Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Vintage Harlem Nightclub Shaker and My Weekend at Vitello’s
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not an avid club-goer. It used to be that I wanted to hear every detail of a record under headphones and didn’t want anyone standing up in front of me or humming along next to me when I went to hear someone sing. But now that MP3s and YouTube have become ubiquitous with fidelity crushed down to the size of an ant I don’t care as much about such things. So this weekend I hit one club for two acts. My only regret is that I didn’t bring my vintage noisemaker shakers along to rattle in front of my talented friends who were up on stage.
It would have been most appropriate to bring my Ubangi Club clapper Saturday night when I went to see Alan Paul, member of Manhattan Transfer, all members of which I’ve known for a trillion years and co-wrote “SHAKER SONG” for.
Here’s the other side of the Ubangi Club SHAKER:
There are a zillion versions of “SHAKER SONG” on YouTube but, sadly, none by the Transfer, the group that made it famous. Here’s a version by Jazzanova Band that features a fancy little cha-cha by the lead singer:
But back to the Transfer’s Alan Paul and the excellent SHAKING he did Saturday night upstairs at Vitellos, a restaurant infamous for the Robert Blake shooting extravaganza and now equally as known for the nightclub that sits upstairs above the plates of still-on-the-menu Fusilli Minestra alla Robert Blake and the kitschy murals of Italy that coat the walls below.
Here I am at Vitello’s with Alan and Bob Garrett, who I’ve known since 1974 when I worked at Reno Sweeney’s, a cabaret in Manhattan where the Transfer often appeared, and who Alan has known since he originated the part of Teen Angel in Grease on Broadway, a role Bob took over after Alan left.
Tim Hauser and Cheryl Bentyne of Manhattan Transfer were also at the show.
I think I’d only seen Tim once since my Borscht Belt Birthday party in 1985 to celebrate my being named one of the most subversive people living in the United States by Pravda, the official newspaper of the Communist party. Here we are at the party with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, two of the most prolific songwriters in history.
All four of us have used many SHAKERS in our songs. Here’s another one from my collection:
And the flipside:
I co-wrote a song for the show, “Scared About Life Without Oprah”, with Max, Mark Waldrop,and Michael Orland, who also led Max’s band. Here we are at the moment of conception:
And here I am with Oprah, though not at Max’s show, but my show, The Color Purple, which Oprah produced.
Here are are Michael and I Sunday night at Max’s show:
As Max is a bongo freak, our Oprah song contains many SHAKERS. I won’t let this one leave Willis Wonderland but I believe it’s on our demo:
And the flipside:
Also at Max’s gig was my good friend, Tim Bagley.
I actually liked this photo of me and Tim better but can we discuss THE AMOUNT OF LIPSTICK ON MY TEETH?? I don’t remember sucking the tube but something of that magnitude obviously happened:
As you can see, the lipstick is still on my teeth but has disintegrated into a more tasteful stripe. This is the good thing about being me. Even when something as hideously embarrassing as walking around with a tube of lipstick smeared on your front teeth happens people think it’s intentional. At least it matches my glasses well.
Thankfully, by the time I said goodnight to Max along with Prudence Fenton, the lipstick had left the building and my teeth returned to their normal sparkly (yellowish) white selves.
Max is doing her show twice more in March. For tickets go here. And check the mirror before you take any photos. And please bring your SHAKER!!
Categories: Afro, Creativity, Discography, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Musical Instruments, People, Place, Songwriting
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