Ain’t Nothin But A Party!
Although my building has over a hundred apartments there is a core group of longtime tenants who are like and extended family. Built at the turn of the century, this building was designed for an affluent class. the interior design is modeled on the interior architecture of Versailles Palace in France, with servant’s entrances in the larger apartments like mine. Once the home of Louis 16th and Marie Antoinette before they were beheaded in the Revolution of 1789, Versailles is famous for its marble and gold leaf, elaborate cornices and mouldings, and beautiful doors of paned glass – what we popularly refer to as “French doors.” The annual Christmas Party is held in the elegant Lobby, made of polished Italian marble with a marvelous ceiling of stained Tiffany Glass. Christmas comes but once a year but when it comes it brings good cheer!!! Here is some of my impressions from this years Christmas Party.
I would like to dedicate this Christmas card to Mr. Matthew Golson Sr – the greatest landlord in the world!!! In the more than 30 years I have lived in my apartment – which was once occupied by the great Paul Robeson – I began a career as a writer and probably would not have been able to sustain it had it not been for many kind considerations I received from Mr. Golson. But given his characteristic modesty I doubt that he has ever thought of it that way. He attended the Party, and when he came over and started talking to me, I must confess that I wasn’t sure who he was. This is because I have not seen him in years and although he is 92 years old he looks like a man in his sixties!
I was on my way to write a review of a Latin Show at the time and I had no batteries for my camera, as I intended to pick some up along the way. That’s why I don’t have any pictures of him in this photo-essay. Hence you will simply have to rely on my powers of description. The first thing one notices about Mr. Golson is his elegance of style and manner. He has the kind of quiet self-assurance that makes him both a man’s man and a ladies man.
He is a paragon of black male elegance that is rapidly fading away. Matthew Golson is the living embodiment of an age that produced such paragon’s of black male high style and genius as Duke Ellington – who used to live right around the corner – Nat King Cole, Joe Louis – who lived in the building when he was Champ – Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson – a building alum - Sugar Ray Robinson, Billy Ekstine, Andy Kirk – who lived in the building until he danced and joined the ancestors well into his nineties, and legions of others. That they were the most elegant, stylish and graceful men in America – since they and their sisters invented all the nation’s popular dances from the Charleston to the Lindy Hop – it beyond question! The white folks love to talk about “The Greatest Generation’….well I think these black, brown and beige men and women were the greatest Generation!
I know quite a lot about our history, having once been a history professor. So you can take my word for it when I say it is a matter of historical fact that everything white men had to overcome in order to advance in America black men also had to overcome plus deal with the formidable barrier of racism! And from just what I have been able to see of Mr. Golson’s business acumen in the real estate business here in New York City – a Darwinian world where unbridled greed and racism prevail even in these relatively enlightened times – it must be considered something of a miracle.
It occurred to me that evening as I watched Mr. Golson dapping around the room – “Sharp as a Mississippi sissy on Easter Sunday morning,” as my uncle Buddy used to say – it occurred to me that here was a fascinating story waiting to be told. And I shall tell as soon as I can interview him! It is the kind of triumphant story all young people should hear – especially young black males. I am certain that it is the kind of heroic story that can save some of their lives…and inspire others to greatness!
It’s a Wonderful Place For A Party
An Elegant Vestibule of Abundant Space
And What A Party We Had!
As Christmas Decorations Adorned The Room
Most Everybody Was There
Old, Young And….
….Beautiful Babies Too!
A Born Star!
Everybody wanted to hug him Up
As Proud Parents Looked On
With Miles Of Smiles
Grand Parents Were Hangin Out Too
My Good Friend Vanessa Chillin With Her Grandson
There was great food, plentiful drink…
….and polite conversation
And Joyous Laughter!
The Overweight Lover Was In the House!
Rockin da Crowd!
Everybody Was Dancing
Droppin it like it’s Hot!
Doin It To Death!
But The Young Bloods Stole The Show!
Doing tha Douggie!
They Were Down with It….
And Couldn’t Quit It!
They Threw their Hands In the Air
And Boogied Like they Just Didn’t Care
Moving and Grooving
Tha Boyz Was Doin It!
Strutting their Stuff!
Letting It all Hang Out
The Grown Folks Took The Floor
This Is How We do It!
But This Is What’s Happening
A Great Musician Was In the House!
Partying Hardy With The Ladies
And A World Renowned Artist
All The Way From Ethiopia
The Mixologist Kept the Spirits Flowing
Yo! Pick your Poison…I Just Serve It
We Had A Jolly Good Time!
And We Owe It all…
To the Tenants Committee!
Merry Christmas To All!
Livin Large On Sugar Hill!
Photos and Text by: Playthell Benjamin
- Photo of Makeda and Samori By:
- June Benjamin