I'm Teresa for In Your Neighborhood and EyeWitness News.
Teresa: Tonight we bring you Ami Jeanine Sabatier's story in her own words. The following program includes a drama based on the journal writings of Ami beginning in 1923 by the NorthWestern Drama Department
Our Chicago Love Story began in June of 1923. A seventeen-year-old Creole girl arrived in Chicago via train from New Orleans. Her bags held a few dresses, an empty journal, and her soul filled with music. More than anything, Miss Sabatier wanted to sing on the stage.
Journal entry, June 17, 1923, Chicago at last
Ami: I sat for an hour waiting for someone to answer the door at 1375. I was clearly in the right place in Chicago, but no one seemed at home.
I will try again! BANG, BANG!
I didn't think it became this hot here in Chicago.
Hours later, an Appointment only? But, I have an appointment for today. BANG!
And later, SOMEONE, is ANYONE THERE! Oh, my it's hot! I need to sit for a time.
I had to rest, to think, and I dozed off, until someone had their hand on my head.... What!!!!
Tall Man: Mizzz, wake up---you can't sleep here!
I lashed out, startled by a tall stranger with the softest brown eyes. He backed away quickly, just as my kick missed him. Ma-ma taught me well, I know how to take care of myself.
Go Away! Please, leave me alone.
Tall Man: Well Mizz, who are you waiting for? It's dusk now and customers will be coming. You can't sit or sleep here.
Are you lost, may I help you? I play the sax, are you a musician?
Ami: (I couldn't place his drawl...so different from the whispered Creole from New Orleans. And he has an attitude.)
Ami: I sing a little---my uncle sent me here. He said I would have more opportunities to sing with his friend, Mr. Carney. But, no one is here...sniff, and I've been here all day...sniff-- and the train ride was horrible! I'm so tired and hot!
Why does no one answer?
Tall Man: Mizzy, you don't know about the buzzer, it's right here behind the bush. One long and three short---for thirteen. The first two numbers of this address.
Ami: Oh....I never saw, I've just been knocking and banging on the door.
Tall Man: Mizzy, the buzzer is the only way in. Mr. Dan has a Speak Easy in the lower level, that's how anyone safely enters.
Ami: Well, I never! One long and three short, THERE.
I thank you, Mr. Saxophone man and I'm sorry for almost kicking you. I'm Ami Jeanine Sabatier, and I'm going to sing, here in Chicago. I know I will.
Sax Man: I'm Sonnie Louis Wright and perhaps we will make music together. You can call me Sax-man, if you wish.
Just then a gorgeous red-haired lady appeared from the door with wine bottles on ice. Her blue dress and jewelry shimmered in the late afternoon light. She was so fine.
Mrs. Carney: I'm Delores, you must be that Amy girl my Dan said was coming from, well on the train from somewhere.
Ami: New Orleans, Ma'm. I'm Ah-Mee Sabatier, and I'm here to sing, right here in Chicago.
Well, honey right now I need a hostess for a private party. All you have to do is keep glasses filled and bring them something to eat now and then. Do you have another dress? Can you do that? I don't let any hanky-panky go on around here, understand? That's all the rules there are.
Ami: Um, I do have another dress, not as fine as yours. I can help, just like I helped my pa-pa. But, my uncle told me you would help me be a singer.
Delores: Well, Honey, not tonight. You have the looks for sure. If your pipes are as beautiful as you are, you will be very busy working. But, right now, I need serving help and Sonnie, you show Ah-mee to Room 3. Then get dressed and set up your band together on the main floor.
Sonnie: Of course, Mrs. C....follow me, Ah-mee to your new digs.
Delores: Better hurry, we have a customers arriving.
Ami: Delores waved at the car full of 'clients' as we went into the Carney Talent Agency/Speak Easy. What an exciting place. But, upstairs it was even hotter than the sidewalk.
Upstairs I took a breath, then there was a knock on my the room door. He walked in before I could even answer.
Daniel: Hello and welcome to the Carney Talent Agency, Miss Sabatier. We are pleased to have you here in our little establishment. I hope the room is satisfactory. However, sometimes you may have to share it.
Surprised I said, "With whom? I'm not that kind of lady, Sir."
Daniel: Oh, no...we do none of that here. Perhaps another young lady such as your self, a musician or singer for a day or two. We handle many acts that are of...color or mixed bloods, and finding places to stay close to where they will be working is sometimes a problem. So, we have them stay here. We are one very large musical family.
Ami: Hmmmm. Of course that I had no problem sharing a room with anyone female. (Just to be clear, I must learn the ways of Chicago.)
Daniel: Are your cheeks always that red? Perhaps you had too much sun, I suppose. Delores said you were waiting for hours. The front vestibule to this building is sound-proofed, so no sound goes in or out. That way we don't disturb anyone when we are entertaining our customers.
You are very lovely though! Can you really sing?
Stand up and turn around for me. Hmmmm..that's a lot of hair. The girls in Chicago are wearing their hair short.
Great legs, how old are you?
I replied, I'm seventeen and eighteen in August. My hair will stay this way, always long, and of course I can sing.
(I didn't sit on a train for two days to get here and wait on tables.)
(I don't know what he thought about me after that, Mr. Dan just sat quietly while I sang an old Creole ballad saying nothing.)
(I sobbed) I know, you want to send me back. I'm not right for this place.
Carney: Oh my, sweet girl, I think you are very young. With some classes, a little polish, some new clothes, we will have you Chicago stage ready in no time. I promise.
(He shook his finger at me, and said,) And, you have a great set of pipes, we just need to work on your low-notes.
Ami: Thank you, Mr. Dan. I know I can use some help on my lower register. My papa has told me time and time again...breathe.
Daniel: Get yourself cleaned up, borrow some powder from my Missus, and we will see you downstairs in the lower level in say a half-an-hour.
I'll send in a dress in of Delores' that will do for tonight, and tomorrow you two can go shopping! And, all tips go to the house and are split between all the help---so every job here gets rewarded! I will see you downstairs.
Suddenly, I was all alone in a new place, with different customs and some language I didn't understand. Mr. Daniel was dashing and a fast talker. But, he has kind eyes and I must make this work.
Looking in the mirror I could see my cheeks were flaming red---from the sun. Gran Mer would scold me so. I slathered cream on to calm my fiery skin, and rubbing hope into my soul.
Mr. Dan said I had a great pipes. (Then I lowered my voice and said,)
Mr. Dan said
I had a great
Journal, I have begun my future in Chicago
and I'm on my way to
Teresa: What a wonderful story. Ami in her own words. This dress, was found in the hidden room, and the white ermine stole worn by Ami and very well preserved. The 1920's music covers are prints of some of the actual music found in Sonnie's folder on the table along with what appears to be original jazz compositions and arrangements.
Teresa: Channel 7 wants to thank the Drama Department at Northwestern and for the University of Chicago archives for bringing to life the couple and with the translations of many passages in Ami's journal.
Our next episode, 8 will explore the careers of Ami Jeanine Sabatier's rise to Chicago songstress and the musician or Sax Man, Sonnie Louis Wright.
(To be continued)
Here are all the posts on this storyline.
Authors Note: I'm fighting eye strain at the moment, hence the delays. It seems this blogger can't work on miniatures and computers 16 hours a day without getting eye strain, so I have to give my eyes a rest when needed.
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