“We are a gentle, angry people…”

Yesterday was a rather phenomenal day.  The media reports of women’s marches on all seven continents.  Posts by friends from all stages of my life with pictures of themselves, their children, and often, grandchildren at marches and rallies all over the world.  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the why and certainly will write about what happens next, but today I want to celebrate a song I hadn’t thought about for a long time, but which seems to be the appropriate one for this new movement.

We sang it at the Brattleboro Sister Vigil and, later, a friend posted that she had seen the words on a sign in Boston:  “We are a gentle, angry people.”  She hadn’t realized that those were the words of a song by Holly Near.

Here is a clip of Near singing it in 2015 at a conference on the anniversary of the first national demonstration against the War in Vietnam.

And here are the words.

We are a gentle, angry people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a justice-seeking people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are young and old together
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a land of many colors
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are gay and straight together
and we are singing, singing for our lives

We are a gentle, loving people
and we are singing, singing for our lives

Learn the tune.  Make up more verses.  We are singing for our lives.

brattleboro-rally

Taken at Pliny Park, Brattleboro VT on January 21, 2017 about 20 minutes after the formal Sister Vigil had ended.

Photograph by Robert Wyckoff

Theft of a violin – Updated

On Monday night in Milwaukee a violin was stolen.  OK.  So why are you blogging about this, you maybe wondering.  Because the violin stolen was not just any violin.  The New York Times reports

It should have been one of those nights musicians live for. Frank Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, had just closed a chamber concert in his own “Frankly Music” series with Messiaen’s hushed, eerily intense “Quartet for the End of Time.” Mr. Almond drew the graceful, ringing high notes of the finale from his prized 1715 Stradivarius violin, producing a tone so intensely focused that the audience in the Wisconsin Lutheran College’s 388-seat auditorium sat in awed silence for 20 seconds before applauding.

But the glow of the moment evaporated quickly, once Mr. Almond, 49, stepped into the college art center’s parking lot at 10:20 p.m. Monday, his violin carefully swaddled against the subzero temperatures and minus-25-degree wind chill. And as he neared his car, a figure stepped up to him and shot him with a stun gun.

It happened in a matter of seconds: Mr. Almond dropped the violin, the attacker scooped it up and jumped into a late 1980s or early ’90s maroon or burgundy minivan, where an accomplice was waiting to speed away. Edward A. Flynn, the Milwaukee police chief, said late Thursday afternoon that Mr. Almond had described the thieves as a man and a woman. Chief Flynn has given the value of the violin as “the high seven figures.” The police said earlier that the violin’s empty case had been found several miles from the hall.

Stradivarius violin

Stradivarius violin

We read all the time about musicians and their favored instruments.  They are always transporting them around in cabs, on subways, on trains and planes.  I once saw the cellist, Yo Yo Ma, with his cello on Boston’s Red Line.  Probably the same cello he has left at least once in a cab.  My husband told me when I mentioned I was going to blog about Mr. Almond, that he once left his trumpet on the Orange Line.  Luckily someone had turned it into the MBTA lost and found.  Mr.  Almond can certainly get another high quality violin, but probably not another Strad.

What is shocking about the incident is that it was not stolen from a dressing room left unlocked or lost on some public conveyance, but that he was attacked just as if someone was going to steal his watch or wallet or ring and that it was clearly planned.

A spokeswoman for the orchestra confirmed that the instrument was insured, but said that because of the investigation, she could not provide details about the amount, or what restrictions, if any, applied to the use of the instrument. Given its prominence — high-resolution photographs of Strads are plentiful — it would be virtually impossible to sell the instrument on the open market.

“We’re not engaging in the pretense that this is just any other crime,” Chief Flynn said on Thursday. “This is an extraordinary art theft. It is just as extraordinary as if some master criminal crept into the Milwaukee Art Museum and stole several of its most valuable pieces. It’s an inordinately rare violin of unquestioned provenance, made 300 years ago and worth a lot of money. So obviously we are treating this like much more than just another mugging.”

Like the paintings stolen and never recovered from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum which also can’t be sold.  If they are still around, some wealthy person somewhere is enjoying them or they are lying abandoned in a basement or attic.  I hope it is the former.

…Antonio Stradivari was, by common agreement among violin fanciers, the master builder of violins, a creator of instruments with a sound that subsequent makers have been at a loss to reproduce. Fewer than 650 of Stradivari’s violins survive, and Mr. Almond’s — which was given to him on “permanent loan” by an anonymous patron in 2008 — is regarded as a particularly fine example.

Called the Lipinski Strad, after an early owner, the instrument was built in 1715, when Stradivari was in his prime. The first known owner was the composer and virtuoso violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who flourished in the early 18th century and whose “Devil’s Trill” Sonata remains one of the Baroque repertory’s great showpieces. Karol Lipinski, a Polish player who was friendly with Paganini, Liszt and Schumann, owned it in the early 19th century. It made its way to Milwaukee in 1962, in the possession of Evi Liivak, an Estonian violinist, who died in 1996. Then it dropped out of sight until the current owner offered it to Mr. Almond.

A stolen instrument is very difficult to recover.  According to the FBI, 11 violins (including 6 Strads) have been stolen since 1985; only 3 are known to have been recovered.

…In one recent case, a 1696 Stradivarius was stolen in November 2010 from Min-Jin Kym, a young South Korean violinist who was living in London, while she and a friend ate lunch at Euston Station. The violin was found in July 2013.

A more famous case was the 1713 Strad (called the Gibson) owned by the early 20th-century violinist Bronislaw Huberman. It was stolen from Huberman twice: once from a hotel room in Vienna, in 1916, and then in 1936 from his dressing room at Carnegie Hall while he was onstage playing another instrument. The violin was recovered only in 1985 (Huberman died in 1947) when a jazz violinist who had been playing it in smoky clubs all those years made a deathbed confession. It is currently owned by the violinist Joshua Bell.

We hope that the Milwaukee Strad ends up in the hands of someone who will play it and they will have listeners who will enjoy the music.

UPDATE:

The Strad recovered.

The Strad recovered.

It is reported this morning that the violin has been recovered.  The New York Times reports

A Stradivarius violin stolen last month from the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has been recovered seemingly unharmed, the authorities in Milwaukee announced on Thursday.

The rare instrument, which dates from 1715 and has been valued at $5 million, was recovered Wednesday night, after the police searched a residence in Milwaukee, led there by one of three suspects recently arrested in the case, Edward A. Flynn, the Milwaukee chief of police, said at a news conference. Officers found the violin in a suitcase in an attic. Chief Flynn described the home as owned by a friend of a suspect, but said that person was believed to have had no knowledge of what he had been asked to store.

And arrests were made.

On Wednesday, the Milwaukee police announced they had arrested two men and a woman this week in connection with the theft. On Thursday, officials identified two of the suspects as Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, a local barber who is being accused of providing the stun gun used against Mr. Almond; and Salah Ibin Jones, 41, whom the police described as their primary suspect. The third suspect, a 32-year-old woman, was not identified but is believed to have been driving the getaway vehicle.

The police have confirmed reports that Mr. Jones was previously convicted of possessing a stolen sculpture four years after it disappeared from a Milwaukee art gallery nearly two decades ago.

“This individual has done fairly high-end art theft in the past, and the last time his plan was to keep it in a safe place for a number of years and then bring it out of hiding and do something with it,” Chief Flynn said. “So theoretically it’s plausible that might have been his plan here: to keep it off the market and out of sight for a number of years.”

Stefan Hersh, a violin expert who appraised the instrument in 2012, said he had been contacted by the F.B.I. and went to Milwaukee on Thursday to authenticate the instrument. Seeing no damage, he performed a piece by Bach on the 300-year-old Stradivarius, a private concert for the police.

I’m sure we will hear more about how the violin was found in the attic, but at least it is safe and wasn’t there long enough to be damaged.  How could they have thought that wood would survive the heat and cold there and still have value many years from now?  But luckily that didn’t happen and it will be played again.

Photograph of a Stradivarius:  Michael Darnton

Photograph of recovered violin:  Darren Hauck/Reuters

The World Series: beards and music

Superstitious, I guess.  I didn’t want to write about the Red Sox in the World Series for fear of jinxing them.  Not that I have any such power, but with the baseball gods one never knows.  But now each team has had one horrid game – the Cardinals were worse than the Sox – and the Series is tied.  The Sox need to win at least one game in St. Louis to get back home team advantage.  This is beginning to feel like the games with Detroit that got them where they are.  That turned out OK, so we can still have hope.  All we need is for Jake Peavy to live up to his hype and for some combination of Clay Buchholtz/Felix Dubrount to pitch well and there is a chance for two wins.  And then we get Lester again.  So I’m feeling OK about the situation.  I feel badly for John Lackey who has had a great pitching year, but can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to run support and wins.

The player who did his job last night was Koji Uehara the accidental closer.  Once more.  3 outs on 10 pitches.  The beardless one.  I think we all assumed he didn’t have a beard because he couldn’t grow one.  We were wrong.  A few days ago, this story was in the New York Times.

Long, bushy beards have become the unifying trademark of the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but the most valuable player of their American League Championship Series victory stands out for more than his pitching.

The series M.V.P., the cleanshaven closer Koji Uehara, was given a pass on the team’s unofficial pro-beard policy because most of his teammates thought he was incapable of growing one.

But that is hardly the case. Well before the Red Sox’ shaggy faces entered the national consciousness, Uehara was a longstanding member of the antirazor brigade.

Until January, when he shaved it off on Japanese national television, Uehara had one of the most famous beards in Japan: light, Fu Manchu-style scruff with a wraparound beard connecting to his sideburns. It was considered ugly and brutish by many of his friends and countrymen, but he wore it defiantly for several years after coming to the United States in 2009.

Koji in Baltimore

People must have known.  I watched him pitch when he was with Baltimore, but I guess the beard never registered.  He also had a beard with the Rangers.

“I just didn’t know where I was going with that beard,” Uehara, 38, said through an interpreter Saturday afternoon before the final game of the A.L.C.S. “So I thought it was best to shave it off. It was a good time to do it, and I think many people were happy. They said I looked younger.”

Without facial hair, Uehara posted a career-low 1.09 E.R.A. in the regular season and had 21 saves after taking over as Boston’s full-time closer June 26. In the playoffs, he has been just as good, allowing one run in nine innings over eight games. He has five saves this postseason: two in a division series against the Tampa Bay Rays and three in the A.L.C.S. against the Detroit Tigers, including the save that clinched the pennant Saturday night.

But has shaving made him a better postseason pitcher?

“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “I am not sure about that.”

Whatever.  If being beardless got him MVP for the ALCS, then it is good for him and for us.

In one way, it makes sense that Uehara is now clean shaven in the midst of players who look like desert-island castaways. He originally grew his beard to stand apart from his teammates in Japan and from Japanese players in the majors, many of whom did not have facial hair.

Now that he is with a rowdy band of bearded Red Sox, he is distinguished in a different way.

“If I had a beard now,” he said, “I would not stand out.”

Meanwhile the symphony orchestras in Boston and St. Louis are getting in the act.  Even if you don’t root for either team this clip is wonderful.  I have to concede that the brass from St. Louis are better trash talkers, but the BSO has Seiji Ozawa.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_k8oICRBH4&feature=youtu.be

By the way, Boston in six.  With ZZ Top on our side, how can we lose?

Photograph: Mark Duncan/Associated Press

A father remembers his daughter in music

Right after the shootings in Newtown, CT, I was listening to “Eric in the Evening”, the local jazz program on Boston’s WGBH public radio.  Eric Jackson, the host, said he was going to play some Jimmy Greene.  He explained that he had heard that Greene’s daughter, Ana, was among the victims.  So this story in the New York Times caught my eye.

Before last Dec. 14, Jimmy Greene had been a jazzman for most of his 38 years, well known among serious jazz fans. He had dozens of albums to his name. He played with such luminaries as Freddie Hubbard. He was a scholar, too, teaching jazz at a public university.

On Dec. 14, Mr. Greene’s 6-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, who shared his passion for music and loved to listen to her father play, was a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That was the day a gunman killed Ana along with 19 other children and 6 educators.

Weeks after the massacre, he slowly began accepting invitations to play publicly, as long as the performances were close to his Connecticut home. He returned to Western Connecticut State University, where he teaches jazz.

Slowly, Mr. Greene said, the spirit of Ana’s “beautiful life” began comforting and inspiring him to begin writing music again. Then there were the many musician friends, like Harry Connick Jr., who helped console him. One result is a new album called, appropriately, “Beautiful Life,” a work inspired by and dedicated to Ana’s life.

“I want it to give a sense of how she lived,” said Mr. Greene, who recently performed some of the music from the album at a jazz club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The nearly completed album, whose proceeds will go partly toward charities set up in Ana’s name, exemplifies a decision by the family not to let the pain of Ana’s death keep them from discussing her life, he said.

“It’s a way for us to keep Ana alive, and keep her on the tip of our tongues,” he said. “I don’t want to avoid talking about it because one problem we have in our culture is that if something is difficult, we don’t talk about it.”

I found this link to a YouTube tune called “Ana Grace” written before Ana was killed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVkVYJUsuDM

Ana loved to dance joyfully around the house and she loved Disney movies, including “The Princess and the Frog,” whose dark-skinned Princess Tiana appealed to her.

Mr. Greene asked the singer Anika Noni Rose, a childhood friend who was the voice of the princess in the film, to recite spoken word on his song “Little Voices” on the new album, which also features Kurt Elling, a Grammy Award winner, performing on “Ana’s Way,” and Javier Colon on “When I Come Home.”

The recording also includes a duet by Mr. Greene and the guitarist Pat Metheny of the hymn “Come Thou Almighty King,” which Ana liked to sing while her older brother accompanied her on the piano.

Ana Márquez-Greene

Ana Márquez-Greene

Greene performed songs from the album recently at the New York jazz club Smoke.

On the morning of the shooting, he was teaching and got a call from his wife — both are Hartford natives who have been together since high school — and he raced home preparing himself for anything. Many friends and relatives rushed to his house, including Mr. Connick, whose band Mr. Green was a member of for a long time. Mr. Connick later wrote a song called “Love Wins” for Ana and recorded it with Mr. Greene.

The horror that unfolded, Mr. Greene said, “has changed me as a human and you reflect that humanity in your art.”

“It shapes you as an artist when you lose something so precious,” he said on a recent Friday night between sets at Smoke jazz club in Manhattan. His band featured an all-star lineup of Renee Rosnes on piano, Ben Wolfe on bass and Jeff (Tain) Watts on drums.

Between songs, Mr. Greene thanked the audience for their prayers and condolences, which help him keep “strengthening day by day,” he said. The audience applauded after he talked about what happened last December and urged the audience to “show your love for each other often.”

“With that in mind,” he said, the next song would be Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” whose lyrics speak about those three words being hummed by the April breeze, echoed by the hills and seconded by the dawn.

This sounds like a wonderful tribute to a beautiful child.

The world loses two jazz greats

One played the piano and hosted a wonderful radio show; the other was a writer who wrote about jazz and blues (among many other things) and whose prose style was said to reflect those musical styles.  Marion McPartland was 95; Albert Murray, 97.

Marion McPartland was a white English woman in the world of American jazz first coming to New York in 1964.  Her New York Times obituary quotes the critic Leonard Feather

“Oh, she’ll never make it: she’s English, white and a woman.”

Mr. Feather, she [McPartland] added, “always used to tell me it was a joke, but I don’t think he meant it as a joke.”

Little did he know.  After many several years  of touring with her husband, Jimmy McPartland’s group, she struck out on her own.

The bare-bones accompaniment of bass and drums was always Ms. McPartland’s preferred format, but she also appeared in concert with symphony orchestras, and in 1996 she recorded an album of her own compositions, “Silent Pool,” on which she was accompanied by a string orchestra.

Marian McPartland, who became an articulate spokeswoman for jazz, and the jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge around the 1950s.

Marian McPartland, who became an articulate spokeswoman for jazz, and the jazz trumpeter Roy Eldridge around the 1950s.

But what she will most be remembered for in the United States is “Piano Jazz”.

Ms. McPartland’s contributions to jazz were not limited to her piano playing. An enthusiastic and articulate spokeswoman for the music, she lectured at schools and colleges and wrote for Down Beat, Melody Maker and other publications. (A collection of her essays, “All in Good Time,” was published in 1987 and reissued in 2003.) Most notably, for more than 30 years her “Piano Jazz” was one of the most popular jazz shows ever on the radio.

The show, produced by South Carolina’s public radio network, made its debut on NPR in 1978. The format was simple: an informal interview interspersed with extemporaneous duets.

“I didn’t have any idea I’d be good at something like this,” Ms. McPartland told The Associated Press in 2000. “I certainly never thought people would know me because of my voice.” But she proved a natural.

As its title suggests, “Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz” was originally a show about piano players. But the guest list came to include vocalists, among them Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett and even Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello, as well as trumpeters, saxophonists and other instrumentalists.

I listened on the radio and in recent years often streamed it though headphones at work.  She was understated in her interview style and never got too tangled in the technical aspects of the music she and her guest were performing.  Her voice was instantly recognizable.

In her last years Ms. McPartland received numerous honors. She was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2000, given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2004, inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2007 and named a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.

And she continued playing almost to the end. Reviewing her appearance at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Manhattan the night before her 90th birthday in 2008, Nate Chinen wrote in The Times, “Ms. McPartland still has her pellucid touch and her careful yet comfortable style.”

Albert Murray was not a musician.  In fact he was about as different from Marion McPartland as one could be.  Murray was black (a term he disliked), he was born in the segregated American south, and he was an academic.  The New York Times said in his obituary

As blacks fought in the streets for civil rights, black integrationists and black nationalists dueled in the academy and in books and essays. And Mr. Murray was in the middle of the debate, along with writers and artists including James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Romare Bearden and his good friend Ralph Ellison.

One of his boldest challenges was directed toward a new black nationalist movement that was gathering force in the late 1960s, drawing support from the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam, and finding advocates on university faculties and among alienated young blacks who believed that they could never achieve true equality in the United States.

With a freewheeling prose style influenced by jazz and the blues — Duke Ellington called him “the unsquarest man I know” — Mr. Murray challenged conventional assumptions about art, race and American identity in books like the essay collection “Stomping the Blues” and the memoir “South to a Very Old Place.” He gave further expression to those views in a series of autobiographical novels, starting with “Train Whistle Guitar” in 1974.

Mr. Murray insisted that integration was necessary, inescapable and the only path forward for the country. And to those — blacks and whites alike — who would have isolated “black culture” from the American mainstream, he answered that it couldn’t be done. To him the currents of the black experience — expressed in language and music and rooted in slavery — run through American culture, blending with European and American Indian traditions and helping to give it its very shape and sound.

“The United States is not a nation of black and white people,” Mr. Murray wrote. “Any fool can see that white people are not really white, and that black people are not black.” America, he maintained, “even in its most rigidly segregated precincts,” was a “nation of multicolored people,” or Omni-Americans: “part Yankee, part backwoodsman and Indian — and part Negro.”

Albert Murray in his home in Harlem in 1998

Albert Murray in his home in Harlem in 1998

He wrote often about blues and jazz as part of the American culture.

In Mr. Murray’s view, the essential bond between American culture and what he called Negro culture is the shared embrace of a “blues aesthetic,” which he said permeated the works of black musicians, writers and artists and was being increasingly adopted by whites. To Mr. Murray, the blues were “the genuine legacy of slavery,” Laura Ciolkowski, a professor of literature now at Columbia University, wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 2002.

“For him,” she wrote, “blues music, with its demands for improvisation, resilience and creativity, is at the heart of American identity.”

In “Stomping the Blues” (1976), he argued that the essence of the blues was the tension between the woe expressed in its lyrics and the joy infusing its melodies. He saw the blues, and jazz, as an uplifting response to misery.

“The blues is not the creation of a crushed-spirited people,” Mr. Murray said years later. “It is the product of a forward-looking, upward-striving people.”

He next began a long collaboration with Count Basie on his autobiography, “Good Morning Blues,” which was published in 1985, a year after Basie’s death. Along with the writer Stanley Crouch and the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Mr. Murray was actively involved in the creation of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the institution’s first permanent jazz program.

Murray tried to help us understand that our American culture is not purely one thing or another, but a mix.  That mix is what makes us different from any other country in the world.

I couldn’t find any mention of a meeting between McPartland and Murray, but I can’t imagine that they never met.  I hope they are with the other jazz and blues performers and critics gone before them talking and improvising.

Photograph of Marion McPartland:  Bob Parent/Getty Images

Photograph of Albert Murray:  Suzanne Mapes/Associated Press

Singing the Anthem

I’ve always thought that the Star Spangled Banner was a poor choice for our national song.  It is very militaristic for one thing.  For another, it is very difficult to sing.  I would much prefer America. But since I don’t think there will be a change in my lifetime, I have fun by watching the rendition before ball games and other events and seeing how it is done and whether the singer makes it all the way through it without an error.  Or adding horrible extra notes.  (And I don’t blame Beyoncé for lip-synching at the Inauguration.  She was singing outdoors with the band on a totally different level of the platform.  Besides, she totally nailed it live at the Super Bowl.)  But watching and listening is a spot in itself.

We went to the Brockton Rox opening game a few weeks ago.  (They play in a Futures League.)  An elementary school band played and were terrific.  But we’ve also seen some clinkers.  When it is a kid, you want to give them an “A” for trying.  An adult, not so much.  The New York Times had a recent story singing at ballparks.

It is a notoriously difficult song to sing, a musical high-wire act, with an octave-and-a-half range and a devilishly spaced melody. You usually sing it a cappella in a stadium where the echo hits your ear a half-beat behind the melody, and the lyrics are so familiar and fraught with meaning that every fan in the stands can hear the slightest mistake or botched note.

“It’s certainly nerve-racking,” said David Cook, the pop singer and “American Idol” winner who will sing the anthem on the Fourth of July in Kansas City, Mo., just before the Royals take on the Cleveland Indians. “For every person who wants to talk about Whitney Houston killing it years ago, 10 people want to talk about Roseanne Barr butchering it, so there is always that fear that ‘I better not forget the words to this song.’”

And most people like it done straight.  No Jimi Hendrix.   Me, I like his version.

Not all baseball anthems are done traditionally. Pop musicians who are ardent baseball fans often jump at the chance to do the honors. Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist of the band Metallica, who grew up in San Francisco, and James Hetfield, the band’s lead singer, opened a game for the San Francisco Giants with a distorted guitar duet of the anthem in May this year. Steven Tyler and James Taylor have done the anthem in their own inimitable styles for their home team, the Red Sox, at Fenway Park in Boston.

Mr. Steinberg, a senior adviser to the Red Sox who has worked as an executive for the Dodgers and the Orioles, said it has become common for rock stars to try their hands at the anthem ever since Joan Jett had success singing it for her beloved Orioles in the late 1980s. Boston being the cradle of the Revolution, however, the Red Sox tend to go with a military theme on the Fourth of July, Mr. Steinberg said, so the team has asked Musician Second Class Nina Church, a vocalist with the Navy Band Northeast in Newport, R.I. to do the honors in her dress whites.

Petty Officer Church, 29, said that as a member of the Navy band, “you could call me a professional at singing the national anthem.” The key to pulling it off, she said, is to start on the right note. “The range of the piece is an octave plus a fifth,” she explained. “A lot of people start a little too high.”

But even Petty Officer Church stumbled a little, but recovered well.  I wonder if the Dropkick Murphy’s have done the Anthem at Fenway?  Don’t think so.  That might be interesting.  Or I read someplace that Justin Verlander, the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers can sing.  Maybe he can start a new trend:  Players who sing the Anthem.

Clockwise from top left: STEVEN TYLER at Fenway Park in 2002; CHAKA KHAN in 2008 at Dodger Stadium; JAMES HETFIELD in San Francisco in May; ROSEANNE BARR at a San Diego Padres game in 1990; MARC ANTHONY at Shea Stadium in 2001; and TAYLOR SWIFT at Dodger Stadium in 2007.

Clockwise from top left: STEVEN TYLER at Fenway Park in 2002; CHAKA KHAN in 2008 at Dodger Stadium; JAMES HETFIELD in San Francisco in May; ROSEANNE BARR at a San Diego Padres game in 1990; MARC ANTHONY at Shea Stadium in 2001; and TAYLOR SWIFT at Dodger Stadium in 2007.

Photographs: Clockwise from top left: Elise Amendola/AP; Stephen Dunn/Getty; Jason O. Watson/Getty; Andy Hayt/AP; Ray Stubblebine/Reuters; Kevork Djansezian/AP

Marilyn Monroe, Hal Schaefer, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra and the wrong door

The New York Times published an obituary for Hal Schaefer today.  I had never heard of him, but this picture caught my eye.

This is Mr. Schaefer with Marilyn Monroe in 1953.

Hal Schaefer was a vocal coach, arranger and jazz pianist.  According to the Times

In his professional life as well as his personal one, Mr. Schaefer was often the least famous person in the room; his musical career was substantial but largely uncelebrated. A former prodigy who was inspired by the clean, tumbling melodic lines of Art Tatum, Mr. Schaefer played with big bands led by Benny Carter and Harry James and was the accompanist for Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine, Vic Damone and other singers. Before he was 21 he led a trio that performed at the intermission of Duke Ellington concerts.

He was also an arranger and a modern jazz composer and for more than 50 years performed and recorded as a soloist and as a leader of small ensembles and jazz orchestras.

“A romantic with a rhythmic soul,” John S. Wilson of The New York Times called Mr. Schaefer after a performance at the Kool Jazz Festival in New York in 1982. “Mr. Schaefer is very much a mainstream pianist, but he has his own way of looking at the mainstream, enlivening the relatively standard repertory that he played with fresh and entertaining ideas.”

Mr. Schaefer probably made his biggest imprint as an arranger and vocal coach in Hollywood, where he often worked with the choreographer Jack Cole. He coached Monroe through “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” her signature number in the 1953 movie “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (he arranged the music as well), and Jane Russell, who also starred in that film. He also worked on other movies with Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Grable and Judy Garland. He wrote film scores for “The Money Trap,” a 1965 police drama with Glenn Ford, Elke Sommer and Rita Hayworth, and “The Amsterdam Kill,” a 1977 thriller with Robert Mitchum.

But Schaefer was also involved in an incident involving DiMaggio, Sinatra, and Monroe.  According to his obituary

On Nov. 5, 1954, not long after Marilyn Monroe filed for divorce from Joe DiMaggio, DiMaggio was having dinner with Frank Sinatra when he heard, probably from a private investigator, that if he went to a certain apartment house on Waring Avenue in West Hollywood, he’d find her in the arms of another man.

There are different accounts of what happened later that night, but what is certain is that a party of men, including DiMaggio and Sinatra, showed up at the address and someone broke down the door of the ostensible love nest, terrifying the woman who lived there, Florence Kotz — sometimes identified as Florence Kotz Ross — who was in bed by herself.

“Mrs. Ross was fast asleep about 11 p.m. when five or six men suddenly battered down the back door to her apartment, tearing it from its hinges and leaving glass strewn on the floor,” The Los Angeles Times reported, adding, “A bright flash of light was shone in her eyes and she was confronted with a number of men, some of whom seemed to be carrying an instrument which at first sight she believed to be an ax.”

The incident, which came to be known as “the wrong door raid,” resulted in a lawsuit filed by Mrs. Ross against Sinatra, DiMaggio and four others, which was settled for $7,500. And where was Monroe?

Los Angeles Times story from June 2, 1957 had an account that was similar.  But added this detail.

The men fled and Ross reported the incident to police as a burglary. Then Confidential magazine published a story about the raid in its February 1957 issue, touching off the Legislature’s investigation of scandal magazines and private detectives.  Ross learned the identities of the raiders when one of the private detectives, Philip Irwin, told the story to the investigative committee and the grand jury.

Sinatra received similar treatment when he was served with a subpoena in Palm Springs at 4 a.m. on Feb. 16, 1957, and he filed a complaint with the LAPD about the incident. Although his testimony was contradicted by others, Sinatra was adamant that he remained in a Cadillac parked outside the complex during the raid.

Private detective Barney Ruditsky, Irwin’s boss, testified before the grand jury that Sinatra and DiMaggio remained outside while he and Irwin broke down the door. During the investigation, Irwin testified that he had been beaten up by six men after he told an official of the State’s Bureau of Private Investigators and Adjusters his version of the raid. He also testified that he hadn’t sold the details to Confidential magazine.

In September 1958, the “wrong door” lawsuit against DiMaggio, Sinatra, Irwin, Ruditsky, Patsy D’Amore and John Seminola was settled for $7,500 ($53,739.63 USD 2006).

And where was Monroe during all of this? Next door, visiting girlfriend Sheila Stewart Renour at 8120 Waring.

Wrong.  Monroe was, Schaefer claimed, with him.

A female friend of hers claimed at the time that they had been together that evening, but years later, Hal Schaefer, a jazz pianist who was also Monroe’s vocal coach and who had become her confidant and romantic partner, admitted in interviews that he and Monroe were trysting in an apartment just a few yards away.

“We were very close to making love; I don’t remember the stage we were at, but I would say half-dressed,” Mr. Schaefer recalled. He added: “And all of a sudden for some reason, Marilyn got these vibrations, and we went over to the window and saw this group standing across the street, one of whom was Joe DiMaggio and another was Frank Sinatra. They all came en masse and broke this door in, demolished it. We scrambled to get out the back way, and we made it, luckily.”

Frank, Joe and their pals got off easy even for accounting for inflation.  And we are left with this interesting story told by a man who once loved her.

Wrong_door_8122

The wrong door.