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…
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.