Savannah Churchill

29 10 2009

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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.

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Kay Starr

26 10 2009

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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

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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

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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.

Tonsilitis.

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

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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.

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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.