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|February 24, 2000|
Why I am singing for Ron
Singer-song writer Werner will present a concert in Philadelphia in April to raise funds for a journalism scholarship to be named for Ron Patel, the Sunday editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer who died in January.
I was playing weddings, bar mitzvahs etc. in Philadelphia in 1989. A pal said that somebody from the Inquirer was looking for a piano player for a club. This was when the Pen and Pencil was on N 13th Street. Ron Patel explained this was a journalists's bar, that he was trying to revive it, and that he wanted some kind of rummy piano; he wanted live music instead of just a jukebox. So I began playing every Friday night, reading out of fake books, playing Gershwin and Cole Porter and Fats Waller and whatever I could figure out and get through.
About the third night there, this guy named Tim Weiner asked me if I could sing, too. I said, yeah, I guess. So then we brought in a mike and speaker and I started singing any tune 'I could learn.' Then Tim had requests and so did Terrence Samuel and Dianna Marder and before long I had a pretty fat repertory of tunes. This guy Gerald Benson was playing bass over at the Ritz, and he'd stop in for a drink after work -- and before long Ron added him to the payroll and we had a duo.
Then Ron sprang for a drummer, and we had a trio and it became a real night's work. People came in just to listen to us, even though we did no outside advertising. Ron wanted the place to have atmosphere, and it did.
Ron felt I should become a real chanteuse -- a shantoosey, as he said it -- a cabaret singer. He and Gerald coached me toward becoming a kind of musical hostess, like Mabel Mercer -- and this is where things were at when my song writing career took off and I began touring the country non-stop and had to leave the club.
Now I shantoosey about 150 dates a year. But many of my best nights were playing at the club, learning new tunes, playing requests for the circle of people we knew, tearing up Old Black Magic and Sheik of Araby and Let's Do It etc etc etc with Ron leaning on the bar, nursing a scotch and watching, black eyes shining, just smiling a little smile like an Indian wise man, knowing he created all this and people enjoyed it.
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