148 | LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY
pianos are on rollers to facilitate their deployment from room to room. This maddening
accessory not only raises the keyboard to an
awkward height but lifts the pedals free of the
floor. Hotel personnel do not understand that
a piano’s pedals, unlike a horseman’s stirrups,
require a heel-to-toe action and that the heel
must be grounded. One cushion or phone book
goes under your feet, the other on your chair
or bench. (The advantage of the phone book
is that it can be opened to any level desired.)
A seating alternative is to stack one chair atop
another, but this makes for a precarious perch.
Avoid sharing the bill with skating or dancing
animals. They’ll pay no mind to the tempo and
upstage you every time. A drummer friend of
mine was chewed out by the bandleader for
goosing the rhythm—markedly picking up
tempo—while the band was playing “Zip-a-
Dee-Doo-Dah” behind a pair of roller-skating
chimps in gingham suits at a show club on the
old Boston Post Road. One of the chimps had
been grunting in an assertive staccato manner
as it zipped across the floor, under the grand
piano, around the drums. The drummer later
swore he thought the chimp was telling him,
Faster, faster. He quit the band over the inci-
dent, allowing as how he wasn’t about to take
a lot of crap over a pair of no-talent primates.
Think twice before accepting a nighttime outdoor pavilion date situated on a lake or river in
midsummer, no matter how idyllic the setting.
Edith Piaf performing at the Playhouse Theater, New York City, 1947.