And so, it begins. A friend of mine read last week's column and told me that the story of my grandfather's stool might just have crossed the line. I might just have veered over that line. I might have a big boot right over that cockamamie line. Now, I am looking at that word "cockamamie" (as you knew I would be) and I am stumped. And I know if I start to get into that word "cockamamie", I will cross the line. The fact is, we'll never know who came up with the word "cockamamie" because no one would have the gall to admit to it. Not that it doesn't have a certain elan to it. It does, it has a certain elan to it. One just wonders if it originally had something to do with someone named "Mamie" and if a rooster was involved in some heinous way. Heinous. H-E-I-N-O-U-S. This is not a way to spell a word. This is a bunch of letters strewn together in a happenstance way. A happenstance and cockamamie way, if you ask me. Well, have I lived up to my promise of drivel? You tell me.
Words are just so fascinating, as is language itself. Just think about it. We're born. As babies we eat, we cry, we wet ourselves, we do the stool thing (I know... I'm crossing that line), we burp, we make other unseemly noises, we smile, we observe and mostly we sleep. At some point we learn to say something resembling Mama and Dada. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, we suddenly have the ability to put sentences together. To use words to convey thoughts. How? Just from listening to our parents and others speak? They don't tell us what the words they're speaking mean, so how the hell do little upstarts like us suddenly know what the words mean and how they work together? It's peculiar, to say the least. I mean, I have no conscious memory of ever having learned any of the words that I've used thus far in this column. I have no conscious memory of how I learned to string said words into sentences. In short, I have no conscious memory of where my ability to spout drivel with the best of them came from. Where do we learn words like "cockamamie"? Frankly, I think that all these words are embedded in memory banks in our brains. How and why is a whole other matter. Next thing you know, I'll be asking Why We're Here and What It All Means. This whole column will become very Zen, whatever the hell that is, and then what will become of all of us. We will suddenly be New Age and we'll listen to Yanni and bore people to death.
You know what I plum forgot? I plum forgot that I'm supposed to talk about Stephen Sondheim. What a plum (or any fruit for that matter) has to do with forgetting, or Stephen Sondheim, is a question I am not prepared to answer at this time. But you know what? If, all of a sudden, I started talking about my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, then people like Glen and S.M. (Slimy Maggot? Stale Meat? Spank Me?), in other words, the naysayers, might actually start getting something out of this column, and then, horror of horrors, they might actually start enjoying this cockamamie column and we simply can't have that, now can we?
I'm pleased with the amount of drivel so far, aren't you? I mean, look at all the space I've totally wasted, saying absolutely nothing. This is an achievement of the highest order. I feel I have found my metier (a totally useless French word for a change). Are we getting a sense of longeurs here (another totally useless French word - I must be on a French roll, which is far better than being on a Kaiser roll, in my humble opinion). This column is starting to feel like Beauty and the Beast: big, noisy, and full of sound and fury signifying nothing. But enough about me.
So, why shouldn't I share some of my favorite things every now and then with my favorite dear readers? So, I will. How about starting with one of my favorite movies? If you don't know this film, don't say "what is it, fish?", but instead go out and rent it.
The film is Preston Sturges' wonderful comedy, Sullivan's Travels. No, it's not about Ed Sullivan in Europe, it's about a film director named Sullivan (played by the always great Joel McCrea), who has made his fame and fortune making silly comedies and musical films, films with titles like Ants In Your Plants and Hey Hey In The Hayloft. He wants to make something socially important, something relevant, something that will address serious issues. He wants to make O, Brother, Where Art Thou? much to the shock and dismay of his studio bosses. When they politely point out to him that he knows nothing of suffering and poverty, Sullivan decides to go on the road with ten cents in his pocket, to experience first hand what that kind of life is. He gets a "hobo" outfit from the studio wardrobe department and sets off on his journey. Unfortunately for him, the studio sends a publicity trailer to tag along and get the "story". Ultimately, he loses them, has his adventures, meets The Girl ("there's always a girl in the picture"), a wannabe actress who accompanies him on his travels, and finally learns that making pictures that make people laugh is a wonderful gift. As he says, "And I'll tell you something else: there's a lot to be said for making people laugh... did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much... but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan..."
The film is filled with memorable set pieces, absolutely brilliant dialogue and luminous performances by McCrea and The Girl, Veronica Lake. Let us stop a moment and speak of Veronica Lake. She is The Real A's favorite. Her stardom was short-lived, and her real life not a happy one, but she lives on in her films, and she gave no finer performance than in Sullivan's Travels. She's funny, she's beautiful and she's sexy, whether wearing a slinky gown (and her famous peek-a-boo hair-do) or a hobo outfit. The film's portrayal of Hollywood and its denizens is a hoot, and the supporting players (all Sturges regulars) is virtually perfect.
I hope you'll take a chance and give the film a try. If you do, perhaps you'll become as addicted to it as I am. It's a film I watch at least two or three times a year.
As I said earlier in this column, there are some who think I've crossed the line with the story of my grandfather's stool. Well, I simply can't stop there, now can I? That would be so unlike me, now wouldn't it? Now that we've crossed that line we have to go all the way. And so, I'm going to introduce you to the Coprophiliac's Joke Book. What does coprophilia have to do with my grandfather's stool, you might ask, and I might answer you. Everything. Because coprophilia is a love of, well, how shall I put it without being crass... Um, excrement. Yes, you heard it here. So, I have crossed the line and there is no uncrossing it.
Okay, what is a coprophiliac joke? First, a little history. The Real A did not always know what coprophilia was (despite grandpa's stool). No, I was enlightened by my close personal friend, Mr. David Shire, who was the first to tell me what a coprophiliac joke was. Of course, being me, I simply became too too enamored with the whole coprophiliac joke concept and I contributed heavily to what became a privately circulated Coprophiliac Joke Book. A typical coprophiliac joke would go something like this:
What is a coprophiliac's favorite children's book?
Now, even from where I'm sitting, I can see your minds beginning to work, can't I, dear readers? You are just starting to see the endless possibilities for coprophiliac mirth, aren't you? By the way, do you think if Glen and S.M. (Smarts Missing? Store Mannequin? Stool Maker?) are reading this right now, that they are attempting to rip the eyes out of their sockets? I mean, what can coprophilia possibly have to do with the Stephen Sondheim Stage??? In any case, it's going to get worse before it gets better, boys. Here are some of my favorite coprophiliac jokes. I, of course, expect you to join in, and make up some of your own. That's right. You must contribute. Because a love of excrement is what this column is all about!
What is a good job for a coprophiliac?
What is a coprophiliac's favorite place on a ship?
What is a coprophiliac's favorite game to play in Las Vegas?
What kind of pants does a coprophiliac wear?
What is a coprophiliac's favorite number?
What kind of truck does a coprophiliac drive?
What is a coprophiliac's favorite Gershwin
What is a coprophiliac's favorite mushroom?
Where does a coprophiliac sit in a bar?
What does a coprophiliac order in a Chinese Restaurant?
All right, you get the idea. Now, if this
section of the column hasn't sent Glen and
S.M. (Snotty Mucus? Suffering Martyr?
Santa Monica?) running for the hills, then I
am frankly at the end of my rope. Or I would
be if I had a rope. And if I did have some
rope, and I were at the end of it, what's
the big deal? So, I get some more rope. Yes,
just another pointless, useless saying.
I'll be anxiously awaiting your replies.
The What If Dept.
I've decided that this department has been dormant for far too long. We simply cannot have a dormant department, so, in an effort to once again have this department non-dormant, I offer the following: What if Lerner & Loewe had written Passion? And it goes something like this:
FOSCA: (to the tune of "I Could Have Danced All Night")
I could obsess all night,
GIORGIO: (to the tune of I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face)
We really must try and figure out why certain words have useless letters in them. Why, I've already written several that fall into this category. Let's start with "really". Do we need that "a" and that extra "l"? Is it really helping that word in any way, shape or form? If you want to know how they should have spelled it, well, how about reelee? The other obvious ones are: why, useless, letters, written and fall. Not to mention the title of this section: Stuff. Isn't stuff a great word? There is no other word that quite describes stuff as well as stuff. I mean, if you look at a pile of things on the floor, and wonder what they are, they're stuff. I love that word. Stuff. Stuff. I am mesmerized by that word. But, enough with the stuff already. I got a very intersting e-mail today, which I thought I'd share with you:
Dear Mr. A:
My name is Frank Wildhorn. Perhaps you've heard of me. I've written two musicals currently wowing them on Broadway. Someone we both know told me to take a gander at your column. I waited until today and thought: This Is The Moment. Well, my feeling is that there's just too much stuff in this column about that Stephen Sondheim. Haven't we all had enough of Stephen Sondheim? Isn't he just a bit... passe? I mean, okay, he's written a few shows, but so have I and I have yet to see one mention of me! How can you talk and talk and talk about the musical theater without mentioning Frank Wildhorn? What do I have to do? For God's sake, I gave the world Jekyll and Hyde! What was it before I got a hold of it? A book! An old book. Not a vibrant new musical. So, let's give some credit where credit is due. And don't forget The Scarlet Pimpernel! Okay, so it's only playing to sixty percent of capacity. What has that got to do with the quality of the piece, I ask you? Can you imagine if Stephen Sondheim had written either of these shows. He'd probably be all over his rhyming dictionary trying to be clever with Jekyll rhymes. I so admire Leslie Bricusse for never stooping to that. I love the fact that all his rhymes are inferior. It makes the music stand out, doesn't it? Isn't that the sign of a great lyricist? In any case, keep up the good work, but really, let's have less Sondheim and more me.
Linda sends her love.
Oh, they love to heckle,
Gee, I hope this doesn't upset our new close personal friend, Mr. Frank Wildhorn.
Letters... We Get Letters...
I just want to say here and now that your letters of support make me very happy. Ooh, I just thought of another coprophiliac joke: What is a coprophiliac's favorite part of a symphony? The second movement. Don't forget now, you must pull your weight, and I expect lots of coprophiliac responses awaiting me when I check my e-mail.
Joe wants to know what Sondheim show the Divine Miss M (as in Midler) was in and if he can buy the CD. Miss Bette Midler was in the tv remake of the Sondheim/Styne/Laurents musical Gypsy. And, yes, there's a cd, which I presume is still in print. They recently reran the tv movie, which I really didn't care for. I did love the Tyne Daly revival, though. More about Gypsy next week.
Laura (sweet Laura) wrote some scathing comments about those bad boys, Glen and S.M. (Stair Master? Sharp Muenster? Seething Missionary?), and I have forwarded them on to them. "Forwarded them on to them". Quite awkward. I like it. Laura also mentions that maybe she should start a Real A fan club of which she could be President. Now, The Real A thinks this is a splendid idea. Club A. How many of you would join such a club? I've written to Laura and told her to go ahead with it. We could have special things that you can get only by being a member of the club. Like a special Real A book of sayings. Doesn't that sound nifty? Perhaps a Decoder Ring to decode stupid sayings and words. Doesn't that sound nifty? I am very excited about this. What say you, dear readers? Good idea or cockamamie idea, you tell me.
Pat tells me that at his high school they are doing a production of Oklahoma!. Pat apparently brought a copy of the latest Column A to read at rehearsal, and the column made the rounds, and now we've got a following at Wheaton North! Go Wheaton North! The hell with Wheaton South, East, or West! North rocks! North is the bomb, baby! So, the cast of Oklahoma! is now trying to figure out where in the show they can say, "What is it, fish?". I think when Curly tells Laurie about the Surrey With The Fringe On Top, Laurie should look at the surrey and say, What is it, fish? If this works, then you might try to find a place for the story of the stool.
Mary writes to say that she's finally figured out what the "A" stands for. But she didn't tell me what that is. I don't know if it's a good A (Amazing! Artistic! Almighty!) or a bad A (an A that every coprophiliac would know all about).
William has yet another guess as to the Real Person behind The Real A. Now, let's recap. So far we've had male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesandrini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony-nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's shows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel, Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, George Furth... and now William thinks that I'm none other than the "Real" New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, who just happened to be in New York at the same time as I did. And who happens to be the only person on the Sondheim list who uses the expression "ad nauseum" like I do. I think all the guesses so far are excellent, even though it would help if I knew who some of the people were. Keep those guesses coming. You might just be getting close.
Patrick has just discovered the column and tells me that he loves the rambling useless rubbish I write here. And he wants more drivel. Well, I am here to please, by yiminee. Drivel you want, drivel you get. By yiminee, willy nilly you will have your cockamamie drivel.
William (not William) tells me he's had it with the disgruntled few. I think we all have. I hope we have driven them over to the Frank Wildhorn Stage.
Pat (not Patrick, not Pat) is infuriated with The Real A. He feels I don't like criticism, and that I am forever the victim. That as a columnist it is my job to accept both compliments and criticism. Pat, I have no problem with criticism at all, but how dare you say that??!! Only kidding. Criticism is just fine and dandy, but pointless criticism (as in saying this column doesn't belong here because this is the SSS, or that I write drivel - which of course I take as a compliment) is, well, pointless. So, my response to it is, in my opinion, appropriate. I can take The Good and The Bad, but not The Ugly, which is how I would describe what I was responding to. And, of course, I will remind you that this column is for fun, despite my rather large salary of $0.00, which means that I am not a professional columnist and therefore am only bound by my own right or wrong rules.
Lada asks what are my feelings about drugs. This is worth addressing, but this column is getting too long, so I will discuss that very topic next week.
Well, well, well. It looks like The Real A finally stumped everyone including the unstumpable Jon (not John, John, John or Jon). The question was who came close to getting the part of Maria in the original production of West Side Story, and what big Broadway musical did she go on to star in. We had some mighty amusing guesses, including Carol Channing, Barbara Cook, Elaine Stritch and Yvonne De Carlo. Carol Channing as Maria singing I Feel Pretty would have been a theatrical highlight the likes of which Broadway has never seen. No, the answer is Anna Maria Alberghetti, who didn't get Maria, but did get to star in Carnival.
This week's trivia question (which you can answer after doing your coprophiliac jokes), is an easy one, which you all should be able to answer without getting out that damn Banfield book: Why does my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim not care one whit about Bolero d'Amour from Follies, and Tick Tock from Company? And can you care two whits, or only one?
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...