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.



This is a guest post by Mark Schilling. It’s an edited excerpt from an unpublished novel Mark wrote in 1973. (The character “Bruce” is based on yo.)

Bruce answered my questions about his trip to Puerto Rico in a monotone, with that dry humor of his, never looking at me and seldom saying more than the minimum. Wanting to cheer him up, I suggested we go to The Scene — the bar famed for having the only psychedelically lighted dance floor in Ann Arbor. I said, “Maybe we can pick up some secretaries from Ypsilanti and tell them we’re pre-med students.”

Bruce agreed to go. “But no junior high school shit,” he said. “No standing around for an hour to get the feel of things. We walk up to the first two hip-looking girls we see and ask to sit down with them.”

“You take the lead, man.”

“Don’t try to bring me down, I’ll need all the help I can get,” Bruce said.

“I’m not going to bring you down,” I said, feeling pissed. But I let it ride.

The Scene was packed. It was Saturday night. The drummer and keyboard player, who accompanied the records, were taking a break. Bruce and I stood at the bar surveying the crowd. “See the two chicks in back?” Bruce asked. “I’ll go over and see if it’s cool. Just stay here.” One, with her back to us, was wearing a red bandana. The other, a blonde, looked fantastic.

What was Bruce going to say? Hi, my friend and I would like to sit with you? I hoped it would be something better than that, but what? Bruce waved me over.

Now it was my turn to feel the butterflies. Bruce was sitting next to the blonde. The girl with the red bandana had a friendly, intelligent smile, which made me wonder what she was doing at The Scene. We covered everyone’s name, occupation and place of residence. The bandana girl, Jane, was a natural resources student at the U of M; the blonde, Marie, was a drop-out from Wayne State, now working as a check-out clerk at a Kroger’s in Detroit.

Bruce asked Marie who her favorite authors were, as a ploy for recounting his own poetic and journalistic exploits (he wrote music reviews for the college newspaper). When she told him she had read On the Road, he looked as though he was going to hug her. “You know Kerouac! What else have you read?” All interesting, but with the music blasting away it was hard to hear half of what they were saying.

So I quizzed Jane about her major. She was very concerned about the environment. “We’re running out of time,” she told me. “We’ve got to make changes now. In twenty years it will be too late.” She didn’t know what to do about it and neither did I. We danced, talked some more, and then Jane and Marie had to leave. Bruce wrote Marie’s number down on a napkin.

Walking back to campus, Bruce said, “Her name is Marie Verdoux. She’s a Frog — a Canuck!” Bruce had wanted to meet a French girl ever since becoming a fan of Kerouac, that son of Canucks. “She’s a genius, no doubt about it.”

A couple days later I dropped by Bruce’s place, a rooming house just off State Street. He was sitting on his bed listening to records. He’d been at it for hours. Bruce told me he had called Marie. “She was surprised but I think she dug it,” he said.

“What did you talk about?”

“Bullshit. I was just doing it to keep my edge. I don’t want her to forget who I am, you know.” Then Bruce rambled on more about Marie — what a good time they would have together. Bruce liked to make every encounter with a girl into a big moment of truth, a matter of make or break. We could endlessly analyze the nuances of these meetings. Bruce said, “I tape-recorded the call. She has an incredible voice, like an airline stewardess or something.”

Bruce tape-recorded nearly everyone who walked into his room or talked to him on the phone. It bugged me at first to see him flipping that thing on at the start of a conversation, but I’d gotten used to it. Bruce said he was making the tapes for posterity. He liked to quote Ed Sanders’ adage “this is the age of investigation and every citizen must investigate.”

This tape — this blog post, label it “The Scene, 1973.”

Mark Schilling, 1977

Mark Schilling, 1977

—  Mark Schilling has lived in Japan for decades and writes regularly for The Japan Times and Variety. His books include Sumo, A Fan’s Guide; Tokyo After Dark; The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture; and most recently Art, Cult and Commerce: Japanese Cinema Since 2000.


shareEmail this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter


1 Bert Stratton { 01.12.22 at 8:35 am }

Nice job, Mark! You realize that writing now, in 2022, about the 1970s is like writing about Roaring ’20s in the 1970s. Ancient history.

I like all the “man,” “chicks” and “dig it” dialogue. Takes me back.

2 Mark Schilling { 01.12.22 at 8:55 am }

Well, it wasn’t ancient history when I wrote it — 1973. Thanks for posting it. Maybe again sometime…

3 Kenneth Goldberg { 01.12.22 at 9:55 am }

I think about the ’70s a lot too. Also ’90s, ’80s, ’10s, ’50s, etc.
Birthday tomorrow….

4 Bert Stratton { 01.12.22 at 1:48 pm }

This is from a reader who will remain anonymous:

It’s a fun read as you and Mark have excavated the highs and lows of A2 anomie. The rootlessness. The searching.

The Scene. I am imagining that was the disco bar at Huron and Ashley which went thru many name changes and remakes. It seemed to never find a groove. And I don’t believe I ever went there.

Mr. Flood’s Party, yes. Primo’s Show Bar in the old Schwaben Hall, Del Rio, and the dingy, claustrophobic basement of the Blind Pig. But bars were never my scene. Always felt stilted, pricey and out of balance with my aesthetic. Tolerated the Nectarine Ballroom, provided Patti Smith and Destroy All Monsters were on the bill.

You referred to “Flick’s.” Can I assume you were playing at the foggy edges of fiction in your remembrance? I do not recall any place called “Flick’s.” Sounds more like a student film society. Prove me wrong.

I do remember the unapproachable Flame, the bar next to Vogel’s Locksmith. Never got there. The gay scene seemed terra incognita and alien. Forbidden in a weird sense even in my fuck-it-all, experimental days. They were longtimers and one-and-onlys in A2, as far as I know.

Tired of winter already. And reading about overwhelmed hospitals. Here’s hope we catch a break from the serious frigid temps of the last couple days. Where’s my white shoes and ticket to Tampa?

5 Alice Stratton { 01.12.22 at 5:42 pm }

What happened with Marie? Readers need to know. Did the
spun fantasies ever become a reality?

6 Bert Stratton { 01.12.22 at 6:25 pm }

To Alice Stratton:

What happened with “Marie”? You’d have to ask the blog-post writer, Mark Schilling. (My guess is nothing happened!)

7 Bert Stratton { 01.12.22 at 6:28 pm }

To Mr. Anonymous:

There was a bar called Flick’s [mentioned in my blog post “My Beat-est Buddy”]. At least the internet says there was a Flick’s. 114 W. Washington, A2.

8 Dave Rowe { 01.18.22 at 12:44 pm }

The Shire, located downstairs from the Student Union, was the place to hang out at Cleveland State. The Heinekens always went down well, but as for scoring with the chicks, well, I had to catch the 55 west, the 17 east for her.

9 Ken Land { 01.22.22 at 4:28 pm }

To Bert Stratton.

Read your travails at the WSJ Friday, 1/21/22. Nice.

• I was at U of M same time as you +/-. 1967-1971. Made me the man I am. Don’t recall you from the Jewish community. Did we meet?

• I stayed in Ann Arbor-54+ years. We are everywhere, Jews and Wolverines.

• I own a few income properties in AA. I do not call it real estate although technically it is. Income property…makes you think of it differently. I make the properties as good as I can within reason, get the rent to what the market will bear, very careful about leasing, incentive for multiple years lease. Never had a vacancy since 1976.

• Location isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

• When Mommy comes with a tenant, BAD idea. Tenant incapable of independent living. Needs his mommy.

• Write a no smoking rule on the entire property, not just the apartment. A single butt breaks the lease and they can be kicked out. Plus, smokers are stupid, except for cigar smokers (me-Partagas Series D #4). Cigar smoke kills Corona virus-proven fact.

• On grease in the drain, nice Jewish humor. However, write it in the lease that the tenant is responsible for this sort of occurrence.

Call me? 734-320-5805


Leave a Comment