Nine years ago I read in Hot House Magazine about the opening of this amazing new Jazz club in the Time Warner Building called Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. The Jazz community was all atwitter with curiosity; I remember lots of talk about whether attaching Coca Cola to Dizzy’s name was some kind of sacrilege and everyone was curious about how to get a gig (there was even a late night series for young up and comers!), but I was mostly interested in the opening weekend festivities which featured the Louis Hayes Quintet.
As I tried to find out how to get tickets or make reservations, I became confused. No one was offering tickets, no one knew how to make a reservation for that weekend, etc. I assumed these were issues the club hadn’t worked out yet (hey! it wasn’t even open yet!), so my friends and I made our plans and drove into the city anyway. When we arrived at the Time Warner Building, the elevators to the JAZZ floor (the 5th floor) were blocked – it seemed you needed an invitation to board these elevators. In my mind I simply thought, “Well, that can’t be for Louis Hayes. That must be for something else.” So my friends and I boarded another set of elevators which only took us up to the 4th floor. This FURTHER confused me. Why don’t all the elevators take you to JAZZ?! I looked for the stairs – no stairs. No escalators. Not to be discouraged I decided we should just climb up the maintenance stairwell, which happened to be unlocked. As we climbed up these very strange stairs, nearly ruining my stockings (I don’t recommend it, the stairs are not for full sized people. It’s as if they are built for hobbits), I began to have a sinking feeling. This could not be right. Something was wrong.
We emerged on the 5th floor main lobby. Some kind of reception seemed to be taking place and in the middle of all that, no one noticed 3 dust covered teenagers slipping in. We blended in as best we could (although looking back, I’m sure we stuck out like sore thumbs among all those black-tie Armani clad invitees) and stepped in line for Dizzy’s. The line moved quickly and soon we were at the hostess stand.
I immediately realized what was wrong. This was invitation only and I didn’t have one! Not only that, but here I was with my band standing at the front of this very exclusive line about to be totally embarrassed AND not even get to see Louis Hayes. I have often believed a smile and some gall can get you into most places, so I fumbled in my purse and shook my head to hide my panic. I looked back up at the hostess and said, “Well, I just had it downstairs. I had it at the bottom of the elevator when we came in.”
“No problem,” she said, “what’s your name?” Not knowing how to get out of that one, I just said, “Champian. Champian Fulton.” I attempted my most confident and slightly annoyed face while my friends blushed and hid behind me in embarrassment. After she found nothing in the computer, she just looked up at me with a strange look. I gave that strange look right back. After a very pregnant pause she said, “Okay Miss Fulton. Right this way and I’ll seat you.”
Oh glorious day!!! My friends were shocked but I, of course, acted as if it was nothing. After we were seated things only got better: All the food and drinks were on the house since it was invitation only, and if you’ve ever been a Jazz musician in college, you know that was almost as special as seeing Louis Hayes! 🙂 I can almost taste that fried chicken now….
On the intermission we hung out with Louis and even stuck around to help him pack up his drums. Here is a pic of Molly (my then bassist) and I with him in front of the club.
I never admitted the truth about that night, although I suspect the club knew what really happened, but if they didn’t: I hope my friends at Dizzy’s will forgive me and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all these many years later. I did it for the love of the music! The love of Louis Hayes! The love of that delicious fried chicken!
It’s one of the most memorable experiences of my life so far, and I have Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola to thank for it. I’m very happy to say on that Tuesday January 28, 2014 I will be entering the club THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR to present my quartet on their stage, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 PM. Please join me. Reservations can be made by phone 212-258-9595 or online http://jalc.org/dizzys