By J. DAVIS & TAMARA HARTMAN
The summer sun rose this morning over a quiet brick house in Corona where the scat and tune of Pops used to live, and then it cast shadows on the black stone that marks the Flushing spot where his music rests in peace.
And about an hour later, it reached the same height and started the simmer in New Orleans . . . the city where 100 years ago Louis Armstrong began the life he chose to settle down into Queens.
But despite the distance, New Orleans and Queens moved a bit closer together this summer as they joined forces to celebrate the man who began his musical career in the Waifs Home for Orphaned Boys on a coronet and ended it with the admiration, love and devotion of an entire world and the genre of Jazz.
Some called him Satchmo, for the satchel mouth that played his horn, others called him Pops . . . father of the scat style of singing and the popularity of Jazz, but to the neighbors on his block in Corona, he was the man next door with the heart of gold.
Belonging to the music world meant never really settling down, so it was his wife who bought the Queens house in 1942, furnished it, then gave Louie the address. He gave the address to a cab driver and when they pulled up out front, he reportedly looked up, couldnt believe the house was his, and said o.k. man, quit kidding me taking me to that address. He went inside, loved it, never left and folklore has it, told the cab driver to come on in for dinner.
The Armstrong House remains a neighborhood landmark as well as a stop on the Queens Jazz Trail and plans are underway to turn it into a public museum. Meanwhile, Louie lives on in the borough he loved so much that he left instructions to be buried here, though the City of New Orleans wanted to bring their favorite son home. Over 600 reels of his personal recordings, his collections from around the world, his artwork and his trumpets are housed in the Louie Armstrong Archives at Queens College and are visited by thousands annually from around the world.
And Louie probably would be happy to introduce so many people to his neighborhood. When asked why he chose to live in Queens when he would be welcome anywhere in the world, he said Im here with the Black people, the Puerto Rican people, the Italian people and Hebrew cats and theres food in the Frigidaire. What else could I want?
Its that simple.
This musician with a heart and music bigger than life also shared a bigger than life birthday along with his nation . . . . July 4. That is, until after his death when a New Orleans researcher uncovered a baptismal certificate for Sacred Heart Church that listed his birthday as Aug. 4, 1901.
The resolution of the confusion has been simple, and no doubt Pops would approve. The borough of Queens and the City of New Orleans have been celebrating for a month, and certainly Armstrong fans around the globe are stretching the celebration even further.
A three day Armstrong centennial conference was held in the French Quarter of New Orleans from Aug 3-5, and Queens played a central role.
Scholars and historians attended with credentials that spanned from the Smithsonian Institution to the University of Chicago but the event began with a welcome speech from a Queens voice.
Louis Armstrong House and Archives Director Michael Cogswell opened the conference. His Queens voice was later followed by that of Archives Curator Peggy Schein, who interviewed the Corona woman who still lives next door to the Armstrong House.
Selma Heraldo of Corona hadnt been to New Orleans since the Armstrongs took her in 1949 and Louie was crowned the King of the Zulus for the Mardi Gras celebration. She told Schein that she missed the city, and the city welcomed back the 78-year-old with open arms.
New Orleans also marked the beginning of August by officially renaming its international airport after one of Queens most famous residents.
Louie devotees and local residents stopped by the Louis Armstrong International Airport on Aug. 2 to wait on line for red beans and rice (Louies favorite meal). The Times Picayune of New Orleans reported the next day that the N.O. Mayor Marc Morial said, We celebrate the centennial of Louis Satchmo Armstrong, a great icon, a great musician, and ladies and gentlemen, I believe, the greatest New Orleanian ever.
Morial failed to mention Queens, but Schein reported back that Queens was not a far away and obscure place for those who visit the conference. They were very familiar with the beloved neighborhood that Louie called home from 1943 until his death in 1971.
And Morial himself is very familiar with the borough. As a child and a championship team player in New Orleans organized sports program, Morial earned himself a spot in a very special trip to see his first professional baseball game . . . the Mets at Shea Stadium.
Satchmo would have had the best time celebrating his 100th birthday along with nearly 200 friends, neighbors, fans and some of his fellow musicians at the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College in Flushing at the end of July.
Along with balloons and party hats, Minnie Vaughns chicken wings and three big birthday cakes, Pops natal day was a real party down to the take-home bags with miniature musical instruments.
And no party for Pops could be complete without a jam session, this one featuring veterans of Louis Armstrongs All Stars: Arvell Shaw on bass and Marty Napoleon on keyboards as well as pianist Ed Swanston from Armstrongs 1940s Big Band. Jazz legend Clark Terry played trumpet.
Shein and Cogswell announced to the party goers that the final blue prints for the restoration and conservation of the Armstrong home are finished and will be put out for contract bidding.
Hopefully the home will be open for visitors in 2003.
Meanwhile, the new Satchmobile, a 10-seat van with color images of Louis playing his trumpet (a Keystone Corp. donation), is being used to transport guests and materials between the Louis Armstrong Archives on Queens College campus and the Armstrong home in Corona.
tradition of reaching out to new people and making them a part of his world is continued
by the Archives. Schein explained that even though the term archives might
bring to mind images of dusty shelves and tired books, youve got to think of these
archives as Satchmo-ate . . .We try to conduct ourselves as Louie would.
The Archives are designed to be very accessible. We are always playing music, Schein explained, adding visitors to the Louie archives can step into the storehouse themselves to do research. They even encourage trumpet players to play one of Stachmos horns. There are so many pictures of fans backstage holding his trumpets that Schein believes that Pops would still want to encourage the musician in us all.
The Armstrong Archives is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment on Saturday. For more information, call 997-3670.
ARMSTRONG PARTY FOOD
Minnie Vaughn is the unofficial caterer to the Louis Armstrong House and Archives . . .so designated by their Director Michael Cogswell.
She has been happily feeding friends of Louis for years.
It started a number of years ago when she cooked her specialties for the Pops is Tops celebration held at the Armstrong home in Corona for the local school children every year during the third week in May.
Active in the Florence E. Smith Senior Center, Minnie especially enjoys offering her famed Southern Style dishes on special senior birthday celebrations.
Vaughn is a natural cook and cooks by eye, taste and instinct. Below are a couple of her favorite recipes.
Party Wings & Rice
Marinate the wings in Laurys seasoning over night. Remove from the marinade; dip in flour (shake off excess) and deep fry in vegetable oil until brown. Simple but tasty!
The rice to accompany the wings is made using pre-boiled rice usually 10 to 25 pounds but you can adjust to your requirements. Use the amount of water given in the instructions for the number of bags of rice you are preparing. Then add the following to the water: Sazon, Knorrs chicken base, thyme and margarine plus one whole Jamaican hot pepper. Do not let the pepper burst and remove it prior to adding the rice. When rice is cooked according to package directions, add one chopped green pepper and one chopped red pepper plus chopped scallions. Mix and serve. Basic, down-home food!
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