[Email Reply]

Cuba de mi Amor

by J. Orlin Grabbe

Cuba de mi Amor is the name of a music CD I produced. The Cuban popular songs are performed by famed Cuban-American pianist Danilo Pina, who arranged them in the grand danzon style typical of the early part of the present century.

Danilo was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1928. He had his own radio program on a local station at age 8. He later played at the Kon Tiki Club in Santiago de Cuba, and in Havana at the Sans-Souci Cabaret, El Palacio de Cristal restaurant, the Riviera Hotel, and the famous Havana Hilton, which he inaugurated.

Danilo's family lost all their property in the revolution, and Danilo eventually emigrated to the United States. But in the late 50s, both before and for a time after the revolution, the U.S. was supporting Fidel Castro. The CIA made regular flights of arms and supplies to the guerrillas. One of the CIA pilots was Charles S. (Chuck) Hayes.

Because of the serious danger of the planes being shot down by Batista, the pilots were paid prior to each flight. The paymaster was George Bush. One time Chuck was assigned to fly Fidel to New York via Mexico for a meeting with Vice-President Richard Nixon, a meeting arranged in part by Tex McCrary. Nixon recorded his thoughts on the meeting in a confidential memorandum dated April 19, 1959.

Hollywood stars headed to Havana hoping to meet Fidel. They sought the best of both worlds--flying down to stay in one of Batista's luxurious casino-resorts, while making covert arrangements to have their photograph taken with the "romantic revolutionary". It was PR without pain.

Marlon Brando got his photo. Ava Gardner made an attempt. Danilo's friend was one of Castro's lieutenants, and she approached Danilo to set up a photo shoot with Fidel. The meeting with Castro never came about, but Danilo and Ava had a six-month affair. This is yet today one of Danilo's most cherished memories.

After producing the CD, I wanted Danilo's music to be heard in his native country. Someone arranged to send a CD via diplomatic pouch to Fidel Castro. The word I got back was that Fidel loved the music, but still could not stand the musician. Much of life is that way, unfortunately.

But at any rate Danilo's music is being heard in Havana, and--who knows?--maybe has even worked its way back to his home town of Santiago de Cuba. Music has a way of preserving the soul of a time and place even when all else has fallen into desuetude or decay.

Here's to Danilo and Chuck and the memory of a country removed more by history than geography.

A few days prior to April 27, 1997
Web Page: http://www.aci.net/kalliste/