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March 21, 2014     Post-Gazette
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March 21, 2014

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POST-GAZETTE, MARCH 21,2014 Page13 by John Christoforo abb onno A Nostalgic Remembrance iiii iii i i i iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii Last week, I was in the middle of a story about my first vacation on my own when I was 21 years old. I was a young teacher in the Boston Public Schools and decided that I wanted to head to Florida during the February school vaca- tion. Miami Beach was the "in place" in those days and that's where I wanted to go. I was supposed to stay with a musician friend but his sister dropped in unexpect- edly with nowhere to stay, so I headed for the beach and found a room at an apart- ment hotel just off of Collins Ave, the hotel Mecca of. Miami Beach, then and now. That first night, I ran into a group of teachers who were also vacationing in southern Florida during that week off. We all teamed up and I then had people to hang out with. We dined out that first night, then headed to a night club for their show, and from there, wound up at the Fontainebleau Hotel's Boom Boom Room, the place to be on the beach at that point in time. I was approached by a young lady who had seen me at the Embers Steak House and Murray Franklin/s Night Club. She asked me if I was following her, as the Boom Boom Room was the third place the two of us were in together. I had never noticed her at the other two places, but with an intro like that, I struck up a conversation and we danced. The following night, the young lady, Maryann, and I were scheduled to go to dinner, as she had accepted my invitation. I picked her up at the Fontainebleau at the designated time and discovered that her grand- father was One of the owners of the hotel. He made din- ner reservations in our names at the Hotel Doral Roof Garden, one of the most fashionable places to be while vacationing in Miami Beach. The Hotel Doral had just Opened and the Roof Garden was the place to go if you were trying to make an impression on people. When we arrived, we were treated like visiting royalty. We were a bit eai-ly and our table wasn't ready when we arrived. As a consequence, the maitre-d set us up in the adjacent cocktail lounge with complimentary drinks. (This is where I left off last week.) As we sat sipping our cock- tails, I heard an accordion being played. The shape of the lounge prevented me from seeing the entertainer, but as I listened, I said to my date, "That style of playing sounds familiar." When the musician was finally in view, I was surprised to see one of my father's closest friends, Ralph Porras. Ralph came from East Boston and was probably one of Boston's best accordionists, ever. When the Cuban population started to flow from Havana to Miami due to the Commu- nist takeoyer, there was a tourist demand for their style of music. Ralph's par- ents weren't Cuban. They were Spaniards from Spain. Ralph decided to take advan- tage of the situation and headed for Miami during the tourist season. He used the Spanish pronunciation of his first name, Rafael, and learned to speak the Cuban dialect. As a result of his musical talent and his busi- ness abilities, he had be- come the music director for the Doral Hotel and Country Club. I had known Ralph since I was a child as he and my father had played to- gether in many of the bands ,that they~both worked for. Seeing each other was a big surprise for both of us. Ralph had to continue with his routine and we made arrangements for me to con- tact him the following day, and he headed-off to ser- enade another table. Within a few minutes, Maryann and I were told that our table was ready. We were escorted into the Roof Garden and seated at a front center table, one of the choicest locations in the supper club. Just as we sat down, the Count Basic Orchestra began playing for the dinner crowd. Now, I thought I was so- phisticated. I had played with the Ken Reeves Or- chestra and been exposed to Boston Blue Bloods, rich Yan- kees from the North Shore and some of the richest people who had live enter- tainment for their functions. As a result, I thought I knew the foods that this particu- lar "crowd" liked. When I looked at the menu, I real- ized what a novice I really was. I could barely pro- nounce some of the offerings and hadno idea what they were. With the help of my escort, I ordered an appe- tizer of escargot in butter and garlic (snails or lumache -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE / MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 in Italian) French onion soup with melted cheese, roast duck with orange sauce, saut6ed vegetables with hollandaise sauce and crepe Suzette for dessert. This was accompanied by two bottles of wine the maitre-d chose for us. Be- tween courses, we danced to Count Basie's music and later to Guy Lombardo's orchestra. All the while I kept asking myself, "What is this night going to cost me?" I knew that I had one heck of a story to tell Babbononno and my parents, but it would be after I spent the night washing dishes at the Doral Hotel because of lack of adequate funds. When it was time for the crepe Suzette, the waiter wheeled a cart to our table and made the thin pancake dessert in front of ug, finally igniting the thin discs with a high alcohol based liquor. I was impressed, but my companion who had ordered the French specialty, acted like this demonstration was a common occurrence. For her, it probably was. The bill finally arrived and I almost choked at the totals. It was close to eighty dollars, a fortune for a din- ner in those days. The bill was handed to me by the maitre-d who said that it was already taken care of. He added that the only rea- son he was showing it to me was so that I could base the ten percent tip on the total amount. I figured that if I was in a high roller location, then I should tip like a high roller. I gave the waiter fifteen dollars for a tip and the maitre-d ten dollars. The way they reacted, I knew that they considered me a high roller even though I was only a kid. Maryann was also impressed and ex- pressed this as I drove her back to the Fontainebleau. The next morning, I called Ralph Porras from the lobby of the place I was staying. He asked me if I would like to join him for a few hours. I wanted to work on my tan but knew he was probably altering his schedule to have me join him, so I agreed to meet him at his house. He gave me the directions and when he jumped into the front seat of my Hertz rental, he directed me to the Doral Country Club where his office was located. When we arrived, he told me that we were having brunch with someone who had just moved his operations to Miami Beach and the Doral Coun- try Club. We were escorted to a private part of the club's dining room and were greeted by none other than Jackie Gleason who was waiting for Ralph to join him. As we approached Gleason's table, I said to myself, "Babbononno is never going to believe this." To be continued ... GOD BEESS AMERICA Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston's South End. For tickets or more information call 617-933-8600 or visit www. SpeakEasyStage. com. Celebrity Series of Bos- ton ... Will wrap up the month with violinist Chris- tian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt on Sunday, March 30th at 3:00 pm at NEC's Jordan Hall. This performance marks Christian Tetzlaff's fourth appearance with the Celeb- rity Series of Boston. He made his debut in 1991 and most recently appeared in 2009. This performance marks Lars Vogt's Celebrity Series of Boston debut. Equally at home in both classical and romantic rep- ertoire and 20th-century works, violinist Christian Tetzlaff sets standards with his interpretations of the violin concertos of Brahms, Beethoven, Berg, Tchaikov- sky,, Schoenberg, Shostako- vich, and Ligeti as well as his performances of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas, The Hamburg-born violinist is a frequent soloist with such orchestras as the Ber- lin Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic Or- chestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo, Orchestre de Paris, and Boston Sym- phony Orchestra. Lars Vogt has rapidly established himself as one of the leading pianists of his generation. Born in the German town of Dflren in 1970, he first came to public attention when he won second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition and has enjoyed a varied career for The Whale by Samuel D. Hunter has made its way to ;Boston and will be on the SpeakEasy stage through April 5th, (Photo by SCroorg~ The Celebrity Series has been bringing the very best performers -- from or- chestras and chamber en- sembles, vocal and piano music, to dance companies, jazz, and more-- to Boston's major concert halls for 75 years and is still continuing to do so, This powerful per- formance of Christian Tetz- laff and Lars Vogt will take stage on Sunday, March 30~ at 3:00 p.m in Jordan Hall located at 30 Gainsbor- ough Street, Boston. Tickets are available online at, by calling CelebrityCharge at 617-482-6661 or at the Jordan Hall Box Office. Isabella Stewart Gardner -Museum ... Hosts a lecture with Richard Brettell on Thursday, March 27a begin- ning at 7:00 pm on "Manet's Chez Tortoni". Manet is not a painter to readily associate with Isa- bella Gardner. Those honors are reserved for the vaunted "Old Masters" and fashion- able "Masters of the Loaded Brush" like Sargent and Zorn. Yet Chez Tortoni (sto- len in 1990), an exquisite and mordant study of modem Parisian mores by Manet, found its way into her over twenty years. His palazzo. Richard Brettell will versatility as an artist ranges from the core classi- cal repertoire Of Mozart Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms to the romantics Grieg, Tchalkovsky and Rachmaninov through to the dazzling Lutoslawskl concerto. Their progi-am will feature; Mozart: Sonata for violin and piano in B-fiat Major, K. 454, Bartok: Sonata No, 1 in C-sharp minor for violin and piano, Sz. 745 (BB 84) Opus 21, Webern: Four pieces for violin and piano, Opus 7 and Beethoven: Sonata No. 7 in C minor for violin Piano, Opus 30, no. 2. speculate about how and why this particular Manet came to interest Isabella Gardner, discuss their shared interest in Venice, place the work aesthetically in the palazzo, and discuss it in the context of Manet's interest in urban public culture. The Isabella Stewart Gard- ner Museum offers so much more than just exhibits to view but also educational opportunities with artists themselves. For details visit www.gardnermuseum, org, You may call the box office at 617-278-5156 or buy tickets at the museum located at 280 The Fenway, Boston. , , ,i, LETTERS POLICY The Post-Gazette invites its readers to submit Letters to the Editor. Letters should be typed, double-spaced and must include the writer's name, address and telephone number. Anonymous letters are not accepted for publication. Due to space considerations, we request that letters not exceed two double-spaced, type-written pages. This newspaper reserves the right to edit letters for style, grammar and taste and to limit the number of letters published from any one person or organization. Deadline for submission is 12:00 noon on the Monday prior to the Friday on which the writer wishes to have the material published. SubmissionbY the deadline d.oes not guarantee publication. Send letter to: Pamela Donnaruma, Editor, The Post-Gazette, P.O. Box 130135, Boston, MA 02113 ...... ~ ~ ~ ~:~ ~ ~ i~i i~i~i izi~i~ ~ ~: :~: i ~i~ii!i ~i!i~ili ,f IP"-