Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Dutch Masters

What do we think about when we think about Amsterdam?

Morey (nee Moritz) Amsterdam.
Mr. Amsterdam once called Hollywood ''the kind of place where the skeletons in the closet are ashamed of the people who live in the house.''

The Human Joke Machine.

Some think of Anne Frank. Her house is a major attraction in the town.

Then there are the canals. "Oh, yeah, obviously the canals,. I mean the canals go
without saying, don't they?

The canals were built in the 17th century as a tourist attraction to compete with Bruge and EuroDisney,

And Pulp Fiction. Let's hear it directly from Vincent and Jules.

Royale with Cheese.

For me, Amsterdam is the moment when I encountered "De Staalmeesters- The Syndics; the sampling Officials (Wardens) of the Amsterdam Drapers' Guild, 1662," painted by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, a local artist at the time. (You should really click on the link because whoever wrote about this painting is super smart.)

Terrific picture. There were lots of us taking photos of the paintings. They even let people take flash pictures. Very paparazzi. But did any of them had the deep connection to the cigar company. To Ernie Kovacs. To Edie Adams. Black and white TV. As if the years were suddenly turned back and a 9 year old kid watches a very goofy man with a thick mustache and an achingly gorgeous chanteuse.

Adams and Kovacs

Adams and Kovacs brought to you by The Dutch Masters. Let's face it, Rembrandt was unknown at the time and considered a square by the pop art crowd and the "thrown the paint on the canvas and sell it to people" movement.

The Dutch Masters took a chance and put the neglected artist on their box.

Now, it is hard to believe but this painting of Rembrandt is worth more than the cigar company.

And that is why there will always be an Amsterdam.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Streets of Miami, an annotated, exegesis of Allan Sherman

Iconography: Barefoot singer on a pedestal, chic (Gentile?) woman holding a chicken, Cupid holding up a bottle of seltzer, rye bread, a wine bucket of bagels. a plate of pickles and a large salami dangling from his arm.

I have been listening to a book on CD,  Miami Babylon. The prelude to this story is the arrival of the Marieolitos in Miami during the Carter administration. Castro embarrassed us and then there is a lot of cocaine, Scar Face, Miami Vice, and the international yuppification of South Beach.

 Between these tales, is a slight reminiscence of tourist Miami of the late 50s and early sixties.

This is the most important epoch in that town's history because that's when my family vacationed there in the Summer. I was pre-teenish. Landmarks such as Wolfies and the Sea Breeze Hotel (or was it the Eden Roc?) have left a mark. I recall a world of Jai Alai, the dog track, Hialeah, the smell of cigarette smoke, the pool and occasionally the beach.


In 1962,  Allan Sherman's My Son the Folksinger was the number 1 album on billboard's top 200. Among the other #1's in 1962, Elvis (Blue Hawaii), West Side Story, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Ray Charles (what's with that title? it sounds like a class not a record)


Sandwiched that year between Peter, Paul and Mary and Vaughn Meador's classic "The First Family" lie   My Son, the Folksinger., a proud salmon in the deli of life.
  Both pre and post ironic at the same time.

The Lyrics to The Streets of Miami" (Allan Sherman/Hyman Roth)
As I wandered out
On the streets of Miami
I said to meinself (As speakers of Yiddish, the first generation of Jews who fought the Seminole Native Americans for control of Florida,  often confused grammar and syntax. )

This is some fancy town

I called up mein partner (see above for explanation)
And said, "Hello, Sammy
Go pack up your satchel ( Woody Allen famously named his son after the lyrics of this song. Woody's encounter with Sherman after hours at a famous deli left Allen in awe. It gave Woody confidence that he could be funnier and ultimately he was)And mosey on down" (Nobody said that except in the movies. And I'm not even sure they said it in the movies. It took another 10 years and an infestation of dope brownies to before the word "mosey" was uttered. Somewhere in Northern California).

I got me a bunk
In the old Roney Plaza 

I never heard of the Roney Plaza until Allen Sherman. Then it became a code word for that time when you are a child. And event happens around you and you have no idea what's going on. The Roney Plaza. As you get older, the Roney takes on new meaning. The rise and spectacular fall of glamour and style. We watch as silent guardians. Because the Roney was once the most chi-chi place on the beach. Where hobs met with knobs and had the best time. And you're surrounded by a wire fence and men with wrecking balls beat on you until you succumb.


With breakfast and dinner
Included of course
(the American plan as opposed to the European plan in which no meals were included. The ultimate winner has been the continental breakfast. At least in America. There is the Chinese plan which is unbridled capitalism ruled by communist dictators. In China you get a buffet breakfast included and it is more cosmopolitan than continental. The dumplings, steamed vegetables, and rice sit together in harmony with Cheerios, Corn Flakes, yoghurt and fruit. All negotiated with jet lagged, hung over or otherwise impaired travelers.)
I caught 40 winks
On mein private piazza (sic)
Then I rented a pinto (This will amaze you. The Pinto, the actual car was still 9 years away. And the Mustang still a few years hence. Sherman was prescient.  In that broad brush, astrological prescience kind of way)
From Hertz Rent-a-Horse

He rented a pinto from Hertz Rent-a-Horse

My partner flew down
On a non-scheduled airline  (Bob Newhart does a very funny bit about non-scheduled air lines. I have no idea what they were. It sounds like a low cost alternative.
But in Sherman's work, the partner does not seem very thrifty)

You never did see
Such a pale-looking man

I recognized him
From his receding hairline
He recognized me
From mein beautiful tan

Twas then that I heard
Fighting words from mein partner

Twas then that I heard
Fighting words from mein partner
He said, "Marvin, the Roney is no place to stay

I'm going to the Fontainebleau (the unreachable star. We drove past the place dozens of time. We never had a snack, a drink for the folks at the Fontainebleau when I was a kid. Forbidden fruit. )

Partner, it's mod'ner
And I'll charge to the firm 60 dollars a day"

He'll charge to the firm 60 dollars a day (60 dollars is today's equivalent of a trillion dollars)
I said to him, "Paleface, (Fun Bob Hope movie. Hope plays a dentist. Painless Potter)
You hanker for trouble (more Yiddishism)
With the company checkbook
You quick on the draw"

He smiled and said, "Stranger,
For me that goes double

'Cause west of the Fontainebleau (that of course would cover a tremendous swatch of American. It's pretty far east, sitting as it does on Miami Beach)

I am the law"

Next morning
The whole Lincoln road was deserted (The legendary street of dreams...another rags to riches to rags "and bottles today, any rags!" Groucho Marx called out,. Also see Myron Cohen, where 2 adorable  little women waited for a bus to take them shopping at Linka Road. They ended up at Hialeah. The punch line is "whadda we going to do with a horse)


And somewhere a hi-fi was playing a tune (Hi Fi is a very evocative word. It meant back in those days that you could invite women into your room and they might sleep with you. Or listen to a lot of Delta Blues with intoxicated male friends
'Cause everyone knew
Someone's gonna be murdered

In a duel in the sun (1948 film starring Gregory Peck, Jennifer Jones and Lillian Gish)On the stroke of high noon (1952 film starring Gary Cooper, Gracy Kelley and a very scary Lee Van Cleef)
A duel in the sun at the stroke of high noon

Lee Van Cleef in the middle. Playing a very mean harmonica

I took careful aim
With mein trusty revolver (Today's music includes many guns. Guns have always been a part of American culture. And non-gun people don't like it. But everyone (most everyone) watches shoot-em-ups in one guise or another.
The clock in the Fontainebleau
Struck 12 o'clock

I shot and Sam crumbled
Just like a piece halvah (Fresh halvah. From the store, not packaged in ok. I never loved it. But I ate it out of cultural identification)

And that's what they called
A bad day at Black Rock (A movie with Spencer Tracy where it is hot and there is a train and some shooting. Now it is an investment portfolio)

They came with a posse
And took mein six gun away
The crowd was too angry
To leave me in jail

The sheriff said, "Outlaw
I'm gon' let you run away
But don't ever be seen
South of Ft. Lauderdale" (the Fort just beginning to make a name for it self. The Frankie Avalon movie" Where The Boys Are" was a very stridently feminist film.  Under the guise of wet bikinis (maybe damp), the guys ultimately are won over or jilted by the girls.)So now I can never go back to Miami
And New York is so cold
That a person could die
I'd be better off dead
Like mein late partner Sammy

'Cause he's in that big Fontainebleau in the sky (Not technically true. The large hotels in heaven have only one holy Maker.)
'Cause he's in that big Fontainebleau in the sky!