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HISTORY

Fascinating life for Buchtel alum

13 March, 18:07
 Fascinating life for Buchtel alum

Written By Mark J. Price

Beacon Journal staff writer

Special thanks to Mr Mark Price for sharing the article with Shilo Magazine

Jordan Zankoff looked like a celebrity long before he actually became one. His well-polished appearance — impeccable clothes, well-coiffed hair and pencil-thin mustache — stood out among students at Buchtel High School.

Guys thought he was cool. Girls thought he was dreamy.

In the 1959 Griffin yearbook, the senior listed his avant-garde preferences: ''Black Cadillacs, women, money, modern jazz, art, atmosphere, fascinations, V.O., something cool.''

All were within reach.

Jordan Zankoff looked like a celebrity long before he actually became one. His well-polished appearance — impeccable clothes, well-coiffed hair and pencil-thin mustache — stood out among students at Buchtel High School.

Guys thought he was cool. Girls thought he was dreamy.

In the 1959 Griffin yearbook, the senior listed his avant-garde preferences: ''Black Cadillacs, women, money, modern jazz, art, atmosphere, fascinations, V.O., something cool.''

All were within reach.

Zankoff found fame, fortune and love — and enjoyed a life that was rather extraordinary.

The son of Macedonian immigrants, Zankoff was born Oct. 23, 1940, to Eli and Dorothy Zankoff in Youngstown. He moved with his family to West Akron when he was young.

He grew up in a home at 944 Delia Ave. and attended Rankin Elementary, West Junior High School and Buchtel. His father owned Eli's Lounge Bar in downtown Akron.

Rock 'n' roll changed Zankoff's life in the 1950s. Singing along to the radio, he discovered he had quite a voice. The exciting new music made him take up saxophone and guitar.

''It was really my older sister, two years older, Paulexania, who got me involved in gospel, blues and rock,'' Zankoff later told a reporter. ''She used to whiff up my hair, tell me to wear this and that, and I was her escort to the black clubs around Akron.

''There was a place called Moondog House and a great, black singer they called Big Billie Mae. She had this song Young Red Rooster, which had a great influence on my life.''

Zankoff was a maverick in the Eisenhower era. That rebellious spirit didn't always fit into the staid West Akron scene, but he had a charismatic personality and knew what he wanted.

In the late 1950s, he and pals Gene Blackford, Phil DiMascio and Darrel McDonald formed a doo-wop group called the Fascinations. The boys performed at sock hops and appeared on WEWS-TV's One O'Clock Club.

''Remember us,'' the group's publicity photo implored.

In 1960, the Fascinations cut a 45 RPM record for the Sure label in Philadelphia. The featured song was It's Midnight, a romantic serenade with soaring vocals, while the calypso-tinged Doom Bada Doom was the flip side.

''Midnight is coming, midnight is near,'' Zankoff sings. ''Whisper, whisper in my ear. I looooove you.''

Although it wasn't a hit, Zankoff had found his niche. Things happened quickly after that.

Zankoff married an Akron woman, Mary, in 1961 and welcomed a daughter, Jodi, a year later, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1964. The singer changed his name to Jordan Christopher, eliminated his mustache and moved to New York.

With a new lineup and new name, Jordan & the Fascinations recorded songs for Carol, Dapt, Crystal Ball and Josie labels.

He found greater success as lead singer and guitarist for the Wild Ones, the house band for eight months at New York's famous Peppermint Lounge. The group's claims to fame include recording the original 1965 version of Wild Thing, later a smash for the Troggs, and performing the theme to the 1966 movie comedy Lord Love a Duck.

Christopher's life transformed in 1965 when Sybil Burton, operator of a new discotheque, recruited his band. She was the ex-wife of Hollywood actor Richard Burton, who created a scandal in 1963 when he walked out on his 14-year marriage to wed Elizabeth Taylor.

Collecting $1,000 each from 70 investors, Sybil Burton founded the disco Arthur on East 54th Street in Manhattan. It owed its name to a line in the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night in which a reporter asks George Harrison what he calls his hairstyle.

''Arthur,'' Harrison replies.

When Burton auditioned the Wild Ones, Christopher became smitten with the English-accented, prematurely silver-haired woman. She was 36. He was 24.

''Right at the start, I felt something that I later realized was love,'' he recalled. ''But Sybil never gave me any indication at all that she might be attracted to me. It was strictly business. We were good and she signed us up.''

With long lines out the door, the club was packed every night. Andy Warhol called it ''all dark brightness.'' The Wild Ones performed under colorful lights while patrons gyrated wildly.

Famous visitors included Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, John Wayne, Jackie Kennedy, Sammy Davis Jr., Julie Andrews, Paul Newman and Jane Fonda.

A month after arriving at the club, Christopher went on a private date with Burton to an art show in Greenwich Village. After that, they were inseparable.

Christopher confided his love for the older woman after knowing her for only six weeks.

''I was terrified that she would turn me down cold and send me away,'' he recalled. ''Then fantastically she told me she loved me, too. And so I asked her to marry me.''

The couple wed June 13, 1965, in a private ceremony in Burton's 16th-floor apartment at 300 Central Park West. Burton's daughters Kate, 7, and Jessica, 4, were among 25 people present.

Among those at the reception at Arthur were Warren Beatty, Mike Nichols, George Hamilton, Betty Von Furstenburg, Leonard Bernstein and Arlene Francis.

Richard Burton sent his congratulations. In getting married, the new Mrs. Christopher gave up $1 million in alimony.

''I have never done anything with such clarity in my life,'' she told Life magazine.

Christopher took his wife and stepchildren to meet his Akron family. Sybil joked that she was eager to visit Ohio to find out ''what it is about that state that makes its men so fascinating.''

They returned several times to the city, including serving as godparents at the baptism of Christopher's niece at St. Thomas Eastern Orthodox Church.

Crowding Burton and Taylor out of the headlines, the Christophers faced many tabloid questions about their age difference.

''I don't care a damn what anybody outside thinks about my marriage,'' Christopher said.

In May 1967, the Christophers welcomed a baby daughter Amy.

The Wild Ones recorded a United Artists album, The Arthur Sound, before Christopher left to pursue a solo career and make movies. His acting debut was a minor role in Return of the Seven, the 1966 sequel to The Magnificent Seven. He received top billing in the 1969 psychedelic movie Angel, Angel Down We Go, in which he played a rock star and composed songs.

The Christophers expanded the Arthur nightclub chain to more than a dozen cities before selling out for $100,000 in 1969.

Jordan appeared in Broadway plays Black Comedy and Sleuth, movies Star 80 and Brainstorm, and TV shows Hart to Hart and Scarecrow and Mrs. King.

In 1992, Sybil co-founded the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, N.Y., where she continues as artistic director.

 

Many naysayers thought the Christophers' marriage would be brief, but it lasted a lifetime.

Jordan Zankoff Christopher was only 55 years old when he died of a heart attack in 1996. His remains were cremated.

In one way, the artist's work is more accessible than ever. His songs and movies are all over YouTube, introducing a new generation to his talents.

Not content to look like a celebrity, Zankoff became one.

And while he was at it, he found a lasting romance.

''Midnight is coming, midnight is near,'' he sang. ''Whisper, whisper in my ear. I looooove you.''

source: Шило

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