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. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

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.


 
 

I’M A SENSUOUS OLD CROOK

I’m sensuous. Everybody knows that, like I like opera and tennis. I was born above a deli in 1949. I remember the pickles. The cukes were right in the goddamn basement. My parents got the hell out of there in 1955 and moved to the suburbs, South Euclid.

I never really wanted to kill nobody. I was just an accomplice. At Chillicothe, I did kitchen work. I don’t mind getting dirty. I was numero uno with all the inmates, especially the Cleveland Italians and, of course, the Jews.

comedy judgeFor me, personally, the whole thing went kaplooey in ’79 — the year I was busted. The Crash of ’79, for me, was not a book. It was real. I made some scores after, when I got out, and blew everything on a racehorse –- owning one. I couldn’t deal with the thick-headed Italians at the track no more, to tell you the truth.

I’ve learned a few things. If your mama mixes her monthly blood with hamburger and serve it to you, you won’t hit her. What else?

I never got married. Not my thing.

One last thing, I haven’t ate ice cream in at least thirty years. It’s kids’ food and I’m no kid.

Last call: Funk a Deli / Yiddishe Cup at Cain Park, Cleveland Hts., this Sun. (June 24), 7 p.m. Evans Amphitheater. No tix necessary. Guests: Michael Wex, Steve Greenman, Kathy Sebo, Shawn Fink and Greg Selker.

yc 98 2

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June 20, 2018   3 Comments

NEW YORK CUTTING SESSION

I always wanted to cut another musician in a jam session. I wanted to draw blood! Problem: I’m a mediocre musician. I attended a wedding in New York, and the mother of the bride asked me to play some clarinet. I said, “You already have a good band.” But she insisted I play. The orchestra was a 10-piece wedding unit of NYC pros. I agreed to sit in only if my  son Jack backed me up on drums. (This was before Jack got known with Vulfpeck, so “I want my son on drums” was simply a crutch for me, not leverage to sit in.)

The bandleader and I exchanged emails prior. This was serious biz. In Cleveland, at my band’s gigs, I always let any  wedding guest sit in. Any . . . body!  It’s a wedding, not a concert. This NYC bandleader was choosy. He said the groom’s mom didn’t want anybody to ruin the “flow” of the party.

At the New York party, I stashed my axe in the synagogue front office near the social hall, and had a good time as a guest. The band had three singers, a saxophonist, trumpeter, guitarist, etc. No clarinet. They played Black Eyed Peas, Beatles,”YMCA,” Chuck Berry.

jack and bert stratton 10_22_11

Jack (L) and Bert Stratton, 2011

Toward the end of the party, the bandleader hadn’t yet called me up, so I went into the synagogue office, got my axe, and played along — from the office. I got into a solid groove. The band was back to Jewish music, playing a tune I knew really well. I strolled into the reception and took the melody from the saxophonist. My son hopped on drums. We played old-school klezmer, which hadn’t been heard all night. Success.

Next stop, Minton’s Playhouse, Harlem!

Funk A Deli, aka Yidd Cup, is at Cain Park, Cleveland, 7 pm Sun. June 24. Free. No tix necessary. Special guests are Michael Wex, Kathy Sebo, Steve Greenman, Greg Selker and Shawn Fink.

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June 13, 2018   4 Comments

THE ODDS ARE . . .

The odds are actuaries have interesting jobs. What could be better than figuring out the odds on everything? For instance, what are the odds I’ll rent a store a month sooner if I reduce rent $50? What are the odds I’ll get a gig if I reduce the size of the band?

I’ve had stores empty for years. I had a barber who wanted to put photos of “fades” in her window. I let her. It was a tough store to rent. She was a Puerto Rican Lesbian cage fighter. She had a couple tattoos on her face, like Mike Tyson. She said she was part Jewish. The odds are you’re not Jewish if you say, “I have some Jew in me.”

Me the Landlord? (No, late coroner Lester Adelson)

Me the Landlord? (No, late coroner Lester Adelson)

I rented to a tattoo parlor the other day. I used to not rent to tat shops. We call the new business a “tattoo shop and art gallery” in the lease. I think it’ll work. Tats are mainstream now. Times change. What are the odds an old Jewish landlord would be OK with tats? 55-45.


Funk a Deli, aka Yidd Cup, is at Cain Park, Cleveland 7 p.m. Sun. June 24. Free. No tix necessary. Michael Wex is the emcee. Guests artists are Steve Greenman, Kathy Sebo, Shawn Fink and Greg Selker. We’re gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

Gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

Gonna burn down Cain Park with klez and soul.

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June 6, 2018   2 Comments

THE REVOLUTION

I told my dad I couldn’t do pre-med because of The Revolution. How could I do eight years, minimum, of science during a revolution? My dad, surprisingly, did not think I was nuts. This was 1969, and he believed a revolution was coming too.

In Ann Arbor, the Jesse James Gang splintered from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The gedolim of the gang – Diana Oughton, Bill Ayers and Jim Mellen — wore hiking boots, wire rims, and were Hollywood handsome. They were several years older than me. The Jesse James Gang met in a U. building and encouraged us to take it to the streets.

Some protestors threw rocks through store windows and carried NLF flags. An acquaintance, John Gettel, threw a rock through the Ann Arbor Bank. A couple years later I saw him on a street corner in Cleveland, passing out leaflets for Lyndon LeRouche. John had moved to Cleveland to mingle with the working class. I honked, said hi, and drove off. I was on my way to my job managing apartments.

Dux Wirtanen, a Finnish-American student from the UP, got his jaw broken in a fight outside Hill Auditorium. I don’t remember why. Afterward, he drank through a straw for weeks.

I went to Cobo Hall to protest George Wallace. The funny thing was George Wallace was a good speaker. In 1968 the Michigan Daily endorsed Humphrey. Some of my friends thought the Daily should endorse Eldridge Cleaver (Peace and Freedom Party).

george c wallace

George Wallace

The Revolution petered out in late 1970, after Kent State. Youth-craziness and youth fashion shifted toward ecology — back to the land, communes, and brown rice.

I blame my flame-out in organic chemistry on The Revolution.

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May 30, 2018   4 Comments

A GOOD RISK, OR NOT?

I predict Garcia will leave a pile of junk in his apartment tomorrow. He was evicted and has to move out pronto. Today I saw him get on a bus carrying a TV and a lamp. He conned me  — and the court — because he told the court his mother had had an operation and he had to help her recover. He got a continuance and an extra week. Nice play, Garcia.

In court he showed me pictures of his daughter. He didn’t know he had a daughter until last week, he said. He said the girl’s mother had put her in the trash. I said, “Didn’t you know you had a daughter? You had an affair?”

“It was in high school,” he said. “I was pretty popular back then.” He said his daughter, later adopted, has a PhD and is a weightlifter. Maybe she can help him lift his bed, box spring and couch tomorrow.

I bet the furniture stays. Garcia has until 8 p.m. tomorrow to get the stuff out. I told him, “Everything after 8 pm is ours, even if it’s your grandma’s diamond watch.” He laughed.

I could call the bailiff on him. But what’s the hurry? If I wait another day — and he moves the stuff out — I won’t have to hire a hauler. Garcia has already gotten $500 in free rent. What’s another day? His apartment has a lot of pizza crusts and cigarette butts. No roaches.

I shouldn’t have rented to him, but he looked good on paper. He’s 51 and had a job. Now I’m thinking “51, male, and single” isn’t such a good risk.

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May 23, 2018   3 Comments

OPRIMA EL UNO

I tried Spanish to reach a human at AT&T. Oprima el uno for Spanish. That didn’t work; I got no human, just a Spanish robot. I went through the whole Spanish programa, yelling for a human, and ultimately got an adios from the machine. I’m trying to get my landline to work. It’s been out a couple days. The AT&T online repair site says the phone will be working by Friday. That’s too long.

phone push button shelburne 2015

I used to be a phone-repair guy, back in the 1970s. I’d hook up extra phones in the house I rented. I didn’t own the phones. Ohio Bell owned the phones. Ohio Bell came in one day and took one of my phones. That hurt. The Ohio Bell tech was a young woman who sweet-talked my roommate into my bedroom, where my illegal phone was (but I wasn’t).

I’m OK waiting for my landline. I’m not ranting. You think I’m ranting? I’m cool. But hey, I have a “for lease” sign up with that landline number in a vacant storefront. This is costing me dinero.

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May 16, 2018   4 Comments

MY 15 MINUTES

My band was on MTV and charted #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995. But we had a major problem — nobody wanted to be a sideman. Everyone wanted to be the star. I wrote every song, but everybody else thought they were the star.

kosher riffsI go to shul a lot now, and my rabbi’s sermon this week was “What I Learned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” My rabbi said you’ve got to balance your sideman role in life with your ego-tripping. The rabbi asked for comments from the congregation. I raised my hand and blabbed a bit about my days as a rocker. Most people at shul didn’t know I was a rocker. I mentioned my A-hole manager. I said “A-hole” in shul.

I’m a sideman now. I accept that. We’re all sideme. I mean, who’s running this band? Think about it.

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May 9, 2018   2 Comments

SHE KNEW SHE OWED ME

Gilbert, a tenant, said the plumber stole a roll of dimes from her apartment. Next, it was a jar of pennies. “I want to call the police,” she said. “I know he took it. Everything in my place has its place and it doesn’t deviate. Even the spices on top of my microwave have a place. I don’t have clutter.”

claw foot tubWhy would a plumber steal a jar of pennies?

Gilbert has to go. Or not. She’s been a tenant for seven years. Last year she caused a $800 leak and only partially covered the damages. She overflowed her tub. Cost me some bucks with the tenant below. Gilbert had said, “Take the rest of out of my security deposit when I move.” She owes about $400, still. I wonder when she’ll move.

Hey, she just moved! No forwarding address. She knew she owed.

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May 2, 2018   3 Comments

I NEED A BEER!

I yelled at my wife today. Nothing new.

I need a Bud. My neighbor — from Germany, no less — says Bud is the best beer in America.

I drink too much, I know. My kids won’t even talk to me. I should cut back. I’d like to get down to a case a week. I had a friend from childhood who ultimately drank himself to death at 42. He put away a case a day — 24 brewskis. That’s ridiculous, even by my standards. Four beers a day is what I’m shooting for.

I need a beer!


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April 25, 2018   6 Comments

RUST BELT CHIC ENOUGH?

I wasn’t in Rust Belt Chic –The Cleveland Anthology. An oversight. I’m Rust Belt chic. I’ve lived in Cleveland all my life and I use Rust-Oleum (a local brand) on fire escapes. A tenant fell on a fire escape because it was rainy and slippery, and he complained because we use good paint.

I’m not total lunch bucket like Pulitzer Prize columnist Connie Schultz, whose dad worked at the CEI plant in Ashtabula, or Rust Belt Chic co-editor Richey Piiparinen, whose dad was a Cleveland cop who got run over on the way home from an Indians game.

I told Richey I liked the anthology even though I wasn’t in it. I said, “I like it and I’m not even into the Browns-booze-and-broads thing.”

He said, “That’s good — ‘Browns, booze and broads.’”

1) The Browns. I’ve been to about five Browns games. One was the championship game in 1964. I’m good to go.

2) The Indians. I’ve been to about a game a year. Believe it or not, I’ve seen three no-hitters: Stieb, Bosman and Siebert. I’m good to go, again.

3) Booze. I’ve had very few Great Lakes Christmas Ales. No more than 10. But I’m 100 percent behind Great Lakes Brewing and heavy drinking.

4) Broads. I met a couple at the Last Moving Picture Company in 1976 who are probably dead by now from too much beer. (Pong, the video game, was big then.)

rust belt chic

David Giffels in his essay “The Lake Effect” wrote, “There was never any color in the 30 miles of sky between Akron and Cleveland. It was a masterpiece of monochrome.”

I see color in the sky all the time. I see blue right now, believe it or not. I’m too upbeat for Rust Belt Chic.

Go Tribe! And keep the Wahoo logo!

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April 18, 2018   4 Comments

WHAT DOES HATE MEAN?

I hired Sabina’s husband, not her. She was not into shoveling snow, cutting grass, or climbing ladders. She was a Russian Lit major from Russia. But then her husband deserted her, and I was stuck with just her.

When I asked a tenant how Sabina was doing, he said, “I hate her.”

mower crew“Do you hate me, too?” I said, trying to establish a baseline on what hate meant. He said I was OK, but “Sabina doesn’t clean, she has her young kids cutting the grass, and she doesn’t tell us anything — when anything is going to get fixed.”

I fired her. Then I rehired her because she said she couldn’t feed her kids. Eventually she found a boyfriend in Avon Lake and moved out. I owe that guy.

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April 11, 2018   1 Comment

TRUCKIN’

My cousin Marc had a GMC tractor-trailer, which he parked in the May Co. lot in University Heights. Marc was possibly the only Jewish long-distance trucker in the Heights in the 1970s. In 1975 Marc borrowed a few thousand dollars from my father for the truck. Marc had a contract with International Truck of Rock, Minnesota. Ultimately, Marc moved to Pennsylvania and never repaid my dad.

truckn

In high school Marc had been a J.D., stealing hubcaps. Hubcaps from Shaker Heights. Class. When Marc’s mother (my dad’s sister) heard Marc hadn’t repaid my dad, she made payments, but never fully repaid the loan. My father’s attitude was “win some, lose some” with family.

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April 4, 2018   3 Comments

LET BERT DO IT

My mother, 82, owns 25 rental units in Cleveland Heights. She wants me to collect rents. I’m reluctant. She hides apartment keys for me everywhere and says, “Now this key is to that room, which is next to this door. Turn right, and reach your hand around the corner and it’s on this ledge.” I write it all down. My sister lives in Florida. It’s all on me.

The other day I bumped into Bert Stratton, the klezmer guy. How long has his band been around? They should hang up the Havdalah candle. Bert asks me the same thing every time: “What are you going to do when your mother dies?”

I tell him I’ll sell the stupid houses the minute she dies. He says real estate is solid parnassah, which means livelihood in Yiddish. Bert likes to sling Yiddish. Sling this, Bert: Va fangool! Bert, you manage the houses after my mom dies.

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March 28, 2018   4 Comments

HALIBUT WAS CHEAP THEN

For Clevelanders only, don’t forget to click the City Journal link at the end of this post.

When my mother died, we stored her furniture in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side. The furniture sat there for five years until my older son, Teddy, took the stuff and went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed but usable.

When I visited Teddy at law school and saw my mom’s furniture again, I had full-color flashbacks. Seeing that yellow kitchen table in play again was mildly disturbing. I had eaten at that table for my first 18 years, and now it was in student-housing in Toledo. It was Formica. It was worth something.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In high school I was laconic at that table. I didn’t talk. My dad didn’t talk much either. My whole family didn’t talk much. We didn’t watch TV at dinner, either. We ate a lot of fish. Halibut was cheap then.

Here’s one I wrote for City Journal about snow. Just came out. “Gettin’ My Snow Belt On.”

super woman

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March 21, 2018   2 Comments

WHAT’S THE TEMPERATURE?

Cleveland is a great place to raise a family. It has wonderful cultural attractions, but I couldn’t take the place anymore. I couldn’t take the weather. When I wrecked my knee, I couldn’t even ski.

screw upI’m a member of Wandering Jews here, a group at my temple. We go up into the mountains and pray once a month. I never could stand the glitzy mega-temples in Cleveland.

My friends back home expected me to die in Cleveland. No thanks.

Please don’t be mad at me for leaving. Visit me, and we’ll sit on my patio and listen to the birds.

By the way, what’s the temperature in Cleve today?

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March 14, 2018   4 Comments

SUNTAN STU

suntan stu

I knew a Cleveland comedian who moved to Florida and did impressions of Joan Rivers and Carol Channing, and even affected a New York accent. She was on the condo circuit. Yiddishe Cup and she shared the same booker, Suntan Stu.

The first time Stu called me, he said, “Vos machst du, man?” (How’s it going, man?)

“Remind me, Stu, how do you know my band?”

“When a band is as good as Yiddishe Cup, the word gets around!”

I lost $900 to Stu. He booked us at a Florida showcase (a talent show for bands) that never happened. I had to pay $900 in airline cancellation fees. Stu’s website said he had worked with Dolly Parton, Johnny Mathis and the Bee Gees.

Why did I fall for Stu? Because I thought Stu would get us a lot of gigs. We got gornisht.

If you ever hear “Vos machst du, man,” run.

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March 7, 2018   1 Comment

MRS. MAISEL-STYLE

You know how Mrs. Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel bribes the Gaslight Cafe booker with brisket to get a good performance slot? This video (below) outlines how Yiddishe Cup operates, food-wise:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqCfaTHilcA


Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup) is at the Bop Stop 8 pm this Sat. (March 3), Cleveland. We’ll play klezmer and soul music.


Want something to read?  Read my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Need Emotional Support? Ruff.”


A git Purim, yidn! Hope to see some of you tonight (Feb. 28) at the Purim service at Park Synagogue East, Pepper Pipes, Ohio. Free and open to the public. 7:15 p.m. Funk a Deli gits down.

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February 28, 2018   3 Comments

THE HARSHEST REVIEW OF YIDDISHE CUP

Yiddishe Cup calls its act “neo-Borscht Belt klezmer comedy.” That’s been done before — the Borscht Belt schtick. For starters, about 60 years ago.

Yiddishe Cup can half-fill a golden age center in Miami. Then what? They’re not getting any younger. Has Yiddishe Cup ever toured for weeks, developing a solid groove, establishing decent ensemble chops? On weekends the band passes out inflatable guitars at bar mitzvahs, eats baked salmon, and watches “reflections” videos.

Does Yiddishe Cup research Yiddish tunes at YIVO? Does anybody in Yiddishe Cup even know what YIVO is?

One more thing: dynamics. Try it, Yiddishe Cup.

–I can’t remember who wrote this. I’m blocking.

Glowing reviews — so far — for Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup), performing 8 p.m. Sat., March 3, at the Bop Stop, Cleveland.

funk a deli

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February 21, 2018   2 Comments

ON TOUR

Yiddishe Cup did a month-long tour. We had the bus, the lighting guy, the sound guy and a tour manager. We even had a masseuse. We had hot meals. We had screaming fans. But it wasn’t about us. We weren’t even billed as “Yiddishe Cup.” We were just “Cup”  — a somewhat amorphous, competent band of old Jews.

I jogged a lot during that tour to keep my sanity. The young fans drove me nuts. We sold just 10 Yiddishe Cup CDs, total. Not our crowd, I’ll admit.

We were the “support” band, and we supported the star well. The idea of a pop icon touring with a bunch of old Jews was novel, and it worked. But I wouldn’t do it again.

Funk a Deli (formerly Yiddishe Cup) is at the Bop Stop 8 p.m. Sat., March 3. $20.

funk a deli


And please check out my essay about Cleveland real estate at Belt Mag. The essay was posted the other day.

 

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February 14, 2018   1 Comment

BIG IN TENNIS

My mother drove me to tennis tournaments, like at Denison Park on the West Side and even to Youngstown. I would invariably lose my matches. I was good at my local park but not at USTA events. The first guy I  played in a USTA tournament was Kevin Senich, who was two years younger than me and about a foot taller. I was afraid he’d hit me in the face with his fast serve. He beat me 6-0, 6-0. Maybe 6-0, 6-1. Hard to remember. My mother took me to Isley’s ice cream afterwards. Senich won the state doubles in his sophomore year, and a lot of other stuff.

I was at the Cleveland Racquet Club last year and asked my present tennis partner, “Where’s Senich?” Because I knew Senich was a Racquet Club member. My partner said, “I think he died.”

I looked Senich up. He died at 62. I remember his mother was from Ireland. Senich never knew me, but I knew him.

After I wrote this, I realized Senich didn’t beat me. It was Jim Bright, a state singles runner-up from Lima High. Bright, too, was a big guy.

Senich beat me later.

Kevin Senich, Parma High

n 1968, Kevin was undefeated in singles play for the Redmen. Teaming with his brother Mike, they won both the district and OHSAA state championship in doubles play. In college, Kevin earned four varsity letters at the University of Michigan, earning All-Big Ten honors twice. He won 5 individual Big Ten championships as a member of the four-time Big Ten championship team. As a team captain of the 1974 Michigan team, he was ranked 3rd in the NCAA.

In 1968, Kevin Senich was undefeated in singles play for the Parma Redmen. Teaming with his brother Mike, they won both the district and OHSAA state championship in doubles play. In college, Kevin earned four varsity letters at the University of Michigan, earning All-Big Ten honors twice. He won 5 individual Big Ten championships as a member of the four-time Big Ten championship team. As a team captain of the 1974 Michigan team, he was ranked 3rd in the NCAA.

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February 7, 2018   2 Comments