music biz



It was Mike’s 40th birthday and the surprise party invitation specified NO GIFTS – instead we were requested to write a dirty limerick in honor of the birthday boy – “the filthier, the better”. What fun! We anticipated hearing everyone else’s poetry at the party, then got inspired and couldn’t seem to stop writing our own – no less than 14 smutty gems, which we printed up into a little pamphlet just for the occasion!

My husband had met Mike while working one summer at Disneyland and they’d become best friends. When I met Mike 6 years later, I immediately adored him – in all regards, he was terrific; a great sense of humor, a superb musician, friendly, confident, ambitious, upbeat – he radiated warmth and positivity like the sun! He was a swinging drummer and played percussion equally well – his license plate read “MR TIMPS” and he’d been making real headway in his career in the studio scene. He was also VERY popular with the ladies and always a blast to hang out with since he enjoyed so many things, like the L.A. Dodgers, burgers and malts, listening to new music…  so it was easy to come up with line after line singing his praises.


When Mike had initially brought his bride-to-be over to our midtown apartment, it was obvious she didn’t like us very much – she sort of sneered at everything and, as a sales rep for a book publisher, told us in no uncertain terms how poorly we were running our jingle company. Well, if Mike loved her, that was good enough for us! And we DID make every effort to engender her friendship, though it was an uphill battle.

We were especially intrigued by this party invitation since five years previous we had received a Dear John letter out-of-nowhere, informing us that Mike and his wife would no longer be friends with us because we were so fat, they were afraid we would soon die and they didn’t want to be around to watch anything like that, so… Sayonara, baby!  The timing of this letter couldn’t have been worse, since we were going through a regrouping period of our lives, having just lost a cherished father as well as our jingle company dreams and were reeling from grief on both the personal and professional fronts. We had never contacted Mike and his wife after receiving that letter and so we wondered if perhaps they had reconsidered their decision to kick us to the curb and now might want to be friendly again?

When we got to the party, we saw a HUGE pile of gifts from all of the other guests on a table… and somewhat sheepishly added our nicely printed booklet of limericks to the pile. After the candles had been blown out, it was presents-opening time and we watched Mike open his lavish gifts (none of which contained limericks, of course!)… until he got to ours! He was speechless. WE were speechless. Everyone was speechless. Then “they all moved away from us on the Group W bench”, as Arlo Guthrie said in his song “Alice’s Restaurant”.

We’d been set up, and the limericks were the final nails in the coffin of this friendship. We beat a hasty retreat and drove home, and that was that.


But here, for your delectation, 20 years after the fact, are a few of the less smutty birthday limericks created for the occasion:

Rome  AllegNonTrop

piatti     PiattiLim

Perc.   drumsticks_by_crystalcracker-d3lc5di


Little Gold Chevette


I didn’t learn to drive until I was 25. I always figured that I’d never need to, since I moved to NYC after college and planned on living in Manhattan for the rest of my life. Having a car in New York was an impediment and extremely expensive, unless your idea of a good time was driving around the block for hours looking for a parking space that would only be good for a day or two when you’d have to repeat the process all over again.  My friend Rick Cummins called this “walking the car”, like “walking the dog” only a lot more time consuming with none of the canine companionship benefits!

But then I took a vacation to California the summer of 1977 and I KNEW that I’d have to learn drive at some point, since L.A. is a car culture place even more so than the rest of our country. So I wound up at the Automobile Club of America, with supplementary driving practice from ever-patient friends. (Thank you again, Jim Suitor and Rick Cummins!) And eventually I got my license. No car, but I was street legal.

Suitor   RickCummins   MaraPurl

Not owning a car, I didn’t have many opportunities to exercise my new skills while living in New York.  My dear friend Mara Purl let me drive her Ford Pinto to Baltimore and back – in fact, we were going to share the costs of the car until it got damaged while “safely” parked in a city lot.  I rented a car for special trips on occasion and my mom let me drive her Fiat Spider when I’d visit her in New Haven, but a lot of time went by when I wasn’t behind the wheel.


Then Jim Cantin took a road tour gig and asked us to look after his car while he was out of town. He kept it parked in a lot ½ mile away and we needed to dust the snow off and turn the engine over every week, but it was SO cool to be able to escape the city!! We took Jim’s car to Connecticut to visit friends and family and for a premiere of our YOGURT VARIATIONS with the New Britain Symphony, to Long Island to see my teacher Hale Smith – the freedom to get around without using public transportation…. bliss!

Even maintenance was an adventure; since the closest Chevrolet dealership was on Staten Island, we got a ride on the ferry to get the side mirror replaced (another parking garage mishap when the attendant was moving the car around).

But the most fun was grocery shopping trips to Paterson, NJ.  Our pockets bulging with coupons and a list a mile long, we’d hop in the Chevette, cross the bridge that Chris Christie made famous and before too long be at PathMark, home of huge bargains (and double coupons!)  We’d fill the oversized cart with tons of non-perishables, stocking up on canned food, TP and paper towels like the end of the world was coming. It was always an adventure to be in a real, honest-to-God suburban supermarket after squeezing thru NYC bodegas and tiny grocery stores. The variety! The new products! The SPACE!!!

At the end of several hours’ shopping, the trunk and back seat of the Chevette would be so crammed full of stuff, we could barely see anything in the rearview mirror. With the double coupons and lower NJ prices, a $200 grocery bill would be slashed to $80 some times!  (These are early 1980s prices I’m talking here!)  Being an inveterate bargain hunter, this thrilled me no end.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 8.28.36 PM

Jim has always known how to live; he was the only person I knew in NY who had both a clothes washer and dryer in his apartment – he’d found them at a yard sale, fixed what was broken and… voila! Truly civilized city living!  Jim is amazingly talented in many areas; in addition to his prodigious skills as a musician, vocal coach and songwriter, he’s a skilled woodworker, designer, collector, teacher, computer expert, piano rebuilder, photo restorer… there’s very little that Jim can’t do.


He’s also very generous. Thanks again, Jim, for letting us take care of the Little Gold Chevette!



Gifts That Keep On Giving… and Giving BACK

I’m of the opinion that some of the BEST gifts you can get (AND give!) are practical things such as kitchen utensils, pots, and the like.  Back in the mid-70s one of my songwriting collaborators moved to L.A. from NYC and gave me a bunch of kitchen stuff she didn’t want to move out west:  a food mill that I somehow lost track of, a DANDY slotted spoon and 2 pieces of square Corning Ware with one glass top that fit them both.  I still use the slotted spoon, even though the handle broke off at the end, and I use the Corning Ware every time I make something bake-able, like zucchini-lasagna or chicken divan – that I can bake one for “now” and put the other one in the freezer for “later”.


And I think kindly of Sally every time I use these items – which is pretty much every day. I think, “bless her heart!  Sally gave me this nice slotted spoon I’m using at this very minute – which I’ve had for… 35+ years!  SHE thought its number was up, but I keep using it every day!!”  (note: they don’t make spoons like that any more – I’ve bought plenty of slotted spoons over the years, thinking, “I’ll just get rid of that beat-up, ratty-lookin’ spoon of Sally’s and replace it with THIS shiny new beauty!” – only to have the new spoon fall apart, not FEEL right, or whatever.  Back to Sally’s I go.)

So I think kindly of Sally.  Just as I think kindly of my friend Larry practically every single day.  “BOY, do I like having these Rubbermaid containers!  What a great friend Larry was to give them to me. They’re the PERFECT size for these  (fill-in-the-blank) leftovers.”  (Leftovers ARE my second favorite thing for dinner – second only to Reservations!  Sometimes they’re FIRST, OVER Reservations, because you don’t have to leave the house – just reheat what you’ve already got!)

I have few regrets in life – but one is that, after loaning a friend in Chicago an extra 1-quart Revere-ware saucepan with lid I had, when he was getting settled in to his first place and learning to cook, I took it back when he moved to North Carolina.  I don’t know WHAT I was thinking – I didn’t really NEED the damned pan – he’d had it for YEARS and I never missed it, but when he asked if I wanted it back, I said, “yes” – and now it sits collecting dust at the back of my pantry.  I NEVER use it.  And judging from the shape it was in when I got it back, I’m pretty sure he used it a LOT.  Just think of all the good vibes I forfeited from my lack of foresight!  He could have been blessing MY heart all this time!



Memorial Dogs

I don’t want to be irreverent and I know that Memorial Day is for remembering those soldiers and sailors lost in battle, but it occurred to me to take this time to remember the 7 lovely schnauzers who shared our lives from 1982 to 2010. We’ve scanned photos of our first dog, Dunkel – who we got from a backyard breeder on Staten Island, back when we lived in midtown Manhattan.  We met him at 6 weeks old and took him home the following week, since he was the runt of the litter and had been bottle-fed for a while. His breeder didn’t understand the importance to us that he NOT get his ears cropped, but it sure meant a lot to us –  he was a musicians’ dog, after all!!  He was the most wonderful ball of fluff when we brought him home, renting a car so that the trip would be peaceful for him.  As it turned out, he fit perfectly in the pocket of my coat and we carried him home from getting his puppy shots at the vet that way while riding the subway.

Here’s tiny Dunkel, as we first met him.


Dunkel didn’t make a peep for the first few weeks we had him – no barking, no growling, nothing! Then one day he heard a siren going right by our building and the most unearthly howl arose from him – we were astonished!  He had a VOICE!
Mark usually took him for his before-bedtime walks in midtown and would invariably encounter ladies-of-the-night who would fall in love with Dunkel, thus he came in every evening smelling of Tabu, Shalimar and Joy perfume!
We took him on his first visit to Grandma and Grandpa in Tucson that first Christmas and he loved following his Uncle Max, sniffing around the yard without a leash!!  (big stuff for a city dog!!)  He liked going to the beach in Santa Monica, too, altho it was VERY cold and we kept him leashed the entire time.

BabyDunkel-Posing DunkelFollowsMax BabyDunkelOnVacation

After the winter was over, it was time for Dunkel’s first haircut. We’d trimmed his feet and ear canals all along, but had a groomer come to our apartment for a REAL thorough haircut! Dunkel’s ears, which had always flopped over naturally, immediately found the air!!  We were shocked and the groomer volunteered to tape them down, so that they’d flop again – but you can see from the photo we took of the less-than-an-hour time he was like that, that Dunkel did NOT like his newly-liberated ears being set like that!  Life is too short, we figured, for our boy to be so unhappy.  We decided to let the fur outside his ears grow, and it took a while, but eventually the weight of the fur gave his ears a bit of a flap.

Dunkel-AntennasUp Dunkel-EarsTaped DunkelsEars

Dunkel was an excellent snuggle-boy. Here he is, taking a nap with Dad (Mark), sitting nicely with his cousin David, and also with his Grandma Betty, who loved him dearly.  Of all our dogs, he was by far her favorite – when we brought him up to New Haven to visit, she tried to “steal” him by hiding him in the clothes hamper. We called and called but he didn’t make a peep – guess there weren’t any sirens going by that day!?

DunkelWithGrandmaBetty DunkelWithCousinDave DunkelWithDad

Dunkel was well-traveled – moving from NYC to Chicago when he was one, moving to Los Angeles when he was two, moving back to Chicago when he was 4 – with additional trips to Minnesota, Arizona, Connecticut – he got around!

Dunkel’s 5th birthday at Grandpa Millard and Grandma Marian’s house?  Any excuse for cake!!


Lounging by the pool…

DunkelOnLoungeChair DunkelSunning

Back in Chicago, when it got cold, Dunkel would bury himself in pillows to stay toasty warm


Dunkel was talented and would perform a lot of tricks for just one treat
But he was also a little spoiled – once he was housebroken, he was invited to sleep in bed with us.


Not every day was perfect, and sometimes Dunkel would get tired of posing for photos…


Dunkel adjusted great when we added a little sister to our family – he liked Gretel a lot. Here they are enjoying the sun together on the sofa.


Dunkel was patient when illness happened – he had to have emergency surgery when he was 5 and special eye drops several times/day the last years of his life.  We love to remember him as a sweet soul who made us so happy while he was here.


We were so happy with Dunkel that after moving to L.A. we decided we were ready for another schnauzer puppy.  Mark’s mom looked for us in Tucson, since there were a few reputable breeders there, and the next thing we knew, we were driving to Tucson to pick up Gretel Garbo, who was named that because her mother was Miss Molly Hollywood.


Of course, since it was our anniversary and we were at Mark’s folks’ house, there was CAKE!!  (none for Dunkel or Gretel, tho!)


At 11 weeks, Gretel was a bit older than Dunkel had been when we got him, so she had already developed quite a personality! On the drive back to L.A., a semi truck driver turned over his engine and startled her, and boy, did she give HIM a good barking-at!
Later that year we moved back to Chicago and Gretel tried to keep an eye on both of us, no matter where we were in the house, so her spot was parked on the carpeted stairs.


This was okay until the day she fell asleep and rolled over, THRU the stairs, falling more than 6’ on her back. She was okay but never hung out on the stairs again!
Dunkel got along great with his little sister – altho when we tried to teach her tricks and put him in the other room, he was so busy actually OBEYING commands that we always laughed and Gretel never DID get good at performing-for-treats!


Gretel cleaned up really well once we gave her a haircut.

G-1stHaircut G-1stHaircut2

Mark’s parents were so enthralled with Gretel that they decided to get a little girl schnauzer from the same breeder when their boy Max passed on at 15 years old. When we went to visit again the next year to meet Tina, they pulled a “fast one” and introduced us to Tinkerbelle, her sister, who was a MUCH younger puppy!  Here’s Tinkerbelle giving me a kiss!


The three girls were so cute together!!


One Christmas we received as a gift a hand-crocheted doll hat which I thought looked really good on Gretel – what do you think?

EasterBonnet2 EasterBonnet1

She put up with the photo-shoot but didn’t want to wear it in the Easter Parade!  She knew how pretty she was, tho, and would pose for photos at any time!


Gretel got along with practically everyone – here we are posing with Pete, a Chicago friend.


When we went back to visit Mark’s folks (and Tina and Tinkerbelle), Gretel was a bit aloof from her half-sister and cousin.


Tina and Tinkerbelle were a bit protective of THEIR bed, too… “it’s okay for you to visit, but the pillows are OURS!”


Everything went back to normal when we got home, tho.


We let Gretel and Dunkel’s coats grow pretty long during those cold Chicago winters.


One cold night before Christmas, Gretel heard a would-be-burglar trying to break in at our back door and woke us up to warn us!  Not everyone knows that in addition to her great beauty, Gretel had a talent that not every dog possesses – because of her superior hearing, she was an excellent sound engineer!


Mostly she loved going on walks – afterwards, she and Dunkel looked like this. (nice tongues, eh?)


After we lost Dunkel (he had a congenital kidney condition that finally caught up with him), we wanted another brother for Gretel. She was actually enjoying being an Only Dog, but we didn’t see that, and so… KAISER!!


He was SO tiny compared to Gretel – and she was okay with that, since she got to boss him around… at least for a little while!


The following year was a different story!


Kaiser lived up to his name – he DOMINATED!! He was somewhat fear-aggressive, so we took him and Gretel to obedience school where he did very well, but never truly got over the fear-aggression completely. He was very friendly and easy-going, UNLESS someone tried to pick him up!  Then he’d gurgle and kinda-growl – not in a threatening way, but just to let you know that he wasn’t enjoying this very much!  He stopped as soon as you put him down. We’d forgotten about this until we unearthed an old VHS videotape we’d made, where we’d picked him up to be in the picture, and there it was… Kaiser’s vocal protestation.

At the end of 1993 we adopted Tina and Tinkerbelle when Mark’s mom passed on. They were adorable girls and it was SO much fun to have a schnauzer quartet!!


By this time we were doing all our own grooming, altho you’d never know it by these pix:







He was an all-round athlete – he loved the snow


he loved playing ball – everything from pingpong to fetching tennis balls to basketball was for him!


One time he disappeared in the backyard and we couldn’t figure out WHERE he was hiding. We called and called. Finally we remembered, got out the basketball and only had to bounce it ONCE, and he magically reappeared from behind the shed!  🙂

Kaiser and Gretel were good friends and made a really cute couple together.


but with the addition of Gretel’s half-sister and cousin, it got to be a full couch!


Unfortunately, Tinkerbelle wasn’t as hardy as the rest, so at one point, we were down to 3.



We all went along for a few more years, but by February 2000, both Gretel and Tina were losing ground steadily – and even Kaiser, who had been totally healthy for the first 8 years of his life, developed diabetes and internal growths that had to be surgically removed. We lost both girls within one month, in addition to Kaiser’s diagnosis and were in a state of shock.

K-after surgery1

Kaiser’s surgery was only a partial success. He had a relatively quick recovery but the incision in his side never did heal. We changed bandages a few times every day, since the wound continued to ooze the rest of his life. (another 18 months).

He was always patient through all of this, even allowing us to pick him up without his mumbling-growling protestation!  He would wait as long as necessary for his clean-up and bandages, with no problem, especially if there was a tennis ball nearby for him to chew on.


After Kaiser got sick, he was a bit lonely without his sisters, so we looked for a canine companion and found the perfect one in Gustav!  We fell in love with Gustav right away and he got along GREAT with Kaiser, who was truly overjoyed to have a “guy” to hang out with after all those years surrounded by feminine energy!  There’s a lot of info and pictures at this link:  and also this link: – but my favorites have always been these:


fetch is always more fun when there’s another guy playing, too!


waiting for Dad to throw the ball again!

We found Liesel thru the same rescue organization where we’d found Gustav.  She’d been surrendered by her owner who hadn’t been able to walk her, so she had a bit of a weight problem.


But she sure loved to go for walks once we suited her up!  Sure, she was a bit pudgy, but underneath she was strong and had real MUSCLE! Even tho she was blind, she loved to take the lead everywhere. Fortunately, she was good at taking verbal cues.

Unlike any other dogs we’ve had, Liesel was also extremely clear on the concept of ridding the homestead of interlopers – one spring she dispatched a half dozen wild felines in our backyard before we could stop her! She was so proud – she brought them right to the back door to show us!

From the start, she and Gustav were like 2 peas in a pod and really good buddies!


They cuddled together a lot, and not just for photo ops!


Both Gustav and Liesel got along well with Oskar, who’s still with us – and the 3 of them made the transition to being Arizona dogs with ease – they sure didn’t miss dealing with FLEAS, which are not a problem here in the desert.

It’s been fun to reminisce about our pups who are gone-but-not-forgotten. They each brought something special to the party and we feel grateful to have shared in their lives.  They’ve certainly enriched ours!



music biz

Easy To Love….NOT!


Love is mysterious.  It doesn’t make sense – it doesn’t add up – it’s where 1+0 = 150.

I first met Bruce Otto in the early 80s, in Chicago – and to me, he was just a trombonist.  A GOOD player, but nothing special.  He came to our jingle session, played the part, cashed the check and that was that.

When I met him again in the mid-90s, in L.A. – he became a beloved friend.  Bruce was VERY intelligent and had a wicked sense of humor.  He loved to eat, and we wound up going out with him several times every week.  He became our quasi-son – since he came over for dinner at least as often as we’d eat out – and then he would stay to watch LARRY SANDERS or THE SOPRANOS on our TV – since he was too cheap to spring for HBO himself – AND I think he liked the company.  Bruce was an only child – and he referred to our 4 dogs as his brothers and sisters – and would say, “Hi, Ma” when I’d answer the phone.

He’d come over to use our copier machine, instead of going to Kinko’s – and I’d resew the button he’d popped off a shirt, or type up some form he needed.  We went shopping with him – to book stores and record stores – he’d relish the new CDs, especially ones he’d played on! – and hunt down rare recordings.  In fact, he was the only person I knew who had an actual working Victrola and USED it to listen to records from the 20s and 30s.  We took him clothes shopping, since his wardrobe was atrocious – we helped him pick out flattering outfits to downplay his quite overweight physique.  We helped him house hunting, once his parents died and he could afford to buy his own house.  And went furniture shopping, once he found a house he liked.

And we worried about him.  Because Bruce didn’t take very good care of himself.  He’d smoked for 20 years, he had horrible eating habits, he drank too much and got absolutely NO exercise.

But his enthusiasm for music was boundless.  He ADORED Frank Sinatra and knew ALL of his recordings, chapter and verse.  He’d bring over new CDs to share with us – and I loved it, because it was like when I was in college and just discovering all the jazz artists who had preceded us.  His passion for music was infectious!

Still, I came to know a nasty side to Bruce – he had a FOUL temper that flared at the least provocation.  He was a rage-aholic when disappointed by anyone or anything in his life.  I remember when he got his house painted, before he moved in, how enraged he became when, upon further inspection, he found the painters hadn’t done a perfect job – he literally screamed obscenities that echoed thru the empty rooms – it was frightening!  We’d had plans to go out for sushi but I just turned around, got in my car and went home!

Bruce’s only REAL desire was to be a recording musician in L.A., which he accomplished quite successfully in the 25 years he was there.  But much as he reveled in the camaraderie of making music together with other musicians, Bruce also harbored a deep darkness towards most of his trombonist colleagues – one in particular, who he blamed for blocking his success.  Every other musician was a potential competitor, someone who might be plotting to undermine him with a well-timed barb or comment to a contractor.  Bruce was Machiavellian in his outlook towards his peers – much as he craved their attention, cracking them up with stories and jokes – he trusted NO ONE.

Bruce was amusing enough that most of the time we overlooked his faults – and when we had occasion to need a trombonist, we hired him for sessions.  The first few times, he came over by himself and all went well – but when we hired him with other musicians, he became disruptive – interrupting and trying to take control of the sessions.  He ran off unexpectedly in the middle of one, just before we’d scheduled him to play some solos – and then 2 years later, after we’d forgiven him, when he was included in a big band recording, without permission, he invited a female trumpet player, who’d been married to a couple of the other band members and flirted with half the guys in the room!  THAT sure changed the vibe for a while – and not in a good way!

We gave him a good leaving alone for quite some time after that – tho we later started to touch base again with email and the occasional phone call.

A year ago this week Bruce died in his sleep.  He was 57 years old.

Rest In Peace, Bruce – we loved you…. but it sure wasn’t easy!

June 2012