Malcolm Gladwell has written that the unfathomable ability to create is as much a product of stubborn perseverance as it is of god-given, gene-blessed talent. I’m sure it’s true and I honestly don’t know where Howard got his talent – or his stubborn perseverance. But music surrounded us when we were kids. We listened to Guy Lombardo and Mitch Miller. We had a full complement of 78’s at home - Romberg and Herbert, Friml, and Lehar.
Every moment was a song cue for our Mom. Weekend breakfast was served to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan
The eggs and the ham and the strawberry jam The rollicking bun and the gay Sally Lunn
Never mind that none of us has any idea or any interest in what a gay Sally Lunn might be - or that the breakfast being served was scrambled eggs with nova, and bagels and cream cheese.
We had original cast recordings, too. Bought as soon as they were available, the shows of Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Frank Loesser, Jule Styne, Carolyn Leigh, Comden and Green – the list goes on – informed our everyday existence. We’d scan liner notes and Howard would tell me the story. It never occurred to me that he hadn’t seen the shows either, or that he had no idea how the magic was done onstage.
Howard and I were told endlessly about Mom’s singing career. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the professional highlight of Mom’s career began and ended with a one-month stint with Lester Cole and The Debutants – a troupe she left in Ohio, returning to Baltimore to marry Dad.
Once, when we were kids, Mom got a radio job - one day in the studio singing a jingle for Louisianne Coffee for which she was paid $25. Every time the ad played – and it played for years - Mom would say, “Twenty five dollars,” as if we had been gypped out of our inheritance.
My point is that ultimately it’s a mystery to me – how did Howard become Howard? What mix of influences, genetics, stubbornness and pride created that achingly creative person? I haven’t a clue, I just know I’ll be eternally grateful that they did.