Back in March 1979 Laurent and I decided to celebrate his birthday in New York. It was a three day weekend packed with plays, musicals and dining. Laurent’s father was good friends with the manager at the Plaza Hotel and we had a grand – and I do mean grand – room overlooking Central Park.
Friday night started with Wings, Arthur Kopit’s riveting play about as a former aviatrix recovering from a stroke, Constance Cummings won the Tony that year and rightly so. It was a tour-de-force and I remember coming out feeling both elated and emotionally disturbed. But that mood didn’t last the rest of the evening because we headed down for dinner at The Cookery in the Village and two late night sets by this incredible woman:
As remarkable as Alberta Hunter is in this video she was more so in person. I have a few of her older recordings – from the 20s and 30s – and they are great but I honestly think she was better at 82 then she was at 28. Here’s a sample of the young Alberta:
That’s some back up group: Sidney Bechet playing the soprano sax, Louis Armstrong on trumpet and his wife Lil at the piano.
And the whole weekend went pretty much like that. Saturday lunch with friends at the Café des Artistes surrounded by those kitschily endearing Christy murals; that evening, Eubie! starring Gregory Hines and brother Maurice celebrating the music of Eubie Blake (who had writeen for Alberta Hunter back in the 20s); followed by dinner at Cafe Argentuil on the Upper East Side. Mass Sunday morning at St Mary the Virgin – smells, bells and their incredible choir doing Rossini, brunch at the Russian Tea Room where we saw Salvador Dali being fluffed up by an attentive hostess for his grand entrance. And the weekend ended with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd.
It was quite the weekend.
30 aprile – San Pio V papa