Here’s a new story by my cartoonist buddy and legend, the great Randy Enos.
Years ago, my wife was doing a lot of theater work both acting and directing with small groups mostly in New York. One time, however, in June of 1989, she was called to Washington, D.C. to direct a play there. A few days later, while she was there, our anniversary came along and we decided that I would take the train down to Washington to celebrate it with her.
When I got to Washington, my wife had arranged an evening out at a small jazz club she had been told about called Blues Alley. It turned out to be a small, brick-walled, intimate little place with a small stage and little bar at the rear. The performance that evening was a quartet whose leader was not “small” or “little”at all. It was none other than the legendary Dizzy Gillespie. I couldn’t believe it. There he was a few feet in front of us with that trumpet bell pointed up at the ceiling wailing away. Every player had a mic on their instrument which I thought was odd because the place was tiny and it didn’t seem to require any amplification at all. It was incredibly loud but … what the hell, it was Dizzy Gillespie.
I had this great icon standing right in front of me so decided that I should make a sketch that I could take home and amplify into a nice caricature. I had drawn him for Playboy back in the 60’s from photos but here was my chance to draw him in the flesh, with those big cheeks of his, blown out like a squirrel packing nuts. I scribbled away on a napkin feverishly. When I finished, he was finished playing and went to the back bar to have a drink. I showed my drawing to Leann. She said, “I’m going to give it to him!” I said “NO, I need it, I’m going to do a major caricature of him from this when I get home!” Naturally, she snatched it from me and got up. I said, “You can’t go over there and bother him –he’s DIZZY GILLESPIE!”
She went right over to him. He was alone at the bar. I watched her chatting away to him for about 5 minutes before I got up the courage to go over. He asked where we were from, and when we said “Westport, Connecticut,” he said, “Oh, I know Westport, I’ve been there, I have friends there!” To which I replied, “Oh, of course you do, Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan live there!” He said, “Well Brubeck is a friend of mine but not Mulligan.”H-m-m-m-m … I don’t know what that was all about but I didn’t comment on it.
We continued chatting away for some time. He talked about his wife, family etc., and he asked about ours, and he was so “down-to-Earth”, so “ordinary”, so “regular”, that I quite forgot that I was talking to one of the most famous and greatest jazz musicians of all time.
I broke my rule of never asking for autographs so he scribbled one out for me on the back of a stained little bar menu. It hangs on my studio wall.
It was a good trade for my little sketch.
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: