And then I went Kaboom!

Liza Grossman at home.

Kaboom! That’s “Kaboom” on a few different levels. The most immediate one is Kaboom Collective. But we’ll get back to that.

The Kaboom story—wait, not the Kaboom story, my Kaboom story—starts in the late '60s. I was a 20-year-old singer-songwriter signed to Sire Records in New York. I became friends with the company’s publishing director, Bart Friedman, and we became roommates and business partners. Among other things, we managed a magician named Ricky Jay and got him booked on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." Jay became one of the top magicians in the world, plus a movie and TV actor and an author. And he wrote and performed a one-man show on Broadway, directed by David Mamet, which he then took to a theater in L.A., where it was taped for an HBO special.

I left New York in 1970 and moved back to Ohio. I visited Bart in 1972, up in a town near Woodstock, N.Y., where he and his girlfriend had moved in together in a huge house that served as a commune for some of the world’s first video artists, which Bart and his girlfriend were. When I visited that summer, there were a few little kids running around, including a couple of noticeable little redheads.

Fast forward to the '90s. My son is a kid taking music lessons. After a few years, he moves up to his third violin teacher, Liza Grossman, working out of her home in Cleveland Heights. She has recently started the Contemporary Youth Orchestra (CYO). My son gets better and older, and is accepted into that orchestra. I start volunteering there. I become friends with Liza’s mother, Linda, who’s just moved here from Michigan. Linda has a sister, Nancy, in California. I hear a lot about Aunt Nancy and Uncle Paul from Liza.

Then I find out that Uncle Paul is actually Paul Krassner, whom I always described as a “counter-culture Forrest Gump,” because he was involved in everything. He published The Realist magazine; he was a founder of and gave their name to the Yippies; he wrote for Mad Magazine; he wrote 12 books; he knew everyone from Lenny Bruce and Groucho Marx to John Lennon and Charles Manson; George Carlin claimed him as a big influence. The list goes on and on.

Soon after I get involved, the CYO holds a big benefit, and Aunt Nancy comes in for that. She and I start talking. I ask where she lives in California. She says Venice. I say I know someone in Venice—Ricky Jay. She says she knows him. That’s not surprising; everyone around there would know him. Then she says, “My former boyfriend used to manage him.” I say, “Really? I used to manage him, too. But that was back in New York, in the '60s.” She says, “That’s when he did it.” I say, “How can that be? What’s your former boyfriend’s name?” She says, “Bart Friedman.” Kaboom!

I say, “You’re Nancy.” She says, “I know that.” I say, “I mean, I met you. It was the summer of 1972, when I visited Bart in Saugerties.” She begins to remember about me and my work with Bart. Then she realizes something. “Oh—so, then, you met Liza, too. She was probably three or so.” I say to myself: Those little red-headed kids. . . . Kaboom!

The CYO continued to grow in quality and stature, succeeding as an arts and entertainment vehicle, while maintaining a strong educational facet as well.

After 25 years, Liza stepped down as head of the orchestra, in 2020, to launch a brand-new venture, Kaboom Collective. Headquartered in Cleveland Heights, where she still lives, Kaboom Collective has continued and greatly expanded on all that CYO did, and much more, offering online classes to young people taught by industry experts, on all aspects of the music business and its tangents; and an in-person studio orchestra. Kaboom Collective is a unique music-industry educational organization.

So, Liza, Linda and Nancy are all from Michigan; Bart and Paul are from Brooklyn; Ricky was from Elizabeth, N.J.; and I’m from Cleveland Heights; though some of us met in New York City; and some eventually moved to L.A. But it all came together here in Cleveland Heights. As it so often does.

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

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Volume 15, Issue 3, Posted 10:54 AM, 03.01.2022