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Note: I know I know. We left off with our hero on his way to Austin sometime last
October, but then Thanksgiving happened, and then Christmas, then we went on vacation.
In short so much stuff happened that piled on top that, having neglected our usual
habit of keeping notes, we forgot all but the highlights: playing with Will Sexton
and band at the Saxon, a great and extended conversation with Gabe Rhodes on a
six-hour drive over and back to play a gig in Crockett.
\So anyway, I gotta
go back down there to do a couple of gigs in March and this time I'll keep better
notes. In the meantime, just to freshen up our site a little bit, we're gonna
talk about something not very important in the long run, that is, getting famous.
Rockvale TN, February 10, 2006 - -
us talk about getting famous.
Raft, the ole American B movie actor, mostly famous for flipping a coin on film,
got famous in the weirdest way. Gotta go back to 1927 I think it was, the first
talkie "The Jazz Singer", starring AL JOLSON. Blew people away, I mean
talking PICTURES, fer chrissake.
but what happened was that, at that time, the Prince of Wales, he who was soon
to abdicate the throne of England so he could marry Mrs Wallis Simpson, came to
North America. Gotta remember now that this was the Roaring Twenties, they were
calling it that even then, the big dance craze was the Charleston. Raccoon coats,
bell bottoms, ukuleles, breastless girls in beaded chemises and bobbed hair, all
were in fashion, when this guy, the present Queen Elizabeth's uncle, later to
become the Duke of Windsor, anyway this royal dude comes over, hangs out in Canada,
hangs out in the US, it's a media event, gets his picture taken learning to do
the Charleston. And the picture, thanks to the new technology of the AP wire-
photo, gets plastered all over the front pages of just about every paper in America.
teacher, identified in the photos, is some dude named George Raft. Now George
Raft is no Fred Astaire , but the picture makes it appear that George is some
kinda dance honcho. So somehow it's a big thing, and George, he ain't no kinda
dancer, but all of a sudden he's famous as a dancer, a Charleston maven as it
were, so he's gotta swing with it. So he does. And from that he develops a whole
career, like I say, of mostly flipping a coin on film.
forward about eighty years. I'm watchin'some old movie made in the mid-thirties,
when the Next Big Thing was the Tropical Motif. The movie, which was called "Rhumba",
turns out to be about this Cuban dude, played incongruously by George Raft, who
invents a dance called the Rhumba, takes it to the States, is a big hit an lives
happily ever after. Pronounces it Rum-ba, not Room-ba, an this guy is played by
Keeps talkin' about the
Rum-ba like it's a religion. Coupla obligatory dance scenes, an here's ol George,
as stiff as can be, gamely trotting around doing his best to dance, but like he's
completely devoid of pelvis. If you've ever seen an actual Cuban dancing an actual
rhumba, and I have, George's version is a complete hoot. Not that I could do any
better, I'm sure.
on, after he'd made a couple of movies, George managed to establish some rumors
that he's like somehow connected to the Underworld, y'know, Mad Dog Coll, Babyface
Nelson, that bunch, who during the Depression, somehow took on a Robin Hood kinda
mystique cause everybody was pissed off at the banks anyway, the banks having
let the little man down. Anyway George manages to establish a rumored connect
an therefore a gangster persona, so that for the next thirty years all he has
to do is this gimmicky thing of flipping a quarter while he's saying his lines.
Guy was a lousy actor,
but people bought it, and that is what counts. But, yeah, he was a lousy actor.
And he was a complete non-dancer. But he took the bull by the horns, and wrested
a career out of an Associated Press photograph.
show business tales #37.