Monday, July 22, 2013

When Boys Took Girls to Jazz Clubs

I was driving back from a buddy's of mine tonight when the DJ on the jazz station said,

"The song you were just listening to was from Captain Jack McDuff."

I remember Jack McDuff.  Saw him multiple times in person at the Artist's Quarter and "The Dakota," jazz clubs in the Twin Cities. He died of old age about a decade ago.  Only reason I knew of him and the only real reason I ever ended up becoming a ballroom dancer was because a more-cultured friend of mind FORCED me to go see him, and thus my love for jazz was born.

But something else became of that fateful night. 

My desire to take a girl to a jazz club for a date.

Simple enough.

Innocent enough.

Hell, down right classy enough.

But oh so complicated.

For while in the past I've harped upon the irony that I could not find a date when I was 19 to attend a Victor Borge concert with me, hearing Jack McDuff this evening reminded me of a problem or phenomenon that was more prevalent back in my collegiate youth.

You just couldn't get a girl to attend classy events with you in college.

Let me state this and let me state this clearly, so that it goes down in the history books and is recorded for posterity.

There were MANY young men in the age ranges of 18-22 that were more than willing to be gentlemen.  And not only gentlemen, but classy men as well.  We had ideas about taking young women out on dates that were not just "drinks at the bar" or "going to a house party," but genuine venues and events like jazz clubs, salsa clubs, Victor Borge, and opera.  A significant step up from what went for common dates.

But there were no takers.

Understand we were not nerds or ugly men.  We were not morons or socially awkward.  We were thoughtful young, (albeit) naive men that frankly wanted to do something classy, something different, something better than the run of the mill date.  But despite that, there were no takers.  And the reason was sociological.

You ever try to get a girl to attend a jazz club with you at 20 years of age?

Damn well near impossible.

First there's the pearls before swine aspect of it.  Back in the 90's you had to duke it out with tickets to the "Back Street Boys" or some local, crappy, hippie, grunge band sure to spread tetanus to all of its audience.  When you dared to suggest the girl dress up in a nice "dress" and you in a suit and you'd pick her up and take her to dinner before, you were laughed at and dismissed.  Perhaps even ridiculed as being sexist for daring to suggest she wear a dress and not a nose piercing.

Second, you're over shooting.  What 20 year old girl has ever heard of Jack McDuff?  You'd be lucky to get a 35 year old to even know who he was, let alone even know of the venues you were talking about.

And finally, face it, you were a square from day one even thinking along those lines.  Forget how great the jazz club was.  Forget how great the jazz music was.  In you thinking about attending a jazz club immediately took you out of your environment/class/caste and put you at such a great disadvantage you literally might as well have been trying to sell ice to Eskimos. The average 20 year old girl had no interest, inkling, desire or want to have anything to do with a culture approaching something like jazz.

And so there you were.  You had worked up the extra $40 over the course of a month to pay for dinner and a cover.  You had maybe eyed a handful of girls to ask out.  You had strategically chatted up and charmed them to the point you'd be able to ask them out.

But when you finally popped the question:

"Oh, I'd like to see Jack McDuff, but I'm going with my girlfriends to see Lilly Lipstick and the Licking Lizards.  They're like the new Kirk Cobain!"

Fast forward 20 years.

I don't think I've asked a girl to a jazz club, salsa dancing, a high end concert, or any other event that would call for formal attire in at least a decade.  And this isn't because of me courting a lady.  Even when I was single I gave it up.  Matter of fact I don't know any guy in my peer group that even bothers with setting up "special dates" where they get reservations, find unique locales of lounges to go to, etc.  No, all of them, not the majority, ALL OF THEM, now only offer "drinks at the local bar," "wings at Applebee's," or a "movie."

The special dates, be it Victor Borge, salsa dancing, Cpt. Jack McDuff, or any date that required pre-planning on their part has now been relegated to "special nights" with their theoretical wife in the future that they may or may not ever marry.  Those thoughtful, considerate, impressive dates are now taken off of the table as they were seen to be too bold, too "needy," too "nerdy," and frankly were never availed of when offered.

But in those 20 years, it's interesting how times have changed.

Now, pretty much every girl I know wants to go salsa dancing.  Nearly every girl I know would kill to have a guy dress up in a suit and pick her up.  Nearly every girl I know would die to go to a high end jazz club.  And nearly every girl I know would love to have a gentleman take her to a nice dinner.

The irony of course is that

Jack McDuff is dead

Victor Borge is dead

And that young man is dead.

Though there is still open night jazz at the Artist's Quarter in St. Paul that would require modern day men to drive 40 miles round trip and pull suits out of storage which they haven't worn in years.  That would take time and effort they just not longer care to spend.

In other words that nice, innocent, well-intentioned boy with a little more class than the average guy and his offer to take you out to a dinner, a night of jazz and (here is something so stupid in hindsight, but what I'd actually do out of naivete) who would buy you a flower to pin on the lapel of your dress, got his fill of martini's and jazz on his own.  He no longer exists.  The offer is off the table and now you can enjoy the bar scene, just at the age of 40-60.  You can enjoy the aging, balding, recently divorced (or still married) investment banker or failing businessman.  You can enjoy the man who leases his Mercedes, but you don't know the difference between "lease" and "own."  You can enjoy the guy who has a lot of money, but can't run a mile without suffering a cardiac arrest.

Because it would have been nice.  A young, nervous, but determined 21 year old man, intent to impress you with a dinner he could barely afford.  And hoping his selection in jazz or symphony would buy him enough time to accidentally show you his quality and caliber.  And though not a BMW he'd pick you up just the same in his Ford Escort.  And there you'd sit at a high end restaurant, all dressed up, being treated to a fine dinner and some great music, as people walked downtown and observed from the outside saying,

"how darling"

"how cute"

Yes, that would have been nice.

But alas, it was "girls night" as "Farting Pete's" where you could drink for free and have a score of men lavish you with attention and free drinks.  And we all know that is more important than having that young kid pin a flower on your lapel as you listened to Jack McDuff.

Enjoy the decline!


Anonymous said...

I was not aware of this change 8 years ago when I became single again. I had not dated in 20 years, and just did what I knew from college in the 80's except that I had much greater means so I could do all of the things that I wanted to do, but couldn't before.

One of the extremely attractive 10 year younger ladies I dated eventually became my wife. She later mentioned how unusual it was that I took her to hockey games, different ethnic restaurants, and stage plays instead of meeting for drinks.

In turn, I continued dating her since she was a really enjoyable date. She was beautiful, a great conversationalist, fine with traditional male/female roles, and was exceptionally sexy. She also taught me country dancing and introduced me to a whole different social scene.

Fortunately for me, my accidental "old fashionedness" made me stand out from the crowd, and she was looking for a Man man. Fortunately for her, I hadn't had time to become embittered yet, and her desire to satisfy a man perfectly matched my desire to protect a woman.

Anonymous said...

I not only was a McDuff fam back in the day, I used play his music in my road band. We had an organ quartet. Nice B3 player, guitar, drums and i played tenor. We had Jenny Jones on drums. That was before she got fa,ous with her daytime TV show.

At that time Jack had Red holloway on tenor and George Benson on guitar, George went on to have a great solo career later on.

I hear you on what is a class scenario and epwhat is the trash of today's world. Women do not know what they are missing to not be looking for a gentle,an with some culture and an appreciatiion for hip, jazz and jazz-funk music in a nice dress with a guy who not wearing a baseball cap

Bill said...

An interesting piece and well written. I enjoyed this one especially.

Anonymous said...

I can't count how many experiences from my younger days this reminds me of...

Been there - done that... over and over again.

Thank you for your insight.

KevinB said...

This is the irony of synchronization - or rather, the lack of it. When women are most beautiful physically, say 18-25, they are rarely intellectually ready for anything above a romantic comedy, or a night at a bar. And their taste in men tends to be dominated by looks and attitude, as opposed to brains and personality.

By the time most women have woken up, and realized that there's more to life than Oprah and makeup, the blush of beauty has left them. Now that they are desperately searching for someone to talk to, the very men they used to sneer at aren't interested in them anymore (if those men are still single).

If a guy's in his 40's, and has a little money, he'll use Hugh Hefner's time-honoured (and well worn) formula of "his age divided by two, plus 3 to 5" when looking for a woman. Hence the dagger-like stares of 40+ women in a bar when a 30-year old walks in.

By the time most women realize that what they really want in a man is the type of qualities described in the article, that type of man is usually married, or not interested, as above. But it's not true of all women. I was lucky enough to date a few in university who were smart, beautiful, and appreciative of my efforts to woo them. I'm not as sour on females as the Captain seems to be, but I will agree that by the time that many of them are tired of vacuous pretty boys, or realize that bad boys are fun for a short time but not a long time, there's not too many men left who will be interested in them.

Who said God has no sense of humour?!

adiaforon said...

Good piece. Reminds me of the days when I got into classical music and tried, mightily, to find both guys and gals who shared my intense love of the subject -- with many failures. So, I withdrew into my own little world, to the detriment of myself and those around me.

Too bad that I hadn't been over in Eastern Europe in those days, where the girls there, generally, are more classically educated and have at least a passing interest in those subjects.

By The Sword said...


As a former grunge musician from that era, I felt the need to clarify; it was hepititis, not tetanus that we had to worry about.

Anonymous said...

As a female who would have loved to be asked to a jazz club,(and was, and did go, or to any "classy" date, here's the thing. Young men are only interested in the "popular" girl...the girl who looks "hot". There are many, many girls who are shy, have manners, wait to be asked, and go unnoticed because they don't fit into a certain mold. These same women, given a couple of years and a little interest blssom into beautiful, cultured women, women worth knowing. It's not all a one way street!

Captain Capitalism said...

Imagine that. We were only interested in the girls we found attractive. Whoda thunk!

Anonymous said...

Same result different reason: I no longer bother planning 'dates' because women are so prone to flaking. I'm doing the internet dating thing lately, and women in their mid-thirties to early forties _still_ behave like 23 y.o.'s. It's _common_ for women to cancel or want to reschedule. It's not uncommon for them to do that 'day of'. I've even had women cancel an hour or two before... Why on Earth would I bother with dinner reservations someplace nice, let alone spend money in advance for event tickets when they act like that?
Women: you reap what you sow.

Anonymous said...

when it comes to men, why 40 y/o women no longer have the choices

and 114 comments worth reading

Anonymous said...

This all reminds me of the big lie we get told over and over again about how "girls mature quicker than guys."

In my experience there are few girls that ever really grow up.

Fatebekind said...

Your killing me with these reminiscences. I keep thinking of similar things in my past.

Anonymous said...

you can do those things with young girls, if you're older, in my opinion. they might be lousy dates but they do love pretending to be classy. unfortunately they only identify men by age, so twenties is a boy and can't be a classy gentlemen. again, my opinion. but girls eat that crap up now that i'm older.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you ask me? I was the average looking nerdy girl. No one would have congratulated you or thought you must be some stud for having me on your arm, so you didn't ask me. I always loved that kind of stuff. You're bitter and pleased that women might regret turning you down. Guess who else might be bitter?

Also Anonymous said...

I'm 28, I've never been on something that could be classified as a traditional date. And I'm not going to start. I don't even bother to make exclusive plans. I just go to one of my favorite watering holes and let them know I'll be there.

It's even more ironic when I read about the older women who now want to be taken out on dates, have the man plan and pay for the whole thing etc.. while giving it up for free when they were younger. It's like a fruit vendor charging extra for rotten fruit.

Jones said...

Cappy --

Your dream still exists, although to Americans it might be "lost in translation" ...

The chick will be Japanese.

The jazz club will be in Shibuya.

And you will have to dress very sharply to be impressive among so many jazz cats.

Enjoy your decline!