I had a lovely time in New York. The weather was brisk, but lovely. I saw The Lion King which I'll talk about a bit later.
Gee, that was a really short paragraph, wasn't it? Why did I even bother with that paragraph?
That one was even shorter.
And you were beginning to think there would be no drivel, weren't you? Speaking of drivel, The Real A is in a situation. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me they were coming out to Los Angeles, and that they needed a place to stay until the house they were going to stay in was available (approximately a week-and-a-half). Why did I put hyphens like that? I was typing, and all of a sudden, hyphens, out of nowhere. Now, if you looked at "-", you'd think "hyphen" right? Because "-" just looks like something that should be called hyphen, right? Why???????????? And why is "-" a hyphen, and not "*"? You see my point? At least I hope you do, as I have no idea what my point is. Where was I? Oh, yes. The Houseguest. So, I, being the nice A that I am, said, sure, come stay at my house until your house is ready. And so The Houseguest arrived. This was close to four weeks ago. The house they are supposed to go into isn't ready yet. Soon, though. Now, the first few days of having The Houseguest here was fun. It is no longer fun. After a hard day's work, The Real A likes to come home and sit on the couch like so much fish. You know this about me. I have my routine. I have my way. But now, there's someone here, and I can't just sit on my couch like so much fish. Noooooo, I have to be witty and entertaining, and chat. It's not that The Houseguest is not a nice person, not that The Houseguest is not interesting, but I simply must be able to come home and sit on my couch like so much fish, and not have to be witty and entertaining. The Houseguest is beginning to realize this, because I have no ability whatsoever to hide how I feel. I want to hide how I feel, but then how I feel just rears its ugly little head. Hopefully, The Houseguest's Real House will be ready soon, so that The Real A can sit on the couch again like so much fish. Why, The Houseguest even tried to come in here and watch me write the column. "Whatcha doin?" says The Houseguest. "None of your bee's wax" says I. "Can I watch?" says they. "You can watch if you eat a jar of herring in sour cream" says I. That did the trick. I can't write this brilliant drivel when people are watching! That would inhibit me. That would make me self-conscious. And what is this about "bee's wax"? Where in the hell did that come from? "None of your bee's wax". Was someone offering some bee's wax? I must have missed it. By the way, when you say your prayers tonight, please include one about The Houseguest's house being ready. Because possession is nine tenths of the law, and frankly I'm starting to get worried. It's starting to feel like The Scarlet Pimpernel: It should have been over weeks ago, and yet on it goes. But enough about me.
First let's talk about the theater. Oh, yes, we simply must talk about the theater. Because if there's one thing Disney knows how to do, it's restore a theater. The New Amsterdam is, in a word, spectacular. Every detail has been lovingly restored to its original splendor. It really has to be seen to be believed. As to the show that is currently in the theater, well, it's a decidedly mixed affair. There is no question that the show's director, Julie Taymor (also costume designer and mask and puppet designer - this woman has her name in the program more times than you can shake a stick at, if that's your idea of a good time), is a talented person. Her work at times is actually breathtaking. The opening of the show is truly beautiful to watch and very exciting. But the bottom line is the show is too long, too padded for its own good. The movie was seventy-five minutes long and the show runs two hours and forty minutes. The performers are all swell, and the show sounds great, too. For whatever faults it has, it will be around forever. I have never seen an audience get to its feet as fast or as loudly. More screaming, stomping and cheering than you can shake a stick at, and frankly I'd like to put an end to all this pointless stick shaking.
My biggest question is, why did it take this long to clean up 42nd St. and why did it take a company from Hollywood to do it? But a more interesting question is, why doesn't Disney do the same for Hollywood Blvd.? Oh, I know they restored the El Capitan, and it's great, but what about everything east of Highland? It is absolutely shameful that that stretch of the Boulevard sits in absolute disrepair. You hear me, Disney? We know you read this column, so get off your mousebutts and go to it. Wow, that was so political. I'm never political, and there I was, being political. It's all because of The Houseguest. It's messing with my mind. I feel like my mind is hyphenating. Have you ever seen a hyphenating mind? I feel like I'm becoming possessed by the Houseguest. And possession is nine tenths of the law, so what is really happening here is that I'm metamorphosing into the Houseguest. Pretty soon I'll be The Real Houseguest instead of The Real A. Oh, the madness. I'm telling you, if this Houseguest doesn't get out of here soon, they will rue the day. What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, The Lion King. I have nothing further whatsoever to say about The Lion King. I've said my piece on The Lion King. Is this column about The Lion King or Stephen Sondheim, for God's sake? There has been not one mention of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, for whom this very site is named. I shall have to go in the corner and flog myself like Judge Turpin.
This week I think it's time to talk about The Real A's favorite musical. There are other musicals I adore, other musicals I admire, and other musicals that are guilty pleasures. But the one that combines everything (hyphen coming) - great book, great score, great conception - the one that is the epitome of everything I love about Broadway musicals is Gypsy. Yes, Gypsy, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by some guy from the East Side who wears ill-fitting clothes and scratches his beard a lot. My first exposure to Gypsy was the film version with Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden. Since I'd never seen the show or Merman, I didn't know I was supposed to not like Russell. I knew she didn't sing the songs especially well (most were dubbed by Lisa Kirk), but I just thought it was grand fun. I loved Natalie Wood, and thought the ensemble was great, especially the fellow who played Tulsa. It retained the Jerome Robbins choreography for the most part, and the score was basically intact (although Together Wherever We Go was cut before the film's release - I have the number on tape and it's terrific). I then discovered the cast album and once I heard Merman, well, wow. And I thought then and think now that there isn't a bad or mediocre moment in the score. I think it's virtually perfect. Sondheim's lyrics are astonishing, as is Styne's music. I then saw the Angela Lansbury revival which was pretty terrific. I remember going to opening night at the Shubert in Los Angeles, and sitting in back of me was Marvin Hamlisch (who'd just won multiple Oscars for The Sting) and Jule Styne. As the Overture began, Hamlisch leaned over to Styne and said "Greatest Overture ever written" to which Styne agreed wholeheartedly, and to which I agree wholeheartedly too. Then came the Tyne Daly revival which was pretty great, mainly because of Tyne and Crista Moore. I thought there were several weak links in the cast, and that precluded me from thinking it wholly successful. And then there was the Bette Midler TV movie, which I just didn't like at all.
Rare are the scores I can play every single song of over and over again. Gypsy certainly is one of them. Each song is a play in itself, from Some People to If Mama Were Married to Everything's Coming Up Roses to You Gotta Get A Gimmick to Rose's Turn. The music is both hummable and complex, and Sondheim's lyrics get to the heart of every situation. Laurents' book is literate and witty, and just about perfect, and the whole damn show is more fun than you can shake a stick at. I've shaken a stick and I've seen Gypsy and Gypsy was more fun.
Did you think I'd forget? Did you. dear readers, think for a minute I wouldn't wish you all the Happiest Valentine's Day? I send you all a big sweet heart. And a "-", and a ":", too. Now, you have to admit that we haven't had quite enough drivel yet. Oh, no, we have not had enough drivel. We do not want to disappoint drivel-wise (just look at that "-" sitting there so blatantly, just daring us to say "yeah, what about it?").
I went for a late night snack last night to my local deli, and ordered what I always do, an artichoke with melted butter. As I ordered it, the waitress looked at me funny, and then informed me they didn't have an artichoke. I informed her that I've been having artichokes at this deli for two years, and that they've never in that two years been out of the damn artichoke. She looked at me funny (two funny looks so close together, what was going on here?), and said they had removed the artichoke from the menu. The artichoke had simply ceased to exist. This menu was sans artichoke. I could order the melted butter if I liked, oh yes, there was melted butter aplenty, but there was no artichoke and as far as the waitress with the funny looks was concerned, that was the end of the story. Well, as you dear readers know, The Real A can be obstinate. You know, let's just hold the typing right here. Just look at the amount, the sheer volume of stupid words in this here paragraph. There are a plethora of stupid words, although none are more stupid than "plethora", which has to win some kind of stupid word award. I mean, we've got your "menu" (yes, yes, you print some food descriptions on a piece of plastic, and from that you get "menu" - go know), we've got your "sans", we've got your (coprophilia alert) "butter" and most of all, we've got your "artichoke". But we can't talk about the word "artichoke" because according to Our Waitress Of The Funny Looks, the artichoke is no more. The artichoke is a thing of the past as far as she's concerned. The artichoke has gone into some kind of vegetable Twilight Zone. All right, all right, back to the story (and I will endeavor to use as many stupid words as I possibly can, so that I will not disappoint, drivelhyphenwise). I sat there agog, oh, yes, simply agog (I'm beginning to sound like Hermoine Gingold hyphen and yes, you naysayers, that's the same Hermoine Gingold who was in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music). Have you ever seen me look agog? It is not a pretty sight. I asked the waitress, who made the decision to make the artichoke obsolete? She said the owners. I said, the owners of the artichoke decided to make it obsolete? By this point, the waitress had given me so many funny looks that I suddenly felt that I was in a Neil Simon play. She said that while she'd love to keep discussing the lack of artichoke, she had other customers. I said, what am I, fish? Anyway, to make a long story long, instead of the Artichoke That Time Forgot, I had the kishka. Why did I have the kishka? Because, next to "artichoke" it was the stupidest sounding food on the piece of plastic with food descriptions. And, let me tell you, dear readers, kishka lives up to its name. Have you ever seen kishka? It is a coprophiliac's dream. Of course, when it arrived, I looked at the waitress and said "What is it, fish?". She gave me a funny look.
Boy, I'm exhausted from that story, aren't you? Oh, wait a minute, I'm just getting some e-mail. Let's see what it is.
Mr. Real A:
Frank Wildhorn told me about your column, so I decided to take a look at it. As you know, I have a very busy schedule seeing every performance of my masterpiece Titanic. I know Frank had a bug up his rectal cavity about you not mentioning him, but I find your column very diverse, and frankly, since your column does touch on musical theater, I wouldn't talk about him either. However, that does not explain why you haven't talked about me. I honestly feel that I am the finest composer/ lyricist working today. I, after all, am the man that gave the world "Be Italian (You rapscallion)". I need say no more. Except, that Titanic is a smash hit, while the other new musicals (forget Lion King, that's Disney) have either closed or are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. In any case, the reason for this note is, I feel you should suggest to this guy Bakalor, that he change the name of his site to The Maury Yeston Stage. Then we could have in-depth discussions of my two- and-a-half musicals. I need say no more. I enjoyed reading your column, but shall not read it again, unless I am mentioned over and over again. That is simply the way it is.
This column is as long as War and Peace. Let's get on with it, shall we?
Last week, dear reader Lada asked me what I thought about drugs. That column was running long (like this one isn't?) but I thought I'd address her question. Apparently, dear reader Lada is living with roommates who don't understand why she won't join them in their drugtaking. She is being pressured to join them. She is being made to feel like she's not "with it" if she doesn't join them.
So, how do I feel about that, and drugs? Now, dear readers, if you love drugs, if you like drugs, if drugs are something that's okay, just skip this section altogether and go directly to the letters section. Because The Real A is not a fan of the drugs. In fact, The Real A has never taken a drug. Not a whiff, not a puff. I know this seems amazing, given both my personality and the fact that I've been around for over a century, but there you have it. Since I have never taken a drug, it is hard to comment on them, but since I have been around many who have, I have seen what they do. I don't mean to get on a high horse here, but since this section is about drugs, a high horse seems totally appropriate. Are drugs necessary? I think not. I think we have within us the power to feel any way we want. To achieve any kind of euphoria we want. I am, of course, aware of chemical imbalances in people, and so I understand that certain types of drugs are available to treat those chemical imbalances. But, for those who are just doing it just to do it, I just have to ask, why? For fun? For relaxation? I think we all have the ability to feel any way we wish to. So, I guess I've never understood the point, really. I am a living example of why drugs are unnecessary. Can you imagine what I'd be like if I took drugs? Yikes! Anyway, I'm not trying to preach, just telling you how I feel, dear readers.
As to those who are trying to pressure or shame dear reader Lada into using drugs, I say, you are scum and vermin for doing that. Scum and vermin, do you hear? That is so morally repugnant to The Real A that I would like to go over to their house and shake a stick at these people. Oh, yes, that's what I would like to do all right. If dear reader Lada does not want to take drugs, does not feel the need to take drugs, then leave her alone, you scum and vermin. You leave her alone, or The Real A will come over there, and you will be forced to listen to Send In The Clowns over and over again. And let me tell you, for those people, that would be worse than rehab.
Smack, crack, dope, blunts, weed, acid... Somehow, even the names are unappealing, aren't they? I'm sorry, but I feel all my dear readers are simply too smart to need to play the drug game. And that is the end of that story.
I always love reading your letters, dear readers. And some of you actually pulled your weight (no mean feat when you think about it hyphen I just tried pulling my weight and it was simply no mean feat) and contributed to the coprophiliac joke book.
DC writes to tell me he's enjoying the column, and has this coprophiliac joke: What is a coprophiliac's favorite dog? A shihtzu
Patrick feels that the naysayers are wrong, and that this column's obsession with words is perfectly in keeping with Mr. Stephen Sondheim's obsession with words (as a lyricist). I concur. I also agree. I concur and I agree. I agree and I concur.
Lindsay just discovered this here column, and we welcome Lindsay with open arms. Lindsay, even though a new dear reader, has already pulled her weight (no mean feat) and offers this joke: What is a coprophiliac's favorite poker hand? A royal flush.
cheshirecat has pulled his catweight and offered: What is a coprophiliac's favorite type of criminal? An assassin.
Jon B. tells me that in the 60s he would buy water soluble tattoo transfers (didn't we all), and while he's sure they had an official name, his mom called them "cockamamie's". I believe their official name was "water soluble tattoo transfers", and that mom's nickname came about because she probably took one look at them and thought "What in the hell are those cockamamie things?"
Leigh has yet another guess as to The Real A's Real Personage. Leigh's guess has become one of the top guesses. But first, let's recap. Thus far we have 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 The New Line Theatre's Scott Miller. Well, Leigh feels that The Real A's Real Identity is none other than (drum roll): His father! That's right. Leigh thinks that the Real A is his very own father. Why? Because, apparently Leigh's grandfather used to say "what is it, potatoes?" hence (hither, thither, yon, and hence) he feels that I, as his father, merely changed the story slightly (potatoes to fish) just to fool him. This is a wonderful guess, Leigh, right up there with Michael Tough, The Singing Janitor. My question is, if I am your father, can I also be Michael Tough, The Singing Janitor, because, frankly, I would not be willing to give that up.
e.j. offers this: What is a coprophiliac's favorite fungus? A toadstool.
Brandon's coprophiliac joke is: Why did the coprophiliac take a nap? Because he was all pooped.
Tiffany writes to say she's just discovered the music of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, and that she's hooked. Ya' see? Even Sondheim is better than those poopy old drugs. Tiffany also now has a crush on Len Cariou from the Sweeney Todd recording, or rather a crush on the character of Sweeney Todd. She'd like to know if there are other recordings on which Len Cariou appears. To name a few: the original Broadway cast album of A Little Night Music, Dance a Little Closer, The Anastasia Affaire, Teddy and Alice and Applause (not yet available on CD). Now the question we're all longing to ask is: What is it about the character of Sweeney Todd that makes Tiffany have a crush on him?
Well, I said it was easy and guess what? It was easy. Almost everyone got the correct answer to last week's question. And the answer is: Stephen Sondheim does not give one whit about Tick Tock or Bolero d'Amour, because he did not write them. Tick Tock is by my close personal friend David Shire, and Bolero d'Amour is presumably by Jonathan Tunick.
This week's question:
Several years ago, a performer with one major Sondheim association was going to do an all Sondheim album. The album never happened. a) name the singer, b) give the reason the album didn't happen.
Whip out your Banfield's, Gordon's, Gottfried's, etc. and see what good it does you.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...