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.



I was somewhat stylish in seventh and eight grades.  I shopped at Mister Jr.’s and Skall’s Men’s Wear at Cedar Center shopping center.  After eighth grade, I gave up.  I couldn’t cut it — shopping and fashion.

My dad had a friend who sold the Farah pants line in Cleveland.  I liked Farah, but Farah wasn’t fashionable.  Nice feel, but not too cool.  Lee –- the brand — was cool. Farah was part of  the Continental look — the greaser look. Iridescent sharkskin.

Greaser / Collegiate

Italians clung to the Continental look for years.  Jews got out of it quickly and moved to the “collegiate” look —  Lee’s.  Like colored jeans.  This hurt Farah.

Ben Skall, an old guy, owned Skall’s Men’s Wear.  He became a state senator. I had to give up white socks to enter Skall’s world; I bought black socks with gray rings around the top (Adler brand).

Sam McDowell and Hawk Harrelson shopped at Skall’s.

I didn’t quite make the in-crowd at school.  I made the in-between crowd.  My problem (one of them): I  came from a hick elementary school –- a place with plenty shark-skinned Italians and few Jews. When I arrived at junior high, I noticed right off half the school was yiddlach, and these kids were by and large “fast,”  and they could dress, and they could “mock you out” if you dressed wrong. I had no idea what to wear!  I had a spread-shirt collar. That was verboten. It had to be button down.  I went to Skall’s.

Wrong (L) / Right (R).  Bert Stratton, early 1960s

I wore a fisherman’s knit sweater my mom made.  Homemade was verboten too, but a girl complimented me, so I kept wearing the sweater.  “Nice sweater,” she said.  (If she had said “Nice sweater”  — accent on the “nice” — that would have been a putdown.)  Home run.  Thanks, Mom.

I bought a shirt jac and light blue denim pants.  The shirt jac didn’t tuck in.

Shoes:  Pedwin loafers — black,  cordovan, or  olive green.  Choose one.  Cordovan was M.O.R. (middle of the road).

I bought Levi’s – not Lee – jeans. Cream-colored.  Not blue jeans.  Blue jeans weren’t permitted at my junior high.

The rules about clothes and fashion confounded me for several years. For instance, shirts could have box patterns, but not big boxes.  If you wore a box pattern the size of a checker board, you were dead.  I avoided box patterns and wore striped shirts — always appropriate.

One more thing . . .  sweaters: Alpaca was the anchor of the Continental look.  Alpaca sweaters were itchy and very Italian.  The comfy V-neck sweater was the collegiate look.  I had a gold V-neck called Summer Wheat.  (Like my cereal, which is Autumn Wheat.)

I dropped out of the fashion whirl about ninth grade. I hung out mostly with nerds.  “Nerds”  wasn’t even a word.  Neither was “geek.”

Dufuses?  Dips? We were anti-social and afraid of girls.   We were hopeless, so why shop?

This is ancient history.

What about knickers?

Footnote: Greasers were called “racks” at my school.  Derived from “racketeers,” I  think.

Click here for more on the guys I went to school with [a Klezmer Guy rerun, from 11/30/11].

And please read the info below this illustration.

Matzo and Motown. 

Tamar Gray

The Klezmer Guy trio plays Nighttown, Cleveland Hts., 7 p.m. Tues.,  April 23.  $10. 

Alan Douglass, keyboard and vocals, Bert Stratton, clarinet and prose; and Tamar Gray,  mostly singing Motown vocals.

Tamar Gray’s uncle is Slide Hampton, the jazz trombone player.  Tamar’s brother is Pharez Whitted, a Chicago jazz trumpeter.  Tamar’s mother was part of the Hampton Sisters of Indiana.  In other words, Tamar has yikhes (musical lineage).

Speaking of yikhes (and nepotism), Jack Stratton is 75% of the way toward reaching his latest Kickstarter goal.  Check out his  Kickstarter project here.  It’s about Vulfpeck, Jack’s German-Jewish band.

shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter


1 Charlie B { 04.03.13 at 9:58 am }

“Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)”

Do I detect a-little-dab-will-do-you in those photos?
What my Georgia-born father called “StayComb”, our pomade of choice was “Score.” However it never got me over the goal line.

2 Bert Stratton { 04.03.13 at 10:33 am }

To Charlie B:

Maybe a little Brylcreem. Can’t say for sure. Definitely had The Wave going. Which was a neg, frankly.. “Straighter the better” was the party line.

3 Mark Schilling { 04.03.13 at 10:47 am }

When I transferred schools from Barberton, Ohio to Ellwood City, Pennsylvania in the 8th grade, the winter of 1963, I knew that my fate would be decided by how I looked the first day. I wore a three-quarter-sleeve madras shirt, slim-fit beltless slacks and iridescent green trench coat. It was my best approximation of the “continental” look, intended to overawe my hick classmates. Thankfully, they didn’t beat me up.

4 Ken Goldberg { 04.04.13 at 9:51 am }

My favorite hair tonic was the one with the attractive woman calling to a guy “Heads up, handsome!.”…. I think the product is still around today & I’ve purchased it in recent years.

Bert “stylish?” Ha ha, hee hee….

However they dressed at Shaker Heights High from 1962-66 is just the way they dressed at my Brighton High School those years. We had some Italians and some were in that description, but there were not many.

I’ve got three great book on “preppies” and many of these styles just never go out of fashion. That’s the whole point….

Leave a Comment