The readers of this blog have probably noticed that lately I've been focusing on jazz in Hollywood films. There is no particular reason for this interest, except re-watching some of the films I had seen light years away and becoming slightly nostalgic about some of them, especially the one I'm going to mention today.
In the late 1990s, me and my two sisters, all of us in our teens, became fascinated by a film called Young Wolves about the life of a good-looking trumpet player and a troubled girl in the Deep South. However, later we discovered that the original name, just altered to Young Wolves in Persian-dubbed version, was All the Fine Young Cannibals. Again, after some years I heard some rumor that the film was loosely based on the life of Chet Baker, which considering the casting of Robert Wagner, one can argue that MGM producers wanted the young Chet and his rebellious life as the role model for the film's protagonist.
|Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood|
All the Fine Young Cannibals (1960) was directed by Englishman Michael Anderson who probably knew nothing about jazz (his earlier and more interesting films are grim-looking "kitchen sink" melodramas, including The Waterfront with Richard Burton that I did like most), but it had a fine cast, and I am even tempted to call it an influence on The Splendor on the Grass which was made a year after. Both films follow the lives of the rebellious youth within the context of race, class and power in the South and also they try to provide some psychological explanation for the troubles of their heroes.
above: a publicity picture from the film, resembling Chet's relationship with his Pakistani girlfriend (below)
Whatever I said was rather a long introduction to a friend's very personal reminiscences of how desperately he wanted to catch Pearl Bailey's gig in Tehran. This friend, to whom I refer as Dr. Arp, will also give you some taste of how it felt to live in Iran and love Harry "Sweets" Edison. Not much has changed in Iran ever since, except for worse. [opinions expressed in the memoir below are those of its author's, Dr. Arp]
***As I have reported earlier, I was still a young cannibal myself and wasting my time in that rotten Empire of Iran in the late sixties of the past century. I, and not only I, had a very limited access to the sources of Jazz. I knew of course everyone in the world without having heard a note from them or having the opportunity to follow their routine as far as the music was concerned. Yeah! I knew who Monk was and what he had done to change the world of composition! I had a hunch that he was the most important songwriter of them all! It was enough to listen sporadically to a piece like Ruby My Dear or his other fine works to get a notion why he was being neglected by the bloody establishment.
|Donate's, run by Carey Leverette and Iranian folks [source: warnemarsh.info]|
|Karlheinz Stockhausen in Iran|
|Pearl and Louie|
I went to my grandmother. God bless her soul where ever it might be now. She is dead and gone. She had no idea who Pearl Bailey was or what Louie Bellson had done with Duke or what a cat like Harry Edison meant to Basie. I did not elaborate the point. I asked her if she could lend me the dough I needed. She shook her head knowingly and said: "I always knew that you're a bit deranged, mentally, otherwise you wouldn't let your hair grow like a girl. You Know very well what a limited amount of money I have at my disposal. I have only so and so much and I have to pay for my rent and so and so...But since you are a nice boy and you have been always nice to me and have also hated my husband, your grandpa, just let me see what I can do; give me some time till the day after tomorrow; maybe I can gather the money by asking your uncle! by the way why don't you ask him yourself?" I told her that would be the last thing in the world. Ask an uncle who hated Jazz and loved Fausto Pappeti and strings! No way granny. I'd rather drink muddy water! She did ask for money indeed and I got it. I paid her back after publishing an article in a magazine about the then unknown British band Jethro Tull and an special feature about the grandmaster Ian Anderson as a songwriter, singer and instrumentalist. God bless them all!
|Roudaki Hall, Tehran|
I knocked on the doors of a wealthy friend of mine who was a sort of a big shot in a certain ministry and had to have those kind of rags whenever he had to attend the Big Chief at the court or a royal celebration of the same sort. He was and still is a big fellow! At least two or three sizes bigger than I am. Tall as a pine tree and lanky as a walking stick. Big feet! Size of 9 and a half at least! And I had and still have shoes of the size of eight at most. But I had no other choice. All my friends were poor beggars of poets and painters or at most needy writers like I myself. Although some of them came from well-to-do social classes they still followed the fashion of the day and cannibalistic style of the intellectuals and the like.
From Pearl's concert I have no vivid memory anymore. I can't even remember the other members of the rhythm section. Pearl came and sang and danced a bit and in one of the numbers as she was roaming around the stage she went to a fellow sitting at the first row, very close to the stage, and forced him to get up and walk a few steps with her and as everybody could see the poor bastard was very much embarrassed and certainly abashed because everyone could see that he was security service man and could not walk freely around our Pearl. Somebody, perhaps Louie himself, gave Pearlie the eye, and she let him go. Though a bit disappointed she was.
The only other thing that I can remember is the fact that I sneaked in the break to the so-called backstage and tried to exchange a few words with the musicians in order to get the idea where the band was staying in town or could I arrange a sort of interview with Louie and Sweets the next morning. Somebody told me that they would be leaving town for a short visit to Isfahan and Shiraz next afternoon and if I wished to see miss Bailey and the crew it would be most deplorable for the band to call at their rooming in hotel so and so next morning since they had an audience with Her Royal Majesty in her private palace out of town and they would be back to their hotel certainly very late in the wee hours of the morning. I only shook hands with Sweets and asked him if he needed some sticks which he rejected with a smile and told me he has been kindly supplied by the good offices of an unknown official with the best available black shit with the marks of Royal Afghani Embassy in Tehran. I wished Them a super flight to Isfahan and back and my best regards to the old man William Basie. God Bless all of them!