But first . . .

This press release just in.  Borealis subsidiary WheelTug has received FAA sign-off on its certification plan, as noted yesterday in Aviation Week and AirInsight.  No guarantee of FAA approval, or ultimate commercial success, but an important milestone.  If WheelTug could be capturing $50,000 a year in net profit from installation on 10,000 aircraft six or eight years from now (who would want a jet that can’t back out from the gate on its own?), that would be half a billion in annual profit.  With 5 million shares outstanding, parent Borealis is currently valued at $30 million. As always: a speculation to be made only with money you can truly afford to lose; and — being thinly traded — only with “limit orders.”

And of course . . .

The President’s Farewell Address . . . exactly the grace, wisdom, clarity, inspiration, and dignity we have come to expect.

And the hearings! (I had not known about Jeff Sessions and hitching posts.)

And the news of intel Russia may have on the President-Elect but chose not to share with WikiLeaks.

It looks as though there may be things to write about all month.

But not today.

Today, for those with time to meet him . . .

My Uncle Charley was born on this day, January 11, in 1888 — remarkable for two reasons.  First, how could I possibly have an uncle born 129 years ago?  Second, how could I possibly have so little musical talent?

Charles Previn had dozens of movie credits as composer or music director, 7 Oscar nominations (one win) and more. Wikipedia credits him with overseeing hundreds of films at Universal and notes that he’s not just my uncle (a fact inexplicably overlooked), he’s André Previn‘s uncle.

André — “considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world with his notable contributions to classical music, jazz, and opera” — sports four Oscars and ten Grammys.

I’ve never met my cousin André — let alone had “my dinner with André” — but I sure knew Uncle Charley.  He was crazy about me, and I was pretty crazy about him, when on his occasional trips to New York he’d come for dinner.

He was basically retired (though working on a “grasshopper operetta”) and I was basically in high school. He was filled with enthusiasm, terrible puns, and affection for us all, including his sister, my grandmother.

Only years later did I realize he must have been gay.

That “valet” he traveled with, always assigned an adjacent room?  Well, you get the picture.

So on the occasion of what would have been his 129th birthday, I want you to meet him at a time in his life he hadn’t arrived at Universal or gone on to conduct the orchestra at Radio City Music Hall — yet was already quite well known.

You’ll find him on page 61 of the January 1935 issue of a 10-cent magazine popular then called Radio Stars with the caption: “Charles Previn and the Countess Albani, who sings with his orchestra” under the headline SHOULD BACHELORS HAVE BABIES . . . ?

Find the text below . . . or page through the whole magazine, not least for the ads.  (“Reduce your waist and hips 3 inches in 10 days with the Perfolastic Girdle . . . or it will cost you nothing!”)

How astonished — and pleased — Charley might have been at the way life turned out for his young nephew, and other latter-day bachelors.

By Elizabeth Walker

HAVEN’T YOU often read stories about husbandless air divas and screen queens, aspiring to have babies? But do you recall a single instance of an unmarried king of the kilocycles. wanting to be a daddy? Yet Charles Previn, the dashing and debonair orchestra leader of NBC’s Sunday night Silken Strings hour, if he has his way, may soon become radioland’s first bachelor father.

Perhaps, it sounds like a press agent yarn, this story of an A.B. from Cornell, who gave up professoring to pound a piano in Tin Pan Alley, became conductor of a series of Broadway musicals, wielded the baton at St. Louis’ world- famous summer opera for five years and is now searching for a son.  A small boy on whom he may lavish all the love and luxury of which an Ace of the Air is capable. But it isn’t. And I’ll tell you why.

Lunching with him the other day in the stately mid – Victorian dining room of the Medinah Athletic Club in Chicago, where he resides, the conversation veered naturally to a discussion of a story in the morning news-

papers. It was a front page account of how one of the Windy City’s packingtown princesses and her wealthy broker husband were seeking twins to adopt.

“I don’t believe I would want to adopt twins,” thought- fully observed the master melodist.

“No, I wouldn’t think you would either,” a third person at the luncheon table cheerfully jeered. “Even half a twin would be one too many for a bachelor.”

“Why do you say that ?” demanded Maestro Previn, annoyed, and, before the other could explain, he began giving all sorts of reasons why an unmarried man should phosphoresce among court-made papas.

[You can hear the Melodious Silken Strings program Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on the following NBC stations: WJZ, WBAL, WMAL, WBZ, WBZA, WSYR, WHAM, KDKA, WGAR, WJR, WLW, KWCR, KSO, KWK, WREN, KOIL, WKY, KPRC, WENR, WTAR, WPTF, WRVA, WWNC, WJAX, WIOD, WFLA, WAVE, WSM, WSB, WMC, WJDX, WSMB, WFAA, KTBS, KTHS.]

FINANCIALLY, a bachelor is capable of providing a good home and educational advantages for an adopted child, the college-bred ork leader asserted hotly. With no wife to divert him, he has more time. more thought, more money and more affection to give.  And who doubts, but that an unmarried man, who volunteers for fatherhood, should make a better parent than a married one who has it thrust upon him.

When he paused for breath, the Jeering One observed cautiously : “You seem to have given the matter considerable thought.”

“I have,” replied Maestro Previn quietly. Then he told how for several years he has been on the lookout for a youngster whom he may endow with his name and bring up as his son.

WHY, one wonders, should a well -to -do bachelor with a taste for rare wine, orchidaceous women and world travel, con- sider complicating his easy and eventful life with a Little Stranger? What motives would impel a talented musician, whose work is admittedly his hobby, to disrupt the harmony of his present existence with childhood cries and nursery noises?

Those questions, when put to him across the luncheon table, the impresario of the Silken Strings hour answered simply, directly. “I’ve always been crazy about children,” he said, “Besides, a son would be a great pal.” 

Maestro Previn believes that when he finds the youngster whom he thinks Fate is reserving for him, whether that youngster is wrapped in rags and as bald and blind as the eagle atop our national standard, he’ll know it. And the child’ll know. And there won’t be anything more to it. Nothing, that is, but the thousand and one complications which he understands arise when a bachelor sets out to adopt a child.

Even when that fateful moment arrives, it is doubtful, however, whether ether-land’s most sportive symphonist will act spontaneously. There are still moments, he acknowledged with a deprecating shrug of his sleek tailored shoulders, when he is uncertain whether an unmarried man may rightfully aspire for fatherhood.

“When I think back over my own boy- hood,” he said reminiscently, “and remember how it centered about my mother, I begin to wonder. Have I the right to deprive a child of his chance for a normal home? Will the material things I can give him compensate for the absence of a mother? What do you think?”

I nodded my okay, thinking how easily he could remedy such a domestic abnormality. After all, eligible women willing to mother a man’s children are not scarce. And I couldn’t imagine a romantic riot like Charley Previn running up against a “No” woman, should he ever seek a maternal parent for his foster son.

Mediumly tall, with broad shoulders, dream-swept brown eyes, sun-swarthy skin and dark, wavy hair, his looks would melt any woman. And the majority of them would find him no less irresistable to listen to. His interests encircle the globe like a Dollar Liner, and include everything from the latest Maori colonization scheme in New Zealand and the Tennessee Valley plan, to college football, golf, radio and real estate. He loves good books next to good music. And when he is discussing the latter he is as apt to be talking about his friend, George Gershwin’s “Manhattan Serenade” as Wagner’s “Symphony in C.”  

STILL he’s never been married. He’s never been engaged. To quote him verbatim, he’s “never even proposed to a girl.”

“I’m not saying I’ve never been in love.” A quick shining smile sprang out of his eyes like a silver flash. But I’ve never been able to figure a woman out long enough to ask her to marry me.”

Like so many other modern young men who have worked out their own design for living, he turned down a fat offer to teach prep school boys how to scan French poetry and translate German prose, and embarked upon a job-hunting expedition along Tin Pan Alley. It wasn’t long until he landed a position, playing the piano in a music -factory, for which Earl Carroll was song-plugging. From pounding out the latest jazz he gradually advanced to the more dignified position of song salesman. 

 Then one bright autumn morning the producer of a musical show, playing the southern “sticks,” burst into the music publishing house employing him, and de-manded an orchestra leader. With a sly wink, the manager recommended Charley.

“Have you ever had any experience ?” the producer demanded.

THE college-bred Paderewski said he had.

But he forgot to add that the orchestra he had conducted was composed of Cornell students who volunteered their services for the University’s annual men’s musical show. Even so he got the job.

In the same way he won his first chance at stage directing. The manager of a light opera company whose orchestra he was conducting went a.w.o.l. and the owner of the production turned, distraught, to Charley. “Previn,” he groaned, “have you ever put on a musical show ?”

Again the A.B. from Cornell answered “Yes,” without bothering to explain that the musical show in question was one whose lyrics he had composed and which had been written and acted by his classmates at college. And for the second time, he won and held the job.

But Maestro Previn was not satisfied to go on wielding his baton in the back blocks. He wanted to be something more than a hinterland virtuoso. So he found himself a playhouse on Broadway and a play, and before he knew it, he was standing in the wings, watching his first operetta go into production. At last he was nearing his goal.

A five -year engagement with St. Louis’ world famous summer opera company was the turning point. From the Missouri metropolis, he went to New York’s Roxy Theatre. And, as anyone familiar with the airlines will tell you, from there it is only a step to Radio City.

He made his mike debut over NBC as master of the Camel Cigarette hour. During those sixty minute intervals, he not only produced radioland’s first revue, but widened the acquaintance of the dial-twisting public by. introducing it to such stage and screen stars as Mary Garden and Maurice Chevalier. Later he supplied the musical background for Count Von Luckner’s breath-taking sagas of the sea, and became one of NBC’s most popular sustaining artists. Last winter he organized his Silken Strings Ensemble.

Now that he has realized his boy-hood ambition, persons knowing him as one of those men who, once he charts a course, never wavers, are wondering aloud: “How long will it be until Charley Previn’s manhood dream comes true. and he becomes one, if not radio’s first, bachelor father?”

He never did.


Comments are closed.