Today Karen tells how jazzagediva.com came to be.

 

The Epiphany

I don’t remember the first time I ever met Muriel.  She was just always there. Each time I visited my sister, she was there on the loveseat, glass of scotch in one hand, cigarette in the other. Her long silver hair was wound up tightly in a bun on top of her head, a black velvet band around it. She usually wore all black and had black flats on her feet.  She was regal and exotic looking and the most fascinating person I had ever met.

Whatever conversation she was involved in, I would sit patiently until I could guide her gently to the stories I wanted to hear about – again. Have you ever in your life had a real live someone tell you true stories of their life that sounded like a fairy tale? Or a movie? Or the best book you had ever read? Those were Muriel’s stories to me – beautiful clothes, amazing music, places I could only imagine, people I had read about in history books.

I never tired of listening to her tell of her experiences in Paris, London and New York and her friendships with famous and infamous people.  I would close my eyes as she talked in her deep, gravelly voice and tried to imagine what it was like for her to leave her home and family and travel to a foreign land and create this world of glitz and glamour among the American expatriates of Paris.  I would ask for the same stories over and over in the hopes that she would remember new details to entertain and enthrall me.

I always left wanting more – more stories, more details….I wanted the rest of the story.  I knew there was more.  I sit here forty years later and I can still hear her voice echoing in my head, her laughter fading off into silence.  We promised her we would share her story with the world. My sister, Pat, spent thousands of hours with Muriel going over her diaries and getting her to tell the behind the scene details of the stories.  We poured over the scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and hundreds of photos that reveal snippets of an incredible life. And we spent years trying to figure out how to get her story told.  That usually entailed trying to convince people to publish or produce or finance our dream – not an easy task.

We felt we had broken our promise.

And then a few months ago I had an epiphany while in the shower. There is something about the water creating this white noise that blocks out all negativity, all distractions, you are vulnerable and sometimes if you are lucky and receptive, creativity and amazing just comes on in. I can’t remember the exact progression of my thought process, but I do know that I had been thinking about my word of the year.  Back in December 2010 I decided that storyteller was going to be my word for 2011. Ali Edwards (aliedwards.com) was teaching a yearlong class in 2011 at Big Picture Classes (bigpictureclases.com) and we needed a word to concentrate on.   It was going to be the focus of my writing and memory keeping efforts for 2011.

I had a long list of the stories I wanted to tell and scrapbook pages I wanted to complete.  Muriel’s story was not anywhere on that list.  But as I was standing there doing the mental gymnastics of prioritizing my list, this idea of telling Muriel’s incredible story on a blog hit me like an ocean wave.  The idea completely overwhelmed me and I got goose bumps right there in the shower – how that is possible while standing under hot water, I don’t know but I swear it happened.  I jumped out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair, threw on a robe and went racing out to the den to tell my husband and my brother, Matt, my idea. My mind was racing a million miles an hour and as I arrived in the den in my wet, soapy splendor, I demanded they mute the TV and listen to me.

I think I talked for fifteen minutes without taking a breath.  Minutes after jumping out of the shower this blog was fully formed in my mind.  I could see it. I knew I wanted music and photographs and diaries and newspaper clippings….and I went on for a while describing what I envisioned. We could have complete creative control and even if we never made a dime out of it and probably go a little broke in the process, we could keep our promise to Muriel and share her story with the world. My husband thought it was a great idea and I saw my brother’s eyes light up. I knew he got it. We called my sister, she really didn’t know much about what a blog was, but if it meant telling Muriel’s story, she was willing to go for it.

Turns out, having an epiphany is easier than making it a reality. Fortunately, ignorance truly is bliss and we dove all the way in to the land of the blog.  Kind of had a crash landing because when we got there, we had no idea what we were doing. So much to learn, so much to get done. A hosting site? Those button thingys? My brother and I had a very long, very frustrating conversation one afternoon when he kept calling something buckets and I had no idea what he was talking about.  It appeared that in addtion to everything else, we needed to learn some website vocabulary, so we would at least know what the heck we were talking about. We have spent hundreds of hours just wondering what if?  How about this and what about that?

It all made me wonder how many great ideas are lost because we haven’t pushed past the frustration and hard work it takes to get past the details.  Oh well, a topic for another day.

There were about 70 years of diaries to read again, thousands of pictures to scan, research to do.  The list was endless.  And in the spirit of full disclosure, you need to know it’s not all done yet. Just when we think we get a handle on one of the stories, something else, or usually someone else pops  up.  About the time we are reading in her diaries about one of her dinners at St. James Palace in London with the royal family, we go to see the movie The King’s Speech and oh look, there are all the people she is talking about right there in the movie. Lots of  phone calls and e-mails go back and forth with lots of OMGs and LOLs.  That was followed by Midnight in Paris and I jokingly leaned over and told my brother that this blog is just like that movie – every day this phantom car comes along that takes us on this thrilling ride.

We have been able to track some of the people Muriel talked about or has pictures of, and it’s just knocked our socks off discovering who they really were.  The vintage video footage  that people have graciously allowed us to use is mind boggling. We found 1920’s video of clubs she played in and people she performed with.  We live in hope that once we get this story out there, that someone will say, “Hey, I think I saw a video that she’s singing in” or “Wait a minute I have a 78 of her and Bob!”  We anticipate that this will be a serendipitous journey and that we will meet all sorts of new people.  We are excited about where this blog will take Muriel’s story – and us.

So that’s how we got to this point.  jazzagediva.com. Muriel’s blog.  Here you will get a chance to hear her stories, read her diaries, listen to some incredible music, see her photographs and experience the incredible journey of this unique and amazing woman. We will introduce you to all the fascinating people who populated her life – you know many of them already, but you will hear stories and see photographs of them that have never been seen before. We are even going to introduce you to some of her ancestors – they have some pretty incredible stories to tell too – after all, she got that spirit of adventure from somebody!  You are going to hear details of the Roaring 20s that will shock and entertain you. It’s a love story filled with adventure, excitement, betrayal, craziness, heartbreak and drama.  It will make you laugh and make you cry. It’s going to be an incredible process.  And best of all we will get to tell Muriel’s story.  We are finally getting to keep our promise.