In this debut memoir, a Canadian man looks back on his 17 globe-spanning years in the hospitality industry, from bartender to maître d’.
In the two years between dropping out of school and taking a bartending course at age 20, Nicolle had held more than 25 jobs, including janitor, truck driver and assembly-line worker at an automotive plant and a wallpaper factory. He’d flunked tests for the police force and the Armed Forces. So why bartending? Nicolle liked to travel and he liked to drink; he hoped to meet girls; and “After all,” he writes, “I figured that I only live once.” This decision led to a life of rootless travel; on leaving Canada, he writes, “It would be ten years before I owned another car. Eight years before I would have my own address again. Ten years before I would own any furniture.” Bouncing from country to country, ski resort to private club to cruise ship, hard-working Nicolle improved his skills along the way, such as learning French and taking a Cordon Bleu pastry course. Not all of his decisions were successful, such as his attempt to join the Canadian Navy (he washed out in basic training). But often Nicolle’s gambles paid off, as with working at an exacting Swiss hotel: “[M]ost of all I learned that when it comes to service there is never any room for excuses.” Nicolle does a good job weaving his tangled back-and-forth travels into a coherent narrative and is especially interesting when talking about the nuts and bolts of what bartenders, waiters and maître d’s actually do. The memoir could use some editing (for example, eliminating unnecessary use of the phrase “you could say”), and Nicolle can be overly offhand; a funny waiter “would have us bent over laughing so hard. Some of his jokes I still remember to this day.” Well? Usually, though, Nicolle’s conversational style works, and he has some good, pithy lines to offer: “In Switzerland, perfection is a requirement.”
A bit unpolished, but a quick-moving account of a nomadic life.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)