Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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Los Angeles Childhood - Etta and Me, 1962
Sunday, 18 December 2011 15:23

Two a.m., Sunset Boulevard - a private club where we went to dance and drink when everything else in town closed down.

The $10.00 cover was well worth it for protection, in 1962 when two women dancing together could be jailed and equality was only a whisper by a movement called Civil Rights.

There on the small stage was a combo, a bass, a piano and an electric guitar and a black singer, with bleached blond hair. The same color as my partner Sue, who some people said looked like Kim Novak. Since I was raised close to Hollywood and the stories up on the silver screen, it all made sense, Etta up there singing, going up down, down up, any way you want it daddy roll em', yeah, yeah, yeah. Then bursting into a song called At Last.

How many of you out there had secrets that you could only share with the privileged few who were in your most intimate circle?

I remember smoking Newports and lighting them, for Sue and me with my Zippo lighter that I could snap open, flick the flint and right there in front of Etta and the inside insulated protected club up on Sunset, my whole world lit up.

I read in this morning's Huff Post that Etta James is critically ill and in the hospital with cancer. Hundreds of times I have thought about that night and the excitement of my youth and the secret society and how the kids today have no idea of how easy they have it in so many ways. How we, sitting in that club and in many other clubs and bars throughout the world paved the way for some sense of safety and the desire to say that in many ways, we are all the same. That in so many ways we do have a right to say who we are and have others rise up and say, we all make a difference.

I want to honor Etta James for the way she entered my heart and changed me, my life in that special night and how she so bravely stood there all those years and sang to us through so many times, places, changes, for the good, and once in a while not good.

I want to tell her, you have changed the world for the better and I for one hold you in my prayers. May I have the courage, to make my life a blessing, as the translation done by Debbie Friedman in a Jewish hymn of healing. May the name, Etta James be for a blessing.

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Click Here: Etta James Songs: 'At Last,' 'Dance With Me Henry' & More (LISTEN)