Thursday, July 31, 2014

Project Cubbins: Hat 431 - Have Lester Lanin Lid Will Travel Edition

Day 431 / Hat 431: Pink bucket hat with four-panel crown, white pompom on top and the name "Lester Lanin" screen printed in blue script on the brim. Interior tag reads: "Made in USA." Fabrication unknown but likely cotton or a cotton/poly blend.

Today's hat, from the Bride's headgear holdings, is in the spirit of the Throwback Thursday phenomenon that's gripped Facebook for the last several months and is most likely the single most meaningful lid to be featured to date.

Lester Lanin, you see, was a society bandleader without parallel who had a career that stretched across some eight decades -- from shortly before Barbara Hutton's 1930 coming out party to 2001 when he put down his baton but the bands under his name kept touring. To give you a little insight into the man and his milieu, here's an excerpt from his 2004 New York Times obituary:

He supplied danceable happiness to several generations of the richest and most beautiful people on earth, at events ranging from Queen Elizabeth's 60th birthday party to the wedding of Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel to the private parties of the duPonts, Chryslers and Mellons.

He made music for Grace Kelly's engagement party, and at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. He wrote "My Lady Love" in honor of their marriage. The kings of Norway, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden hired him.

He played every presidential inauguration since Eisenhower's, except two. Jimmy Carter thought he was too expensive, and George W. Bush didn't invite him.

He often had several bands touring at once (hence the title of the album I'm

Detail from the back of "Have Band Will Travel"
holding in the above photo) and according to the NYT obit, by 1992 they had played some 20,000 wedding receptions, 7,500 parties and 4,500 proms. One of the signatures of a Lester Lanin gig was giving out hundreds of colored hat emblazoned with "Lester Lanin" in the distinctive script also visible in the above photo.  It's estimated that he gave away some 50,000 such hats a year.

At the time of his 2004 death there were only two Lester Lanin Orchestra bands still touring and, due to the Admiral's considerable generosity, one of those two bands played at my 2003 wedding reception where I danced to "Moonlight in Vermont" with the freshly minted Bride. (Way to bury the lead, right?) The colorful shower of caps upon the crowd later in the evening was a memory not soon to be forgotten 

While this hat-tip is ultimately due the Admiral, the assist to Lester Lanin and his merry music makers for a hat-toss ritual that's brought wearable memories to so many.  

PC 331: Lucky Steampunk
PC 131: Black, Hairy Beret
A Year Ago Today in Project Cubbins

Q: OK, nice hat -- but what exactly is Project Cubbins, anyway?

A: One man's homage to Dr. Seuss and his second book, "The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins," which celebrated the 75th anniversary of its publication in 2013, Project Cubbins is an attempt to document the wearing of a different hat or piece of headgear every day for 500 consecutive days. No do-aheads, no banking of hats, no retroactive entries. PC started on May 27, 2013 with Hat 1.

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