[Marxism] Anita O'Day

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 16 18:44:49 MDT 2008

Last night I attended a press screening for "Anita O'Day: the Life of 
a Jazz Singer". Like "Tis Autumn: the Search for Jackie Paris", 
another jazz documentary, it is a work of love and necessary viewing 
for anybody who cares about America's greatest cultural gift to the 
world. Robbie Cavolina, who co-directed the movie with Ian McCrudden, 
was Anita O'Day's manager for the last six years of her life–she died 
in 1986 at the age of 87.

As was the case with Raymond De Felitta, the young director of the 
Jackie Paris film, Cavolina and McCrudden were spellbound by a much 
older artist. They followed O'Day around on her daily rounds, 
including trips to the race track (like fellow Los Angeleno Charles 
Bukowski, the singer was heavy into the ponies), and asked her 
questions about her life and career. The end result was 100 hours of 
footage that they turned into a truly eye-opening movie about a life in jazz.

Although not as famous as her African-American counterparts Ella 
Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn, Anita O'Day belongs to 
the pantheon of pure woman jazz singers. Born Anita Colton in Kansas 
City, Missouri, she took the last name "O'Day" since it was pig latin 
for "dough"–an item in short supply during the Great Depression. Just 
like the dance marathon characters in "They Shoot Horses, Don't 
They", O'Day participated in 24 hour endurance contests called the 
Walkathon. As she explains in her memoir "Hard Times, High Times" and 
also recounts in the documentary, Walkathons were a survival 
mechanism: "They feed you seven times a day and see that you get free 
medical care. Even if I don't win, I ain't gonna do bad with the 
money I make dancing, singing and selling pictures of my partner and me."


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