Mulligan memories, part 1

The former wife and manager of baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan talks of life around the jazz world of the 1950s

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Arlyne Brown (songwriter Lew Brown’s daughter) was married to Gerry Mulligan during the 1950s and for a while she was also his personal manager. Jean Bach arranged for this interview with Gordon Jack, which took place in 2001 at the small town of Celebration in Florida where Arlyne was happy to share memories of those days.

“I was 20 in 1947 and an English major in college when I first met Gerry Mulligan. I used to dance to Vaughn Monroe but I had never heard jazz in my life although my father had some Louis Armstrong records and he liked the Andrews Sisters. I had just married Buddy Arnold the tenor player who is now running the drug programme for the musician’s union. (1)

‘I remember hearing Dizzy Gillespie around that time in a club on 52nd Street about the size of a large bathroom’

“We were married on the fly is the only way to describe it and then went on the road with Buddy Rich’s band with people like Al Cohn, Earl Swope and Gene Di Novi – a beautiful band. I soon realised that Buddy was a nice section player but no great shakes as a soloist. I travelled with them sowing buttons on band jackets and doing little ‘wifely’ things but when we got back to New York it seemed as though everyone left to join Woody Herman who was reforming his band.

“I was not happy in my marriage. Buddy was a nice guy and he kept saying – You think there’s another layer but this is all there is – which was not enough for me. I wanted more depth. I was hooked on notoriety, fame and people being outstanding – I suppose because of the way I’d been raised.

“I remember hearing Dizzy Gillespie around that time in a club on 52nd Street about the size of a large bathroom. He was there with a big band and it was magnificent. Dizzy and I became very close but then everyone became close to Dizzy.

“Gerry was better known as a writer then but he did play a lot at Don Jose’s studio. It was a fourth floor walk-up on West 49th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue where everyone would chip in 50 cents for the evening. Gerry, Brew Moore and Zoot would be there with their friends and if they let you play you could pat yourself on the back because you’d arrived – you were accepted. I was dating Brew at the time. After we broke up I went home to my parents and started going out with nice middle-class Jewish boys – not jazz musicians.

“One day I called Gerry to ask if he knew where Johnny Andrews was. It was a pretext really. He said – No but I’m here, why don’t you come over? Johnny had played with Buddy in the Thornhill orchestra and he was a lovely fellow and we’d been friendly. (2)

‘He had a basement apartment in the West 70s with a piano, a hot plate and a fridge. I don’t know how I adjusted so fast because I’d come out of nine rooms on Park Avenue’

“Gerry and I started a romance at that point – walks in Central Park etc, etc. He had a basement apartment in the West 70s with a piano, a hot plate and a fridge. I don’t know how I adjusted so fast because I’d come out of nine rooms on Park Avenue but we were young I suppose.

“He told me to get a job because he had to write by himself and he couldn’t have me around all the time. He wanted me to break up with Buddy but there was no talk of marriage at that time. I had lovely in-laws and my family and Buddy’s family were very friendly. Also Gerry was hooked and had been for quite a while already. He was a Catholic boy and I was a nice Jewish girl and I panicked. I told him that I just couldn’t do this anymore. Gerry just said – Well, that’s OK then. I’m going on the road with Claude Thornhill. Goodbye. – and off he went! I left for Texas with Buddy because I was trying to save the marriage.

“In the meantime Brew Moore went into Lexington. When he came out we met in Charley’s Tavern or one of those musicians’ bars and started a very big romance. He was a soft, sweet southern boy looking like a combination of Leslie Howard and James Dean. He had an enormous talent and should have been far more successful but he was about as messed up as you could get – just like nearly everyone else during that period. He and Gerry were very close though.

“Gerry came back from the road and decided to make another attempt with me. Brew was cutting my hair at that point and he had cut it very short like it is now. I previously had a page-boy and Gerry didn’t like it cut so short. All through our marriage he used to say – The problem really is that you’re Brew’s girl. After a while I didn’t argue anymore. I remember Tommy Allison said to me all the time – Don’t marry Gerry, marry Brew. (3)

“About then I went home to my parents because of Brew’s problems. Years later in 1973 he died when he fractured his skull falling down some stairs. I was living in Florida and I opened the Miami Herald to read, ‘Aubrey Brew Moore dead in Copenhagen’. Gerry was living with Sandy Dennis and although it was five in the morning there I phoned him immediately. Sandy was a lovely person and as soon as she answered she gave the phone to Gerry who of course was terribly upset.

‘I had been thinking a lot about Gerry so I phoned him at the Haig and he said, Will you please get the next plane and come out here and marry me?

“Gerry arranged some charts for a Stan Getz record session in 1949. It also included Brew, Al Cohn, Zoot and Allen Eager but eventually he took Stan to the union because he never paid him for the arrangements. Stan was a terrible man. I remember his second wife asking me – Why doesn’t anyone like my Stanley? I said if you’ve got three or four hours, I’ll tell you. He once slept with the wife of one of his musicians and then called the guy into the bedroom to see. He had girls everywhere and came on to everything that moved. When I was married to Gerry he tried to come on to me just so he could tell Gerry about it afterwards. We went to a hotel and before things got too serious I just said ‘Well, goodbye Stanley’ – his face was a picture. Gerry might have done some bad things but Stan was a bad man and there’s a difference.

“Eventually, Gerry went out to California and formed the quartet. I was friendly with Don Elliott but he was mad about a girl from Washington called Lois who was an exotic dancer. Things didn’t work out and she eventually married John Williams. I had been thinking a lot about Gerry so I phoned him at the Haig and he said, Will you please get the next plane and come out here and marry me? My girlfriend Jeffie Lee Boyd was a waitress at the club and she and Gerry were living together having been through some sort of ceremony. (4)

“This was around the time Gerry and Chet got arrested. Gerry had been using heroin so he turned himself in thinking he would be sent to Lexington because he wanted to get a cure. This was his mistake. Chet had only been using marijuana like practically everyone else so he said to Gerry, If you’re owning up to the heroin go for the pot too. (5) 

“I flew out and when I saw him at the airport I knew he was strung out but the quartet carried on working until the trial took place. Gerry and I got married at the Beverly Hills judge’s office on the 8 May 1953 and one of our witnesses was Doe Mitchell, Red’s wife.

“At the Haig that night Miles Davis kissed me passionately, sticking his tongue down my throat and then ran around saying What kind of woman has Gerry married? She just stuck her tongue down my throat“. (6)

See part 2 of Mulligan memories

Footnotes from Gordon Jack
(1) Buddy Arnold also worked with Tex Beneke, Claude Thornhill, Buddy DeFranco and Stan Kenton. He died in 2003. Gene Allen got to know Arlyne when Buddy was with Thornhill. She had been to college and being very clever tried to educate all the jazz musicians about their behaviour. She later married Gerry Mulligan and I remember their small son Reed coming to the Village Vanguard on a Sunday matinee and doing a little dance in front of the CJB which was very charming. There is a Sy Johnson photo of Reed with his father in the booklet accompanying the Mosaic CJB release MD4-221.
(2) Johnny Andrews played tenor with Claude Thornhill through most of 1949 but then disappeared at least as a recording artist.
(3) Trumpeter Tommy Allison worked with Boyd Raeburn, Gene Krupa, Johnny Bothwell, Buddy Rich and Charlie Barnet.
(4) Jeffie Lee Boyd became a showgirl in Las Vegas and around 1960 married the notorious gangster “Crazy” Joey Gallo. He was murdered in a restaurant in New York’s Little Italy in 1972 and Bob Dylan dedicated a song to him in 1976 called simply Joey. Their daughter became a successful lawyer in California. Gallo was Charles Mingus’s manager briefly in 1958.
(5) The Los Angeles Mirror published a photo of Mulligan, Jeffie Lee Boyd, Baker and Charlaine Souder at the police station. Mulligan was arrested and took the blame for both the heroin and the marijuana. Jeffie’s mother posted his bail.
(6) Walter Hopps in his book The Dream Colony mentions another occasion when Miles visited the Haig. “In the middle of a song Mulligan suddenly stopped playing and announced, Ladies and gentlemen we have just had the great honour of seeing Miles Davis enter the room. Everyone turned around and there was Miles smiling because he and Mulligan were friends. Gerry saw that he was not carrying a horn so he said, Mr Baker will you give your horn to Mr Davis? The young man gave his trumpet over to the master. They played the rest of the evening while Baker sat dutifully at one of the tables listening. Not long after that Mulligan had to go to the sheriff’s honour farm because he was caught with marijuana or something.”