DANCING AT THE LOTUS

  

She heard the sounds of the piano stridently rising above the restaurant chatter and began to squirm in her seat. Whenever the music started it was hard to sit still. She looked at her parents busy with their menus, then over to her brother who was attempting to make a paper airplane from a cocktail napkin and slowly slid off her seat and ran toward the dance floor. 

 She loved music and the sound always made her want to move and swirl and swing around the floor with her arms open wide. She couldn’t help it. Something inside of her four-year old self just made her do it because it was fun and made her happier than hugging the cat or eating ice cream. Swinging and dancing and moving to the music until she was dizzy was out of her control. It was just what she loved to do on Sunday afternoons at The Lotus.

It was 1943 in Washington, D.C.. The Lotus restaurant was popular among military and government personnel during the war years. The Washington Daily News called it “a sort of a poor man’s Stork Club where the average Joe can put on a dog without pulling more than a five spot out of his billfold.” 

The restaurant occupied the top level of a two-story 1926 building and her little dancing legs looked forward to those stairs each week when her family lunched at The Lotus. It was not the food for which she had visions in her head, it was the music. Most of all it was the music that made her love those stairs.

In movies of the 1930s and 1940s, supper clubs were portrayed as places where big stars and popular bands such as Glenn Miller’s played, but far more common were the sort that hosted local musicians. Still, patrons dressed up and enjoyed a time out, dining and dancing, and maybe a floor show, without spending a fortune.

 Located in the capital, The Lotus got the best bands of the era and she got to dance out on that shiny floor with them all. Twirling in and out between the soldiers and their girls taking that last dance of leave, or when she was held in her daddy’s arms, the thrill was always there. Music was in her heart and she just had to move and be a part of the magic she felt.

This particular Sunday she had the dance floor for a few minutes all by herself and she swirled and dipped to the live music with her curls flying in the air and was just having the best of time before her father interrupted her short solo by leading her back to the table. It was also on this particular Sunday that her life could’ve gone in another direction. A talent scout from Hollywood just happened to be lunching at the Lotus that afternoon and thought that this little dancing girl should go to Hollywood for a screen test. After all Shirley Temple was a big star and he thought he saw something with the same star quality in this little curly haired girl who loved to dance. 

Her parents said politely to the Hollywood gentleman, “Thank you very much, but no.” They didn’t want their daughter to be in the movies. That was the end of that, as far as her parents were concerned, but certainly not the end of her love for music, or dancing, or just being herself. 

The author Virginia Woolf once said, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” 

 And so, my friends, that was my life during the war when I was four. And in the end, it turned out, I did it anyway. All by myself. My way. Written large.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015. All rights reserved. 

  

A LOVE LETTER TO ALL MY DOO BEES

“Romper, Bomper, Stomper ……”
(Yesterday I went for my annual checkup with my primary physician. At the end of my visit he looked at me and smiled, “When you looked into that Magic Mirror and said my name, bet you didn’t know you were making your doctor happy!” Honestly he was right. At the time I had no idea the impact the TV show Romper Room would have on the 60’s and 70’s children. To add to this resurgence of Romper Room thought, last week on my Facebook feed there I was with 176, 602 thousand likes and growing by the minute. The Do You Remember site posted a picture of me while doing a Romper Room Show back in the 70’s. Don’t know where they got the picture, but that posting reminded me of an article I wrote several years ago for an Internet magazine that has been reprinted over 5 thousand times. Never realized there were so many Romper Room fans out there!)
A LOVE LETTER TO ALL MY DOO BEES
It seems as though in the last few years all those terribly terrific children who grew up with us on Romper Room are now ruling the world and moving and shaking in all-important circles of life.
Those who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are today’s power brokers of influence. The are now the bankers, brokers, directors. writers, rock stars and CEO’s of corporations. But they all have the Big Question for me when I am lucky enough to meet one of them. “Why didn’t you say my name in your Magic Mirror?”
When the January 23, 1997 issue of Rolling Stone revealed to the world that my son, Emerson Hart, lead vocalist and songwriter of the band Tonic, had a mother who was the Romper Room lady, I could no longer hide in anonymity. I was dragged from underneath the rock I had been hiding since the 70’s. Since then I have been forced to account for my sins.
Some of these wonderful men and women I have met at my son’s concerts, either thank me, or admonish me for not saying their name in my Magic Mirror. When I explain to them that I tried my very best to name each and every one I could in the short time allotted at the end of the show to ‘see’ all of my Do Bees, but because of the volumes of mail I received each day, I couldn’t acknowledge as many as I would have liked, they pretend to understand, but they are still not satisfied. So if you are reading this and I didn’t say your name, please forgive me.
‘Romper Bomper, Stomper Boo. Tell me, tell me true. Magic Mirror, tell me today did all my friends have fun at play? I see Michelle and John and Bill and…oh, there you are. I’ve been looking for you all these years. I see YOU!”
Excerpt from Read Between My Lines by Sandra Hart ©  
(Sandra Hart is the former Ms. Sandra of the children’s television program Romper Room and is a working actress, award-winning author of “Behind The Magic Mirror” and “Places Within My Heart”and is a motivational speaker and blogger. She lives in New Jersey and South Beach with her husband and is “Nana” to four fantastic grandchildren.)

Fair Play/Fair Pay

Whatever type of work you do would you ever give away your expertise, hard work and talent and never get expect get paid for those services? Of course not. Well,  this may come as a shock to all of you music fans, no matter what band or artist you love, none of these artists get paid for any type of radio, AM or FM, Internet or Satellite play for their intellectual property. Zip.  Zero payment.  Pandora only pays minuscule royalties.

Performers and songwriters get paid royalties for recordings, but not their intellectual properties in today’s streaming digital atmosphere. Our USA artists don’t even get paid overseas when their music gets played by those countries who recognize performance right of artists. Why? Because the United States doesn’t recognize their artists performance rights. Crazy, right?
There is a short world list of those counties that DO NOT recognize intellectual rights of performers/songwriters. Who are they? I am embarrassed to tell you. Iran. China. North Korea  AND the United States. Some company we keep, eh?
This morning I was privileged to watch a live streaming announcement by SAG-AFTRA of a bill that is being introduced to Congress by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY) and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (TN) called the Fair Play/Fair Pay Act that will correct this wrong and protect the performer’s intellectual rights to get paid for their intellectual rights when  used. 
As Roseanne Cash has spoken out so clearly on this issue, “…. an artist puts his spirit, soul and mind into his work and that has value. Music radio, digital services would not exist if it were not for the artists’ intellectual property.”
If you want to help by writing to your congressman go to: www.musicfirstcoalition.org to ask your congressman/woman to lend their support to this bill. The future of music and the next generation of musicians need your support. 
THANK YOU FROM ALL THE MUSICAL PERFORMERS/ SONGWRITERS BEFORE 1972 AND BEYOND!

What Is Your ‘What If’?

 

 


 

Steve Tilston. Does anyone out there with 1970′-80’s Steve Tilston folk music ears remember the British folk singer?  His songs have been recorded by Fairport Convention, Dolores Keane, Peter Bellamy, and so many others. His instrumental style crosses classical music with Irish and English folk. He also plays an early 19th-century instrument called an arpeggione (bowed guitar). 

Steve’s Story
With all of his commercial success, Tilston at the age of 21 was plagued with the thought that he just might be selling out and corrupting his artistry.
In August 2010, it was reported that John Lennon had  penned a letter of support to Tilston in 1971, though it was never delivered. Lennon had been inspired to write to the then 21 year-oldt folk singer after having read an interview in ZigZag magazine in which Tilston admitted he feared wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting. In a ‘as-fate-would-have-it-event’ Tilson did not become aware of the letter’s existence until a collector contacted him in 2005 to verify its authenticity. “Being rich doesn’t change your experience in the way you think,” Lennon wrote. It was signed “Love John and Yoko”.
I’m wondering if Steve Tilston would have changed his feelings about his work, or would have taken his music in a different direction had he received that letter from John Lennon as a 21-year-old. I doubt it, because great musicians put their unique and individual stamp into the musical history books. It’s in their DNA.
With all the albums and accomplishment Steve Tilston has had since that letter was written, it doesn’t seem he has lived with many creative regrets. In February 2012 the title track from The Reckoning was awarded Best Original Song at the BBC 2 Radio Awards. 
 
Well, Steve is now being immortalized in a new movie starring Al Pacino. Pacino with his tufts of gravity-defying, shoe-polish hair and burnt-orange tan, who for awhile now has been sporting the look of a famous-than-thou aging rock star, has finally gotten around to playing one – which he does, exceedingly well, in “Danny Collins, a familiar late-in-life redemption narrative, based on the life of Steve Tilston. 
 
So, famous or not, life for all of us is full of ‘what if’s’. What if I hadn’t moved? What if I hadn’t gone out that night?  What if I had only driven another road? What if I hadn’t gone to that audition?  (my true ‘what if’) If  we constantly allow ourselves to live in the past instead of the future, we easily could ‘what if’ ourselves to death with regret. 
 
The moral of this story is: Throw salt over your shoulder and keep walking forward!