Re: Campus booze

by Laura Demilio

Can you imagine the grim, sour expression on John Richards' face as he (did he dictate his letters or type them himself, I wonder?) wrote the reply to Bismarck Beiderbecke? No doubt snorting privatelty to himself an opinion that the parents had quite spoiled Bix, and probably pissed as all get-out that Bix's persuasive charm had worked on HIM for so long!

It must have stung Bix's dad with such hurt embarrassment to read that Bix was not to be messing and meddling around the school, as if Bix planned to open a brothel on campus and invite all the Chicago gangsters over. Those were completely negative implications that tobacco and booze, and most especially jazz, entailed to those snobby boarding-school administrators --plus, when he sneaked out, Bix surely had to be associating with, ahem, Negro People in some black and tan clubs! Mr. Richards must have been about ready to flip his wig -- it's plenty obvious LFA didn't accept Jewish or Black students in those days [does anybody have information otherwise?] . . . . that picture of Bix with a drum grinning through the lampblack during the Bo-Jacks initiation parade on campus pretty much summed up the prevelant backward attitude of that era.

How liberating it must have felt for Bix to get off that campus for good and continue the pursuit of playing in bands with no more thought of schooling-- after the first wince of regret about letting Mom and Dad down so dramatically. That last stab at education in 1925 -- for Bix much enjoyed the university campus milieu and all aspects of "college life" on the social end -- must have slammed down the lid of finality for him: "That's it! No more sitting in classes or lessons or studying. I just can't do it!" I bet he frankly welcomed that brawl he and his football player-frat boy pal were involved in. The books Bix opened thenceforth -- and there were plenty, according to his friends -- were all strictly for his own reading pleasure.

Posted on Sep 10, 2012, 6:46 AM

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