A Love Letter

I recently learned, belatedly, that Arthur Pomposello had passed away. From COVID, like so many other greats. His obituary in the New York Times by Alex Traub was quite thoughtful. The lede:

Arthur Pomposello, the host of the Oak Room, the cabaret supper club in the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan practiced the arts of theatricality and discretion…

He also practiced the art of kindness.

The backstory: When I was about 23 years old living in southern California and wanting to be a singer, I went to Palm Springs to see Mel Torme in concert. I went backstage and gave Mel a demo tape. Whilst a great guy, Mel really didn’t give a shit and handed it off to his piano player. Said piano player called me the next morning and invited me back to PS for their second show and to talk. And talk we did. He asked me to come to New York and sing in his own band he was planning.

So I moved. In haste. Turns out there was no band, although the pianist and I worked together for a bit.

At the time I had a fascination with Harry Connick, Jr. I suppose you could say I was chasing him. I didn’t want to be him, I wanted to beat him, as we were close in age and I knew my voice was stronger. I also knew that he got an early start in The Oak Room, hosted by Arthur. So of course I set out to the Algonquin (which for 30 years now is the only place I will stay in Manhattan) and I asked for him. And out he came. And he sat with me. I told him I was new in town and would like to play the Oak Room. It’s called moxie.

For someone so distinguished — and important — he was unbelievably kind and patient with this little upstart. I left him with a demo tape (cassette — remember those?) and he called me the very next day. “You are not a cabaret singer” he said. Which bummed me out because Harry wasn’t either in my opinion. But he recommended other venues for me to play, which I proceeded to do, successfully.

Then Sony got involved, understandably protecting their asset. And I was sent off to England to make my first record. 17 songs. Two days. In the same studio as Def Leppard were happening to be working, actually. There was a pub in the studio, which is awesome, where we hung out for a minute. They were cool as hell. I only met a few of them, but it was really fun.

Throughout, Arthur kept an eye on me. Whenever I rolled into the Algonquin, there he was, ushering me in with a hug. He wouldn’t book me, but I was always more than welcome.

We went on to stay in general touch throughout my career — I’m on my sixth album now — but our last face to face interaction was probably our best. Unbeknownst to me he had moved from the Algonquin to a great spot in Times Square called Iridium. My former pianist would work there on Monday nights backing up the legendary Les Paul, who had taken up residency. So I went to see them.

And who is at the door but Arthur. My buddy. Holy cow.

He grabs me by the shoulders and says “you have to sing tonight! Let me take you back to see Les!”

And I’m like, “wuuuut?”

In a state of complete confusion, he leads me back to the dressing room where Les is seated and prepping. Arthur proceeds to give the kindest introduction, and Les invites me to sing with him. Holy shit, right? I mean rock stars in town come on Monday nights to be onstage with Les.

Les asks me what I would like to sing. I say “How about I Could Write A Book” and he goes “I adore that song!” I think maybe he said it was a track he did with his late wife.

So we did it. And more. It was, honestly, one of the greatest nights of my life. All because of Arthur. Arthur Pomposello.

More from the NYT obit:

A dark-haired former model in a tuxedo, he parted a red curtain to allow guests inside. He glided onstage and introduced Andrea Marcovicci, for decades the Oak Room’s main attraction, as “our songbird.” He gossiped with journalists about what he called “my cabaret” and in return the newspapers gave him labels like “a loquacious fixture.”

Loquacious indeed, but that’s not even the half of it. God bless you, Arthur Pomposello. And thank you.

Love, Christian

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
CHRISTIAN JOSI

CHRISTIAN JOSI

71 Followers

Veteran media / comms advisor & political strategist, producer, non-profit management pro, writer for a variety of publications. Beach dweller. Handful.