Monday, August 08, 2005

Satchmo in Queens

My buddy Jill noted in a comment back on Thursday that it was Louis Armstrong's birthday; he would have been 104 this year. Coincidentally, I was reading the latest New Yorker this weekend, and the "About Town" column's subject was about Armstrong's home in the borough of Queens, New York, which was officially opened to visitors in 2003.

According to, the Louis Armstrong House at 34-36 107th in Corona is New York's "newest museum." The site erroneously claims Louis and Lucille Armstrong lived in it for five decades. For Louis it was actually around 30 years. Lucille bought the house in 1943, and he died there in 1971. She remained living in the house until her death in 1983, still a little short of five decades.

From all reports, it was clearly Lucille's house. The tour includes such sights as a turquoise kitchen from the 1960s, original oil paintings by Tony Bennett, LeRoy Neiman, and Calvin Bailey, a spectacular bathroom with gold fixtures and mirror-covered walls, and Louis' den, where he wrote letters to his fans and visited with friends and neighbors.

In some rooms, a hidden audio system plays excerpts from Louis' home-recorded tapes - visitors hear Armstrong telling jokes and band stories, Louis and Lucille eating dinner, and Louis playing with General, the family Boston Terrier.

Both The New Yorker and a Web review note the museum has a gift shop not only carrying all the turista items you'd expect, but also packets of Armstrong's favorite laxative, Swiss Kriss.

"I take my Swiss Kriss, man, they keep you rollin'. Old Methuselah, he'd have been here with us if he had known about them." -- Louis Armstrong in The Louis Armstrong Story by Max Jones & John Chilton.

Sources:; Offbeat Travel; All About Jazz; Liberty Hall; The New Yorker

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guess who else was a loyal Swiss Kriss fan? John Lennon, no less. Must be a musician thing. I recall a photo of him circa 1970 playing guitar in bed, and there on the nightstand is the Swiss Kriss box.
Do I smell a Rico photo search in the making? :-)!