“Weighting” with Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong was not only a genius but also a sweet and generous man. Millions loved him. Fortunately, he liked to talk with people and said he had no trouble remembering names; he simply called everyone "Pops."

Things came easily to Armstrong, but I was aware of at least one of his problems: his weight. He liked to eat and easily became heavy. Often as not, he was on a diet. The key to his weight-reduction regimen was one or another laxative. When I best know Satchmo, his favorite was Pluto Water, a kind of liquid dynamite.

Another of his problems was his teeth--a most important feature for a horn man. Significantly, I last saw Louis when we were both in a dentist's waiting room. We had the same specialist, a fellow named Gottlieb (no relative). After small talk, Satchmo looked me over, deciding I, too, had been gaining weight. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a printed diet (that he kept for friends-in-need), and handed me a copy. "Pops," he said, "try this." I quickly noted that it featured Pluto Water. But I thanked him, anyway.

Later that week, I had reason to check out my Armstrong photos. One of them had been taken in a theater dressing room. There, on the counter, were a variety of objects, including a stack of white handkerchiefs (he sweated a lot and always carried a bunch on stage). There, too, just on the edge of the counter, almost out of the picture, was...a bottle of Pluto Water. Apparently, Louis' weight problem was under control.