October 18th 1969
The din of a dozen conversations resonated throughout the backstage area of the Majestic Theater in mid-town Manhattan. It neared midnight. Moments earlier the venue played host to “An Evening of Solid Gold,” a sold-out Rock and Roll reunion concert. The show featured an array of performers who recorded for Chanticleer Records, one of the most successful independent record labels of the fifties and early sixties.
It was a re-birth of sorts for Joseph Rabinowitz, the thirty-four year old entrepreneur and co-founder of the label. His life had been in shambles for the past five years. An idyllic marriage ended in divorce. The music empire he created with his business partner Leo Klein came crashing down around his ears. The onslaught of the British musical invasion very nearly destroyed the American music industry.
The success of this show gave Joseph a sense of vindication. It provided a rare, happy moment in his professional life that now spilled backstage. Still, more personal disappointments tempered his enthusiasm.
Then, in what seemed like the very next instant.
“Hey, look who I found wandering around!” Somehow, the voice of Curtis Tinnsley, the show’s musical director managed to gain the attention of some of those gathered, Joseph among them.
He was stunned when he saw that Curtis had his ex-wife Janet in tow. Excusing himself from a conversation with a reporter, Joseph made his way across the crowded area. Janet smiled and lowered her head as he drew near.
“You know this woman, Joe?” Curtis asked.
“She looks vaguely familiar.” He joked taking both of Janet’s hands in his. He resisted the temptation to kiss her. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” It was nice seeing you again, Janet.”
“Same here, Curtis.”
Weeks before, she surprised Joseph by showing up at his apartment with her five year old daughter. It was the first time the couple had seen one another since Janet moved to London shortly after their divorce. Janet’s love affair with a British rock star named Ian Markham produced her daughter Danielle. Although Joseph invited Janet to the concert at that time, she told him that she wouldn’t be able to attend. Now, he felt more than happy to see her backstage.
“Why didn’t you call me? I would have sent tickets.”
“It was a last minute thing. There was a change in plans so, here I am.”
“Yes, I am.”
“My, my,” a voice said from behind them. They turned to see Leo Klein approaching. His was another familiar face from her younger days. “Joseph told me you’d been in town, but he didn’t expect you to show up.”
“It was a last minute thing,” she repeated. Janet tilted her head to accept his gracious kiss to her cheek.
Leo turned to Joseph. “We should wrap things up here.”
“Yes,” he responded, and turned to Janet. “We’re having a party at Monahan’s on Sixth. You’ll join us?”
“Oh, I think not. I just wanted to come back and congratulate everyone.”
“Nonsense,” Leo said.
“Leo’s right, you’re coming with us.” He thought for a moment before adding. “Unless…where’s Danielle?”
“With her nanny, she’s fine.”
“Then it’s settled. You can ride with us. I’ll get this crowd started. Leo will you take Janet and get us a cab?”
“Certainly,” Leo happily agreed.
Monahan’s Irish Pub was a chain of taverns throughout New York City. Their location on East 59th Street featured a large downstairs banquet room which seated close to a hundred people. It had a low, wood beamed ceiling, rich oak paneling and soft, muted lighting. More than a dozen long tables set up side by side lined both walls. The room reached near capacity by the time everyone from the show arrived. Many who knew Janet from the old days monopolized her time swapping stories and catching up. People like Johnny Seracino and Bobby Vitale from the labels most successful male group, the Du-Kanes or the two remaining members of the Pixies, Althea Rhodes and Roberta Johnson. In her songwriting days with Joseph they’d written many hit songs for them and others.
She enjoyed a long conversation with Mickey Christie, an old friend and Joseph’s sound engineer. Mickey’s wife Linda had been her closet friend and confidant. Now they lived on the west coast with two children of their own. They had fun looking at snapshots of their kids.
Joseph too found himself otherwise occupied with matters, business matters.
“People are going to be talking about tonight’s show for a long time.” Jacob Miliewski offered in a soft voice. The well-known New York disc jockey was the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. He sat with Joseph and Leo at a smaller table off to one side of the room.
“Jacob’s right,” Leo said. “This was beyond our wildest dreams.”
“Listen, kid,” Miliewski told Joseph. “You gotta strike while the iron is hot. First thing tomorrow morning, you start making plans for the next one.”
“Next one?” Joseph asked with surprise. “Jacob this was a one shot deal.”
“Sure, sure, when we thought it was a risk that’s the only way you could look at it. But you beat the odds…proved it could work. If you don’t follow up on it you can bet your ass somebody else will.”
Leo’s eyes widened at the thought of another money making project “Joseph, we should at least discuss it.”
“Okay,” Joseph relented, “but not tonight. Let’s sleep on it.”
“That’s the ticket,” Jacob beamed.
As the festivities wound down, many partygoers headed home. Joseph and Janet finally had time to sit together and have a quiet conversation.
She told him of her relationship problems with Markham, especially drug related incidents which had become public. “I’m not returning to England,” she told Joseph, taking him by surprise. “I will not expose Dani to all that.”
“How do you think Ian will react?”
“He’ll be angry…hurt. He does love his daughter very much. He just doesn’t have a place in his life for us anymore.” Joseph looked away. “Sorry,” Janet added, after realizing she once said the exact same thing about him. “I don’t think I’ll have an easy time of it.”
“Janet, I want you to understand that you won’t have to go through this alone.”
She managed a smile and a single thought entered her mind, ice cream.
The first thing Janet saw when she opened her eyes the next morning were two empty one-pint ice cream cartons on the night stand. Sometime while living abroad she acquired a taste for strawberry ice cream over butter pecan. Rather than quibble about it, they bought a pint of each. The first thing she heard was the deep breathing of Joseph asleep next to her. He looked so peaceful, a combination of relief from the nervous tension of the concert the night before, and satisfaction from their session of torrid lovemaking.
The decision to go back to the apartment with him was impulsive to be sure. Caught up in the exhilaration of the events she couldn’t refuse his invitation. In this afterglow moment, she felt no regrets. Joseph still loved her. She knew this from the first time she visited him with Danielle weeks before. As to her own feelings, she wasn’t sure.
Joseph woke and turned to face her. She responded by lying flat on her back. He reached his arm across her belly.
“Should I make us breakfast?” he asked.
“Goodness, Joseph it must be lunch time by now.”
“Alright then, lunch.”
“I really should be getting back. I don’t leave Dani with her nanny overnight often.”
“Can I call you later…dinner?”
“Not tonight.” Then, before he could protest, “tomorrow perhaps…we’ll have time for all this, Joseph, I promise.”
“I need a shower and coffee.”
“Go ahead. I’ll make the coffee.”
He kissed her on the cheek before getting out of bed.
She lay there listening to the shower running, and thought about what she told him. Was she ready or even willing to renew a relationship she fled just a few years before?
She left the bed and walked to the closet. There she found several neatly pressed white dress shirts hanging in a row. She put one on, buttoned a single button across her breasts and headed toward the kitchen.
Once the coffee was brewing, she took the time to look around the apartment. Last time she noticed a new addition to the furnishings, a bookcase standing some eight feet high in the middle of one wall of the living room. As she approached to inspect its contents, she wondered how he ever found the time to read. She scanned a row of titles and found them, standing side by side, the four photo books she published abroad. The first two contained pictures from the English and Scottish Countryside. The third featured photos from Germany and the fourth from the Netherlands, both done while she toured with Ian’s band, The Have Knots. Seeing her work on his bookshelf gave her a warm feeling.
Joseph was fully dressed as he entered the living room. “Coffee smells good.”
“Should be just about done.”
“Better hurry if you wanna shower before all the hot water is gone.”
“Interesting collection you have here.”
“For show mostly. I never seem to have any time to read these days.”