POPSY Lights it Up at BASIN STREET EAST, 1959
They called him Popsy because it was near impossible to spell, remember or pronounce his long Greek name. He had been the Band Boy for Benny Goodman, the “King Of Swing”, for all the years of the “Big Band Era.”
In the early fifties Benny broke up the band but he didn’t leave Popsy high and dry. He set him up in his own photography business in New York City. Now, Popsy would be the first to tell you that he was no artist when it came to taking pictures, but he had the basics and his studio was conveniently located near the theater district. The actors and actresses flocked to his studio because of his proximity to famous musicians and because they could get promotion pictures for their portfolios quickly and at a reasonable price.
My husband was working as a “Life” photographer in 1956 and he and Popsy became fast friends. Dick was also free-lancing and he would use the studio and the darkroom when needed. It worked out well for them both. Dick would teach Popsy the finer points of photography and, in turn, Popsy would not charge Dick for the use of his studio.
I met and married Dick in 1958 and we would often meet at Popsy’s and enjoy a take-out meal with him. Early in 1959 we received a call from Popsy. He was very agitated and he asked us to hurry over...he had something he needed to discuss.
It was at this time that Benny Goodman was touring Europe with a 10-piece ensemble. This was much smaller than his original big band but Benny was still a great box office draw and he was packing them in. The news that Popsy had was that Benny was on his way to New York. He was booked at “Basin Street East” for a 3 night gig and he was offering Popsy the chance to take all the publicity shots.
Popsy was fit to be tied. He didn’t want to let Benny down but he had no idea how to take candid shots of this sort. I knew why he had called on Dick, because this was his expertise. We told Popsy not to worry and we formulated a plan.
The opening night we arrived early and Dick set up his big strobe lights. We were seated at a large table right in front of the stage and Popsy met us there. The plan was for Dick to take the pictures but Popsy would take some too, making sure that Benny would see him. I couldn’t believe how well it worked.
When Benny came on stage with his ensemble the crowd went wild, the strobe lights went on and Dick and Popsy did their thing. When the night was over we couldn’t wait to get back to the studio and get the film developed and print the pictures. They were very good ...even some of the ones that Popsy took.
Benny was very happy with the results, Popsy was vindicated and me?...I was just thrilled to be part of it all...especially since Benny & his 10 musicians sat at our table between sets!