Stan Getz on Jazz, drugs and robbery: ‘I’m sorry for the crazy thing I did’
09.10.2013
08:22 am

Topics:
Crime
Drugs
Music

Tags:
Jazz
Stan Getz

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In April 1954, Stan Getz wrote from the jail ward of the Los Angeles General Hospital to the Editor of DownBeat magazine explaining how he had been busted in Seattle for (as Popsie Randolph put it) “holdin’ up a drugstore to get money to buy some stuff.”

Getz was one of the most talented saxophonists of his day, and had been a featured tenor sax since he was sixteen-years-old. He was also addicted to heroin, which caused the various behavioral antics that led Zoot Sims to describe him as “a nice bunch of guys.”

According to drummer Don Lamond, Getz’s early career success had never allowed him “a chance to grow up.”

“And you know how it was during the war. There weren’t any bands. There was nobody for these kids to dig except for a few guys who happened to be around, and some of those guys were on junk. And you know how kids are. Everything their idols did was right. So the kids did it too.

“Stan was an impressionable kid like many of them. And he was a spoiled kid, coddled all his life. The tragedy is that I can’t think of anyone who has more talent. Stan is a natural musician. He has a fabulous ear, imagination, a retentive memory. What else do you need?”

At a loose end in Seattle in 1954, Getz needed junk.

In his letter to Down Beat, Getz began by declaring he had many things to say, “excluding excuses, regrets, and promises.”

Promises from me at this point mean nothing; starting when I am released is when my actions will count.

His actions in Seattle was what he wanted to explain, and to understand.

What happened in Seattle was inevitable. Me coming to the end of my rope. I shouldn’t have been withdrawing myself from narcotics while working and traveling. With the aid of barbiturates, I thought I could do it. Seattle was the eighth day of the tour and I could stand no more. (Stan you said no excuses.) Going into this drugstore, I demanded more narcotics. I said I had a gun (didn’t).

The lady behind the counter evidently didn’t believe I had a gun so she told another customer. He, in turn, took a look at me and laughed, saying, ‘Lady, he’s kidding you. He has no gun.’ I guess I didn’t look the part. Having flopped at my first ‘caper’ (one of the terms I’ve learned up here), I left the store and went to my hotel. When I was in my room I decided to call the store and apologize. In doing so, the call was traced and my incarceration followed.

The woman behind-the-counter was Mary Brewster. When she asked to see Getz’s gun, he fled the drugstore, and ran directly to his hotel across the street, as other customers watched. When Getz ‘phoned Mary to apologize, a policeman was listening in. Gettz said:

“I’m sorry for the crazy thing I did. I’ve never done anything like that before. I’m not a stick-up man. I’m from a good family. I’m going to commit myself on Wednesday.” Brewster asks “Why don’t you commit yourself today?” “I can’t. If I don’t get drugs, I’ll kill.

The cop on the phone spoke up, pretending to be a doctor and asked if he can help. Stan blurted out his life’s story. The “doctor” said he was coming right over to help. Locked in his room, despairing and ashamed, Stan tried to kill himself by swallowing a fistful of barbiturates. The police knocked on his door minutes later, and run him in for booking. A photograph of Stan in the back seat of a patrol car, looking sick and scared, was flashed over the news wire services. The overdose of barbiturates took effect minutes after he was locked up and he collapsed.

In his letter to Down Beat, Getz explained explained his attempted suicide.

My ‘dope poisoning’ was sixty grains of a long-acting barbiturate that I swallowed en route to jail. I’d had enough of me and my antics.

An emergency tracheotomy was carried out to save Getz’s life. When he came round from his drug coma three days later, he found himself lying on a hospital bed at the Harbor Haven County Hospital, with a breathing tube in his throat.

Getz was sentenced to six months in jail, and three years probation. In his summing-up, the judge said:

“You have talent, family and a good background, but despite an income of a thousand dollars a week, you are not only broke, but your family is living under deplorable conditions. They are sleeping on the floor while you travel in luxury spending money on yourself - and doing what comes naturally.

“You’re a poor excuse for a man. If you can’t behave yourself, someone else is going to have to look after you… It’s time you grew up.”

Getz was admitted to the jail ward at the LA General Hospital, where his detox began. At the very moment he was being processed to the prison ward, his addicted wife was downstairs, giving birth to their daughter Beverly.

In jail, Getz received incredible support (through letters, telegrams and ‘phonecalls) that helped him through his moment of despair. Though he was not a religious man, the experience showed him that “there was a God, not above us but here on earth in the warm hearts of people.”
 

 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Who was the real ‘Girl from Ipanema’?

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“The Girl from Ipanema” is one of the most “covered” songs of all time and an “elevator music” cliche the world over. The story behind the bossa nova standard, is so well-known to most Brazilians that our readers there might find this a really obvious thing to write about, it’s not so well-known anywhere else, I don’t think. (Well, at least I didn’t know this story until this morning, when my friend rock critic Michael Simmons hipped me to it).

Ipanema is trendy, beach town in south Rio deJaneiro. Near Ipanema Beach was Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim’s favorite hang-out, the Bar Veloso. Every day, the married musician would await the arrival of a “tall, and tan, and young and lovely” young girl who would pass by the bar on her way to the beach, never making eye contact with the bar’s patrons, even when she came in to buy cigarettes for her mother.

Jobim invited his friend, a writer and poet named Vinicius de Moraes to come by the Veloso to see this girl.  Eventually, after several days had passed, she walked by. Jobim said to his friend, ““Nao a coisa mais linda?” (Isn’t she the prettiest thing?) and de Moraes replied, “E a coisa cheia de gracia.” (She’s full of grace).  Moraes wrote their banter on a napkin and this exchange became the seed from which the original Portuguese lyrics of “A Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”) grew.

A few years later, “The Girl from Ipanema” as performed by Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz, from album Getz/Gilberto became one of the top-selling records of 1964. Only the Beatles outsold the song and it was nominated for, and won, several Grammy awards.

But who was this beautiful girl from Ipanema?

From Stan Shepowski’s “The Girl from Ipanema”:

Heloísa Eneida de Menezes Paes Pinto was a born and raised Rio de Janeiro girl – a true carioca.  The daughter of an army general from whom her mother divorced when Helô was 4, she grew up on the Rua Montenegro, some blocks up from the Bar Veloso.  At age 17 she was shy and quite self-conscious: she had crooked teeth, she felt she was too skinny, she suffered from frequent asthma attacks, and she had an allergy that reddened her face.  And on her way to and from school and on her treks to the beach, she had to walk by the Bar Veloso.

Although the song had been around since 1962, it wasn’t until 1964 that Helô learned the truth.  Friends introduced her to Tom Jobim, who still hadn’t worked up the courage to talk with her.  But with the ice finally broken, he set out to win her heart.  On their second date, he stated his love for her and asked her to marry him.  But she turned him down.  Two things got in the way.  Helô knew Tom was married and that he was “experienced,” whereas she was inexperienced and would not make him a good wife.  The other was that she had been dating a handsome young lad named Fernando Pinheiro from a prosperous family in Leblon since she was 15.  Undaunted by her refusal, Tom told her that she was the inspiration for the song.  This confirmed the rumors she had heard from others and, of course, thrilled her beyond imagination, but she still turned him down.

The world would not learn the truth until 1965.  Tired of all the gossip and particularly concerned that a contest was going to be held to select “the girl from Ipanema” Vinicius de Moraes held a press conference.  In a detoxification clinic in Rio where he was undergoing treatment (you’ve got to love poets), and with Helô at his side, de Moraes told the world.  And he offered her one more testament:

“She is a golden girl, a mixture of flowers and mermaids, full of light and full of grace, but whose character is also sad with the feeling that youth passes and that beauty isn’t ours to keep.  She is the gift of life with its beautiful and melancholic constant ebb and flow.”

Although Helô became an overnight sensation, Brazil was a very conservative country at the time and she did not take advantage of the modeling contracts and movie roles she was offered, opting instead to become a mother and housewife, marrying Fernando Pinheiro the following year.

That might have been the last the world would have heard of Helô Pinheiro, but in the late 70s Pinhero’s companies fell on hard times and Helô gave birth to a handicapped son. Although reluctant to do so her entire life, faced with the situation she was in, Helô decided to capitalize on her identity as “the girl from Ipanema” and became a successful model, gossip columnist and television host. She endorsed over 100 products.“You move mountains, when it comes to providing for your children” she said.

In 2003, at the age of 58 and still quite lovely, Helô Pinheiro appeared with her own daughter, supermodel, actress and reality TV star, Ticiane Pinheiro in the pages of Playboy magazine, making her their oldest model, ever. She now owns a line of swimwear and boutiques under the “Garota de Ipanema” name.
 
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Below, Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz performing “The Girl from Ipanema” on TV in 1964.
 

Written by Richard Metzger | Discussion