Saturday Odds & Sods: Come Rain Or Come Shine

Amerind Landscape by Roy Lichtenstein.

I started this zany, madcap weekly feature in the spring of 2015. I have a lot of fun putting it together and riffing on the segments every week. It’s become a cult favorite among our readers. If you enjoy Saturday Odds & Sods, please donate to First Draft to help keep the doors to this virtual gin joint open. If you don’t like gin, pick your poison as long as it’s not vodka…

That concludes this brief commercial announcement. It’s time to return to our regularly scheduled programming.

It’s full-tilt fall in New Orleans after summer lingered far too long for my taste. We’ve had highs in the low to mid 70s for most of the last week. That means that many New Orleanians are OB’d: Over-bundled. People are so desperate to wear last year’s Christmas sweater that they’re overdressing for these mild days. So it goes.

The big news hyper-locally is that pesky, annoying twerp Seth Bloom has finally conceded in the District B city council race. The satirist in me will miss mocking him, but the citizen in me is relieved that his steady, experienced opponent, Jay Banks will represent me on the council. I will miss having Seth to kick around so I might as well re-post this:

Arrividerci, Sethy. You can go back to annoying people in your daily life. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass as you exit the local political stage. If you re-enter the arena, the feud will resume. Who among us doesn’t like a feud fight?

A brief return to the weather. It was the driest November in recorded history in New Orleans. How’s that for a lead-in to the theme song? Come Rain or Come Shine is the third Arlen-Mercer song I’ve used as the Odds & Sods theme song. I guess I like Harold and Johnny: the nice Jewish boy from Buffalo and the Southern scamp from Savannah. The song was written for the movie musical St. Louis Woman and first published in 1946.

We have three versions for your enjoyment. First, a swinging version arranged by Billy May for Ella Fitzgerald’s Harold Arlen Songbook, which is a seriously underrated entry in the songbook series. Next up, Lady Day with a mid-tempo version from her Music For Torching album. Finally, a 21st Century version from Eric Clapton and BB King.

Now that we’ve risen and shined or something like that, let’s jump to the break.

All this talk of jumping has given me a strange earworm. Yeah, boy:

I thought the bluegrass Jump was a good way to set the stage for our first segment. Let’s jump to it.

Jazz Age Klan: The Failing New York Times rightfully got into a world of hurt over their Everyday Nazi story. It would have been wise for them to place the story in historical context instead of just saying: this dude looks normal and makes groceries like everyone else. Referring to the Jazz Age revival of the Ku Klux Klan would have been an excellent way to put the Buckeye bozo in context. As I like to say: context is everything.

The New York Review of Books has a swell essay/review by Adam Hochschild on two new books about the KKK in its 1920’s incarnation. It was when two PR professionals added xenophobia, especially of the anti-Catholic variety, to the Klan’s bag of evil tricks.

But the second Klan, the Klan of the 1920s, less violent but far more widespread, is a different story, and one that offers some chilling comparisons to the present day. It embodied the same racism at its core but served it up beneath a deceptively benign façade, in all-American patriotic colors.

In other ways as well, the Klan of the 1920s strongly echoes the world of Donald Trump. This Klan was a movement, but also a profit-making business. On economic issues, it took a few mildly populist stands. It was heavily supported by evangelicals. It was deeply hostile to science and trafficked in false assertions. And it was masterfully guided by a team of public relations advisers as skillful as any political consultants today.

The Jazz Age Klan came a cropper after a particularly nasty sex scandal in Indiana.  Sex scandals and far-right politics seem to go hand-in-hand.

Speaking of sex scandals, remember Rick James? Remember Super Freak? Here’s a bluegrass version of that massive pop-funk hit to bookend the segment.

Let’s move on to an article about a place Rick James would have liked.

A Storyville Story: I am a lousy friend. I have not linked to a piece by First Draft pun consultant, Zombie-Picayune dude, competitive eater, and history maven James Karst in quite some time. I have no excuses but I may consult with Matt Lauer on how to issue an insincere non-apology apology.

Anyway, Karst dug through the dusty Picayune archives and came up with a fascinating story about the closing of the Storyville red light district and the doomed fight to save it.

The hopes that the district would somehow survive were pinned on a request for an injunction preventing the closure by a woman who went by the name Gertrude Dix. She ran the house of prostitution at 205 North Basin St., which supposedly had a secret passageway that led to the flagship saloon/cafe/restaurant of Tom Anderson, the so-called mayor of Storyville, next door. Dix, through her attorney, Armand Romain, sought to undo the closure of the district on several fronts, noting that the city ordinance that created Storyville had essentially sanctioned her business and that she had rented her building for several years at $250 per month and spent $15,000 furnishing it. (“Miss Dix has been with us but a short while, but has won all hearts,” said a description of her brothel in the 1915 “Blue Book” published for visitors to the red-light district. “Her palace is second to none.”)

Romain, a civil rights attorney who at the turn of the century had challenged the removal of a former slave from the state’s voter rolls, gave a lengthy interview to the New Orleans Item in which he outlined his case.

“I do not wish to be misunderstood in the stand I have taken for my client in this case,” Romain told the paper in an interview published Nov. 12, 1917. “It is not a question of legalizing prostitution, nor an attempt to perpetuate a social evil. The case in question presents other points which are as important as any that have ever been presented in a court in this or any other state.

You may have already guessed that Ms. Dix lost her case. I am proud of James for resisting the stiff temptation to pun on the name Dix. It must have been hard. Damn, that was a limp pun. Oh Matt, about that apology…

In the wake of Dix’s defeat in Dixie, the world’s oldest profession went back underground. Much of the Storyville district was razed to make way for the Iberville housing project just outside the French Quarter for those of you keeping score.

I went to the movies last Saturday. I once again violated my film buff principles and saw a remake on the big screen. Does that make me an unprincipled film buff scoundrel? Discuss among yourselves as I move on.

Murder On The Orient Express: I was raised on the books of Agatha Christie. She was my mother’s favorite mystery writer and Hercule Poirot was her favorite character. Mom clearly had excellent “little gray cells.”

Kenneth Branagh’s new version of Murder On The Orient Express has two ghosts to fight. First, Sidney Lumet’s splendid 1974 film with the great Albert Finney as the Belgian super sleuth. Second, David Suchet’s masterful portrayal of Poirot in the long-running ITV/PBS series. I think Branagh fought Finney to a draw but was knocked out by Suchet. David Suchet *is* Hercule Poirot. It’s what happens when you play a character over the course of 24 years and 70 episodes.

The latest movie itself is great fun even though I already knew the ending. I won’t spoil it since we’re having a fundraiser and I want you lot to donate.

I had fun recalling who played what character in the star-studded 1974 original and comparing them to the 2017 cast. It was my parlor game after seeing the movie. Neither Johnny Depp nor Penelope Cruz topped Richard Widmark or Ingrid Bergman but Michelle Pfeiffer surpassed Lauren Bacall’s performance as the flamboyant Mrs. Hubbard. I hope that a best supporting actress nomination is in La Pfeiffer’s future. 2017’s Derek Jacobi and Judy Dench fought 1974’s John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller to a draw.

Even if it made me a film buff scoundrel, I enjoyed Branagh’s adaption of Murder On The Orient Express. I give it 3 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B, and an Ebertian thumbs up.

If you’ve never seen David Suchet as Poirot, do yourself a favor and check the series out. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Poirot Meme

My little gray cells tell me it’s time to move on to our favorite stolen feature. It, too, features the sort of exuberant facial hair I am not allowed to have.

Separated At Birth: I stumbled onto this image of Baseball Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers and Snidely Whiplash whilst researching my Gaslighting Trumpy post. Perhaps it should be called separated at drawing or some such shit.

Oddball Image Of The Week: Groucho Marx wrote an article for Collier’s Magazine in 1953 wherein he second guessed then Giants manager Leo Durocher. The article is lost to posterity other than the first page showing an uniformed Groucho with the Lip.

What was really wrong with the Giants in 1953 was that Willie Mays was in the army. The next year they won the World Series.

Jon Hendricks, R.I.P. The innovative jazz singer and songwriter died last week at the age of 96. Hendricks was best known for his vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross who kept the vocal jazz flame alive into the rock era.

Hendricks had a long running stage show in San Francisco when I was younger, Evolution of the Blues. I saw it 3 or 4 times: my mom thought it was da bomb.  I spotted him one evening in my favorite North Beach watering hole, Vesuvio. I approached Hendricks, told him I loved his show, and vocal jazz in general. He bought me a beer because he was thrilled that a young person liked his kind of music.

Jon Hendricks was a nice man who lived a long and productive life. He will be missed.

Saturday Classic: This week’s album ties in neatly with my  tribute to Jon Hendricks. Sing A Song Of Basie is a 1958 LP by Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross bringing their vocalese talents to bear on the music of Bill Basie.

That’s all for this week. Since I mentioned Leo The Lip Durocher, the last word goes to him and the cast of The Munsters. Durocher is the only man to have managed both the Dodgers and Giants. The Lip returned to the Dodgers as a coach in 1961. He spent much of the time second-guessing manager Walt Alston and making appearances on sitcoms. I am not making this up.

In the Munsters episode in question, Herman tried out for the Dodgers but they already had a big, slow slugger named Frank Howard. So it goes. Oh yeah, Fuck the Dodgers.