Tender is LeVine

a novel by

Andrew Bergman


Joel Klein writes: I'm an avid mystery fan. About five years ago, I read a tongue-in-cheek comedy about 1940s Private Eyes. The author was Andrew Bergman, a screen write, who among other things wrote "Blazing Saddles," "Fletch" and "Honeymoon in Vegas." I'm enclosing an excerpt of a brief cameo appearance from Vaughn. The hero on the run pretends to be a sax player and briefly plays with Vaughn's band. The dialogue is somewhat salty, but rich in program background.


(excerpt pp. 158-159)

I hustled back to the dressing room and studied the tenor sax charts for the midnight show. Nothing looked especially complicated. Ten minutes before show time, Monroe came into the room and threw his arm around me.

"I really appreciate this," he said in the luscious baritone. Listening to him was like slipping into a hot bath.

"Hey, it's my pleasure, Vaughn . . . and I can always use a job, however brief."

"Who've you played with, Charlie?" he asked.

"A whole shitload of hotel bands in the Catskills," I told him. "Lew Brown, for one."

"How is Lew?" Monroe asked.

"The usual," I said.

Monroe chuckled. "Still cranky as hell?"

"Maybe more so." I was shameless. Once I started lying, it was like running red lights--go through one, might as well go through them all.

"Who else?" the singer continued. He wasn't letting me off the hook so easy.

"Some other smaller bands, " I vamped. "Sy Glotzer, Irv Tapp . . . house bands in the mountains."

"Don't know them." He looked into my eyes for a scary moment. "But I'm sure you'll be fine. Any screwups, the boys'll cover for you."

He started picking through the charts. "We'll start with 'Let It Snow.'"

"Sure." I nodded.

"Then go to 'Ballerina.' I like to start with the very familiar. Particularly with these yokels. Then we'll do 'Trolley Song,' 'Tallahassee,' and 'Haunted Heart."

"Great," I mumbled, and jotted the titles down on the slip of paper.

"Then I just bullshit for a couple of minutes, tell some lousy jokes, kiss the audience's butt, tell them they're the greatest crowd I've ever played for." Monroe smiled. "Actually, the audiences here are pretty damn good. Love almost everything; I think half of them never saw a live band before."

"Lot of shitkickers out there," I said.

"Mucho shitkickers, but hey, that's not their fault. Gotta play like you're playing for the king of England." I liked this guy; he had very little pretension to him, show biz or otherwise, and after the collection of assassins and con artist I had run with for the past week, he seemed as honest and pure as Gary Cooper in a mountain stream yammering about the Spanish Civil War.

"Then I finally stop my spiel," Monroe continued, "and we do 'Racing with the Moon,' and 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady.' I introduce the Moonbeams individually, pretend to look down their dresses; that kills a couple of minutes. Then we finish with 'Riders in the Sky' and 'Mule Train.' Then I come back and do 'Ballerina.'"


"Again. And they go apeshit. This is the Wild West, Charlie. It's all news to them." He clapped me on the shoulder. "Thanks again." He turned and walked out of the room, as square-shouldered and upright as a general. I was ready to marry the guy.

The show went without a hitch, and it was just as the crooner had predicted. When he did the encore on 'Ballerina,' the yokels were jumping out of their chairs with delight and a couple of fortyish women rushed the stage. I played my charts and only got lost once, during a key change on 'Haunted Heart.' Otherwise, I admirably faked my way through the set and Monroe smiled at me a couple of times and even gave me a thumbs-up during a little run on 'Let It Snow.'

The dialog between the protagonist, Charlie, and Andrew Bergman's character of Vaughn Monroe gets progressively coarser. Bergman colors Monroe as a well-seasoned, if somewhat road-weary showman, with no false opinions of himself; a regular guy. However, he seasons the whole episode with a healthy portion of sarcasm from the mouth of our band leader in regard to the audience and the routine of the show--a little difficult to swallow for some of us Vaughn Monroe fans.

Can't argue with Bergman's descriptions:

" . . . luscious baritone."

"Listening to him was like slipping into a hot bath."

". . . as square-shouldered and upright as a general."

"I was ready to marry the guy."


"I liked this guy; he had very little pretension to him, show biz or otherwise . . ."


Commentary by: Claire Schwartz