The Guilty Party

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time for a Thank You

I am sitting here, listening to a rare Dick Haymes LP, and it strikes me as an appropriate time to express my thanks to the men in my life who made this moment possible. I have had the great good fortune to have some beautiful women in my life: my sweet, gentle, proper mother; my athletic, gregarious, outgoing sister; my amazingly focused, can-do, beautiful wife; my talented, smart and lovely beyond her own comprehension daughter. Many female friends over the years who have supplied me with ample evidence that God did indeed save the best for the last gender He created. I like women, about that let there be no doubt. But today I would like to say thanks to a few of the whiskered (and in some cases, male pattern balded) people who contributed so much to what little I can claim in the way of admirable, or at least fairly unique, character traits.

Why did the Dick Haymes LP bring this subject about? Chances are Dear Reader is waiting for me to explain just who this Haymes fellow is, or was, or is about to Google the name or submit it to Wikipedia. Here's a very brief intro, feel free to do your own research; Haymes was a pretty big name in show biz in the 1940's. He was an honest to gosh movie star in many musicals of the 40's, and a lot of songs from those films became popular hits for him, like "It Might As Well Be Spring" from State Fair. By the time I came around and grew a bit and had funds to purchase records, the name of Dick Haymes was ancient history and certainly not of interest to a Baby Boomer like me. But Dad had always had music in the house. Having grown up in the Thirties and Forties he of course gravitated towards the Great American Songbook and the jazz of the Dorseys and Benny Goodman, Harry James and Count Basie. But he also had a nice classical collection, with Dvorak, Tschaikovsky, Ferde Grofe, Howard Hansen, Jacques Ibert, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmoninoff and, of course, Gershwin on both LP's and 78's. Not to mention the weekly Boston Pops programs on PBS we watched as a family. I grew to understand and appreciate musical excellence in both popular song and concert hall styles. So when, as a young man of twenty-four I found a single copy of a newly released Dick Haymes album, I read the album notes, saw the song list and went for it. It's not my most frequently spun platter, but when I do dig it out, it's always good. And it wouldn't be there if it hadn't been for Dad.

 But I wouldn't have anything to spin it on if it wasn't for the generosity of my late friend Paul. The Dual turntable I have was given to me by Paul shortly after my Technics one gave up the ghost and I had no funds with which to replace it. Paul was in the market for something new himself, he said, and the Dual had already seen good service with him, but that was the way with him, he was careful to disguise acts of well timed generosity to minimize what he felt might be too much unnecessary gratitude on the part of the recipient. A couple of years before he passed away from multiple myeloma, he gave me his reel to reel tape deck and collection of tapes, including the recordings he and I made with our short lived band Spectrum and some often ridiculous, occassionally inspired jam sessions we conducted with our mutual friends Dane, Doug and Neal.

Paul was my friend for thirty-five years. We were in plays together in high school, reconnected when I came back home from a year in California and shared an apartment for five years until I got married. He was married shortly after. We tried to meet for coffee every week and played on opposite sides of the net in doubles tennis almost every Sunday with our mutual friends Jon and Andy for decades. He was the best man at my wedding and, along with my wife, I will always consider him to be my best friend, that rare and precious individual who understood what was going on inside me without needing any words. The guy who knew all the same cultural references, memorized all the same song lyrics, went ga-ga over the same female movie stars and singers. We shared so much, good and bad. It's good to have his turntable to play my LP's on, whether it be Dick Haymes or, more to Paul's taste, John Coltrane. When I lift the tonearm and gently place the needle in the grooves, I think of Paul.

The photo is from right before my wedding. Paul is the one of the left. He brought the fake nose and moustaches for himself, Andy and Jon. I liked my springloaded specs. The minister did not approve.

Mr. Jay Dean Jones was my theater teacher in high school. From him I learned about discipline, courtesy, fun, making choices, hard work and its payoffs, and the absolute joy of collaborative effort. He was my teacher in all of the theater classes Westwood High offered, my director in school plays as well as community theater musicals. He was patience itself, yet knew when and how to command your attention without ever having to raise his voice. He was gentle and authoritative, precise and freewheeling. He took chances but never compromised. He made me want to be a teacher, but when I went away to college I found I wasn't him and I was so disappointed that I veered from that path. I have tried to get back on it a couple of times since then but circumstances have not been in my favor. Perhaps that is for the best. I would forever be trying to be a second rate Jay Dean Jones, and the world doesn't need one of those. It has already experienced the real thing.

I hadn't become enamored of photography until near the end of the time I had working with Mr. Jones. It took some scrounging to find a contact sheet that included this shot of him directing an actress in a production of "Showboat" I was in.

There are plenty of incredibly generous, talented, patient, good hearted, intelligent people, both men and women, who have blessed me with their friendship, guidance or just a few minutes of their time. But these three men will always be at the top of my list. Heck, they all knew me when I looked like this and they still liked me.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.


Lexi said...

Well, I think you look jolly dishy in the bottom photo - though it's true the wedding picture is a little alarming.

The Showboat actress is pretty. I love looking at old photos, a moment captured. Yesterday I was looking at a photo of my father in battle dress, when he was younger than I am now, and wishing I could have a chat with him.

Alan Hutcheson aka Plumboz said...

Dishy? Oh my. Thank you.

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.