Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Travel

A visit to Louis Armstrong museum, the 'Graceland of New York City'

NEW YORK

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Louis Armstrong museum in the modest brick house where he lived for 28 years, curators are unveiling one of the jazz trumpeter's most unusual artifacts — a plaster mask that had been stored in a cupboard for decades.

Armstrong, who documented his career in unusual ways, had the life mask with a painted bronze-patina finish made in the 1950s. David Reese, curator of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, said it reveals creases on his forehead, bags under his eyes and scars on his lips from a lifetime of horn-playing.

Museum officials still aren't sure who made the mask, but a photo of Armstrong proudly holding it alongside an unidentified couple may provide clues. Armstrong must have been pleased with it because there are photos showing it hanging in the house at the top of the stairs.

His two-story home in the Corona section of Queens is remarkably understated for the charismatic performer whose improvisational playing style and raspy singing won him fame as far back as the 1920s.

The house and its furnishings, including a funky, blue-lacquered kitchen, are virtually unchanged from when Armstrong lived there with his wife, Lucille, from 1943 to 1971, when he died from a heart attack in his bedroom at age 69.

The man known as Satchmo could have lived in a house with "a pool in the shape of a trumpet" but chose to stay in the working-class neighborhood, said Michael Cogswell, director of the national and city landmark.

"Louis wasn't treated as a celebrity here," Cogswell said. He could go to the corner barbershop and "wait his turn in line with the other men from the community."

When Armstrong's bus would return from a tour, children from the block would help carry his trumpet and suitcases inside the house. "Then Lucille would fix up bowls of ice cream for everybody, and they would watch Westerns together on TV," Cogswell said.

After Lucille died in 1983, Armstrong's vast collection of home-recorded tapes, photographs, scrapbooks and other material was donated to Queens College by the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. It is the largest publicly held archival collection devoted to a jazz musician in the world.

"The house was frozen in time. It was stuffed," Cogswell said. "Louis was a pack rat."

Queens council member Julissa Ferreras said the museum has a long-standing history "as being a mini-mecca for jazz lovers" and that Armstrong's "spirit and love of music is still very much a part of the community."

Along with the life mask, a 10th anniversary exhibition focuses on Armstrong's six-week tour of South America in 1957. Armstrong was still reeling over the "Little Rock Nine" school integration crisis in Arkansas weeks earlier, and a photograph shows him in his Buenos Aires hotel room defiantly hanging up on the U.S. ambassador, who had asked him to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at that evening's concert.

More than 100,000 people have visited the museum since its opening.

A new visitor and state-of-the-art multimedia exhibition center with a 72-seat jazz club across the street is scheduled to open in 2016. The massive archive will be moved there, allowing its current exhibition space — the Armstrongs' basement recreation room — to return to the way it looked originally.

"We want to be in our own way the Graceland of New York City," Cogswell said.

     
Comments
Actor in Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream commercial projectile vomits on SheiKra and it's no act

Actor in Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream commercial projectile vomits on SheiKra and it's no act

One of the most popular features of Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream, the annual scarefest that opens next Friday, is that you never know when a ghoul will show up next to you on the roller coasters. Some will even be on the trams that run from the...
Published: 09/14/18
Weeklong cycling trip through Montana slightly frightening at times but totally fun

Weeklong cycling trip through Montana slightly frightening at times but totally fun

WHITEFISH, Mont. You’re 16. You’re wearing your lucky jeans, your friends are picking you up soon and four hours of Saturday night stretch out before you. You have the thought: "Anything could happen tonight!" You could find love; triump...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Busch Gardens reveals plans for Tigris, Florida's tallest launch roller coaster

Busch Gardens reveals plans for Tigris, Florida's tallest launch roller coaster

Busch Gardens will open Florida’s tallest launch coaster in spring 2019, company officials announced Wednesday. The triple-launch, tiger-themed roller coaster called Tigris will hurl riders 150 feet into the sky, turn them upside down and swirl...
Published: 09/12/18
In the high mountains of Sicily, a quieter and wilder world

In the high mountains of Sicily, a quieter and wilder world

GANGI, SicilyFar from the packed beaches of Sicilyís busy coastlines, thereís a quieter and wilder world in its high mountains. In more dangerous times, this was where much of Sicilyís population settled, building castles, towns, monasteries and chur...
Updated one month ago
Super cute, endangered giraffe-like baby okapi born at ZooTampa

Super cute, endangered giraffe-like baby okapi born at ZooTampa

A shy endangered animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and zebra has given birth. ZooTampa at Lowry Park is puffed up and proud of the new parents and their part in easing the motherís transition to a successful birth. But first, look at t...
Updated one month ago
From churches to breweries, 10 behind-the-scenes tours you can take in Tampa Bay

From churches to breweries, 10 behind-the-scenes tours you can take in Tampa Bay

A good number of these tours are free.
Updated one month ago
Reality bites on a trip to find Lincolnís humble log cabin

Reality bites on a trip to find Lincolnís humble log cabin

HODGENVILLE, Ky.Years ago, Iíd heard that people making the pilgrimage to the tiny log cabin on the farm where Abraham Lincoln was born sometimes burst into tears when they glimpsed it. That alone made it seem worth a trip to Sinking Spring Farm in t...
Updated one month ago
Fall food, wine and beer festivals at Florida theme parks expect to fill bellies, profits

Fall food, wine and beer festivals at Florida theme parks expect to fill bellies, profits

Back in 1995 when Epcot launched its International Food and Wine Festival, the idea was to generate attendance during the slow period in the fall. It worked. After two decades, the festival is mobbed on the weekends and has grown to one of Walt Disne...
Updated one month ago
What to expect at Epcotís International Food and Wine Festival this year

What to expect at Epcotís International Food and Wine Festival this year

How soon until Epcot is just one big food festival? Weíre getting close. Once just a month long, the annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is up to 75 days in its 23rd year, beginning Aug. 30 and running through the middle of November. Th...
Updated one month ago
SeaWorld to put more than 100 beers on tap in new Craft Beer Festival

SeaWorld to put more than 100 beers on tap in new Craft Beer Festival

SeaWorld has started using food as bait to save the troubled company from floundering attendance, and this fall it will put some craft beer on the hook. Its nearby Aquatica water park is also adding Latin flavors to the mix in September. The park ha...
Updated one month ago