Mulligan memories, part 3

'You have to remember Gerry had been on the road from when he was 15 or 16. He never finished high school but that was his life – he wanted to be on the road'

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Gerry Mulligan's pianoless quartet with Chet Baker, Chico Hamilton and Bob Whitlock

Following on from Mulligan Memories, part 1 and part 2, Arlyne Mulligan concludes the story of her life with Gerry Mulligan as told to Gordon Jack in 2001.

“After the Paris Jazz Fair, Red and Frank remained and Tony Fruscella joined us. He was married to Morgana King who I still hear occasionally. She was in the Godfather and was excellent in it but her acting career never seemed to work out. Tony of course wasn’t very bright, he played well but Gerry didn’t keep him. Jon Eardley took over and he was a nice player – Gerry liked him (12). I was getting record dates although Gerry had been recording for Dick Bock. As a matter of fact we could have bought half of Pacific Jazz for $3000 but Gerry didn’t have that kind of money.

‘George Avakian once said, Thank God you’re the Jew and he’s the Irishman – he didn’t want to be eating Irish stew’

“When Gerry and I were together we always paid well. He used to say, What’s the difference? Let’s give it to the guys instead of the government. That’s why the thing with Chet was so ridiculous. We didn’t want the boys staying in flea-holes on the road. I used to be up until 4 a.m. after the gig, cooking fried chicken and all kinds of things. George Avakian once said, Thank God you’re the Jew and he’s the Irishman – he didn’t want to be eating Irish stew.

“We were both staunch Democrats and in 1956 campaigned like crazy for Adlai Stevenson when he ran against Ike. Later on Gerry was at the White House for some affair during Kennedy’s term and I remember the president wanted to drive Gerry’s Jag.

‘Bud would do insane things and then have a perfectly intelligent musical conversation with Gerry about what songs they would perform – a real split personality’

“We once went to see Bud Powell at a recording date. He had been institutionalised and he was there with his carer who used to be the bouncer at Birdland. There was talk of Gerry and Bud recording together but Bud would do insane things and then have a perfectly intelligent musical conversation with Gerry about what songs they would perform – a real split personality. Gerry did a date with my good friend Annie Ross who I am very fond of but she has her own problems. She’s working again with Jon Hendricks but he doesn’t pay her enough, or on time.

“Gerry was already cheating on me when Bob and I started our romance – You’re having an affair with him? – he finally noticed! What did he think we were doing? Gerry insisted I invite Bob round for dinner which is when he said, How could you have an affair with my wife? Bob replied, To have a wife you have to be a husband. I’ve been on the road with you and you’re no husband. Gerry was pretty shocked of course. Unfortunately Bob had a drinking problem which didn’t affect his playing but it did affect the rest of his life which is why we broke up. We were together for a couple of years but I just couldn’t go through all that again. I thought we might get married – he kept proposing, then breaking up with me then proposing again until I got totally fed up. He married a number of times over the years. He can be very pontifical but we are very close and have remained so over the years.

‘With Gerry it was always music, music, music. He never asked How are you feeling? How’s your wife? How’re the kids? He only wanted to know if your horn was in good shape or where can we get some reeds?’

“I was friendly with Gil Evans and when Gerry and I first had problems I called him up because they were friends of course but he couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help. With Gerry it was always music, music, music. He never asked How are you feeling? How’s your wife? How’re the kids? Nothing like that. He only wanted to know if your horn was in good shape or where can we get some reeds? etc. etc. His relationships with me, Judy and Sandy were all unimportant in comparison to his relationships with musicians.

“My father died in February 1958 just as we were beginning to break up and all of a sudden I had money of my own. We had always thought that if we could afford it we would buy a large house in New York where Gerry could have a studio. He also wanted to study larger forms with Darius Milhaud. It was so sad the way things happened. This was when he became keen on Judy Holliday who was a sweetheart and immensely talented. He called me to say they were getting married. She had just had a mastectomy so I told him to slow down – he was a man who couldn’t stand a broken nail. They never did marry. All through their romance Gerry was around me all the time. He wouldn’t sign divorce papers. He wouldn’t do this, he wouldn’t do that. In 1958 he went out to play the Monterey Jazz Festival and Brew was supposed to play a set with him but he walked off the stage because of the way Gerry was treating me. Brew once said, You treat her real well or you’ll hear from me.

“He did try to win me back. When Judy was doing Bells Are Ringing on Broadway he called and took me out for an elegant dinner and romanced the hell out of me. We went back to the Algonquin where he was staying and went to bed. Afterwards he got up because he had to pick Judy up after the show. I went home and tried to commit suicide. This was a man who knew me better than anyone yet he could do something like that to me. I knew that he would think I would understand because it was Judy Holliday. After the psychiatrists had finished with me I told him I wanted a divorce. He said, I’ll talk to you when you’re thinking clearly. I told him I had never been thinking more clearly (13).

“After Judy died I thought we would probably work our way back together but when he started with Sandy Dennis I knew that was it. The rumour was that they had got married which was completely unfounded. She used to phone me and cry all the time because Gerry could be difficult. One Christmas Eve he came to my house and said, I’ll spend the night so I can be here tomorrow for Reed but I wouldn’t let him (14).

“You have to remember Gerry had been on the road from when he was 15 or 16. He never finished high school but that was his life – he wanted to be on the road. The last home we had was on 58th Street right opposite The Composer which is where we brought Reed home after he was born. I really felt he should have had his due and I felt in the last few years he didn’t. In some ways I regret that I didn’t continue managing him – maybe I shouldn’t have let him go so easily. He once called my mother saying, Ask Arlyne to forgive me. She said, Ask your mother to forgive you. Mothers forgive – wives don’t. She was hot stuff herself. My sister called saying, Mother is dying. You’d better come up. I flew up from Florida, walked in the room and she said, I must be dying – you came”.

Footnotes from Gordon Jack
(12) Jon Eardley was appearing at the Open Door in Greenwich Village when the Mulligans were in the audience. Arlyne apparently asked the trumpeter how many white shirts he had. On being told he had three or four she took him over to Gerry who asked him if he would like to join the quartet. They opened three days later in Baltimore.
(13) According to Sanford Josephon’s brief biography of Gerry Mulligan, they divorced in 1959.
(14) Reed Brown Mulligan was born 10 February 1957.

Postscript
It is worth quoting some of Arlyne’s comments from a lengthy March 1954 article she wrote for Theme magazine titled Make Mine Mulligan: “Gerry’s music is a product of his childhood in Ohio, his peculiar puckish charm, his sense of humour that springs indomitably over any surroundings, his acute nervous tension, his basic personal integrity and his musical awareness. There comes a moment when a man puts his horn in his mouth or his pen to paper and he is alone. It is at this moment that we may discern – can he blow? Can he write? It is apparent that the listening public has already determined that Gerry does both – successfully”.