A recent “06880” story on the death of Hal Holbrook noted his 1959 Halloween appearance — as Mark Twain, of course — at Staples High.
I wrote: “The school had just opened its modern North Avenue campus. The PTA had an active arts program, bringing musicians, dancers and actors to the new auditorium stage. Hal Holbrook might have been the most famous name of all.”
He sure had competition. As John Kelley notes, in those early days of the new high school, Ottilie Kaufman — who lived right next to the south entrance — organized and produced a one-of-a-kind, first-ever performing arts series at Staples that included (in addition to Holbrook) the Weavers, Marcel Marceau, Ferrante and Teicher, Odetta, Sir John Gielgud , Andrés Segovia and others.
Segovia — a world-renowned Spanish classical guitarist — died in 1987, at 94. But his legacy — and his visit here — lives on.
Soon after another legendary Latin musician — José Feliciano — turned 75 last year, our Weston neighbor received a gift: Segovia’s footstool.
Autographed. And from that March 1960 Staples concert.
The back story: Prior to his show, Segovia came to the Kaufmans’ home next door to the high school. He warmed up in the living room using that footstool. Many classical guitarists do that; it supports the instrument, as they play seated.
Growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1950s, Feliciano was highly influenced by the skills and intrigue of Segovia’s delicate flamenco style.
The antique stool sat in the Kaufman family’s attics for decades — first on North Avenue, then at Ottilie and Zenn’s son Roger’s house. A guitarist, singer and founder of Old School Music’s concerts, promotions and events, he’s as famous locally as Feliciano and Segovia are internationally.
The stool seemed a fitting present for Feliciano, who always sits when he plays. Now the “Feliz Navidad” and “Light my Fire” Latin/jazz/blues/soul/rock musician is sitting pretty with Segovia’s stool in hand — er, under foot.