[Dixielandjazz] Wild Bill
stevevoce at virginmedia.com
Mon Oct 15 10:41:13 EDT 2018
Maybe, as Marek suggests, the Dixieland filters thought my piece on Wild
Bill unsuitable. Having combed its hair and made it sit up respectably,
I'm trying to send it again.
One night during the ‘40s when Eddie Condon’s New York jazz club had
closed in the small hours, Wild Bill Davison decided that he was too
drunk to drive the 40 miles to his home.
Condon suggested that he should stay the night in the apartment that
Eddie shared with his wife Phyllis. The apartment consisted of a long
corridor with bedrooms off on each side. Phyllis couldn’t stand the
noises that Eddie made in the night, and so they had separate rooms.
The two men had a few more drinks and then Bill asked Eddie where he
should sleep. “Second on the right,” said Eddie pouring himself another
Bill found the room and went to bed. When he awoke in the morning he
found Phyllis Condon asleep beside him.
“Hey, Eddie,” Bill said at breakfast. “Did you know I slept with Phyllis
“I’m sorry,” said Condon. “I should have said second on the left.”
Back in the Fifties I wrote a piece called "Don't Shoot, We're
American", which was published in some anthologies. These are a couple
of paragraphs from it. At that period Britain had draconian laws about
the time of day that one could buy a drink.
The Eddie Condon mob arrived in town at the unappropriate time of 11
o'clock on a Sunday morning. They kicked and stumbled their way off the
train through a pile of empty whiskey bottles - "travellin' high" is the
phrase, I believe -n and began soliciting porters for directions to the
nearest bar. They were told that all bars were closed, and their bleary
faces paled as though the Wall Street Crash had just been announced.
Finally we persuaded them to bridge the gap until opening time with
lunch at a Chinese restaurant, although this was an obvious breach of
etiquette - Wil Bill pointed out that he never took food on an empty
Once inside the restaurant Condon and Davison each produced a half of
Scotch (how the bottles survived the journey is a mystery). Bill placed
his on his table with great deliberation, causing much concern to the
management. "No drinking please, yes?" asked the manager hopefully.
"No," agreed Bill, opening the bottle. "You got glasses?"
After a lot of argument glasses were provided ("You drink water, yes?"
"No," agreed Bill politely) and the contents of the bottles began to
disappear into the well-oiled systems of Messrs. Condon and Davison.
The restaurant was fairly crowded and we had been unable to get
adjacent tables. I was seated with Bill while Condon and his associates
were at the other end of the room.
Bill ordered a fruit salad as a concession to the management to show
that he hadn't simply come to use their glasses. I believe he did
actually eat some of it, but don't remember. I do remember the whiskey
disappearing with an impressive swiftness, and from the other end of the
room the voices of Condon and George Wettling were raised in mortal
debate over who was going to finish the bottle. Finally the Davison meal
Bill wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and got to his feet.
"A lot of people think Eddie Condon is an ***hole," he announced loudly.
The diners fell silent. The manager, with commendable tact, dropped
behind the cash-desk as though he had been pole-axed.
Condon, looking like a miniature but very angry bull, slowly lifted
himself from his chair at the other end of the room. "How's that again?"
"I said a lot of people think Condon's an ***hole." A Chinese
waitress stopped in full flight with two dishes of chow-mein.
"But it's not true," Bill continued. Both Condon and Bill began to sit
Bill jumped up again.
"He's two ***holes."
He sat down again, beaming.
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