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.



When Yiddishe Cup strolls table to table, doing our klezmer-achi routine, the three most popular requests are “In A Gadda Da Vida,” “Freebird,” and “something from Fiddler on the Roof.”

Also popular: anything by Frank Sinatra, “Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn,” Johnny Cash, and “Romania.”

At a Fairmount Temple bat mitzvah, the executive director of the Cleveland Orchestra requested “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot. Our violinist, Steve Ostrow, nailed it.  That was our finest moment.

At an Austrian wedding — where some guests wore lederhosen— we played “Edelweiss” three times.  That was our only “Austrian” song.  It was a totally gentile wedding.

Lederhosen is nothing. Jews from Scotland will sometimes wear kilts to weddings.  A kilt is like a tux to a Scot.

When we stroll, we try to steer the requests. For instance, we’ll tell the guests: “We specialize in everything.  How about Dylan or the Beatles?”

Our keyboard player, Alan Douglass, and our singer, Irwin Weinberger, know all the Beatles tunes. Yiddishe Cup once played Lennon’s obscure “Real Love” for a bridal dance.

A lot of baby boom musicians know Dylan, but not as well as Irwin does.  He does “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Tangled Up in Blue” with no cheat sheet.  The trick is stopping him after two verses, so we can hit more tables with “Sunrise, Sunset.”


The first time I saw a live band was at a bar mitzvah party at the Stardust Ballroom, Cleveland Heights.   Morry Seaman was the Jewish bandleader/saxophonist of the early 1960s. Maybe he was playing “Stardust” at the Stardust.

I wanted a tenor sax.  Forget the clarinet.

When Yiddishe Cup plays, we get stares from kids too. Some of these teens go to 40 bar mitzvahs a year and see 39 DJs and one live band, Yiddishe Cup.

I went to three bar mitzvahs.  My family lived on the wrong side of the tracks, with a bunch of Italyeyners (Italians) [pronounced Tah-LEH-ners].    The Yidn lived on the south side of the public park, and the Taleyners — plus my family and assorted other ethnics — lived on the north side.  ( “Assorted other ethnics” meant PIGS: Polish-Italian Greek Slovenians.)

Why my parents lived with the Taleyners is an accident of history: My parents’ realtor told them the house was in the Jewish elementary school district, but it was actually in the Taleyner district.  Oddly enough, my whole life has involved Taleyners — as if I grew up on Kinsman Road or Lower Manhattan.

My Kinsman Road was South Euclid, a Cleveland suburb.  I even got in a couple fist fights.  “Kike” and stuff like that.

The trouble with “kike” was I couldn’t figure out what to yell back.  My nadir was when I called a kid a “Big L,” for Lutheran.  He was not offended.

We even had a king — an ethnic kingpin — in our neighborhood: Yonkee.

Yonkee’s son said to me, “My father is the poker king.”

I was in grade school.  I didn’t know about poker.  Didn’t matter. Yonkee was the polka king.

Frankie Yankovic, the king of Slovenian-style polka, didn’t play many bar mitzvahs.

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1 Shawn Fink { 10.14.09 at 8:37 am }

Not to nitpick, but the correct title of Dylan’s epic is “Tangled Up In Blue.” Delete “the” from the title you posted.

2 Bert { 10.14.09 at 9:04 am }

Shawn Fink:

Thanks for the correction. Just changed “Tangled Up in the Blue” to “Tangled Up in Blue.”

Most have been Freudian — my error.

I know the correct title.

Go Blue.

3 Terri { 10.14.09 at 10:23 am }

Klezmer-achi — hilarious!

Reminds me of a comment one of my concert bands received from an adjudicator after our performance of Mexican Overture:

“While mariachi bands are often out of tune, I don’t think that is our purpose here.”

We still got a good rating, and I’ll never forget that comment.

4 Irwin { 10.14.09 at 10:36 am }

I remember the craziness of that Austrian event. It felt like I entered the Twilight Zone.

Let’s not forget “Stairway to Heaven” in the top request list. It only took me 18 years to get around to finally learn it.

At least it is better than having to play Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” or “Feelings.”

5 Ted { 10.14.09 at 11:37 am }


You might want to watch it with that PIGS stuff; some people might get offended.

Also, Turandot.

6 Bert { 10.14.09 at 11:47 am }

Ted, thanks for the correction. Just changed Turando to Turandot.

7 MARC { 10.14.09 at 2:24 pm }

My grandmother called them Tayainakahs (Italians).

8 Don Friedman { 10.14.09 at 2:28 pm }

Some of the requests we get are original, like “Can you guys play
‘Far Far Away’?” or “Can you play something half fast!”

Or a country tune by Chet Atkins, titled ‘Baby, If Your Phone Don’t Ring You Know It’s Me!”

My favorite request is a Drum SoLow.

9 "Kenny G" { 10.16.09 at 3:27 pm }

Btw, it’s Kinsman Road, based on the sharp diagonal from E. 55th east….

Re: Stardust Room

You’re not referring to the place behind the Cedar Lee Theatre, are you?

I believe that used to be a bowling alley (before my time) – right?

Where was really a Stardust Ballroom in Cleveland Heights?

10 Bert { 10.16.09 at 4:32 pm }

To Kenny G:

The Stardust was in back of the Cedar Lee Theatre. There’s a McCoy’s sign there now.

And thanks for the correction. Kinsman Avenue now reads Kinsman Road.

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