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.



The “shul with a pool” movement peaked in the 1920s.  Major synagogues in large Eastern and Midwest cities sometimes built sanctuaries with pools attached.   My shul — at its previous location (East105th Street, Cleveland) — had an indoor pool.  It’s still there, the pool and the shul (now Cory United Methodist Church).

The church has famous Jews’ names carved into the frieze. Hillel, Maimonides, Rashi . . .


Jews and swimming. It’s in the Talmud somewhere: A Jew must learn to swim.

I started my serious swimming — my lap swimming– at the Mayfield JCC in 1995.  I thought I was going to jail; that dingy pool had no natural light.  Russian women in bathing caps and Russian guys in Black Sea briefs bumped into me in the lap lane.

For serenity, I tried the newer JCC in Beachwood.  But that didn’t solve my problem. A doctor/lap swimmer there thought he was playing water polo.  He would bump and splash me.  I liked the guy but not in the water.


My favorite indoor lap pool is at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago.  I’ve only been there once, but I’d like to go back.  My daughter, Lucy, a renowned globe-trotting event planner, lined up the Intercontinental-with-pool for me.

Johnny Weissmuller trained at the Chicago Intercontinental (formerly a Shriners’ athletic club and hotel).  It’s an historic landmark.johnny-weismuller-best-at-intercontinental-hotel-pool

The most beautiful part of the Chi pool: three signs that read laps only.  The pool’s fourth lane has an open swim sign. Usually it’s the other way around: Three lap lanes for horsing around and one for swimmers.

I politely asked a young dad and his bobbing kid to leave my lap lane.  They did.  Then other bobbing dorks encroached.  Couldn’t these kids read laps only? There was no lifeguard.  I muttered, “What a disaster.”

The young dad, overhearing me, said, “The sun is out! You’re alive!  Sorry if we’re ruining your swimming.”

The dad did not understand lap swimming.  He did not realize lap swimming is a quasi-religious experience.  Lap swimming is a combination of mediating, praying, thinking and just zoning out.  A lap swimmer needs a shul in a pool.

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by me on Sunday. Click here to read it.  The article was about love, junk food and Jewish tongue.

Why didn’t the Times use this Ralph Solonitz illustration?


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1 Harvey { 05.11.11 at 10:32 am }

Holy crap, Bert, the NYT? Update that bio stat.

On second thought, maybe not, a dollop of that gravitas might ruin the cholent that is your blog.

Also, does this mean no more Wiley lawn for YC? You’ll hold out for Parade The Circle/first float?

2 Bert { 05.11.11 at 10:45 am }

To Harvey:

Yiddishe Cup is playing Wiley (Aug. 25). We aren’t taking our talents to South Beach.

(Would like to, but we don’t have anything in Florida lined up.)

We’re doing Parade the Circle June 11, but we’re not first float. That slot is reserved for the steel drum band, right? We’re not marching; we’re playing from the Wade Oval bandstand, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

3 Kenny G { 05.11.11 at 11:25 am }

I’ve been in the former Cleveland Jewish Center [now Cory United Methodist Church] several times.

First time I was prez of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians. I pushed for a Glenville bus tour and arranged to get into the place with the group. (Possibly you were there, Bert?)

Our Secy.-Treas. at the time, who incidentally passed away last week, was very generous when it came to allowing me to go all out with refreshments for several meetings, so I purchased lots of Jewish-style goodies, and we enjoyed them upstairs, where all those bar mitzvah and wedding parties used to take place. Something like what those walls saw four decades earlier….

The place has, or had, badminton courts, too.

4 Kenny G { 05.11.11 at 11:26 am }

By the way, Bill Jones in this forum – you’re not the one who had the leather store on Coventry, are you?

5 Bill Jones { 05.16.11 at 6:48 pm }

Not that Bill Jones, it is true. One of the real Bill Joneses, like my fathers before me.

The Bill Jones Leather stores were the property of a Bill Nassau, of either New Zealand or Australia.

His name still rings bells in Cleveland. Someone ought to use the name for some kind of craft or shoe store, while those who remember are still around.

6 Kenny G { 05.18.11 at 12:28 pm }

I assume by Intercontinental Hotel you’re referring to the former Allerton Hotel on N. Michigan.

Since it’s a larger version of our former Allerton, at Chester and E. 13th [Cleveland] and a block from NOACA [planning agency], I was interested in going into it (I usually am interested in such venues anyway).

Apparently, E. 13th and Chester was considered pretty good in the late ’20s, but our [Cleveland] bldg. has been subsidized housing for at least 30 years, I’d say.

Not too bad renovation/restoration of exterior, though, a few years ago.

Only concession I saw in Chicago to a somewhat unfortunate decision and money-saving was its lowering the lobby ceiling. Oh well….

7 Bert { 05.18.11 at 1:16 pm }

To Kenny G:

I think you’re talking about a different hotel in Chi. The Intercontinental is at 505 N. Michigan Ave.

According to a quick ‘Net check, the hotel was formerly a Continental, Sheraton and Radisson, but never an Allerton.

Re: the E. 13th and Chester, Cleveland, hotel. Are you talking about the old Manger Hotel? I went to stamp shows — excuse me, philatelic exhibitions — there as a kid.

8 Kenny G { 05.18.11 at 2:59 pm }

Okay, here’s how it goes. You’re right — two different hotels, but near each other and similar in age and original architectural style. The Allerton is at 701 N. Michigan:

I knew when I was last there, in 2003, it had been totally restored/renovated and was still a luxury chain. However, the Allerton name still sounded good so it has gone by the name Allerton Crowne Plaza Hotel [and now simply the Allerton Hotel].

But the large building at Chester and E. 13th was indeed our [Cleveland] Allerton:

The Wikipedia is misleading in that the Allerton was a chain headquartered in NY. Maybe Chicago has the only remaining hotel in the world still using that name, but still….

Anyway, they went in for a late ’20s Spanish-influenced style — fashionable at the time. Our [Cleveland] Alcazar is a few years older and was never a chain.

9 Bert { 05.18.11 at 3:33 pm }

To Kenny G:

Thanks for the hotel sleuthing.

The Cleveland Allerton Hotel (E. 13th and Chester Ave.) was, indeed, a Manger Hotel, at least from 1950-on. I found a postcard of the Manger (dated 1950) for sale on the Web.

Someday I’m going to put up a post here about how Yiddishe Cup stayed at a Doubletree Hotel in Boca Raton that was no longer a Doubletree. It was a “no name” hotel. Scary.

10 Kenny G { 05.18.11 at 4:28 pm }

I knew it was a Manger but not when I moved here [to Cleveland].

Did you know the new Doubletree in the former Tudor Arms is scheduled to open around Memorial Day?

11 Kenny G { 05.19.11 at 8:13 am }

I forgot to mention your Intercontinental [Chicago] was originally a large club building, like Cleveland’s Tudor Arms, but you probably know that.

Also, near the Intercontinental in Chi-Town was the first Playboy Club.

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