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Tracks Unwrapped

Just A Gigolo


Just A Gigolo
I'm just a gigolo
And everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing


I don’t think I have ever, knowingly, met a gigolo, but then I lead a sheltered life. Come to that, I have never paid someone ‘Ten Cents A Dance’ American Gigolo Posterand I guess that is a more well-known tune. So, how would I recognise a gigolo if I saw one?

Thank goodness for Wikipedia to guide me: A gigolo, they say, is 'a male escort or social companion who is supported by a woman in a continuing relationship, often living in her residence or having to be present at her beck and call. The gigolo is expected to provide companionship, to serve as a consistent escort with good manners and social skills, and often, to serve as a dancing partner as required by the woman in exchange for the support. Many gifts such as expensive clothing and an automobile to drive may be lavished upon him. The relationship may include sexual services as well, when he also would be referred to as "a kept man". The term gigolo usually implies a man who adopts a lifestyle consisting of a number of such relationships serially, rather than having other means of support.’


Paid for every dance
Selling each romance
Oh, what they're saying

The Urban dictionary is more direct: ‘A male prostitute equivalent to a high-class call girl; Fading Gigolo Postergigolos service wealthy women, as opposed to servicing homosexual men like most male prostitutes do. Gigolos sometimes receive gifts in lieu of payment for services, for example a Rolex or a Mercedes’.

So – look out for men who can dance, drive a Mercedes, wear a Rolex, and service women. It looks as though the word emerged in the 1920s as a male alternative to the French word ‘gigolette’.

But I think we need a visual introduction. There is a funny 2014 film Fading Gigolo written by, directed by and starring the excellent John Turturro. Woody Allen, Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara are along for the ride, and we get a taste of the Just A Gigolo tune. Sadly the film did not do well at the box office. In the story, Dr. Parker, a wealthy dermatologist, mentions to her patient Murray (Allen) that she and a woman friend, Robbie, wish to experience a ménage à trois and asks if he knows a willing man. Murray, whose used bookstore has failed, convinces his friend and former employee Fioravante (Turturro) to take the gig, as both are short of money. Soon, they build a thriving gigolo trade with Murray as the pimp, but all does not go as planned when Fioravante falls in love.


Here is the trailer




Fancy the job? Well, to start with you need to know how to dress. Richard Gere will show you how in this clip from the 1980 film American Gigolo.




The tune Just A Gigolo is best known from the 1936 recording by Louis Prima where it is sung merging into I Ain’t Got Nobody, but its history goes deeper. The song "Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo", was an Austrian composition from 1928 by Leonello Casucci with lyrics by Julius Brammer. It was performed in Germany in 1929 by several orchestras and emerged in other countries with their own translations. Here is a video of Louis Prima and his band performing the number.




The concept behind the song describes the social collapse in Austria after the First World War. The singer remembers himself as a soldier in uniform but who now has to earn a living as a hired dancer. ‘The music features a simple melodic sequence, but nonetheless has a clever harmonic construction that highlights the mixed emotions in the lyrics, adding a nostalgic, bittersweet effect.’

Chappell & Co commissioned lyricist Irving Caesar to come up with an English version. Caesar took out the Austrian references in the verse although the verse is included in a 1931 version by Bing Crosby but the song this time is set in France:


It was in a Paris cafe at first I found him.
He was a Frenchman, a hero of the War,
But war was over and here's how peace had found him,
A few cheap medals to wear and nothing more.
Now every night in the same cafe he shows up
And as he strolls by ladies hear him say
'If you admire me, hire me, a gigolo who knew a better day.'

The same year, 1931, saw this recording by Louis Armstrong who picks up the pace half way through with his trumpet solo:




If we have not grabbed your attention so far with this tune. Stop and check out this version of Thelonious Monk playing Just A Gigolo from Clint Eastwood’s movie Straight No Chaser:




What’s that? Still too slow for you? If you want a swing version, try this video by Daniel Boaventura. I don’t personally like the scat, but it does swing.




There will come a day
When youth will pass away
What will they say about me


Did you hear about the rich woman who asked an inventor to design a gigolo robot for her? The inventor tested the robot on a first woman who reported back that her evening with the gigolo robot had been a great success. Testing the robot a second time, the second woman reported back that the robot had behaved perfectly and the evening had been entirely wonderful. The robot came back wearing a Cartier watch and with a Gucci Man Bag hanging across his shoulder. The next day, the inventor delivered the robot gigolo to the rich woman who immediately took it to her bedroom. After three hours, the inventor started to become worried, thinking that perhaps the robot had malfunctioned and killed the woman. Taking a chance, he opened the bedroom door only for him to see the woman chasing the robot up and down yelling: ‘Come here you liar, if your battery is down, how come you are running?’

In 1932 a Betty Boop cartoon appeared in which Betty introduces Irene Bordoni singing Just a Gigolo. Ignore the beginning, the cartoon starts swinging one minute in and ends with a singalong!



In this educational article on The Gigolo, we think that we should complete your introduction to gigolos with the film clip below in which Marlene Dietrich interviews David Bowie for his services. Just A Gigolo, a 1978 film directed by David Hemmings, returns to the original background to the song. After World War I, a war hero returns to Berlin to find that there's no place for him--he has no skills other than those he learned in the army, and can only find menial, low-paying jobs. He decides to become a gigolo to lonely rich women. The theme song is performed by Marlene Dietrich and Irving Caesar gets a mention in the film credits for the lyrics.




David Bowie was not pleased with the film and is reported to have said in an interview with New Music Express: "Oh well, we've all got to do one [bad movie] and hopefully I've done mine now." Mind you, I would not be surprised to learn that David Bowie has a Rolex watch and drives a Mercedes.


When the end comes I know
They'll say "just a gigolo"
As life goes on without me


More Tracks Unwrapped:

Lover Man
Fables Of Faubus
Milneburg Joys

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