When the Bethlehem Asylum foundered in Coconut Grove, Christian did not waste any time getting another gig for himself and whatever musical aggregation he could pull together. He put together a horn section and wanted me and Charlie to do the gig in Key West at the Great Escape Lounge in the Key West Airport. I named the band after Christian as a joke. The Christian Gahndi Syndrome.
Key West…part #1
Key West.. Part #2
His personality was so indelible and consistently cool and heavy that he was an icon of hip genius. His look, attitude was a mix of Brahmin Indian,(Born in Jaipur) and Harlem (grew up in the jazz scene of Harlem). From another planet but in the deep south he was just another man of color to alot of the rednecks and he had a rusty razor for them too. Talked more babes into giving him their car and apartment than any man I have ever met. Role model. Guru. The best musician I have ever played with.
We arrived in sleepy Key West under the boiling tropic sun. Duval street, the main street was lined with bars. filled mostly with Special Forces re-enlistments looking for something to beat up. We gladly stayed out at the edge of town at the airport where uniforms were not allowed. But the Great Escape lounge was the strangest club in the universe.
I sat onstage in a fifties classic style building looking out through tilted glass windows that were twenty feet tall. The room stuck out into the landing strip area of the old base right out of Casablanca. As we played “By the Time we got to Woodstock” using a Latin percussion section and horns, I would look out over the darkened landing strip and watch an occasional Cessna land without running lights under a new moon. Good pilot. Meeting up with an old station wagon. They exchanged whatever then the tiny plane rose up into the balmy night and the station wagon drove off with its swag. Sometimes they came in for a drink. Dieter owned the bar. He was a German national and built like a wrestler. Thick German accent contrasted nicely with his screeching JAP wife from Miami Beach. They were passionately in love and never stopped yelling at each other. Their huge apartment had a refrigerator containing only a jar of mustard and a bottle of vodka. Dieter rearranged the bar almost every day. Moving the piano around and projecting old eight millimeter stag movies on the front of the upright piano while Christian played jazz and blues. There were more bikinied beauties than should be allowed in one spot. Also lots of spooks. CIA, Spetznaz, KGB, East and West German spies, Mossad. Everybody was hanging, everybody was packing a piece. It was very polite. A few Russians over from Havana for a drink. It was only eighty miles to Havana across the straights of Florida. They could make the trip in a cigarette boat in under two hours. A sunburned salvage diver with a pocket full of freshly discovered gold found in thirty feet of warm Caribbean blue water. A platoon of huge Irish Regulars in kilts on R and R from Belfast. They danced and showed everyone what a Scotsman has under his kilt. We lived the life. I’m cooling off from a hot set, drying out in the evening trade wind breeze about one o’clock in the morning when an Anglo drunk saunters out and takes the night air along side me. “Good drummer” he says. “Whats yer name?” I tell him and his eyebrows go up. ” The guy who signs my paychecks has the same last name.” He muses with a grin. He pulls me into his conversation so I play along. “So what do you do?” I asked innocently. “I’m a pilot.” he mumbles with calm pride. “That must mean you fly for Air America.” I said. He jumped with a start, got a little less drunk and turned to me. “That’s not really public knowledge.” He said. “It is if you want to know.” I was evasive just to mess with him. “Are you in the family?” He asked me. “Uncle” I lied. He warmed up to me now.
“You know this weather reminds me of home.” he said lazily.
“OK, I’ll bite. Where’s home?”
“Bangkok.” He said. “Its nice. I’m on vacation. They let me go for awhile to come down here and develop some business connections in South America.”
“I have to go finish the last set. Nice talking with you. Have a nice vacation.” I never saw him again.
Link to the live recordings at the KEY WEST AIRPORT GREAT ESCAPE LOUNGE OF THE CHRISTIAN GANDHI SYNDROME 1971: