noel wedder     
part two


Later, back at the hotel several of us gathered in Stan’s room for a nightcap when there was a knock at the door. Standing there with two of his bodyguards was Adrianna’s Father. We could tell by the glowering look on his face that he wasn’t there to make a social call. He stormed into the room and went directly over to Stan who was sitting on the bed.

“My daughter’s missing and I think you know where she is,” the angry Father said shaking his finger an inch from Stan’s terrified face.

“I have no idea where your daughter is,” replied a perplexed Stan, “I don’t even know your daughter.”

“Sure you do. She was making goo-goo eyes at one of your trombone players tonight. You even said something to him when he left the stage.”

“The only thing I said to him was to stop punching his quarter notes so much. It made the section sound disjointed.”

“Bullshit! Listen you long-legged drink-of-water, you’d better find him before we do,” the angry Father replied as he motioned toward the two hulking gorillas who were standing off to one side, “because if I find out he’s with my daughter I’m going to remove his manhood.” 

“Why do you think she’s with him?” asked a worried Stan.

“Because Bruno here followed her to the ladies room and saw her slip your boy a piece of paper when she thought Bruno wasn’t looking. My man misses nothing!”

“How long has she been missing?”

“She slipped away about two hours ago.”

“I'll call his room,” Stan said, reaching for the telephone and attempting to be helpful.

We all held our breath hoping beyond hope that Clayton would answer. After letting it ring 10 times Stan put the telephone back on its receiver. “I guess he’s still out with some of the guys,” said Stan, trying to be helpful.

“My ass, he’s with the guys! He’s with Adrianna and when we find them we’re going to turn him into a girl and use his balls to make him a pair of breasts!”

“We’ll do our best to locate him,” Stan said, making a valiant attempt to calm the irate Father down, “but, I’m sure he’s not with Adrianna.”

“Says you. Just so you’re aware ‘Mister Music Man’ I own 50% of that club you’re working in across the street and if I don’t find my daughter within the next hour I’m going to own 100% of you! Get my drift.”

“C’mon guys, let’s do it,” Stan motioned to everyone as he walked over to the door holding it open for Adrianna’s infuriated Father and his two gunzels.

Once the three men reached the end of the hallway, Stan waited a few moments to make certain they were out of hearing range. “God dammit, I told Clayton to stay away from her. I could tell she was trouble.”

“Wait a minute, Stan,” Willie Taylor said motioning toward the window, “maybe he stopped to get something to eat before turning in.”

“No, I think he’s with that chick. God help us all if he’s doing something with her he shouldn’t be doing.”

“Like what Stan? Screwing her? And in whose bed?” Bob Fitzpatrick asked sagely. “He’s not in his room. She’s not at home. So where do you suppose this torrid love fest is taking place? Let’s all calm down and think it through. I’m all for going downstairs and getting some coffee. I think this is going to be a long night.”

We trooped off to the elevator in silence. Everyone was lost in thought as to how or where we were going to find Clayton and Adrianna in a city the size of New York at 3 o’clock in the morning. As the doors opened onto the lobby who should be standing there, but Clayton, clutching the morning newspapers.

Unaware he was on Adrianna’s Father’s hit list, and unaware we were concerned about finding him, Clayton held out the 'New York Times' to Stan.

“Stan, you’ve got to read John Wilson’s review of the Band. It's dynamite! He said we were so great we moved one of 'Basin Street’s' walls out onto Lexington Avenue.” It was obvious Clayton was oblivious to the five of us standing there with our mouths open, unable to speak.

Stan was the first to break the silence as he thundered, “Clayton where the hell have you been? I called your room and no one answered.”

Clayton looked at him in bewilderment. Called his room? For what? To tuck him in? To say good night? Sure, he was aware Stan liked to play the role of surrogate Father, but he never knew him to take roll call and make sure everyone was in bed.  What the hell was going on?

“I was out getting something to eat. Then I walked over to that all-night news stand on 44th Street to get the papers. I thought everyone would want to see the reviews.”

“You weren’t with Adrianna?”

“No! What made you think I was with Adrianna?”

“Because her Father was upstairs a few minutes ago with two of his gorillas looking for you. He thinks you were together and when he finds you he says he’s going to hurt you.”

“I wouldn’t worry about Michael. He talks a lot, but he’s harmless. He’s very protective of Adrianna plus he would never do anything to harm either one of us.”

Stan was amazed at Clayton’s lack of concern over an irate father and two gunzels who, at this very moment were roaming the City looking for him.

“Christ, I don’t believe this. Are you aware one of his bodyguards saw Adrianna slip you a note?”

“Oh, that! She wanted to let me know she was planning to spend last night with Mother over at her new apartment on Sutton Place. It’s her unlisted telephone number.

“Here,” he said innocently, reaching into his pocket. “Our parents separated last month and sometimes Abdrianna stays there with Mother . . .”

“Whoa, wait a minute,” Stan looked at him thoroughly perplexed. “Your Mother’s place? That must mean you and Adrianna are . . .”

“Brother and sister. She’s my youngest sister.”

“Then Michael’s your . . .

“My Father? Yes, Michael’s my Father!”

“Why didn’t you say something last night when I was reading you the riot act about getting too chummy with Adrianna?”

“Why? I guess I didn’t want you to know Michael Fucci is my Father. The day I left for college he and I had a terrible argument about my desire to become a professional musician. He wanted me to go to law school or into medicine, like my oldest sister, Tanya, who’s a pediatrician. He said musicians were drug-crazed bums and no son of his was going down that sordid road and bring shame to the family name.

"I told him he needn’t worry about his precious family name since I planned on using my Mother’s maiden name, which is 'Cahoon'.

"That really threw him into a tizzy.  He wanted to know why I thought our name wasn't good enough for me to continue using. Sometimes he doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

"I told him 'Fucci' was too ethenic sounding and that 'Cahoon' sounded much more sophisticated. More in keeping with the 'glamorous life' I intended to lead when I got to Hollywood," he said laughing.

"I knew I was baiting him, and I knew he probably would get very upset at my disobedience, but I was really angry at him for trying to run my life. Unfortunately he let me know I was no longer welcome in his house and that as far as he was concerned he no longer had a son.'

“I’ll be damned,' Stan said, shaking his head. 'So that’s why your Father didn’t tip his hand and let us know you and he were related?”

“My Father is very Italian. Very obstinate. Very family-oriented. For me to stop using the name I was born with was a terrible blow to his ego. We haven’t spoken in over four years.”

“Then what was he doing in the Club last night? I know he owns it, but why show-up with Adrianna.”

Clayton laughed. “You don’t know my sister. Very head strong. Very independent. Just like our Father. She told him if he didn’t take her, she would go by herself. And she would have. What’s more, she told him she would leave him and move in with Mother. That scared the hell out of him because he is devoted to her. She’s his little princess.”

“Don’t you think you’d better call him and let him know where Adrianna is?”

“Oh, I think he knows damn well where my sister is. He’s afraid to call because he knows my Mother will hang him out to dry because of the asinine way he’s been acting lately. He likes to give the impression he’s some big, bad Mafioso, when in reality he’s not such a bad guy. I think he’s seen too many gangster films. Would it surprise you to know he’s a Harvard-trained lawyer?”

“Damn, and to think I thought he was head of one of New York’s crime families." said Stan, laughing uproariously.

Clayton also began laughing, “The only family he’s head of is our's. Sure, he does business with a lot of unsavory characters, but, no, he’s no Mafia don. Although at times I think his role playing gets a bit out of hand.”

“Who’s Bruno and that other gorilla he was with?”

“My cousins. They work for him in the family rental linen business. He’s also owns several restaurants and clubs he took over when they were on the verge of bankruptcy. He figured it was the only way he could recoup the money he was owed. All very legitimate and very much on the up and up.”

“Clayton, I think you’d better call him before he shows up again. Good guy or not, he scares the shit out of me. He was pretty upset about Adrianna taking off like that in the middle of the night.”

Clayton rose and began gathering up his newspapers, “I’ll call as soon as I get upstairs.”

“Do you know how to reach him?” Stan said, totally mystified by the strange turn the night had suddenly  taken.

“Of course, all I have to do is beep Bruno. Mother insisted I take his pager number in case I needed anything while at school. Michael  will probably have a coronary when Bruno tells him I called. Especially when he finds out the family is united in a conspiracy to bring us back together.”

Before stepping into the elevator he turned to Stan, “Adrianna’s going to insist he take her back to the Club tonight. It’s his birthday and she and Tanya have planned a little surprise for him.”

“Tell Adrianna we’ll add to her surprise by playing ‘Happy Birthday.’

“She’ll appreciate that. I’m sorry if we caused you any grief.”

“Forget it. Go. Call Bruno!”

That night Michael, Adrianna and Tanya were, as Clayton predicted, sitting at a table directly in front of the bandstand. Adrianna, like the previous night, greeted Clayton by wiggling her fingers and throwing him a dazzling smile. Michael, still scowling like some character he was trying to emulate from Martin Scorsese’s film, 'Good Fellas', avoided making eye contact with Clayton and kept glancing around the room waiting expectantly for someone else to arrive. He looked over at Bruno and his brother, who were standing by the front door and shrugged his shoulders in a questioning gesture. Bruno shook his head, at the same time mouthing 'No!', turned, grabbed his brother and went outside to wait.

After getting the room settled with several classic Kenton charts, Stan stepped to the microphone and announced there was a special guest in the room who was celebrating his birthday with his family and that the Band, featuring his son on trombone, had prepared a special surprise for him. Throwing Michael a huge smile, Stan gave the downbeat to 'Happy Birthday' as Clayton’s section stood and directed their horns in his direction.

Then, from somewhere from the darkened recesses of the Club, Clayton’s Mother appeared and slipped quietly into the vacant seat beside Michael and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. It was obvious to all that he was genuinely moved by all the attention the Band and his family was bestowing upon him. Then, just as the trumpets put the finishing touches to 'Happy Birthday' with several high altitude blasts Stan pointed to Michael and asked him to rise, introducing him and the rest of his family.

No one, especially Clayton was prepared for what happened next. Michael moved away from his seat and walked over to the bandstand. He leaned through the saxophone section and clasped Clayton around the shoulders, giving him an affectionate hug which damn near put a dent in his son’s instrument. He then turned toward his table and broke into a huge smile as Adrianna and Tanya raised their thumbs in a salute. Before returning to his seat he grasped Stan’s hand and gave it a vigorous shake.

Later, during intermission, Michael sought Stan out and apologized for his unacceptable behavior the previous night. He said he hoped Stan understood that Adrianna’s sudden disappearance had greatly concerned him, along with the added surprise of seeing his son for the first time in four years sitting in Kenton’s trombone section. One shock after another. Stan told him he was happy that things had worked out so well.

Six months later, Clayton left the Band and entered Harvard Law School. He still was undecided as to whether or not he would go into business with his Father. Bruno and his brother were still assigned to Adrianna and followed her around relentlessly and were constantly stressed since she continually gave them the slip.

Princess or no princess, she had no intention of living her life with two scowling bodyguards scaring away potential boy friends. Michael and Clayton’s Mother were still separated, but she had no intention of filing for divorce, since she spent more time at Michael’s penthouse, then in her own apartment.

Dr. Tanya keeps her Father forever on edge by gleefully threatening to sign him into a psychiatric unit if he doesn’t stop trying to control everyone’s life. Whenever she admonishes him for his behavior he defends himself by swooping her up into his arms and roaring for all the world to hear, “I’m your Father. I’m Italian. What do you expect? It is the destiny of every Italian Father to take care of his family, especially his girls.”

“Yes, daddy,” but it is not your destiny to smother us so we can’t breathe,” Tanya would always reply giving him an affectionate hug and kiss.

Being the oldest and wisest child, Tanya knew it was fruitless to argue with him. What would be, would be. There was never a moment’s doubt as to who was in charge of the family. She was just happy that the family was back together again.

A week later, in a generous gesture of appreciation for the business we had brought his way during our 3-week stay at 'Basin Street East' he wrote out a check for $10,000 and sent it to Stan’s office in California. No advanced warning. No fanfare Just the check and a hand written note that said, “I am indebted to you for bringing my family together. With the utmost respect, admiration and affection, I remain Michael Fucci.”

The routine of playing three sets a night (the great Canadian pianist, Oscar Peterson and vocalist Chris Connor alternated between sets) quickly settled into predictable monotony. Spending every night in the same hotel room and not waking up at 4 in the morning and wondering where you were - a harrowing phenomena associated with traveling 10-months a year - was a pleasant dividend. Once everyone had an opportunity to catch-up on their sleep, call home, write a few letters and handle a half dozen other mundane chores, the reality of staying three weeks in a city as expensive as New York took its toll. By the end of the first week buoyant moods turned sour at the high cost of food, liquor, laundry and dry cleaning.

Even such simple pleasures as taking in a movie, visiting a zoo, or strolling through an art museum, all relatively inexpensive ways to while away an afternoon on the Road, were hardly affordable in mid-town Manhattan. Movie tickets were double what they cost in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and the 250 other cities we visited each year.

Being a resourceful group,  the guys began purchasing a variety of  foods at a nearby supermarket and prepared breakfast and lunch in their rooms. Two of the saxophone players located a liquor super-mart out in Queens, featuring off-brands at wholesale prices. With a pragmatic wisdom honed to a fine edge from drinking everything from imported Scotch to “anything-we-can-get-our-hands-on” it was decided the Band’s best bet was to stay with vodka.
Preferably the inexpensive one's imported from
Russia which were surprisingly good. Scotch at any price was more than we could afford and bourbon depended too much on the aging process to risk taking a chance we'd end-up with something that had been distilled three weeks ago and tasted like old overshoes. So, vodka became the unanimous choice.

After a bit of arm-twisting the Queen's liquor mart agreed to deliver free to the hotel if the guys ordered three cases at a time. No problem for the Kenton Band, which reveled in its well-deserved reputation as world-class drinkers. We ordered so much booze every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they sent out a salesman to determine if we were running an illegal bar from one of the rooms. Satisfied we were the only one's doing the consuming our newest Kenton fan threw in two free bottles of Popov vodka, along with two cases of Heiniken's beer when the truck made its Friday deliveries.

The laundry problem was solved when one of the guys stumbled upon, purely by accident, a laundromat/dry cleaning complex owned and operated by three young Israeli brothers located two blocks from the hotel. In exchange for several of the guys agreeing to play for a few hours at the youngest brother’s wedding reception on an upcoming Saturday afternoon the brother’s handled everyone’s laundry and dry cleaning for the remainder of our stay pro bono.They also took care of anything Stan needed free of charge which he believed they did because 'they were devoted fans of the Band and wish to pay their respects.'  A bit naive on his part, but we didn’t think it prudent to divulge the little arrangement we had made with the brother’s in case he had a negative reaction to our 'wedding plans.'

On the day of the wedding the guys discovered to their great joy the guest list included plenty of young, single sisters, cousins and nieces, who in turn had plenty of young, single girl friends. In one incredible stroke of good fortune the Band’s social life took a delightful upward swing which kept everyone in high spirits and a rollicking good mood. Thanks in large part to the liberal 'free & easy spirit' of the 1960s no one had to worry for the next several weeks about having a cute and pretty date to wile away the hours in between performances and the late evening. It became a matter of  'live for today' and not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow was 24-hours away. A lifetime when you’re on the Road with the Kenton Orchestra.

One of the Band members who had allowed his wife to talk him into letting her come East lamented his decision many times over as he watched the hotel we were staying at, the Belmont Plaza, turn into an ever-revolving smorgasbord of fun, frivolity and sex. Every day, dozens of beautiful women were seen strolling through the lobby arm-in-arm with the guys.

It wasn’t until the Band left town that the girls became aware of the contest they had unwittingly become participants in. Each one of the Orchestra’s sections kept a score sheet as to how many women the section members could bed down each night and with what frequency.

The trumpet section, thanks to its lusty, over-the-top section leader, won. But only by the slightest of margins. Since many of the dates we did in the East were located within a hundred miles of each other the girls were able to join us throughout the summer, continuing the odyssey of  unrestrained joy begun earlier at the hotel.

1961 truly became a year to remember.

It also, unfortunately, left behind in its wake a number of fractured hearts. And broken marriages.