I don't recall the first time that I meet Dandy Wellington, but I like to think that it is a few minutes after he has made himself right at home on a stage somewhere, fronting for his band and flashing that cheshire cat grin from underneath his trademarked Stetson, the one he wears with the rakish tilt and the turned-down brim. Perhaps it is over at the Hudson Cafeteria, or maybe it is the Hotel Chantelle or Cafe Tallulah. Anyway, I am pretty sure that I see him on a stage somewhere downtown before that night at Bergdorf's, where he is sporting a midnight blue Brioni dinner jacket with an embroidered paisley design, the kind that your eyes kind of get lost in after the fourth or fifth Pimm's Cup. This fellow is just killin' it, I say to myself, and he hasn't even seen him do a set yet. As if on cue, he takes his place at the center of the make-shift stage area on the mezzanine and the band is off and running, and of course I am off with them - back to that era of wonderful nonsense as Westbrook Pegler once called it.
Don't hold me to it, but I am pretty sure that the band breaks into "Lulu's Back In Town" that night at Bergdorf's. I hear them play that tune a couple of times in a few different places, and every time I hear it I can't help but wonder if anybody asked the band to play that one for Bernard "Lulu" Rosenkranz when he blew back into the big city, after Dutch Schultz was acquitted on income tax evasion charges in Malone, New York, during that glorious summer of 1935 when the song was still just a few months old.
The very first time that I actually lay eyes on this fellow Wellington, he is wearing plus fours with a natty blazer, a snappy bow tie, and an eight-piece pie cap that is positively exquisite in its floppiness. The ensemble is topped off by smile that radiates sheer joy as he hops around the dance floor that has been positioned right in front of the main stage of the Jazz-Age Law Party on Governor's Island. It doesn't look like the Charleston or the Lindy Hop but then again I'm not an expert in these things. I could just as easily call it the Happy Dandy or the Lively Wellington or something to that effect.
My little girl and I are off to the side of the bandstand with an unobstructed view of this guy with the happy feet and the sunny disposition, and we both can see that this fellow is surrounded by quite a few sets of eyes and even more smiles. Someone behind me tells a friend that this fellow is from Harlem and now my smile is as big as anyone's, and the little girl and I both join in the round of applause for Dandy Wellington, purveyor of well-dressed jazz and last of the great uptown dandies.