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.


Posts from — June 2011



When Mel, the bride’s father,  inquired about Yiddishe Cup’s fees, he said his grandmother had baby-sat Joel Grey (Mickey Katz’s son).  Mel asked if Yiddishe Cup knew any Mickey Katz tunes.

I said, “We play more Mickey Katz songs than anybody in the world! You’ve heard us, right?”

No, he hadn’t.

I said, “Have you been under a rock for twenty-one years?”

Mel was from Cleveland.  Where had he been hiding?  Mel said he didn’t get around much.  He used to get around.  He said, “Where did you go to high school?”

“Brush,” I said.

Mel graduated from nearby Cleveland Heights High — a rival — but, nevertheless, he was OK with Brush High.  He had played softball with Brush boys in a JCC league.  Mel was six years old than me; I didn’t know any of his Brush buddies.

Mel’s daughter — the bride — was 31 and living in Brooklyn — Yiddishe Cup’s target demographic.  I said, “Has your daughter checked out Yiddishe Cup’s Web site? It doesn’t matter if you like Mickey Katz.  She’s calling the shots. ”

“Do you know Joel Schackne?” Mel said.  (Schackne had been a champion tennis player at Heights High.)

“I know of him.  Whose idea is the Jewish music?”

“Schackne is in Florida.  He’s still playing tennis.”

“What does your daughter think about Jewish music?”

“What AZA were you in?”  (AZA: a B’nai B’rith boys’ club.)

“I was in a JCC club.”


The Great Schackne

A week later, I met Bob, a cleaning supply man, and also a Heights High grad.  I met him at an AIPAC meeting.   Bob was not OK with Brush.  He said, “Brush was a bunch of greasers and Italians!”

The AIPAC speaker, a Brush grad by the way, had left Cleveland years ago to attain multiple Ivy League degrees and become a weapons analyst with the government, maybe the CIA.  He was an old friend of mine.  I wanted to talk Iranian nuclear capabilities with him.  The inside story.  He didn’t.

brush-greaser1Ron, a Brush graduate living in Connecticut, phoned to say he was in Cleveland at a nursing home, visiting his dying mother.  Ron asked if anybody was still in town.  (“Anybody” meant “Our Crowd.”)

I said, “Nobody is here.” Most of our gang had left.  The Jewish guys still in town were, for the most part, entrepreneurs and family-business owners.  A couple local guys had even made serious money.  One, who built cell phone towers, was a playboy with femme fatales poolside.

Howard, a Brush grad in New York, called.   He was coming through Cleveland.  His parents were moving to assisted living.  He said we should get together.

Did I have a post–high school life?

I think so.  I’m not stuck on high school.  But the subject does come up.  I live in my hometown.  What can I say?

Go Arcs.
1. Mel didn’t hire Yiddishe Cup for his daughter’s wedding.
2. The Arcs is the nickname of Charles F. Brush High School.  Brush, a Cleveland inventor, developed the arc light, which illuminated streets prior to the incandescent bulb.

A version of this post appeared in the Heights Observer online on April 26, 2011.

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June 29, 2011   3 Comments



The first three digits in your Social Security number mean something. For instance, 545-573 and 602-626 indicate you are a native Californian. 268-302, an Ohioan.

That’s history. Effective Saturday, newly issued Social Security numbers (SSNs) will have no geographical significance. The “Social Security Number Randomization” policy hits.

New Gavins, Emmas and Destinys will get random SSNs.


I read about the randomization policy in the Social Security Administration/IRS quarterly newsletter to employers.

I look at Social Security numbers a lot because I’m a landlord. One apartment applicant wrote his SSN as 900-. There are no 900-999s. I turned him down on the spot. Likewise, there are no 000s-. And I don’t rent to 666-; that’s the devil’s number, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t stock it.

The SSA website says, “If your [SSN] concerns are firmly rooted in your religious beliefs or cultural traditions, Social Security will review your request.”

The new randomization policy will extend the number of available SSNs. There are 435 million unused numbers. Dead people’s numbers go to the grave with them.

What about a vanity SSN? Are the feds thinking of that?

They should. Parents might pay $100 for a snazzy SSN — say, a 999-. Something that would stand out on Baby Emma’s college application 17 years from now.

Just say no to randomization.

Baby Emma is not a random number. And Gavin is an Ohioan — a proud Buckeye. Destiny, she is a California girl (602-).


Joe Buckeye


Due to a computer glitch, this post (“Just Say No to Randomization”) didn’t go up on Wednesday June 22. It went up today, Saturday June 25.


Here’s an op-ed I wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer last Sunday. “Harvey Pekar’s Hollywood Hustle.”

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June 25, 2011   3 Comments



Gratz College in Philadelphia offers an online course called Comparative Genocide.

The teacher, Sean Martin, lives in Cleveland.

I said to Sean, “I think Don DeLillo wrote about Hitler Studies in a novel, but that was a novel.  Comparative Genocide, is it real?”

“Gratz named the course,” Sean said. “I didn’t.  It’s a real course.”

Sean also teaches classes on ethnicity and the Holocaust in Cleveland.  He speaks Yiddish and Polish, and has a PhD.

Sean, from Weirton, West Virginia, is of Italian and Appalachian descent. (There is also a Yiddish scholar from Japan.)

comparative-genocide-4_14_11-sean-martin-teaches-thisI said to Sean, “You’re interested in everything you’re not, is that it?”

“Exactly,” he said.

“In the Comparative Genocide class, does everybody try to top the Jews’ story? ” I said.  “The Jews are the gold standard?”

“There’s some of that going on,” Sean said.  “But that’s not the intent.  Let me repeat, I didn’t pick the name of the course.  Gratz has got to change that.”


Here’s an original Klezmer Guy movie,  “Nine Days to Die.”   It’s funny.   My “bro” — Stuart — has followed me my whole life.  Or I’ve followed him.

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June 15, 2011   4 Comments


The Challah Fame announced its lecture series today:  The Art of Klezmer . . . How to Make it Hypnotic, Bruising and Revelatory.

Klez Mezzrow

Klez Mezzrow, lecture series curator

The lectures are free, but attendees must bring doctors’ permission slips. Some lectures might be dangerous, according to the brochure.

The first lecture is June 15, featuring Hankus Netsky, bandleader of the Klezmer Conservatory Band.

6/15  Hankus Netsky HOW DO I STOP THIS THING?

Should a klezmer song end with a “squirt” (quarter note) or a “pop” (eighth note)?   Or how about a simple  I-V-I chord tag?  Or  should the bandleader just scream, “It was all a mistake!”

Netsky is clear and emotive.  Expect audience participation, including hummus-smearing and firearms.

6/22  Sarah Gordon WEATHER THAT KILLS

Sarah, a singer and third-grade teacher in New York, will talk about corporal punishment.  Gordon’s punk-klez band, Yiddish Princess, is best known for “Painkiller” and “Weather That Kills.”   Gordon gives us an insider’s look at the combative multivalent New York klezmer scene.  Bring knives.  Sarah  is going to recreate the West Side Story switchblade scene in Yiddish.  Volunteers needed.

7/9  Don Friedman PRAISED BE KLEZMER!

Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman,  is the spiritual leader of The Churchagogue in Twinsburg, Ohio.  Donny invented the Jewish freewill offering; it isn’t free.  Donny was the recipient of Sweden’s “Little Drummer Boy” prize ($753,000) last year and invested much of that in upgrading The Churchagogue, tick-talk1which attracts more than 2,000 worshippers on a typical shabbes morning.  Free refills on the Mogen David through “Eyn Keloheynu.”  Donny delivers his most famous sermon tonight: “Time. Sometimes it passes slowly. Sometimes it flies by.”

7/29  Alice Stratton OLD-SCHOOL MATH

Alice talks about pacing and musical symmetry.  She takes us back to the days when hora tempos were T-120 (120 beats/minute) and veteran pianist Pete Sokolow‘s blood pressure was under 120.  Alice, a dance leader with Yiddishe Cup, makes her second Challah Fame appearance tonight.  In 2000 she debuted her dance “Some Kind of Cheesy Orgy” at The Challah Fame grand opening.

8/6  Daniel Kahn SLACKIN’ WITH DANNY K

Daniel Kahn, a.k.a. Danny K, chants the trope of recuperative klezmer here.  No worries, it’s all good.  How to enjoy life by playing music, singing, or just listening.  Kahn, from Berlin, does mixed-genre exploring, using ketchup, sauerkraut and clarinets.  Samples afterward.

9/15  Michael Winograd THE 2011 KLEZMER MANIFESTO

Wino, the 28-year-old klez clarinet phenom, delivers the first klez manifesto since Alicia Svigals wailed her “Against Nostalgia” rant at the 1996 Wesleyan University Klezmer Conference.

Here are some of Winograd’s key points:

1. It’s a lonely world.  Hi, everybody.
2. I’ve done many things wrong.  Sorry about that.
3. I get paid to eat at weddings. Why?
4. A scrap of paper in my wallet says I owe you.  Shut up, scrap!

10/3 Ted Stratton MUSIC THAT REPELS

Stratton focuses on life’s basics: dirt, worms, aphids, flies and klezmer music. What’s real, what’s not? What’s fake, what’s authentic? What’s cool, what’s dumb?rear-view-bert3 Stratton looks at the avant-garde in his rearview mirror; he’s way ahead of you. His latest book is The Limbo: Still Rockin’ at 50. How Long Can It Go?


Rubin leads us on a virtual eating tour deep into Europe, a la Borat.  Rubin focuses primarily on risk-taking in eating.

Rubin will be barbecuing ribs throughout the lecture and not washing his hands.  Some spitting too. Samples afterward.

11/2 Daniel Ducoff AQUA-KLEZMER

Daniel Ducoff, a swimmer and Yiddishe Cup dance leader, talks about the awe-inspiring aspects of the Jewish water experience.

What is “difficult” will be “not difficult” after Daniel’s lecture.  You will not be afraid of  the 10-meter board or the mikvah.

Mystical, glorious and powerful mayim (water). Heartbreaking too.  Bring a suit.  There will be a baby pool and high board. Expect some broken bones.


Walt‘s lecture is a split-perception event.  Half the audience wears “I ♥Yiddish” buttons, and the other half  gets
“I ♥ Roma”  badges.  Challah Fame staffers are the U.N. observers.  Let’s see what happens.  Situation report to follow.


Israeli clarinetist Moshe Berlin lectures in Hebrew on the differences between Israeli and American klezmer music.  Free Holy Land yarmulkes to all who attend. Also, Moshe will pass out learsi refrigerator magnets afterwards. “Learsi”  is “Israel” spelled backwards. The Learsi Project encourages you to read everything — even English —

Footnote: 1.3 percent of the words in this post are stolen from the Poetry Project Newsletter #226.

Enjoy the “Klezmer Guy” blog, accompanied by beer, food
and music . . .

Tues. (June 14)
7:30 p.m.

Spoken word, klezmer, rock, pop, Tin Pan Alley and alley.

Bert Stratton, clarinet, spoken word
Alan Douglass, piano, vocals
Jack Stratton, drums, beat-box

Lots of new material in this show. Your name might pop up in the script.

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts.

Yiddishe Cup — the whole band — is at Parade The Circle, Cleveland, 11 a.m. Sat. (June 11). We’re playing a pre-parade concert.

We’ll also be at Temple Israel (Akron, Ohio) Sat. night (June 11), 8 p.m., for a concert. 330-762-8617.

Check out this funny and good 1970 Kickstarter video by Yiddishe Cup’s alternate drummer, Jack Stratton.

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June 8, 2011   5 Comments


Drug Mart is a dollar store/drugstore on Cleveland’s West Side. I buy shampoo and cough drops there.  Also, shoehorns, Gorilla tape and off-brand Cheerios (formerly Tasteeos, now Toasted Oats).

Drug Mart sells the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, but I never see anybody buy the papers except for an elderly man in a suit and tie. 


What is this guy doing on the West Side?

I stood in back of him in line, and had time to kill.   I said, “I wouldn’t normally bring this up — like if we were on the East Side [where the Yidn live] — but you look like my uncle.  You have to be a landsman.” [Paisan]

He smiled and said, “I’m Charlie Lichtman. And what are you doing here?”

“I own property here.”


“Buildings, like the old Armed Forces Recruiters building.”  Which was two blocks away.

Charlie said, “I live in the new Armed Forces building.” The fancy condos — with recruiting offices underneath — across the street from my building.

“You aren’t from around here?” I said.

“I’m from New York,” he said, handing me a card: Charles M. Lichtman Jr., attorney at law, Cleveland and
New York.

“I had an article in the New York Times yesterday,” I said. I was just waiting for somebody — anybody — to say “New York,” or “times” or “new.”

“I read the article,” Charlie said.

I Googled Charlie when I got home. He had graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School, and so had his father (Harvard ’14, Harvard Law ’16).   His father had been the president of the Harvard Menorah Society (a precursor to Hillel) in 1915.

Charlie was apparently old German Jewish money (“Our Crowd” division, NYC). And he was at the Drug Mart on the West Side of Cleveland.


An attractive woman stood next to him.  “That’s why I’m here,” Charlie said, pointing to her.

“Charles M. Lichtman Jr.” is a pseudonym.

Enjoy the “Klezmer Guy” blog, with w/ beer, food
and music . . .

Tues. June 14
7:30 p.m.

Spoken word, klezmer, rock, pop, Tin Pan Alley and alley.

Bert Stratton, clarinet, spoken word
Alan Douglass, piano, vocals
Jack Stratton, drums, beat-box

Lots of new material in this show.  Your name might pop up in the script.

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts.

Yiddishe Cup — the whole band — is at Parade The Circle,  Cleveland, 11 a.m. Sat., June 11.  We’re playing a pre-parade concert.

We’ll also be at Temple Israel (Akron, Ohio)  that night (June 11), 8 p.m., for a concert.  330-762-8617.

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June 1, 2011   4 Comments