I don’t spent much time looking in the rear view mirror these days but it was a nostalgic day off yesterday in Manhattan.
It launched slowly, slept until 11 and by the time I’d had some coffee and got out the door it was 2 in the afternoon. I stopped in the nearest diner around the corner for a delicious bowl of chicken soup and a beer then made my way for a walk in Central Park. I found myself standing at the iron grating of the carousel… young couples and their children riding the wooden horses to the wheeze of the old pipe organ, thinking of my own grandson and wishing he was here with me. I walked past the old St. Moritz Hotel where I spent some time when filming a movie called the Jazz Singer back in 1979. Heading down 6th Ave. I found myself at the Warwick Hotel and took a sharp left into the Randolph Room Bar there. In October of 1972 I spent three weeks in that hotel playing a Broadway engagement at The Winter Garden Theatre with my old boss and pal Neil Diamond. I walked in the bar and ordered a rare afternoon martini, sat there drinking and remembering the 21 year old boy I was 43 years ago, the last time I set foot in the place. I always felt a tug when driving by the old hotel, also the home to a young Elvis Presley in 1956 when he came to play the Ed Sullivan show, but had never bothered to go back in. Back then I was completely unsure of myself but remember it now like it was yesterday and though it’s been re-modelled it still has that old Manhattan elegance about it. During that run we also played a fund raiser at the estate of Sargent Shriver, flying an official Air Force jet to Virginia when he was running for vice-president of the United States. Heady stuff for a young fellow and times long gone that scarcely bear thinking about. I hadn’t intended it, but it turned out to be a day of farewell to some old ghosts. Dinner was a small crew of MK, Jim, Glenn, Tim and me at the ever brilliant Victor’s Cafe on 52nd St. A great Cuban restaurant going back to 1963. Roasted pork, ropa vieja, cevice, plantain, Rioja wine and mojitos with strips of sugar cane. A real Cuban trio playing in the lounge, fantastic service and stunning food all in a setting of a Cuban veranda. What’s not to like? Five happy boys left Victor’s just off Broadway.
We piled into the vehicles early Friday afternoon for the drive to Red Bank, New Jersey and our gig tonight at The Count Basie Theatre. No telling about traffic and better safe than sorry so we left at 1:00 and arrived at 2:00 with six hours to hang out before the gig. I had a bit of spanikopita down in catering and took myself off for a walk around this beautiful town for an hour. I remember being taken with it five years ago when we played but I didn’t have a chance to walk around it then. A city of 12,000+, quaint, clean as a whistle, no franchised anything, great shops, record store, music emporiums, coffee houses, pubs and restaurants, a marina and on the Navesink River. I could live here. Winters? Not so sure.
We played this wonderful theatre named after Red Bank’s own Count Basie five years ago and I’ve always remembered it. It’s small with a capacity of just 1,530, but it was packed and they were ready for a night of music. We’re two weeks away from wrapping this tour up and the band just keeps getting better and tonight’s audience was with us from top to bottom. A great gig.
A runner back to Manhattan that took twice as long as it did to get to Red Bank. We arrived at the hotel just before midnight. I couldn’t get anyone to come down for a drink so I went on my own for a perfect martini, just one, then up to bed.
It’s Philadelphia tomorrow and I think a Philly Cheesesteak is in my future.