Some memories that I am always reminded of around this time of the year and on Halloween in this new edition of The Half Dead Poet Review:
THE DEAD CROONER
This ain’t the story of Bing Crosby. And sure as shit ain’t the story of Sinatra or Fred Astaire either. This is a story unfit for Bobbie-soxers & the elderly. And this is not the story of some sentimental journey, a very very long-time “ago”.
So let’s all get nostalgic and flashback as they say to the golden days. Where dreams were a dime a dozen and love was still innocent,for a few. At least that’s what they say. This story starts back in the days when some guys named “The Nazi’s” were just starting up the party in a place called Germany, and when some shit-head named Adolph Hitler who they called “DA Fur her” told the world that they were all inferior to his master race. Then one day in the neighborhood he just came along they say. A young man in his early 30’s, not a kid at all but some guy who looked like he had it all together. With his leather jacket flung over his one arm, hair slicked back with pomade and a Lucky-Strike dangling from the corner of his lip. Five feet-10inch’s & all the the girls said “He’s a dish”. That confident smile, the smart ass knowing grin, and a voice they all say that they remembered as sounding like some kind of magic, some kind of bird as he walked from place to place in Albany. He, knowing everybody back then, and everybody knowing him.
“Don’t let your daughters go near that crazy jazz fella!”, All the mothers would say,”He’s trouble!”. As if just by the sight of looking at him all their daughters would instantly become impregnated. But the secret is, the rumor was was that some of those mom’s wanted & got some “singing” lessons on the side themselves.
“Hey!, I’m singing at the club tonight!” He’d tell them. “The New Kenmore Hotel” You should come check me out. the legend being that he had learned to sing from and that his voice was a gift from singing in some negro~black churches when he was younger, and that over the years he had sang with all the creme de’la creme as well. Bull Moose, P. Baby Dodds & The Scranton Singers as well as many others. Rumors that he was into “Voo doo” strange drugs & everything else and that he didn’t worship God, like a good Sunday-morning christian. But night after night his orchestra & his beautiful voice had filled the room as couples danced, swayed and fell in love. Going on forever as if the music would never stop. Gallagher? What was his last name they say these days? The big band historians don’t remember.
Then, one night, as the old-story goes. Upon the dark streets of Albany after all the bars closed. A debt was settled & paid …in full. Y’see the singer, the crooner didn’t know what he had gotten himself into. As if there were some hand of strange fate that had reached out and ended his brief career. What happened was he crossed the wrong man’s, the devil’s path as they say. A man known in the city known as “Legs Diamond”. And a man who wasn’t pleased that some good-looking, handsome singer with his tones of gold, was screwing his girlfriend inside the hotel. And on that dark, cold night one October as the wind brushed by his face, walking down Broadway, the crooner got snared by some of Diamond’s men. And that was the night he paid the devil his due. As still alive, screaming they held him there on that street corner and cut him open deep from chest to throat. Gutted him, still breathing…screaming & gasping for air, like a fish. And then as legend has it took the only thing that that boy had had left. His voice. And dumped the rest his body in the Hudson River but took that one piece of him..that made him unique, and hid it somewhere, possibly in a palace, where no one except Legs would know where to find.And O’Connell and all the police..did nothing.
But many years have passed, long ago since that fateful night. Times change, times swing and time goes by, and they rock n’ roll and have moved onto bigger & better things, where the streets & all the old buildings of that era remain empty and vacant. All of the people from another time, seemingly erased as well as the gangsters who are also remembered vaguely. But the kids? They just keep on dancing, whatever the newest craze, as they should. And yet what happened to Gallagher? they never found his body or anything that was left of him, and remains for the better part of things “A Ghost” in the history of the time of the big bands. Yet every now and then, when the city streets are empty in the early near-morning hours under the streetlights as you are walking you can still hear some strange-sweet beautiful voice singing from out of nowhere, a phantom that lulls you into thinking that someone is walking towards you from around the corner, which you turn. And it has been reported by strangers & college students that if you listen that you may possibly see him there. A good-looking man in his mid-30’s in a pinstripe suit, smoking a cigarette, who then suddenly & mysteriously fades away.And in Albany they refer to him as “The Dead Crooner”. an urban legend, as they say. Appearing..here & there to the ladies as they walk by what’s left of The Kenmore saying
“Hey beautiful? Can I sing you a dream?
And then, just vanishing…into thin air.
“There are surely other worlds than this—other thoughts than the thoughts of the multitude— other speculations than the speculations of the sophist. Who then shall call thy conduct into question? who blame thee for thy visionary hours, or denounce those occupations as a wasting away of life, which were but the overflowing of thine everlasting energies?”
— Edgar Allan Poe – The Assignation
Houdini & The After~Life …
Watch Him Disappear …