13 June 2007

Five Little Pennies

One of the distractions of years on earth is that you reach a time when everything reminds you of everything. One idea bounces off a memory and takes a sharp detour at a thought that brings you up short on a bit of imagination before finally skidding to a halt at a flight of fancy. It's no wonder we can't find the car keys.

Yesterday while feeling terribly egocentric imparting wisdom to the world, there was a paragraph on Danny Kaye. Now there are enough memories associated with that name to keep you flipping around your brain for hours. There are all the classic nonsense routines such as the Vessel With the Pestle from The Court Jester or conducting a symphony orchestra with inimitable style or a gentle person speaking nonsense to children who don't understand a word of English but are shrieking with laughter and joy at the silly, silly man.

For me, the very first memory wasn't the more famous movies, but rather the biographic film where Kaye played Red Nichols in The Five Pennies. Red Nichols was a wonderful jazz man and he and the five pennies did one appearance that I know of in Fresno, California in 1949.

At that time there was a man made lake with a dance floor on the hills above as well as riding stables. In that more innocent age, families could swim all day, ride horseback and then the adults would go dancing while the children chased around after fire flies and tree frogs or just snoozed on a picnic table.

My father had some business interest in Fort Washington Beach (now drained and totally paved over with suburbia). As a result my mom and I spent days painting nickles with red nail polish to spread all over town. Anyone showing up the night of the event with a Red Nickle was entered into a drawing.

Down below is a cut from the movie The Five Pennies, starring Danny Kaye as Red Nichols singing the title song, but the night I heard Loring "Red" Nichols play jazz still sticks in my memory while my parents danced to "their song", Whispering. Unfortunately, Whispering wasn't on You Tube, so you just get a great jazz cut of an ensemble that features Nichols on his cornet.

P. S. Found It! Whispering by Lena Horne


Linda said...

I love the part about painting nickels red and then leaving them around town so that anyone who found one could get in for free. That has got to be a great memory for you!

Durward Discussion said...

I was only five, so I probably got more on myself than I did the nickels. We painted one side and then they laid on newspaper until dry and then painted the other side.

Me said...

Wow, you are quite a remarkable writer. I certainly approve.

Anonymous said...

I love it when you go down memory lane for us. Red nickels. That's priceless...

Anonymous said...

I was sad to see you refer to the Danny Kaye "biography" of Red Nichols that indicates it portreys Red's life accurately. The film is an entirely a work of fiction with very, very little resembelance to Red's real life. While Red did play the music in the film, he had complete distain for the movie - but, the money he recieved for doing so was extraordinary by any measure.

Red Nichols was a very versitile performer and an outstanding Corinetist. He was such a dedicated musician that he would often play uncedited with other well known bands of the era just to play.

I have a number of Red'd recordings, both under his own name and various pseudonym's he used. Quite a guy!!