There's currently no snow in Seattle (we had some last Friday morning!), but it is winter now and it's definitely a wonderland outside. I took a break from wrapping presents earlier this morning to take a short Christmas walk to get some Christmas coffee. I'd only gone a few blocks when I unwittingly wandered into wonderland:
An elderly man who was cater-corner across the street, dressed in warm winter attire and with a tiny doggie on a leash, was loudly and repeatedly yelling something in a foreign language. I think he may have been Eastern European. As I drew closer, I saw that, in addition to the small dog at the end of his leash, he had five other tiny little doggies with him that were not on leashes. When I saw them, they saw me too and came dashing eagerly and recklessly to my side of the street. All of them were wearing bright doggie-sweaters, each a different color, and they yapped happily while circling around me as I continued down the sidewalk. Passing cars came to a stop in the street so as to not run the dogs over, and the elderly man continued shouting in his foreign language, trying to lure the dogs back across the street and through the door of his large white pickup. It was thrilling to be walking, even for just a few seconds, smack dab in the middle of a winter wonderland: I wonder why one dog was on a leash but the other five were not; I wonder what language that man was speaking; I wonder if all the doggies made it safely into that man's white truck; I wonder where that man found all those cute and colorful winter doggie sweaters; I wonder if he or any of his doggies realize that they totally made my day.
The other record store I visited in Las Vegas was Zia Records, also located on Sahara Avenue. There were some other stores I wanted to check out, including second locations for both Zia Records and Record City, but there wasn't really much more room in my luggage after I got through these two, and I figured it was probably a good idea to spend SOME time with my friend Edwardo, since his birthday was the reason I was in Las Vegas in the first place. Zia's style can be found somewhere between Tower Records and the old Warehouse or Sam Goody music stores usually found in strip malls. They have lots of CDs and DVDs, but they've also got a nice selection of low-priced used vinyl in the back of the store next to the t-shirts, where you can evidently find some really neat stuff if you've got time to flip through all the bins. I was able to flip through most of them, and turned up this terrific Gene Martin gospel record for just $4.99. Martin's biographical notes, a personal message, and some other things from the back of the record are included below. As an added bonus, the LP is pressed on luminous red vinyl! (The blood of Christ?) It seems Gene is still going strong today, and I'm sure the Gene Martin 50 Year Celebration in Atlanta three years ago was lots of fun to attend. I've included links below for two of Gene's performances/sermons, and you can watch even more of them here. I'm pretty sure the "David" on the organ in the clip for "The Singing Slave" is David Davis, who provides Hammond organ accompaniment on the "Peace In the Valley" LP. Gene sends his songs from his heart to mine (via Las Vegas) so now I'm passing them from my heart to you!
My best friend, Edwardo, turned 30 years old this week. He invited me and a few other friends down to Las Vegas this past weekend so we could celebrate his birthday in style. Unfortunately, most of the celebration styles available in Las Vegas aren't ones I'm interested in...
...but we all had a wonderful time together anyhow. I visited two record stores while I was in Las Vegas and found some pretty great stuff. The thing about Vegas is that the entire city is designed to appeal to people with extremely general tastes. (Imagine a city of 600,000 without a single art-house cinema!) In order for something to be considered interesting in Las Vegas, it has to be sparkly, shiny, and new(d). When something starts to show its age, it will either get a facelift or simply be destroyed...DESTROYED...DESTROYED in order to make way for something new. This 1957 LP by The Very Merry Macs (evolved from The Merry Macs of the 1930s) is one of the neat old things I found at the first Vegas vinyl store I went to, Record City on Sahara Avenue. The store was having a sale for 25% off, the Very Merry Macs' "Sing Very Merry Melodies" LP was marked down 50% from its original price, and I have a feeling that just about everyone in Las Vegas is glad that it's gone. I'm just glad I got it out of town before somebody decided to implode it. Another vintage Vegas holdout still standing today is a 24-hour diner called Tiffany's Cafe.
I arrived at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but I ordered breakfast at Tiffany's, of course.
While I was eating, I noticed a sign on the wall announcing that the cafe was going to be closed for a spell in April of 2005 so that a major motion picture could be filmed there. I asked what movie it was, and the cook told me it was something called "Lucky You" starring Robert DeNiro.
I'd never heard of it, but I found it at Scarecrow Video when I got home and watched it last night. It turns out the Robert in the movie is actually Duvall, and it would probably be more accurate to describe the film as a minor motion picture.
Robert Duvall does indeed visit Tiffany's Cafe at one point in the film, and so does Drew Barrymore and Eric Bana. In fact, one of the film's key scenes takes place between all three actors seated together in the booth in the lower left corner.
Unfortunately, I hadn't yet seen "Lucky You" (in which the Bellagio fountain seems to spring up behind Bana and Barrymore every time they kiss) so I didn't get to sit in the movie stars' seats at Tiffany's Cafe. I sat at the counter. But if you're ever in Las Vegas and you feel like visiting an old diner where you can sit where Robert Duvall sat nine years ago, I heartily recommend the place. They make a good omelet and the people there are nice.
[ Record City on Sahara Ave. - Las Vegas, Nevada ]
Though she passed away in the summer of 2012, I'll be spending Christmas day with the "Queen of Country Music" via her 1962 Christmas LP. You can see a list of all the albums Kitty Wells released on the Decca label by clicking here.
I'm not sure what made me want to post "Life Is a Song Worth Singing" by Johnny Mathis today. Maybe it's because I just watched THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE which made me realize the importance of living life the way YOU want it to be lived, and not letting your destiny be controlled by others. It might also be because I just watched a YouTube video in which extraordinarily handsome 19-year-old British Olympic diving star Tom Daley casually announces to the world that he's dating a man, admitting that it's really no big deal. (Correction: Tom is dating an Oscar-winning man.) Daley's video reminded me that it wasn't all that long ago when extraordinarily handsome singer Johnny Mathis received death threats after he similarly casually announced that he dates men in an interview with US Magazine in 1982. We've certainly come a long way in the last 30 years, though of course Tom is still catching some fire from idiot bigots who seem to enjoy nothing more than spending their waking hours leaving nasty comments on the internet. Speaking of catching fire, here's a riddle for you: What does the new HUNGER GAMES movie have in common with the 1946 RKO film noir thriller DEADLINE AT DAWN?
Answer: Nothing that I can think of. But I DID just watch them both within the past 24 hours and, when Susan Hayward appeared on screen in the old RKO film, I was astonished by how much she reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence—her face, her smile, her demeanor, even her voice! Then today during CATCHING FIRE, it was as if Susan Hayward could have stepped into Jennifer Lawrence's shoes and no one would have noticed...except that she may have been in black and white, and she probably isn't as good with a bow and arrow. I found no mention of the actresses' similarity online, but I did find a Star Battle Celebrity Face-off between the two—with Lawrence in the lead, of course, since most of Hayward's fans are probably either dead or without internet. I thought I could count on Jennifer Lawrence's HUNGER GAMES co-star Donald Sutherland to remark on his talented young colleague's resemblance to Susan Hayward, but he says that she reminds him of Laurence Olivier. Am I the only one who sees a remarkable resemblance between these two?
Anyway, you can read more about Johnny Mathis here and here, Susan Hayward here, Laurence Olivier here, Donald Sutherland here, and go here or to the magazine rack at your nearest grocery store to read all about Jennifer Lawrence. Here's another picture of Tom Daley and here's Johnny Mathis' hands from the back of his 1973 LP:
I left work at noon today in order to grab lunch with an old college chum and her super cute 7-year-old daughter. They were spending the day in Seattle until their flight left for Germany in the late afternoon. Once I dropped them at the airport, I decided to do a little Christmas shopping...at Golden Oldies Records! This exciting 1958 Bill Doggett Christmas LP was one of the things I found. A native of Philadelphia, Bill was introduced to music at the age of nine by his mother, a church pianist. He quickly developed a knack for it and went on to play and arrange for The Ink Spots, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and others. Doggett began using the Hammond organ to make jazz in the 1940s, and the rest, as they say (in the LP liner notes, included below), is musical history. I wasn't planning to post both "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and "What Child Is This" here, but whoever wrote the liner notes suggested it. I feel it's equally important for folks to hear Doggett's rendition of "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," so I've included that too. You can read more about Bill Doggett's career on Wikipedia here and on the History of Rock website* here.
[ *This website claims that Doggett is semi-retired, and occasionally still performs in Europe and America. It should be noted that Bill passed away in November of 1996 and has since retired completely. ]
[ Bill Doggett: February 16, 1916 — November 13, 1996 ]
It's finally December, and you know what that means. Christmas music! This wild and wintry 1950 holiday release from the prolific Mr. Waring and His Pennsylvanians is one of the things I found a few weeks ago at the local Ballard Goodwill. Notes from the back of the record are included below, and you can read all about Fred Waring, his Pennsylvanians, his banjo, and his blender on Wikipedia here. There's even more Fred Waring info and lots of neat photos on the Penn State Alumni Library website here. Can you imagine belonging to a fraternity that hires a group called "Waring's Banjo Orchestra" to entertain at their parties? Now that's MY kind of frat party!