A Record Can Be a Madeleine
I came across a snippet of an interview with William Shatner whose latest memoir, Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, came out last October. In the article ninety-three-year-old Shatner said soemthing along the lines of, “We’re here and then we’re gone. I mean, who even remembers Danny Kaye any more?”
That got my dander up. I remember Danny Kaye! Fondly. Dearly. Not necesssarily for his movies or that sui generis rapid fire partee. No, I have had a special place in my heart since I was four years old. My mother bought a children’s record album of his that came out in 1960. Danny Kaye retells six stories from around the world. In one, a young girl becomes a maid for an eccentric man who calls his cat White Faced Siminee and his house High Topper Mountain. Sixty-three years later I can still recite the final line of this story. The stingy close-hearted protagonist in Nail Broth learns to share. In a tale from Russia, a wealthy egocentric home-owner learns the value of modest living. A daft father-to-be consults with the village wise man whose answers even a four-year-old could figure out. Each story had its own musical composition which deepened the magic of each of the tales.
Shatner’s comment about no one remembering Danny Kaye set me on a search to find this album if I could. I had kept my copy for decades and even played it a few times for Elliot and Emma when they were young but somewhere along the way it vanished. Google to the rescue. A pristine copy arrived in the mail last week, the red cover as vibrant as I remembered it. The record, within its pristine white sleeve, was flawless. Slightly giddy with anticipation I centered the record on the platter and watched as the tone arm found its groove.
Danny Kaye’s voice was just as I had remembered it — warm, light, rich with all sorts of cadences and accents. The words of each story came flooding back to me as did images of the Atlanta apartment we lived in at the time. I was my four-year-old self again, sitting on the floor completely caught up in my imaginings as Kaye told his tales.
Olivia and Leah are coming next week. I hope they’ll enjoy the record even half as much as I did. Danny Kaye just might be will be remembered deep into the 21st century.
*Master of All Masters! get out of your barnacle and put on your squibbs and crackers for White-Faced Siminee has gotten a spark on her whiskers and if you do not get some pundalorem soon, all of High Topper Mountain will be on hot cocolorem.