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.



Lakewood International News, a magazine store, carried the Paris Review, Partisan Review, Kenyon Review and porn.  About half the store was porn.

The proprietor, Gil, was a part-time railroader.  He and several railroad buddies manned the elevated counter, which was a lookout tower for nailing shoplifters and pervs.

I went to Lakewood News.

Where else could I read an interview of William Styron in the Partisan Review, and Bustin’ Out in the same visit?

Gil lost his lease.  (I wasn’t Gil’s landlord.)  I had a vacant store.  Maybe Gil and I could do business together.  A bank tenant had bailed on me down the street.  I thought I was good for 30 years with the bank, but then all banks in the world started merging in the late 1980s.

The bank owed me rent until the bank was re-leased.  The bank, through back channels, quickly found a new tenant — the city.  The city planned to open a health-department annex.  Fine.  Cockroach inspectors would be my new tenants.

Except the city didn’t move very fast.  There were various “readings” at various city council meetings.  Meanwhile, Gil, the magazine store owner, told a couple people he was getting the bank store.  A Plain Dealer reporter called me.

Possible PD headline: “Stratton New Porn Czar.”

The old porn czar was Reuben Sturman, a local-boy-made-good and the nation’s largest porn distributor.

I got scared.  I hand-delivered a media package to the Plain Dealer reporter.  I did a Q&A with myself.  I answered: “I believe in the First Amendment and the bookstore would be an asset.  It isn’t just porn.  Ever heard of the Paris Review? I’ll rent to the magazine store.”  I wanted the city to hurry up, so I had created a little tension, via the press.

Plain Dealer, June 21, 1989. See text below.

The Plain Dealer story came out.  (Nothing too horrible.)  But suddenly the city fast-tracked the legislation and rented the space.

That was the only time I ever spun the press.

Don’t believe half what you read in the papers.  For the real story, go to the memoirs 20 years later.

But by then, you probably won’t care.  But maybe you care in this instance; you read this.

Here’s the beginning of “Adult store’s Detroit Ave. move thwarted” by Paul Shepard, Plain Dealer, 6/21/89:

At first glance, Albert Stratton, landlord of a prime piece of downtown Lakewood real estate, appears to be a person to be envied.

Over the past month, city officials as well as the Lakewood International News magazine shop have courted Stratton, seeking to rent his vacant storefront at Detroit and Victoria Aves.

But with the City Council’s refusal Monday to allow Stratton’s lease of the store and a proposed ordinance to limit the location of so-called adult-oriented businesses, it appears Stratton will have to sue the city to get the magazine shop as a tenant.

“I’m not happy,” Stratton said yesterday.  “I feel like I’m caught in the middle of this dispute between the city and the Lakewood International News store.

“My only goal is to rent the store.  Whoever signs a lease first gets it, but I think both would be fine tenants for me.”

I wrote an op-ed, “The Old Seder Table,” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, online, Friday (4/6/12).  The op-ed is the only Passover story ever to mention Yazoo City, Mississippi.

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1 Bill Jones { 04.11.12 at 9:51 am }

Nu, Bert. So why is your performance schtick “neo-Beatnik” in the PD photo for the Old Seder Table op-ed and not hip-hop? Is this because of the PD writer’s age, or yours? Thanks for the tips on places to see in Ohio

2 Jessica Schreiber { 04.11.12 at 11:10 am }

Reminds me of my experience with a porn shop (one that didn’t sell the Paris Review). I was collecting donations for the high school Band Boosters auction. I thought, “Maybe they would donate something tasteful?” They were so thrilled to be asked that they gave me a $200 gift (a fur wrap around). But, of course, I was spotted by some teachers that taught at the high school as I exited the store. Still wonder what they thought.

3 Mark Schilling { 04.11.12 at 11:16 am }

The newsstand in Ellwood City, Pa., where I went to junior-senior high school, had a similar set-up: legit mags and paperbacks, together with skin mags and dirty books.The bead-eyed owner put the Playboys on the highest row of the magazine rack so that 13-year-old punks — at least ones not on the basketball team — would have to stretch to get at them. I tried a couple of times — and felt that every eye on the store, including the owner’s, was on me. I bought “Fanny Hill” there, though, together with “Advertisements for Myself,” “The Thin Red Line” and “Thrilling Cities,” the racy Ian Fleming travelogue that was my first introduction to Tokyo. I never did score a “Playboy.”

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