Homeless, yet living in the finest hotels

homelessWhen I was in my twenties, I traveled for 85% of the decade.  When we were “Commonwealth”, we toured the Playboy Clubs and Marriott Hoteis. There was no need to set up housekeeping in any city because all you did was sleep in hotels.

I found that a trunk, instead of suitcases, enabled me to carry a crock pot, a skillet and spices. Yes, I did, I cooked my meals  in my room. The guys would sometimes come over after the show for whatever concoction was simmering and melting with the spices and vegetables in my room.

It used to be “all healthy things.” I was a vegetarian, as a teen and only dabbled with fish or meat infrequently in my lifetime. I also had a large arsenal of books, to keep me company at night, until Jorge Casas the bass player , arranger and songwriter became my love and roomie.

But, even before Jorge was my BF, he influenced what books I read. He turned me on to the classics, PBS , and fine living. Maurice, the leader, from London also influenced my reading. They thought American girls were under-educated, and they were right in my case!

I took my dog, a one-eyed shitzu, named Sammy Davis with me when I was with Spiral Starecase. I gave up the trunk and crock pot and took my dog. It was so nice to have a furry little friend on the road when it is a 12 piece horn band and you are the only girl. I remember working Buffalo, and it was freezing when I had to take Sammy out to do his business.

It was always lonely on the road, except for that one time when Jorge and I had a life together. That was a minute in time. the other years, it was a lot of books, insomnia, and  dates with sometimes very strange people. For Instance, I was at The Chicago Playboy Club, and we all went out after work to see Linda Clifford and her band.  Nightlife was great in Chicago, you could party all night.

Soul Train - Don Cornelius

Soul Train – Don Cornelius

Guess who i wound up with, dancing, and then going to breakfast?  Souuulllll train’s Don Cornelius. He was a nice man, and took me out for the best pizza i ever had, { well, it was Chicago}  we had a wonderful evening, a long dinner, and then he asked if I wanted to see his penthouse.  Yeah, I was dying to see where this icon lived.  He drove me to a high-rise and valet-parked. We rode a private elevator to his beautiful, very clean, penthouse. He showed me around, never once touching me. Asked me if I wanted to stay over. I really didn’t have those feelings so I declined, and he was a perfect gentleman. Probably very sorry he wasted his time on me! He drove me back to my hotel, and we said farewell.

Another Chicago time, there was a very blonde very tall, very handsome Swedish guy who eyed me for 2 or 3 nights on stage. I finally went over to meet him. he had a thick accent, and we went to a late dinner. Lunch the  next day, and dinner again. He said he was in town for the week. we spent every day and night of the rest of his stay.

On the last night of his visit, he said I was so nice and he felt so badly about lying to me. I said “Oh no , you aren’t married?” He said “No, worse, I’m American. I only pretended because girls go for it.” I was livid. I could not believe how stupid I felt. It was a long time before I dated on the road again. In fact shortly after that, was when Jorge and I started looking at each other in a different way, and got together.

Being on the road is hard enough but being a woman on the road is murder. I can’t believe I survived it.  I read a lot of books, met a lot of kooks, but also some very nice people. In Memphis Tennessee, I dated a really cute younger guy who I would fly back to see on my days off. He looked like Paul McCartney and was so nice and really fun. So, the road was good, and the road was bad. But it made me the person I am, and gave me the stories to tell here on my blog posts!  The road was great after I had a partner , in Jorge,  before that it was awful!  Thank goodness, We are still good friends. forever. 

Mr. Hefner, working for your organization was heaven, and I miss the clubs, the shows, and the bunnies. This is a new era and superior venues for musicians are few and far between. I miss living in the Playboy hotels a bit. Takes me back to write about it. Thank you Irving Arthur who booked us, if you are still with us. Thanks to all the agents, Bobby Morris, who kept me working my entire young life.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

My chance encounter with Don Cornelius

Don Cornelius

Don Cornelius

Soul Train - Don Cornelius

Soul Train – Don Cornelius

I have been very fortunate to have traveled, met with, and hung out with people from Janis Joplin to Hugh Hefner to Frank Valli.The list is long.

One evening in 1975, I met Don after my gig at the Chicago Playboy Club. This tall man, with a big afro was in the building!   I was with the band members at a club after hours.  I was single and the guys were nice to let me hang out with them.   Everyone knew who Don was, and then there he was. He was coming my way and started a conversation.

Not a typical pick up line… I’ve heard a few. Since I was with some of the guys from my band Commonwealth,  it was more of a “Are you with anyone?” I explained that we were a house band at Playboy and I knew who he was.

chicago-pizzaWe didn’t dance, I am not a drinker. I seem to remember he wasn’t a drinker, either. We sat and listened to the music, and we clicked a little.

Don and I stayed for hours. In those days, one stayed out all night, slept all day, and then went to work in the evening. We were hungry and he said, “I know the best deep-dish pizza place and it’s open all night.” I felt safe with Don and told my band mates where I was going.

We went to this crazy crowded pizza place, and ate until we were in pain! Don and I talked about Soul Train moving to Los Angeles, but he considered Chicago home so kept a penthouse apartment. He asked if I would like to see it before I went to my hotel. I said “Yes, of course I would love too.”

We had a lovely time, and I wasn’t sure where it was going?   We just visited the penthouse apartment, and enjoyed the spectacular view. I remember the furniture like it was yesterday. It  was white and beige, and immaculate. I stayed awhile and we talked about the history of music.  He wanted to know about my record contract as a kid, and about the Show ;Hair’ that I was in.  He was fascinated by that.

chicago-at-nightAs I started to tire, he said, “You are welcome to stay or I will take you home.” I said I should go home, as the band had a whole night ahead of shows at the club. He drove me back, kissed me on the cheek, very sweetly, and I asked him to try to come and see us.  He did not, and that was ok.

I have never forgotten my one night of intelligent, lovely, conversation with this entertainment icon. To hear of his suicide, was both sad and shocking.

I am one of the lucky ones. I spent a lovely night in Chicago with this fabulous, interesting, and soft-spoken man.

Rest In Peace Sweet Don. I will never forget your kindness, your manners, and your role in American musical history. Bringing Soul Train, its guest performers, the Soul Train Dancers and the Scramble Board had a tremendous impact on a generation… and then some.

Love, Peace & Soul!

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

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