On the corner stood August Darnell, 65 and wearing two-tone dress shoes and high-waisted trousers, a gray fedora skimming over his right ear. In the early Eighties, when the venue was still called the Ritz, he and his band Kid Creole and the Coconuts played here almost monthly, performing an exaggerated Caribbean cabaret that was equal parts Mighty Sparrow and Louis Prima. Now, thirty years later, he just wants to find a coffee shop. “Believe it or not, I don’t like crowds,” he says. “I stay away from crowds. When I’m doing my shows, I get enough of that lifestyle.”
Darnell grew up in the Bronx of The Wanderers, but more than the gangs, he remembers the music. “I could walk out of my house and hear Tito Puente playing on one block and Elvis Presley playing on the next block and hear some jazz or Caribbean music on the next,” he says. Some kids became fighters, but Darnell survived through his sense of humor, chasing his love for Broadway and old Hollywood into the drama program at Hofstra University.
“Disco was strict,” says Darnell, reflecting on the Savannah Band’s achievement. “Record companies told you you had to have that formula in order to have a hit record.” Punk, even for a thirty-year-old swing fan, felt like freedom.
The New York Darnell remembers, the one that he glorifies in Cherchez la Femme, is a place where nothing was out of bounds. “The whole feeling of it, the vibe, the electricity, and the whole element of that cross-culturization that Kid Creole and Dr. Buzzard were so proud of is in the musical,” he says. “We didn’t fit in, but New York was the place to not fit in.”
But the fave pullquote:
(In 1990, Prince gave Darnell his song “The Sex of It” because, says Darnell, “he felt sorry for us not having a hit in America.”)
+Note: These are just some of the highlights that rekindled the long-lost love affair for Kid Creole & The Coconuts from my early formative years. There was nothing else like them before or since, and the article is filled with many great remembrances of that fertile downtown NYC scene of the 80s. Read the entire article at the link below: