The Coastal Post - November, 1995


The Duke's Snood

David and Edith Lewis came over to the house the other night. We sat down to have a drink while we discussed the events of the day.

After covering the cost of living and the woeful plight of Al Smith's barber, the conversation lagged, so I asked, "Would anyone like to see my Hair-Net Collection?"

Now let me tell you this is a zinger. I just happen to have about the biggest and best hair-net collection on the Coast. As a matter of fact, I got a blue ribbon at last year's Hair Festival and Swap meet for the best entry in the Domestic Pre-1960 Hair-Net Collection Class.

You should have seen the Lewis' eyes bug out when I plunked 250 hair-nets (all sealed in plastic) down on the coffee table. I mean it wowed them.

David is about as subtle as a train wreck. The first thing I know he's pawing through the hair-nets and getting them all out of order. They're numbered, you know, but unless you're really organized you can get confused as hell because to the untrained eye they all look the same.

So anyway, he said, as he handed me his empty glass, "How'd you get into hair-nets, Warren?"

Well, I headed for the kitchen to mix up a new batch of martinis before launching into a full-blown explanation. While dribbling vermouth into the gin I decided to cut out the ancient history of my pre-marital days' panty-hose collection. My bride, Eloise, bless her narrow-minded little head, put a stop to that one.

"Well, Dave, it all started at the Pismo Beach Jazz Festival a few years back. You know the Veteran's Hall where they sell food and drinks along with T-shirts, books, pins, tapes, jewelry and all manner of jazz type knick-knacks? Right there I saw this old gal with some stuff on a card table.

"She had a broken drumstick that Gene Krupa left on the bandstand of the Avalon Ballroom back in 1939 or '40. A red-spotted bandana reputedly worn by Ma Rainey (it could have been Aunt Jemima for all I could tell), an autographed picture of Ted Lewis that had 'Is everybody happy?' written on it in Ted's own hand, and, this will slay you, a hair-net worn by Duke Ellington between sets."

For those of you who aren't into hair-nets, I'll explain right now that in the hair-net collecting game, it is not the net itself that is so significant, it is who wore it and, in some cases, how you got ahold of it.

"So anyway, Dave, I said to this old bag, how much is the Duke's snood? She gives me the fish-eye and says, 'Are you really interested in buying it or are you just laying some jive on me?' I'm a little taken aback, so I settle down and get her to tell me about it. The fact is her spiel was probably 98% B.S., but I go for it and buy the net for five bucks. Now that is a steal if it's the real thing. Can you tell me one other guy in the whole world who has a genuine Duke Ellington hair-net?"

Now I like tuba players in general. They're a jolly, simple-minded lot, but Dave tells me I'm an old fool who'd buy the Brooklyn Bridge if it were for sale.

We got to pushing each other, belly-button to belly-button, and spilling our martinis and dry-roasted peanuts all over the place until Edith and Eloise heard the ruckus and came in to pry us apart.

The girls had been sipping Nehi Orange Crush and weren't as excited about this thing as Dave and I were. So they tried to get us off on another track, which was just as well as Dave by this time was shouting things like, "You know what they call feeble-minded guys that hang around with jazz musicians? Drummers."

Hey, that got me. Imagine the gall of a tuba player coming up with that kind of crap. If Edith hadn't been between us I'd have put out his lights then and there.

If we ever let the Lewis' in the house again I'll be damned if I'll let them see my hair-net collection. Oh, I'll have to drag out something to talk about. He has the attention span of a gerbil, so you've got to get out something for him to handle as he talks and waits for a thought to come to mind.

Maybe I can pull out my collection of jazz festival badges or programs, or my festival T-shirts, old '78s, festival mugs, jazz buckles and jewelry, jazz tapes, jazz videos, jazz books and publications, photos of festivals and musicians. You know, I've got a lot of really good stuff, but I'll be jiggered if he ever gets his hands on my hair-nets again, much less the Duke's Snood.