Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wynton, come blow your horn

Some years ago in The Leopard's past, I worked for a certain well known non profit jazz organization in New York helmed by world famous jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The job eventually became life forming and one the greatest experiences of  my life, but I will never forget that fateful first week. In my capacity as Art Director for the organization, I was assigned to design a huge banner to herald the venue's upcoming season. Mr. Marsalis had mentioned to me he had just had a brand new Monette trumpet made, and I got the  idea to use a photograph of the horn as the main art. This particular instrument was completely designed and created with Mr. Marsalis in mind and was worth at least $10,000. Over a year had been spent on custom design details and development.

I asked Wynton to borrow this gorgeous horn to take it to be photographed. He loved the idea (Wynton at the time didn't much like to be photographed himself, which would surely have been the next option) and cheerfully handed it over. I grabbed a subway downtown to a location that I wasn't entirely familiar with. Preoccupied with the task at hand, I suddenly realized I had arrived at my stop. Without thinking,  I jumped off the train with a shot. But once the train doors started to close, I had a sickly feeling I had forgotten something. The case holding Wynton's golden horn was still on the seat!  I grabbed for the doors and tried to pry them open with all my strength. A good Samaritan - a young woman who had been sitting next to me - picked up the case and tried to hand it to me through the closing doors. I felt utter horror as the train began to move forward. I yelled ,"Stop! Stop!" at the top of my lungs as the train started to speed up, leaving the station. 

Finally, the door opened again about two-thirds wide and with the woman's help, I was able to pull it towards me without a scratch on the case.

As the train disappeared back into the tunnel, I'll never forget the satisfied look on the woman's face. I hope I get to meet her again some day and buy her a beer.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Before there was Harrison Ford, before Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, even before Sean Connery, there was Bogie, the greatest of them all. the prototype, the true star. No one was better than Humphrey Bogart at balancing sheer masculinity with stirring sensitivity. The Leopard's favorite Bogie performances - Dixon Steele in A Lonely Place, Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon,  Fred C. Hobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre -- all featured tough, weathered men who always had a  certain vulnerability.

Bogart's best known role - Rick Blaine in Casablanca -- showed this unique talent most eloquently. He was a man's man and a woman's man at the same time. Something that very few actors have been able to achieve -- and he did this without conventional movie star good looks. He didn't look like Montgomery Clift, Gregory Peck or Cary Grant.  He didn't have to. His beautiful, sad, face was all he needed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Chrissie Hynde

There's always been something special about Chrissie Hynde. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Hynde was one of those outside kids straight out of am SE Hinton novel. A rock n' roll obsessive, She moved to the UK in hopes of writing for the British pop zine, New Music Express (NME), waxing philosophical about current rock music. After much ambling around, a she formed the band The Pretenders, a force that as much as any defined late 70's early 80's rock. Hynde's distinctive kittenish voice could scream and wail as well as say, the Clash, but she could croon as beautifully as Linda Ronstadt or Karen Carpenter on their best days.

Her version of Nick Lowe's "Stop You Sobbing" perked up ears in 1978, but her own composition - the one that she and the band are probably best known for - "Brass in Pocket" became her signature.
The story of a poor, besotted waitress trying to get the attention of a witless greaser, the song heralded a female rock sound like no other.
Self titled, the whole first Pretenders album was full of gems and there was no turning back. By this time Chrissie is a living legend, with an emphasis on the living.

Click here for a video of her new song Dark Sunglasses off her new album, "Stockholm".

Excellent article in The New Yorker on Chrissie Hynde by Sasha Frere-Jones

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bleeker Street Nigger Incident

On an overcast day a few weeks ago, The Leopard had a soul-shaking experience. I was walking down Bleeker Street in West Village of New York, when I passed by what appeared to be a middle-aged bearded homeless man. We met eyes for a second, and a few steps later, he yelled at me
 “Hey, Nigger”!
Startled, I turned around, and yelled back as loud as I could, F**K Y*U!! Then he said, “F**k You, nigger”!  It was at that moment that I almost lost control. Looking around I spotted an aluminum chair there, because we were standing in front of a restaurant. I went to grab it. Burning hot, I said, “You want your f**king head bashed in?” Not really thinking I would actually do it.  He said, “No”.  He was quiet for a moment. I turned to walk away again and he said, inexplicably:
“You don’t like being a nigger?”
In fury, I turned right around started to quickly walk towards him and screamed, “No, I don’t like ugly ass mother f••kers like you!” I must have looked crazed, because he threw up his hands, shielding himself, thinking I was going to hit him. But I turned away, still shaking.

Never thought I’d have to experience anything like that again in this day and age. It's still all true.