As Dizzy's World Turns

Michael Bourne By

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But my best story is... He was playing in Bloomington and he was staying at a hotel that was a block from my apartment. I called him up and I asked, "do you need anything?" and he said "no, come over." I came over, and he opened the door, and he's standing there in his underwear. He was wearing an old-fashioned undershirt and briefs. And he said "is it 1:30?" That's how he answered the door. I said no, it was like 12:30 and he waives me in. He goes to a wet bar in this little suite that he was staying in. On the bar was a bushel of carrots like straight from the side of the road somewhere, some farmer was selling. They were all dirty, like right out of the earth. Dizzy goes over and there's a blender on the bar, and he pulls a bunch of carrots off. He doesn't wash them. he doesn't peel them, he doesn't pull the stalks off. He just shoves all of these dirty carrots into the blender. He turns on the blender, and he pours out what comes out of the blender into a glass. And it's this orange sludge with little bits of green and black. The green being the stalks and the black being the dirt—actual earth! He offers it to me and I tell him no thanks. That was, I thought, "pure Dizzy."

As the World Turns

We talked about this or that and he periodically asked if it was 1:30 yet. And finally it was 1:30 and he ran to the television. And he turned it on and on comes "As the World Turns"—the soap opera that played for decades on radio and then television. He sat on the bed looking at it like a little kid fascinated by clowns or something. He was just like a little kid, almost quaking with delight, and I'm watching him. Dizzy was one of my gods, and he was absolutely enraptured by the soap opera. He'd start talking to the TV "oh, Doctor Bob, he's so good." He'd say things like that as characters would come on. At one point, he lept up and screamed at the television "That bitch! I can't believe that bitch is doing that!" I'm just falling out, this is truly surreal, and a commercial comes on, and he whips out a reefer and lights it up. I never was really into smoking dope, but takes some puffs and offers it to me. I absolutely remember thinking "How do I not smoke a joint with Dizzy Gillespie watching a soap opera? How do I not? I'm already down the rabbit hole!" So I got stoned watching Dizzy watching "As the World Turns."

That was almost 40 years ago. And I've never smoked a joint since. So that I can always say the last time I smoked a joint was with Dizzy Gillespie watching a soap opera. I'm not kidding. Every time anybody's ever offered me a hit off of a joint, I can say "No, I don't do that. The last time I smoked a joint was with Dizzy Gillespie watching a soap opera." I must have said that countless times.

A twist to this is that Eileen Fulton was the star of "As the World Turns" for years. She was the star at the beginning. She was the dangerous dame and then she as she got older she became the dangerous grandmother and then just more of a matriarch of the show. So she was on the show for decades and she got into jazz from listening to WBGO. She heard us on a fund drive offering (for a certain pledge) "you can come in and be a host for an hour and play any music that you want to play." She bought it and she came in. She wanted to be with me and she just brought in some records that she liked. We sat and talked and it was wonderful, she was a delight. Of course, I told her the story about watching "As the World Turns" with Dizzy, and I got to the point in the story where Dizzy shouted "that bitch! I can't believe that bitch is doing that" Eileen leapt up and said "I was that bitch!" She was so happy. She said she loved Dizzy. Dizzy used to come to the set of "As the World Turns." They wanted to get him on to the show eventually, like to have Dizzy playing at a country club dance. Some sort of soap opera shenanigans are going on, and over in the background there's Dizzy Gillespie playing. But it never worked that way. I never forget all the times that I hung with Dizzy. I heard him play so many times, but there was no moment quite like that moment of watching a soap opera with Dizzy Gillespie.

Naked Rhythm

Years later, he came back for his diamond jubilee, or whatever it was called, at the Blue Note (jazz club in New York). He had different groups every night. So I came down there. The woman who was representing him, Virginia Wicks, called me up and said he really wants to talk to you. I said "Really? I'm amazed that he remembers me." So I went down, and we sat in the dressing room at the Blue Note. And, again, I just printed whatever we talked about Dizzy was always on some other planet while he was earthbound at the same time. He was just a delightful person. He literally was surreal. He was literally like someone out of Alice in Wonderland. Michael Carvin used to play with him and Michael tells great stories. He says one night at the hotel (where they were staying) at like 4:00 in the morning, there's a knock on his door. He opens the door, and Dizzy was standing in the hallway of the hotel stark naked. He said "I got this great rhythm!" He used to demonstrate rhythms slapping with his hands. He started slapping this rhythm. Michael was looking at a naked Dizzy Gillespie slapping his hands with his rhythm, and all he could say was "that's really great Diz. Let's play something with that tomorrow." Dizzy walked naked back down the hall. There are thousands of Dizzy stories. Paquito D'Rivera and I did a show recently, and he was telling stories about Dizzy. He and I could just sit and tell Dizzy stories forever. More of them are flying into my head as I'm talking now.
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