(JTA) — In a 30-plus-year career in advertising, Nathan Chavin wrote everything from signs on construction site scaffolding to classified ads to campaigns for several Trump properties, including Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago.
But he was perhaps best known for the raunchy country music songs he wrote and recorded for a novelty album, “Country Porn,” released in 1976 by the nascent Penthouse Records label.
The album sold more than 100,000 copies, and included a minor hit, “Asshole from El Paso,” a parody of Merle Haggard’s 1969 song “Okie from Muskogee.” It was covered by Willie Nelson and Richard “Kinky” Friedman — Chavin’s old friend from the University of Texas — and Friedman’s band, The Texas Jewboys.
In the days before digital downloads and the internet, “Country Porn” was sold through the mail. The songs on the record had sexually explicit lyrics and, even 40 years before #MeToo, the record was criticized as puerile and misogynistic.
But for a brief moment it made Chavin a member of a tiny fraternity of popular Jewish country-and-western musicians, including Steve Goodman, Ray Benson and Friedman, his actual fraternity brother at UT.
“Chinga went way over the line, [saying things] that people didn’t think he should be saying,” Friedman said last week, using Chavin’s nickname. “Anything that was not suitable was perfect for Chinga.”
Chavin, also known as “Nick,” died in Boca Raton, Florida on March 15. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Brandi Chavin, who said the cause of death was uncertain but that many of his organs were failing. He was 78.
Chavin’s advertising career brought him into contact with some of New York City’s major real estate moguls. He became very close friends with Robert Durst, when he was still better known as the scion of the Durst real estate family rather than a convicted murderer. Durst hung around Chavin’s band when Chavin first came to New York, said Michael Bart, a bandmate who also worked with Chavin in the advertising industry. Bart attended the bris for Chavin’s son, at which Durst jokingly brandished a butcher’s knife.
“Durst thought that was hysterically funny,” recalled Bart.
Chavin and Durst started running around New York together in the early 1980s and, according to Rolling Stone, partied at the Plato’s Retreat sex club and the Mudd Club, the seminal punk rock venue. In a deposition given a year before Durst’s murder trial in 2020, Chavin told the court that Durst had confessed to killing their mutual friend, Susan Berman, the crime for which Durst would be convicted. And Chavin said that before she died, Berman told him that Durst had admitted killing his wife.
Chavin was born in Chicago on July 3, 1944. His parents, Muriel and Irving Chavin, moved to El Paso when Chavin was in the eighth grade.
Chavin took the nickname Chinga because he liked the alliteration and, no doubt, because it was Spanish slang for the act of sexual intercourse.
As an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Chavin was thrown out of Tau Delta Phi, one of four Jewish fraternities at the university at the time, according to Friedman. Friedman proudly recalled that during their time as members the fraternity they tried to admit African-American students, an effort that was ultimately thwarted. Chavin and Friedman graduated in 1966.
Chavin moved to California where he earned a graduate degree in creative writing at San Francisco State College. He lived in the Haight Ashbury district during the Summer of Love in 1967.
“Every other word out of his mouth was, ‘Far out man,’” recalled Ken “Snakebite” Jacobs, another Tau Delta Phi fraternity brother who ended up playing in Chavin’s “Country Porn” band.
Bart, who said he worked for Chavin for “eight or nine years,” remembers that Chavin had a flair for one-liners.
“He just had this ability to come up with great stuff on the spot,” said Bart. “He came up with a lot of it in crosstown cab rides and told our clients it took six months to create.”
His daughter Brandi said Chavin was quite proud of a slogan he thought up for a new shopping center on Sixth Avenue, now known as the Manhattan Mall: “Something’s Coming Between Macy’s and Gimbels.” The mall is located between Macy’s at Herald Square and the building that once housed Gimbels department store.
And he could write poetry.
“He wrote pretty good poetry in college,” said Friedman, reached at his ranch in Texas. “Might have been some of his best work.”
But for many of his friends, Chavin’s finest hour was that parody, “Asshole From El Paso,” which he co-wrote with Jacobs when they were living in Marin County, north of San Francisco. Haggard’s hit criticized the counterculture and anti-Vietnam War protests; Chavin’s version mocked its reactionary narrator.
“We wrote the song in the car coming back from a recording session,” Jacobs recalled. “We were in hysterics.”
Larry “Ratso” Sloman, a friend of both Chavin and Friedman, said, “Chinga was always dying to get up on stage. That was his first love. He was never able to parlay it into a [performance] career, though.”
But Chavin often did have a ball sitting in with Friedman and his band when they came to New York and played the old Lone Star Café in Greenwich Village or B.B. King’s in Times Square.
Friedman said of his Jewish frat brother: “He’s a guy who had a lot to offer. He really walked his own road.”
Chavin is survived by his wife Teresa Weldon, his sons Maxfield and Drew, his daughter Brandi and his first wife, Marsha Parker.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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