August 22: Elvis Has Left the Building
Al Dvorin, the trumpeter, music bandleader and promoter who popularized the phrase, “Elvis has left the building” while promoting Elvis Presley’s concert tours for twenty-two years, died in a car accident while headed home from an Elvis impersonator concert on this date in 2004, at age 81. In the 1940s, the Al Dvorin Orchestra and played all over the country. In 1955, Dvorin met Elvis through his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, and within two years was playing back-up for Elvis when a trumpet was needed. He was an indispensable member of the entourage, arranging dates, arranging security, running concessions, serving as announcer, and taking the heat: “For some unknown reason,” writes Spencer Leigh at The Independent, “Parker liked to place his rock ‘n’ roll star alongside lacklustre vaudeville acts — comedians, jugglers and acrobats — rather than among his contemporaries. At one concert early in 1956, Presley could be heard saying ‘Fuck you very much’ to Dvorin as he realized how appalling the side acts were.” To see a brief interview with Dvorin, look below.
“As you exit, don’t forget those Elvis souvenirs in living, loving color. A wonderful memento of this evening’s concert you’ll long cherish when the sounds of music long cast into the night.” —Al Dvorin
August 21: The Surfer
South African surfer and environmentalist Shaun Thomson was born in Durban on this date in 1955. Thomson dominated amateur surfing in South Africa in the 1960s, has been listed as one of the 10 greatest surfers of all time, and was both the youngest and oldest surfer to win professional competitions. In 1977 he won the International Professional Surfers World Championship. Since 1984 Tomson has been active with the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans and beaches. To see him surfing, look below.
“If there’s one existential moment in surfing, it’s when you’re 20 feet back in the tube and you’re racing for the light. It’s very much about living in that absolute moment because when you stand there on the board, the future’s just in front of your front foot, the past is just behind your back foot and the present is right beneath your feet.” —Shaun Thomson
August 20: Sinan’s Fleet
On this date in 1534, Sinan, a Jewish refugee from the Spanish Inquisition who had resettled in Turkey, led a hundred ships into the harbor of Tunis and occupied the city in the name of the great sultan Suleiman. Sinan was the favored captain of Suleiman’s naval commander, Barbarossa (“Red Beard”), the scourge of Christendom, and he was known throughout the Mediterranean as “the Famous Jewish Pirate.” Counter to accepted practices at the time, Sinan did not engage in the slaughter of innocents or helpless captives; when a Spanish fleet took back the city in 1535, he dissuaded Barbarossa from killing some 20,000 Christian slaves who were quartered in the city’s dungeons. He reportedly told his commander, “To stain ourselves with so awful a massacre would place us outside the pale of humanity forever.”
“[Sinan’s] untutored crew bragged that he needed no more than a crossbow to find the height of the stars to determine their position at sea. (In truth, his crossbow was a ‘Jacob’s staff,’ an early form of sextant.)” —Edward Kritzler, Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean
Our thanks to Mikhail “the Beardless Buccaneer” Horowitz for this Jewdayo entry.
August 19: Bueno de Mesquita
Dutch comedian and television artist Abraham (‘Appie’) Bueno de Mesquita died in Lelystad, his hometown, at age 87 on this date in 2005. Mesquita’s shtik included making funny faces, which save his life during the Holocaust when the commander of the concentration camp in Belgium where Mesquita was imprisoned (and was about to be deported to Auschwitz) came looking for musicians. Mesquita’s ability to play a broken-down, one-string cello and his rubbery talents as a mimic got him selected for survival. (In 1994 he wrote a memoir titled, One String Cello.) He became one of the first European television artists in the early 1950s and was a regular on German television, particularly on Rudi Carrell’s comedy show for thirteen seasons. To see him making his escape on television, look below.
“Since his name was hard to pronounce for many Germans, in Germany, he was known as the small one, with the moustache. He has stated that his success in making Germans laugh sometimes felt as a small revenge.” —Wikipedia
August 18: “The Village I Knew”
Sophie Maslow’s dance, “The Village I Knew,” premiered at the American Dance Festival in Connecticut on this date in 1950. Maslow was a Camp Kinderland camper, a soloist with Martha Graham’s dance company, a member of the radical Workers Dance League, and a founding member of New Dance Group. “The Village I Knew” was based upon Sholem Aleichem’s stories. “Long before Jerome Robbins amplified those stories into Fiddler on the Roof,” writes Joanna G. Harris at the Jewish Women’s Archive, Maslow built seven episodes, each depicting village life, the celebration of Shabbat, and the exodus following a pogrom.” When Maslow restaged it for the Batsheva in Israel. “the young Israelis were reluctant to dance these memories of the ‘old country…. Later,’ she says, ‘it became easier for them to accept and enjoy them.’” With her own company, Maslow choreographed several works on Jewish themes, including the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a version of An-ski’s The Dybbuk, The Book of Ruth and Ladino Suite. Maslow worked into her eighties and died at 95 in 2006. To see an excerpt from “The Village I Knew” in its 1949 incarnation, look below.
“If ‘popular’ means ‘of the common people,’ Maslow wanted her dances to be popular. She wished dance to have as direct an impact upon as wide an audience as the theater and film do.” —Joanna G. Harris