Friday, March 28, 2014

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

Tonight, I’m going to my grammar school, St. Stephen of Hungary’s first ever all students reunion. I graduated in 1968 and soaring memories involving all my senses have welled up. Next Friday, I’m headed to Joe’s Pub to see the Loser’s Lounge Carly Simon/Linda Ronstadt tribute. The Losers Lounge is my favorite recurring NYC music event, St. Stephen’s was my first nest outside of home and the fond memories below of song and school tie it all together.

A few years ago at Joe’s Pub, Tony Zajkowski crooned at the Losers Lounge tribute to Burt Bacharach.

You say this guy, this guy’s in love with you.
Yes I’m in love, who looks at you the way I do?

Tony nailed the tune with his duel fuel & prop martini glass. As always, The Losers Lounge delivered. Hal David was there in spirit and the song reeled me back.

1968 ~ I worshipped Julie Wilfinger from St. Joseph’s grammar school, but Julie loved Julio Marcovich. Julio had a high end Grundig portable radio with colossal speakers. It was FM radio’s second year and WNEW was playing our music virtually commercial free. The classic radio with the wood grill and stainless steel knobs was catnip to the girls. Julio wooed Julie with his music maker.

Julie had smooth olive skin, a tomboy’s energy and charm, and two scoops of peach ice cream that made regular appearances when the top buttons loosened on her man’s tailored shirt – her summer uniform with cut off shorts and white sneakers. Glasses on a cute girl’s face turned boys to mush. Julie’s glasses were always a little crooked on her nose and perfect that way. Julie liked wrestling with the boys. When she perspired, her skin glowed. If I made her laugh she lightly touched my nose. I craved that. Down the park, she’d let you take you her up on the swings, and she was the only girl at the time that would take the boys up on a swing. All the other girls thought that was outrageous, but she didn’t care. Because everyone knew, she belonged to Julio, and Julio belonged to her. My heart broke with this knowledge.

Julio carried the radio on his shoulder like a shipping crate and Julie held his free arm. When they passed me sitting on the stoop alone, Julio would give me a nod, he was two years older than me and owed me no greeting at all, so the nod was generous. Julie gave me a little smile, and then they’d be gone. I’d half sing under my breath… “Say you’re in love, in love with this guy, if not I’ll just die…” Julie kissed me once when she was drunk at a St. Stephen’s dance on March 10, 1969. I banked the kiss.

1965 ~ Herb Alpert’s released his “Whipped Cream” LP as the record world exploded. I was in 5th grade and needed to know what was going on, and the only place to know what was going on was the basement of Woolworth’s Five and Ten on 86th Street in Yorkville. Every Friday and Saturday night, my brother, Rory, and I went there to discover the new releases and go through our favorite records.

We stood in front of the record counters for so long, both of us would have to pee bad, but they never, ever, let you use the bathroom in Woolworth’s. It was waste of time to ask, so Rory and I did the “pee-pee dance.” We’d bounce up and down in the aisle, going from record row to record row, keeping our legs moving to hold it in. This drove the Woolworth’s clerk crazy. That’s half of the Whipped Cream story.

Look at the record cover above. Christmas Eve arrived early when this Lp came out. Because, that picture of Dolores Erickson lathered in whipped cream was the best Playboy cover ever and I could look at it for as long as I wanted without someone yelling at me to put it down. In the candy store and the barbershop we weren’t allowed in the men’s magazine areas, but now, Herb Alpert puts out an album cover better than any Playboy I’d ever seen. And all I needed to do was use my imagination and that album cover became my favorite picture of all time. When we looked at copies of “Whipped Cream” in the store, they were manhandled so many times the plastic on each album was worn or torn at the corners.

A Taste of Honey, a good song, Beatles did it too, but it was so beside the point. The “Whipped Cream” album cover was the thing, and any boring Yorkville night was less boring, when we got to look through the records, find the naughty covers and torture the store’s clerk.

1962 ~ I was eight years old, sitting on my 83rd Street stoop with nothing to do and no friends around to do nothing with. I felt blue. I had my grandfather’s grey plastic eight transistor radio to my ear listening to the Scott Muni show on WABC. A song came on I’d never heard before and the horns went right through me… I was in Spain at a bullfight and the crowd was full of senors and senoritas, dressed up fancy, all roused up and ready to dance. After the song, the DJ said, “that was ‘Lonely Bull’ by Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass.” I was happy and confused. Glad to be alone, thinking about this new song that tickled my ears and took me away to somewhere fantastic. The horns sad notes warmed me up, made me feel better and I wondered – how does music do that do you?

In the present, Tony Z pulled me along with the rest of the Joe’s Pub audience in on the song’s final verse. I was back at the show and I sang along…

I need your love, I want your love
Say you’re in love, in love with this guy,
If not, I’ll just die.

As the horn faded away, I felt Julie Wilfinger touch my nose.

This piece currently appears as my new column in Ask A New Yorker

No comments: