Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vintage Vegas: Fats Domino & My Parents

“Only you would have autographed Fats Domino albums in your garage and not know it.” ~Comment from a friend.

I’ve had a lot of emails and messages from friends lately, most of them along the lines of, “Where have you been?”

Let me sum up the past few months for you: First, there was a flood. Then there was mold, and a crazy landlord, and lawyers, and a move that happened over Christmas and New Year’s. (We’re calling it “Mold-nado.”)

New Year's Eve at my house: Ringing in 2014 with lots of boxes.
In case you’ve ever wondered how long it would take two adults and a resentful teenager to move a four-bedroom home and a workshop (with very little help), the answer is: eight days. Eight long, painful days, at the end of which we all agreed that stairs are evil and we hate them.

We’ve been settling into an awesome new home (it has a pool!), managed by a lovely, sane management company, but we’re still working our way through boxes. A few weekends ago, we uncovered my parents’ old vinyl records.

In the 1960s and 70s, my dad frequently worked the showroom bars on the Las Vegas Strip, and he knew a lot of musicians. He was friends with several of them, including Fats Domino and Harry James

Apparently Dad also knew Peggy Lee, who autographed this 1962 Blues Cross Country album for him (notice Quincy Jones conducted):
When I got to the Fats Domino records, I found albums signed for my mom and me.

I think Dad met Fats at the Flamingo, where my dad was a bartender during the early 1960s. However they met, Fats and my parents became friends.

My favorite story about Fats came from my mom. According to Mom, one day Fats (his real name is Antoine, incidentally) pulled up in front of the house in a limo. His feather ties had become wrinkled and mashed somewhere during his travels, and he didn’t like whatever solution the hotel had proposed. He asked Mom to help him, and she came up with putting them under the sofa cushions to gently press the feathers back into shape, returning his ties to show-ready condition.

When I was about 10, I got to sit backstage and watch Fats perform. I thought it was odd that Mom and I were sitting behind the action, amid the lights and the curtains, but it was fun. I grew up around showrooms, but I was usually sitting in the audience. I didn’t really understand what a privilege it was to be backstage.

The last time I saw Mr. Domino, I was in my early 20s. Dad and I went to see him in his suite, which I think was at Bally’s. I remember there was a great view of the Strip from the sitting room's window. He and Dad chatted for maybe 30 minutes—about what, I don’t remember. Fats seemed to find me sassy (probably a fair assessment), but he was happy to sit and catch up with Dad.

This is why it takes me so long to go through some of these boxes: the stories they hold slow me down.

I’ve still got several boxes to go. Who knows what other treasures I might find?

What's your most surprising "find" (in the garage, the attic, etc.)?