Part 22 - Night Clubs and Entertainers

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 22 - Night Clubs and Entertainers

Postby Brian Lord » Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:25 pm


Night Clubs and Entertainers

The K/Men DJ's used to go to the Coconut Grove -- Well not all of us; the morning man, Huckleberry, was asleep and others were either on the air or asleep so amend that to three of us. We didn't pay a cent at LA's most expensive and prestigious room, the tab was picked up by the various record producers or distributors. The Grove was THE night Club in southern California, the Western Copacabana. I can't really remember everyone I saw there...but I remember the best performers. Bobby Darin put on the best show. That guy was electric on stage and he had great rapport with the audience and he was just as nice a guy offstage. Polite, Funny, agreeable. I had interviewed him on radio and in person. The movie ("Beyond the Sea") may have done him justice but I never saw that personal side of his life....

....Well that's not true either. I did witness a bit of it. Y'see my 'on-and-off-again' wife, Sarah, in one of our 'on' periods were living in a small section of the Amelia Earhart mansion in Toluca Lake (LA) which was across the street from Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee's place. Amelia's ghost was supposed to live somewhere in the mansion and I used to scare friends but it was a lie. I can't even recall why Sarah had the privilege, probably one of her Soap Opera friends arranged it. (Sarah occasionally made an appearance on "General Hospital"). I'd drive down on weekends. The Darin residence had some kind of obstruction like a Laural or Cypress bush at least 10 feet tall around it but on two occasions I happened to see Darin in a sports car come careening out of the driveway and screech down the street burning second gear rubber. Once Sandra was on foot behind him at the end of their driveway and yelled curse words at him. I was in the front yard gawking and I waved and said 'Hi'. She ignored me.

I would get off the air at 9PM and pair up with another DJ or in some cases I would take my wife. The Grove did not hire rock 'n' roll acts but we got invitations any way; good PR. Johnny Mathis, like Darin always had a good audience. People liked him and he was smooth as silk. Personally I didn't care that much for him, preferring Skip and Flip but he came out and greeted the DJ's and newsprint guys after his show. What was memorable about meeting Mathis was that a second after shaking my hand he turned around and barfed on the plush carpet of the Ambassador Hotel. To say the least it was disgusting; he'd obviously eaten something or maybe drank too much.

Liberace was just as intense off stage as he was on. He wore the sequins and always (I saw him three times, not because of him but because of the free food and booze) was accompanied by his mother. Although he was accused by a British Newspaper of being gay he sued and won. He never admitted he was gay but he was hit with a palimony suite once and lost. He was, however often seen with well-known Hollywood jet-set ladies. Unfortunately he died in the late eighties from complications due to HIV. Liberace was a true 'one-off''. Nobody, not even Lawrence Welk, could attain the sensations he caused or demand the salaries. He left behind a Liberace Museum in Sherman Oaks, his home district of LA. He was a courteous man and a hell of a piano player but... kind of... his eyes glittered.

Peggy Lee was hilarious. She was, in the 60's, slim with bleach blond hair and deep brown eyes. I interviewed her and some of the answers she came up with couldn't be played on the air. She was also the only person I ever heard say the words she used in her original recording of "Let's Fall In Love"... it began "Chinks do it, Japs do it..." etc. This record was made before WW2 and was re-recorded on a10 inch LP. (MGM?) It was less Politically Incorrect in the 30's but abhorrent later. One of the stations I worked for had the LP and it's probably worth something today, although it should have been recalled. No matter, I liked her and she was the only entertainer of that caliber who up until that time ever kissed me, leaving a huge red smudge on my cheek. I left it there and caught hell at home.

Casey Kasem, my wife and I and Casey's date who was Danny Thomas's other daughter, Terre, not the one on TV (Marla) but just as gorgeous... sat at the same table one night at the Grove. We had a wonderful time, Casey is one fun guy and Terre, who stayed clear of showbiz, was a lovely person. We were extra-lucky because the main act was Sammy Davis Jr. and about half way through the show, Sammy announced that his regular guitar player was unable to appear that night so he'd asked a friend to fill in. "...would you please welcome Mr. Wes Montgomery", who, of course, soloed one tune. Those guys got to where they were because of tremendous talent. Even Liberace.

I never met Sinatra. Dave McCormick did. In his lowest period, that would be before he won the Oscar for his role in "From Here To Eternity", Sinatra was losing it. His audience had nearly bottomed out, he wasn't selling records but it was because of the notoriety he received from the motion picture, he was able to get back on his feet, grow a new personal image and stay on top of his genre till he died. Jo Stafford had begged Capitol to sign him and it worked. Dave was never a Sinatra freak-fan although he was one of the few DJ's who, during that down-period, aired one of Sinatra's little known releases -- "Castle Rock" with Harry James Orchestra where Sinatra ad libs during the song, "One for old time's sake, Harry", or words similar.

That was 1961 and it was standard practice back then for DJ's to get artists to go into the recording booth and say "I'm Frank Sinatra (or whoever) and when I'm in Vancouver I listen to CFUN, 1410." In those days, unlike the later years -- when Frank wouldn't sit still for an interview -- he complied and I always envied Big Daddy for meeting him.

But in those days all the fun wasn't in LA by any means. San Bernardino wasn't that far from Las Vegas and it was common to drive up in about five hours and check out the rooms and the lounges. It was in Las Vegas that we went to see the Buddy Hacket show. Now Buddy had a reputation of belonging to the Don Rickles set of comedians; course, rude, no language barrier (thanks to Lenny Bruce) but immensely popular and funny.

K/Men DJ Bill Watson was watching Rickles at one of the Vegas hotels and had to go the the washroom. The minute Bill stood up Rickles attacked. "Whadsa madda, can't take it, ya pussy... get outa here...". Back to Buddy Hacket -- we had tipped the maitre d 20 bux to get a table in the front row because that was where Hacket chose his material. Part way through the show he would stroll along behind the footlights asking people questions "Do you eat what you feed yer dog? Whatsamatter, you afraid you'll hump somebody's leg?" ".. yer husband leaves a stink in the bathroom? cut him off". "Hey you, ya you in the third row, yer fly's open, is that a suggestion or a fashion statement" "Hey Lady, do ya swear? a little huh, do you ever say the big one? you know... starts with F. ya do? better you should spell it, more impact. God hates ya anyway."

But Vegas was far looser than the Grove. Juliet Prouse who was Sinatra's squeeze at the time was pushing a new soft-rock group and she'd scored them a spot opening for her Vegas dance act. Prouse hired a jet and brought over 100 LA area DJ's to Vegas to see the group in Caesar's Palace. They never made Billboard and Juliet had bruises on her incredibly long legs.

Then there was Palm Springs just down the road 25 miles... Alan Freed had been busted out of the North East due to his payola scam and getting paid for one of the Rolling Stones early hits (he did nothing aside from pushing it on the air) and all the law left him was his home in Palm Springs. Mike Borcheta, Capital Records, promotion man, knew Freed who was working on K-DAY an LA Day-timer -- restricted to broadcast only during daylight hours. One weekend, Freed loaned Mike his Vegas house which was beautiful. He invited my wife & I over for the weekend but he expected it to be a foursome (if you get my meaning) and we backed off foursoming. Where he got the idea it would work, I don't know. Despite that Mike and I got along fine. His Son, Scott, has gone a long way in the Record business, Taylor Swift being one of his discoveries.

When I had lived in Vancouver we at CFUN were pretty well stuck with the Cave Supper Club. When I finally returned home from California, it seemed tame. Next time: How to make a million selling record.
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 22 - Night Clubs and Entertainers

Postby Steve Sanderson » Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:34 pm

Brian, what an incredible story! You definitely worked in the "bizz" during the
most interesting time in Rock radio's history! Keep the stories coming my friend!
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Re: Part 22 - Night Clubs and Entertainers

Postby hagopian » Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:06 pm

"Mel" is one of the most gifted writers I know, and also one of the most incredible Radio talents I ever worked with. This guy has forgotten more than most of us will ever know.
Fantastic story, Brian, THANKS.

Can I add one Sinatra coda?

Mr. Sinatra's home in Palm Springs. I was lucky enough to actually spend a day there, and was shocked at a few things I saw. One - he slept in a single bed that was about this big. He was so used to being on the road, he didn't sleep in the Master....*Mrs. Marx-Sinatra's Bedroom was a fricking ornate palace, compared to his room. He also had a switch he would throw and down would come black out shades, that also happened to be bullet proof.
He slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow.
There are a few of his personal effects, including one of his Golf bags, and a pair of his golf shoes. Little tiny feet. The whole room in his favourite colour - orange.
Seeing Marilyn Monroe's dresses and momentos in one of the special "cottages" on the property was something else....that was the place where rumours have it, that President Kennedy would meet Ms. Monroe for assignations.

Fascinating place - now owned and maintained with immaculate care, by Jim Pattison.
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