Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
Sept. 26, 1907
Marco Vessella, conductor of Long Beach’s Royal Italian Band, has had nothing but trouble with Special Officer W.D. Cason after firing him from his job as ticket taker.
On one September evening, Vessella and a young lady were waiting for a streetcar when Cason taunted him, calling him “spaghetti face” and “a longhaired dago.”
Vessella was an extremely popular and respected musician in Southern California. The Times said: “Vessella clings to no past traditions, is a follower of no particular school and is not an exclusive nationalist. He plays with equal facility representative compositions of French, German, Italian, English and the best American composers.
“In addition, he is a clever composer, and each month sees something added to his already excellent list. His “Independent” march, intermezzos “Teasing Heart” and “Dulgura,” his “Ebell” minuet and his latest symphonic interlude “Midsummer,” all created since his arrival in Southern California, are not only seaside popularities but are brilliant studies in harmony and musical conception.”
Witnesses said Vessella fired Cason because he was flirting with the conductor’s women friends. On the night of Sept. 10, 1907, Cason ran into Vessella and a young woman named Mabel Wilson at the Huntington station and began insulting the maestro. Asked in court to explain his comments, Cason merely shrugged.
Cason was convicted and fined $15 ($307.85 USD 2005), but the animosity between the men wasn’t over. In October, Cason accused Vessella of challenging him to a fight.
“The case itself was a joke,” The Times said. “It was a sequel to the piteous complaint made by the Italian bandmaster to the Los Angeles [note: Long Beach] police against the man who insulted his feelings by calling him ‘a monkey-faced dago.’ ”
The jury deadlocked and the case was dismissed. Vessella left Southern California the next year.