It was inevitable, thought we didn’t know it at the time, that we should meet Bulent.
Mari and I flew from Izmir to Ankara where we spent the night. Then the next day by bus to Adana.
Sounds like a simple statement, but it was not so simple. The two-propeller plane took off from what seemed to be a plowed field and lifted off just before crashing into a mosque in the nearby village, or so it seemed to me.
At the Majestik Hotel in Ankara a half dozen red-uniformed dwarfs ran to meet us and carry off our bags.
The bus to Adana was forced off the highway into a gully by a cement truck. Luckily there were enough passengers aboard, none of them hurt, who put their backs into it and tipped the bus onto its wheels.
We arrived a bit frazzled at the Oteli Atlas where we freshened up before going up to the restaurant for a late lunch.
At the head of the table was Andre DeKoster, the agent responsible for bringing us to this part of Turkey. At the opposite end was Bulent, as he was presented to us. He wore a tan suit with a shirt open at the collar. He had a quick smile, merry blue eyes. He shook my hand and laid his cheek against Mari’s hand showing the sun-browned bald spot on top of his head. We took seats on either side of Bulent, facing each other.
Between us and DeKoster was Jan, the pianist of the group, and opposite him Piet the sax and clarinet player. We had already met in the lobby on arrival.
“Nevzat, the drummer couldn’t be here. You’ll meet him tonight at the club,” DeKoster told me.
A very thin waiter in a dirty white jacket took the order for all of us. He put three pitchers of water on the table, and went off to fetch the beer and wine asked for.
“Bulent is a long-time friend of mine,” DeKoster went on. “He saved my life a couple of years ago.”
“Don’t exaggerate, Andre,” said Bulent. “I only paid off a police commissioner.” He laughed and glanced all around the table.
“He was also Turkey’s wrestling champion…”
“When I was much younger,” Bulent interrupted, waving his hand as if brushing a fly from his face. “Now I am a much gentler man.” He beamed at Mari.
At nine that evening we were driven to the Incirlik Air Base, where the enlisted men’s club was located. Mari sat with DeKoster at a table near the stage, where I joined them at the break for a beer and a plate of french fries with Heinz ketchup, a treat only found on American bases in Turkey.
“How’s the instrument,” DeKoster asked. It hadn’t made much sense to bring my bass from Izmir for the month, and DeKoster had borrowed one from a local musician.
I shrugged. “It’s good enough for this kind of gig. “Wouldn’t do for Carnegie Hall.”
I thought I was making a joke, but DeKoster didn’t agree. He only scowled and said “The piano is not a Steinway either, but I hope you can play it. The show arrives tomorrow for a rehearsal.”
That was the reason I was brought from Izmir. The Dutch pianist Jan claimed he couldn’t read music, and the dancers touring the bases needed some one who could read the charts. So for the floor shows I was to accompany them in the enlisted men’s club, the NCO club, and finally the Officers’ club, all over the next week. Another floor show due in two weeks.
I was promised the usual pay I got from Billy back in Izmir, plus a bonus for each floor show.
The floor show people arrived – a standup Jewish comic, plus tap dancer Chuckles Walker – a famous black dude, on his last legs you might say, getting varicose veins, and the Sunshine Sisters, who of course were not sisters. To make room for them in the Oteli Atlas, Mari and I were moved over to the Agba, a newer more modern hotel more to Mari’s liking.
The restaurant here was also on the roof, and we were often invited to lunch or dinner by Bulent. He had been working the Sunshine Sisters, but it seemed that they were in thrall to Chuckles, surprising until you realized he must have arranged for them to make the tour with him. He was vigorous enough on stage, and the girls did a silly dance in skimpy clothes to the tune of Tiptoe through the Tulips, letting the fly boys know what the tulips were meant to be.
So this is why I said it was inevitable that we should meet Bulent.
According to what Piet told me, DeKoster had run over a crippled boy two years ago, and without Bulent’s intervention would have landed up in a Turkish prison for who knows how long.
“So DeKoster makes sure whenever he can that Bulent has access to the girls who come around on tour.”
So from the moment Mari arrived, he was zooming in.
At the end of the month, DeKoster called us to a meeting for the payment of salaries for the month.
This excerpt is from a collection of files Patrick called Scattered Notes.odt dated from 2014 to 2016. I’ll continue to add other segments as time allows.
Patrick Meadows 1934 – 2017.