A Spectacular House

by Laura Demilio

What a shame such an edifice could not be preserved; it's magnificent.

Looking for time to weigh in more with you, Debbie, and Bob, Nick, Alberta -- but before I finish some badly-needing-to-be-done household chores, I must mention an item: yesterday, just a blip on the local news that the conductor for the Metropolitan Opera, James Levine, has been suspended -- not fired, but suspended pending further investigation, because of sexual abuse allegations. (this concerns men coming forward admitting and making the accusations they they were victimized years -- that is several decades -- ago, when they were young boys. Not little children, but boys in early-mid adolescence, around 14-15 years old. Not that it's any less reprehensible, but I wanted to clarify the age group of these boys.

Now, I have got to say this. I have been hearing this about James Levine for years, in fact for decades. I'm talking about since the 1970's, when I was in high school. It was always "known" in operatic circles that "Jimmy regularly got into trouble" regarding pubescent and young teenage boys, 13, 14, 15 years old. It was such an accepted rumor that everyone took it as -- I hate to say this, but a matter of course, "Well, the Met had to bail Jimmy Levine out again," "The Met shells out tons of money every year to keep James Levine [out of jail, out of trouble, pays off the families of these boys, pays lawyers or settles out of court, etc. etc.]

Many of us used to joke sardonically -- not a laughing matter for those poor kids, but I'm admitting to what opera buffs discuss and that includes snickering about unfortunate scandals in the arts world -- about how the Met is always having fund raisers and shilling for money and sending us mail begging us for donations for their productions. This is supposedly because they have to splash out x amount of thousands every year to protect their house conductor and keep him out of trouble. And it is true, the Metropolitan Opera is always roaring around wanting money despite their wealthy benefactors and oil-rich corporate slugs supporting them, but we can't say it's an undisputed fact that it's to clean up the grubby adventures and outright crimes of their top employee, a world-reknown conductor, and buy off the families of abused teenage kids.

The point I am getting at is: when one is a SUSPECTED sexual miscreant, it's KNOWN. The allegations and suspicions and accusations are always floating around, no matter how they are whitewashed and denied. Once a predator has been caught out -- not an arrest where no one is exactly sure what happened and charges are dropped or the matter isn't pursued, but everyone connected with that person or the world they move in knows about the scandal and is discussing it in dismay, and then another story pops up, and then another, over the course of years and then decades, well, one has to recognize this person as being a predator. Call it pedophile perversion or what you will.

Just watching Live from the Metropolitan performances for over 40 years on TV, buying many, many opera recordings which featured James Levine as the conductor (and yes, I do have to say I enjoyed and enjoy them immensely; he is reknown in his field)and "keeping up" with the news and gossip of the national and international opera world through music magazines, friends' email and on-line chat groups, we were all aware of this.

That it was absolutely true, proven, undisputed, and maybe somewhere mug shots of Levine could be found on line, no, that we didn't verify, but "everyone knew of rumors" and we all had a friend of a friend who worked in New York or at the Met or NYC Opera and "had all the stories" on Levine's suspected unsavory proclivities.

Some might argue that 80 or more years ago, people didn't discuss such scandal or an artist's unpleasant sexual reputation so readily, but if you find a reprint of any old tabloid magazine or newspaper of nearly a century ago, you certainly would be able to read of such things, and they concerned famous, prominent people in the entertainment and political arena.

So, if this stuff wasn't going around about Bix in 1921 (where all of Davenport would have known about it or would have learned of it eventually) or as he moved onward and up in the music world as a jazz band musician, and then became a performer in a nationally famous pop orchestra -- if the only rumors, assertions, discussions and disparaging shrugged shoulders among his colleagues were about Bix Beiderbecke "having trouble with drinking" -- then it was alcohol that was his trouble. However, no one ever alluded to him preying on kids, suspected him of it, told a tale of his having to be bailed out because of it or Whiteman paying off the law, courts, or outraged parents to keep it out of the news in order not to tarnish the reputation of his band through association. And really, would Paul Whiteman have kept a chair waiting for Bix once he got out of rehab, encouraged him to rejoin the orchestra, friends all over the country hoping Bix would straighten up and get off the sauce so he could perform and record with them again? Would not someone, all these years later, have admitted at least a suspicion or a rumor of Bix getting into trouble over child lechery? It would have come out because people who are molesters and perverts are regular, cannot be rehabilitated (and they can't. They can be jailed and controlled and drugged, but it never leaves their basic personal makeup and once they are out from under scrutiny they commit it again and again). Such people are always under some sort of suspicion, rumor, and gossip. whether it is absolutely proven or not, under or above ground, such a person is always clandestinely talked about.

And somebody, somewhere, sympathetic friend or jealous foe, long after his death would have blurted out that Bix had this sort of a problem and got into trouble about it. When a person has this sort of a penchant of this level of repugnance, it's out there for people to be aware of and gossip about, even if it's not featured in Opera News magazine or chatted about during Intermission during Live from the Met performances.

Posted on Dec 5, 2017, 12:17 PM

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