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.



Daniel Ducoff, Yiddishe Cup’s dance leader, is the all-in-one-machine: booking agent, valet and shrink.

Daniel has a social-work master’s degree and does free counseling.  For instance, when the musicians go out — like to CVS for candy bars and clubs for drinking — Ducoff hangs back with me  and says:  “What’s a couple extra bucks for beer and Snickers for the boys to to keep them happy?  Don’t fret. ”

Daniel handles all contract negotiations.   It’s not right for the bandleader to yak on the phone about “wiggle room” for the Oshkosh Opera House contract.  That’s Daniel’s job.

Ducoff handles the press too.  Reporters ask, “Why is this klezmer band different than all other klezmer bands?”  Daniel’s  answer: “Yiddishe Cup plays naked.”   The reporters — shlubs who sit in cubicles all day — buy it.

Daniel, who swam competitively in high school, calls ahead for dimensions on  pools at hotels.  Nobody likes to pull up to an “Olympic pool” that is four raindrops.

Daniel knows his way around snack shops.  Sun-baked chips are popular with the band.  Daniel says, “Sun baked chips are still chips, guys. You think the sun zapped the calories out?”

Daniel Ducoff

Daniel knows how to find exquisite — by Midwest standards — sourdough pretzels at all Pilot and Duke truck stops.

Ducoff is also the enforcer.  For example, Yiddishe Cup’s drummer, Don Friedman, occasionally blasts hard-bop jazz, like Art Blakey, inside the van.   This is borderline acceptable; it gives the band a certain panache when we pull into Bob Evans in Celina, Ohio, with  “Moanin’” blaring.   But, Don, turn the jazz off already!  That’s Ducoff’s job to tell Don.

Daniel Ducoff is the all-in-one machine.

This post, “He Gets Paid Extra,” is 49-percent true. It’s klez fiction.



More klez fiction.  Readers demand it.  Certain readers, that is.  Pete Rushefsky, a NYC klezmer musician, told me, “I don’t read any of your real estate stuff.  I skip that and read the klezmer.”  There are 398 klez fans in the world.  They read this blog.  Enjoy.


I auditioned for Green Man Group at the Cleveland home of klezmer violinist Steve Greenman.

I didn’t play clarinet for Greenman.  I played my eyes.  I looked maniacally Jewish, then playfully Jewish and, finally, soulfully Jewish. I thought “Einstein” the whole time.

I got a callback!   Me and five other guys.

At the callback, Greenman sprayed us green and had us play fiddle patterns in E minor.  This was awkward for me because E minor is a bad key for my axe — clarinet.

But I did OK.

I made it to the final audition.  Me, Pete Rushefsky, tsimbl; and Jeff Warschauer, mandolin.  Greenman knows us all personally.  (That’s show biz.)

We didn’t get sprayed green this time, nor perform. Greenman interviewed us separately.

GREENMAN: A deer jumps on stage while you’re performing.  What do you do?

STRATTON: I play “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” in E minor, then shoot the deer.

GREENMAN: A customer in a wheelchair says, “Stop talking and start playing!”

STRATTON: I say, “I’ll start playing when you stand up.”

GREENMAN: Can you make hot hors d’oeuvres pop out of your instrument?

STRATTON: Yes, and candy apples on Simchat Torah.

GREENMAN: What is the most creative thing you’ve ever done on stage?

STRATTON: I tore up a $100 bill on stage at the Omaha JCC while the audience screamed at me:  “Stop, I’ll take that!”  It was art.

GREENMAN: What if nobody showed up at your gig?

STRATTON: I play hard for zero people just like I play for 6,000, which is what I’m used to.

Jeff Warschauer got the job.  Greenman and Warschauer are both short.  Greenman didn’t want anybody taller than him on stage.  That’s why I didn’t make it.

I have a piece, “For Cleveland Jews, Schvitz is Must,” in The Forward (online) this week.  Check it out, or read an extended version here in a few weeks.   The longer version should be better; it will contain profanity-laced, schvitzian dialogue.

A word from Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader:

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1 Garry Kanter { 03.14.12 at 8:48 am }

Does your avatar kinda bite his lip when he does that last move?

2 Steven Greenman { 03.14.12 at 10:38 am }

For the record, out of the three “contestants/applicants,” I probably would have hired Rushefsky, based on personality and his superior basketball knowledge. You didn’t get hired not because you were taller than me; you didn’t have enough rhythm.

The Green Man Group demands that, in addition to klezmer knowledge and professional sports acumen.

But you were a close second.

3 Alice Stratton { 03.14.12 at 11:22 am }

Can I be in the Greenman group? I’ll tear up a copper penny.

4 Steven Greenman { 03.14.12 at 11:39 am }

Alice, I’m not sure if I want to include women in the Green Man group. Too distracting…

5 Ted { 03.14.12 at 12:21 pm }

You need to know the full roster for every Pirates, Steelers and Penguins championship teams, and also what Primanti’s sandwich each head coach preferred, to be in Greenman’s group.

6 don friedman { 03.14.12 at 1:51 pm }

What? I should have been asking Danny for a raise all these years! Now you tell me. And only Alan eats Snickers. He still thinks it’s a vegetable. I remember when ‘hard bop’ used to be a knock on your head with a pipe!

7 jack { 03.15.12 at 9:15 pm }

HA! … nice formatting

8 Kenny G { 03.16.12 at 11:00 am }

[re: illustration of Daniel Ducoff]

Not Dan. Looks like Bill Clinton in the illustration, with the mess of munchies.

I hope I never run into you guys on the road – you sound like animals. Party animals, anyway – always going from one party to another….

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