The More Things Change…

Volume CIX, No. 1January, 2009

What do the two pictures to the right have in common? Answer: both are examples of fake music.

The photo on the bottom is from the front page of Allegro in February 1984. It shows “Sally,” a robot pianist and lounge singer. Sally was a real experiment tried by Jeanne’s Restaurant in the Tudor Hotel on East 41st Street. She was programmed to “sing” and “play the piano.” At the time, President John Glasel and three union reps picketed the restaurant with signs saying that the robot “has no soul,” “has a tin ear,” “doesn’t take requests” and warning the public that “your job may be next.”

The top photo is more recent, but unfortunately it’s the same old song. It’s a modern digital player piano and it’s located at the Hilton on Sixth Ave. between 53rd and 54th. Management recently installed this piano in the lobby after laying off a tenured, live musician.

Local 802 is protesting this move, but in the meantime wouldn’t you rather that your friends and family stay at a hotel with live music? A night at the Hilton costs between $450 and $550 a night. You could spend the same or less and stay at one of the hotels where live music is currently performed by Local 802 hotel musicians: the New York Palace, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Regency or the Intercontinental. (In fact, the Waldorf-Astoria is owned by the Hilton company as well.)

Pass along this message to your friends, family and business associates. Just don’t tell Sally, the robot pianist. She’d be jealous. (Actually, she’s probably at the bottom of a landfill right now.)