The title of this post caught my eye on a recent amble through eBay. I don’t often visit that famous site, for fear of stumbling across something I feel seized by . . . but this was vague and enticing both.
As as aside, I know that I have written about the allure of autographs — the intense desire some of us have to possess an artifact that one of our heroes has, by signing his or her name, said I WAS HERE. The other side of that emotion, of course, is the practical: what does one do with an autograph once one has acquired it? Frame it and hang it on the wall? Fine — it can be seen, admired, bowed to — but it does tend to turn the overall decor into some uneasy blend of museum and adolescent atelier. Put the autograph in an acid-free folder where it will be safe from its eventual decomposition? Wonderful, except it is now reasonably invisible. Thus, I have coveted many more autographs than I will ever purchase.
These photos greeted me the other day as I idly scrolled through eBay.
A well-preserved, elaborate restaurant menu — its blue cord and tassel still intact. Someone took good care of this!
Nothing particularly vivid here . . . except for the very clear signature of pianist Billy Kyle, top left. I knew what jazz band he had been part of in 1955. More to come!
Small print. Would I have liked to eat there?
Useful to verify the date . . . but where are my Jazz Band Greats?
Another clear signature, although Guy Lombardo was not my idea of a Jazz Band Great.
Well, the signatures of Velma Middleton and Louis Armstrong are sufficient for me! So Louis and his All-Stars were on the same bill as Guy Lombardo at this Atlantic City club whose restaurant had chocolate mint ice cream. (Louis must have been thrilled.) Driver, let’s go!
The seller had written:
Hello! Up for auction is this RARE! c.1955 Autographed Menu from Atlantic City (The Traymore). Some of the autographs are hard to Identify….This menu has only been owned by 1 person since 1955…Their are NO COA’s with this menu. These autographs are REAL. They are all uncanny from the auto’s I have seen for sale. You be the judge! The menu is in Excellent condition. Any questions feel free to email me at anytime. Thanks for looking and Good Luck!
Was it that the seller didn’t know or understand what she or he had? (his or her other items for sale had been automotive, which might make this piece of jazz arcana particularly arcane.) As I wrote this post, there had been no bidding on this item, which suggests someone from a generation to whom the names LOUIS ARMSTRONG and GUY LOMBARDO were nearly devoid of meaning, which is sad.
Update: the biddind ended well past my bedtime. The next morning, three bids had been entered, and someone purchased this for the magisterial sum of $22.50. It is true that Louis must have autographed pieces of paper, menus, and pictures many times between the middle Twenties and 1971, but each one is, in its own way, precious.