June 11, 2014
In the late 1970s, I was living in Manhattan, and pretty avoiding the music scene that was taking place in the East Village and the Bowery. I craved music that would gently caress my broken soul, and that was seeing and hearing Hazel Scott at the Milford Hotel Plaza on 8th Avenue, not far from Times Square. At the time, I only had one vinyl album, and one portable turntable, and basically that was that, if you wanted to include several stripped t-shirts and one winter coat, with a pair of blue jeans and boots. One can say my finances were non-existent. Yet I knew the doorman at the hotel, and he always got me in to see the Scott trio.
The one album I owned was Hazel Scott’s “Relaxed Piano Moods” with the backing of Charles Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums. I often lay on the floor by the turntable and its small speakers, and let her music soak into my ear drums, and throughout my body. I was likewise staying at the Milford, due to a small inheritance that I was living on. I was fascinated with the idea of not working, and finding out what will happen once the money dried up. At the time, I was curious to know if eventually what my behavior would be like if I die from the elements, or the lack of food. The idea of that being the case with me in the middle of Manhattan had a great appeal for me.
I spent most of my daylight hours at the New York Central library reading New York poets. Frank O’Hara had a huge appeal for me, because it’s a life I know I won’t ever have. I guess I could if I agreed to get a job, and basically spent my hard earned dole on food, books, and music - but I was struck by the idea of doing nothing, and walking to the library to read books and then come back to the hotel to listen to the album, and then seeing that artist play later that night. Now come to think of it, life was really perfect.
At the time, I avoided all social contacts, and in fact, besides the doorman to the hotel, and a waiter or waitress here or there, I didn’t really talk to people. The inner-dialogue I had with myself, gave me food and I really didn’t have anything to say to others. In my hotel room, I decorated the walls with images by Julia Margaret Cameron, because I love the idea that she only focused on the world around her, and nothing else. I stole a lot of the images from photo magazines that were placed in the collection at the library. I did the famous loud cough as I tore a page one at a time. The only images I had in my room were the album cover and various portraits by Cameron.
When I was living in Los Angeles, I was a fan of Shelley Manne, and I sort of had this fantasy that I could be Peter Gunn, going to “Mothers” night club to see my non-existent, but fantasy girlfriend sing a number or two. It was at Manne’s jazz club where I first saw Hazel Scott. I don’t want to say I followed her to New York, because that sounds sort of creepy. But truth to be told, it was her and my love for Manhattan culture, which clearly was another fantasy on my part. Till then, the only thing I knew about Manhattan was through books and old episodes of “Naked City” TV series. Once I came to the big apple, I was surprised that my dream location was exactly the same as reality. Or maybe I just make fantasy into reality.