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Chet, Jimmy, and Other Greats

Couples dance the opening waltz at the traditional Opera Ball in Vienna, 2009. (Herwig Prammer / Reuters)

The title of my latest Jaywalking podcast is “Waltzing Around,” and there is indeed some waltzing, as you see in the photo above. Actually, I play a spooky, dark, Halloweeny waltz: that from Khachaturian’s Masquerade. Wonderful composition. There is also music by a pair of Czechs — Smetana and Dvorak — and a pair of Americans — Rodgers & Hammerstein (true, one did words, only). I also discuss a variety of issues, political and social.

In my previous Jaywalking, I made mention of Jimmy Van Heusen, who, with Sammy Cahn (lyrics), wrote a Chicago song, “My Kind of Town.” I said something about Van Heusen’s Dutch name, and our American pronunciation of it. I’d like to share a letter from a reader, who wrote,

Like Jimmy Van Heusen, my family comes from Syracuse and while they did not know him, we have heard of how he came by his name.

When a young man in Central New York, he wanted a stylish name to fit his intended career. Looking through a magazine, he fixed on an ad for men’s dress shirts and chose “Van Heusen” as a good one.

His real name was Chester Babcock, which probably wouldn’t have looked as good paired with Sammy Cahn. Bob Hope picked “Chester Babcock” as his character’s name in one of the Road movies.

Yes, that was The Road to Hong Kong (1962). All of his life, Jimmy Van Heusen’s closest friends called him “Chet” (short for “Chester,” of course) — which is a pretty cool name itself, IMO.

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