[Dixielandjazz] Artie Shaw - Without The Music

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 6 14:01:30 PST 2005

Well, I wasn't going to post this given it is about the man, but given the
interest in Shaw's demons, read on.

Steve Barbone

Artie Shaw, Without Music - NY Times
By JOYCE WADLER January 5, 2005

The joy of schmoozing with our pal LYLE STUART, the very independent
president of Barricade Books, is that linear conversation remains
unknown to him. Therefore do not ask how the subject of ARTIE SHAW came
up. We only know that Mr. Shaw was somewhere in the cocktail party in
Mr. Stuart's mind. He knew Mr. Shaw quite well, Mr. Stuart was telling
us the other day.

"Oh, yeah?" we said.

It takes that sort of probing to get Mr. Stuart to open up, and before
you know it, he was telling us how he and Mr. Shaw met. "He gave up
music when he was something like 49." Mr. Stuart said. "One day a
mutual friend said Artie had heard about 'The Sensuous Woman,' which we
were publishing, and he was interested in buying the film rights. I
heard he was having money problems so I sold it to him for $25,000. He
sold it the next day for $50,000."

Did Mr. Shaw, who'd been married to LANA TURNER and AVA GARDNER, ever
talk about his many wives? Yes, Mr. Stewart said. In fact, he persuaded
him to do a book.

"Artie said, 'Oh, I couldn't talk about Lana,' " Mr. Stuart said. "The
next day I showed up at his apartment with one of those big,
old-fashioned tape recorders. He talked about Lana for three hours.
When I left I said, 'See?' He said, 'O.K., but I could never talk about
Ava.' The next day I came back and he talked about Ava for three

Mr. Shaw later decided against doing the book, though Mr. Stuart still
has the tapes.

So what did Mr. Shaw tell Mr. Stuart about Ms. Gardner?

"SINATRA really went crazy when he broke up with Ava - Artie was
married to her first. One day Ava came running into Artie's apartment
to hide, and Sinatra came in with one of his henchman. Sinatra had a
gun. Artie made fun of him. He said, 'What do you think, you're
HUMPHREY BOGART? She's not here. And if she was, she wouldn't want to
see you.' "

Mr. Shaw, who died late last month, could be charming, Mr. Stuart said,
but he was not an easy man. He said Mr. Shaw was self-absorbed and
brutally frank; he was estranged from his two sons.

His son STEVE KERN was the product of Mr. Shaw's 1941 marriage to
ELIZABETH KERN, the daughter of JEROME KERN. His 1952 marriage to the
actress DORIS DOWLING produced JONATHAN SHAW. Once, Mr. Stuart said,
Steve, who had not seen his father in several years, came to see him at
his office. When Mr. Shaw abruptly asked what he wanted, his son said
he was a musician and wanted to play for his father. Mr. Shaw
reportedly told his son he should seek another profession.

Steve Kern could not be reached. KAY PICK, a longtime friend of Mr.
Shaw's, told us "no one knows where Steve is." She also said Steve and
his father had not talked in years.

We were, however, able to speak with Jonathan Shaw, who is 52 and lives
in Rio de Janeiro. A painter who for several years ran a tattoo parlor
on St. Marks Place, and who said he was a recovering alcoholic, he has
written a screenplay about his relationship with his father and has
just completed the first draft of book on the same subject.

"My father was a deeply miserable human being," Jonathan Shaw said in a
telephone conversation yesterday. "That's the side of him that most
people who haven't been closely associated with him don't get to see.
He was a genius, and he was also a very difficult man."

Where was his brother Steve?

"God only knows," Jonathan Shaw said, adding that he had written a long
letter and sent a copy of his manuscript to a post office box address,
but had never heard back.

"According to Artie's version," he went on, "when my brother first went
to visit him, my father said, 'What do you want? You're nothing but a
biological happenstance to me.' He had said the same thing to me. I
just made it difficult for him to dodge me."

Jonathan Shaw was estranged from his father for most of his life, he
told us. Then, about two years ago, he made contact and spent a year
with him. When Jonathan Shaw started having a relationship with his own
son, he said, his father cut him off.

"I got to know him very well and we had some great times together,"
Jonathan Shaw said, "but bottom line is that he was absolutely unable
to maintain a relationship. He was abusive, condescending,
mean-spirited. I felt it was to my advantage to maintain the
relationship because it was in many ways cathartic, but no one with any
self-respect will put up with that kind of abuse."

So he was not with his father when he died? "No," Mr. Shaw said. "He
died alone and miserable, as he chose to do."

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