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And The Angels Sing
By H. P. Oliver
(Excerpt from Chapter One)
2012 HPO Productions
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Thursday-July 25, 1940-9:00 p.m.
Behind the blue star-spangled curtain, Marion half turned and looked down the back of each leg to make sure her seams were straight. Out front, Eddie, the waiter who served as master of ceremonies, stepped up to a microphone on the stage and tried to sound like the guy who MC'd the big band remotes on KNX as he announced, "Now ladies and gentlemen, for your listening and dancing pleasure, the Club Playa del Mar in Long Beach, California proudly presents the toe-tapping syncopation of Mister Buddy Baldwin and his All Star Orchestra, featuring the delightful song stylings of Miss Marion Haines."
The busboy who doubled as stage hand pulled on a rope and the curtain opened. The audience, most of whom had never heard of Buddy Baldwin, offered a round of polite applause. Standing in front of his band with clarinet in hand, the diminutive, slightly balding bandleader offered a polite bow in return and quickly counted off two for nothing.
The saxes got started together for a change, and it even sounded as if the entire brass section was sober. Buddy took the lead during the first 32 bars, then it was Marion's turn. She stepped up to the mike, latched on to the rhythm with a measure or two of finger snapping and let loose,
was just one of those things,
Johnny Angelino, looking taller and thinner than usual because tuxes do that for short stocky guys, was standing next to the maitre d's podium near the club's entrance. Beneath well-oiled but thinning curly black hair, there was a smile on his dark pudgy face. Johnny was no music expert, but he damned well knew good singing when he heard it, and this was it.
Marion's voice rang around the room with a bell-like crispness that ended conversations and turned heads toward the bandstand. There were no real music experts in the audience either, so no one would have described her phrasing of the melody as intensely lyrical or subtly rhythmic. They just knew this number was going somewhere, and everybody in the room wanted to be there when it arrived.
we'd thought a bit of the end of it
The smile on Angelino's face was a full-fledged grin now and, nudging Tony the maitre d' so hard the little guy nearly fell over, Johnny said, "What a canary! Ain't she the greatest you ever heard?"
Tony nodded enthusiastically and Buddy stepped up to the mike for a pretty decent clarinet solo. Then Marion was back to finish, giving the crowd a damned good reason to remember Just One of Those Things for a long, long time.
. . It was great fun,
The audience, along with Johnny, went wild. Up on the stage, Buddy joined in the applause for Marion and leaned over to whisper in her ear, "That's tellin' 'em, kid!"
Johnny Angelino's Club Playa del Mar on Ocean Boulevard at the south end of Long Beach was at least one good step up from a joint. The drinks received a full measure of booze, the food and service weren't bad and the entertainment was generally above average. Johnny ran his club that way partly because he knew how to succeed in the restaurant business and partly because Bugsy Siegel insisted on it.
It wasn't generally known that Siegel had anything to do with the Playa del Mar, and officially he didn't. The club was strictly Johnny's, but Angelino also oversaw certain other ventures that did belong to Mister Siegel. That meant everything Johnny did, from his love life to running the club, was subject to Bugsy's scrutiny.
Siegel insisted the Playa del Mar be run on the up and up because anything else tended to attract the wrong kind of attention. Sure, he kept the D.A. in his pocket with regular and substantial campaign contributions, but a guy didn't want to push his luck.
So, even though it cut down on the profits a little, Johnny ran a squeaky clean club and nobody had to know Mister Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel had anything to do with it. On the other hand, it wouldn't have hurt business any if they had known. Bugsy was as much a celebrity as any movie star in town. Mobsters were hot stuff, and Siegel played the part for all it was worth, living the good life and hobnobbing with Hollywood hotshots like Harlow, Gable, and especially his close chum, George Raft.
Still, there were a few folks around who weren't impressed by guys like Siegel. Marion Haines was one of them. In fact, if she'd known that Johnny Angelino was one of Bugsy's boys, it was very unlikely she would be singing her heart out up on the Playa del Mar's stage with Buddy Baldwin's All Star Orchestra.