Thursday, May 24, 2012

To Betty Grable and Times Past

File:Betty Grable 20th Century Fox.jpg

Hi there big fella, she seems to be saying, especially to you. Back in the time of the Second World War when all of America got involved with its wars unlike today when we pay "volunteers" to do battle while most of us are unaffected by all the battles and horrors of war, the above photo was the most popular pin-up for our fighting forces. This photo is called a "pin-up" because GI Joe pinned it up in his locker or next to him in the battlefield. Back in the day those legs, some referred to them as "gams" were insured for a million dollars when a million dollars meant something. Betty Grable was one of our biggest movie stars of our time. While she reflected a sweet innocence she also reflected a sexiness that our fighting men saw and recognized. Unlike today where the models and stars have no problem with showing all or most of their assets Betty captured the hearts of the men of her generation by showing just enough. Both generations had the same underlying desire but way back when it wasn't so blatant in the showing of the body or desire.

The dichotomy of it all was the photo reflected a "gentler" time during one of the most violent and vicious times in the annals of mankind. This dichotomy, perhaps, was a portent of thing to come for Betty and the nation. When the war was over and the men returned in 1945 the scramble was on to settle into civilian life with the loved ones left behind. There was a scramble to get married, get a job and have kids. The world was hoping the violent times were behind us all but the violence was getting worse. From 1945 when the big war ended to this day violence and man's inhumanity to man just continued to get worse, while at the same time time many parts of the world became more civilized and efforts to alleviate crimes against humanity increased. The world was struck with a new disease, Aids. In the beginning the violence continued as the homophobics said those who contacted it deserved it because of their "sinful" lifestyle, yet the world's community banded together to find a cure and at least medicine to allow those who contacted it to live a longer useful life. Individually western civilization became more open about sex and the human body which led to a tearing away of the "mystery" that surrounded the desire of a man and woman. Betty Grable's photo of an innocent yet very sexy young lady was replaced by hot sexy women in string bikini's or nothing at all.

Grable herself had a life that was full of the good and bad. She became a big movie star in the 1940's and through most of the 1950's and her pin-up was voted one of 100 photos that changed the world. She married Jackie Coogan and Harry James both ended in divorce. James was the most famous Trumpeter of his time but he was a drunk, gambler and philanderer. She died in 1973, of lung cancer only 56 years old. Her life seemed to reflect the times in which she lived. She had the good and the bad. Yet she will always live on as the innocent sexy pin-up Queen. She in a way reflects the yearning we seem to have of the times gone by remembering only the seeming innocence of our youth while we forget the violence that existed then as well as now all at the same time. I guess good and evil will always live side by side but for most of us we will remember the beauty and peacefulness of the good.   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two For The Road

He was in Brazil sometime in 1967/68 when he first saw "Two For The Road". He was far away from the gal he married a decade earlier. She was getting a bit worn down with all the children they had seven in nine years of marriage. It was like having a bunch of twins all the time, somebody was always in diapers. But he missed them all, all of the noise, the house full of life, both of them, he and she, always tired. He was working at a full time job and doing some tax work and some write ups on the side while he was going to night College. She was just trying to keep her sanity as her six boys and one sweet little girl were always planning and succeeding to drive her out of her mind. He was in Brazil on a business trip for a fledgling motion picture company. Brazil was fraught with temptation, even the air smelled of sex and temptation and everyone he met thought he could help them get ahead in the business. This meant a lot of eating great food, drinking great wines and liquors, and trying to keep the young starlets from tempting him a little too much. But as the nights came to a close he struggled to his bed, ALONE! Alone and missing her more than ever.

He knew that at home his friends, which many might not have been friends, were trying to bed his beautiful wife and they were tempting her as she was alone with seven screaming kids taking up all of her time while all she craved was maybe an hour of some adult talking to her, caring about her, which would be a turn of something since she only had the kid's talk and her caring for them. He knew that a friend of his cousin had already came on to her, that a cousin did also, and one of the neighborhood Lotharios that lived around the block made his move. She always kidded about the garbage men coming on to her, calling them "The Romeos of The Road".

One time they were invited to a big shots home for a private screening of "West Side Story" and after a few drinks after they were invited to spend the night in the same bed as this guy and his wife. Needless to say they left rather suddenly and never accepted the invitations for private screenings. She even attracted the female person who thought she was so beautiful. One night after a private screening at Gulf & Western they were with a party at The Playboy club on 59th. Street in New York City and this beautiful Lesbian cornered her as we waited at the bar and propositioned her right in front of him. He laughed heartily, and she fumed but hey she was beautiful and he understood the animal smell that laid under that beatific expression. And of course this was all some 40 to 45 years ago.

Back in Brazil he saw "Two For The Road" and his body ached for his gal as he watched Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney go through their various stages of love, young and hot, young and struggling, slipping into middle age with success in business and gathering wealth but drifting far apart as they forgot who they were and why they loved each other. Life became such a success that they lost each other for a moment even cheating on each other but they eventually come back together because they "loved" each other. The musical score was composed by Henri Mancini and held a hauntingly sound of love lost and found again.

That was then but this is now some 45 years later. All those kids are grownup and have kids or worries of their own. His beautiful wife left him after some years with a progressive illness. This is when he found out the term "progressive illness" meant 'getting worse and worse till death". But he saw this film, DVD, advertised on Amazon and he knew he had to buy it a see it again. Back then Audrey Hepburn was alive, vibrant and beautiful, Albert Finney was a hunk, heart throb, while today he is a big blob. Ah, yes, Time doth rob all of us. As he watched the movie begin and he heard the opening strains of the score he floated back in time to his days in Brazil where he first saw this wonderful  movie, which was cutting edge back then and only slightly dated now. Audrey was Joanna and Finney was Mark Wallace once again. They were young and having a great time falling in and out of love again and again. A great line in the movie came up a few times. Joanna and Mark were young and going up to their room to make love when they would see this elderly couple eating but saying nothing. They would ask each other this question, "What kind of people would be in a great place eating great food and say nothing?", looking at each other they would answer and laugh, "Married people.". You know something? Sadly Mark and Joanna were right.

The movie came to an end. He put on some Brazilian music, Jobim, the great guitar work and the breathless vocals, "Meditation", Sinatra, "Ipanema" and for the moment Joanna and Mark Wallace lived again and so did he and his gal.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hello Young Lovers

He once knew a girl who could light up any room she walked into. She was tall for her time 5'6" without heels, long black or as she liked to say dark brown hair with laughing eyes that always seemed to have the "come hither" in them. From the moment he saw her he wanted her without even knowing her but he was afraid of rejection. "What would a beauty like she want with a guy like he?", he'd like to say to himself liking the play on words, but knowing his poetry was as dumb as he was. No matter how hopeless the cause was, he had determination and finally he wheedled an invitation to her from a buddy who knew her.

She reached across and offered her hand and as he took it in acknowledgement of the meeting he felt the rush of fire gushing through his veins. From that moment he never stopped trying to get her to accept a date with him. He kept "accidentally" running into her, perhaps on the way to work, or maybe when she went for a walk on a hot summer night. I guess today one might call it stalking but he got to know her routine and managed to show up at the oddest moments and they would talk, laugh enjoy one another's company BUT she would always find an excuse not to go out with him. Then one day when he just happened to bump into her he asked her why she wouldn't go out with him, "Are you afraid I'd bite you?" he asked, because that is what exactly what he'd like to do. She surprised him by saying she'd love to go out with him. He was in ecstasy, then his self doubt crept in and he began to worry that he would make a fool of himself and she'd never want to see him again. He figured he'd take her to a exclusive night club that offered a live band, dancing, some food and a great view of the bay.

He picked her up right on time. He had to meet the family before she could leave with him. Her mother and father spoke with a Spanish accent and were a bit crazy. He did his best to impress them. They finally were allowed to go with the admonition to make sure she was home by One AM, "AND NO LATER!". From the moment they were alone all his fear left him. They fit together just like pieces of a jig saw puzzle. She laughed at all his corny jokes and puns. She really liked him or she really knew how to massage a male's psyche. They arrived at the club and hit the dance floor soon after they ordered their drinks, Sloe Gin Fizz for her and Scotch, Rocks for him. The band was splaying "I'm In The Mood For Love" as they got up to dance, a slow Fox Trot. She fit into his embrace like a glove. Her warm body was gently squeezed into his as they moved around the floor. When they spoke they whispered into each one's ear and her warm breath only raised his hopes for a better night as soon as they left the place. The time came too soon, it was midnight and she had to get home, in the house, by one or her father would kill him first and her only after he was sure he was dead. So any amorous thoughts following the hot steamy night of dancing the slow love dance went out the window as he drove rather hastily back to her house. Any chance of a kiss goodnight was destroyed as her father was hanging out the second floor window awaiting their punctual return.

The next few dates went just as good as the first one. He was getting smarter though. He made sure there was enough time left between the leaving of the night club and his getting her safely home to spend a little time "making out". One of these times when it was getting hot and heavy she asked him, before he could suggest to her that maybe they'd be more comfortable in the back seat, "When are we getting married?". This sort of left him in a dumbfounded state. Yeah, he loved her! Yeah he wanted to bed her! Yeah they had fun together! But MARRIED! His eyes resembled a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. He stuttered, harrumphed and made no intelligible sounds. He then said, "Maybe we should think about living together first.", to which she said her father would kill both of them. He got to know her father a little better by then and she was right. He still had a Bolo knife from when he cut sugar plants in the islands. His mind was racing and he looked a little silly with her lipstick plastered across his face. She then said something like one doesn't get the prize without paying for it, which he took to mean it is marriage or nothing. Despite all his fears he really didn't want to walk away from her so there was nothing to do but agree on a date.

They did get married and the prize was sure worth the price as they settled in on their honeymoon. As he reflected back on all this he couldn't believe how many years had passed since the time when he was so enamored with this beautiful Hispanic, hot chick. There was a lot of noise; a lot of love making; a lot of crying and a lot of laughter. Even as he got older she remained the epitome of a young vibrant, vivacious hot chick! Then her age and genes caught up with her and she became very ill. She fought the disease valiantly but it was always a losing battle. Finally she succumbed and went away and he was left with his memories.

Somehow, when he thought of their first kiss he could still taste her lipstick and feel her breath softly whispering, "te amo". Had he had a choice he would have left before she did but the choice wasn't theirs to make. He wasn't depressed by being left behind because through his memories, and her spirit, she was still with him, with him as she could be with no other because they shared moments only true lovers can share and no one else can ever be privy to them. When he saw young lovers he was always reminded of their love and the song that ended with, "Don't cry young lovers whatever you do. Don't cry because I am alone. Don't cry because we had a love like yours!", and the sharing of love is what makes a life worth living.        

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rap-Is It Really Music? Perhaps!

The death of the lead of The Beastie Boys drove me back to the Internet to explore music that the past three decades accepted as good, some might say great. When I played the songs all I heard was a lot of noise by a driving, beating drum, loud electric guitars and a voice shouting unintelligible lyrics. I Googled the lyrics to  read them and some were good but none were very good and a lot were terrible poetry. Most of all the lyrics bore no visible relationship to the music. Yet this was an iconic Rap group that made tons of money. I even went so far to check out some Gangster Rap which is really ridiculous as far as calling this
art. I would prefer tagging it as "junk" art. But then this is only one person's idea of what art is. I have heard some pretty intelligent people in their twenties and thirties extolling rap and hip hop as the music they cut their teeth on. They proclaimed it as a "freeing" of their spirit. To which I reply if that is what has happened to those who love this music then so be it for that is what art is supposed to do, free the spirit and help ideas grow so that one can appreciate the beauty the world has to offer.

There is some Western, not Eastern music and I don't mean Country, that do not lend themselves to a blending of music and lyrics for instance Be-Bop, an examination of chords and rhythms lending themselves to great improvisation. This music isn't a great popular brand since only jazz aficionados really appreciate it. But it is music following proper rhythms and chord changes and intonations. Then there is the Great American Songbook which blends words and music lifting one's spirits as they sing about unrequited love, or a happier moment like the fulfillment of love. It is poetry in motion so to speak.

I refer you to Tony Bennett's rendition of "When Joanna Loved Me". I will show the lyrics below but to really appreciate it you have to hear Bennett's rendition, an interpretation of moods which one can understand because every lyric is pronounced in a way that is understandable. The background music is superb, everything combined tells a story of unrequited love but one that did taste fulfillment which will never be forgotten.

When Joanna Loved Me
(Robert Wells & Jack Segal)

Today is just another day, tomorrow is a guess
But yesterday, oh, what I'd give for yesterday
To relieve one yesterday and its happiness

When Joanna loved me
Every day was Paris
Every day was Sunday
Every Month was May

When Joanna loved me
Every sound was music
Music made of laughter
Laughter that was bright and gay

But when Joanna left me
May became December
But even in December, I remember
Her touch, her smile, and for a little while

She loves me 
And once again its Paris
Paris on a Sunday
And the month is May

When one listens to Tony Bennett perform this you don't need lights, smoke and fireworks all you have to do is close your eyes and remember and if you don't have this type of love to remember it is your loss. Perhaps that is what is the real difference between this music, poetry and the current brand, a soft love with great remembrances rather than pure sex that when it is over all one has is a longing for the next experience with complete disregard for the person. I like this artistry over the current brand, it is softer, delicious and memorable.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rock & Roll Dreams

I had just left a Moody Blues concert and despite the fact they were still going at it some 45 years after they had started they were still as good as ever. They really brought back the old times and now I heard the Beach Boys were getting together for a concert tour. My blood was still rushing through my veins as I pulled into the parking space of my favorite Pub. I entered and was glad to see there was room at the bar. I pulled up a stool and the bartender knew my order, Scotch Rocks, Dewers. As I sipped the and let the great cool taste slip down my throat my mind was drifting back to a time when The Blues and The Beach Boys were young and just beginning to taste the glories of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. Around a little suburb of New York City there was a group composed of four young guys called New York's Unemployed who were starting to make inroads around New York City. They were primarily a cover band but they were working on some originals. They had gotten together when they were in first term high school. In a way it was an odd grouping. Jude played bass and sang. The other front man was guitarist Jerry who also sang. Jerry's brother Gary was the Drummer and the Mike, the pretty boy of the group who attracted the most girls but certainly left plenty for the other guys, played keyboard. They all sang. They had used Jude's parents house to rehearse and it was plenty noisy. They had to quit at ten by order of the father, but the place rocked from 7 till 10.

I knew Jude's parents that is how I got to know a little about the formation of New York's Unemployed. Actually I was in love with Jude's mother but she was unresponsive to any advances I might have made. The father was a crazy guy that I tried to avoid so my love went unrequited. Jude's name was bestowed on him before it was popular and many had asked the father why he picked a name that would subject a son of his to ridicule to which he replied, "If he's bothered by people I guess he will just have to kick the shit out of them.", really nice and genteel wouldn't you say. I just avoided him whenever I could but I sure loved his wife. Any way sometime in the mid 1970's the group was finished rehearsing and got themselves a manager, a big, 400 pound, black guy named Tony who was always full of good vibes and cheer. He got them started with their bookings. They played New York clubs, Bayside clubs and built a following of some 400 fans. Then Big Tony's weight got the best of him and he died so they had to do the bookings themselves which was not as easy a job as it looked. They were getting good gigs, like Camouflage's booking, opening for Cindi Lauper and rubbing elbows with the likes of Kiss and such.  I really didn't know a helluva lot of detail about them because as I mentioned before I was really interested in Jude's mother and I went to see them only in order to get close to her. Unfortunately she didn't seem to get the ideas I was throwing her way but I appreciated the crumbs like her bright laugh and the way she had a sexy gleam in her eye without even realizing it. But I digress. I nodded to the barkeep and he gave me another Scotch, Rocks. My point is they were getting so good that even their rendition of "The House of The Rising Sun" was better than The Animals who had the hit record. They figured, as did their fans and guys like myself that they were going to hit it big, all they needed was a break. They were enjoying every moment of the ride.

Jude with his long hair with the blond streak had the girls climbing all over him as did Jerry but unfortunately they were kooky broads and led to nothing but trouble. Mike, the pretty boy, had his share of loving but his gals were much quieter and less trouble. Gary was in love with his girl and they stayed together through all this from high school until marriage. This is not to say they were not making out, they were! One gig I attended they reminded me of a Beatles's movie because at every break, if I would go to a corner to be alone, or step out side for a breath, they were there in a deep embrace and soulful kiss. They married. Serves them right! They didn't dabble much in drugs maybe a little pot but their drug of choice was alcohol and they enjoyed it.

While they were riding the peak of their success they had reached a fork in the road forcing them to choose going out on the road which even the Beatles had to do before they hit it. There was a problem, Gary couldn't see leaving his love behind. Jerry and Gary had to help support their mother and road gigs never paid much neither did dreams. Mike met a girl of his dreams or should I say a slighter older lady by some 15 years and was deep in the throes of love and lust. So it was decided that they would retire for a few months to the studio to work on originals, come back out and if they were still knocking them dead  then maybe they could consider the road. Unfortunately, the fans love had died down during their hiatus and nothing was clicking for them so they agreed to a breakup and pursue an adult life. One that was less colorful but steadier for a life with responsibilities.

By this time I just drifted away from the group, partly because there was other music to be heard and partly because Jude's mother was not singing the same tune I was whistling. I had heard that Jude was still living as though Haight-Ashbury was going to come back. But eventually he got a job as a head honcho somewhere and is making tons of bread. But who really knows, he never really seemed to be the type of guy who would settle down. Jerry met and married a real Puerto Ricana beauty who gave him stability to have a very successful business. Gary is happily married. Carla and he still make out furiously. Haven't heard about Mike and his slightly older wife. Hope they are as blissful as they were when they first met and gravity hadn't taken over yet.

The Bartender was going to pour another drink but I was driving and shook my head no. I left him $50 which should include a hefty tip. Boy have things changed since the Moody Blues inspired me with Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll, back then five bucks would have covered two Dewers and a good tip. I got in the car, started it up and put on CBS FM, 101.1, to listen to some of the music from the 1960's to 1990's. As  I started to pull into traffic, I thought "Those were the days!". And then I wondered what ever happened to Jude's beautiful mother? I wonder if she would remember me? But what the hell I better forget that because her crazy husband is probably still around.  But even better I'm going to live in the present and call that beautiful lady I met just a short time ago and see if I can revive some Sex, Love and Rock & Roll now!