Director Tim Burton's new film, Big Eyes, is a stylized biographical drama about the tempestuous relationship between Margaret and Walter Keane (played by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz), the former best known for her pop-art paintings of small, wide-eyed children, which were quite the rage in the late 1950s and early '60s. The story's "hook" is the fact that Walter initially took credit for his wife's work: a ghastly artistic tussle that eventually climaxed in a famous courtroom trial ... all of which you can see in the film.
|Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) visits the hungry i jazz club, and is horrified to discover that|
her husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), is taking credit for her displayed paintings.
The film spends some time in a re-created hungry i, where at one point the Cal Tjader combo can be seen and heard performing in the background (actors portraying the musicians, of course). And, off to one side, for perhaps a heartbeat on camera: As Walter enters the club, he passes a marquee that promises the Vince Guaraldi Trio as the next attraction.
(And, once the film is available on home video, I promise to replace the still above with the frame-grab in question.)
Definitely a cool name-check!
Further on the subject of San Francisco jazz clubs, I've exchanged several e-mails with a fellow fan named Edward, who remembers seeing Guaraldi perform at the Blackhawk — way back in the day — while being in the cramped, chicken wire "underage cage" that separated teens from the adults in the club proper, who were drinking alcohol while enjoying the show.
|The Blackhawk's "underage cage" (photo courtesy of the San Francisco History Center)|
"The Blackhawk was on a corner, and to get into the cage, one had to walk up the side street and enter via an obscure door. The cage was above the club's floor level: a sort of balcony along the side of the club's long dimension.
"I wasn't underage; I would have been 22 or 23, and I likely learned about Vince from the Black Orpheus album. My date and I were in the cage because I had a tight student budget and didn't want to pay the club's cover charge!"
Back in early December, I was contacted by an editor at Cuepoint, the "music hub" of Medium, a nifty new Internet site dedicated to long-form, magazine-style writing. With the approaching annual re-broadcast of A Charlie Brown Christmas, they asked if I'd be willing to supply an excerpt from my Guaraldi bio, focusing on the sequence of events that led to Dr. Funk being selected to write the music for that debut Peanuts TV special. As an added bonus, they were even willing to pay me for the effort.
Who could refuse? I agreed immediately, even though December is always an insanely busy month for me ... and, for obvious reasons, they wanted the finished piece very quickly. They offered to cherry-pick the contents of Chapter 10, but I wasn't having any of that. (I do my own editing, thank you!) The abridgment actually proved a bit more challenging that I had expected, because I wanted to come in under 3,000 words ... and it's a long chapter. But it was an interesting exercise, and I finished the work in five days; the draft then had to be approved by my publisher, McFarland, which maintains control over such things. They okayed it as written, so I passed it along to the folks at Medium, and it was published on December 16.
Those who have my book won't find anything new, of course, but I was delighted by the story layout, which included a vintage photo of director/producer Lee Mendelson, during the 1963 filming of his first documentary, A Man Named Mays. That photo was new to me, although the various photos of Guaraldi himself were familiar.
During the next several weeks, I received numerous e-mail notices that the story was "tracking" quite well: In the first 30 days, it generated 11,532 "views" (3,040 on December 18 alone), 2,288 "reads" and 132 recommendations. It has tapered off since then, although there was an interesting "viewing spike" on January 20-22. (Ah, social media ... such a mystery!) At any rate, Medium seems to feel these are worthy stats, so I rate the experience successful on both sides.
Jazz pianist/singer Diana Krall has been making the media rounds to support her new album, Wallflower, and her corresponding concert tour. On February 4, she took over the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy Facebook page to handle questions from fans. She wound up fielding 17 questions, on topics ranging from who cooks the best breakfast in their house (husband Elvis Costello, as it turns out), to the second-best thing she's good at, after singing. (You can visit the site to find the answer to that one.)
But I'm particularly delighted by Question 6, and her reply:
Is the late, great Vince Guaraldi an influence on your musical style?
Absolutely. Still is.
I'd love to know who posed that question!