Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thinking about Page C.

Mainstream press obituaries have begun appearing for our friend (we are a hardy cult) musician Page Cavanaugh who died Sunday. There was one in Daily Variety yesterday, and another in the L.A. Times today. Both are fairly lengthy as befitting the artistic importance of their subject. Also both strike me as well-wrought. (Though I suppose, if I wanted to get into heavy nit-picking, I COULD find omissions and errors.)

There is also an obit for Page at a site, The Big Cartoon Forum that mentions a 15-minute Disney cartoon he did the soundtrack for, "The Truth About Mother Goose." I just found it on youtube. Here is the link to pt 1. The link to pt. 2 is on the same, um, PAGE. I'd never seen it before, and found it quite charming.

The obituary in the L.A. Times correctly alludes to the fact that in the late 40s and 1950s Page Cavanaugh, if not exactly a household name, was close enough for jazz. He is quoted in the obit as blaming his somewhat precipitous fall from fame in the ensuing decades to the tsunami of rock and roll. But---and this is meant as praise, not criticism---the truth also is that, like his old friend Frank Sinatra, Page simply did not suffer fools gladly and, as a consequence, burned a lot of professional bridges behind himself in the process. One of the last steady gigs he had was in the lounge at a toney hotel on L.A's Sunset Strip. He walked away from that job because the owner of the place wouldn't let him discreetly sell copies of his new (2006) release, "Return to Elegance," there. And really, it wasn't about making money for himself, but more out of loyalty to the producers of the album---er, I date myself, I mean "CD."

All Page wanted to do was make music and skip a majority of the vicissitudes of playing the game of show biz, which, as Mort Sahl once observed, is the only animal that eats its young. But between this seeming rock and a hard place, ironically Page probably had a better career than if he'd fought to hang on to his considerable former celebrity. To wit, he was fairly much his own man, didn't have to play politics and a lot of games, was never at a real loss for the opportunity to work at what he liked to do best, i.e. making music, thus always managing to at least keep food on the table, AND probably recorded at least as much or maybe more than if he'd remained in the big leagues of the business. True, the sides are more often than not on little mom n' pop outfits like Leeds and Vaya, etc. Still the body of work is nearly all first cabin and of considerable volume. So it was more like having his cake and eating it too, rather than rock and a hard place.

Right up until the day he died, his employers at Newport Beach's Balboa Bay Club were keeping his long-running Thursday night gig open for him. That's the kind of loyalty and affection Page Cavanaugh engendered.

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