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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Simulacrum Now:The Afternoon I sat Across The Table From Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole--Mona Lisa
One Sunday afternoon I sat across the table from Nat King Cole. My high school friend Jinny Poad (Zechman)had an uncle Jack in California who played the bongos (he taught Marlon Brando to play them) with NKC and his trio, or was it a quartet with the bongos? The year had to be 1951 or 1952. We were invited by her uncle to Chubby's in New Jersey - Cherry Hill then? New Jersey served liquor on Sundays so Chubby's had an afternoon matinee and we were there. I think there may have been one other table with people.

Between sets the band sat at our table. We sipped sodas but the band did not. Nat King Cole came a little later and sat with us, across from me. All his images on google do not look the way he looked that day. Perhaps he was irked at having to perform for so few people. Maybe it hadn't been a good tour. The photo above is the closest I could find.

Actually his face was terrifying. Cold as stone with eyes like a snakes. Knife blade thin face. Chilling. He did not say a word but then I guess we were too intimidated to say anything to him. He sat and drank and smoked until the next set. As I contemplate this afternoon in my memory I think he was probably high - heroin? grass? - hard to say. I think from time to time of Natalie Cole and what he was like for her as a father. He was completely still except when he drank or smoked. And he sang Mona Lisa that afternoon. So I have linked it above. But his performance was entirely different from this 1961 link than it was that day in the early 50's. He was already a big star then but there he was performing in this shabby club on a Sunday afternoon for an almost empty room.

Of course now he is dead but his images and his music are digitally stored and circulate globally. He is now a simulacrum. A simulacrum is a copy without an original. All people will know of him now is what is stored on disc so I thought I would write something about him that day. He made me afraid but of what I didn't know.