Lunch with a legend

On Tuesday, January 11, Richard (my man friend) and I were invited to have
lunch with legendary songwriter Mike Stoller in  West Hollywood, California. Mike
survived the Andrea Doria tragedy with me  after spending three months
traveling through Europe, paid for with a royalty check received for
the song, “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots.”  Stoller is  one
half of  the famous duo  Leiber and Stoller; he  writes the music and Leiber
writes the lyrics.   Together,  they have been dubbed “The Founding Father of Rock & Roll.”

The pop-culture public may be familiar with Mike via this is
famous dialogue exchanged on a  New York Pier after  our survival. It is
published in chapter 7 of “Alive in the Andrea Doria”.
Jerry (who met him at the pier):  Oh man, you’re okay! Hey, Mike,
we’ve got  a smash hit!
Mike:  No kidding?
Jerry:  I’m not kidding…’Hound Dog’.
Mike:   Big Mama Door Thornton?
Jerry:   No, some white kid named Elvis Presley.

Last spring, Leiber and Stoller’s autobiography, “Hound Dog” was
published by  Simon & Schuster.  Mike was proud  to share with us that  he
had just  sold rights to a French publishing house. Then,  he graciously
gifted me a copy of the French version of  “Hound  Dog”.

We  were  cordially greeted in his office  by his son Peter,  who is
researching and documenting  his  dad’s legacy;  in particular,  he is
searching for every recording that has ever been made of Leiber & Stoller
songs. The office, on the seventh floor of a building on  Sunset Blvd., had
walls covered with paintings of famous  African-American blues musicians.
Because  of their generous size, they nearly dwarfed two famous photographs
of the songwriting duo:  one with them standing ( as if dancing) on their star
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Another photo is with  President Clinton  in
the Oval Office; Clinton is a huge fan of Elvis Presley and Leiber and Stoller.

Mike  offered to take us to any of the local  ethnic eateries.  I chose
Thai,  which proved to be a great choice.  As Richard and I chatted with the
congenial  songwriter,  I relished every moment of the conversation, which
covered   everything from our life doings to the idea of having Mike write a
film score– should there be a movie on the Andrea Doria.
There was not a moment of silence  as the conversation flowed along with  the
Thai iced tea.

Upon returning to his office– after  nearly 2 hours later– Richard asked
the  rock, rhythm and blues giant if he could do some special effects
portraits of him.  Mike accepted with the caveat that he had to get back
home soon, where he  writes his music, while enjoying the view from his
Hillside home. The composer  sat at the keyboard  and gently stroked the
keys  as Richard clicked the camera.  It was a magical moment!

As a young girl dancing wildly to “Hound Dog” to the juke box in a family

basement, I could never have imagined having lunch with the composer–

and discovering that he had survived the Doria with me! I feel blessed to be able to call Mike Stoller a friend.

You can learn more about Mike  and the hundreds of songs he wrote that
influenced  pop music from 1950 to today at
His new musical, The People in the Picture,  is being released on Broadway
at the end of April.

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