[JPL] Former Lakers forward and Dodgers executive, 71, enjoys his days listening to and playing jazz.

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Mon Feb 18 10:02:25 EST 2008


http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-crowe18feb18,1,5388837.column?ctrack=6&c
set=true
>From the Los Angeles Times
CROWE'S NEST

These days Hawkins is the keeper of the cool
Former Lakers forward and Dodgers executive, 71, enjoys his days listening
to and playing jazz.
Jerry Crowe

February 18, 2008

It's a gorgeous midwinter Saturday in Southern California, perfect for
hiking or kite flying or any other outdoor activity, but Tommy Hawkins is
happily cooped up inside a darkened studio in Long Beach, oblivious to the
weather outside.

He says there's no other place he would rather be.

The former Lakers forward and former Dodgers executive might be "one of the
nation's leading eclectics," as the multifaceted Hawkins proudly describes
himself in a bio, but his undying, overriding passion is for jazz.

And he is indulging it at this very moment, the "Jazz Hawk" spinning a
playlist of songs hand-selected from his personal collection for his weekly
three-hour radio show, heard Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on KKJZ-FM. .

"It's not only my gig," Hawkins says. "It's my therapy."

So enthusiastic for the music is Hawkins, a 71-year-old grandfather, that he
leaves the impression that basketball may have stolen him from his true
love, pausing before noting with a laugh when asked about this, "Let's say
two loves had I."

He readily acknowledges that, had he stopped growing before topping out at 6
feet 5, "I'd be wailing on a trumpet right now."

As an NBA player from 1959 to 1969 -- six seasons with the Lakers, spread
out over two stints, and four with the Cincinnati Royals -- Hawkins says he
spent more time prowling jazz clubs and riffling through record bins than he
did on the court, where he averaged nine points and six rebounds a game.

"I'd get on the phone as soon as I could to call my mom and tell her where I
was," says Hawkins, who grew up in Chicago and was Notre Dame's first
African American basketball star. "And my mom would always say, 'Now, you be
careful. You're there to play basketball, not run around these towns.' She'd
chastise me. . . . But you always knew where to find me. Someone would say,
'Where's Hawk?' You'd say, 'Check Birdland or Basin Street East,' or another
club."

Hawkins says his first regular hangout was the London House in Chicago,
which he started frequenting as a younger-than-he-looked 18-year-old, but by
then his love of music already was deeply ingrained.

"My mom told me that before I could walk, I would pull myself up on the
record player and try to move the needle onto the record," he says. "We had
everything from Perry Como to Charlie Parker being played in the house; Mom
loved the Mills Brothers. I had three older brothers and one younger sister
and when the paychecks came in on Saturday, we'd all be allowed to buy at
least one record."

Hawkins says he started collecting music when he was 12, building a treasure
trove that has grown to include about 8,000 vinyl records and some 3,000
CDs. In high school, while also playing basketball and baseball, he played
second trumpet in the concert band and studied at the Chicago School of
Music.

"The jocks used to tease me," he says. "They'd come into the assembly, I'm
sitting there playing my trumpet and they'd say, 'Look at little Tommy
Toot-Toot.' "

Hawkins gave up the trumpet when he got to Notre Dame, but he never stopped
listening. In addition to sports stars, he says, his idols included deejay
icons such as Daddy-O Daley, Al Benson, Sid McCoy and Herb Kent, "The Cool
Gent."

In the NBA and later as a sportscaster, Hawkins says, his travels gave him
entree into a world he might not have otherwise known. Duke Ellington once
asked him over for crepes. Janis Joplin, seated next to Hawkins on a Lakers
flight to San Francisco, invited him to come see her perform in Oakland,
which he did.

"The advantage I have over most people who do this is that I hung out with
all of these people," Hawkins says. "I got to know the music and the
musicians."

Hawkins, who spent 19 years as a local and national television and radio
broadcaster after leaving the Lakers, was a part-time deejay on KKGO-FM
about 20 years ago and was itching to try it again after leaving the Dodgers
in 2004.

"I wanted to share what I know," says Hawkins, who lives in Malibu with
second wife Layla and their 18-year-old daughter, Neda. "What cannot happen
to jazz is this: When you bury Duke Ellington, Cannonball Adderley, Count
Basie, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and all these other people, you cannot bury
their music with them."

Says fellow KKJZ deejay Bubba Jackson, "His passion is unquestioned. When he
puts together his playlist, it's like he's getting ready for a game."

Hawkins spends about five hours a week preparing for his show, he says, so
he's not totally engrossed in music. He's writing three books, among them a
collection of poetry he hopes to have published this fall. Another book will
focus on his NBA career, including the Lakers' move from Minneapolis, and
another will chronicle the celebrities and other interesting characters he
has encountered, including his memorable exchange with Miles Davis at the
Hollywood Bowl.

When Hawkins asked the volatile trumpeter how he could best introduce him,
Davis snapped, "You can get the . . . out of my way. I need no
introduction."

Hawkins laughs at the retelling.

"Those other things were occupations and growing steps," he says,
referencing his varied resume as he cues up another CD. "This is a lifelong
love."

jerome.crowe at latimes.com




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