Sunday, July 2, 2017

Caroline & Gerald Buster: The Cottage Restaurant

It was quite a risk to open a French-inspired restaurant in Calumet City in 1974, but Carolyn Buster Welbon and her then-husband, Gerald (Jerry) Buster, created a phenomenon. For about 20 years, The Cottage restaurant was the premier fine-dining restaurant in the south suburbs. It was so good that the one-story stucco building -- inspired by a French inn the couple had visited -- became a destination for Chicago residents.

"Calumet City was in the middle of nowhere," said Nancy Harris, Caroline's friend and colleague. "About half-way there, you wondered why you were going but when you arrived you knew why. The food was so good."

Caroline, 66, died Thursday, June 12, in an assisted living facility in Albuquerque.  She had been in a coma since April 4 when she hit her head after apparently falling down the stairs at her home in Santa Fe, said police, who have ruled out foul play. She had moved into the house just a couple days before the fall, said her sister, Gladys Baker of Munster, Ind.

Caroline first received attention in the Chicago area when she worked at The Bakery in Chicago, under the legendary chef Louis Szathmary. She had no formal culinary training, save a 10-week gourmet cooking course offered by Sears, Roebuck and Co., before she started at the Bakery. Her previous job was in the office of a steel plant in Hammond. At The Bakery, she ran the test kitchen to assist with Szathmary's cookbook. She also worked in the dining room and the kitchen to learn the intricacies of the restaurant business -- always with the intention of opening her own place, colleagues said.

"Jerry" Buster
"She was like a sponge," said Gerald Buster, Caroline's ex-husband. "When you get a mentor like this guy, it was phenomenal for her."

The couple met while working at the Hammond steel plant. They married in 1965 and opened the Cottage Restaurant in 1974. They had planned a low-key opening, but the buzz about a Szathmary apprentice drew 103 patrons on the first day. "There was no way we were prepared for that," Gerald said. "People thought we were a spin-off of The Bakery. It wasn't at all. We didn't copy any of his recipes at all; she had her own ideas of what she wanted to do."

The Cottage became well-known for its schnitzel, tasty soups, full-flavored game and autumnal setting. In a 1992 Tribune restaurant review, the touted dishes included smoked quail and wild mushrooms, venison with a stone-ground mustard sauce, roasted duck and swordfish with pomegranate-pistachio sauce.

When the couple divorced in 1993, Gerald Buster brought in another chef. The restaurant closed in 1996. Caroline Buster never worked in restaurants again. She lived in Rhode Island and southern Indiana briefly and married Paul Welbon. The couple moved to New Mexico, where Paul died in 1999.  Gerald, born in 1936, is still living.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Brody Buster: Celebrated Blues Artist


Brody Buster is only in his early 30s, but he is already a music industry veteran, one preparing to give success a second chance. “I started so young,” he told The Star recently. “I played ‘The Tonight Show,’ I played with B.B. King a bunch of times. But I was just a kid. And then I didn’t want to do it for a while. When I was a teenager, I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll. I wanted to skateboard and party. And then I had kids.”

These days, Buster, 32, is the father of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. He’s also trying to revive a career that started when he was 9 and a blues-harp prodigy from Paola, Kan. His career included several moments of celebrity and fame, with guest appearances on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” the TV shows “Full House” and “Baywatch,” and an endorsement from King, who called the young Buster “one of the greatest harmonica players of our time, despite his age.” Music remained a consistent component of his life, but not the primary focus. “I’ve always played music, but I wasn’t really pursuing it,” he said.

He is now, and at the 2017 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., this month, his pursuit received a significant boost after Buster placed second in the solo/duo category and won best harmonica player. “It has already kick-started my career,” he said. “My email and phone have been flooded with too many offers to get back to. I’m looking for an agent to help me get through it all. I’ve had offers all over the U.S. and Canada to play blues festivals.”

Buster advanced to Memphis after winning a spot through the Kansas City Blues Society’s local competition. Fellow Kansas Citians Amanda Fish and the trio the Old No. 5s also competed in Memphis. Neither made it past the semifinals. It was Buster’s second attempt at the IBC. The first attempt inspired him to change his approach from working in a trio to performing as a one-man band (drums, guitar, harmonica, vocals). “I entered the challenge two years ago as a full band but didn’t make it out of Kansas City,” he said. “All the judges said, ‘You’re really good, you’re just too much rock.’ So I started this one-man-band thing Monday nights at the Westport Saloon. And I built it there. It’s pretty much the same music, but it’s toned down, not so loud and in-the-face. It’s a lot bluesier.”

Buster has released an album on Mudstomp Records as Brody Buster’s One Man Band, and he performs regularly around Kansas City beyond his regular Monday night gig at the Westport Saloon. He also has a weekly Wednesday night gig at the Oak Bar in the InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza.

reprint from LA Times

A Harmonica Prodigy : Brody Buster, 10, has seen his star soar since B.B. King praised his talent.

April 21, 1995|STEVE APPLEFORD
UNIVERSAL CITY — Janet Buster understood things would somehow never be the same for her son after that night last fall at the Universal Amphitheatre.
She and 9-year-old Brody had been given backstage passes to a concert by blues guitar master B. B. King, and the two found a spot at the side of the stage, hoping for a chance to say hello again to King when the show ended.
That's when King saw the boy, raised his hand to stop the concert, and directed the spotlight to suddenly fall on young Brody. "Ladies and gentlemen," King announced, "I'd like to introduce to you one of the greatest harmonica players of our time, despite his age, believe it or not."
A stunning pronouncement, and from a man who should know what he's talking about. Here was the great B. B. King, who has led the charge on more than one blues revival, landing this tow-headed child squarely within some esteemed company. Howlin' Wolf. Sonny Boy Williamson. Shakey Horton. Brody Buster?
This surely has not been some passing fancy, either, since Brody Buster and his band, the Bluesbusters, perform every other weekend at B. B. King's Blues Club on the Universal CityWalk. At the club's grand opening in June, young Brody was even invited on stage to blow his harp alongside King himself.
"You see your 9-year-old stand up there and play with B. B. King and the crowd goes wild, you take notice," his mother says now. "I could never have dreamed of such a thing happening."
This career of Brody's has been an unexpected detour in the life of the Buster family of rural Paola, Kan. What began as a nice hobby for the boy has within two years exploded with unexpected consequences. There was his appearance on ABC-TV's sitcom "Full House." And this week, Brody began filming a guest spot on the syndicated hit television series "Baywatch."
Six months after arriving in Los Angeles, Brody is represented by the same management firm (Morra, Brezner, Steinberg and Tennenbaum) that handles the massive careers of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
But Brody, who is now 10, seems the least surprised of anyone. Even before he first picked up a harmonica, Brody would watch the Grammy Awards with his parents and practice his own acceptance speeches, thank ing Mom and Dad.
"He can actually play," says guitarist Vincent Labauve, 37, musical director of the Bluesbusters. The veteran sideman for such artists as Ike Turner, Solomon Burke, Barry White and the Coasters, adds, "We're not lacking musically. I wouldn't care if he was 2. The musical content is what I go for. I go for the talent.
"I don't feel any kind of stigma because we've got a 10-year-old kid in front of us. That doesn't bother me in the least. I'm more relaxed on this gig than I am on the big professional gigs that I've done."
On one recent Friday night, the self-taught Brody stomped to the stage in a purple double-breasted suit and with a case full of harmonicas, ready to blow through the standard blues repertoire. Among those songs was Willie Dixon's "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," where the boy was most convincing as both player and singer, actually finding a grinding edge in his voice, and blowing his harp with real force.
"It's a novelty to a lot of people," says Labauve. "But what's so cool about it is that he delivers. He's not just 'Oh, how cute!' He's actually playing. That puts a whole other slant on things."
After his shows at B. B. King's Blues Club, Brody and his band stroll over to Lucille's, King's sports bar next door, where the young musician plays another three sets that last half an hour or so.
While waiting for his band to set up, he's asked who his favorite musician is. Brody does not hesitate. "B. B. King," says Brody, his blond hair neatly combed. "I also like Eric Clapton."
But it was his mother's collection of old blues, country, and rhythm and blues records that first fascinated Brody. His father, Curtis, one day brought home an acoustic guitar from a garage sale. Then his mother brought out her old harmonicas for Brody to try.
Suddenly, Brody, who was then 7, was playing the thing everywhere: in the car, in the grocery store, on the porch, in the treehouse.
"I quit playing," remembers his mother. "Brody put me to shame. In a couple of months he could do everything I could do.
"He has the music in him. He's always banging on something, in a rhythm or a pattern, making music somehow. And when he's not making music he's drawing designs for stages. He says that relaxes him."
Brody's guitar teacher soon recommended that Brody try out his blues harp chops at the various jam sessions and talent contests in nearby Kansas City.
"He never had any stage fright," says Janet Buster, 40. "I didn't know what would happen the first time he got up. I didn't know if he would start crying and run and sit down. I was really nervous about it. I didn't want him to have a bad experience. But he just really enjoyed it."
The family eventually decided to spend last year's spring vacation in Memphis, where Brody could find audiences amid the euphoric atmosphere of Beale Street. There, he blew his harp on street corners and in the occasional club, while other kids danced.
Spring break ultimately stretched into summer, with Brody's father commuting on weekends--which he continues to do--from his car dealership back in Paola. Fans were throwing money at Brody, who earned a couple hundred dollars a night, enough to buy himself a fine electric guitar at the end of the summer.
The family's extended vacation away from their old life finally led late last year to Los Angeles, where Brody was soon booked at B. B. King's club. He prepares for his late-night schedule by taking afternoon naps. Along with his 9-year-old sister, Brody attends fourth grade at a public elementary school in Burbank and insists, "I get straight A's and Bs," which his parents make clear is a prerequisite for his music career.
His parents say they have also been careful to have Brody perform only in the least rowdy of clubs. (So far, the most unpleasant experience has been Brody's arm growing tired from too many autographs.) Only venues that serve food--as opposed to bars that just serve alcohol--are considered.
"I think it holds no glamour for him," says Janet Brody. "When he's 16 and his peers are cruising and out drinking, I don't think that will hold any attraction for him because he's seen what it really does. We always point out the artists who ended their careers sadly and too soon by overdosing or drinking too much."
To that end, the Busters were determined to form a backing group for their son, free of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The Bluesbusters--which also includes bassist Jerry Chambers and drummer Cheron Moore--are determined to "shield him from the crap that goes on, the negative part of the show business world," says Labauve, the father of three. "We definitely want to shield him from that, because it's really not necessary to expose the kid to that."
For now, Brody Buster and the Bluesbusters continue to play their mix of blues classics and blues-rock covers from the 1960s. Brody today says he's only interested in the blues, while the more modern rock sounds of MTV have so far failed to impress him.
But Brody is still only 10, and Labauve, for one, is expecting some changes in the coming years. "You know when Brody hits his teens, he's going to want to rock a lot more," he says with a laugh. "That's just something that happens to you."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bobette Buster: Hollywood's Secret

Bobette Buster was born on September 4,1953 in Ohio, but was raised in a small town of Leitchfield, Kentucky. Growing up there, she would collect stories in her youth about the older generation, which included her own family members, and has the oral histories preserved at the Kentucky Museum. She graduated Northwestern University with a B.S. in Speech and USC Film School with an M.F.A. in the Peter Stark Producing Program. She also studied briefly at Princeton University.

Currently living in Los Angeles, she has been working as a part-time lecturer as a Stark adjunct professor since 1992. Her lecturing and consulting experiences have comprised of Pixar, Disney, Le Femis (Paris), DFFB (Berlin), 20th Century Fox, Sony Animation, Screen Training Ireland, North By Northwest (Denmark), and more. Her area of expertise in the film industry focuses on the development of storytelling for all cultures, incorporating corporate, nonprofit, and academia. Her influences extend to writers like, Josh Goldsmith (EP, King of Queens, What Women Want), Pete Chiarelli (The Proposal), Elizabeth Klaviter (Producer/Writer, Grey’s Anatomy), Dana Fox (EP, Ben and Kate), Miles Millar & Alfred Gough (EPs, Smallville), Garret Lerner & Russell Friend (EPs, House), John August (screenwriter,) documentary producer Karen Johnson (Double Dare,) and many more. She focuses on principles such as The History of Hollywood Economics, Violence in Entertainment, The Purpose of Happily Ever After, Epiphany, and The Ten Stages of Transformation, among other important storytelling principals.

Aside from lecturing, Bobette is also a screenwriter and documentary producer. "There is phenomenal work being done in documentaries," she praised. "The constraints of raising funds and delivering ideas that can be marketed worldwide have created a really taut story discipline among documentary makers." Her works include Deadly Code (2013), Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2016) and Weapons of Mass Distraction (1997). She also has written a book that is apart of the “Do” series, entitled, Do Story: How to tell your story so the world listens that engages and connects the craftsmanship of storytelling. She is a member of the Writers Guild, and in December of 2007 while picketing outside of Paramount during the writer's strike, she reinforced, "Writers took the lead here because we're contrarians, independent thinkers."

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