"A Place Called The Bla-Bla Cafe"
Written by Sandy Ross
Book Review by Bronson Herrmuth ©2006
Sandy Ross's new book brought many memories flooding back to me, and I have never been to Los Angeles, never less The Bla-Bla Cafe. Memories of the times, the early 70's, hippies, free love, sex, drugs, rock & roll, and open minded experimentation. Young people with wide eyed enthusiasm and a sense of actually being able to make a difference migrating to that one place from all around the country.
The love she harbors for this long closed club and the performers and the regulars that hung out there flows through her words on every page. Her recollections of the live music scene in LA during this time period enlightened me and are very historically informative. Her plight as a singer/songwriter pursuing her writing career with a major publisher adds another angle to this book.
Throughout Sandy's book her personal story runs parallel to The Bla-Bla Cafe's colorful history. This is also true in the personal testimonies included in the book, written by others in the talented cast of characters that shared her love for this seemingly magical venue. Each, in their own words, managed to find this club and in doing so it changed their lives. It seems some heard about the club through the musician grapevine, others read about it, while others just stumbled upon it by accident. The common thread shared by all of them, is that once they found The Bla-Bla Cafe, they knew they had discovered a place that was very very special.
A recurring theme in this book is of how the staff of one little club gave confidence and artistic growth to so many talented people. As I was reading each chapter, over and over I found myself wishing I could have performed on that stage and in that ultra creative environment. Sandy makes it obvious that The Bla-Bla Cafe was much more that a nightclub or eatery. It was a comfortable bed of creativity for the singers, musicians and comedians that shared that tiny stage to roll around in without fear of falling out. And they were nourished and encouraged by the patrons of this establishment, the Blabettes, who inspired them to even greater heights by their friendship and loyalty and support.
The list of performers who worked this room is long and full of celebrities that you will know along with others you don't, but probably should. Al Jarreau, Robin Williams, Rosanne Cash, Billy Crystal, Rosie Flores, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Maria Muldour, Keb Mo, Vickie Randle, Sandra Bernhard are just a few. There were hundreds of them that comprised the set lists on stage at the Bla-Bla, all creating and finding strength from one another while facing the almost impossible odds of success in the entertainment industry. Singers, songwriters, artists, musicians, comedians, mimes, it was wide open artistic expression and talent ruled.
Maybe it's the songwriter/artist in me that is attracted to the heart felt "struggling artist" sentiment expressed throughout this book. What ever the reason, I was compelled to read it in two sittings within hours of each other. I wanted to finish it and know it's full meaning, to find closure with this creative assortment of individuals that had found a second home and safe harbor within the family of the Bla-Bla Cafe.
Authors Note: I invite you to listen free to my narration of a few chapters from my book:
Dedication & Acknowledgements - Dedication (2.1 MB) mp3
Chapter 3 - Rehearsing - Rehearsing (5.5 MB) mp3
Chapter 7 - Your Name - Your Name (8.6 MB) mp3
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