Uncle Carlo was a bit like a second grandfather to me. All of my “uncles” that I adopted were different – sometimes even polar opposites – but in one respect they were all the same: they had the heart of a teacher. Uncle Carlo was constantly buoyant and upbeat – always humming or singing. He had a comic strip from a newspaper taped to his front door – it had a little bird on it that said “I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing!” Anyway, he used to give me things – I assume he though they were things a kid would like, and I did like them because they came from him. Mostly it was men’s accessories, oddly enough. I think he gave me cufflinks once, and once he even gave me an ascot. More often, though, he gave me newsboys caps – I had like, 5 of them from him. For a while, I insisted on wearing them everywhere. He used to call me “The Kid” – I mean, he’d call me by my given name too, but if I walked in the door he’d shout “It’s The Kid!”

As I think I mentioned before, a lot of his students were either influential or famous in some way. He made sure we got invited to every party possible  – this was easy, because he was invited to every party. His students held big birthday dinners for him, usually in the form of a recital. They were huge affairs, and often they’d rent out entire restaurants for this.  I distinctly remember a summer party at a Congressman’s estate – it was gorgeous. There were fountains, pools, and even an ice cream truck. A full service ice cream truck with an unlimited supply of ice cream? I was in heaven. They had these chocolate covered cherry pops that had a picture of a vampire on them – I don’t remember what they were called, but they were like crack to me that day. I would finish one, toss the wrapper, and then make a beeline right back to the ice cream truck. I probably would have loaded up on them all day if Mom hadn’t stopped me. She wasn’t worried about the sugar I was consuming – she was concerned I was jacking up the Congressman’s ice cream bill. Somewhat regretfully, I ceased my gluttony and found other things to occupy myself with.

The Congressman himself was a cool guy – I remember talking to him quit a bit. He was a pretty good singer, as I recall, and did a nice rendition of “Jeepers Creepers“. He, Tim and I talked a bit about alligators – I seem to recall him telling me he was really into them as a kid. I think he may even have talked about alligators in the sewers (I can only imagine he was joking).

At every party, I was practically treated like royalty – mostly because Uncle Carlo was. He’d put his hand on my shoulder as he introduced me to people. “This is The Kid.” he’d tell them.

He really liked my music, though by that time I hadn’t written very much. He pulled all the strings he could for me, and actually got me a meeting with David Bowie’s manager. He was very nice and spent a lot of time he didn’t have to listening to my music and making suggestions. I remember him stopping the tape after hearing “Rockin’ Dino” (one of my earliest songs was about a dinosaur).
David Bowie’s Manager: How old are you again?

Me: Ten.

David Bowie’s Manager: Ten. And what do you want to do? Be a singer? A songwriter?

Me: Yeah.

David Bowies’ Manager: I don’t see a market for this stuff, to be honest. I mean…is it kid’s music? I don’t know. I mean, it’s not Adult Contemporary, or rock. I don’t know how marketable it is. Have you picked a genre of music?

Me: Can’t I just do all of them?

He laughed good naturedly.

David Bowie’s Manager: I think you’re going to end up being pretty big. Just not right now.

I was pretty happy, because somebody important was listening to my music, and he thought enough of me to have a meeting with me.

 

 

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