Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lexington's Lafayette Club Closes

I was sorry to see the Lafayette Club close. Through the years I have had the opportunity of playing numerous gigs there. I played solo jazz gigs for the club as well as dances for private parties, wedding receptions, anniversary parties, and wedding rehearsal dinners. In addition to playing solo, I was fortunate to play at the club with The Polytones, Courtney Allen, The Sensations, Ed Minor, Impact, and The Bourbonaires. The last gig I played at the club was as a solo performer for a private corporate Christmas dinner last year. I'll miss this unique place.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader, By Jim Jordan:

The Lafayette Club, a dining and gathering spot known for its sweeping view of downtown Lexington from atop the 14-story Chase building, is closing its doors Saturday after 33 years.

The closing was announced in a two-paragraph e-mail, in which General Manager Lynn Messer Mullikin called the action "unfortunate" but unavoidable.

"The competition which exists in the dining business and the busy family centered life style approach to dining has made the operation of members only clubs extremely challenging," Mullikin wrote after the decision was made at a 4 p.m. board meeting.

Board Chairman Robert M. Hewett said the club had about 20 full- and part-time employees, but "membership had gotten down to just under 300," including corporate members.

When the club opened in 1974 after the Chase Building was completed, it had about 800 members, according to the club's Web site.

"It's been a (financial) challenge for a number of years," Hewett said. "There's so much competition. We've got so many different choices. ... We are not always willing to go to more formal dining."

Also aggravating the club's problems was the October arrest of chef Kevin Trahan on drug charges, as well as a special dues assessment to help the club balance its books.

"We lost members when that took place," Hewett said. "When you do an assessment, you find out who is willing to support the club and who is not."

Lexington lawyer Bill Lear, who served as the club's chairman for eight years, said he was "saddened, but not really surprised by the news."

"I know they had some tough financial difficulties," Lear said. "It's disappointing. The Lafayette Club was a great, non-discriminatory private club ... that served a really useful function in downtown Lexington."

The club hosted the meetings and seminars of local groups who brought prominent speakers to Lexington.

Over the years, they included former President Gerald Ford, former presidential press secretary Jody Powell, former House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, TV newsman Charles Kuralt and rock 'n' roll legend Bo Diddley.

Lear said "city clubs have had a hard time generally in the last several years." Their "heyday" was probably in the late 70s or early '80s, he said.

The Lafayette Club had a special disadvantage, Lear noted. When it opened, downtown was expected to grow east toward Midland Avenue, but it actually grew west toward Lexington Center and Rupp Arena.

"The real critical mass of the business community is now on the other end of downtown" and the Lafayette Club is "not very convenient," Lear said.

Lafayette Club board member Kathy Plomin said she missed the 4 p.m. meeting Friday because of business conflicts. "I had a premonition that's what it was going to be about," said Plomin, president of United Way of the Bluegrass.

"I think they finally had to look it in the face," she said of the club's financial plight. "The staff did a great job, but it couldn't sustain itself. I hate to see it close."

Mullikin said the decision to close Saturday was based on the club's holiday closing schedule, not on the expiration of its lease, which will last about another year.

Mullikin said the club will continue to collect funds it is owed and will try to pay its obligations, but Hewett said he couldn't promise that all of the club's debts will be paid.

"We'll just have to see," he said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Swings EKU

Sharon and I went with friends to the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert at EKU last night at Brock Auditorium. An enthusiastic capacity crowd attended the free show.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's music made the joint jump with swinging sounds of their standard reportoire and music from their Christmas album. BBVD, decked out in zoot suits, brought strong vocals, a tight five man horn section, and a grooving rhythm section to the stage. Many couples from the audience displayed their swing dance abilities in front of the elevated stage throughout the evening. The band put on an 80 minute energetic show that left the audience calling for more.

The music was played well by good musicians, the arrangements were interesting and swinging, but most of all, THE SHOW WAS FUN. The room acoustics and sound mix were not ideal, but certainly adequate. I look forward to the next time they come around.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Georgetown's Blackridge Hall Event Is A Success

Mighty Fine, Mighty Fine

The delightful annual December soiree at Blackridge Hall in Georgetown continues to be a success. Last night Dad and I played a variety of styles of music including jazz, Christmas standards, easy listening, swing, pop, and rock.

Is This Fun Or What?

Dad treated the guests to his heartfelt vocal interpretations of beautiful songs made popular by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other greats. Musical highlights of the evening also included Dad's rocking rendition of the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" and my vocal offering of Satchmo's "What A Wonderful World".

Host Jim Black once again showed that he knows how to put together a fun, festive, and elegant event. This annual gathering of friends at the gorgeous mansion is always highly anticipated and enjoyed by all in attendance.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Caproni's Restaurant Is Ready For Christmas

On the way to my gig yesterday I listened to the radio broadcast of the evil North Carolina Tar Heels easily handling my UK Wildcats. When the game ended I listened to the fan call-in show and heard the callers vent their frustation. Just before I arrived at Caproni's, I was not in the best of moods.

As I pulled the gigmobile into the restaurant parking lot, suddenly everything was all better. The Christmas lights are back again at Caproni's! It was like seeing a friend I had missed for a while. Beautiful interior Christmas decorations also made for a warm feeling. I quit thinking about the UK loss and began thinking about the jazzy Christmas tunes I would play for my friends during the evening.

Caproni's on Rosemary Clooney Street during the Christmas's so nice that it helps take the sting off of a Wildcat loss to the Tar Heels.