So, tis the season to be jolly even though we are practically sans toenail. I, of course, have not done one or two whits worth of shopping. As I write this particular paragraph it is December the 23rd. Tomorrow I will have to go out and buy presents and brave the crowds. Not coward the crowds, mind you, but brave the crowds. I do this every year, this putting off buying gifts until the last possible minute. It is a flaw in my personality. Do you know that if Cole Porter had a flaw in his personality it would be Cole flaw? Just asking. What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, last minute gift buying and how it results from a flaw in my personality. Here in Los Angeles, California, it does not seem like Christmas because the temperature has been in the eighties. It's like summer here in Los Angeles, California, even though it is now officially winter. We are wearing shorts in Los Angeles, California, dear readers, and there are no chestnuts roasting on an open fire. I wonder if anyone has ever roasted chestnuts on a closed fire? And just what does a chest have to do with a nut? Why shouldn't it be kneenuts or anklenuts? Who decided it should be chestnuts? Did somebody put their nuts on their chest and say, "Hey, I've got a good idea. I'll call these nuts on my chest "chestnuts" and thereby insure my place in word history." Chestnut is not the only nutty nut name. How about pistachio? How do you name a nut "pistachio"? Or almond? Hazelnut was, of course, named after the famous insane person, Hazel Flark, who spent most of her life in Dr. Pimn's Sanitarium for the Incurably Obtuse where she was known as that nut Hazel Flark. One day a nut inventor named Bernard Cashew was passing through Dr. Pimn's Sanitarium For The Incurably Obtuse and met Hazel Flark, and he was so taken with that nut Hazel that he invented the Hazelnut and the rest, as they say, is nut history. Mr. Cashew and Miss Flark eventually married and had many children, who, by the way, were all nuts. Can someone please send me some Lithium?
I keep saying "Tis the season to be jolly" and leaving off the most important part of that statement, "fa la la la la la la la la" (al al al al al al al al af spelled backwards). We simply cannot have a jolly season without the various fas and las. In any case, I have been cooking up a storm for my Christmas Eve bash. Have you ever cooked up a storm? Here's my recipe:
Mix together and season (Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall - your preference) to taste.
This makes a splendid storm for three. Just increase amounts for a larger storm. Does anyone have a clue as to what the hell I'm talking about?
Well, since I wrote the paragraph above my Christmas Eve bash has come and gone and also gone and come. A wonderful time was had by all. My new neighbors (they of the screaming infant) even dropped by (no mean feat) and sampled the various foodstuffs and beveragestuffs. They brought their two daughters, the five-year-old and the screaming infant, who, true to her nature, began screaming almost immediately. Whilst she was screaming she also decided that she had to touch everything in the house. Her parents were too busy chatting to watch the screaming touching infant, so I assigned a screaming touching infant team to keep all items in the house safe from harm. By the end of the bash we were all stuffed to the gills even though none of us were fish although we were all sitting on the couch like so much of it. The following morning I opened my Various and Sundry gifts even though it was only Saturdry. Yes, this year both Christmas and New Year's Day fall on a Saturday which is not very pleasant for the Saturday, let me tell you that.
Speaking of the New Year, I'll bet you thought I'd forgotten that we will soon be living in the 2000s. Yes, a new century is dawning, dear readers, and we are here to tell the tale. I know there is some confusion on this new century/millennium, whether it, in fact, begins in 2000 or 2001. Apparently the thinking goes that there was no year 0. In other words, the first year was 1. But if that were the case then wouldn't the year 1 have been the first century and if that were the case shouldn't the century of 2000 be the twentieth century instead of the twenty-first? How did we get ahead, century-wise? And who says there wasn't a year 0? Some history person? Were they there? Oh, it's all too too confusing, and in fact, it's a case worthy of Perry Mason, The Case of the Confusing Century. I'm just going to say that the year 2000 is the new century, the new millennium and the devil take the hindmost. Anyway, let us hope that this new year and new century brings great and exciting things. As I hinted in the last column, certainly on a personal level there are changes aplenty happening which hopefully will bring great and exciting things. You know I'm starting to feel as if I've been writing this section of the column for a century. It just goes on and on and on. Frankly, I believe we should just proceed apace to the next section of the column, because this section of the column is starting to resemble my close friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim's musical, Wise Guys: It needs work but what else is new? But enough about me.
Well, dear readers, here we are, in a brand spanking new century. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I am writing this here section of this here column on January 1, 2000, the beginning of the new century. I welcomed in the New Year as I always do, by contemplating life and All That It Means. After that I had some Diet Coke, cheese slices and ham chunks because, even though it is a new century we must honor old traditions. Right now, for example, I am honoring the old tradition of writing a column. Do you know what else I am doing right at this very moment? I shall tell you what I'm doing right at this very moment because you have the right to know but frankly what I am doing right at this very moment is different from what I was doing a moment ago because time marches on and there is simply nothing we can do about it except try to keep up. In any case, I am bleaching my teeth right at this very moment. Isn't that a delightful thing to do in the new century? This bleaching of the teeth takes four weeks to do and I am in the middle of the four weeks, which means I am in Week Two of Bleached Teeth. I shall soon have reclaimed my dazzlingly white teeth and I shall light up the new century with my dazzlingly white smile. It's not that my teeth were yellow or green or purple or anything so heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) as that. It's just that teeth lose some luster with all the eating and drinking and general use they get. And so, in this day and age we can bleach not only our clothes but also our teeth. Our forefathers could not bleach their teeth, nor could our aftfathers. Our four fathers could not bleach their teeth either. No, not even our foremothers could bleach their fershluganah teeth. But now, because of Modern Technology and All That That Means all fathers and mothers and children, whether fore or aft, can now bleach their teeth if they so choose.
When you decide to bleach your teeth the first thing that happens is you must decide whether you wish to bleach all your teeth or merely the upper or lower set. I chose the upper set. The dentist (in my case, Dr. Chew) then has to take an impression of your teeth. To do this he puts a thing in your mouth which is filled with ugly tasting goop (poog spelled backwards). Oh, this goop is hideous. It almost made me gag, so hideous was this goop. I almost barfed this goop right up all over Dr. Chew. Once the dentist removes the hideous goop from your mouth it somehow becomes a cast of your teeth. From the cast of your teeth he then makes a plastic device which you then use at your very own home to bleach your very own teeth. You also get an official teeth-bleaching kit, which includes six- count-them-six syringes filled with teeth-bleaching goop (which is different than the hideous goop used to make the cast of your teeth). I didn't even know my teeth had a cast, but it's a good cast and includes a cameo by Winona Ryder or Winona Judd or Ashley Judd or some Winona or Ashley or Judd. What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, the bleaching of the teeth. So, you take the syringe filled with teeth-bleaching goop and you inject the goop into the plastic device which looks suspiciously like the cast of your very own mouth. Yes, there is a space to inject goop for each and every tooth you are intending to bleach (in my case the upper set). Once you have injected said goop into each and every tooth space you fit the plastic device over your very own teeth and keep it there for two hours. You must remove the goop residue, as it will burn your gums if you don't. You cannot be smug about the removal of the goop which will burn your gums even though "smug" is "gums" spelled backwards. You must also hope that no one calls during the two hours in which you have the plastic device in your mouth because frankly it's difficult to talk with it and you end up sounding like an idiot, unless you were an idiot to begin with in which case no one will notice anything different.
At the end of four weeks, voila! White teeth wherever you look. I shall smile with great frequency and people will be heard to remark, "My goodness, what dazzlingly white teeth you have" and I shall nod my head in agreement.
What is it with people, dear readers? I sincerely hope that none of you were susceptible to the Y2K panic. People taking their money out of banks, people standing in long lines to purchase dried meats, canned goods and bottled waters. People fretting that the entire infrastructure of everything would shut down and render the world totally useless. What a load of pish tosh and also tosh pish. As I write this it is now officially the year 2000. My computer is working fine, my ATM is working fine and you will find no dried meats, canned goods or bottled waters in or around my kitchen. All that panic for naught. The world didn't end. What are people going to do with all that dried meat? Even if the world did come to a crashing halt what would they do with all that dried meat. Who invented dried meat anyway? Was the person who invented wet meat upset? Well, as you knew I would, I did a little research into Dried Meat and How It Came To Be and this is what I found.
Dried meat was invented by one Waldo G. Bamf. Apparently one fine day he just got the notion that it would be interesting to have some dried meat. There was really no rhyme or reason for it; he just got it into his head that dried meat was something worth pursuing. It became an obsession with him. It was all he thought about, day in and day out. Even during his weekly poker game he was heard to enigmatically exclaim, "I raise three dried meats". One of the other players said, "That's rather a jerky thing to say" and the rest is history. He dried out some beef and called it Beef Jerky. That was merely the tip of the dried meat iceberg for Mr. Bamf. From then on he devoted his life to dried meats. He gave up his career as one of the foremost experts on ingrown toenails and spent all his days and nights figuring out new and improved ways to dry meats. He, however, neglected to patent any of his dried meats, and he died many years later in abject poverty, his only assets being cupboards full of dried meats. At the time of his death he was working on his autobiography, My Life with Dried Meat by Waldo G. Bamf, but it was unfinished and remains unpublished. I think, however, he would have been pleased to know that at the end of the 20th century the millennium worrywarts were flocking to the stores to stock up on Mr. Bamf's very own dried meat products.
Next time perhaps I'll tell you the story of the person who had the brilliant idea to take water and put it in a bottle.
And just where is the musical theater heading? It's hard to know, really. Revivals are not the answer. We need new shows, new voices, and new entertainments. We need people who understand the art of book writing. We need composers and lyricists who aren't merely aping my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. I see lots of workshops and hear lots of new scores, some of them very talented, but most inflicted with too much Sondheimitis. I sometimes feel that new writers should be forced to write a few popular-style show tunes, just so they understand the form. It's becoming a lost art. When you see revivals of classic shows, that's what's so amazing: scores filled with great tunes, great lyrics and songs. Even Mr. Sondheim's groundbreaking Company had songs. Yes, they illuminated character, yes they commented on the action, yes they were caustic, funny, sad and brilliant and yes, they were songs. "Songs" is not a dirty word. It doesn't mean one can't have musical sequences but I'm so tired of seeing these shows that are "through- sung" where no one ever stops singing and just talks. The reason that The King and I and Gypsy and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and any other classic musical works is because they have a perfect fusion of music, lyric, and book. Can you imagine if The King and I were written today? They'd sing everything, there would be nothing but recitative and it would be a pseudo opera and a big bore. For all the faults of Ragtime, it had a real score and a real book and a real point. I also think the workshop process has gotten totally out of hand. Not totally out of foot, mind you, but totally out of hand. When Michael Bennett began that process it was something wholly other. Now shows have to have five or six workshops, endless revisions and then when we finally see the finished thing it's no good anyway. It's one thing to get some actors together to read and sing through a new show so the authors can "hear" it, it's another thing to do these huge workshops with invited audiences over and over again. It used to be that a show would get written and go into rehearsal. In rehearsal the creators would see what worked and didn't work and do some fixing. Then the show would go out of town and do a tryout in a few cities. Of course there was no Internet and there were no prying eyes and they could do their work without endless rumors and speculation. They could see how the audiences reacted and hopefully fix what needed to be fixed and come in with a hit show. Obviously they weren't able to fix all shows, and the ones that came in and didn't cut it actually closed, unlike today. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when a show like The Scarlet Pimpernel can open, do no business, get revamped, open again, do no business again, revamp, open again, do no business again and then get a tour? What kind of producers do we have today? It's all about whose pockets are deepest and it's all for show. I would love to see the final "loss" tally on The Scarlet Pimpernel. I'd bet it's in the fifteen million-dollar range. Well, I don't know how you feel, dear readers, but that just doesn't seem like good business to me. I remember when the recent revival of Once Upon A Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker opened. It was critically lambasted, the audiences did not like it and yet the producers, The Dodgers, kept that show running for five months. Why? It did nothing but lose money. In the old days, if a show like that opened and got those notices and had that kind of audience apathy, it was gone within days.
Has anyone noticed that I've been ranting? I didn't mean to, but I find the state of the American musical to be in total disrepair. Where does the fault lie? With producers who don't seem to know what makes a good musical? With authors who pick projects which have no hope of being popular with audiences? Forward momentum, yes, new and exciting ideas, yes, but never forgetting the history and tools of what made the classic musicals work. Good characters, good stories well told, and good scores. It all sounds so simple and yet it is one of the hardest artforms to get right. But I'm ever hopeful and always appreciative of good work. When you go to a new musical and everything works there is nothing more thrilling. Now we're lucky if we get two or three new musicals a season. A mere thirty-five years ago, there were between ten and twenty new musicals a season. They weren't all brilliant and they weren't all hits, but there was a spirit and a sense of fun and adventure about them that is sorely lacking today. I shall now get off my soapbox and eat a cheese slice (after I take the plastic device out of my mouth). With apologies to Mr. Cole Porter, I offer the following (to the tune of Anything Goes):
Well, tis the season to be jolly and by golly if you all haven't sent wonderful letters wishing me a wonderful holiday season. Right back at you, dear readers. I apologize in advance if there are some letters that remain unanswered, but such are the vagaries of the season and having little time. Just know that I read them all and appreciate them all whilst wearing a plastic device in my mouth. By the way, as soon as the bleaching process is complete I promise you an activity photo of my brand spanking new dazzlingly white teeth.
Tom (from the Merry old land of Oz) wrote to tell me that in Oz the new century was celebrated prior to us celebrating here in the United States of America and environs. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, we were all still residing in the 20th century while those Ozzies (and Harriets) were already in the 21st century. Tom is sorry to hear that Wise Guys won't be coming to Broadway next season. He feels it's been too too long since Broadway has had a new Sonheim show. Tom's dog is named Fosca in honor of Passion's leading lady, although he assures me that his Fosca is beautiful. He also has another dog named Magnus. Isn't that confusing for the dogs, coming from different shows? Just asking.
Pat King (go Wheaton North) sent deep apologies and congratulations all in the very same e-mail. Pat has been reading this here column since the very beginning, but he has not been reading the column lately on account of starring in the Wheaton North (go Wheaton North) High School production of Bye Bye Birdie as, I presume, Mr. Albert Peterson, Mr. Phi Beta Kappa Peterson. We understand that these things happen. Luckily for Pat, there hasn't been but one column recently so he really hasn't missed much. Pat will soon be going on his first visit to that city called New York in that state called New York. We will expect a full report upon his return.
Amy (a new dear reader) has just finished reading Column number 1 and Column number 31. She apparently chose those two columns because of the bits about the Sondheim/ALW feud (she's doing a paper on same). Amy would like to know if the lyrics and the letters contained in those columns are real or made up. They are Real, as in The Real A.
S. Woody White sent me a delicious sounding recipe for Cream Cheese Duxelle Spread. I haven't tried it yet but I shall. It involves all manner of mincing and folding and chilling and, of course, cream cheese, onions and mushrooms and involves the use of fancy breads and the optional use of chives or paprika. Writing this I've become hungry so perhaps I'll just have to make some Cream Cheese Duxelle Spread right this very minute, although I am out of fancy breads because all the fancy breads were bought up by those insane millennium worrywarts. There was not a fancy bread in sight, let me tell you. Those darn millennium worrywarts absconded with all the fancy breads, damn them, and I suppose they are sitting in their kitchens right this very minute eating dried meats on fancy breads while drinking their bottled waters.
Anna tells me she's missed this here column and tells me that once every two months is not enough. Well, by gum we are not going to let two months go by ever again. I promise a new column at least once a month and more if I can manage it.
ttsawj (yes, ttsawj) read about Evening Primrose in a past column. ttsawj is a big fan of Charmian Carr (she of The Sound of Music film) and wants to know if Evening Primrose is available on video. I'm afraid it isn't, although if you're ever in New York or Los Angeles it can be viewed at the Museum of Broadcasting. Or, for that matter, at my house, where we can partake of Cream Cheese Duxelle Spread (unfortunately served on plain breads) and our usual cheese slices and ham chunks.
Rafael will be traveling again in January and wants to know if he should go to staid Singapore or back to Bangkok. For those who don't remember, the last time Rafael was in Bangkok he saw a woman shoot darts from her genitals. I believe that calls for a return visit to Bangkok, although I hear there is a woman in Singapore who can shoot mucous from her nostril over forty feet. Tough call.
AlanG enjoyed our Cole Porter Sweeney Todd. And he can't wait for his handy dandy fish poster. We need an address so get it to Mr. Mark Bakalor just as soon as you can so that the fish poster can wend its way to you.
grehf aka riht666 now PatLaceyBulb (I'm not making this up) wrote to tell me that at the time of said writing he was watching Twin Peaks. I thank him for that information as I often wonder what people are watching when they write.
Stuart has done some sleuthing regarding the clues to my Real Identity in our 100th column and has concluded that I appeared in the ill-fated New York production of Happy New Year with John McMartin. After going through the cast list he has surmised that I might be Tim Flavin. Of course Stuart might not have the right show. If he has the right show then I might indeed be Tim Flavin. If he has the wrong show then I might not be Tim Flavin. Doesn't Flavin sound like something Jerry Lewis should say? Let's all do our Jerry Lewis voice - ready? One, two, three: Flavin. Works for me. Stuart agrees with me about Audra McDonald. Apparently we are the only two who feel so.
Bob G. enjoyed my review of the television version of Annie. He thought Ms. McDonald played Grace Farrell as though she were playing Ibsen or perhaps one of the undead. Bob also saw Ms. McDonald murder her children in Marie Christine, something I have been spared. The one thing I am certain of is that Ms. McDonald, whatever her talents, will not be starring in a sitcom anytime soon.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next time, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...