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 New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



A college kid told my band’s guitarist he went to Columbia University, and my guy said, “Where’s that?”

That knocked the college boy back a few SAT points.

College quiz question: What college narrowly missed being in the original Ivy League football conference?

Answer: Colgate University.*

Another fact: Yiddishe Cup once shared the bill with the Colgate glee club at a Cleveland wedding.

More: Former MIT folk dancers are a solid market for Yiddishe Cup.  Yiddishe Cup has played several simchas for MIT folk dancers.

Regionally speaking, I was loyal to Ohio State for many years.  My dad took me to Ohio State homecoming games every year.  My father lived in a corner of Ohio Stadium, in the scholarship dorm, the Tower Club, which was actually a barracks with cots. My dad often said some of the gentiles at Ohio State, back in the 1930s, thought Jews had horns.

A New Jersey woman — a potential bar mitzvah customer — called me and said, “I went to Ohio U. in the 1980s.  All the kids from Mentor and Madison [Ohio] thought I had horns.”

The Buckeye marching band had horns.  (Horns and percussion. No clarinets.)

The only time my father yelled at a TV was when Ohio State played Cincinnati for the 1961 basketball championship.  Who won?  [Cincinnati, 70-65.]

I attended a college-rejection shiva. The shiva — at Corky & Lenny’s restaurant in April 1968 — was for a friend who was rejected by every college he applied to. He got in nowhere!  He was ranked fifth, or so, in our high school class, but every college turned him down because the high school guidance counselor didn’t like him and wrote a negative recommendation.  (He was way too political for my school.)

We sat in the corner booth at C&Ls and drank chocolate phosphates, commiserating with our friend.  We were all in somewhere, and he wasn’t.

He eventually got accepted to Ohio State on a late application. Back then, if you had a heartbeat you could get into OSU.  He wound up in an OSU high-rise dorm with 16 guys per suite.  It wasn’t anything like the house system at Harvard.


I knew a college counselor at University School, a private boys’ school in Cleveland.  If the counselor put in a good word for you, you were in.  Harvard, Yale, you name it.  Harvey Mudd. Deep Springs.

The counselor didn’t believe his own myth.  Go to a school that was a “good fit,” he  said.  (“Good fit” was the watchword of  college counselors.)  This counselor went to Harvard, a “good fit” for a college counselor.

Here’s a tip for high school kids: on your application, focus on something esoteric.  Write:  “I want to be a klezmer musician because it is the cornerstone of my existence.”  Describe a setback you have faced. “My parents don’t like klezmer music. They are so wrong.  I’ve been thinking about klezmer my whole life.”

No guarantees, but give it a try.

*The statement about Colgate narrowly missing out on the Ivy League football conference may be apocryphal.

OSU Tower Club residents, 1937.  Click on the photo to make it bigger.  “Tower  Club,” a sign,  is on the stadium entrance to the left of “Toby.”)

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1 Mark Schilling { 11.20.13 at 10:26 am }

I ranked #8 in a class of 700 and I barely made it into UM off the waiting list. I don’t remember writing an essay. I do remember writing about all the cool stuff I would have been doing (school newspaper editor, Science Club president, etc.) if I’d stayed in my old school instead of transferring for my senior year. The admissions guy felt sorry for me…or so I imagined.

2 Ken G. { 11.20.13 at 10:28 am }

I hope all those high school students who read your blog – and I know there must be a great many – take your advice, Bert.
I was a pretty good undergrad student at Syracuse – particularly the last two years, majoring in Art History. I applied to five graduate schools for Art History and was turned down by all. Then I applied to six more – all decent schools, some outstanding, and got accepted into all. Happy ending.

3 William Jones { 11.20.13 at 10:43 am }

Footnote to “MIT folk dancers”. The MIT group was open to everyone in the Boston area. It was, for many years and may still be, the major folk dance scene in Boston. Folk dance always had, to me at least, more than its share of science oriented people.

4 Marc { 11.20.13 at 2:28 pm }

My daughter was recently in the MIT Jewish acapella group Techiyah. It’s made up of very smart geeky Jewish and Oriental kids. I am friendly with the former wife of the twice President of Ohio State.

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