Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Barbershop Marty

It is legend in the pantheon of legal rumour and inuendo that the genesis of Joe Flom's (fictional) feud with Marty Lipton was not, in fact, their competing M&A practices, but rather, differences of opinion over their shared a capella stylings. That's right--it turns out that in the early 1980's, Flom and Lipton founded and performed together, in a barbershop quartet.

Known as the Loan Rangers (because of a certain LBO takeover mechanism that was popular in those days), Flom (as soprano) and Lipton (as bass), performed alongside litigation hero Herb Wachtell (as baritone), and a fourth unidentified tenor singer who may or may not have been actor Bryan Brown (of "FX", "FX2" and "Cocktail" fame), in venues as far ranging as Hilly's on the Bowery (the precursor to CBGB's), the Westchester County Fair, the yearly Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond convention run by Michael Milken, and on occassion, when hurting for a gig, the 6 train running from Eastchester/Dyre Avenue in the Bronx, to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn.

It is said that for many months, the men worked together swimmingly--both on arrangements and vocalizations, and in performances as well (Flom's high soprano harmony is said to have perfectly complimented, and as one former fan put it, "danced around" Liptons sparing, understated-yet-refined "tuba style" bass harmonies)--until their infamous fight in the fall of 1991 over the group's dress style. Apparently, Marty (understandably) wanted to go with the traditional red and white striped shirts, black pants, suspenders, and straw hats, while Flom (inexplicably) wanted to "update" the group's look with dark, double breasted suits and bowler hats.

What is more, it appears that Flom also wished for the group to go in a new musical direction as well--even going so far as to create a capella arrangements for all the songs from the hit play "Cats," to be performed at a gig the group had booked for later that week (at the Shaun Peterson birthday party at the Brooklyn Petting Zoo). Though Lipton was (and remains) a patron of the arts and a lover of showtunes, he understood that barbershop quartets are meant to celebrate our nation's vaudevillian past, not Broadway showstuff, and rebuffed Floms attempts to take over the group and use the quartet as an outlet for his over-the-top show-style arrangements. It is said that this particular fight was so heated that it caused Bryan Brown, a renouned pacifist, to quit the group in protest, after which he went on to pursue a mediocre, short lived career in the moving pictures.

With the loss of their fabled tenor, and baritone Herb Wachtell always tied up and unable to attend regular practices due to his burgeoning "per diem" practice in Bronx County Supreme, Lipton is said to have opted to disband the Rangers for good in the spring of 1982. As the group was really the light of Joe Flom's life at the time, he is said to have never fully recovered from Lipton's move, and instead grew angry at him for "making the group go bye bye." Rumor has it that for many years, on the occasional lonesome weeknight, Joe Flom could be heard in the hall outside his office at 4 Times Square, harmonizing to vinyl recordings of old folk tunes, trying to relive those olden days, when the Loan Rangers were truly the "tops."

Lipton was also said to be upset about the groups breakup as well, but not nearly as much as Flom had been. In any event, Marty--being the resilient soul that he is (after all, he DID invent the poison pill!)--is said to have gotten over it quite quickly, upon discovering, at a black-tie-optional function, that he was a natural and gifted ballroom dancer.

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