Robert Rutherford thought he had a pretty good idea. A way for Oakland Park, where he lives, to honor its most famous native son, storied jazz bass player Jaco Pastorius, by naming a small new city park after him.
Rutherford, an unassuming man in his early 30s (he won't give an exact number), is skinny, ponytailed, and bespectacled. He works in a local printing shop and lives just blocks from where his idol grew up.
The young jazz fan an uncommon animal, to be sure appears to have little influence with local city leaders. He does have a few web skills, which he used to produce jacopastoriuspark.org to promote his idea. The website has motivated 199 people to sign an online petition endorsing the park. Rutherford has also taken advantage of his position at a print shop to churn out some Jaco-themed fliers, guitar picks, and buttons.
It's not quite a groundswell. But Rutherford, the well-meaning, worshipful fan, is hoping that his grass-roots campaign will persuade an uptight collection of city officials to name a sliver of a park after a man who, in the 1970s, briefly became a jazz god, forever changing the way the electric bass was perceived and played, and just as quickly was overtaken by mental illness and alcohol abuse and finally died at 35 after a beating inflicted by a Wilton Manors nightclub manager one night in 1987.
In other words, Rutherford probably doesn't have a prayer.
Or he didn't, at least until he got the endorsement of a key backer, who has unequivocally given her blessing to his efforts.
That angel, who has been instrumental in what little momentum Rutherford has been able to generate, is Ingrid Hornmüller Pastorius, Jaco's second wife and the mother of his twin sons, Felix and Julius, who have also made it plain that they want to see Rutherford's idea succeed.
But even with the support of Pastorius' own sons, Rutherford knew he'd run into resistance at City Hall, where at least one commissioner has voiced her opposition because of the famous musician's ignominious final years.
What Rutherford didn't expect, however, was that the biggest resistance to his idea would come not from squeamish civil servants but from a buzzsaw of criticism from Jaco's two older children, John and Mary, and the bass player's longtime friend, a man named Bob Bobbing.
Rutherford, it turned out, had unwittingly stepped into the middle of a feud between Pastorius family members and friends warring over the man's legacy.
And very soon, he got the message: Remember Jaco. Appreciate Jaco. Revere Jaco. But don't mess with Jaco Pastorius Inc.
Sunday afternoon behind Calder Race Track, the South Florida Jazz and Heritage Festival has infused a hot afternoon with chicory coffee, gumbo, and jazz.
A couple of horn players from CB Pope's Dixieland All-Stars file offstage in matching outfits of navy slacks and powder-blue shirts.
"That's got to be Jaco's kid hanging backstage," one of them says, nodding toward a tall, thin dude with wise brown eyes, his eyebrows, lips, and mustache as iconic as his father's. They stroll over.
"Excuse me... are you Jaco's son?"
Sure am, nods Felix, sporting two gold rings in one earlobe and a Caesar haircut.
"I played with your dad!" they both gush at once.
Dennis Clouse, probably in his early 50s, looks like he rides a hog. Mike Petrozzino wears bifocals and beignet crumbs on his blue polyester shirt. They stare in amazement at Felix, not just because he's six-foot-seven with snake-like arms but because he's the spitting image of Jaco.
Clouse and Petrozzino used to sit in on jam sessions at Pirate's World, a tiny Dania Beach club on Sheridan Street, they explain. Petrozzino pumps Felix's big hand again. "I'm honored," he says. Felix's twin brother, Julius, half a foot shorter but with a similar stark charcoal outline, elicits the same response from the two horn players. They sit and wait for the acclaimed outfit Way of the Groove with Felix on bass and Julius on drums to perform.
As the band stretches through two softly rendered Herbie Hancock numbers, it's impossible to watch Felix play and not be reminded of his father. Outlandishly long fingers work up and down the neck of the instrument, and the physical resemblance is uncanny.
"His dad was the same way like the bass was part of his body," Clouse raves.
Nearly 20 years after his death, one of South Florida's most famous products is still the legend he himself always insisted he was. The first thing most people new to the legend learn about Jaco pronounced "Jocko," which is also the way he spelled it until he was about 23 years old was that he began to call himself "The World's Greatest Bass Player" before the rest of the music world had even heard of him. But the label stuck after he proved that it wasn't an idle boast. To many jazz fans, Pastorius, the brash Oakland Park kid who grew up by the Florida East Coast railroad tracks, really was the World's Greatest Bass Player.
Until he arrived, the electric bass had been a steady if unexciting backing voice in jazz ensembles. But Jaco turned it into a melodic instrument with the explosive power and subtle feeling to lead an orchestra. Some compared how Pastorius transformed the jazz bass to what Charlie Parker, another jazz icon who died young, had done with the saxophone. Pastorius himself encouraged comparisons to Jimi Hendrix, who redefined the guitar before his own life ended too soon.
Or, as biographer Bill Milkowski put it, "Jaco was to the electric bass what Paul Bunyan was to the lumber industry."
In other words, a mythic figure among mere mortals. Revered the world over, Jaco's records are considered sacred texts, his rare videotaped shows living memorials. And the stories of his epic performances and wild offstage antics still fuel websites and Internet forums like he'd never left. His presence is also still felt by the musicians who came later; Jaco's playing paved the way for physical, wild perfectionists like Flea and Les Claypool.
"My father," Mary Pastorius says, "was a rock star."
After the Pastorius family moved from Pennsylvania to South Florida in 1959, Jaco played sports and took up drums, then switched to bass after breaking a wrist playing football. He began playing in local bands in 1966 and 1967, which is when Bobbing, another teenaged local bass player, first ran into him at a performance on the beach near Las Olas Boulevard.
It was also Bobbing who gave Jaco a key break early in his career. In 1972, a slot for a bassist opened up in Georgia soul singer Wayne Cochran's backing band, the C.C. Riders. Offered the job but unable to take it because of a prior commitment, Bobbing told Cochran about Pastorius, who burned up his audition and then spent the next several months traveling the country and impressing audiences.
By that time, Pastorius was married to his first wife, Tracy, and had a young daughter, Mary. His second child, John, was born in 1973. And it was in the next few years that Pastorius really blew up, with two particularly explosive years in 1975 and 1976, when he joined the jazz-fusion juggernaut Weather Report, released a solo album that killed, and also recorded with Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell.
Overnight, Pastorius and his trademark double-jointed thumbs had become the force of nature that musicians like Metheny and Mitchell sought out to help them explore new sonic territory.
And Bobbing, as well as Mary and John Pastorius, were around for those years of stratospheric success. So it's not hard to understand why after Jaco's rise was followed by a precipitous fall, generating just as many stories not about his musical prowess but about the bizarre and manipulative behavior of his later years the people who feel they must protect Jaco's legacy guard it with surprising tenacity.
While his fame was still peaking in 1977, Pastorius began an affair with Hornmüller, a Sumatra-born former Eastern Airlines flight attendant who was the daughter of an Indonesian woman and a German man and who had been raised in the Netherlands. Pastorius divorced Tracy in 1978, and the following year, he and Hornmüller were married.
The twins, Felix and Julius, arrived in 1982. And by then, Pastorius, who earlier in his life had made a reputation as a rare teetotaler among musicians, was already being consumed by a steady diet of alcohol and cocaine. That mix only made worse his undiagnosed bipolar illness, which furthered his decline. He and Ingrid divorced in 1985.
When Jaco performed in his later years, he was notoriously unpredictable genius or insanity, with nothing seemingly in between. After a voluntary stay at Bellevue Hospital in New York in 1986, Pastorius returned to South Florida the first week of 1987. Known for being an obnoxious drunk, he pissed off one too many people later that year. On September 11, he had a run-in with nightclub manager Luc Havan, a 25-year-old Vietnamese-born French national who had previously warned Pastorius about coming into his Wilton Manors bar, the Midnight Bottle Club. Havan, a martial arts expert, claimed that Pastorius struck him and that he hit him back only once, causing Pastorius to fall and strike his head on the pavement. But a witness and Jaco's condition suggested that Havan had actually unleashed a furious assault on the hapless drunk. After spending several days in a coma, Pastorius' heart stopped beating on September 21. Havan was later convicted of manslaughter but served only a few months in prison.
Pastorius had left behind a large body of work, some of it transcendent, some of it incomplete, a steady if modest stream of royalty income, and two sets of children from different eras.
Mary and John, his older children, receive more income than Felix and Julius for their father's work up to 1979. For works produced after that time, the children split proceeds equally. The four of them, with Jaco's brother Gregory, make up the five directors of Jaco Pastorius Inc., which manages Jaco's estate.
But it's Bobbing, holding no official position in JPI, who actually seems to be the man calling the shots.
Taking a very hands-on approach, Bobbing has fashioned himself the source of All Things Jaco. Certainly, no one can rival Bobbing in terms of acquiring artifacts (he reportedly even owns Jaco's high school diploma). And he has spent a couple of hundred thousand of his own dollars shoring up the image of the estate, he says, putting out reissues like the double-disc Portrait of Jaco in 2002 (with JPI's official blessing). Spanning 1968 to 1978, it offers hardcore and casual fans a view inside Jaco's most lucid period. Undoubtedly, it's a labor of love (a double disc that couldn't have been cheap to produce, Bobbing says it's sold fewer than 5,000 copies). "But without these things in the stores," he says, "Jaco's legacy is destined to fail."
On it, vintage recordings of Jaco's early years are interspersed with anecdotes from friends and family. Bobbing procured reminiscences from Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul from Weather Report, Metheny, and even the elusive Mitchell, with whom Jaco had a brief affair ("It was as if I dreamed him").
Ingrid, Julius, and Felix don't warrant a mention on Portrait of Jaco. There's nothing, for example, about the fact that Felix and Julius are becoming well-known local jazz musicians in their own right and play just about every week in the same neighborhoods where Jaco first started to make a name for himself.
Bobbing, in fact, has never made it down to Alligator Alley in Oakland Park to see the twins perform with Way of the Groove and can't understand how watching Felix and Julius would be informative to the man who gives the impression that he is curator for everything Jaco-related.
"Why would you want to waste your time with them?" Bobbing says. "[They're a] couple of knuckleheads."
Mary Pastorius has also been involved in music, leading a hard-edged modern-rock quartet, Queen Mary, until she recently started raising a family in Melbourne, Florida. Her brother, John, isn't involved in the music business. And for many years, Mary has taken the lead among her siblings in keeping her father's memory alive, writing remembrances and monitoring his estate as a director of JPI.
But the former figurehead of Queen Mary can also be a little, well, imperious.
Felix and Julius found that out recently when they encouraged Rutherford to pursue the park, as well as a concert to raise funds for it. Rutherford conceived of an annual Jaco-themed jazz festival that would fall on Jaco's birthday, December 1, and that would feature the twins as attractions. But when Mary got wind of it, she sent the twins an exasperated-sounding e-mail.
"WTF!" it began. "Just so there's no misunderstanding The 'First Annual' Jaco Jazz & Music Fest is out of the question. If you guys want to have another 'Jaco tribute' concert to promote yourselves that's one thing, but when it comes to deciding something as big as when and where an annual festival is going to be especially in South Florida that's a decision for JPI (which consists of a 5 member board) NOT your mother. Why do you let her continually drag you into such drama when things could simply be discussed?"
And if Mary was perturbed by the festival idea, it isn't really surprising that she assumed Ingrid Pastorius was really behind it, pulling the strings of Rutherford and the twins. In fact, that seems to be what Mary, John, and Bobbing assume about anything regarding Jaco that doesn't actually come from them.
Ingrid, if you listen to the three of them, is not a very nice person.
Well, actually, they pretty much think she's a blood-sucking harpy.
"Like a gypsy grifter, [Ingrid] wants to control [the twins'] lives," Bobbing says in a conversation that contains dozens of angry references to Ingrid. "They're her props. She's a nemesis to the family a divorced wife with her own agenda."
The feuding may have started years ago over archive recordings and how they should be released or marketed. Ingrid has long maintained that her boys aren't seeing enough money from their dad's earnings. They receive $550 a month, plus an annual lump sum that has varied from about $2,500 to $7,500. The estate also pays for their health insurance and for the use of cell phones.
When the twins turned 18, Bobbing invited former Warner Bros. executive (and longtime Jaco benefactor) Ricky Schultz to meet with the family. His idea was to license the back catalog and use his distribution connections to sell more records, maybe even posters and T-shirts. "There's a lot of ways to generate revenue from a quality catalog," he says. "They could have raised Jaco's profile and profited from it." Ingrid, Schultz recalls, told Julius and Felix to nix the idea.
"It's a sad situation where this quarreling and feuding has cost everybody. It's really a shame." A substantial amount of money "a couple of hundred grand for each kid," Schultz maintains remains unclaimed. And the more the record industry changes, he says, the more the family loses out.
If Ingrid spoiled a deal that might have paid off nicely, her kids still don't understand the vitriol from their older siblings. unclu
Julius, in his reply to Mary's e-mail, returned none of her venom. "How can we ever have a strong relationship and company if you keep saying these nasty things about my mother?" he wrote. "I am not looking forward to being there [at a JPI board meeting] because of how you always talk about my mom, and accuse Felix and I of using our father's name to promote ourselves, when we were asked to perform at the event in my dad's honor, without getting paid. I don't want to be at any meeting where I know we will be yelled at and wrongly accused, and degraded more... Bobbing constantly speaks bad to anyone he meets about my mother, Felix and I as if he is the corporation... When we ask for accounting we are asked why and why we don't trust you... How can we have a meeting when you continue to be so ugly to us, sometimes I feel like I want out of this whole situation."
Naturally, Bobbing tells New Times he believes Ingrid wrote the whole thing.
Bobbing and Mary also seethe when the issue of websites is brought up. JPI, largely through Bobbing, runs jacopastorius.com, a slick, reverent site that features extensive forums where fans come to discuss their icon. But a few years ago, Felix and Julius learned HTML and produced a Jaco tribute site as a class project, which Ingrid then decided to maintain and update. The site, jacop.net, promotes the Bobbing-produced Portrait of Jaco and contains no criticisms of JPI or Mary or John.
Still, Bobbing nearly bursts a blood vessel when he brings it up. "It's a publicity stunt," he says. "Ingrid is just using it to get traffic to her website," he adds, as if she were somehow profiting from the Jaco fans who find their way to it. (There are no ads on her site, and traffic alone could hardly make her money.) Bobbing also claims that a barrage of nasty posts on the official site has been traced back to Ingrid's computer.
"She's a virus!" John exclaims during a lunch at Mangos on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Says Bobbing: "She's what has been keeping Jaco's legacy from flourishing!"
And although Ingrid very prominently includes a disclaimer that her Jaco site is not the "official" version and also not a product of JPI, that's still not good enough for Mary.
"The issue is that she's portraying herself as an official entity," she tells New Times. "It's sad. It's embarrassing. Especially when we're trying to raise my father's image and keep his legacy up."
Bobbing has, in other ways, shown that he resents any Internet tribute other than the official jacopastorius.com. Recently, a Puerto Rican man named Angel Vicen contacted jacopastorius.com after he put up his own, very amateur-looking website so that he could share with the world the five days he spent with Pastorius back in 1984.
Vicen, learning that Pastorius would be giving a bass seminar on the Caribbean island of Martinique that year, enrolled in the class and not only took photographs but also obtained Pastorius' permission to audiotape the sessions. On Vicen's modest website, jpbasslessons.com, he shares with readers what it was like to learn from the (then-fading) superstar, and he made MP3s of the recordings downloadable.
There is no bravado in Vicen's website. He asks for no money. He makes no claims to the prominence of his recordings.
But to Bobbing, the nerve of Vicen is beyond the pale.
"Angel Vicen, seemingly with a clear conscious, [has] elevated his rather ordinary encounter with Jaco into an historical event of Biblical proportions," Bobbing fumed on the jacopastorius.com forums. "Now, for those of you who cannot recognize a self-serving opportunistic maneuver when you see one, this is a prime example. But this in itself is nothing new. Check out Ingrid's Jaco Pastorius Park publicity stunt... Angel, you are not doing Jaco any favors here believe me. Do you really think your cassette is important enough to build a shrine around?... It is blatantly obvious that you are using Jaco's name for personal gain... The fact that you managed to hang out with Jaco for a minute and even record him, although it might seem special on some personal level, was no major accomplishment."
In response, Vicen wrote, "I have nothing to gain except the satisfaction of sharing the Martinique experience."
But sharing isn't something that Bobbing seems very interested in. And with Mary, John, and their uncle Gregory forming a three-person majority on the JPI board, they get their way.
Into that toxic cloud of resentment and strife, Robert Rutherford blindly strode.
Mary Pastorius and Bob Bobbing both insist that they are not opposed to Jaco's hometown naming a new park after him. It was the way Rutherford went about it that has them hacked off.
By getting Ingrid's blessing and the enthusiastic endorsement of the twins and by getting a few city personnel tentatively interested in the idea, Rutherford all but doomed the project. By aligning with Ingrid, Rutherford is toast.
"That's just the way it is," Mary explains. "Because JPI is the sole source of control and copyright. Because this is our business. It's our property, our assets." Rutherford, say Mary, John, and Bobbing, has been a nuisance.
"Robert knows just enough to blow his nose," Bobbing says. "If I could sit with him for ten minutes, I'd make him feel like a mosquito."
And he'd apparently be squashed like an insect by Bobbing for, well, wanting to name a city park after his hero.
"There's one person getting lost in all this," Rutherford says. "Jaco."
"A park just helps the cause," Julius says. And for JPI to mount any resistance, he says, "is ignorant."
"Bob Bobbing is the one who is very disconnected from the people who are truly in love with my dad and his music," Felix adds. "I never saw him as looking out for my best interests. The music will just continue to grow forever, people will keep falling in love with my father's music, and nothing will get in the way of that."
Ingrid, meanwhile, says she doesn't understand the controversy about the park and an associated concert. "I had nothing to do with it," she says of the initial idea, though she supports what Rutherford is doing. "It's such a beautiful, lovely thing to do."
For now, the plot of land in Oakland Park at NE 38th Street and Dixie Highway that is slated to become a park is still just a dirt lot. At his website, Rutherford collects ideas for the park, which might include a basketball court (Jaco's favorite sport), a council oak, an amphitheater for live performances, or a mural reflecting Jaco's legacy.
But Seigi Constantine, director of Oakland Park Main Street, an urban revitalization project, feels chafed after dealing with the rival families. "I had no clue," she explains, "and stepped in it with both feet." A jazz fan herself, Constantine's enthusiasm took a hit the moment she received a letter from JPI signed by Mary Pastorius. "We exist, and you are not doing anything without our blessing," Constantine remembers.
At the same time, Rutherford has run into opposition from commissioner Suzanne Boisvenue. "She's hesitant. She's harping on the drug use at the end of his life, saying she'll never name a park for a junkie," Rutherford says.
"I don't know anything about it," Boisvenue tells New Times. "I'm neither opposed nor in favor until I see backup materials."
So far, the park idea hasn't even been up for a vote before the commission.
Says Bobby Thomas Jr., who played with Jaco in Weather Report: "The guy affected the whole planet, and his sorry-ass town hasn't done anything."
Ed Bell, a producer with local public FM station WLRN, says: "He was such a legendary figure, his music is still consistently played around the world, and his influence is still heavily felt. A park would be an incredible tribute to him."
To Rutherford, the issue is too important to leave in the hands of a corporation he sees thwarting every grass-roots celebration of Jaco's life. "It's been 19 years, and they've done nothing."
Mary counters, however, that JPI is "100 percent for... dedicating a park in our father's honor. The notion that JPI is against the proposed Jaco Pastorius park is absurd."
But Holly Spillane, Julius and Felix's aunt, who spent years with the family before and after Jaco's demise, says: "The corporation has the responsibility to control decisions about the park, that's understood. But they're not really collaborating with the project, so it seems like they're trying to prevent it."
Constantine still hopes for success. A park mural painted by a local artist with images of Jaco. A dedication ceremony and concert with the Pastorius kids reunited. "I know when we do this event," she says, "all four will be here."
The Martial Artist
For the first time, the man who ended Jaco's life speaks about it.
Last year, in a web forum, a Jaco Pastorius fan revealed that he'd tracked down Luc Havan, the man whose punch killed Jaco and who subsequently served only a few months in prison for manslaughter.
Now a real estate agent in Palm Beach County, Havan says he is occasionally contacted by the curious and the angry. "I had people ask me if I was the guy," he says over the phone from his office. "I didn't want to add fuel to the fire, so I just disregarded [them]."
But Havan says he doesn't get harassed, despite the notoriety of his past. "In all these years, I've never run into anyone who's come up and said, 'You're him.'"
Earlier on the night of September 11, 1987, Pastorius had climbed onstage during a Santana concert and was escorted outside. According to Bill Milkowski's biography, Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, the bass player had also engaged in a drunken confrontation with his ex-girlfriend, Teresa Nagell. Later, he was in Wilton Manors, stumbling into the Midnight Bottle Club.
"I just said, 'Listen, you're too drunk. You can't come in,'" recalls Havan, who says he also extended a peace offering. "But come back tomorrow night, not all drunk like tonight, and everything is on me."
Havan says he told employee Cristy Eaton to cover Jaco's tab the next time they saw him sober. "Because I knew who he was, and I'd heard how he gets when people don't recognize him and things."
With that, Havan says he turned around and walked away. "But he started to hit me, and I had a knee-jerk reaction, and I hit him. I tried to tell him to leave it on a good note, but, you know..."
At the time, Jaco had made himself unwelcome at almost every other watering hole in the area. "That's probably why he got mad at me telling him I couldn't let him in," Havan guesses. "I'd heard he was living on the street."
Havan remembers throwing a punch that hit Jaco's left temple. "That's where I admitted to hitting him, and that's where he got hit. But his major fracture was on the right side when he fell. The other side of his head hit the ledge by the door."
It's the story Havan has maintained from the beginning. But another witness told police Havan had actually pummeled Pastorius, and the man's injuries his teeth had come through his lips were too ferocious to have come from a simple fall.
Jaco was hospitalized in a coma for days before he died on September 19. Havan faced a second-degree murder charge, which could have earned him 25 years in prison. "At the time, I was 25; I'd never been in trouble, so it really scared me." Havan instead got two years for involuntary manslaughter. He explains that he spent just under eight months behind bars, then served five years' probation.
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"A person who wasn't an alcoholic or drug addict but was of average health would have recuperated, because it wasn't that bad of an injury," Havan says. "But because he was in bad health living on the street and not eating a good diet, it made it worse."
Havan hasn't made an attempt to apologize to the family since his time in court, saying he doesn't want to bother them after his first attempt was rebuffed.
"The apology is as much to apologize to them as to make me feel better," he says. "Dealing with life after being involved with this is as important as their loss."
Editor's note: This version of "Jaco Incorporated" includes several corrections: the date of Jaco Pastorius' death (September 21), the fifth member of the JPI board of directors (Gregory Pastorius), and descriptions of Pastorius estate royalty payments.