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 Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post.



I’m popular on the klezmer scene, mostly because I run The Challah Fame (aka the Klezmer Hall of Fame). The principle of the klezmer scene being the starved-dog principle when you throw a bit of food into the pit and all the dogs leap for it with fangs out, killing each other as they leap, that is the scene. There are so few bones (gigs) that the competition turns musicians into creeps immediately, because they’re climbing over each other’s backs for scraps.

I produce concerts at The Challah Fame. These concerts are big productions, and mine to dole out.  I favor Steven Greenman, for instance, because he has a cute bulldog and lives in Cleveland.  My band, Yiddishe Cup, naturally gets heavy rotation.  I also hire Harmonia and a handful of other bands that treat me right.

I pick musicians who, first off, like the Midwest (no putdowns of Cleveland, please), who play masterfully, who do the obligatory educational workshop, and who get drunk with me after the show. I like performers who tell me who is sleeping with whom on the scene, who is getting gigs in Poland, and who is on Sapoznik’s most-favored list today.  (Sapoznik is the klez Mafia don and a co-founder of KlezKamp.)

I try to hire young klezmer musicians because I was one once.  I remember when I lived near Coventry Road with a couple of babies.  The babies’ bedroom had obscene paintings on the wall and toys strewn about.  It was a typical starving musician’s pad, and I was the boss.  I thought so.  My wife didn’t. I got up every morning at 5 a.m. and watched the speed freaks feed the pigeons at Turtle Park. I’m looking for young Challah Fame talent like that.

If you’re a fresh, new klez musician and want to be really popular — “sell out” — that’s fine with me.  I respect any player who wants to eat.  If you can wrangle a gig with Perlman, go for it.  To me, Hustler is not just an Ohio-based porn magazine, it’s a badge of honor. Circle the wagons and promote yourself.

The perks the ones I dispense — go to musicians who respect The Challah Fame and its mission.  The Challah Fame, and the klezmer world in general, is a network, a mini-establishment.  When you mess with The Challah, you are messing not only me, but with everybody who buys into The Challah Fame, and that’s a lot of yehudim (plus three gentiles in Germany).

The Challah receives grant money from the county, state, NEA and foundations.  And a lot of individual philanthropic donations.  Enemies of The Challah are doomed,  on the outside looking in, like Pete Rose, forever.

I won’t print my enemies’ names.  So many people detest me, and they would love recognition — any recognition.

On second thought, haters, sign in here.  I  need to update my data base:__________, ___________, ___________, ___________, _____________, _____________.

Friends?  I have a few.  Wex, he’s très kosher. If you don’t know Wex, pick up a copy of the Klezmer News today at your newsstand and read up, man!  Wex is the poet laureate of klezmer.  He talked to me back when I was nobody,  before The Challah opened. I still enjoy getting drunk with Wex.

I like Byron too.  Lord Don Byron.  Thanks, Don, we’re  tired of just klez cats (kitties) on FB.

Rubintubist Rubin — is also on my A team, even though he once called Yiddishe Cup “crap,” or words to that effect.  Yiddishe Cup is a middle-brow schmaltz peddler, Rubin said.  I’m open to criticism if it’s that outrageous.

My scene, it is so different from the other klezmer scenes. My scene is compassionate and fun.

Heymish?  Nah.



The first paragraph of this post is a 95-percent ripoff of a Tom Clark rant on the poetry scene from Little Caesar #11 magazine, 1980.   Seventeen-percent of the rest of the post is a ripoff as well.  Thanks to Charlie Burch for the Little Caesar article.

File “My Scene” under KlezFiction. The complete KlezFiction series is here.

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1 Irwin Weinberger { 12.11.13 at 9:15 am }

I’m looking to apply for a grant from the Challah fame. Are you in charge? I would like 10 grand to paint portraits of famed Klezmer musicians. If I am granted these funds I will considering painting your portrait to install on the wall of the hall in the Challah fame.

2 Steven Greenman { 12.11.13 at 9:19 am }

Happy birthday Alice!

3 Ken G. { 12.11.13 at 11:27 am }

I’m guessing the Turtle Park reference is part of the 17%.

4 michael wex { 12.11.13 at 11:57 am }

“Poet laureate of klezmer”–if you’d said so a week earlier, I could have used it as a blurb on my next book.

5 Bert Stratton { 12.11.13 at 2:53 pm }

To Michael Wex:

Stop the presses! Blurts and blurbs — my specialties.

To Ken G:

The Turtle Park bit is fiction, but then again so is everything in the piece.

To Irwin Weinberger:

I want portraits of klez guys in the museum’s lobby.

You’re hired, but I can’t pay anything. Do a couple trial portraits, and if I like them, then we’ll talk money. Do Michael Alpert with and without a mustache.

To Steven Greenman:

Happy birthday to you!

6 Ken G { 12.11.13 at 4:36 pm }

All fiction? Hmmm…. I didn’t notice the usual warning upfront.

7 Bert Stratton { 12.11.13 at 4:52 pm }

To Ken G:

I put the “KlezFiction” notice at the bottom this time, as an experiment. Maybe I’ll move it back to the top. Do you want it at the top? Let the readers decide! All 2 of the readers (or 1) who care about the subject will respond, please:

8 Ellen { 12.11.13 at 7:45 pm }

I think “KlezFiction” should go in the middle.

9 Ken G. { 12.11.13 at 7:52 pm }

Everything’s a survey, nowadays…. I usually skip them, but in this case the issue is so extremely important I’ll grant you a response: top. And please, please, don’t vary the wording so drastically. I can’t take it.

10 Annette { 12.14.13 at 12:27 pm }

What about Golem? You love us!! We love Cleveland, gossiping and getting drunk – remember? And where is the fiction in this article – I don’t see it.

11 Bert Stratton { 12.14.13 at 2:17 pm }

To Annette:

Golem has a great fondness for vodka. That’s all I remember.

Hope to see your band in Cleveland again soon.

12 jack { 12.14.13 at 5:35 pm }

don’t label as fiction. go the fargo route

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