One of my favorite jazz musicians, pianist Michael Wolff, told me about this upcoming fundraiser at The Conga Room downtown on Feb. 27th that he’s a part of. It’s Hollywood Heals: Spotlight On Tourette Syndrome. Wolff has tourette syndrome, which causes tics in people who have it. Michael was the inspiration for the 2000 movie The Tic Code, starring Gregory Hines.
Many people didn’t know what tourette’s was until the neuroscientist Oliver Sacks wrote about it in his book The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat. I certainly didn’t know what it was, but I had encountered it before.
Back in the 1970s when I was lifeguarding a fellow lifeguard needed a place to live. Even though he was a bit of a prankster, I told him about an upper unit in a four-plex in Santa Monica. My lifeguard friend moved in and before long he was screaming all sorts of crazy stuff at three in the morning. Eventually my friend Alan, who was in law school and living in the downstairs unit, went up and threatened to kill him, thinking he was doing it on purpose. He wasn’t. He had tourette’s but nobody knew what it was.
Years later, when teaching a Music Salon in my old Venice home, a guy named Christian would always sit upstairs and once or twice each night would yell some obscenities. He was a nice guy and eventually everybody just accepted it as an idiosyncrasy and didn’t mind. He had tourette’s too.
This is a very much misunderstood disease. Hollywood Heals is a benefit that will spotlight the syndrome and feature many music performances, Wolfgang Puck will provide the bites, there’s a silent auction, and many celebrity actors will entertain and speak. Polly Draper (from The Tic Code) and Michael Wolff will be there as well.
Me, I want to spread the word because I am a huge fan of a tremendously gifted jazz pianist, Michael Wolff. He was Nancy Wilson’s musical director when he was out of his teens. Filled the huge chair Joe Zawinul left behind in Cannonball Adderley’s group too. I’ve always loved his work.
Here he is performing “Joe’s Strut”, a song inspired by the way Joe Zawinul walked.
Here is the trailer for The Tic Code, the film that was inspired by Wolff.