Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Recycling comes in many forms. Case in point: Haunted.

In the interim between now and when I finish researching and writing my next new entry, I thought I'd recycle an entry I posted last April. Between then and now, I've done occasional digging through the Goodwill Outlet bins, and I've found my share of treasures. But few have been more memorable and educational than this collection of records. It's amazing and haunting, the pieces of the past that people throw away...

Mr. Fabulous and I hit the bins on Saturday, and I happened across two volumes of 78 rpm records. I had no idea who many of the artists were on the records that were in each volume. The records just looked really really old, and I couldn't pass them up. Each volume, each containing several records, was 49 cents.

I started doing some research, and these dusty old books filled with heavy 78s were well worth the dollar I spent.

I learned about Bert Williams, who was an African American vaudevillian entertainer who actually put blackface over his black face in an effort to deal with racial prejudice. I had no idea who he was when I found one of his records among my bins finds.

But he was considered to be the most influential African American entertainer of the early 1900s. He was a tormented man. W.C. Fields described Williams as, "the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."

And there was a recording by Marie Dressler, titled Rastus Take Me Back, which was highly racially charged. This song was among her "coon song favorites." Dressler was an acclaimed Broadway and early film actress at the start of the 1900s. She worked with Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo and their contemporaries. Marie even won an Academy Award in 1931 for the movie Min and Bill.

And she didn't even start her career until she was 42.

Then there's the flip side of Marie Dressler's record. It's a little number called I Don't Care by Eva Tanguay.

Eva Tanguay apparently had a distinctively average voice, but she made up for it with a robust, suggestive, enthusiastic delivery. Her songs, their lyrics and her lifestyle symbolized The Emancipated Woman.

She was the Lady Gaga of her time. She loved creative costumes, and in 1910, a year after the Lincoln penny was introduced, she appeared on stage in a coat made of the coins. She had another costume made entirely of dollar bills.

Brittney Spears may have taken a page out of Eva's How To Get Noticed handbook. Eva got her name in the papers by allegedly being kidnapped, having her jewelry stolen and throwing a stage hand down a flight of stairs.

Her boom turned into a bust with the Wall Street crash of 1929. Apparently she lost over $2 million. That's a lot of ching now, and it was a whole lot of ching back then.

There are several other thick records in this collection that found its way to the Goodwill Outlet bins, and each has a history that's colorful and compelling.

The compelling part may explain last night.

Ever since I had kids, I'm a very light sleeper. I wake up at the slightest sound. Sometimes without provocation.

It really sucks. Very few things would be as sweet as a night of uninterrupted sleep.

Last night, I woke up around 2.30 am. My bedroom window was open a few inches, because Colorado days have become warm, and the house gets stuffy.

I was laying in bed, awake for a while. Then I heard the sound of someone walking outside. It was a klick-klack sound produced by a woman wearing heels.

I listened for a while, and I wish I'd have gotten up to take a look, but I didn't. I just listened.

Whoever was wearing those loud klick-klacking shoes wasn't just walking down the street. That sound would come lightly, become more pronounced, and then fade off. These steps were lingering.

I know I was wide awake. I wasn't dreaming.

So who wore those shoes last night?

Maybe Marie or Eva, looking for their records?

This collection of music I can't even play by people I didn't even know before yesterday is nothing short of haunting.

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