Thursday, October 29, 2009

LOU JACOBI "Al Tijuana" Herb Alpert comic was 95

Among Demento-heads, Lou Jacobi was best known as "Al Tijuana," for a late 60's Capitol parody album that kosherized music in Herb Alpert's style.

I'll tell you an anecdote about Lou Jacobi. I was on a crosstown bus, and as I looked out the window, I felt like I was in a Woody Allen movie. There in front of me, in cinemascope via the long bus windows, was Lou Jacobi, slowly puffing to catch the bus. I looked up ahead. The last passenger waiting was paying the fare. The bus driver began to pull away just as Lou made it to the bus stop.

I watched him as the bus pulled away, leaving him behind.

He had a smile on his face.

That tells you something about Mr. genuine his attitude was about the comedy of life. Somebody else would've been cursing, shaking his head, feeling enraged. But in Mr. Jacobi's gentle world, no doubt influenced by Sholom Aleichem and centuries of ironic Jewish humor, he simply smiled. What do you expect? Of course when you run for a bus, it pulls out the minute you get to the door!

Toronto-born Louis Jacobovitch started as a stand-up comedian but found more success as a character actor, first in England (his film debut was in the Diana Dors comedy "Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary") then on Broadway in 1955 for "The Diary of Anne Frank." He appeared in the film version, too, and his movie credits include "My Favorite Year," "Irma La Douce," "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex," and "Avalon." His last film was "I.Q." in 1994.

Mr. Jacobi even had a chance at sitcom stardom, via the obscure and short-lived "Ivan the Terrible" in 1976.

He had hits on vinyl, being the lead in the ensemble cast albums "You Don't Have to be Jewish" and "When You're In Love the Whole World is Jewish." Then he "starred" on his own album, "Al Tijuana and his Jewish Brass," giving introductions to klezmer-spiked versions of hit tunes of the odd attempt to win over some Jewish listeners of Herb Alpert records (Yes, Alpert himself was also Jewish). The key selling point was that warmly familiar and comical Lou Jacobi face and body on the cover.

The album, which WFMU uploaded in nice stereo years ago, isn't exactly a laugh riot, just gently tilted. "Buenos noches, amigos and amigettes," Lou announces on the opening track, "this is Al Tijuana with the sweetest music this side of the Rio Grande." Indeed, opening cut "It's Not Unusual" is played pretty straight...except for a bit of kazoo and overenthusiastic marimba. "That's NOT the sweetest music this side of the Rio Grande?" Lou asks midway through. He answers his own question: "It's the sweetest music on either side of the Rio Grande!"

The disc was aimed at middle-aged Hadassah listeners who might smirk at hearing a Tevye-like "bum bum didel-ee-yum dum" chorus replacing Henry Mancini's prowling bass line on "Peter Gunn," or "Downtown" with a fiddler on the roof interjecting a solo. Lou: "You like it! You keep asking for it. You're getting it!" And yes, at one point you hear, "Ole, ole. Oy vey, oy vey!" Like Lou himself, the album wasn't too pushy. It was more of an easy-listening novelty album than anything to rival Allan Sherman.

The humor was simply in the familiar characterization of a Jewish uncle getting silly (and crooning "Doobie doobie do" ala Sinatra during "Stranger in the Night."). The instrumentals that jonesed the originals weren't Spiked with wild sound effects. There were no punchy gags. Al introduces "Never on Sunday" as actually being "Never on Saturday." One song merely ends: "That's it, amigos and amigettes, from Al Tijuana and his Jewish Brass...until next time, Hasta Luego. Or, how you say...goodbye, Bubbie." Adios, Mr. Jacobi, and thanks for the autographed photo.

Mr. Jacobi's wife Ruth died in 2004 (they were married in 1957) and he passed away on October 23rd.



Anonymous said...

Hello dudes!

I just wanted to say hi

Muchas Gracias!

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Woody Allen's films are very classic, your anecdote is equal to what happens in one of the movies, this crucial time in the bus where the driver walks away and is a person who does not arrive on time and one is left watching the window as the person moves away.

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