Friday, August 3, 2012

More Birdland Memories

PeeWee Marquette was the MC at Birdland and would introduce the bands. Now and then he would take the mike between sets and sing OLD ROCKIN' CHAIR...which I break into now and's about gettin' old.

"Ol' Rockin' Chair..
it's got me..
sittin' here,
cane by my side..."

A lot of people didn't know if PeeWee was a male or female.

Peewee Marquette and Count Basie

The house policy was that all of Basie's men got in free when they weren't other words, anytime they wanted to come in. And all his men were big, in good health, well dressed...Basie ran a very tight ship...although he kept a wadded up handkerchief sitting on the piano, with which he'd wipe his nose now and then. I heard that it had cocaine in it (but maybe not).

        Back to PeeWee...when he wasn't announcing acts, he'd take tickets at the door (a BIG $2.00 in 1959)...and I was standing in the checkroom one night next to PeeWee when one of Basie's guys came in (Wyatt Reuther..a big guy) and PeeWee insisted that he pay the $2.00, and Wyatt, who was drunk, said "PeeWee, shut your mother &^$^&  mouth, before I hang you up on a hook." (Peewee was a midget). You could hear it all over the club, cause it was between sets.

Years later I started another project, "The Nightclub Book"...I put ads in papers in the major cities, asking people to send me their souvenir night club photos, hopefully in the original paper folders. I got a ton of them, with long from a soldier returning from World War Two, and the picture is of him presenting his fiance with  a ring in the Latin Quarter. All those folders, photos, and stories are now in storage. 

So...years later I called PeeWee so I could interview him on tape and hear some of his stories about Birdland...and he said, "Sure, Richard...for a hundred dollars". That never happened. 

Not long after I moved to Maine to open a restaurant...but that's another story.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yet another Shel Silverstein story...

I knew Shel in Greenwich Village when he was living there, back in the fifties.

I used to drink at the Limelight Cafe (where I ran up a tab of over $1,000 before they noticed it and stopped me). 

Anyway, he hung out there too and we were on a nodding basis, and, when enough beers went down, we had conversations of no importance. 
I can't remember any of them.

When I ran into him here at the Pier House Beach Club in 1986 I told him that when I came home from working at Birdland around 4:00 a.m. (in '59 or '60), I'd emerge from the subway at Sheridan Square...there was an Israeli coffee shop across from the subway entrance. It was always crowded at that hour from all the drinkers from the bars that had just closed. There was a huge plate glass window running the length of it, and in the winter it was all frosted up and you couldn't really see inside. But I knew when Shel was there, because he would always sit at the same table, and there was a spotlight over the table shining directly down on his bald head, and it would cause a glow on the frosted window.

...and that's my Shel story. What's yours?