I went to a living estate sale (which means no one died) in Austin, TX at the curated home of a retired lawyer. More importantly, she also appeared to be a well-traveled art collector and connoisseur, as well as the elusive protagonist of our story. Based on the dates of the artwork she was selling, it seemed as though she did most of this traveling, collecting and consuming in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.
I was shopping the single rack of clothes, which appeared to be priced a flat $15 or so per item with the exception of a handful of high-dollar pieces hanging from nails on the wall next to it. I found this t-shirt hanging on the rack.
I did not want to pay $15 for a t-shirt (I try to keep it at $2 an item) and was about to put it back when the young woman writing tickets saw it in my pile...
Before I knew it she was talking at me about some "single-stitch" nonsense (I had never sourced a vintage t-shirt in my life at this point, so this meant nothing to me). I did the classic smile and nod while I quietly began to accept that I would soon be the proud owner of this vintage tee.
But then she told me a story about how the lawyer came to acquire such a piece, and I must admit, this made me like it a little more.
The story went something like this...
Somewhere between the introduction of the Rubik's cube and Titanic breaking the box-office, back when our lawyer was a young, up and coming woman of justice and of taste, she landed in New York during a real doozie of a storm. I would imagine she was there on business, the business of becoming a true bon-vivant with a knack for litigation.
Hotels weren’t accepting guests and the taxi driver would only drop her off at one bar due to the bad driving conditions. That bar was the Visiones Jazz Club in the West Village.
She went in drenched, bought this t-shirt to change into, and wore it, with that slightly wet look, rather well (I would imagine).
After truly making the best out of a bad situation and taking the club-goers to school with a lesson in cultivating vibes, like any good tastemaker would, she proceeded to have dinner and drinks while enjoying live music. A groundbreaking experience for her career in pioneering the arts.
In the business of reselling other people’s used things, it’s not often you get to hear about the folks whose house you're rummaging through, and I appreciate having a story behind a piece in my collection.
So I bought the shirt (we know!)
It was only after I got home and looked over the receipt that I noticed...
I paid $60 for this t-shirt.
It just snuck right in amongst my many other purchases.
Why wasn't it hanging on the expensive wall?
Where did I go wrong? I was trying so hard to be cheap about the whole thing.
As much as I liked the backstory, you have to remember it was barely a $15 story, let alone 60 bucks!
And that's when the real work began...
I paid far too much for this shirt.
Find a way to justify selling this thing for a profit.
I set out to learn as much as I could about this "Visiones" "jazz club" in order to add some dimension, some real value to my $15 story.
I found a few mentions in articles spanning from the 80’s to the 2010’s. The more current the article, the fewer details it provided. It appears the Manhattan jazz scene had died down quite a bit by the late 90’s. However, I was able to piece a few things together using a handful of articles:
A 1987 article, “Pop/Jazz; Reliving All the Jazz Ages at Greenwich Village Festival” by Robert Palmer for the New York Times, outlined the lineup for what would be the 6th annual Greenwich Village Jazz Festival:
"Visiones, a Latin American restaurant and bar, has become a busy venue for busy young musicians who are working as sidemen with well-known groups while getting their own ensembles started."
A 1996 article in the Los Angeles Times by Leslie Gourse, “Syncopated Scenes : All over Manhattan, jazz is smokin’ in familiar basements, and in new, smoke-free clubs”
“Greenwich Village, which now reigns as jazz’s unofficial headquarters, has the most clubs. And at one of the Village clubs, Visiones, the lineup changes every few days... Reservations are suggested.
And finally, a 2015 article, “All That Jazz Has Gone Away”
“Maria Schneider was a regular at Visiones in the West village until it went under in 1998.”
The discovery: Visiones was actually a Latin American restaurant and bar... and also a jazz club? But not after 1998. Also it was popular enough to be a little pissed if your friend didn't make a reservation.
The sub-discovery is that the jazz scene had quite a comeback with a lively revival throughout the West Village/Greenwich Village in the ‘80’s and '90's, much to the luck of our jet-setting, justice serving, cultural pioneer. And she even got the t-shirt.
You should want this shirt because, like Regina George, our trendsetting lawyer told you to. If you value your personal brand, or if you found this discovery (and my colorful retelling) to add $40 in value to a once $15 story, then you're in luck! You could be the next owner of this (what may truly be one of a kind) t-shirt for the extremely understandable price of $100!