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 had a funeral gig, or thought I did.  The deceased, Sid Elsner, had booked me years prior.  Sid wanted a New Orleans-style, jazz-klezmer element at his funeral.  Not a kosher concept, but neither was Sid.  [Goys: Jews don’t often have music at funerals.]

When Sid died, none of his adult children mentioned music, so I didn’t play.

At the gravesite, I got a recipe for Sid’s brisket.  His oldest son was passing out the secret list of ingredients (chili sauce, onions).

Food works. That’s why there are shiva (mourning) meals.

A musician in Yiddishe Cup has attended only one funeral.  He has been to hundreds of weddings and one funeral. Lucky.

My mother’s favorite song was “Shenandoah,” which we sang it at her stone setting but not at her funeral.

My dad didn’t have a favorite tune.

Yiddishe Cup’s singer, Irwin Weinberger, wants Yiddishe Cup to play at his funeral.  I hope I can oblige.

After a 2000 Yiddishe Cup gig, I stopped at my father’s grave with my youngest son, who placed an old clarinet reed on my dad’s headstone.  My son had just played his first paying gig, on drums, with Yiddishe Cup.  I wanted to let my father know I was still around, still pushing the ball — cutting the grass, raising a family, starting a klezmer dynasty.  That last notion — the klezmer dynasty — would have flummoxed Toby, my father.  The last time Toby had heard me play I was a Cannonball Adderley wannabe.

. . . Here’s some advice for Jewish dads doing toasts at weddings: make your speech funereal. Pretend you’re updating your dead father, even if he’s alive.  Use flashbacks and talk about your kid’s personality quirks.  Stay on the high road; let the maid of honor do the weird stuff.  And end with “L’chaim,” even if you’ve never said it before.  “Cheers” from a Jew is a big turn off.



It’s unnerving when the bride ditches her own wedding.  She gets the flu for example, or a headache or swollen ankle, and has to lie down for a few hours.  Misses the whole party.  That marriage may not last.

Worse: the mom dies during the “Chicken Dance.”  That happened.  Not at my gig, but at one my video guy was at.

Did my video guy get it on tape?  I don’t know.  The video guy died on me.  Not at my gig, but slowly, over months.

He didn’t move around much; he had a stationary video rack.  He just stood by his rack, which I called the Tower of Power, and barely budged the whole night.  In his final days, he really bugged me.  For instance, when Yiddishe Cup would stroll table-to-table taking requests, like klezmer-achis, he would tell me which tables to go to.  “Can you do the head table next?” he would ask.

I didn’t know he was that sick.  “Why?” I said.

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

I said no.  The head table was nowhere near us.  We had a traffic pattern to maintain.

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

Then he died.

Yiddishe  Cup plays Mon. April 19, 6:35 p.m., for the community-wide Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) celebration at B’nai Jeshurun Cong., Cleveland.

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1 Bill Jones { 04.14.10 at 10:28 am }

At first glance I thought “flummoxed” was inappropriate. But khideshn zikh isn’t going to do it, unless it’s in a Coen brothers movie.

My relatives used kerfuffled. That isn’t Yiddish, and it isn’t as widely used as flummoxed.

So much for the word discussion.

Thanks for the wedding stories. Great!

2 Don Friedman { 04.14.10 at 1:57 pm }

I’ll be very happy to bring my entire drum set to Irwin’s funeral –at no charge to Irwin. But I will not stroll!

3 John M. Urbancich { 04.14.10 at 3:18 pm }

I saw the new comedy Death at a Funeral, and this stuff is much funnier.

Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock have nothing on you!

4 Ellen { 04.14.10 at 5:44 pm }

We use “mishkabibbled…”

And I already told Daniel that I want you to play at my funeral — like for real. With lots of dancing. And drinking. And no one wearing black!

I think funerals should be a big celebration of life. At my husband’s, he had asked us to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” We did.

5 Irwin { 04.14.10 at 6:42 pm }

I’m glad that I have it in writing that Don isn’t charging me to play at my funeral. I’m planning to pay the other guys though. Thanks, Don!

I know it’s going to be some funeral. Hopefully I’ll get to observe it in the hereafter.

6 Gerald Ross { 04.16.10 at 3:40 pm }

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”

– Yogi Berra

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