This is an updated version of a story I posted almost two years ago. Since then I received one feedback and, even more exciting, managed to get a hold, finally, of Skees’ album thanks to Ebay. Details below.
On Broadway just below Times Square one night I stopped to watch three or four black kids entertaining passersby singing, dancing, and hamboning. They were wild and amazing and within five minutes of my showing up the cops came and busted the whole thing up.
As I continued on my way I struck up a conversation with another fellow who’d also been enjoying the show. He was probably about thirty or so. I spoke first.
Why’d the cops have to bust it up? Those kids were really great. Everyone was enjoying it – what harm were they doing?
Cops don’t like to see a crowd if they can help it.
You think it was because the kids are Black?
Oh yeah, you bet it was!
Jeezis . . .
Well . . . you know . . . it’s New York.
Too bad. Those kids were great. The crowd loved it and the kids make a few bucks. Who’s it hurt?
Yeah, they were pretty good. Where’re you from, anyway? You don’t seem like a New Yorker.
Montreal! Great city. That’s the place to go for a good time! I’ve worked up there a lot.
I’m a singer. I played the Bellevue Casino a few times. You ever been there?
I know the place but, no, I’m too young to get in there.
How old are you?
Eighteen. You gotta be twenty-one.
Yeah, well. . . eighteen. You’ll be twenty-one soon enough. Lots you can do for fun in the meantime. You got a girlfriend?
Oh, hell, probably better off at your age without a girlfriend. Get to fool around more, right? Better to get all the experience you can, while you can, you know what I mean?
You do get it, don’t you?
Well . . . no.
You’re not still a virgin?
Uh huh. Yeah.
No kidding? You’re eighteen? Well, I’m sure a lot of guys your age are virgins but won’t admit it. As a matter of fact I admire your honesty. Most guys’d lie, won’t admit at eighteen or nineteen they’re still virgins.
We kept walking and kept talking. A perfect Manhattan summer night, made for aimless strolling and conversations with complete strangers, even when the subject had promptly turned to Sex and stayed there. We walked, this pop singer and myself, all night. Along Manhattan streets, up and down avenues, stopping for a slice of pizza or to lean against a lampost or sit on a bench and talk, non-stop, about sex and his sexual adventures. As an entertainer he’d been all over the world and had opinions, considered himself an expert, in fact, on the sexuality of various national and ethnic groups. For example, Japanese women, he claimed, were small and he’d scared more than one when they saw him naked. “No, too big! Too big!”
You must masturbate a lot.
Not a lot.
You have to masturbate. Anytime you get a boner you got to jerk off, otherwise all that stuff backs up into your system and could poison you eventually.
The summer night was warm and beautiful and I believed I was learning all I’d ever need to know about sex. We walked and talked for hours, winding up finally standing on the street by a park somewhere in midtown Manhattan at four in the morning.
Listen, tell you what. I know a lot of women in show business. Beautiful women. Models, actresses, showgirls. I could set you up. I know some I could talk to, explain you’re still a virgin, and she could, y’know, introduce you to sex. Show you the ropes so to speak. Look, I’m at the Roosevelt Hotel. Think it over. Call the hotel and ask for me. Just let me know and I’ll set it up. You’re a nice kid, it won’t be a problem, believe me.
I don’t believe in regrets. Things happen — who knows why? None of the good things about my present life would have come about if not for everything that happened before, good and bad. So regret is pointless. But I never made that phone call and it’s a regret that’s damn hard to shake.
In December 2005 Reid, of Wilmington NC, wrote:
Hi Brian Just want to let you know that I worked with Walt Skees in the early 70′s. I was about 21 years old and had similar conversations with him. He was a great singer and a different kind of guy. The stories he told you about his women were probably true.
Then, about a month ago I found this on Ebay. I almost never look at Ebay and I never bid on anything before. I believe I was the sole bidder and got the thing for about ten bucks. I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest. It was curiosity more than anything plus I felt I needed . . . er, closure or something. I had to get this whatever it might turn out to be like.
When I ripped open the carton it came in I was thrilled so see that the players on the thing were first rate jazz musicians. Charlie Byrd on guitar. Byrd had a huge following for a time in the sixties. He played a classical guitar, unusual in his day and gave him a unique sound. On tenor sax the vastly under-rated and under-recognized Buck Hill, almost unknown outside of Washington, DC. Then we have Keter Betts, for many years Ella Fitzgerald’s bassist. Not bad. Ed Dimond on piano and Eddie Phyfe on drums I never heard of before and presumably these were all Washington jazz players.
There’s jazz on the album although Skees is not a jazz singer. But he’s a very tasteful balladeer and thank Christy I actually do like this thing a lot. It was tough choosing one track to play for you bet here’s one of my favourite songs for your dining and dancing pleasure, The Nearness of You.
Album: Walter Skees – A Little Tenderness – Offbeat Records OJ 3002
Ben, from Pensacola, wrote on June 27, 2008 :
We were in the Army Band together. Actually, I was in the U.S. Army Chorus, as was Walt at one time before going to the U.S. Army Blues. He was an icon, the best pop singer for my money I’d ever heard. Most of us in the Chorus were classical, opera trained. I had one foot in the piano bar circuit, so got to know Walt in that venue. On tour wit the band and chorus in Tallahassee, I was disappointed that Mom, who lived in Pensacola, didn’t come due to illness. Walt offered to lend me the money to go see her. A sweet man. He won the Ted Mac Amateur hour in the 50′s. A bona fide genius at pop music. We had them all in the Band, way back (Steve Lawrence, Eddie Fisher, others)but Walt was the King. A fabulous stand up entertainer, a nice guy. Thanks for mentioning this episode. Anything he told you is true.