Joan and Mimi Baez Sing to Scott Rubel
In the following letter my father, Chris Rubel, refers to the music Joan and Mimi played and sang and says he doesn't remember what it was. However, this is one of the first memories I have of a specific event in my life, and it is vivid. I was barely four years old and when we met Joan and Mimi at the Wigwam Motel. I remember that the whole scene with the teepees and their wild dress had me quite anxious with the unfamiliarity of it all. In fact I believe I began to cry with panic. The best part of that memory is being comforted by my mother, Lavon, while Joan and Mimi smiled sweetly and played soothing songs and some lullabyes. During those early years of living at Redlands University Campus Veterans' Village I grew accustomed to these outlandish sorts. Many of the students who came to visit were beginning to let their freak flag fly, and I still remember a darkened room with all the shades pulled and the light from the anti-nuclear film reflecting off the thick black rimmed glasses of one of my father's friends who sported a haircut known as the Mohawk.
In the following letter I have done a little checking and added some links to my father's words.
From Chris to son Scott Rubel, August 8, 2008
What a fun memory you’ve collected! Lavon may not remember it the same way, but it was an event. Naseeb Dujani (sp?) from Lebanon, was a classmate of mine at Redlands. Lavon thought he was about the handsomest man she’d ever seen. His brother was in Jordan, working for a prince. We lived in Veterans’ Village at the U. of Redlands, which you probably remember somewhat. This was 1960 (so you were three or four), soon after her appearance at the Newport, Rhode Island Folk Festival, which was a famous event of which I knew nothing. We invited Naseeb for dinner and I went to pick him up. He asked me, “Would you mind if I invited a couple of friends of mine?” I said they’d be welcomed, without consulting with Lavon, which was my first error of the evening.
We went to the Wigwam Motel, west of San Bernardino on the north side of 66, and Naseeb got the family out or we went in. I met Joan and Mimi’s mother and father. He was a physicist, I think, having taught at Pomona College, and she was a teacher in Claremont for a time. Joan and Mimi, with their long, black hair, wore shorts, black skirts, and red, satin tops and buckskin type coats with long fringes on the sleeves. They wore stylish black boots, as I recall. Dressed alike and looked alike. They were both really good looking and they got into the back seat of our 1950 Chevrolet Station wagon with their guitars.
Naseeb told me nothing about them, but they said they were really tired and had been traveling all day and Mimi was still kind of car sick from their trip. So, when we got to the Veterans' Village, Naseeb introduced them to Lavon and told Lavon they didn’t speak English, so they wouldn’t have to be too social. They weren’t hungry, which meant we didn’t have to fix more food. Lavon hated for anyone to exclude her and hated to be fooled, which was error number two for me. I just went along with the charade. Mimi and Joan sat on the couch, and Naseeb, Lavon, you, and I (I don’t know if Clarke was born yet, but I think he was there in a crib) ate dinner. Afterward, the girls perked up a bit and finally Lavon learned they did speak English and they played a bit of music. I’m sure they thought we were turkeys because we didn’t know who Joan Baez (pronounced then “Bice”) was and we hadn’t heard of the Newport Folk Festival, which made her famous. These were the years of protest and her music was out front and wonderful.
The girls were enchanting and the evening ended with Lavon’s being angry and hurt, having been fooled in the beginning. But, I think she melted by the time they played some songs. I can’t recall what they sang, but they were definitely top rung.
A number of years later, I went back stage after Joan sang somewhere, her sister having been in France for some time by then, and I reminded Joan of that evening and she claimed to remember it and Naseeb. She was cordial and had put on a fine performance. I think that might have been at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, probably in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. I don’t recall if it was prior to the divorce, but it seems Lavon and I were together at that concert.
I think recall the incident when you were riding in the 1955 (yellow and white) Nash Statesman, and I was in the Peterbilt behind you. That was a fun memory, too. I’d forgotten that one.
So many memories. I love them, most of them. Thanks for asking and maybe you can get some additions or corrections to what I’ve reported here.
One more thing about Naseeb. He was invited to come to Hawaii with a friend. When he got there, they put an Hawaiian shirt on him and had him be a tour guide. With dark skin and being a bounder, he worked in a hotel, with a different opportunity every night, and drove a small tour bus, giving local pointers and telling made-up stories to tourists. He was a fun fellow.
What a time for you to ask about these memories. Just this month about three-hundred of us gathered at the Montclair Unitarian Church to enjoy a three-hour musical and testimonial memorial for Clabe Hangen. One of Clabe’s accomplishments was to help Joan Baez learn to play the guitar. Clabe and I graduated from the University of Redlands together. We remained friends and would get together from time to time in Claremont, where he lived and I worked. His and eleven other deaths are some of the fish swimming in my early morning aquarium.
Much love, Daddy