Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eavesdropping in on a Cyclical Conversation by Carl Hancock Rux

James Baldwin:I want to be an honest man and a good writer.

Anton Chekhov: (to Baldwin): Write only of what is important and eternal.

Luigi Pirandello: (to Baldwin) The man, the writer, the instrument of the creation will die, but his creation does not die.

Virginia Woolf: (to the room) To write weekly, to write daily, to write shortly, to write for busy people catching trains in the morning or for tired people coming home in the evening, is a heartbreaking task for men who know good writing from bad. They do it, but instinctively draw out of harm's way anything precious that might be damaged by contact with the public, or anything sharp that might irritate its skin.

(an uncomfortable silence)

Baldwin: (retrieving the room) Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.

Randolph S. Bourne: History remembers only the brilliant failures and the brilliant successes.

Charles Seignobos: (slightly disagreeing) History is not a science; it is a method.

Napolean: (emphatically disagreeing) History is a myth that men agree to believe!

Jakob Burckhardt: History is still in large measure poetry to me.

Napolean: (still too emphatic) History is the invention of historians!

Baldwin: (trying to retrieve the room once again) Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.

Hegel: (refreshing everyone’s glass) We do not need to be shoemakers to know if our shoes fit...or professionals to acquire knowledge of matters of universal interest.

Baldwin: (catching himself in the mirror, eyes wet and glassy) You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.

Harry Truman: It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Hegel: The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.

Baldwin: (looking for a match) A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.

William Adams: (lighting Baldwin's cigarette) My father taught me to work; he did not teach me to love it.

Hegel: Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

Baldwin: (turning to Hegel) It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.

Alvin Toffler: (throwing his wine glass to the floor) The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Oscar Wilde: (making his exit plucking a flower from a table arrangement; pins it to his coat's lapel) Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.

Eartha Kitt: (making her entrance plucking the flower from Wilde's lapel; tosses it into the fire) I am learning all the time--the tombstone will be my diploma.

carl hancock rux

Billie remembered Lena

"Being around New York those
First few days as a jailbird
Sure separated
The sheep from the goats
As far as my friends
And colleagues were concerned.
I’ll never forget the way
They treated me.
So the first week I
Was out Bobby
Insisted on
Going to see Sarah Vaughan.
She was
Giving a concert
And Bobby
Took me backstage.
The people hanging
Around there were
The air was full of “Hi, baby”
And everybody telling me
how great I looked.
We waited for Sarah to come
Off between sets.
I was glad to see her. And I expected
She’d be glad to see me.
All I expected was a little hello—
When she came off
She turned up her nose
and walked straight by me
To her dressing room without a sign.
To get this from someone
I had worried over
And tried to help
Really hurt.

I broke down and cried.

Sarah made me wish I’d never
Left jail or worse, like
I was still in
Or carried
The bars around with me.
She tried to explain later
by telling me her husband
had told her I was hot,
just out of jail.
On the other side of the book
There were people
like Lena Horne
Who made me feel
like I’d never been away.
One of those days
when I was still hung over
From being out of jail,
I was hanging out
With John Simmons
of the
Ellington band.
John knew by ear
how I felt and tried to help.
Insisted on taking me
Down to the Strand
Lena was playing.

I was ashamed.

After my experience with
Miss Vaughan
I was naturally wary.
...didn’t want to
let myself in for
another swift
one in the stomach.
I insisted we’d sit in
The back
Of the theater
where it was dark
And just take in a rehearsal.
Somebody told Lena.
“Lady Day!”, said Lena
And that pretty little thing
Took off from that stage
Like a beautiful bird.
She came running
Down the darkened aisles
Hollering for me.
When she saw me,
She rushed up,
Took me in her arms,
hugged me, looking
At me smiling and weeping
At the same time.
“Baby darling why oh why
Didn’t you come backstage
to see me?”
“Honey, don’t you know?”
I told her.
“I’m a jailbird.”
“Don’t you say that!”
she exclaimed.
“You’ve been sick
and away for a little while,
that’s all.”
Then she took me by the hand
Back to her dressing room.
After the first show took
took me out with her
and bought me lunch
And we had a
wonderful schmooze
About the old days
In Hollywood
When they gave her
a bad time
Making this picture
“Stormy Weather”.
Ethel Waters had been
the star of it.
We talked about all this
and more,

And I was so happy I cried.

People like Lena
Took the sting out of other little people."

From "Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Joyce Bryant

Joyce Bryant, ballad singer who was once known as “the black Marilyn Monroe”, was born in Oakland, CA, but raised in San Francisco (the oldest of eight children). She moved to Los Angeles to live with cousins when she was in her late teens. The move came after a disastrous marriage; she eloped at 14 but the marriage ended on the wedding night without consummation. One ofthe most beautiful black women in entertainment and called the “Blonde Bronze Bombshell”. Married at 14 (quickly divorced) she did her early recordings for Okeh Records and at the height of her career commanded $3,500.00 a gig, making as much as $250,000 a year on the nightclub circuit during the early 1950s. Known for her amazing four octave voice, stunning beauty, hour-glass figure, provocative outfits, Joyce Bryant was the ultimate show stopper. Legend has it, when she was to appear on a bill with Josephine Baker, Joyce decided not to be outdone by LaBaker’s ultra-glamerous presence. Wanting to distinguish herself in the legend’s presence, Bryant draped a floor length silver mink coat over a skin tight silver gown, painted her nails silver, and colored her hair silver with radiator spray paint, a choice that would become her signature. The singer told jet magazine she first came up with the look on Easter Sunday while living in Los Angeles. Having agreed to perform at a benefit concert, she was dead broke with no money to buy an Easter hat when, and so she “grabbed the can of radiator paint” and “happened to have a silver dress” and the when she walked on stage to sing she met “wild applause”. She had to wash the paint out with paint thinner, but ever since then, chose to keep her hair tinted silver. Etta James said in an interview “I liked Joyce Bryant, because she wore fishtail gowns, sequined fishtail gowns, and she was black, and she had the nerve to wear platinum hair) but also badly damaged her hair. Consideed by Ebony Magazine to be one of the five most beautiful women in Hollywood (including Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge) she was featured in a photo spread in Life Magazine, was often photographed schmoozing with Hollywood stars like Lana Turner and was on Otto Preminger’s A-list for the role of Carmer Jones (a role that eventually went to Dorothy Dandridge). Bryant brief career suffered extreme highs and lows. The first african american performer to book the segregated Aladdin Room at the ritzy Algiers Hotel in Miami Beach, she faced racism when she wasn’t allowed to do a photo shoot mingling with the Hotel’s guests anywhere in the hotel except on the nightclub where she was to perform and was not allowed to stay at the hotel (she stayed at the all black Lord Colvert hotel). Also during that performance, the Ku Klux Klan burned her in effigy. She was once badly beaten in her dressing room by an admirer whose advances she thwarted and in 1952, badly injured in a freak accident in a taxi cab that tore through her face. After a bout with alcohol and drug addiction, and owing the IRS $60,000, Bryant found herself torn between stardom and her religious faith. By 1955 she quit show business, entered Oak Wood College (a 7th Day Adventist school in Huntsville Atlanta) and became an evangelist. Briefly she returned to the concert stage touring Europe singing opera in German, Russian, Italian, and French and in the late 70s, attempted to revamp her earlier career with a long engagement at Cleo’s nightclub in New York (across from Lincoln Center). Jim Byers, WPFW-FM broadcaster and marketing director for the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division, tracked her down and requested permission to become her biographer. Byers’ research has inspired Joyce Bryant: The Lost Diva, a documentary-in-progress that he and videographer and archivist Robert Farr, executive producer for Arlington Information Channel 31, began shooting last year.