Silver Threads: Satchmo weathers the test of time
In addition to the Maxine cartoons, some of the things older folks like to pass back and forth via e-mail are lists -- sometimes with photos or drawings -- of things we grew up with that didn‘t make it into this modern era. Long-playing records and 45s, “I Love Lucy” TV shows, 5-cent Cokes, cars with running boards and manual gear shifts, typewriters powered by people and not electricity, pens that had to be filled with ink, poodle skirts over crinolines, Toni home permanents, black and white television sets, attic fans, Saturday morning radio shows for kids -- “Let’s Pretend” comes to mind -- and a host of other things long-gone and never known by many of our children and any of our grandchildren.
Our daughter, who’s in her early 50s, would remember black and white TV. As a joke, a man who lived in our neighborhood in the ‘60s gave my husband a 19-inch screen-sized piece of transparent plastic, tinted from green at the bottom to orange at the top, that you were supposed to tape on the screen of your set, thus to enjoy the pleasures of -- tah dah!-- color television.
The implication was that my husband was too cheap to have already bought the real thing, but our little daughter took the piece of plastic for the real thing, and insisted that it be affixed to the television. Shortly after that, we got a color set.
Some things born and bred in New Orleans don’t go the way of the nickel call at a pay telephone, though, or the 7-cent ride on a streetcar, both local bargains when I arrived here in the ‘50s. Native son Louis Armstrong was famous then and he’s famous now. A “legend” that lasted (see last week's column).
To get ready for the Satchmo Summerfest at The Old Mint this week, I googled Louis Armstrong to find out the date of the release of “High Society,” a 1956 movie starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly, and featuring an opening number by Armstrong and his musicians on a bus headed for Newport. Watch it before you hit the fest, you’ll love it; also brings up Louie’s gig with Barbra Streisand in “Hello, Dolly.”
And since an etching of George Schmidt’s painting of Satchmo as King Zulu in 1949 hangs in our living room, I called the artist to find out where the original might be viewed by the true Armstrong fan.
“When I was 5 years old, I actually saw him passing on St. Charles Avenue,” George told me. The painting is in Pete’s Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel.
“The Hilton Riverside has another of my paintings of Louie, ‘Louis Armstrong Playing with the Fate Marable Band on the S.S. Capitol in 1919,’” George told me. It hangs in the third-floor breezeway to the left of the Versailles Room.
Localite Randy Fertel owns Schmidt’s painting “The Arrest of Louis Armstrong.” It depicts Louie as a small child, being stopped by police for firing his stepfather‘s pistol into the air on New Year‘s Eve in 1911; he was subsequently sent to a boy’s home, given a cornet and musical instruction, and the rest is the legend.
While the Satchmo Summerfest is in progress, there will also be another White Linen Night on Saturday in the Arts District on Julia Street. Visit George’s gallery there to see an etching of the Louie as Zulu painting. It’s in black and white, of course, acceptable tones except on modern television screens.
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]