, or whatever, in dear old Clintondale were crazy for ever since Frankie Lyman and his back-up guys tore up the scene with Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

But her greatest sin, although up until a few weeks ago Johnny would have been agnostic on that sin part, was that she was behind, way behind the curve, on the rock ‘n’ rock good night wave coming though and splashing over everybody, including deep jazz man, Johnny Prescott. But Sally Ann had, aside from that secluded locale and a tell-no-tales-attitude, something Johnny could use. She had a primo Les Paul Fender-bender guitar in stock just like the one Gene Vincent used that she was willing to let clandestine Johnny play when he came by. And she had something else Johnny could use, or maybe better Sally Ann could use. She had an A-Number One ear for guys who knew how to make music, any kind of music and had the bead on Johnny, no question. See Sally Ann was looking for one more glory flame, one more Clintondale shine moment, and who knows maybe she believed she could work some Colonel Parker magic and so Johnny Prescott was king of the Sally Ann day.

King, that is, until James and Martha Prescott spotted the other G-Clefs (Kenny, Sid, Eddie) coming out of the Dean Music School minus Johnny, minus a “don’t know where he is, sir,” Johnny. And Mr. Dean, Johnny’s piano instructor, was clueless as well, believing Johnny’s telephone story about having to work for the past few weeks and so lessons were to be held in abeyance. Something was definitely wrong if Mr. Dean, the man who more than anyone else recognized Johnny’s raw musical talent in about the third grade had lost Johnny's confidence. But the Prescotts got wise in a hurry because flutist Mary Jane Galvin, also coming out the school just then, and overhearing the commotion about Johnny’s whereabouts decided to get even with one John Prescott by, let’s call a thing by its right name, “snitching” on him and disclosed that she had seen him earlier in the day when she walked into Sally Ann’s looking for an old Benny Goodman record that featured Peggy Lee and which Benny’s Emporium, crazed rock ‘n’ rock hub Benny’s would not dream of carrying, or even have space for.

The details of the actual physical confrontation with Johnny by his parents (with Mr. Dean in tow) are not very relevant to our little story. What is necessary to detail is the shock and chagrin that James and Martha exhibited on hearing of Johnny’s itch, his itch to be the be-bop, long-gone daddy of the rock ‘n’ roll night. Christ, Mr. Dean almost had a heart attack on the spot when he heard that Johnny had, and we will quote here, “lowered himself to play such nonsense,” and gone over to the enemy of music. As mentioned earlier Mr. Dean, before he opened his music school, had been the roving music teacher for the Clintondale elementary schools and had spotted Johnny’s natural feel for music early on. He also knew, knew somewhere is his sacred musical bones, that Johnny’s talents, his care-free piano talents in particular, could not be harnessed to classical programs, the Bachs, Beethoven, and Brahms stuff, so that he encouraged Johnny to work his magic through be-bop jazz then in high fashion, and with a long pedigree in American musical life. When he approached the Prescotts about coordinating efforts to drive Johnny’s talents by lessons his big pitch had been that his jazz ear would assure him of steady work when he came of age, came of age in the mid-1950s.

This last point should not be underestimated in winning the Prescotts over. James worked, when there was work, as a welder, over at the shipyards in Adamsville, and Martha previously solely a housewife, in order to pay for those lessons (and be a good and caring mother to boot) had taken on a job filling jelly donuts (and other donut stuff) at one of the first of the Dandy Donuts shops that were spreading over the greater Clintondale area.
Christ, filling donuts. No wonder they were chagrined, or worst.

Previously both parents were proud, proud as peacocks, when Johnny really did show that promise that Mr. Dean saw early on. Especially when Johnny would inevitably be called to lead any musical assemblage at school, and later when, at Mr. Dean’s urging, he formed the G-Clef and began to make small amounts of money at parties and other functions. Rock ‘n’ rock did not fit in, fit in at all in that Prescott world. Then damn Elvis came into view and corrupted Johnny’s morals, or something like that. Shouldn’t the authorities do something about it?

Johnny and his parents worked out a truce, well kind of a truce, kind of a truce for a while. And that kind of a truce for a while is where old Sally Ann entered in again. See, Johnny had so much raw rock talent that she persuaded him to have his boys (yes, Kenny, Sid and Eddy in case you forgot) come by and accompany him on some rock stuff. And because Johnny was loved by Aunt Sally (not Sally Ann, just old Aunt Sally by then) was loved, loved in the musical sense if not in the human affection sense by the other boys they followed along. Truth to tell they were getting the itch too, a little.

And that little itch turned into a very big itch indeed when at that very same dime-dropper, Mary Jane Galvin’s sweet sixteen party concert (yes, Mary Jane was that kind of girl to have such a party that was going out of fashion among the hip younger girls who had dreams of seashore conquests and no time for dopey parties), the G-Clefs finished one of their covers, Dizzy’s Salt Peanuts with some rock riffs. The kids started to get up, started dancing in front of their seats to the shock of the parents and Mary Jane (yes, Mary Jane was that kind of girl), including the senior Prescotts, were crazy for the music. And Johnny’s fellow G-Clefs noticed, noticed very quickly that all kinds of foxy frails (girls, okay), girls who had previously spent much time ignoring their existences, came up all dreamy-eyed and asked them, well, asked them stuff, boy-girl stuff.

Oh, the Sally Ann part, the real Sally Ann part not just the idea of putting the rock band together. Well, she talked her talk to the headmaster over at North Clintondale High (an old classmate, Clintondale Class of 1925, and flame from what the boys later heard) and got the boys a paying gig at the upcoming school Spring Frolics. And the money was more than the G-Clefs, the avant guarde G-Clefs made in a month of jazz club appearances, to speak nothing of girls attached. So now the senior Prescotts are happy, well as happy as parents can be over rock ‘n’ roll. And from what I hear Johnny and the Rocking Ramrods are going, courtesy of Aunt Sally, naturally, to be playing at the Gloversville Fair this coming summer. Be-bop-a-lula indeed.