New Orlean’s Leah Chase

To All the Ships At Sea –

A bit of sad news to start out a Monday morning is that Leah Chase passed away yesterday.

© DiMaggio/Kalish

Both JoAnne and I met Leah Chase in New Orleans approximately 20 years ago. She agreed to open up the restaurant and kitchen for us so we could do a series of portraits of her in her renowned Restaurant Dooky Chase which was legendary and loved by many. If you were in town you had to go there and so many famous people did. The restaurant was known for serving presidents, as well as freedom riders. Martin Luther king, James Baldwin, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Barrack Obama and George W. Bush all have eaten there. In a city operating under Jim Crow laws Dooky Chase became the only upscale restaurant where African Americans could gather.

Leah was totally dedicated to the restaurant and the community which she was very much a part of. She was considered a central cultural figure in the politics of New Orleans and the national struggle for civil rights. She was also a major promoter of art. During our conversation I mentioned to her that I had just done a cover story on Syvia’s restaurant in Harlem for American Way Magazine and on the owner Sylvia Woods. The two of them were sisters of a kind. Both trend setters and entrepreneurs in the food/restaurant business and in society. One in Harlem and one in New Orleans. Both women will be missed as they played a vital role in bringing people together.

© DiMaggio/Kalish
© DiMaggio/Kalish

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger 2272

©Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea, approximately two months ago I did a program at B&H Photography called all things in photography are a compromise. The one thing I would like to make perfectly clear; that is not an excuse for me not to do my best. For that matter, it should not be an excuse for anyone to not do their best. Sometimes your best isn’t really up to code. Attached to this blog is a link to a short film on the great, beautiful, Pete Seeger. It was a work in progress and it was never designed to be published in its present format, but given the fact that Pete has moved to the next level of consciousness, please forgive my one-handed blind shooting. No, I did not intentionally cut his head off but the real sin is the microphone was not tweaked as it should have been. Translated: I had no assistant, no sound man, no PA, and no tripod. However, none of those things are an excuse. https://vimeo.com/85390064

Pete Seeger

©Joe DiMaggio

Pete Seeger Guitar graphic b&w 2336

©Joe DiMaggio

Pete Seeger 1919 – 2014

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

What I’m about to say is my opinion, not fact. Pete Seeger will not rest in peace. He’ll be going to the pearly gates and will be carrying his banjo and singing and will never stop. As a matter of fact, he may try to reorganize part of Heaven. Personally, I’ve never met anyone who ever had a bad word to say about Pete. The reason for this is he was truly a gift to the world. A true visionary before it was popular to be one.  There are very few men who would have the audacity, and nerve to march into Washington and stand up to the bureaucracy. I for one am not sure I’d be able to do it.
I have always been in love with Pete and what he stood for.  I did a short film with Pete and like all films I do, there was no script, outline or storyboard. I took the advice of Albert Maysles and I was a fly on the wall. As I was filming this 90 year old man picked up a sledge hammer and it whistled past my ear. I got on two knees and tried to frame him winging that hammer. Now it may have only been 6-14 inches from me but I thought to myself Pete please don’t make a mistake and I certainly was not worried about my camera.  Like everything Pete did, he was just right on. He went back to his microphone and didn’t miss a beat finishing up his song. What I thought also thought interesting, was that he showed up with his entourage – him and his truck and left the same way. There are no proper words in webster’s unabashed dictionary to describe Pete Seeger. God made just one and there will never be another that will take his place. With all due respect to Dylan, Springsteen, Sinatra, Presley, and John Lennon, they all might eventually be replaced but that will never happen with Pete.  I consider myself an extremely lucky man to have spent time with such a true American Hero.  I will make an honest attempt to put together another very short film on Pete.
So Pete keep playing your songs and when you need to break a sweat chop some more wood. Subconsciously I think that’s why I love to chop wood myself.