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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



Concertgoers sometimes ask if I know Harvey Pekar, the American Splendor comic book writer.  Particularly at out of town gigs.

I know him.

Harvey and I had a mutual-aid relationship for years.  This “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” trope was Harvey’s modus operandi.  He wrote some nice things about my band, and I helped him out — not the least of which was fixing him up between his second and third wives.  This was right before Joyce, his present wife.

Harvey’s casual girlfriend was driving him crazy.  “She’s like a Third World country making impossible demands on an industrial nation,” Harvey said.  “She eats all my food, borrows my money, doesn’t lock her doors, or even get a car title.  One thing about Lark [Harvey’s second wife], she was competent.”

I told Harvey I had a fix-up for him with a rabid left-winger.  He said, “Tell her I passed out leaflets for Henry Wallace when I was a kid!”

And he added, “Tell her I’m not a schleppy file clerk.  I’ve got some things on the line.  Oui wants some of my comics, and a guy in L.A. wants to make a movie maybe.”   The L.A. director was Jonathan Demme.  That movie didn’t happen.

For an anti-social guy, Harvey sure didn’t like being alone.  He said his second wife’s exit had totally blindsided him.  “There was no real sign of the doom coming on,” he said.  “But maybe it was my fault — her leaving.  I’m high-strung and emotional.  I didn’t see it. Yeah, she yelled a bit, but compared to my first wife — who was constantly hysterical — it was nothing.  I don’t run around.  I’m an old-fashioned guy.”

Harvey hit it off with a nurse, a friend of my wife. One point for the Strattons.


Harvey grew up on cantoral music. During the klez revival boom (1990s), he heard recordings of the legendary klez clarinetist Naftule Brandwein.  That made an impression on Harvey, but didn’t completely knock him out.  For Harvey, truly innovative music lay between Ayler and Zorn — far-out, improvisational mastur . . . mastership.  Brandwein wasn’t a jazz guy.

Harvey sold me a couple Jewish “sides” (LPs), and I told him what I knew about klezmer.  He also did some reading and listening, and pretty soon was fairly knowledgeable about klez.  He wrote about my band in the Boston Herald.  That piece was about klezmer in general; my band was mentioned in passing, as in Yiddishe Cup is “socially motivated.”

That meant Yiddishe Cup played a lot of parties.  I still use the quote in my band’s PR because of the “Boston.”  Boston used to be the Jerusalem of klezmer.  Now the Jerusalem moves around.  It’s in Cleveland today.

Before Harvey became famous — before the movie American Splendor came out — I went to his house with all my Pekar comic books.  He signed issue #1, which I put in a glassine bag.

I still have a lot of his comics, unopened.  I used to take handfuls of Harvey’s comics on trips out of town, to show off Cleveland.

Where is my Harvey Pekar bobblehead doll?

Check out our new video clip “Going Tin,” live from The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich.  It’s the Klezmer Guy blog in 2-D.  Rated alluring.

See Yiddishe Cup:
Sat. Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.  Purim, Park Synagogue, Cleveland Hts.  Family-oriented.
Sun. Feb 28, 7 p.m.  Nighttown, Cleveland Hts.  Downbeat named Nighttown one of the top 100 jazz clubs in the world.

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1 Bill Jones { 02.03.10 at 9:47 am }

Bert, so add shadchen [matchmaker] to your list of professions. Was/is Harvey a tenant?

2 Bert { 02.03.10 at 10:05 am }

To Bill Jones:

Harvey Pekar wasn’t a tenant.

3 Terri Zupancic { 02.04.10 at 9:03 am }

Didn’t your relationship with Pekar start in the old Scoop days? I hope the U-boys (John and Stan) read this. Fun times.

4 Bert { 02.04.10 at 2:28 pm }

To Terri Zupancic:

I first met Harvey Pekar in the mid-to-late 1970s, before I started at the Sun Scoop Journal.

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