Maxine Sullivan

8 11 2009


Maxine Sullivan (May 13, 1911 – April 7, 1987)


Daddy cut hair. As the world did a couple of twirls. Maxine Sullivan of Twelfth Street swept up the floor. And the customers read. The Free Press. Howard Hughes set the transcontinental air record. The Hindenburg exploded in flames. Laughing. In the Sahara Desert it rained. And big Mike’s wife. Half his size. Beat him with a rolling pin.

If the Pirates weren’t on the front page. It was September. Red Sox acquired 19-year-old Ted Williams. April so far away. All the hope for love seemed lost forever. But little Maxine would sing. And all the customers. Would listen. Amongst all the noise. Tyrants in Europe. The boss at work. Maxine had spring in her voice.

Elmer J Fudd flew. Waldo Waterman’s Arrowbiles. Over Spain. Unloaded laughs. As  Picasso’s unwanted paint. Poured down upon. The Basque town. Of Guernica.

One weekend. Maxine took a bus. And did not return. Loch Lomond. An odd song. For a little black girl. To build a career upon. Little Maxine was “Going Places” in the twentieth century. With Louis Armstrong when he was king. With Ronald Reagan before he was president.

Henry Ford initiated the 32 hour work week. Spam. The luncheon meat. Introduced by the Hormel Foods Corporation. Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Opened to rave reviews.

And then one day. Maxine. Stepped off the stage. In an age of selflessness. What is the point to all of this? There was a child. To raise. Out of the limelight. And stayed… for years.

In an attic. A Rembrandt of a photograph. Gathered dust. A street in Harlem. With nappy haired boys sitting on the curb. And behind them. Charles Mingus . Thelonious Monk . Count Basie . Gene Krupa . Coleman Hawkins . Lester Young . Gerry Mulligan . Art Blakey . Buck Clayton . Bill Crump . Roy Eldridge… and the list kept going on.

A young boy pointed to a shy little lady. Maxine Sullivan. Standing on the sidewalk. Of the photograph. Next to the gods. And the newspaper stand.

And said – That lady is my mom.



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