I! GIVE! UP! I've spent an obscenely long time trying to get something (or some thingS) to cut and paste, from different sites, so shame on me anyway, I shouldn't do that. The line spacing was SO fucked up that no matter what I did to fix it, it just didn't work.
But I still got all this information, see? Stuff that really intrigued me, because though my current uber-obsession Oscar Levant was of Russian-Jewish ethnicity, Levant is a very French-sounding name, with very French-sounding connotations (not to mention English: levitating, levity, leverage, all that stuff.)
Since I'm tired of fighting with the line-spacing crap, I'm sitting here listening to Levant playing the living hell out of my all-time favorite Gershwin, the I Got Rhythm variations. My God, he really was good and did things no other pianist ever thought of. The only word I can come up with to describe the sound is "bright", and I don't think it's just from a good piano. When you watch him perform in his dozen-or-so movies, often his hands are a blur.
So OK. . . I'm going to have to make jambalaya out of all the information I dredged out of those web sites. Since it took me all morning to cull out this stuff from maybe 150 different definitions of Levant, I reserve the right to blather my own comments when I feel like it.
Among many other things, Levant means:
1. soleil levant: rising sun
2. Levant: the Levant (??)
3. (n.) A levanter (the wind so called)
4. (n.) The countries washed by the eastern part of the Mediterranean and its contiguous waters
5. (n.) Rising or having risen from rest - said of cattle. See couchant and levant, under couchant.
To quote Oscar's close friend Dorothy Parker:
"For work is the province of cattle,
And rest's for a clam in a shell. . . "
I can't help but wonder why it is "said of cattle", but I guess I'll have to go along with it.
6. (a.) Eastern (Oriental: see the Gershwin ripoff Oriental Blues, which is perhaps a musical in-joke and sly reference to Levant)
7. (v.) To run away from one's debts; to decamp.
Well! Oscar, you shouldn't be doing that, but there was a little streak of lawlessness in him; it's why we loved him so.
8. (n.) Levanter: a strong easterly wind peculiar to the Mediterranean.
9. (n.) One who Levants, or decamps.
I wonder if Oscar ever Levanted in his lifetime.
10. (n.) Levantine: A native or inhabitant of the Levant
11. (n.) Of or pertaining to the Levant
OK, wtf is this all about? If Levant is a verb - to Levant, or not to Levant - how can it also be a person AND a place AND a thing?
12. (n.) A stout twilled silk fabric, formerly made in the Levant
And a tie.
13. Levant (n.) The countries bordering on the eastern Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Egypt
This may explain his heavy-lidded, olive-skinned, green-eyed, dishevelled, barely-shaved look that for some reason women went crazy for. The mediterranean look, even though his people were from the Ukraine.
14. Levant: a heavy, coarse-grained morocco leather often used in bookbinding. Also called Levant morocco.
How many people have a kind of leather named after them?
15. Levant: To leave hurriedly or in secret (possibly from Spanish leventar, el campo, to lift, break camp, from vulgar)
Why does this keep coming up?
(and, because Levant was such a hypochondriac, I will include the translation of just one of many, many, many, many sentences in French which include different shades of meaning of Levant):
Ce medecin conseillait a chacun d'entre nous, en se levant le matin, de dire ceci: aujourd'hui, je suis mieux qu'hier et moins bien que demain.
This doctor suggested that every one of us should say the following to ourselves, when we get up in the morning: today I feel better than I did yesterday but not as well as I will feel tomorrow.
Oh, that Oscar could have been so blessed.
(p. s. I also found confusing stuff that implied there was a place called Levant, or THE Levant, in the States, but I was unable to track it down. There is also a Levant sparrowhawk out in the desert somewhere. Geez. Bird, fabric, sunrise, leather, skipping out, rising up, a wind, a region, a whole state of mind.)
CODICIL. This is positively the LAST thing I'm ever going to post on Oscar Levant because now, even ***I*** am getting tired of the subject. But I just found a groovy caricature of him and had to post it:
I don't normally go for caricatures and think they're too grotesque to be funny, but this one captures him pretty well: the dishevelled hair, the pouty mouth, prominent ears, and eyes that are almost feminine in their limpid, long-lashed depths. Whoever did this must have actually looked at a picture of him or something.