Author Archive | Dan Wakefield

Get Knocked Down Six Times, Get Up Seven

“The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam”

Tuesday night, September 25, 6-8 pm at The Jazz Kitchen


If you’re alive, you’ve been “knocked down” – if not physically, in some of your efforts – in your education, work, career, relationships. It is part of the experience of being alive. Getting “knocked down” is no disgrace – the important thing is getting back up. It was expressed most succinctly in a Nike commercial that showed the basketball star Dwayne Wade getting knocked down on the court – and getting back up. The only words in the commercial were said by Wade:

“Get knocked down six times, get up seven.”

Sophie Faught and Dan Wakefield have told – with music and stories – what it was like to start out as a musician and as a writer in their own distinct eras, and what it was like to experience their first “big break.” Now an upcoming “Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” will feature stories of their own setbacks – and how they “got back up” – with words and music.

Sophie and Dan will be joined by guest vocalist Everett Greene, bass baritone singer, actor, narrator and voice-over talent. His singing roots started in a gospel quartet and he discovered and fell in love with jazz when he moved to Indianapolis fifty plus years ago. He has performed with stars including jazz greats Wes Montgomery and  David Baker, was inducted into the Indiana Jazz Hall of Fame, and recently won Butler University’s inaugural “jazz legend” award.

The experience of getting knocked down six times and getting up seven has been experienced by all artists in all times and places. In fact it is not limited to the arts or sports, but is a part of human survival. The Nobel Prize winning Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, author of “Waiting for Godot,” said it this way:

“Fail. Fail Again. Fail Better. . .”

Winston Churchill, who led England in its darkest hour, and the Allies to beat the Nazis in World War II, put it these words:

“Never give in, never never never never – in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

The same sentiment was stated most succinctly by the great blues singer Bessie Smith, who said:

“picked up my bag, baby, and I tried it again.”

Musician Sophie Faught, writer Dan Wakefield and guest vocalist Everett Greene will bring back this basic message to individual lives, the stories of our everyday experience, in the words and music of “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” at The Jazz Kitchen, Tuesday, September 25, 6-8 pm.

Tickets may be purchased from The Jazz Kitchen:


Our Unsung Hoosier Heroine: Janet Flanner: a.k.a. “Genet”

Janet Flanner & Ernest Hemingway

Every good Hoosier knows about our great war correspondent Ernie Pyle, a journalistic hero of WWII.

Few are aware that Janet Flanner, an Indianapolis woman born in 1892, who went to Mrs. Gates’ Dancing Class, swam at The Riviera Club, and attended Tudor Hall, was the war correspondent for The New Yorker magazine in WWII, and broadcast for The NBC Blue Network. From 1944-1947 she wrote from fighting fronts in Belgium, Germany and France, covered the Nuremberg trials, and reported the Nazi’s theft of art in her series “The Beautiful Spoils.” After the war she was awarded The Legion of Honor by France, and wore its bright red ribbon in her lapel the rest of her life.

It was fitting that Flanner was honored by France, for she lived there most of her adult life, writing the New Yorker’s “Letter from Paris” under the pseudonym “Genet.” One of three daughters of Frank Flanner, founder of Flanner and Buchanan mortuary, she attended the University of Chicago for a little more than a year, then began writing on movies for The Indianapolis Star before suddenly marrying Wlliam Lane Rhem, a friend from college and moving with him to New York, later confiding to a friend she had married as a way of getting out of Indianapolis. Their divorce was amicable and they remained on friendly terms.

Soon after, she met and lived with the actress and writer Solita Solano who she moved to Paris with in the legendary decade of the 1920s, and lived with until the outbreak of war in Europe. Flanner came to know and befriend the literary stars of the era – Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Sylvia Beach, the bookstore owner who used her own money to publish the first two copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (That bombshell novel of the literary world was then serialized in The Little Review, an avant garde literary magazine published by Margaret Anderson, another refugee from Indianapolis!)

Flanner had a sharp sense of humor as well as a sense of style, writing of the great dancer Isadora Duncan that she “came as close to founding an aesthetic renaissance as American morality would allow. . .her body, whose attic splendor once brought Greece to Kansas City and Kalamazoo. . .” was never fully appreciated in America.

Flanner lamented that Duncan’s  “ideals of human liberty” were similar to those of  Plato, yet “All they gained for Isadora were the loss of her passport and the presence of the constabulary on the stage of the Indianapolis Opera House, where the chief of police watched for sedition in the movement of Isadora’s knees.” (Paris Was Yesterday)

Flanner wrote with the same wit and grace in profiles of the great painters of the twentieth century –Picasso, Braque, Cezanne and Matisse. She wrote that Cezanne “prophesied that he could astonish Paris with an apple” and it was his paintings of apples that brought him his first fame.

Surrounded by literary luminaries, Flanner established her own niche in that pantheon of writers with her bi-weekly “Letter from Paris,” which appeared in The New Yorker over a span of fifty years. The “Letters” were collected in widely praised hard cover editions like Paris was Yesterday, and Paris Journal, which was published in 1966 and praised as “a unique narrative of a nation in transition” when it won that year’s National Book Award. Her other work published in book form includes Men and Monuments, Uncollected Writings 1932-1975, and her one novel The Cubicle City (now out of print.) Her own life story is told in Genet: a Biography of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple.

“The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” will honor Janet Flanner in our first Bloomington show at The Blockhouse on Thursday, August 30, 7-9. Our guest will be Ball State Professor Rai Peterson, who is writing a book on Solita Solano, who Flanner lived with until the outbreak of World War II.  Sophie Faught will join me with her always incisive questioning of our guests, and we will hope to resurrect our unsung Indiana heroine of Paris in the Twenties to the consciousness of our fellow Hoosiers.

Sophie will play saxophone and lead her musicians with music of the jazz age to accompany the stories of Janet Flanner’s colorful and influential life and work.

Purchase Tickets

“It’s De-Lovely” – Cole Porter in Words and Music!


Tuesday, June 12th 6-8pm

With words and music, by writer Dan Wakefield and saxophonist Sophie Faught. Take a creative journey with Dan and Sophie as they tell through stories and music how they each, in different eras, became a musician, a writer. Their Jams give off the rhythm and excitement as well as the dedication/ inspiration of making artistic dreams come true.

More Information & Tickets

(The ticket processing provider has had some technical trouble lately.
If you find this link doesn’t work, call 317-253-4900. You can also pay at the door, subject to availability.)

When author Cathy Day discovered her home town of Peru, Indiana, gave birth to more than the circus [her first novel was the highly-praised The Circus in Winter], she asked her grandmother why there was no statue or plaque or memorial of any kind to its world-famous native son, composer Cole Porter – why didn’t the town celebrate its most famous son?

At first her grandmother said “because he left” – to go to Yale, New York, Paris, and the world at large – and when further questioned, she said it was because he was “different,” meaning not a bi-sexually standardized American man of his time (circa turn of the century, coming of age in the 1920s.)

Small and thin, described as “frisky as a monkey” and “aloof,” Porter wore pink and yellow shirts with salmon ties at Yale and became a Big Man on Campus by writing the school’s  popular football songs (he was elected president of the Glee Club and a member of the legendary Whiffenpoofs.) The stolid biographer William McBrien wrote that “Porter was homosexual but not bisexual – which no doubt diminished the tensions which otherwise might have ruptured the relationship” with his wife, the wealthy socialite Linda Lee Thomas. Sometimes after their marriage she was known as “Linda Cole Porter.” A friend thought “she was not at all lesbian – she was sexless – but absolutely in love with Cole who adored her.”

Whatever the biological algebra (or calculus) of Porter’s marriage and his many male lovers, he produced some of the greatest love songs – in both words and music – of all time. Just as a sample, try these titles: “Night and Day,” “Let’s Do It,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Anything Goes,” “Begin the Beguine,”  “You’re the Top,” “All Through The Night,” “Love for Sale.” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Just One of Those Things,” “Easy to Love,” “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “I  Love Paris,” “C’est Magnifique,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “In The Still of The Night,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Miss Otis Regrets,” “From Now On,” “It’s All Right With Me. . .”

Little wonder that columnist Walter Winchell called him “King Cole Porter” and TIME magazine crowned him “Man of the Year” in 1935, reporting that it was “now considered the smartest thing to know the lyric s [of his songs] by heart and rattle them off when the song is played.”

Asked what he liked, Porter said “Cats, parties, swimming, scandal, films and Peru, Indiana.”

He was often counted out but he always came back. Both his legs were crushed by a horse in a riding accident in 1937, but he endured multiple surgeries to his legs, learned to walk with canes, and wrote more Broadway musicals, Hollywood movie scores and hit songs. In WWII his music made the movie “Hollywood Canteen” a huge hit. He made Ethel Merman a star and discovered Mary Martin for the Broadway stage.

He hadn’t had a hit on Broadway for a few years and again was declared dead in the water; then in 1948 he turned Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” into his biggest hit of all, “Kiss Me Kate.”

There were more hit musicals – “Can-Can,” “Panama Hattie,” and movies “Silk Stockings,” “DuBarry Was a Lady”- studded with hit songs. He lived life to the fullest, sunning on the Riviera with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, traveling to meet the Sultan of Zanzibar, climbing Maccu Piccu, finally being honored by the state of Indiana when “Cole Porter Day” was declared in Indianapolis. This last laurel led Booth Tarkington to observe:  “Of course it’s something to be a Hoosier who became a Hollywood and Broadway celebrity; but when a New York and Broadway celebrity becomes so celebrated that he’s known in Indiana too, he has touched the mantle of fame itself.”

Porter said “if I was born twenty years earlier, I would have been an Indiana banker” – that was his father’s wish, which thankfully for the public did not come true.

What a banquet of music and story to feast on, with our star saxophonist Sophie Faught and her trio playing Porter’s songs, and novelist Cathy Day joining me to tell the story of  Linda and Cole Porter (the French called them “lecoleporteurs”) on Tuesday, June 12, at 6 pm at The Jazz Kitchen.

Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield