Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz, too.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.


 
 

KLEZKLEVELAND

KlezKanada is going on right now. Come on, America, let’s compete against the Canadians. Let’s do a full-blown Midwest klez conference. Not in Chicago, thank you, and not in some bubble town like Madison, Wisc., or Ann Arbor, Mich.

KlezKleveland. Where exactly? My house.

Accommodations: tent camping on my front lawn. There will be shower trucks and port-a-potties in the driveway. Don Johns — only the best.

Gentiles welcome, of course.

Do I need to play an instrument to attend?

No.

Do I need to know Yiddish?

Just chutzpah and putz.

Faculty?

Maybe. 

Sports?

Spinning to the music of KnishKnash, a NYC band.

Teen activities?

Yes. Teens will put on a play about scrap and Midwest Jews, based on Leonard Tanenbaum’s memoir, Junk is not a Four-Letter Word.

KlezKleveland ends with a fireworks display over Shaker Lakes. Look for a KlezKleveland flyer in your mailbox. Look for the next eight years.

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August 21, 2019   4 Comments

POOL, PING PONG
AND MARCHING BAND

My father’s father, Louis Soltzberg, was run over by a May Co. truck in 1924 and had a metal plate put in his head. After that he began hanging out at the pool hall a lot. My great aunt once told me, “If they had given out prize money for playing pool like they do now, he would have been a millionaire.”

My dad steered his kids toward ping pong, away from pool.  Ping pong was in our basement. To shoot pool, you had to go to Severance Center. There was a big sign at Severance: “No Hats.” That was because black customers liked to wear stingy brim hats while shooting, and the owners didn’t want too many blacks.

My dad entered a ping pong tournament at Danny Vegh’s club and got clobbered by a Hungarian. After that, Toby played only in our basement.

My father was good with racquets, and at sports in general. His brothers were good, too. His brother Milt was a fast-pitch softball player, and brother Sol played football at Western Reserve. My dad, Toby, took me to annual indoor track meets sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. I kept trying to find Ohio State and Michigan on the jerseys, but it was all Seton Hall, Holy Cross and Villanova. Were those colleges?

We lived three houses from the public tennis courts. My dad hit tennis balls with me after work. He would say, “Racquet back. Hit it now. Racquet back. Hit it now.” He was the color man without much color. I didn’t like his constant patter. To rile him, I’d mutter, “You stink.” You meant me. That drove my dad nuts. And I would say, “I quit!”

I liked music, too, and particularly the intersection of music and sports. Ohio State’s marching band had no woodwind section. It was all brass, and my parents wouldn’t buy me a trumpet. I had my Uncle Al’s hand-me-down clarinet. I stopped begging for a trumpet around ninth grade. I got used to the clarinet. In twelfth grade I dropped marching band altogether. I wasn’t marching anymore (to quote Phil Ochs, another South Euclid boy).

The marching band director at Cleveland Heights High – a nearby school — kept his “marching” band stationary in the end zone. That would have suited me, but I was at Charles F. Brush High, and we marched. I didn’t like learning the marching patterns.

My dad never saw me march, or play with my klezmer band, for that matter. He died before I got it going. I still play tennis. Ping pong, every three years. Pool, every six years.


Tomorrow night (7 p.m, Thurs., Aug. 15)
Funk A Deli / Yidd Cup
Free outdoor concert
Walter Stinson Community Park
2313 Fenwick Road
University Heights, Ohio
Be there!

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August 14, 2019   3 Comments

THINK YIDDISH, ACT BRITISH

Bill Miller, who went to law school in South Dakota, wore a cowboy hat to our sons’ Little League games. Jews — the subject — came up, as it tends to around me. Bill ended our conversation with, “Think Yiddish, act British.” This was a new expression to my ears. Also, this guy — Bill Miller — was Jewish? Bill said he was inching his way back to the East Coast. He had lived in South Dakota, Iowa, and now Ohio. He had grown up on Long Island.

Bill got me to thinking about my personal “Think Yiddish, Act British” (TYAB) playbook. I had learned the cardinal rule of TYAB, courtesy of my mom: “Don’t make a scene.” If anybody in my family ever said “Jewish” in a restaurant, for instance, my mother would glance around to see if anybody heard. Forget Jew — the word — I rarely heard that growing up.

My dad couldn’t read (sound out) Hebrew. My mother could. My father’s parents were “basically communists,” an elderly cousin told me. That was a bit of an exaggeration. My grandparents were entrepreneurs with a socialist background. Par for the course.

We put out Easter eggs and got Christmas presents. No tree. No yelling. At High Holidays, my mom would write my teachers: “Please excuse Bert’s absence from school due to religious observances.” My temple held services on Sunday, not Saturday.

Jewish got more play beginning in 1967. I was surprised when my parents attended an emergency fundraiser for Israel. A lot of American Jews stepped forward during the Six-Day War. Abba Eban, at the U.N., was my hero. The possibility of a second Holocaust seemed very real. A couple kids in my high school began wearing Jewish Power buttons, courtesy of a button shop in Greenwich Village. I didn’t have the guts to wear the button. The button-wearing kids had grown up in the Jewish neighborhood, not with the Italians like I had. After the Israeli victory in 1967, the TYAB playbook became nearly obsolete.

At my dad’s funeral in 1986, my father’s brother Milt baited the officiating rabbi: “One place I’d never go is Israel.”

“Why is that?” the rabbi asked.

“Our mother was an ardent Zionist who wanted us to move there, and I didn’t want to.”

My mother questioned Milt’s propriety several hours later. According to my mom, 1) Uncle Milt’s mother had been a Zionist, but had never urged her kids to make aliyah. 2) Milt was a jackass for making a scene.

An etiolated version of TYAB was alive. But is TYAB in effect when you’re totally among Jews?

Yidd Cup/ Funk A Deli  plays a concert 7 pm Thurs, Aug. 15, at Walter Stinson Community Park. That’s somewhere in University Heights, Ohio. (hint: 2313Fenwick Rd.) Free. Outdoors.

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August 7, 2019   2 Comments

YOU ARE THERE: 1973 PART 2

Cleveland was a hell for me last month. But not a bad hell. My mother lined up dates for me. The dates were with daughters of my mother’s friends. I took girls to bars and ordered 7&7s. That was my booze repertoire: 7&7.

I got feedback about the dates through back channels — info my mother gleaned at bridge games. Some girls liked me, some didn’t. One girl thought I was “a little weird.”

She was weird! She had no business dragging me through a military courtroom  — her dad’s den with World War II medals on the wall. “What are your plans? What do you do?” I wasn’t dating him.

What’s an apricot sour? That’s what I want to know. The daughter ordered that at the bar.

Right now I’m in Bodega Bay, California, sitting on the dock. A friend from college works at the marine lab here. I’m eating squid. Or maybe it’s a big snail. Wastin’ time?

2019 update: I stayed about a month in California and left for Latin America. I hitched and rode buses from Tijuana to Colombia. I stayed in Colombia a couple months, teaching English. In early 1974 I returned to Cleveland. My autobio: I Stayed in Cleveland.

Dunk A Feli / Funk A Deli / Yiddishe Cup plays an outdoor concert 7 pm Thurs., Aug 15, in University Heights, Ohio.  Walter Stinson Community Park, 2313 Fenwick Road. Used to be a school site — Northwood. You can bring beer and wine to the show. And hopefully there will be free ice cream bars, too. We’ll play klezmer and soul music and a combination of the two.

 

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July 31, 2019   1 Comment

YOU ARE THERE: 1973 PART 1

Beachwood, Ohio  1973

I live with my parents at the Mark IV, a high-rise apartment by the freeway. I’m living with my parents at age 23. I want to go to the North Pole. Chekhov said, “People do not go to the North Pole and fall off icebergs. They go to offices, quarrel with their wives and eat cabbage soup.”

My dad got mad at me because I didn’t want to save five dollars on traveler’s checks by shopping at various banks. “You aren’t a millionaire yet,” he said, scratching himself. He was wearing just underpants.

Tonight at a party — a parents’ party — Zoltan Rich, a Hungarian know-it-all, said, “The students protest for entirely selfish reasons. You know what the chief word is we’re missing — the key to the whole discussion? It’s obligation. Parents have abrogated their responsibility.”

It’s time to go. A guy from Case Western Reserve said he could give me a ride out west tomorrow. I won’t come back here for at least six months. My mother has a bridge game here tomorrow. If I’m within 100 feet of that game, I die.

I’ll try the Rand McNally approach to self-discovery . . .

loayl to axe 1

It’s 3 a.m. in Utah and I’m sleeping under a picnic bench. I hear deer. Or bears? I hear semis shifting. What’s up? I don’t even like “freak” America. Deep down I’m straighter than David Eisenhower. I might wind up back in Cleveland. Or maybe I’ll settle out in California.

 

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July 24, 2019   5 Comments

THE MICKEY KATZ NON-MOVIE

Eric Krasner wanted to make a movie about Mickey Katz, the Cleveland-born klezmer clarinetist and comedian. Eric came to Cleveland from Atlanta to look around. He wanted to see where Mickey was born, and where Mickey’s wife grew up, and where Mickey’s father’s tailor shop had been. I said, “I’m not a filmmaker — and I don’t want to tell you what to do — but if you want another opinion, I don’t think you should show every place Mickey took a shit.”

1959 album

1959 album

Eric and I visited the Euclid Avenue Temple (now Liberty Hill Baptist Church), where Mickey was married in 1930. Eric filmed the men’s room and said, “This is where Mickey urinated after his wedding.” Eric asked me why Katz (1909-1985) wasn’t more acclaimed in Cleveland. For one thing, Mickey is not well-known here. He’s not Bob Feller or Superman, or Pekar.

Eric and I went to Glenville, an East Side neighborhood where Mickey spent his teenage years. We found the Glenville Hall of Fame but no Mickey plaque. At Katz’s birthplace, near East 51st and Woodland, Eric drew a sign, “Birthplace of Mickey Katz 1909,” and hung it on a fence and filmed the sign.

Eric announced on Facebook he is giving up on the Mickey Katz film. Mickey’s son Joel Grey has declined to participate in Eric’s film, and that’s a big neg. The movie is toyt.

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July 17, 2019   3 Comments

RESPECT MY CHECK

I write about 50 business checks a month. The other day I hit check number 10,000. This made think of some old-timers (not me, other old timers).

liner notes I’ve had tenants whose personal checks went into the 8000s. I respected those people, their age, and their numbers. Also, I knew their checks wouldn’t bounce. The scariest check number is 101. Young tenants don’t even know how to write checks. I have to fill in certain lines for them.

That 10,000. Please respect it.

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July 10, 2019   2 Comments

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY,
KLEZ-STYLE

I followed klezmer clarinetist Sid Beckerman around KlezKamp — the annual music conference in the Catskills. Sid talked to me. Big deal? Yes. Sid was paid staff, and I was just a paying student. Staff had a lot of demands on their time.

Sid had no ego. Sid was “discovered” by klez revivalists and made his first record at age 70. (He died in 2007 at 88.) Sid had a proprietary book of his own tunes. The book was nicknamed “the sheets,” short for “sheet music.” Sid’s sheets were guarded — quarantined — by pianist Pete Sokolow, who had transcribed the tunes.

Sid Beckerman 1998

Sid Beckerman 1998

I wanted a copy of the sheets, so I gave Pete a xerox of a 1938 magazine article about “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” hoping to get in Pete’s good graces. Pete was not impressed. He said, “The sheets? What sheets? I’m so busy. I’m working up an arrangement for fifteen people. What did Sid say?”

Sid said, “What transcriptions?”

I offered Sid $20 for the sheets, which he turned down.

A year later, 1991, the sheets came out as the Klezmer Plus! Folio by Tara Publications. Everybody could now buy the sheets. Pete and Sid had just been protecting their intellectual property.

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July 3, 2019   1 Comment

I RENTED TO MODIGLIANI

Brian said he was good for the rent. He said, “I’m not like that [a deadbeat]. I pay. I’m an artist. I have $750 tied up in PayPal right now that won’t be released.” His paintings were dark and red like Franz Kline’s. He didn’t pay and I evicted him. The good news: he paid after the legal hearing, so he stuck around. I said, “Modigliani didn’t pay his rent either.”

“The guy who did the long faces?”

“Yep.”

Brian didn’t pay his rent the next month, so I evicted him again, and this time he moved  out, and left a wall of splattered paint, like Jackson Pollock. Also, he wrecked the bathroom floor because he never used the shower curtain. He left one painting, which I offered to the building manager.

headacheThe bailiff bumped into me at the city court and said, “Your tenant knocked over a couple display shelves in Drug Mart and is under psych observation for a couple weeks.”

“He’s already out of my apartment,” I said.

I told an employee about Brian. This worker liked to stay up-to-date on horror stories. The employee said, “There are two sides to this. Everybody is mentally ill.”

“He sold paintings in Germany on the internet,” I said.

“Everybody is a star on the internet. There are two sides.”

At least.

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June 26, 2019   1 Comment

THE AGONY STICK

The clarinet can injure your right thumb, which holds a disproportionate amount of weight when you’re standing. I had a pain in my thumb that lasted one and a half years. I drove to Cincinnati to see a specialist. Then I did Alexander Technique and every other technique short of amputation. The clarinet is not only the licorice stick, it’s also the agony stick.

klez maskHere are another couple reasons the clarinet is the agony stick: The fingering patterns for clarinet are harder than sax, and the clarinet has the “break,” the awkward leap from A to B in the middle register. And the clarinet sounds horrible the first year or two you play it. I asked a sax guy in a big band if he played clarinet. He said, “I have a clarinet.”

—–

Theodore "Toby" Stratton, age 67, 1984.

Theodore “Toby” Stratton, age 67, 1984.

Hey, I have something else for you to read. My latest essay in City Journal.
The essay, “Beating My Dad,” is about how I hope to outlive my father.

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June 19, 2019   No Comments

TOWER OF POWER

The bride can ditch her own wedding. She gets the flu, or a headache, or a swollen ankle, and lies down for a few hours. Misses the whole party. Or what if the mom dies during the “Chicken Dance”? That happened. Not at my gig, but at my video guy’s gig. Did he get it on tape? I don’t know. My video guy died.

The video guy had a video rack which I called the Tower of Power. He barely budged from the rack the whole night. That bugged me. For instance, when Yiddishe Cup strolled table-to-table taking requests, the video guy would tell me which tables to go to. Like “Can you do the head table next?”

I thought to myself, “Why should I do the head table next? I’m in charge of this band.” I told him no. The head table was nowhere near us, but it was near the Tower of Power. I said, “Why do you want me to go over there now?”

“Because I want to sit down,” he said.

Screw that.

“I’ll remember this when you want a favor,” he said.

Then he died. I didn’t know he was gravely ill.

Passover, larry david, no cavities

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June 12, 2019   2 Comments

JEOPARDY! AND MATH

I like the woman who beat James Holzhauer on Jeopardy! Monday night. I think she’ll go far. (If she lost last night, please ignore this paragrah.)

When my kid Ted — he was 23 at the time — won on Jeopardy!, our family had to keep his wins a secret for a few months. If the news got out, Ted wouldn’t get the money, for one thing. Jeopardy! tapes its shows a couple months in advance. How does Jeopardy! keep the taping results a secret? [Maybe Robert Knecht Schmidt will read this “Klezmer Guy” post and tell us. He’s a former J! contestant and expert.]

Relevant to this — today’s date, June 5. For Ted’s second game, the Final Jeopardy category was Middle Eastern Affairs, and the “answer” was “The Arab-Israeli War that started on June 5, 1967, ended with a cease-fire on this date in Israel.”

Ted knew about the Six-Day War, and so did the two goys who rounded out the panel. I — watching at home — did some easy math; I added 6 to June 5 and got the answer: June 11.

Wrong, Pops. It’s June 10. (Use your fingers to figure out the right answer, and while you’re at it, check out the math concept “fencepost error” on Wikipedia)

Ted answered correctly, and the others got it wrong. I have never been more flabbergasted.
fencepost

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June 5, 2019   No Comments

ALLEN GINSBERG TOLD ME
THE WORLD WAS ENDING

When Allen Ginsberg visited my college poetry class in 1969, he said we only had five years left. He said, “I’m afraid to read the papers.” And he said Burroughs claimed we had less than five years.

schilling and bert 1970

Mark Schilling (L) and Bert Stratton. 1970, hitchhiking from Cleveland to A2. Sign reads “Ann Arbor.”

How was I supposed to get through pre-med if the world was ending? The Ann Arbor Bank sign read 15 degrees. The sign at the First United Methodist Church was “Are you going through life with a kindergartner’s conception of God?” Probably. Ginsberg had a beard.

The first Earth Day was in April 1970. People suddenly were talking about duck-down and goose-down sleeping bags instead of the Vietnam war. I bought a bag for $35. The feathers kept coming out the seams. It was sewn-through, so where the thread was, there was no down. The seams were supposed to keep the down from rolling down to one end. It didn’t work too well. I couldn’t even turn in it. It was called a mummy bag. I felt dead. But the world didn’t end.

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May 29, 2019   4 Comments

I’M AROUND

This blog has been around 10 years. Sometimes I think of hanging it up, but then I post a rerun and carry on. Over all, I enjoy writing the blog.

If I hadn’t started the blob, I wouldn’t have had any op-eds in national publications. My first New York Times piece  — about my mom shopping at Heinen’s — was written for this blog, but then I figured, hey, why not first send it to the Times for Mother’s Day. I sent it to “oped@nytimes.com,” and bingo, millions of people read the op-ed, including my ex-girlfriends, long-lost college and high school friends, Obama, Kissinger, and Dylan (or so I imagined).

My mother and father at Ohio Stadium, 1959. Julia and Toby Stratton.

My mother and father at Ohio Stadium, 1959.
Julia and Toby Stratton

Some people don’t want to be in this blog. I once showed a friend a rough draft about him, and he said, “I’m a private person. Please don’t run that.” And the piece was all flattery, too. Another time, a woman asked me to delete a post about her because she didn’t want me to be remembered the way I remembered her.

I started the blob to leave footprints in the sand, as the great Mileti said about his arena at Richfield, Ohio. I wonder if my kids, after I’m gone, will pay GoDaddy to keep the electricity on at this site. I doubt they will, and I don’t blame them. I might quit this blog at any time. Just a heads-up. I don’t owe you a 30-days’ written notice.

Thanks to everybody who write comments. Have you noticed how it’s 90-percent guys who comment?

The hard-boiled reason I started the blog: to promote Yiddishe Cup’s 2009 CD, Klezmer Guy. (Buy the CD here.) What’s a CD? What’s a blog?

 

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May 22, 2019   7 Comments

EASTER SUNDAY SNAKE JOB

lolly gag
I ignored
several voicemails during Seder. Finally, at 11:15 pm, I listened to my messages:”You really should call me. The main sewer line is backing up and my snake broke. I know it’s Passover but you should call me.”

I talked to my plumber and a couple other guys. My best shot was Roto-Rooter (commercial division), which a few years back had cleared the line with a water jet. My second choice was a plumber from Bay Village with a big snake.

Mr. Bay Village showed up the next morning — Easter morning. RotoRooter — I never heard from them.

A store tenant, Rush Inn Bar & Grille, was part of the problem. Rush Inn has the fourth-best french fries in Cleveland, according to Scene Magazine, so the building’s sewer line, shared by all the tenants, sometimes gets greasy.

I got the snake-job invoice the other day: “Opened line at 103 feet just before line tied to city sewer. Blockage was grease, rag and a shirt in pipe just before main. $867 (holiday rate).”

I’m not complaining. I‘m happy Bay Village showed up. An Easter Sunday of floating fries, feces and baked ham would have been miserable. And I had a nice Seder.

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May 15, 2019   2 Comments

ALMOST PLAYING GERMANY

A Yiddish singer from Massachusetts used to skewer fellow Jewish musicians on the internet for performing in Germany. One of the singer’s lines was “Nobody looks good in brown lipstick.” (Meaning, don’t kiss German tush.) “Heaven forfend that any unpleasantness intrudes upon your pursuit of the deutschmarks.”

college admissionsNevertheless, most American klez bands wanted to play in Germany. Yiddishe Cup wanted toA klez festival in Fuerth, Germany, said the festival committee was looking forward to a Yiddishe Cup appearance. Then the festival switched leaders, and I didn’t hear from the organizers for a long time. I emailed a few more times. No answer. Finally, I phoned Germany and asked the receptionist, “Do you speak English?”

He said, “I’ll give it a try,” in easy-breezy English. His only bad line was the last: “Ve vill not be needing you.”

But let’s not forget, Yidd Cup has played abroad: the Windsor, Ontario JCC.


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May 8, 2019   1 Comment

LACTOSE INTOLERANT

I shot a cow because it was crippled and couldn’t walk. Then my dad sold the dead cow to the Amish for meat. We couldn’t sell it to anybody else because it wasn’t “choice.” My dad loved everything about cows: barns, ice cream, blintzes. He had me throw baseballs against the side of  the barn like Bob Feller used to. My dad thought I might be the next Rapid Robert. Didn’t happen.

milkI planned to attend Ohio State to major in dairy science, but my high school buddies — all non-dairy types — talked me into Michigan, where I majored in diary science (creative writing).

After college I spent a year in Israel at a kibbutz milking cows in the refet (dairy barn). I like unpasteurized milk, but it’s hard to find. I like ordering milk at bars. Women love that. They say, “James Cagney!”

I have zero tolerance for the lactose intolerant.

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May 1, 2019   1 Comment

NOTHING ETHNIC

“Don’t play any klezmer music, nothing ethnic,” the mayor’s assistant said. Why did the city hire Yiddishe Cup?

Our contract rider stipulated a fruit platter, bottled water and diet colas. A good gig, food-wise, but what were we going to play? I said, “You don’t want to alienate anybody with ethnic music?”

Wolf & Hake Soltzberg (with unknown child). Russia. Bert's great-grandparents

Wolf & Hake Soltzberg (with  daughter). Ukraine. Bert’s great-grandparents

“That’s the mayor’s thought,” she said.

“How much non-ethnic music do you want?”

“All or mostly.”

“Can you give me a percentage?”

“Ninety-percent American music,” she said.

It was an Orange Jews crowd. With pulp. About 90-percent Jewish. (Orange, Ohio.)

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April 24, 2019   4 Comments

HECKLERS’ NIGHT OUT

There was fervid heckling at the 2018 Workmen’s Circle concert. The show, at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, featured Yiddishe Cup / Funk a Deli. The emcee was Michael Wex, author of Born to Kvetch. Wex is a kamikaze raconteur. He takes chances with his monologues, playing with self-immolation. Wex wears elves shoes to bring him luck. The shoes curl up at the tips.

The Yiddish-concert audience can be unforgiving, maybe because the show is free and attracts all types. One year Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, was heard backstage saying, “Why do they bring freaks like me here!” Maybe Dolgin was having second thoughts about how the AK crowd would respond to his hip-hop klezmer. The Cleveland audience is mostly baby-boom AKs, plus a few genuine WWII types, and some Russians and Orthodox. Every year there are fewer bodies at the show. Six-to-eight hundred is a typical turn out. Used to be around 2,000.

Miguel Wex

Miguel Wex

At last year’s concert, a man interrupted Wex with “When’s the music start!” Wex was discussing hok a tshaynik and how it related to funk (as in Funk a Deli). Wex told the heckler, “This is the music, schemdrick!”

Wex also did a comedic bit about fat Hasidim. (Before the show, Wex had noticed some yarmulkes in the crowd and wondered if his shtick would fly. He told me his humor had gone over well with frum Jews before.) In his monologue, Wex said many Hasidim don’t exercise but do seem to like to push. Wex said the inventor of Roller Derby, the late Leo Seltzer, was a former Hasid. Wex said if four Hasidim gathered in opposite corners of the Cain Park amphitheater, the four Hasidim would eventually meet in the middle of the theater and push each other. Wex said he had been to Japan (not true) and wanted to start a new sport, Frumo. A concertgoer stood up and yelled, “Stop it. Stop it right now!”

Wex said, “This is what I get paid to do. You don’t have to listen to me if you don’t want to.”

We were witnessing a Lenny Bruce reenactment — for free yet.

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April 10, 2019   11 Comments

REMEMBERING KLEZKAMP

I couldn’t get Alice, my wife, to go to KlezKamp. I went without her (1989). I took our kids Teddy and Lucy, and spent a lot of time in the game room and swimming pool that year. The pool was slightly larger than a silver dollar, and you had to coat yourself with skin cream, or get a rash. The kids and I went to New York City afterward. Lucy, then 5, made me carry her everywhere. We weren’t going too far. We ate at Popeye’s on Times Square.

When we got back to Cleveland, my wife said, “The kids look anemic!” But we ate beans and rice and lemonade at Popeye’s, Alice! (The kids weren’t crazy about the borscht and herring at KlezKamp.) Alice never trusted me with food-and-kids.

The next year Alice came to KlezKamp, and we brought the entire family, including toddler Jack. Alice took folk dancing classes but the sessions weren’t enough exercise for her. She found an indoor tennis court which was dusty and dark, like playing in a parking garage.The balls turned gray in a minute. Also, we went skiing on Christmas. I thought the slopes would be empty. No, a lot of Asians and Jews were there. Also, we sneaked into The Pines resort for ice skating. The Pines was a 1950s Borscht Belt movie. Trivia contests in the lobby.

We kept going back to KlezKamp, and every year Alice would complain, “I can’t believe we’re going to KlezKamp again!” After 12 years, we hung it up. Alice had learned all the dances, the kids were thoroughly brainwashed with klez and Yiddishkeit, and I had met all the old klez guys: Max Epstein, Felix Fibich, Danny Rubenstein, Velvel Pasternak, Paul Pincus, Leon Schwartz, Ray Musiker, Ben Bazyler, Sid Beckerman, German “That’s Herman in Russian” Goldenshteyn, Howie Leess and Elaine Hoffman Watts. KlezKamp was great.

Jack, drums, Lucy, clr, Klezkamp 1993.

Jack, drums, Lucy, clr, KlezKamp 1993.

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April 3, 2019   4 Comments