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.


 
 

Category — Coming of Age

YOU ARE THERE: 1973 PART 2

Cleveland was a hell for me last month. But not a bad hell. My mother lined up dates for me. The dates were with daughters of my mother’s friends. I took girls to bars and ordered 7&7s. That was my booze repertoire: 7&7.

I got feedback about the dates through back channels — info my mother gleaned at bridge games. Some girls liked me, some didn’t. One girl thought I was “a little weird.”

She was weird! She had no business dragging me through a military courtroom  — her dad’s den with World War II medals on the wall. “What are your plans? What do you do?” I wasn’t dating him.

What’s an apricot sour? That’s what I want to know. The daughter ordered that at the bar.

Right now I’m in Bodega Bay, California, sitting on the dock. A friend from college works at the marine lab here. I’m eating squid. Or maybe it’s a big snail. Wastin’ time?

2019 update: I stayed about a month in California and left for Latin America. I hitched and rode buses from Tijuana to Colombia. I stayed in Colombia a couple months, teaching English. In early 1974 I returned to Cleveland. My autobio: I Stayed in Cleveland.

Dunk A Feli / Funk A Deli / Yiddishe Cup plays an outdoor concert 7 pm Thurs., Aug 15, in University Heights, Ohio.  Walter Stinson Community Park, 2313 Fenwick Road. Used to be a school site — Northwood. You can bring beer and wine to the show. And hopefully there will be free ice cream bars, too. We’ll play klezmer and soul music and a combination of the two.

 

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July 31, 2019   1 Comment

YOU ARE THERE: 1973 PART 1

Beachwood, Ohio  1973

I live with my parents at the Mark IV, a high-rise apartment by the freeway. I’m living with my parents at age 23. I want to go to the North Pole. Chekhov said, “People do not go to the North Pole and fall off icebergs. They go to offices, quarrel with their wives and eat cabbage soup.”

My dad got mad at me because I didn’t want to save five dollars on traveler’s checks by shopping at various banks. “You aren’t a millionaire yet,” he said, scratching himself. He was wearing just underpants.

Tonight at a party — a parents’ party — Zoltan Rich, a Hungarian know-it-all, said, “The students protest for entirely selfish reasons. You know what the chief word is we’re missing — the key to the whole discussion? It’s obligation. Parents have abrogated their responsibility.”

It’s time to go. A guy from Case Western Reserve said he could give me a ride out west tomorrow. I won’t come back here for at least six months. My mother has a bridge game here tomorrow. If I’m within 100 feet of that game, I die.

I’ll try the Rand McNally approach to self-discovery . . .

loayl to axe 1

It’s 3 a.m. in Utah and I’m sleeping under a picnic bench. I hear deer. Or bears? I hear semis shifting. What’s up? I don’t even like “freak” America. Deep down I’m straighter than David Eisenhower. I might wind up back in Cleveland. Or maybe I’ll settle out in California.

 

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July 24, 2019   5 Comments

ALLEN GINSBERG TOLD ME
THE WORLD WAS ENDING

When Allen Ginsberg visited my college poetry class in 1969, he said we only had five years left. He said, “I’m afraid to read the papers.” And he said Burroughs claimed we had less than five years.

schilling and bert 1970

Mark Schilling (L) and Bert Stratton. 1970, hitchhiking from Cleveland to A2. Sign reads “Ann Arbor.”

How was I supposed to get through pre-med if the world was ending? The Ann Arbor Bank sign read 15 degrees. The sign at the First United Methodist Church was “Are you going through life with a kindergartner’s conception of God?” Probably. Ginsberg had a beard.

The first Earth Day was in April 1970. People suddenly were talking about duck-down and goose-down sleeping bags instead of the Vietnam war. I bought a bag for $35. The feathers kept coming out the seams. It was sewn-through, so where the thread was, there was no down. The seams were supposed to keep the down from rolling down to one end. It didn’t work too well. I couldn’t even turn in it. It was called a mummy bag. I felt dead. But the world didn’t end.

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May 29, 2019   4 Comments

COLLEGE ADMISSION

I knew a college counselor who if he put in a good word for you, you were in. Harvard, Yale, Harvey Mudd, Deep Springs. That’s what we parents all thought, but the counselor didn’t produce every single time. He said go to a college that was a “good fit.” He, himself, went to Harvard, always a good fit for a college counselor.

Here’s my approach — and  a tip for high schoolers. Describe a setback you have faced. “My parents don’t like klezmer music. They are so wrong. I’ve been playing klezmer my whole life. It has made me think for myself and be my own person.”

I attended a college-rejection shiva in 1968. A high school friend was rejected by every college he applied to. He got in nowhere! And he was in the top 10 in our class. (We’re pretty sure, in hindsight, the guidance counselor blackballed him.) We sat in a corner booth at Corky & Lenny’s and drank chocolate phosphates. My friend eventually got in to Ohio State on a late application. OSU had rolling, open admissions. In Columbus, my friend lived in a high-rise dorm with 16 guys per suite. It was not exactly the house system at Harvard.

Tower Club OSU 1937 Toby Stratton

My dad with his dormmates at Ohio Stadium, about 1935. The men lived in the stadium. All in one room, on cots.


Yidd Cup / FAD (Funk a Deli) is at Park Syn, Pepper Pipes, Ohio, tonight (March 20) at 7:15 pm. Free. Happy Purim!

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March 20, 2019   2 Comments

THE TENNIS COURT SHOVELER

When Rich Greenberg and I were in high school, tennis was a tree of life to them that lay hold fast of it. Rich shoveled the snow off the courts at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights. Nuts. He played so well he wound up on the UC-Santa Barbara team. I waited six months every winter for spring tennis. I wasn’t going to shovel courts.Think about it: no snow blowers in the 1960s, and the courts had to be perfectly dry.

Contemplating tennis — and not playing — was like practicing music without an instrument. It was doable, but not much fun. I owned Bill Tilden’s book on singles and Gardnar Mulloy’s doubles book. There was no tennis on TV. We didn’t have access to indoor courts.

Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis (1974) recommends watching the spin on the ball. Focus on the rotation of the ball’s seams. The author of The Inner Game of Music said something similar. Focus. I can’t remember on what. (Not as good a book as Inner Tennis.)

When I play a concert, I sometimes focus on an imaginary green cot as a mental image. The cot is an emergency-shelter Red Cross cot. Keeps me calm.

green cot

When I was a sub on a gig, the bandleader shouted at me: “Listen!” Meaning “Listen to the music!” Maybe I was distracted by the hors d’oeuvre.

In my twenties — after college — I thought tennis was dumb. Two adults hitting a ball over a net. That was not solving any problem. I hung out with Rich at his tennis pro job in Rocky River, Ohio. Rich said he couldn’t teach the middle-aged women — the 35 year olds — anything new. He said, “I wish tennis hadn’t boomed. It would force me to do something else.” He spent time arranging inter-clubs between “our girls” and Lorain. He eventually moved to Seattle and did something else. Insurance, for one thing. And he plays harmonica in a blues band.

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January 30, 2019   4 Comments

CALIFORNIA

Around the time my younger son left for California — about seven years ago — I ran into a 24-year-old San Francisco girl at a shiva in Cleveland and told her to meet up with my son in Cali and show him around. I said, “Find him a job, a house, and marry him. I hope I’m not laying too big a trip on you.”

I was. She avoided me the rest of the shiva.

My daughter (who moved to Chicago about 10 years ago) once told me: “The kids who go out to California never come back.” My son in Cali said he feels guilty about leaving Cleveland, but not that guilty. He is 47-percent homeboy. I — by comparison — am 99.9-percent homeboy. I went to California four times in my twenties and ate a lot of KFC chicken on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley and saw many loose screws on Sproul Plaza, such as a woman who wore a vinyl yellow-and-black Carnaby Street cap all the time. I hitchhiked up to Bolinas and Santa Rosa, and ate a large snail at a marine biology lab in Bodega Bay. My dad told me to move to California. Maybe that’s why I didn’t.

Time Traveler

Time Traveler

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November 28, 2018   3 Comments

THE REVOLUTION

I told my dad I couldn’t do pre-med because of The Revolution. How could I do eight years, minimum, of science during a revolution? My dad, surprisingly, did not think I was nuts. This was 1969, and he believed a revolution was coming too.

In Ann Arbor, the Jesse James Gang splintered from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The gedolim of the gang – Diana Oughton, Bill Ayers and Jim Mellen — wore hiking boots, wire rims, and were Hollywood handsome. They were several years older than me. The Jesse James Gang met in a U. building and encouraged us to take it to the streets.

Some protestors threw rocks through store windows and carried NLF flags. An acquaintance, John Gettel, threw a rock through the Ann Arbor Bank. A couple years later I saw him on a street corner in Cleveland, passing out leaflets for Lyndon LeRouche. John had moved to Cleveland to mingle with the working class. I honked, said hi, and drove off. I was on my way to my job managing apartments.

Dux Wirtanen, a Finnish-American student from the UP, got his jaw broken in a fight outside Hill Auditorium. I don’t remember why. Afterward, he drank through a straw for weeks.

I went to Cobo Hall to protest George Wallace. The funny thing was George Wallace was a good speaker. In 1968 the Michigan Daily endorsed Humphrey. Some of my friends thought the Daily should endorse Eldridge Cleaver (Peace and Freedom Party).

george c wallace

George Wallace

The Revolution petered out in late 1970, after Kent State. Youth-craziness and youth fashion shifted toward ecology — back to the land, communes, and brown rice.

I blame my flame-out in organic chemistry on The Revolution.

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May 30, 2018   4 Comments

HALIBUT WAS CHEAP THEN

For Clevelanders only, don’t forget to click the City Journal link at the end of this post.

When my mother died, we stored her furniture in the basement of one of my apartment buildings on the West Side. The furniture sat there for five years until my older son, Teddy, took the stuff and went off to law school. The furniture was mildewed but usable.

When I visited Teddy at law school and saw my mom’s furniture again, I had full-color flashbacks. Seeing that yellow kitchen table in play again was mildly disturbing. I had eaten at that table for my first 18 years, and now it was in student-housing in Toledo. It was Formica. It was worth something.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In high school I was laconic at that table. I didn’t talk. My dad didn’t talk much either. My whole family didn’t talk much. We didn’t watch TV at dinner, either. We ate a lot of fish. Halibut was cheap then.

Here’s one I wrote for City Journal about snow. Just came out. “Gettin’ My Snow Belt On.”

super woman

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March 21, 2018   2 Comments

PURE JAZZ AND
MY COLLEGE ROOMMATE

Pure jazz was my thing. Blues, too. My roommate, John, was an inner-city kid who didn’t know a clarinet from an oboe, or anything about music. I visited John at his Chicago house decades later (1995); he lived in his childhood neighborhood, Wrigleyville. His teenage kid was jamming to Jamey Aebersold jazz play-along records.

John had started U. of Michigan as a pre-med, like me and everybody else, but he came out a railroad brakeman. Sophomore year he chalked “Take Drugs” and “Only Fools Stay in School” on the sidewalk in front of our co-op house, and he dropped out.

In 1995 he said he was sweating his monthly urine test with the railroad. His house, which he had bought in 1975 for $30,000, was worth more than a half million. “I’m a capitalist now,” he said. “And I have two renters.” But he still subscribed to The Militant, the Socialist Workers newspaper. His son played “Watermelon Man” on tenor sax. This was familiar to me, except for The Militant part. My parents had subscribed to Newsweek.

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January 17, 2018   2 Comments

MY SHOW BIZ LUNCH
IN CLEVELAND

I had a show biz lunch at Corky & Lenny’s. This was in 1980, when C&L’s was still at Cedar Center. The lunch was Hollywood-style, not Hollywood kosher. Bert Dragin, the owner of a local furniture store chain, was looking for a movie script. Dragin said to me, “I’ve got money. Everybody will talk to me in L.A. Right now I have something in the Best of the New York Erotic Film Festival.” He wondered if I would write a screenplay about a fire at a gay nightclub in Atlanta. Not my thing, I told him.

Dragin sold his business and moved to Hollywood. He produced Suburbia (1983) and directed Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) and Twice Dead (1988).

Dragin said, “You heard of Erotic Salad? It’s got a soft-X rating.” I said no. That’s as close as I got to Hollywood.

erotic salad movie

This post is a rerun.

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December 27, 2017   1 Comment

SHARP SALAMI

There’s no money in the arts. My old clarinet teacher told me that.  He used to eat salami sandwiches while I took lessons. That stunk. Mr. Golub. He bought a building across from his music store; named the building after his daughter, The Joyce Manor; and sold it years later. He said he regretted he didn’t move with his brother to D.C. and make an even bigger killing there in a real boom town.

Golub’s Music Center. He had a neon saxophone on the sign. That, alone, drew the customers.  Inside, there were bongos and guitars.

Mr. Golub couldn’t play by ear. That mystified him. Mystifies me — playing by ear. But I can do it —  somewhat.

I’m the klezmer guy. I go to shivas and tell the mourners that, and, yeah, they recognize me. They say, “Oh, you’re the klezmer guy.”

Everybody needs to be some kind of “guy” (or “gal”). I became the klezmer guy because I put together the longest-lasting Jewish band between Chicago and D.C.  Yiddishe Cup.

No mega money in this but it keeps me from going nuts.

A version of this post first appeared 5/12/09. Klezmer Guy post numero-uno.


Yiddishe Cup is at Akron First Night 10-11:30 p.m. Sat. (Dec 31.)

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December 28, 2016   2 Comments

MOST EVERYBODY WAS
INTO STEPPENWOLF

Most everybody was into Steppenwolf. My freshman roommate liked the MC5 too. I convinced him to move out. I got a roommate who was into Jefferson Airplane. That was better, but not much. (By the way, fans said “Jefferson Airplane” or “The Airplane,” but never “The Jefferson Airplane.”)

Pure jazz — that was my thing. The blues, too, was OK. My last freshman roommate, Dave (not his real name), was an inner-city Chicago kid into nothing musically. Dave didn’t know a clarinet from an oboe. We got along fine. (I went through three roommates. Was it me?)

I visited Dave at his Chicago house decades later (1995); he lived in his childhood neighborhood, Wrigleyville. His teenage kid was jamming to jazz play-along records. Dave was a brakeman. He had begun the U. of Michigan as a pre-med, like everybody else, but had come out a railroad brakeman, like Neal Cassady. Sophomore year he had chalked “Take Drugs” and “Only Fools Stay in School” on the sidewalk outside the co-op house. Dave did drop out.

Dave, rolling a cigarette on his Chicago front stoop, said he was sweating his monthly urine test. His house, which he had bought in 1975 for $30,000, was worth more than a half mill. “I’m a capitalist,” he said. “I have two renters.” And he still subscribed to the Socialist Workers newspaper. His kid played “Watermelon Man” on tenor sax. Every high schooler starts on that, thanks to Jamey Aebersold’s jazz play-along series.

This scene was familiar, except for The Militant newspaper. (I had played along to Aebersold, too; my parents had subscribed to Newsweek.)

Bert Stratton jamming in South Euclid, Ohio, around 1970. (My mom caught the sailfish.)

Bert Stratton jamming in South Euclid, Ohio, around 1970. (My mom caught the sailfish.)

A version of this appeared post here 4/28/2010

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December 21, 2016   13 Comments

FROM THE HISTORY CHANNEL . . .
PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

When a relative of mine ran for school board and lost, my father said, “Don’t run again.  You don’t want to get a loser’s reputation.” My relative didn’t run again. I, too, play by my dad’s rules. I might run for president in 2020. Not saying yet.

First, a little background: I was a Kennedy man. I had a button as a big as a dinner plate.

Bert Stratton w/ Kennedy buttons, Ohio Stadium, 1960

I started my own country (on paper) in sixth grade and elected presidents and representatives. My country was a solace, because in the real world I couldn’t run for president because a) I wasn’t 35 and b) I was Jewish.

My mother said I could run and win. She duped me! Mom, my man, Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut, couldn’t even run. Newsweek said the country wasn’t ready for the Ribman, even for veep.

Now presumably a Jew could win. But let me be clear: I won’t start out at school-board level or even vice president. Trump taught me to go big or go home. My Little League teammate Joel Hyatt (Cleveland Heights High ’68) ran for U.S. Senate and got clobbered, maybe because he hadn’t paid his dues; he hadn’t run for lesser offices.

Lee Fisher wins state senate seat, 1982

Lee Fisher (Shaker Heights High ’69) paid dues. I saw him at a civic club meeting in Collinwood in 1982: six neighbors, Lee and me. (I was a Sun Newspaper reporter.)  Fisher eventually climbed to lieutenant governor. Then he got clobbered for the U.S. Senate.  He paid  dues, though. Give him that.  [What’s he up to now? . . . Interim dean of Cleveland State law school.]

I’m willing to pay no dues. Again, the Trump influence.

My American history teacher at Brush High said Stratton is a good political name. (My teacher’s name was Americo Betori. He should have run for mayor of Cleveland, about 1950, against Celebreeze. Battle of the vowels.)

Remember that name. No, not Americo Betori. Stratton! (Mr. Betori died three years ago. I could identify 98 capitals and states on a blank map — my strong suit. My weak suit: being personable. Mr. Betori wrote on my final report card, “Cheer up, Bert, and give the world a chance!”  Good advice. I try to follow it. I might give the world a chance to vote for Stratton in 2020.  No experience necessary.

A version of this appeared here 10/31/12.

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November 9, 2016   4 Comments

A LOVE SUPREME

The Jazz Temple was a former Packard showroom at Mayfield Road and Euclid Avenue. Coltrane and Dinah Washington  played there. The Jazz Temple was in business from 1960 to 1963. I passed the Jazz Temple weekly on my way to Sunday school at The Temple, the gold-domed Reform temple in University Circle.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver was the head rabbi at The Temple. He once spoke at the United Nations, advocating for the founding of the State of Israel. Rabbi Silver’s son, Dan, was the assistant rabbi. Dan  played football at Harvard and occasionally wrote for the Cleveland Edition.

At Sunday school, kids were mostly from Shaker Heights. One kid got a ride in a limo to temple. The driver wore a chauffeur’s cap. The limo wasn’t a Rolls; it was a Buick station wagon.

I couldn’t grasp how temple — the word — fit into the Jazz Temple. Was Jazz a religion too? Many years later, I met former beatniks who had actually gone to shows at the Jazz Temple.

abba-hillel-silverThe Jazz Temple was blown up in 1963. Somebody didn’t like the club or the owner, Winston Willis, a controversial black businessman. At The Temple religious school, we students attended services every Sunday morning to hear Rabbi Silver. (Services were on Sunday, not Saturday, in the 1950s at Silver’s.) Rabbi Silver looked like God. Nowadays, at The Temple East in Beachwood, there is a Abba Hillel Silver memorial study. The rabbi’s desk is laid out like he just stepped out for lunch. He died in 1963, just six days after Kennedy got murdered.

A slightly different version of this appeared 9/5/12. If you need baseball stuff, see my story at City Journal.

 

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November 2, 2016   5 Comments

HARVARD

After college I returned to Cleveland and hung around Case Western Reserve University to keep my sanity. I wanted the college bubble. I was at Case every chance I got. At a Case party a medical illustrator asked me what I did, and I said, “I manage apartment buildings.” She walked away. Marcy — a friend at the party — said, “It’s not in her experience — apartment building management.” Marcy was a grad student in organizational behavior. I couldn’t see grad school.

A woman asked me, “Are you in OB?”

“No, I’m not in medical school.”

“OB is organizational behavior.”

“I’m not in that either.”

Harmonica dudeApartment building management. What more could I say — want to hear my harmonica? I shut up. Docs, nutritionists, organizational behaviorists, and medical students. I went up to another medical illustrator. Illustrators are arty. She wouldn’t talk to me. (Could have been other factors — not going there.)

Marcy wrote her OB thesis on the “event of play in a closed group.” For a while, I was in her closed group. Marcy’s parents had a mansion outside of New York City with a quarter-mile driveway. I never saw the house but I heard about it. Her dad was on the board of trustees of a major foreign university. I blew it.

“So many Harvard people here!” a woman said, walking past Marcy and me. Three Harvard people: 1) The host, an OB grad student 2) my friend Marcy 3) a man who was on his way to D.C. to be a lobbyist. Harvard people were on their way, and I was in Cleveland, maybe forever. Tenants called about low water pressure and no heat. Tenants mailed in flecks of peeling paint with notes like “I”m taking $10 off my rent because of this.”

I’m in real estate. I say that now. It’s OK when you’re over 30. The night my father died, my mother and I spent hours sorting business checks on the dining room table, waiting to go to the funeral home. I’ve been dealing with bills ever since.

I Googled Marcy. She’s a professor at a college in Massachusetts. (Not Harvard.) I should message her. I won’t. Too awkward. Remembering this — also awkward.


A version of this post appeared in Belt Magazine 2/19/15.

I had another op-ed in the New York Times, on Monday, about Trump, taxes and me. Hundreds of comments. 

I own the Times. Sulzberger > Stratton. My dad did that name change.

Stratton (white cap) surrounded by minority partners in NYT

Stratton (white cap) surrounded by minority partners in NYT

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October 19, 2016   3 Comments

TWO GUYS FROM CLEVELAND

Italians have great names, grant them that. The best name from my old neighborhood was Bocky Boo DiPasquale.  Bocky led a band, Bocky and the Visions, a local version of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Bocky Boo was a pre-Beatles greaser with a strong regional following; he got significant air play on Cleveland radio and on Detroit’s CKLW.

Bocky Boo, second from left, early 1960s

The Bock became a Cleveland legend. I, however, was too young to grasp Bocky’s vision. I didn’t listen to his music. I just knew his name and wondered, Can Bocky Boo be real?

I knew an Alfred Mastrobuono. Real.

I knew Carmen Yafanaro. Real.

Ralph Dodero. Real.

Bocky Boo’s real name was Robert DiPasquale.

Robby Stamps — another musician from my high school — knew The Bock and all other local bands, past or present.  Stamps was a rocker, riding the first wave of psychedelia. (Robby’s sister incidentally was Penny Stamps.)

Stamps never showed up at high school reunions. He said the Italian greasers would harass him for being a radical. Stamps was a misher — a meddler — more than a radical. He was always around the action, like Zelig. Stamps was shot in the buttock at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

After graduating Kent, Stamps worked jobs as an adjunct faculty member in Hawaii, California and Florida. He majored in sociology and Spanish. Stamps was half Jewish — an oddity in the 1960s. Back then you were generally all Jewish, or you weren’t. Robby’s father was Floyd(Not a Jew.) 

Robby Stamps, 1996, at Kent State

Stamps hung around with just about everybody in high school: racks (aka greasers, dagos), white-bread American kids (aka squids, collegiates) and Jews (aka Jews). Stamps was an emissary between the various groups; he had a pisk (big mouth), played music and was fearless — except at reunions.

Stamps wasn’t part of the “in” crowd or the “out” crowd. Stamps was his own man. He  scribbled “pseudo-freak” on the photo of a hippie poseur in my yearbook.

In middle age, Stamps developed every kind of illness: Crohn’s, Lyme Disease and pneumonia, plus he had the May 4 bullet wound. He died in 2008 at 58.

If Stamps had come to the reunions, he probably would have shed light — some sociology — on the  cliques. Stamps’ perspective was sarcastic, bitter and funny. He would have said something like: “See those Jews at the bar, those guys wore penny loafers in seventh grade without pennies in them, and yelled at me because I put pennies in mine.   They threw pennies on the floor. If you picked up the pennies, you were a ‘cheap Jew.’ I threw pennies. I worked both sides of the street.”

In 1988 Bocky Boo was shot and killed in a bar. The cops — some who had grown up with The Bock — tried hard to find Bocky’s killer. There was even a website, whokilledbocky, for a few years ago. (Now down. ) No Luck. The Bock and Stamps didn’t stick around.

Well, that’s one thing I can say about that boy, he gotta go.
–Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Born in Chicago,” lyrics by Nick Gravenites

Tombstone Eyes

This post originally appeared 5/2/12.

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May 4, 2016   8 Comments

THE WHEEZER

I was allergic to everything from buckwheat pancakes to peaches. I went to the Asthma and Hay Fever Clinic for shots with my dad. He got shots too.  The treatment for asthma and allergies back then was shots, which didn’t work too well — at least for me.

wheezer

My mother said, “Sit up. I’ll get your pills.” The pills were red tabs I put under my tongue in the middle of the night. This was before albuterol and steroids. This was when there were leeches and cupping. I had a difficult time breathing.  I’m not saying I was going to die, but I had some bad nights as a kid. My mother said, “Stick another pill under your tongue and press it down, and try to keep your mouth closed.” I couldn’t keep my mouth closed; I had to breathe.  “Get on your bathrobe and stand up,” my mother said. So I walked around.

I was 13, and I was the wheezer.

The asthma attacks tapered off in my teenage years.  Breakthrough: at 31 I participated in a drug trial at the VA hospital and got Cromolyn and started jogging. Everything worked out for the best, except I’m probably more morbid than the average person.

Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron tomorrow night, New Year’s Eve, 10-11:30 p.m, John S. Knight Convention Center, Goodyear Ballroom.

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December 30, 2015   2 Comments

BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED

1964 . . .
Maybe I  should buy Canoe for Stone’s bar mitzvah. No, I think I’ll go with a proof set.

The guys outside the Coin Shop at Cedar Center are sharp dressers. Schwartz has a built-in watch in his ID bracelet. Levin is twitching — a nervous thing. Stern has a heart murmur. The Twitch says, “I wish Cotton was a monkey.” That’s from the Little Rascals. Schwartz asks if I’m going to Stone’s bar mitzvah.

Yes, I’m going, but I’m not dancing at the bar mitzvah!

bar mitzvah

Canoe?

Proof set? I don’t know. BU set? (Brilliant uncirculated.)

Mint set?

I don’t want to go.


 This is half-true fiction.


I wrote “At Harvey Pekar’s Pad” for the Cleveland Plain Dealer (7/12/15).

10 items or less

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July 15, 2015   4 Comments

MY SHOW BIZ LUNCH
IN CLEVELAND

I had a show biz lunch at Corky & Lenny’s.  The lunch was Hollywood-style, not Hollywood.  Bert Dragin, the owner of a furniture store chain, was looking for a movie script.  (This was in 1980. C&L’s was still at Cedar Center.)  Dragin said to me, “I’ve got money.  Everybody will talk to me in L.A.  Right now I have something in the Best of the New York Erotic Film Festival.” He suggested I write a screenplay about a fire at a gay nightclub in Atlanta.  Not my thing, sorry.

Dragin sold his Name Brand Furniture stores and moved to Hollywood to make movies.  He produced Suburbia (1983), and directed Summer Camp Nightmare (1987) and Twice Dead (1988).

I wrote a screenplay, The Flamer, about a bar mitzvah party where several kids got burned to death by playing with sterno.  [This paragraph is fiction.  The rest is true.]

Dragin ran a tab at Corky & Lenny’s, which he probably paid monthly. He acted in his TV ads for the furniture store.  “You heard of Erotic Salad?” he said. “It’s got a soft-X rating.”

“No.”  That’s as close as I got to Hollywood.

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March 4, 2015   6 Comments

OHIO STATE VS. MICHIGAN

I was at a brunch where all the men wore Ohio State apparel.  That in itself was not unusual; I know a lot of Ohio State fans who do brunch, but the host at this brunch was particularly Bucks-nuts; he would not let anybody into his house with Michigan gear on.

ohio state v michiganI didn’t have any on.

I’m not that big a football fan. I’m a Michigan graduate but I wish Ohio State all the best — most of the time. I like it when Michigan is winning, but this year the team is horrible, so let Ohio State go all the way.

Yiddishe Cup had a trumpet player — a sub — who played in the Ohio State marching band. He played a luncheon with Yiddishe Cup, and the OSU-Michigan game (originally scheduled for 3 pm) went on at noon, so I gave the musician leeway on the bandstand; I let him periodically watch the Bucks on a TV in a corner. The other guys in the band thought I was too accommodating. They didn’t
understand . . .

Take 1962: OSU versus Northwestern, homecoming.  Before the game, my dad and I went to a reunion luncheon.  My dad had on a Class of ’38 name tag. I don’t know what the name tag read; my father changed his name from Soltzberg to Stratton in 1941. The theme for the fraternity floats in 1962 may have been “Peanuts.”  My dad knew the words to “Carmen Ohio,” the OSU alma mater.  My dad never knew the words to any song!

My dad and I went to about a half dozen Ohio State homecomings. I liked Long’s Bookstore for sweatshirts.  Charbert’s for hamburgers.  We checked out the floats on fraternity row.  My dad wanted to show me the medical school.

The Bucks: Tom Matte, Warfield, Matt Snell and Bob Ferguson.

If Michigan doesn’t win it all (and it ain’t going to this year), let Ohio State.

Julia and Toby Stratton, Ohio Stadium.  (Julia came on our first homecoming outing -- 1959,)

Julia and Toby Stratton, Ohio Stadium. (My mother went on our first homecoming outing, 1959.)

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November 26, 2014   2 Comments