Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 29th, 2021

The Table of Contents outline for the Guide now fixed

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Somehow a link on the “Sources for the Guide” page was broken — the link shows in outline form the Guide’s full Table of Contents. The link has been fixed.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2021 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Books, Shaving

Covid-19 Deaths per Million by State, 2021 year to date.

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From Kevin Drum’s blog. Click chart to enlarge.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2021 at 6:01 pm

The Tragic Final Days of Billie Holiday

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Billie Holiday with her dog Mister, 1946

Ted Gioia writes at The Honest Broker:

There was a side of Billie Holiday fans never saw. And the pop culture narratives about her ignore it—for the sad, simple reason that positive details about Lady Day (as she was called) don’t fit the preferred tabloid storyline. But at home, the famous jazz singer would put on a comfortable dressing gown, turn on the radio, and relax by knitting or crocheting. Sometimes she would bring knitting needles on the road with her—although it’s another kind of needle that got most of the media coverage.

She was devoted to her dog—perhaps not surprising for someone who demanded absolute loyalty from those around her, and so seldom got it. (“She was extremely possessive,” Holiday’s longtime pianist Carl Drinkard explained. “Anybody who belonged to her, belonged strictly to her.”) Over the years, there was Chiquita, Pepe, and Mister to share her domestic life—and no rhythm section or lovers would ever prove as reliable. Holiday sometimes spoke of wanting children, but Holiday’s pets were the main outlet for maternal affection she couldn’t give elsewhere. One musician even saw her put a diaper on her dog and feed it from a bottle

Addiction destroyed her, but she dreamed of something better. “I’m so sick of this shit,” she told guitarist John Collins a few months before her death. “I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried to kick the habit, and I can’t kick it.”

Substance abuse problems are not uncommon in the entertainment world, although most of them are kept hidden from view. But with Billie Holiday, her indiscretions were headline stories. And if the reality wasn’t good enough, people invented even more extreme tales. Drinkard, who spent many long months with Lady Day on the road, was amazed at the lies circulating about her—the East Coast people who related some bit of gossip would claim it happened on the West Coast, while in California the incident allegedly took place back East. They didn’t realize that Drinkard had accompanied her in both settings, and knew the accounts of each side were often pure invention.

But the government authorities were the most suspicious of all. A few days after Holiday returned from her tour of Europe in January 1959, a US Customs official phoned the singer—announcing that she had violated a new law requiring narcotics criminals such as her to notify the government of all trips to and from the United States. This law, which Holiday knew nothing about, applied retroactively even to narcotics convictions in the distant past. Holiday was so fearful of the consequences she wouldn’t even tell her agent—knowing how her reputation was already making it difficult to get bookings. So she traveled secretly to a federal building and, after submitting to an interrogation by three federal investigators, was told there would be no criminal prosecution this time.

A few weeks later, Holiday’s closest musical partner, saxophonist Lester Young, died just hours after returning from a Paris engagement. He was 49 years old—and, like Holiday, worn out from alcohol abuse. Billie Holiday was almost six years younger than Young, but she had been diagnosed with cirrhosis, and would only survive him by four months. Two years earlier, they had made a brief appearance on television for a CBS show as part of an all-star band, and their musical chemistry performing the song “Fine and Mellow” ranks as my most cherished moment of jazz captured on film. But this would be the last moment of glory for the duo, their greatness destined for the ages, but not for the immediate future.

Savor this musical interlude—because the rest of the story will have nothing quite so inspiring.

At Young’s funeral, Holiday was heard predicting her own demise. Sylvia Sims, who encountered Billie Holiday on the street around this time, recalled her saying: “Baby, everyone I love is dead—and you dead and I’m dead.” When Sims replied: “You’re alive and I’m alive,” Holiday replied: “You mean it?”

She continued to work, and sometimes gigs went well. A week in Boston at Storyville in April was well received. But when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2021 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, History, Jazz, Video

Two letters from Louise Bogan to Theodore Roethke

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Shaun Usher has a newsletter and website, Letters of Note, in which he provides some context and then presents notable letters. In a recent newsletter, he writes:

Born in Maine in 1897, Louise Bogan was 48 when she became the fist woman to be appointed Poet Laureate in the U.S. These letters of advice were written ten years earlier to Theodore Roethke, a friend and fellow poet who had lost his way and turned to drink, and who, in 1954, would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Should you love these letters even half as much as I do, I strongly recommend getting hold of the criminally under-appreciated book, What the Woman Lived: Selected Letters of Louise Bogan. It’s up there with the best.

Following that, the newsletter has two letters from Louise Bogan: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

29 August 2021 at 4:30 am

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