The Love Issue: Celebrating all of the passion around us

Sometimes, love gets a bad rap. It’s been called fickle, flighty, frothy and fleeting, something that tends to fade in a world of grim realities and absolutes. We’re told that we fall in love, akin to stumbling into a ditch or stepping off a cliff.

But here at Jmore, we believe that love is indeed eternal and never goes out of fashion, and we subscribe to the notion put forth by the title of that old movie and tune, “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

Romantic love, while being wonderful and enthralling, is only but one form of the L-word. Passion and affection transcend the concept of two individuals with deep or amorous feelings for each other. It extends to love for other themes, concepts and interests, such as music, cars or animals.

In this “Love Issue,” we offer five examples of people who have a love and passion for a few of their favorite things. We sincerely hope you love it! — JMORE STAFF

Loving the Stars in My Eyes 

Many years ago when I was just a kid, the Baltimore County Public Library’s “Bookmobile” used to roll into my neighborhood every two weeks and you could check out books on all matters of interest. I always took out show business books and movie star bios, most of them comedy-oriented.

I really don’t know why I was so fascinated with this genre, although I always read comic books and religiously bought Mad magazine before graduating to National Lampoon, so my interest in humor was pretty strong. Drawing cartoons at an early age probably contributed.

Learning there were grand old theaters that presented vaudeville and stage shows in a different era became another lifetime obsession of mine. The concept of movies and a stage show was alien to a young boy in the 1960s who went to the old Liberty Theatre in Randallstown every Saturday to watch kiddie flicks.

Gradually, the era of nightclubs, jazz clubs, ballrooms and theaters became my researching passion. The reason I believe my mind zeroed in on the post-World War II period of entertainment is because those times just don’t exist anymore. That was an era I love, when people dressed up to go out dancing or to watch a floor show consisting of a chorus line of beautiful girls.

It was classy and elegant, unlike what I view as the mediocrity and casual attitudes of today.

I love that it was not politically incorrect then to wear mink stoles or smoke incessantly in bars and clubs. After all, what would classic clubs like the Copacabana or the Latin Quarter be like without the haze of smoke permeating one’s expensive suit?

I eventually wrote two books about Atlantic City’s famed Steel Pier of yesteryear. I did so because, quite simply, no one else had written a book or permanent record on this fabulous entertainment venue. It was long overdue. I researched everything about it that I could get my hands on and was fortunate enough to interview Chubby Checker, Frankie Valli, Dick Clark and Artie Shaw, and even made friends with Rat Pack comic Joey Bishop.

When I visited Bishop at his home in Southern California, I had to pinch myself as I sat there kibitzing with him in his living room. He was an older man, just like any guy you’d see hanging out in a suburban mall somewhere. But to me, this was a comedy legend who’d hung out with Sinatra, Sammy and Dino, and performed at the premier clubs and theaters around the country.

In my travels through the years, I have picked up countless old issues of Variety, Billboard, DownBeat and Metronome, all vintage showbiz bibles. Looking through them is a blast for me. By merely reading the ads, I can visualize going to those famous nightclubs, theaters, burlesque houses, boardwalks and circuses. I love that I can view full pages where bands and entertainers were playing across the country and entertaining the masses.

That era of hotel dance orchestras, jazz in small clubs on 52nd Street in New York, and large-tiered nightclubs with headlining comics and singers is long gone. But I love the fact that they even existed at all, in another time, another universe.

Steve Liebowitz is a Baltimore- based freelance writer and author of “Steel Pier, Atlantic City: Showplace of the Nation” (Down the Shore Publishing) and “Steel Pier” (Arcadia Publishing).