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All in Good Time

Review

All in Good Time



Jonathan Schwartz grew up with advantages many of us would envy,
including a famous father (Arthur Schwartz, songwriter/composer), a
beautiful mother, and celebrities like Judy Garland to sing him to
sleep. But would we envy him if we knew the price he paid?

He was a lonely only child, pushed out of the house or consigned to
caretakers as his parents tried to cope with the on-again,
off-again caprices of fortune in the music business and his
mother's slow-acting fatal illness. His father was both remote and
compelling; the man who wrote "You and the Night and the Music" and
"Dancing in the Dark" gave little Jonno a lot to live up to. The
kid's first attention-getting scheme was his own radio station,
broadcasting twice a day in his apartment building. This he rigged
up at age nine, incredibly, with a baby monitor and a microphone.
He distributed a daily schedule to every tenant, read weather and
news and spun records from the lobby. He grew up to be a real DJ,
noted for his laid-back style and encyclopedic knowledge of
music.

But the growing up part happened slowly, arguably reaching well
into his majority, as he battled with demon drink, his mother's
death and his stepmother --- a cast-iron bitch who effectively shut
Jonno out of his father's life.

Along the way on this dark journey, Jonathan became an adoring fan
of Frank Sinatra. More than that: He knew more about Sinatra's
music than Sinatra did. And, in a series of great scenes, he gets
to meet his icon and exchange with him the coin of unflinching
no-bullshit honesty --- a currency that was both catnip and threat
to Sinatra.

Schwartz is nothing if not candid. He often trashed good
relationships in his struggle to paste together a reasonable
identity for himself. He drank himself halfway to death. But he's
not maudlin about all that. If anything, he's downright funny about
his screw-ups --- the image of him hugging the bidet in his Paris
flat, naively assuming that a drunkard's excesses were the raison
d'etre of that foreign receptacle, forms part of the humorous
framework of this mad, sad saga.

Along with the frankness came an ability to spin a tale on the air,
as he honed his skills as a DJ. He was a natural, weaving cool
silken strands of mystery in a voice meant for only you. These
stories were tuneless lullabies, ideal counterpoint to the music he
loved.

Schooled in the classic show tunes and jazz of his father's era, he
was asked to DJ a modern music show when folk and rock, Dylan and
Led Zep and the Stones were on the charts. He bought the albums,
listened, patched together a demo, and got the job. He came to love
creating a groove --- "from Joan Baez at the start, her long hair
streaming down her back, blowing in the wind, her acoustic guitar a
hollowed angel in her hands...then Jefferson Airplane, "White
Rabbit," psychedelic, sinister..." through Hendrix, the Beatles,
Buddy Miles, in a loop back to Baez. His FM show. His
theater.

Dropping his father's name when needed, he moved in heady high
circles, in Vegas and the Big Apple. But the booze caught up with
him. One day he wrote a letter, a bitter nasty grieving letter, to
his estranged father, and indicated he would be killing himself
soon. Luckily he didn't, but did have himself committed to a public
treatment facility for a few days. Later the treatment matched his
purse: a month at the Betty Ford Clinic, where he met Liz Taylor
and Sissy Spacek's gynecologist, among others, and stayed the
course. But he finds himself at odds with AA, though he knows it
has a big part of the picture he's trying, still, to piece
together.

With the death of his father and the death, more public, of Old
Blue Eyes, his surrogate dad, the book ends. Jonno is a grown-up by
now. He's forged a nice relationship with his half brother, a
composer, and they collaborate on a concert of their father's
music. That's synthesis, a kind of harmony that many of us would
envy, but not if we knew the price that had been paid for it.

All in Good Time
by Jonathan Schwartz

  • Publication Date: March 2, 2004
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 037550480X
  • ISBN-13: 9780375504808