Jay Landesman was an integral part of the cultural scene in St. Louis for many years, and a big part of my directionless youth. Not that I was a pal of his. I knew who he was, shook hands with him whenever I had the opportunity, but I doubt if he knew my name. That's okay. He was cool. I spent a lot of time in Gaslight Square. Cool jazz at the Dark Side, the Other Side (Spider Burke's place), and Georgie's; dixieland jazz at Smokey Joe's and the Tiger's Den (the swinging two-beat temple of Sammy Gardner and the Mound City Six); hip and hilarious comedy, distinctive bars, and a vibrant street scene. Like a small rendition of The Village.
Mary Lee (my wife of several years) and I used to celebrate TGIF there after we got off work at KMOX-TV (before it was KMOV). Olive and Boyle was a great gathering area, and Jay was largely responsible for inspiring it...thanks to his Crystal Palace. I have clear memories - at least they're clear in my head - of that place, where I saw the Smothers Brothers, Lenny Bruce (it was the first time I ever heard the "f" word on a stage), Jack E. Leonard, a nerdy and nervous Woody Allen, Nichols & May, and others...including a very young and shy Barbra Streisand. When I saw her, as the opening act for the Smothers Brothers, I predicted, "She's not very pretty. She'll never make it." That might have been the same year I bought an Edsel. Thanks to the wonderful comics and satirists and improv geniuses, I developed a love and appreciation for slightly off-center humor. Okay, more than "slightly."
Jay had a full-time piano player in the bar named Tommy Wolf, who wrote songs with Jay's wife, Fran. Strange: the more I'm writing about Gaslight, the more I remember. Some other time, maybe.
Yes, St. Louis had a Golden Age once, and its name was Jay Landesman.
Thanks, Jay. Whenever I think of "cool," "hip," and an inspiration, I think of you.