Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 13 13:13:20 PST 2005

To: jazz-westcoast at merchant.book.uci.edu
From: George Ziskind <georgez at nyc.rr.com>
Subject: [jazz-westcoast] Re: Artie Shaw's funeral
Reply-To: jazz-westcoast at merchant.book.uci.edu

Wayne Wright just sent this to me and I'm passing it along to the list:


From: "Wayne L. Wright" <wlwright at optonline.net>
Subject: Forward: Artie Shaw Funeral
Subject: Fwd: Artie Shaw Funeral

      Just got back from Artie Shaw's funeral, which was held indoors in
the chapel of the Pierce Brothers Mortuary in Westlake Village because of
the pouring rain outside. Services were supposed to be public and held at
graveside, but because of the weather, guests were limited to family,
friends, press, and a few acquaintances (that's where I came in). It was a
nice service, filled with funny stories, "Artie-isms," and of course, music.

   The coffin was flanked by an early photo of Artie at the beginning of
his career and a more recent picture of Artie in his library, looking
either pensive or annoyed. Both of these pictures were included in the
program. If anyone is interested in scans of these, I'll be glad to send
them as an attachment to whoever wants one.

      There was also the award presented by the NEA to Artie on Friday and
a framed letter of congratulations from President Bush, dated November 30,
2004. There was a succession of speakers at the service, which was led by
Larry Rosen, Artie's longtime secretary. As he introduced each speaker, we
got an impression of a man who was not a curmudgeon, but someone who was a
Renaissance Man, a true genius, and a perfectionist, expecting no more than
the same from people he knew. His motto: "Good enough is not good enough"
sums up his sometimes abrasive personality and mindset. Although there were
many funny stories told, I couldn't commit all of them to memory, but here
are a few highlights:

   The man whose job it was to catalog Artie's massive collection of over
10,000 books reported inscriptions in the front of three books in the
library. One was by Albert Einstein, one by Sigmund Freud, and one by
another famous author, whose name escapes me now. The handwritten
inscription in the front of the Einstein book read: "To Artie Shaw, with
profound admiration and respect." In the Freud book, the inscription read,
"To Artie Shaw, with profound admiration and respect." Not only did the
third book have the exact same words, but the cataloguer noticed that the
handwriting was the same on all three. He asked Artie about it and Artie
replied that he had written them himself, to identify the books in case
they were ever stolen. As we speak, Artie's book collection is still at his
house. The shelves are reportedly completely full and stacks of books are
on the floor and even piled on the stairs of his staircase.

    Musician Tom Rainier chose to play two musical selections, which were
played on Artie's own boom box that was brought to the chapel. One was a
1938 radio broadcast of Artie's hot big band playing a song that I believe
was called "Everybody's Jumpin'." Artie wanted that played because it was
five minutes long and gave the soloists a chance to spread out (Artie hated
most of his studio sessions because of the restrictions in time). Artie
took two choruses, another was by Georgie Auld, one by Tony Pastor and I
couldn't identify the others. The other song was the result of an
interesting experiment in which Rainier took selected snippets of Artie's
playing, reassembled them and inserted them into a new recording of Johnny
Mandel's "The Shadow of Your Smile."

    The intent was to predict what Artie would sound like if he had
continued to play after 1954. The result was actually pretty amazing. Buddy
DeFranco finished off the piece with an Artie-esque 8-bar cadenza that
brought tumultuous applause throughout the chapel. Artie himself had
admired the work and approved of it. Then Dick Johnson, leader of the Artie
Shaw Orchestra for the past 20 years, played a poignant a cappella
performance of "I'll Be Seeing You."

   Eighty-five-year-old comedian Red Buttons talked about meeting Artie for
the first time. "It was during the War," he remembered, "and we were both
in uniform. Artie was in his Navy uniform and I was the bellhop at the
Astor hotel." Buttons recalled that Shaw's first words upon meeting him
were, "What kind of a name is 'Red Buttons'? Who in their right mind would
give anyone that name?" To which Buttons reported that his real name was
Aaron Schwat, to which Shaw immediately responded by calling Buttons "The
Sultan of Schwat."
   Sid Caesar was scheduled to be there and speak but he couldn't make it
because of the rain. At that point, Larry asked if anyone else had anything
to say about their relationship with Artie and there were a succession of
very funny stories. I told of my nerve-wracking first broadcast with him in
2000 and then my final meeting with him in 2003 to discuss Bix
Beiderbecke's 100th birthday. Artie's admiration of Bix was not because of
the notes Bix played or his technique, it was the sound he produced on his
cornet. Artie rhapsodized about this sound and the fact that it could only
have come from Bix.

  Above all, Artie admired the individual and hated when people said they
tried to play like Artie did. "Play like yourself," he'd say. When I asked
him to comment on Eddie Condon's oft-heard description of Bix's sound,
which was likening it to "a girl saying yes," Artie paused, shook his head
and said, "Poor Eddie...He must have been pretty hard up." The end of the
service came after the playing of Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" as
sung by Lee Wiley, Shaw's favorite singer. It was an unusual recording,
recorded in 1939, in which Wiley was accompanied by Fats Waller on pipe
organ (Liberty Music Shop L-282).

Cary Ginell Sound

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