Monday, November 8, 2010

Additional hostility

There have recently been a couple of further attacks on a particular part of my book, by Steven Beasley, author of a Kay Kyser biography, in posts left on the Geezer Music Club blog. As I’ve previously noted, the Geezer site, which I enjoy very much, reviewed my book favorably in 2008.

I had responded to Mr. Beasley’s previous ill-informed comments, in a post on my blog October 19th.

In his initial posting in September, Mr. Beasley called into question the section in my book in which I wrote of a several-years estrangement between Kay Kyser and his sidekick and cornet player Merwyn Bogue (a/k/a Ish Kabibble). Mr. Beasley, dismissing the story, wrote:

“Could be it was an isolated incident Miss Bennett remembers...”

My mother, Sue Bennett, was indeed familiar with the estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue. She was a featured singer on Kay Kyser’s TV program the entire time it aired on NBC—from December of 1949 until December of 1950—and in 1950 she recorded a number of records with Mr. Kyser’s orchestra. During that time, she saw, up close, the nature of the relationship (or the lack of a relationship, at the time) between Mr. Kyser and Mr. Bogue.

Yet my mother was not cited in the book, concerning the relationship between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue; Merwyn Bogue was, via an interview he gave me in 1979.

In additional comments on the Geezer site, on 10/28, Mr. Beasley asked—skeptically—why Mr. Bogue would have spoken to me about an estrangement with Kay Kyser, while not mentioning the estrangement to other interviewers.

That is not something I can answer. I’m guessing the radio interviewers Mr. Beasley referred to either did not know about the estrangement, or chose not to mention it. And while in our 1979 conversation Mr. Bogue did not bring up the story himself, he confirmed it—unhesitatingly—when I asked him about it. (I do think it is possible that because Mr. Bogue and my mother had worked together, he might have felt comfortable addressing the issue with me—but that is simply a guess.)

Why, Mr. Beasley asked, did Mr. Bogue not mention the estrangement in his autobiography?

Again, I cannot say. Perhaps, because Mr. Bogue’s book came out in 1989, and Mr. Kyser had passed away just four years earlier, Mr. Bogue decided not to address the subject—admittedly a sensitive one—out of deference to Mr. Kyser and Mr. Kyser’s family.

In his snide and reckless posts, Mr. Beasley seems to be suggesting that Merwyn Bogue did not in fact describe to me, in my interview with him in 1979, a several-years estrangement from Mr. Kyser.

Mr. Beasley can believe what he wishes to believe. He didn’t interview Merwyn Bogue; I did.

Mr. Bogue said what he said, in 1979 (and part of it was said, it seemed to me, with a kind of good humor). In addition, as noted in my previous post about the matter, Mr. Bogue also told me—importantly—that he and Mr. Kyser had, at the time we spoke, moved beyond their strained relationship, and were again in touch with one another.

Let me also note the following:

In June of 2008, six months after my book was published (and more than a year before his book came out), Mr. Beasley wrote a post on a Kay Kyser-oriented blog he had on MySpace.

He wrote this:  that “there are indications that [Kay Kyser] had a temper, and that he could and did hold a grudge at times."

Mr. Beasley then told a story about the relationship between Kay Kyser and one of his musicians, in the 1940s—a story which, incidentally, did not appear to involve a grudge, but I’ll leave to the side that first story he told.

He then continued: “Another example of Kay's holding a grudge regards his TV show, which ran 2 seasons on NBC in 1950. According to a book called 'The Lucky Strike Papers', the author's mother, Sue Bennett worked on Kyser's show as a vocalist (true enough) and noted that Kay and Ish Kabibble spoke to each other only on the show, and would not communicate directly offstage. This might be related to a rumor I heard a few years back where Ish felt he deserved a raise, Kyser denied him, and Ish felt forced to issue an ultimatum that he would not be present for the next TV show if the raise wasn't forthcoming. No dice. Sure enough, Ish wasn't there for the next show, and it was stated to me that Kay never forgave him.

“Now, while both these examples [the 2 stories Mr. Beasley told in his post] have not been proven to be 100 per cent accurate, all it proves is that Kyser, a very bright and personable man, had high standards, and was a normal guy, with foibles and faults like any of us.”

So: Mr. Beasley’s tone and stance have now changed, markedly.

While in his 2008 MySpace post he was perfectly willing to accept (in part via a “rumor” he heard) the possibility of an estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue, during the time Mr. Kyser’s TV program aired on NBC, he now rejects the idea (“Could be it was an isolated incident Miss Bennett remembers...”). Indeed, he now lashes out, repeatedly, regarding the story I reported (a story, once again, told to me by Mr. Bogue): that the estrangement, in actuality, took place over several years.

There’s nothing I can do about Mr. Beasley’s insistent disbelief. Nor can I do anything about his self-righteousness, and his ugly and arrogant hostility.

To read the section in my book which concerns the several-years estrangement between Kay Kyser and Merwyn Bogue, please see my previous post:

Here, too, is the link to the 2008 review of my book on the Geezer Music Club site; the posts left by Mr. Beasley appear after the review.