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3/17/10

Lonnie Johnson's unopened letter


There is something I have wondered about for fifty years, the content of a letter from Lonnie Johnson to a Miss Bell Sims of Chicago. It was September, 1960 and Lonnie had just returned from his first major musical gig in many years, two weeks at Chicago's Playboy Club. He was not staying with me, but he obviously did not want his girlfriend/wife (I never knew what position she held) to know about Miss Sims, so he used my apartment as a return address. It was probably a wise decision, for Miss Sims never claimed the letter, so it was returned by the Post Office—to me.



I was actually packing up to relocate in New York City and start a new job at Riverside Records, so things were a bit hectic at Clinton Street and the letter disappeared into a pile of papers. Lonnie knew about it, but never bothered to pick it up.

So, I have had this letter in my possession for half a century, and left it unopened!

Don't think that it hasn't been tempting. Lonnie is long gone, so—presumably—is Miss Sims, and that side entrance? Who knows if gentleman callers still use it?

My question is...what would you do? Open it or...


Post a comment and tell me what YOU would do...

UPDATE July 2013

You can't take it with you, so I decided to sell the letter, The buyer has promised to reveal the contents if he decides to open the envelope, but I have a feeling that he will keep it sealed. I would.

8 comments:

  1. Well, this is apparently the 50th anniversary of the letter's creation, so it's become a suitable historical artifact and even a possible tribute to Johnson, regardless of content. Imagine the hoopla if it were by Robert rather than Lonnie... (Oh, just steam it open secretly, read it, and reseal if embarrassing!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The nineteenth-century side of my character (the one that values the individual's privacy) says to destroy it unread. But the other side -- the researcher -- says it might reveal fascinating things about Lonnie and Miss Sims. So I agree with Ed: read it yourself and tell us nothing if the content is unflattering to either party. Had it been truly embarrassing, one thinks, Lonnie might have retrieved it . . . or he might have forgotten. Curiosity killed us; satisfaction brought us back. Keep us informed, Chris!

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  3. The Social Security Death Index lists eight people named "Belle Sims," none with Chicago as last residence or place where the SSN was issued. So it's possible, though very unlikely, that Ms. Sims is living still. Even if she's dead, this letter could reveal something painful or at least deeply embarrassing to those who held her near and dear. If the full name of the recipient remained unknown, there'd be fewer complications.

    If the letter were in my possession, I would read it, for sure. But I'd probably not make it public.

    ReplyDelete
  4. If Belle Sims is dead, do open the envelope. I guess that there are many are reasons to believe that she's dead.

    Forgot to tell you that I met Timme Rosenkrants' brother's son, the late Jörgen Rosenkrantz, who lived in Stockholm. He once was a friend of Spencer Williams', when he lived in Stockholm 1951 - 57. Check my article about Williams (in Swedish).
    Cheers Per

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maybe there's no "Belle Sims" at all. Maybe Lonnie Johnson only tested what you, Chris Albertson, are going to do when the letter gets (back) to you.

    Open it! Maybe you'll read: Dear Chris, thank's a lot for bringing me back on stage again.

    No kidding! Open the letter and tell us what you read.

    Another "Belle Sims", maybe.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the comments.

    I am giving it thought. If I do open it, the result will be posted here, unless it is of a very private nature.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Maybe it will say "I know What You Did Last Summer"

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  8. Ah... So this is the letter you mentioned opening.

    You're a class-act not being tempted to open it the last 50 years. It appears to be a Thank You Note... Miss Belle Simms gave Lonnie a "gift" of somekind...

    You now if Belle was a young "groupie", she is probably still with us... Simms most likely was a maiden name so you wouldn't even know where to find her in the SS death index.

    But forget all the possible details... If she was, a young fan... & I was 61 years old at the time like Mr. Johnson was, I would be thanking her, too.

    ReplyDelete