Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Found objet #3

Close striker before covering Posted by Hello

I espied this not too many years ago while strolling about---looking down as is my wont---near the Westbeth artist complex on New York's Lower West Side. At the time I found it, the once famous Lower East Side club, The Jazz Gallery, had been closed for at least two decades. My fantasy is that it had been tossed by Westbeth resident---and legendary jazz man and litterbug--- Gil Evans, who found the mostly used-up book of matches earlier that day, long-discarded at the back of drawer. For him, most likely it held no more mythic resonance than a "Draw this chihuahua in a teacup and win an art school scholarship" matchbook. But, ahhhhh, as for me. . .

Talk about post-bop Petite-Madelines! As I held the crud-infested thing in my hand that afternoon, my first few days in New York in the early Sixties came roaring back to me like a Linwood Dunn flashback sequence: 1989. . .1988. . .1987. . .1986. . .1985. . .1984. . . . ..

The owners of the Jazz Gallery were brothers Joe and Iggy Termini, also proprietors of the inarguably legendary NYC jazz club, The Five Spot. My first night after moving to New York City from the sticks in 1962, I made a pilgrimage to the jazz shrine to see multi-instumentalist, Roland Kirk. And that was at the site of the original Five Spot on the Bowery! Those of us who remember knocking 'em back there, at the first location, are a dwindling lot. Shortly thereafter, the place moved slightly uptown to its next and final location on New York's St. Marks Place.

The Jazz Gallery, two blocks west of the Five Spot, was opened by the Terminis in '64. I can still recall the civilility of being able to sit listening to music in a non-alcoholic peanut gallery of sorts at the place, for a very minimal fee, as long as one wanted to, totally unhustled by waiters. When it closed, not too many years after it opened, the Jazz Gallery became an off-Broadway theater (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), and then, a great film revival house, Theatre 80 St. Marks, where I spent as much time as I ever did at the Jazz Gallery. And where one afternoon I sat immediately behind-----the also inarguably legendary---Myrna Loy and a friend whilst they took in an afternoon William Powell double bill.

I must confess that this was one of the few times---after the movies that day---that I ever approached anyone for an autograph. The only others were Billy Wilder, veteran chacacter actor Charles Lane, and Gray Gardens' Edie Beale. Quite a curious lot you'll have to agree. And let me tell you, my friend, you haven't lived until you've sat behind Myrna at the Movies and listened to her cooing and sighing the afternoon away over her famed co-star's (Thin Man) comedy timing.

Wonder what would happen if I went and phoned Gr 79765? Think I'll give it a try right now. And if Thelonious Monk answers. . .I can be reached in the Twilight Zone.

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1 comment:

Lorcan said...

Dear Bill:
Thanks so much for posting this. The kind things you said about the films are just the kind of thing that warmed my dad's heart.
I presently manage the family business - now as we are looking for a new theatrical chapter in the history of Theatre 80. Over the years the one or two Jazz Gallery ashtrays and mugs have disapeared. It is wonderful to see the old match book.
All the best
Lorcan Otway