Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Bits and bobs

A five-year deep dive into a new jazz-related project — details of which can be found here — minimized my focus on All Things Guaraldi, so I've been playing catch-up during the past few weeks.

The first order of business was a fresh look at, an ever-more-useful resource site for those fond of serious research. Gaining access to so much archived information was invaluable during the research phase of my Guaraldi biography, although I was vexed by the absence of two key newspapers: the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner. Happily, the latter was among the many newspapers added at some point during the past decade (which is how much time has passed, since I last visited the site). The Examiner proved every bit as useful as I'd hoped, and all sorts of fresh and expanded entries will appear in my Guaraldi timeline, during the next few weeks.

(Vexingly, the Chronicle still has no comprehensive online archive: merely a partial one, with "selected articles" from 1985 to present. I can't imagine what they're waiting for, and I dearly wish they'd get on the ball!)

Meanwhile, have fun with these isolated tidbits:


On September 28, 1963, the San Rafael Independent-Journal headlined a story "Pianist Is Wanted For Throwing Drink At Woman." The incident took place at the Trident on August 30, where Guaraldi and his trio were nearing the conclusion of a three-month residency. He'd long developed a reputation for impatience with patrons who made too much noise while he and the trio performed, and things got out of hand that day. Three women were drinking at the bar, undoubtedly having a good time, and Guaraldi used the microphone to tell them to quiet down. Whether they did remains a matter of uncertainty, but — according to "victim" Dee Taylor — when the set concluded "Guaraldi appeared at the bar, cursed the girls and tossed a drink in [Taylor's] face. [He also] tossed a carte blanche machine at one of her friends."

Guaraldi was scheduled to appear before Marin Municipal Court's Judge Joseph G. Wilson on September 27, on charges of battery and disturbing the peace. Rather foolishly, he failed to show.

Hence the news brief's headline and opening sentence, with all their embarrassing publicity: "A warrant of arrest was issued yesterday for Bay Area pianist Vince Guaraldi."


Breathless fans had to wait a month for the incident's resolution, finally revealed by the Independent-Journal on October 26. Under the headline "Pianist Fined For Bar Fuss," enquiring minds learned that Guaraldi had been fined $110 and placed on nine months' probation, after Judge Harold J. Haley found him guilty of disturbing the peace. (The charge of battery was dropped.)

Guaraldi wasn't present in court at the time; he was represented by his attorney, who promised that the fine would be paid within three days.


Lee Mendelson's inability to find a network buyer for his first Charles Schulz/Peanuts documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, is a long-established head-shaker. As I detailed in my book (page 163), Mendelson's original edit was designed for an hour-length timeslot. When that failed to sell, he trimmed the footage down for a 30-minute timeslot — dumping guest spots by Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Arnold Palmer and Frank Sinatra — in the hopes at least one network would find this shorter version more appealing. (None did.)

Thanks to a piece in Pennsylvania's Pittsburgh Press, on May 4, 1964, I've learned a bit more about what originally was present in the longer edit.

"Jazzman Cal Tjader" also apparently was involved, as a "special guest artist."

Additionally, "Mendelson has roamed the country: St. Paul, Minnesota (where Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown were born); in Hawaii (for a "Happiness" scene at a children's luau); at the Rose Bowl (construction of a Linus/Snoopy float); and at the Crosby Pro-Amateur Golf Tournament (Schulz was one of the amateurs playing the ocean-side course)."

A fleeting glimpse of the Rose Bowl float remained in the final cut; everything else was excised.

And, as far as we know, the unused footage was lost or destroyed. Such a pity!


On August 16, 1969, the Detroit Free Press had this captivating squib, buried toward the bottom of a particularly busy feature page:

"Pianist Vince Guaraldi's Fu Manchu moustache caught fire at Les Crepes on North Point the other night, and was saved from extinction only by the heroic efforts of owner Peter Slizyk, wielding a bottle of 7-Up."

(And boy, wouldn't it be fun to hop a time machine, armed with a cell phone, to record that event for posterity?!)


A delightful paragraph from the November 2008 post in the blog Bill Crow's Band Room, detailing an incident that occurred in 1956, when Guaraldi was on the road with Woody Herman:

When [guitarist] Jim Hall was on the road with Chico Hamilton's group, he discovered that Woody Herman's band was staying at their hotel. Jim had breakfast one day with Vince Guaraldi and Bill Harris, who were with Woody at the time. Vince talked about playing in New York with the band. Woody's bassist, Chubby Jackson, had told Vince he could save some money by staying with him at his mother's house. Vince slept the first night on an uncomfortable couch, but Chubby had told him there was a spare mattress in the attic. When he awoke in the morning, he decided not to wait for Chubby, and headed for the attic to get the mattress. Being unfamiliar with attic construction, he didn't realize that between the beams was just the plasterboard ceiling of the room below. Vince stepped there, broke through the ceiling, and found himself back on the couch again, surrounded by broken plasterboard. He said Chubby nearly had a heart attack, when he found him there.

(Again ... what a photo op!)


Finally, a poetic concidence, recalled by Peter Hartlaub in a San Francisco Chronicle article that ran January 29, 2016, and recalls, in part:

During an otherwise unremarkable morning on Feb. 5, 1976, snow fell in San Francisco.

Adding to the surreal magic of the day, Bay Area residents were given almost no warning. A six-paragraph Chronicle weather story, which reached city doorsteps that were already covered in powder, suggested that snow might fall "on some Bay Area mountain areas."

The story includes a marvelous photo by Clem Albers, of children getting "a rare chance to make snowballs in view of the Golden Gate Bridge."

Hartlaub concludes:

We haven't seen significant snow since 1976, and with every year these Chronicle photos become a little more distant. Did I dream this? Did we all dream this?

That was February 5, 1976.

Guaraldi died the very next day.


Doug A. said...

Such entertaining and poignant tidbits! Thanks for sharing, Derrick. I hold out hope that they're being digested and incorporated into an eventual Second Edition of VGATP! Until then, we fans will enjoy perusing the ever-expanding timeline. Thanks for staying on the case!

Anonymous said...

...What in the name of grief, good or otherwise, is a "carte blanche machine"?

Derrick Bang said...

It's an "ancient" term for an early-gen credit card reader.