The untold sto­ry of young Jeff Gold­blum play­ing piano for that ass”

The beloved actor and jazz musician reminisces on his teen years smashing… the ivories in Pittsburgh.

Jeff Gold­blum, aged 14, sat at his family’s piano, turtle­neck sleeves crawl­ing halfway up his arms, poised for a les­son in tin­klin’. At 17, he trad­ed up from his sub­ur­ban Pitts­burgh home to a New York shoe­box to pur­sue act­ing, but always kept a piano in his apart­ment. He tried his hand at musi­cals, mak­ing his Broad­way debut in Two Gen­tle­men of Verona, but his big screen break didn’t come until David Cronenberg’s sci-fi mind-melter The Fly in 1986.

For fun, Gold­blum formed his jazz band The Mil­dred Snitzer Orches­tra in 2014 and began play­ing a week­ly show at the Car­lyle Hotel. Since, they’ve played Glas­ton­bury (com­plete with a cov­er of Juras­sic Park) and topped the Bill­board jazz charts twice, with two sep­a­rate albums. He avows that, had act­ing nev­er worked out, he would be a jazz musi­cian. And, it was at this piano that it all began…

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Jeff Gold­blum:

What does it mean, for that ass”? 

Play­ing piano for that ass? That’s what this [cap­tion] seems to be say­ing. I’m play­ing piano in order to pro­cure ass!

If I was, I was unsuc­cess­ful. I lost my vir­gin­i­ty when I was 18. This is not 18. I was still in unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. I was still fresh. As fresh as a fresh peach. But that’s our house in Pitts­burgh. That’s still there. In fact, the woman who bought it from the fam­i­ly once I was gone, but still in the 70s, still has it. I ran into her because our band played a gig there a cou­ple of months ago and I wan­dered around the old neigh­bor­hood for the pur­pos­es of being pho­tographed, [doing a] video with a local news crew. And she came out! I’d met her before like 10 years ago. She was there, get­ting old­er. She was try­ing to sell the house but she didn’t. She hasn’t done any­thing to it. I think it’s still like this, except decrepit. And the swim­ming pool is worse than Sun­set Boulevard. 

We were the only fam­i­ly to have a pool. The first ones. There were a cou­ple more maybe lat­er. But it wasn’t that kind of neigh­bour­hood, most­ly sub­ur­ban hous­es, but we put in a pool. I remem­ber the year we dug the hole in the back­yard, in 61 or some­thing. I moved into this house when I was like four or five. It was essen­tial­ly the house that I stayed in until 17 when I moved to New York. And we got this piano. And [my par­ents] gave all us kids music lessons. And my mom did needle­point. She was a craft abuser of one kind. She would make us muumuus out of ter­ry cloth tow­els. Yes, muumuu mak­ing, she used to cut our hair. And dec­o­rate the house, pride her­self on her taste, which you can imag­ine was what­ev­er it was. Well, there it is! [points to pho­to] You’re look­ing at it. And then she redid it at some point; she got a notion to redo it. She needle­point­ed [the piano bench] with the Gre­cian key around the bor­der. I’m sit­ting on it, my ass, speak­ing of which, is right on top of a lute. You know, one of those instru­ments, a lute [makes lute nois­es]. I think that was her invention.

There was the piano and I took lessons right there. [My piano teacher] used to sit right there. I didn’t prac­tice but then he gave me a jazz piece and that’s when I thought, I’m just going to sit and learn how to play this.” Then I called some cock­tail lounges in the office [oppo­site the piano], that was right there. I’m look­ing in that direc­tion [in the pho­to]. That was a place I locked myself in and called cock­tail lounges, got a cou­ple of gigs.

[My first gig was] when I was 15 or some­thing. I was cold call­ing. That’s what I did. I locked the door, I thought it was a secret scam or some­thing that I was doing. But I did. My par­ents con­nect­ed me with a lady singer or two, only pla­ton­i­cal­ly at that point. And they’d dri­ve me to the gig. But imag­ine this, I was born in 52, so this must be you know 62, 63. So The Bea­t­les must be already around. And then the turtle­neck must have been – maybe I’m 14 there – the turtle­neck is now being sold at Kaufmann’s or Horne’s or Gim­bels in there that one would see had been appro­pri­at­ed already from the hip­pies in Haight Ash­bury and the mods in Lon­don in Carn­a­by Street. But I can get at Horne’s for 50 dol­lars a whole out­fit, a Nehru jack­et, which I han­kered after and a turtle­neck and a medal­lion, which you don’t see in [that pho­to]. And my tight pants. Any­way, there I am. That’s it. That’s the story.


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