AKA Doc Pomus
Opening here in New York a few days ago was this great documentary about the legendary Brill Building songwriter (and NYC local) Doc Pomus, who wrote beautiful, timeless hits for the Drifters, Elvis, Ray Charles, Dion and others. On hand were director Peter Miller, co-producer/Doc's daughter Sharyn Felder and film editor Amy Linton (pictured above), doing a Q&A after the screening this past Thursday.
The film is a very moving portrait of one of the best song-smiths of the mid 20th century- we have him to thank for "A Teenager In Love," "Lonely Avenue," "This Magic Moment," "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "Viva Las Vegas" among others. We hear of his up's and down's with marriages, separations, triumphant visit to the UK, bottoming out as a card shark, comeback in collaboration with Dr. John and his lifelong struggle not to let his polio and crippled body stand in the way of his incredible gift, with Lou Reed reading Doc's memoirs throughout film.
Among the highlights:
* Doc was worried about R&B legend/friend Joe Turner's health towards the end of his life, thinking that club owners were making him do too many shows so he called in a bomb threat to stop Joe from doing a third show for an evening.
* Felder cornered neighbor and Doc admirer John Lennon at a local NYC grocery and introduced herself. JL shouted "Doc Pomus!" and then sang all of "Last Dance" to her in the store.
* At Doc's funeral (where his old collaborator and writing partner Phil Spector spoke), Dr. John reveals that Doc cleaned him up from junk and then plays a song and later has Jimmy Scott accompany him, which led to Seymor Stein (who was in attendance) to sign Scott to a record deal.
* As the film credits roll, all of the interviewees (including family) sign lines from "Last Dance" as audience clapped along.
What was also especially moving was that at the screening, a number of Doc's friends and colleagues were there, occasionally sharing stories during the Q&A. I sat down the aisle from his girlfriend and also from his protege, songwriter Scott Fagan. Also during the Q&A, Doc's old accountant thanked the film makers, saying "I'm glad I was alive to see this movie." Felder also revealed that the song that Bob Dylan sought out Doc to co-write with him was never completed because Dylan didn't finish his part (note to Dylan: finish that already!). I was curious about something myself and said "I never had the pleasure of knowing Doc personally but I was moved to tears a number of times while watching it. Did you get emotional as you were prepping all of this?" Miller said that he never met him either but he felt the same way and Linton added that her husband would come home from work and occasionally see her crying at the table and ask "Oh... did Doc die again?"
To end things off, the film makers also noted that in a bit of wonderful timing, Williamsburg had just co-named an area of Manhattan Avenue as 'Pomus Place.'
Needless to say, I'd recommend that you see the film and help honor an amazing tunesmith who had quite an interesting life to say the least. You can see more information about the movie and screenings of it at http://akadocpomus.com/.