Glimpse into Matt Tolentino's Jazz Age Life at the Sunday Social March 30
Matt Tolentino and Danielle Bennignus are a black and white photo brought to life. She bobs her hair, wears trousers and dances the Charleston; he wears swallow-tailed suits and trilbies. They're your friendly neighborhood hep cats, with a mid-century lifestyle decorated with boudoir dolls, 78's and pocket squares.
"We're encouraging people to dress vintage, there will be a dance floor, my band the Sinagpore Slingers will play and we'll have vendors selling everything from jewelry to ice cream," Tolentino says. "We're encouraging people to pack lunches and spend the day with us. It's just a big party."
Victrolas and parasols aren't a fly-by-night hipster trend for Tolentino and Bennignus, it's taken years to build and perfect their pre-war life.
"It's a fun way to live, I have to admit it," Tolentino says, over a cup of Joe at Oak Lawn Coffee. He was easy to spot, as he's the only one in the coffee shop wearing a blue-striped suit. "For me, this obsession started with the music."
Growing up in Dallas, Tolentino wore jeans and t-shirts, but from a very early age he was fascinated with the music of a long-gone era. The way he remembers it, he was 8 years old when he first heard music from the 1920's. It was the spark that led to a life-long fascination with the movies, the cars, the clothes, the literature. "I devoured anything I could get my hands on," Tolentino says. "When I was a teenager, I'd make my parents drive me to Borders or Half Price Books so I could dig through cds or records. It seems strange that there was ever such a time."
Catherine Downes Tolentino with his extensive sheet music collection.
Tolentino funneled this love of pre-swing dance music music into an eighteen member orchestra he founded in 2007, the Singapore Slingers. The group plays American popular songs from the turn of the 20th century through 1935. Think ragtime through the foxtrot. The Slingers play forgotten tunes like "You're the Cream in my Coffee" or Tolentino's personal favorite, the 1929 love song "I may be wrong (but I think you're wonderful)."
"It's got that catchy 20's beat, but it has a sarcasm to it that captures the spirit of the era," Tolentino says, singing a line from the song, "You said that Edison would never make the light.... it's just about a guy who can't out clothes that match, he has terrible taste, but he's finally made the right choice in picking out his lady friend."
Other than his '93 Chevrolet (which he describes as "vintage enough"), the only modern exception in Tolentino's wholly anachronistic life is his use of technology. He's got a flip phone, a computer and a Facebook. But he owes his love life to social media. Five years ago, he met Danielle on Myspace.