I had about an hour today to make it to the Montmartre Cemetery before it closed. It’s HOT today, but I’m glad I went! Another beautiful, peaceful Parisian cemetery, full of wonder.
I only had time for three “celebrity” graves: Dalida, a famous French singer (she also has a bronze statue in Montmartre, famous for “rub her breasts for good luck,” but I’m way too classy for that); the famous Impressionist painter Edgar Degas (who had a studio in Montmartre); and Adolphe Sax, the Belgian who invented the saxophone.
That last reminds me of a funny story…
I asked to play the saxophone in school band because I wanted to play like Bill Haley and the Comets and Boots Randolph. My school band teacher (this was junior high) was a pudgy, long-haired guy who was really into the “hip” stuff at the time—Sammy Nestico charts, funky stuff, you could tell he listened to a lot of Miles Davis fusion jazz records.
One day I brought in a Boots Randolph record on the day that you were supposed to bring in records to show what kind of music that YOU, the student, liked. The teacher saw my Boots Randolph record, turned beet red like steam was coming out of his ears, and gave this edict to the whole class:
“THE TWO WORST PEOPLE WHO EVER LIVED WERE BOTH NAMED ADOLPH!! ADOLPH HITLER AND ADOLPHE SAX, THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE $*&^% SAXOPHONE!”
I still think of his adroit and enlightened style of encouragement, to this day, every time I get out my saxophone and blow some delightfully ribald and rude HONK HONK HONKS in the manner and style of a drunken Harlem tenor man backing up a New Orleans stripper in a Las Vegas lounge somewhere. And unlike my school band teacher, I actually got to back up Boots Randolph once, and I got to be pretty good friends with Bill Haley’s original Comets, including Joey D’Ambrosio, the sax player on “Rock around the Clock.” One of the biggest thrills of my life was when Marshall Lytle called me on stage at the Viper Room and had me join the Comets for a rousing finale of “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” Despite the fact that I had clearly won the battle between myself and my red-faced school band teacher, I couldn’t resist a hearty guffaw thinking about that crabby saxophone-hating hippie as I paid respects at the grave of Adolphe Sax today. HONK!