The recent Indiana controversy over whether businesses have the right to refuse service to gay customers reminded me of one of my favorite jazz stories. This one was told by one jazz legend (Oscar Peterson) about another (Dizzy Gillespie).
“We were traveling down South, in some of the bigoted areas. So it was two oâ€™clock in the morning, or something like that, and we pulled up to one of those roadside diners. And I looked, and there was the famous sign: No Negroes. And the deal was, we all had duos or trios of friendship, so one of the Caucasian cats would say, â€˜What do you want me to get you?â€™ And theyâ€™d go in, and they wouldnâ€™t eat in there, theyâ€™d order and come back on the bus and eat with us. But Dizzy gets up and walks off the bus and goes in there. And weâ€™re all saying, â€˜Oh my God, thatâ€™s the last weâ€™ll see of him.â€™ And he sits down at the counterâ€”we could see this whole thing through the window. And the waitress goes over to him. And she says to him, â€˜Iâ€™m sorry, sir, but we donâ€™t serve Negroes in here.â€™ And Dizzy says, â€˜I donâ€™t blame you, I donâ€™t eat â€™em. Iâ€™ll have a steak.â€™”