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The Mort Report

I Was Too Stoned to Perform: A Love Story, Kinda

By Published: February 23, 2013
The night before we were to leave for Reno, we had one last run through of the tunes and sequence of the two shows a night that we were to do. Everything was cool and we were definitely up for the gig. We were going to drive up to "the biggest little city in the world" in three cars a great road through the high Sierras. Oh boy oh boy; what excitement and happiness. Wooooowww!

I heard Dick say to Jane, "We'll go in my car," to which Jane responded with, "No, were going in my car." More words, a hell of a lot more words, until finally Dick firmly blurts out, "Well fuck you, I'm not going!" Dick says, "Mort, I've gotta talk to you."

The agency got a comic whose whole act was built around his ability to double talk and had him fly in to Reno for our opening night. The guy was a scream, not funny but a scream; needless to say, we were all underwhelmed with his hidden talents. The only good thing was to be with him in a restaurant, listening to him drive the waiters crazy ordering in double talk. Dude was pretty funny offstage. Yeah, I left the waiters a bigger tip for their misery. I had to keep talking to the house booker explaining that it was going to get better and that even as we spoke, Dick was gargling and spraying his throat and would arrive in a few days—and "Man, wait until you hear the great hit show tune medleys that we have worked out—yeah, man! Oh boy just you wait. If you cancel us now you'll never forgive yourself because man, we're on our way to the top," and like that.

Enter, Miss Jacqueline Fontaine. Femme Fatale—Hollywood, Vegas, Reno; an A class hotel main room singer extraordinaire and highly praised for her role in the Bing Crosby Grace Kelly Motion picture The Country Girl, where she plays the part of a nightclub singer and sings a tune with Bing. Jacqueline was a star—the real deal—and commanded top dollar whereever she appeared. She was headlining at the Sky Room at the top of the Mapes Hotel, a room Sinatra often worked. I had heard of her, but never met her nor was I in any way interested in doing so. I had heard that she was also working out of W.A.M.

One day I receive a note delivered by a messenger—a lot more meaningful than an email—from Jackie, suggesting that we get together for lunch one day in order to become better acquainted. Better? We met, and had a delightful repast. I think there was chemistry, so getting down to business, the day and time was set. I would finish my last show at 1:00 am and she finished hers at 1:30 am so, as said in days of yore, we had arranged a rendezvous. I remember putting on a little more Man Tan lotion then usual—ya know the stuff Jack Kennedy had on the night he beat Richard Nixon on the first TV debate (or was it Addison's disease?). No, it was Nixon! I arrived at the Mapes about 1:15 am, Jackie was into her closing number and she had the S.R.O. crowd in her hands, as in she could do no wrong—Hell, I was even impressed! The chick was dynamite! Oh yeah!

Later in her suite of rooms we sat and talked about kings and things ya know. It was winter, and when I felt that the conversation was beginning to lag, I reached down deep and came up with "I wonder if there is any good fishing in the Truckee river that runs through downtown Reno?" At that point she arose and ever so gently gave me a very sweet kiss on my forehead followed by those words that all of us at that time had heard in countless B grade movies—that being, "I think I'll change into something a little more comfortable." Oh, man! Freakin' zero hour is upon us. As she sauntered by me she said "Mort, the so 'n' sos sent me this little present (a very big name act) and I don't smoke and I'll be back in a jiff, so help yourself if you'd like." I open this very ornamental little box and there were ten tightly wrapped joints reposing on a velvet lining.

Ok. Time out! Let's recap here. I'm 25 years old, heading up my own band and lounge act in Reno, Nevada. My name is on the marquee, and in the Reno newspaper, all kinds of PR that the agency sent to promote Mort Wise and the Wisemen, featuring the two song stylists Dick and Jane. This was all put into motion before Dick's statement of independence that would behoove a brighter light then his 20 watts of star power—that being "Well fuck you, I'm not going!" Now, picture all of the people sitting (suits and ties back then) in this lovely décours showroom, where we, the Wisemen, had done three opening tunes "Swinging Shepherds Blues" and shit like that. I cue the drummer to do an Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
kinda tight press roll, zzzzzzoomm, ending with a loud 24-inch Zildjian cymbal crash!

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