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 is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.



I went to the White House for a Christmas party.  Did you?

My daughter, Lucy, works for a Chicago event-planning company, and she helped decorate the White House for Christmas.  She got me in.

Lucy and I arrived fashionably late, because my daughter has been to the White House before, and she didn’t want to wait in the long line.  We were the last guests — numbers 485 and 486.

I was denied entrance. What?

I sat on a folding chair in a heated tool shed–like room in the White House backyard. My birth date was listed incorrectly on the White House checklist. I thought I might miss the party.

But the guard, constantly checking her smartphone for updates, finally said, “You’re good. Tell the next security booth, you’re a re-clear.”

I was a re-clear at the next security stop — a dog-sniffing station.

A Marine Band jazz quintet played in the main entrance of the White House. Michelle Obama was there. Lincoln’s portrait was up in the State Dining Room.  There were 54 live Christmas trees, according to the Washington Post.  Plus some fake trees — classy fake trees, like out of glass.

I told the Marine Band’s bass player to tell his boss to bring in Yiddishe Cup for the Chanukah party next year.

I did not see Bo the dog.  I did not sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. I did not see any celebs. The food — at grazing stations — was very good.  Spielberg, dressed like Lincoln, was at the White House a couple nights before, to screen Lincoln with the president.  That was the word at the party.  There was a 300-pound gingerbread replica of White House.

This event was a thrill for me — a once in a lifetime experience. No, wait, I’ve got to talk to my rabbi; he once lit the White House Chanukah menorah.  Maybe he’ll know how to get Yiddishe Cup in.

My rabbi called.  He said,  “Somebody from the synagogue got me in. Or a group of people.  No one person from the synagogue took sole credit.  Maybe the White House wanted somebody from Cleveland.”

The Jews of Cuyahoga County.  Work with them.

Lucy Stratton, Bert Stratton, and Claus.
White House, 2012



This year’s KlezKamp theme is anti-NY.

No rush-rush.

The KlezKamp swimming pool has piped-in klezmer music. Don’t do the crawl; your wildly flapping arms will drown out the underwater speakers. (Kapelye’s classic, “Chicken,” is looped.)

New this year: a pretzel bar . . . Rold Gold, Dan Dee, Snyder’s of Berlin, Snyder’s of Hanover. (Trucked in from Cleveland.  Heymish.)

There is a spiritual gathering every morning in the exercise room. Universal love machines. Yarmulkes optional.

You can touch your musical instrument but can’t play it.  Oil keys, apply grease to cork joints, rub valve oil. And calm down.

Dress code?  Only if you insist.  Try the all-cotton plush bathrobes with the KlezKamp logo ($179).  Notice how young klezmer musicians  wear KK bathrobes on stage?

At KlezKamp, director Henry Sapoznik repeats the same spiel every hour, so you don’t miss anything if you skip a lecture. His topic this year: “New York Sucks. I Moved to Wisconsin.”

Also, this year pianist Pete Sokolow blots out — pours Manischewitz on — his classic how-to book, 100 Jewish Music Insults That Really Work.

Before this book disappears forever, here are, for the record, Sokolow’s five favorite putdowns:

1.  What’s your phone number? Junior congregation needs a clarinetist.
2.  You’re slicker than butter on matzo, but there’s no salt.
3.  Tighten your neck strap.  Tighter.
4.  You couldn’t find D freygish with a GPS.
5.  I make desk lamps. Let me see your clarinet.

This is KlezFiction.  KlezKamp is real.  It happens next week.


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