The Daily Mirror

Los Angeles history

« Previous Post | The Daily Mirror Home | Next Post »

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, March 21, 1959

March 21, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Confidential File

No Tattoo for Reyes

Paul_coatesIn this era of stifling conformity to the dictates of Madison Ave., I find it a real comfort to know that there's a rebel in our midst. Fact is, a Cuban rebel, in a manner of speaking.

He is orchestra leader Chuy Reyes, who, for years, has been contributing to the delinquency of the Sunset Strip by playing energetic mambos for aging saloon customers who should be home in bed.

Chuy's personal revolution didn't involve his countryman Fidel Castro.

It happened a year ago when Chuy and his orchestra were in the fourth week of an eight-week stand at one of Miami Beach's plushier resort hotels. The kind of place where, to mix you a little metaphor, the mink flows likeManischewitz wine.

And, since Chuy's music was packing the place in mink every night, the management had no complaint. At least, not on that score.

On another score, however, yes. Chuy learned about it one evening when his band "took five."

1959_0321_red_streak The hotel's owner summoned him over to her table. "I have to have a talk with you," she said ominously. He sat down.

"You know that little melody your band plays?" she started.

"What little melody?"

"You know," she said. "The one you use at the end of each set. It goes da-di-da-da-da-DA-di-da-DA-da ..."

Signs Off With Tune

"Oh that one," he beamed. "I use it for my signature music."

The hotel owner nodded. "That's what I want to talk to you about," she said. "You use it for your signature music. So does Marlboro cigarettes."

Chuy shrugged. "It's a coincidence," he said. "So?"

"So, you can't play it anymore. That's what's so."

The bandleader looked at her in amazement. "I don't understand what you're talking about," he said. "Why can't I play it anymore?"

She raised a silencing hand, and then aimed it at one of the ringside tables.

"You see that couple over there?" she asked. "That's the president of a rival cigarette company and his wife.

Boss' Wife Sad

"His wife," she went on, "doesn't like you to play that song."

Reyes isn't a difficult man to do business with, especially if the price is right. He smiled pleasantly at his employer.

"I get your point," he said. "No sense in creating a fuss. I'll play something else."

1959_0321_duncan He did.

And then, when the couple left, he reverted to da-di-da-da-da-DA-di-da-DA-da. The hotel owner came rushing over to the bandstand.

"I thought," she shouted, "I told you not to play that song. What's a' matter with you or something."

"But they've left," Chuy shouted back. "What's wrong with playing it now?"

Even While Absent

"They are my best customers," she said. "And the president's wife told me that she doesn't want you to play it whether they're here or not."

Chuy turned his back, finished the evening and announced to his boss that he was quitting. nobody could tell him what music he should or shouldn't play.

When he repeated this story to me at Ciro's the other night, I shook my head in sheer admiration. "You got principles, Chuy," I told him. "Or," I added as an afterthought, "maybe you've got a small financial interest in Marlboro?"

"I should be so lucky," he replied.

"Well," I tried again, "are you a Marlboro Man?"

"Me?" he snorted. "I couldn't pass the physical."