A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 15, 2016
“The performer is available for a limited number of cancellations”

American pianist and composer Oscar Levant (1906-1972) and Russian-born American classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) both became notorious for cancelling concerts. Levant joked (by at least 1953) that he and Horowitz would take out an ad in Musical America:

“Vladimir Horowitz and Oscar Levant available for a limited number of cancellations.”

Spanish operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé (born 1933) also had a diva reputation, and it was frequently joked about her in the 1970s that she was “available for a limited number of cancellations.” The joke has been applied to any performer known for frequent cancellations.


Wikipedia: Oscar Levant
Oscar Levant (December 27, 1906 – August 14, 1972) was an American pianist, composer, author, comedian, and actor. He was as famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio and in movies and television, as for his music.

10 May 1953, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Proram Notes” by John Rosenfield, pt. 7, pg. 4, col. 1:
Horowitz and His Nerves Again to Dazzle Dallas Symphony Fans
The story goes that an advertisement solicitor for the big booking annual Musical America tried to sell space to Vladimir Horowitz and Oscar Levant.

The two pianists flirted with the idea of taking an ad together saying, “Vladimir Horowitz and Oscar Levant available for a limited number of cancellations.”

Levant’s record for not showing up or refusing to play after showing up has become notorious.

16 April 1970, Arlington (TX) Daily News, Bob Callan column, pg. 2, col. 1:
It’s sorta like when Oscar Levant began to feel his illness. Levant had numerous concerts scheduled, which he was forced to cancel—one by one. Realizing how ridiculous the situation was becoming — and grabbing for his sense rd humor — Levant inserted a full page ad in Variety. 

The ad read: “A Limited Number of Cancellations Available. Please contact Oscar Levant.’’

22 March 1977, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Horowitz in Pavilion Debut” by Martin Bernheimer, pt. 4, pg. 1, col. 5:
The more skeptical among the aficionados nodded sagely. “(Vladimir—ed.) Horowitz,” they explained, ‘was available this season only for a limited number of cancellations.”

7 November 1977, Los Angeles (CA) Times, ‘Turandot’ at San Francisco” by Martin Bernheimer, pt. 4, pg. 1, col. 2:
SAN FRANCISCO --- Montserrat Caballe, the angelic-sounding Catalan diva, is not particularly noted for reliability. Her name on the post does not necessarily ensure her appearance at the performance. This season, it had been reported she would be available for only a limited number of cancellations.

Twitter
Operatweets
‏@Operatweets
Let’s remember a famous joke in the 70s: “Mme Caballé is available for only a limited number of cancellations this season” #Gheorghiugate
8:49 AM - 29 Nov 2010

San Diego (CA) Jewish World
Some witticisms of Oscar Levant
Posted on 05 May 2011.
By David Amos
(...)
–Horowitz gave me lessons in cancelling concerts. I used to cancel as far ahead as two weeks when I was ill. “Never do that,” he explained. “Always cancel at the last minute”. So I jokingly said, “Let’s take an ad: Vladimir Horowitz and Oscar Levant open for a limited number of cancellations”.

Financial Times
February 15, 2016 5:55 pm
Manon Lescaut, Metropolitan Opera, New York — ‘Passion and poetry’
Martin Bernheimer
The celebrated diva Montserrat Caballé used to be the butt of a rather serious joke. “She will be available this season,” it was often scoffed, “for a limited number of cancellations.” Now, the same rueful sentiment applies to a celebrated divo, Jonas Kaufmann. He seems to be available this season for a limited number of disappearances.

The Irish Times
March 15, 2016
Angela Gheorghiu might be high-maintenance but she’s worth it
She is sometimes said to live up to the prima donna billing, but after a cautious start she shone at the NCH

Michael Dervan
(...)
Tantrums, unreasonable demands, and slews of cancellations are what the world seems to expect from a genuine prima donna. There’s an old joke about a famous soprano who takes out an advertisement in a trade journal to let everyone know that she is “still available for a limited number of cancellations” in the coming season.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Tuesday, March 15, 2016 • Permalink