Savannah Churchill

29 10 2009


Savannah Churchill (August 21, 1920 – April 19, 1974)

Born quietly in a noisy time. Out of the blue. Part of a wonderful plan. Only God knew. Pope Pius XII published the encyclical Luctuosissimi eventus. Pope Pius XII published the encyclical Laetamur admodum. And then Datis nuperrime. And Haurietis aquas. Someone in the balcony boo’d. And flames ate the head. Of the Eiffel Tower.

She could hear his footsteps. Up the hardwood stairs. David at the door. Between her legs. When Brooklyn was filled with sunlight and vanilla ice cream. The smell of combava garlic ginger. Those lovely evenings with her arms wrapped around David’s shoulders. The jingle of glass. The skid of tires. A husband framed in a windshield. David, a window without breath.

Elvis Presley recorded Heartbreak Hotel. In Nashville. In Birmingham. Nat Cole was attacked on a stage by whites. At Mansfield HS, Texas, a white mob prevented the enrollment of black children. A concrete girder weighing 200 tons killed 48 in Karachi, Pakistan.

Savannah. No time for introspection. The sunlight seemed to lighten. No time to punish the thief. Who stole her mornings. A plan was a gentle way. Of removing the stutter. That was the fire. That burned in her breast.

A satin voice. A red velvet dress. Shy fragile shoulders. Evenings spent in hot house bars. With strangers. Music spilling her name in lights. Money and the good life. Almost forgetting why she was there. Almost forgetting… David.

A drunkard ended her career. He fell on her. From the balcony. She was performing in 1956. She succumbed on April 19, 1974. That’s what they wrote. As if it all made sense. Some wonderful plan. Written by a million wise men. Sitting in separate rooms. While outside the stars fade. And the darkness meets the cold. And the largest observed iceberg, 208 by 60 miles, is sighted. Moving up the mighty Mississippi.


Kay Starr

26 10 2009


Kay Starr (July 21, 1922 –

Sometimes you could see those dark clouds gathering. Like they were announcing. The future. Lou Gehrig could see the future. He told the world he was the luckiest man in the world. Not Eugen Weidmann. He lost his head. Outside the prison of Saint-Pierre. The last public guillotining to take place in France.

And the transients passed little Kay’s doorstep. And talked of revolution.  When things would return. To the old days. Which were always golden. But little Katie wasn’t listening. She had found her own audience. The chickens in the coop. Loved to hear her sing. Made them forget the foxes in the woodlot.

And the wolves in the hills. Talked amongst themselves. Hitler & Mussolini signed the “Pact of Steel”. Superman comics hit the street. Hitler ordered the extermination. Of  the mentally weak. And Lina Medina. Became the world’s youngest mother. At the age of five. And everyone agreed. The future had arrived.

Kay’s aunt arranged for her to sing. On a Dallas radio station. A little girl and that big mike. Made folks think that not all was lost.

And all those song contests. So many song contests. You’d think that winning once was enough.

At 15 Kay was singing. With Joe Venuti. In small little towns. Up and down endless dusty roads. Listening to the little stones. Hitting the floor boards. Performing is a kind of prison. Heading off to God knows where. Maybe Canada.

Singing for all the boys. In their immaculate little uniforms. But wasn’t Kay what those uniforms were fighting for. And the boys came back. Again and again. Most of them. Although some parts were missing.

She fell ill. Her voice disappeared. In a hole. Her smile. It was heaven being mute. Now she could marry big Harry and have little mute children. But God cursed her once again. Her voice came back. And she stepped back into the ongoing never ending career.

Its such a long long time. When you’re never allowed to remember. How anything began.

Ivie Anderson

22 10 2009

Ivie Anderson (July 10, 1905 – December 28, 1949)

At St. Mary’s Convent. The little black girls stood. In a line. Like angels torn from the edge. Of a country gone mad. With loving itself. Some of the little girls tapped their feet. Some lost their attention. Little Ivie wept. She missed the photograph. No one will remember that I was even here.

On a stool. To one side of the band. She sat. And waited. Not for her Prince. But for the Duke. And he climbed up his Calvary of pain. To his pulpit. As the broken hearted chorus burst into joy. And the thorns gave over to her voice. So sweet and true. Ivie became the lyrics.

A Day at the Races. Ivie got lost in Groucho’s eyebrows. The washerwoman. Her sad bewildered eyes. Attracted Harpo. Blew his horn. Like a fire truck. Chased Ivie around the set. She laughed like she was on fire.

The first tieless, soundless, shockless streetcar tracks appeared in New Orleans. Everyone covered their ears. The whores were exercising their right to assembly.

Cows were flown & milked. Someone said it was Groucho’s idea. The milk was sealed in paper containers.  & parachuted. Down upon the herds of cats. No one knew why.

Mao Tse-tung wrote,  “A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire”. While Ivie laughed like champagne. Made you feel you were in love for the first time. And it was sweet. But time passes. Even though women hold up half the heavens. Love fades.

The voice of the Duke died when she was only 43.

Anita O’Day

19 10 2009

Anita O'Dayfire fire3

Anita O’Day (October 18, 1919 – November 23, 2006)

Oh, that sacred heart. Waving like a flag. While the flat heads dragged their chins along the asphalt. Preaching redemption. Never telling you how you survive. The bread lines. Marching to the beat of time. Blouses used as rags. When spring sets in. And the windows need to be cleaned. And the bums are lining up outside. For Lent. To save themselves from noon. With promises to help Him down from the tree.


Short notes. Diaries and lockets. And a rhythmic drive. The doctors leaned over. Slit open Anita’s throat. Like they were parting the Red Sea. Like they were opening a zipper. And she begged. Don’t put anything else in my mouth.

White Studebakers rolled slowly down the lane. And men in long white overcoats. Danced a jig. Pretending they were press agents for love. Her eyes opened with surprise. A gurgle that sounded like laughter. The rain through the gutter. Smelled like clover.

On the road. Cheek against the glass. Too many buses. Too many stops. In empty rooms. Too many handsome men with dark sunglasses. Garters slid so slowly down a calf.

There was a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Deep freeze techniques were first used in heart surgery. In 1952. Birdseye sold the first frozen peas. And you sometimes had to wait hours. For the sun to reappear.

Empty hearts. And wallets. And between your thighs, promises were made. Promises about things you can no longer recall. But they were sweet. Stockings over chairs. And the morning light.

Too many hangers dripping. With dreams. Too many office buildings after hours. Elevators out of service. Too much talk about nothing. A heart sling. Gin, lemon juice, sugar, and soda. And His name in vain. Thrown at the shadow from the chair over there. Too many cloudy mirrors. Too many cheap diners. Too many miles going nowhere. Too many walls for company.

Raped in a gas station washroom. 31 storms crossed 6 states. Killing 340. The worst smog in London. Four to 8,000 died. But who’s counting. The floor was wet. And the mirror was out of focus. A radio was crying. A Studebaker pulled up for gas. Pope Pius XII had just published the encyclical Orientales Ecclesias.

In the early 1970s, she was living. In a $3-a-night hotel. In Los Angeles. Bums used to beat her for her life insurance. Anita died of alcohol dementia. Her autobiography was dedicated to her dog.

Peggie Lee

17 10 2009

Peggie Lee V4 copy

Peggy Lee (May 26, 1920 – January 21, 2002)

Eyes can be beautiful. Peggy’s step-mother had eyes like knives. A slit across her cheeks. Blood down her pink nylons. Off key.

You’re so useless. Don’t think your daddy is going to save you now.

If darkness were a kiss. Smiles covered her breasts. If silence were a dance. Singing was a substitute for love.

Peggy joined the dreamers. Dancing into heartache. To the City of Angels. Where children were asking to be born. Sang for her meal. In small joints. With fast cooks. And red necks. And the chorus of bacon and burning violins. And the man with the pea sized eyes at The Ambassador Hotel West cleaned his glasses. Sat cross-legged. At a table for two. I need that girl.

300 Dutch ice cream salesmen protested. The shortage of appetite. While their wives organized their socks. And ironed their shirts. And while the salesmen marched on the parliament. Shoes were left at the doorstep. Curtains closed in haste. Neighbourhood boys. Risked their lives. To appease. The appetite of salesmen’s wives.

Peggy became the voice in the band. The band refused to stand up. None of them could sleep. Thinking about her. She married the guitarist. He had such funny fingers. Each blister had a history.

An airplane crashed into the Empire State Building. The pilot begged the mayor. It was an accident. No one doubted that he was telling the truth. Until they found his plans.

Sweet Peggy almost died. A fall in a New York hotel. She was tripped. At the top of a set of stairs. By a man with no legs. He leaked a secret. Don’t be in such a rush.

Nylon was discovered. By a thousand unemployed Canadians. In freight cars. Beginning a protest trek to Ottawa, Ontario. They were tired of listening to their stomachs complain.

The quieter Peggy sang. The quieter the room. Her voice simmered. Everyone leaned forward. The waiters hesitated to wait. No one dared slam a door. In the kitchen. Or in the parking lot. In the hotel rooms. Lovers held their breath.

She sang in a wheelchair. I like men. And the men lined up. And she whispered something sinful. In each of their ears.

Bessie Smith – a new beginning

16 10 2009

This is the beginning of a new series. But I’ll be going slower this time. So these will not be as frequent. Its a series on female jazz singers. I have started this some time ago and this is my &^#%th rewrite. I’m also trying to do illustrations for each so this will slow things up even more. And I am still doing another blog Hallidd which takes up my time. With each piece I will include a utube song from that performer. And so we begin.



Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937)

Life is a room with an empty bed. Where the sheets are tucked in too tight. And the wind is slipping through the crack in the wall.

Born old. At 9. Momma disappeared. With the silent man in the photograph. A part-time Baptist. Some-time preacher. Who taught that God too had his wrath.

Busking. Street corners. In front of the White Elephant Saloon. Her brother, Andrew, laughed at the mourning fools who sucked up the lazy light. Bessie kept her knees shiny. Played a celestial harp. The hardwood floors told their own tale. Sometimes she fell asleep singing Send me to the ‘lectric chair.

The Titanic left Queenstown Ireland for NY. The mayor was there. Bessie married a security guard. On the other side of the lake. She loved Mr. Gee. They fought like cats. Ate the dog. That kept the night awake.

15 young women. Fired by Curtis Publishing. For dancing the “Turkey Trot”.

Something was swinging in Bessie’s bowl. It made her smile. She stuck her tongue inside. Overnight.

Sitting in a bar. Cursing the bartender. His nice white shirt and lipstick smile. Beer in her hand. And a cigarette. And a ragged rage in her voice. And something sweet. She loved a woman from the East Coast.

Almost six feet tall. Almost 200 pounds. A bottle and glass. Between her legs. There must be a man somewhere. With something useful in his hand.

Piano keys. Notes tripping over themselves. I don’t want to see that sun go down alone.

The audience was drunk. Dinner finished. Drinks coming. The band was jumping.  Jack Johnson TKO’d Jim Flynn. In 9. The heavyweight boxing title. Bessie laughed so loud when Flynn cried out. I can hardly stand up for falling down.

Like the levees had burst. Waiters rushing in. Like their tips were on the line. Smoke swilling the air. Lungs doing what they were told. Poetry in her lips. Give me the darkness and the smell of his hair.

Accidents happen every day.

A meteorite. 190 kg. Explodes. 16,000 pieces of debris rain down on Holbrook, Arizona. Gale Storm thought it was hale.

Bessie’s was with her lover. Poor old Richard. The car rolled over. Crushed poor Bessie’s legs. White hospital was sorry. No blacks today. Quota used up.

At the black hospital Bessie was taken in. Poor Bessie was buried anyway. Fans collected money for her tombstone. Her husband, Jack, put it in his pant pocket. The dead got no worries. The living got to take care of themselves.

That’s the end

10 10 2009

I didn’t win the Nobel Prize. Life can be very disappointing at times. My wife was counting on the money. Anyway that was the end of the ‘Lou Grant’ story. It’s a short novel. And I’m not sure of the ending. I  have to think about it for a while. I’m also not sure of the title. ‘The Lou Grant Story’ seems too banal. I’m thinking Lou Grant’s Last Breaths. Or The Death of Lou Grant. Or…

Thinking out loud here. I’m not sure whether I should start reworking 2 different jazz novels that I worked on. One was a series of short pieces on female jazz singers. I loved doing them. But I’ve put them in a back drawer of my mind hoping they would ferment. I need some juice. The other jazz novel is a series of short stories about a plaza. Its’ called OPEN 24HRS. I like the title. the trouble with the stories is that I’m not sure which of 2 directions to go in. One is to make the stories very jazzy, to play off themes, to improvise and leave the structures of each story loosy goosy. The 2nd is to tighten everything up. Make each story shorter (maybe very short).

And I wanted to create some visuals for each of the 2 novels. But that entails an incredible amount of work. With the jazz singers I was hoping to create some jazz collages but as of yet I haven’t been able to come up with a single idea. I’ve been looking around the net to see what other artists have been doing, hoping to graft an idea or a direction from someone but I haven’t come up with a thing. I have been working on a lot of other visual work that you can look at on my other sight, but none of it works for me in the jazz novels. For OPEN 24 HRS I planned on taking some photographs this summer of a lot of strip malls hoping to come up with some ideas but I got caught up in a lot of other work.

The other idea I had was to start working on pieces about Niagara Falls. I have already done the ground work. Which I hoped would be used by my brother-in-law, Ferry Van Vosselen, in his comic strip work. But that hasn’t worked out. These ideas are pretty interesting but I have to get juiced up for them. I don’t want to run out of steam half way through.

Well, there you go. I’m lost.

In The Recovery Room (Chapter 49, Lou Grant)

9 10 2009

Chapter 49

In The Recovery Room

MURRAY: I thought that we had lost you.

LOU GRANT: With all these tubes coming out of me, I feel like you may have. What happened Murray?

MURRAY: You don’t remember.

LOU GRANT: I remember a lot of things. That’s the problem.

MURRAY: Helen found you.

LOU GRANT: Helen found me?

MURRAY: In your backyard. In a lounge chair. She thought you were dead.


MURRAY: Have you seen her yet?

LOU GRANT: No. You’re the first…

MURRAY: She’s been at your bed side for the last few days.

LOU GRANT: Was I that gone?

MURRAY: The doctor’s were talking about…

LOU GRANT: About what?

MURRAY: Maybe Helen should tell you.

LOU GRANT: Tell me what? Come on, Murray. Out with it.

MURRAY: Well… They thought you might have had some brain damage. But you seem okay. I mean… you know who I am. Right?

LOU GRANT: Of course. Murray Slaughter. Sometimes I’d like to forget.

Murray laughs.

LOU GRANT: How is Mary?

Murray stares at Lou for several moments.

MURRAY: Who is Mary?


After The Killings (Chapter 48, Lou Grant)

8 10 2009

Chapter 48

After The Killings

LOU GRANT: I looked around Mary’s living room. The police were going about their business. Mapping out where each of the bodies had been found. Looking for evidence. Going about the routine procedures of homicide. I thought I was going to vomit. The blood was splattered across the sliding glass doors of the balcony. Across the row of wine glasses lined up like little soldiers on the glass shelf. There was one of those tacky landscape paintings on the wall. Singing Stream. A winter scene with snow, barren trees and a brook running through them. A trail of blood ran across the snow. And there was the smell. It had been years since I had been on the beat. I’d forgotten about the terrible stench that accompanied a murder. The terrible vileness of bodily gases escaping a corpse. I could feel the blood draining out of my body. The dizziness beginning to rise up from my knees. I stepped out onto the balcony to get some fresh air.

“You going to be alright, Lou?” Ted had followed me.

I nodded, undoing my shirt collar, removing the raincoat I’d thrown on.

“I should have been here.” Ted sobbed.

“You did your best. We all did our best.”

Ted wiped the tears from his eyes and blew his nose.

“You sure you’re going to alright, Lou? You look green.”

I nodded.

“I just need a little air. Forgotten what it was like… How about you, Ted? You alright?”

“Allergies,” Ted responded. “Pretty ugly scene.”

“How is Mary going to be? I got here after they took her out.”

“As well as can be expected,” Ted responded. “She wasn’t seriously hurt…  physically. Suffering from shock. There was blood all over her. I hardly recognized her. God, it was awful, Lou. The guy was on top of her, his pants down. He’d relieved himself.”

“Probably when he was killed.”

“The doctor says that because she’s young and healthy, she should recover. She’ll need some psychiatric counseling. Oh Lou, I should have been here. His throat was slit. Almost tore his head off.”

“You found her, Ted?”

Ted nodded.

“The other biker, the one in the living room, had his throat slit as well. You saw the blood on the walls. Why did this have to happen, Lou? Why?”

“That doesn’t matter, Ted. Mary’s alive. That’s what’s important. What about the other body in the living room?”


“Was it Michael?”

“Who else could it be? No firm identification, his face was blown off, but the police are pretty sure that it’s him. Fits the description Mary gave us.”

I took out a handkerchief and wiped my forehead and neck.

“Isn’t that the old Forester building over there?” Ted asked.

I looked across the valley at the abandoned building on the other side. It felt as if it was looking back at us with vacant eyes.

“Ya, I guess so. How do the cops figure it?”

“They figure it’s a murder-suicide, Lou. These guys showed up at the apartment looking for Michael. When he wasn’t here they decided to have some fun with Mary. While one of them…”

Ted hesitated for a moment, reluctant to go ahead. I gestured to him to continue.

“Cops figure Michael surprised the one in the living room. When he finished him off he found the other in the bedroom assaulting Mary. After he slit his throat, Michael examined Mary and must have figured she was dead. Then he went back to the living room and filled with grief, put a bullet in his head.”

I put my handkerchief back in my pocket.

“What do you think, Ted?”

Ted shrugged his shoulders.

“I guess I don’t care, Lou. Mary is alive and they’re all dead.”

“Ya, I guess that’s how the police feel.”

“You don’t agree, Lou?”

“I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on it, Ted.”

I looked at Ted and then into the apartment.

“This guy, Michael, sees that Mary is dead, steps out of the bedroom and shoots himself in the head?”

Ted nodded.

“Shoots himself in the head,” I repeated. “Twice? How do you shoot yourself in the head twice, Ted?”

Ted grinned. “So how do you figure it, Lou?”

“I don’t. I guess we’ll never know unless Mary tells.”

Ted turned his back on the apartment and looked back into the valley.

“What now, Lou?”

“I’m going home, Ted. Buy myself a case of beer. Pull out the old lounge chair, lie out in the backyard and get myself drunk. What about you, Ted?”

“I got some holidays coming, Lou. Maybe go up north. Got a cottage up there. Stretch out on the pier and count the stars. Do a little soul searching.”

“Be careful, Ted.”

“What do you mean, Lou?”

“Something my ma used to tell me, Ted. Never stare into a night sky. The heavens are filled with madness.”

FILE NUMBER: N7N1-13 POLICE DOCKET NO.: A0056-13 (Chapter 47, Lou Grant)

4 10 2009

Chapter 47






SUBJECT: Mary Richards

Patient suffers post-traumatic syndrome. Conscious memory lapses are countered by detailed and animated recurring dreams. Patient sinks in and out of dream states, often calling out in her sleep. There is no prior record of mental stress or emotional trauma so that all data must be related to her recent assault experiences. Suicidal tendencies have been detected in these dream states so that medication has been suitably adjusted. One recurring nightmare is particularly troubling.

MARY: It’s all a dream. All a dream happening to someone else. His mouth on her breasts. His teeth biting at her neck. His penis shoved angrily into her vagina. Her mouth, her neck, her vagina. I cannot bear to call them mine. Must keep everything in the third person. A voyeur of my own suffering. Removed from the act, pain becomes pleasure. Looking up at the ceiling, repeating over and over again,  “It’s a dream. I will wake up. I will wake up and everything will he okay. Everything will be as it was.”

And she thought of Harry in the other room. Poor Harry. Harry coming to warn her, to try and save her, and failing. She had so misread him. Harry would be okay too. She would wake up and find that he was his old bragging self, on top of everything, telling his tall tales. He would be okay. “Harry is okay.” This time she would look deeper into his eyes. “You love me, Harry.” Why hadn’t she seen?

The ceiling. Lined with cracks. The whole building slowly disintegrating. Passing our lives in architecture tumbling down around us in slow motion.

“Oh why doesn’t it come crashing down on me now?”

Bury all of us. Burying everything into forgetfulness, the amnesia of death. Oh, “kill me” now, she wanted to scream out. Beyond death, she looked back at her body being devoured by a monster. And then she saw him. Over the beast’s shoulder she saw Michael, his eyes round in rage, his hand grabbing the monster’s scalp, yanking back his head to bare the belly of his neck, the blade in the other hand, the blade tickling the skin across the Adam’s apple, the blood suddenly spitting over her face, like a dam bursting, like the night splitting open and flooding the horizon with sunlight.

And she saw him, his eyes round with rage, hovering over the beast to be sacrificed, and she wanted to cry out “Michael, Michael, you’ve come to save me!” But he didn’t see her. There was no room in his eyes. They were filled with rage. And then she was alone.

He left. Why had he left? Left the monster on her, blood still oozing out of the dead flesh that pinned her to the bed, left the monster’s body snorting and shaking in its death thrall. And she heard a second shot from the other room. Silence. She couldn’t move but the sounds were the sounds as they always were in the morning. Everything was normal.

The same birds outside were singing. The kitchen clock was ticking. The leaky faucet in the bathroom was dripping. Someone in an apartment above her had flushed the toilet. For her ears the dream had ended. For her ears everything was back to normal. But her nose smelled the stench of his flesh. Why wouldn’t my eyes wake up? Why wouldn’t the flesh upon me wake up? Why wouldn’t the nightmare end?

Suddenly Ted’s face. Ted above her. His face contorted.

“Is that you, Mary?”

Her ears refused to listen to Ted. He was back in the nightmare. She was safe in her world. Policemen. Glaring down at her. Dragging the body off her. She was being carried out. The other monster lying on the floor, his head fallen back over his shoulder. And another figure. Harry. Harry’s face gone.

“It isn’t him,” she cried out. It isn’t Michael. Tears came to her eyes.

I laughed.