There. I feel much better now. I feel Marchified. I feel like this will be a great month for all of us. And do you know why I feel this? Because if you anagram "March" you get "charm". That's right. Pretty nifty, eh? You didn't know that The Real A is an expert at Real Anagrams, now did you, dear readers? I can even anagram "anagram". "A rag man". Pretty nifty, eh? Okay, now it's your turn. Anagram "coprophiliac". Only kidding. Anagrams are both fun and maddening. I'll come back to this topic later on in the column, because, dear readers, I know you expect it of me.
Normally, I write this part of the column early on Saturday morning. But this is being written Friday night instead, as I have to work in the morning (The Real A rarely works on the weekends, but work I must). Do you feel there's a difference? Does this column have more of a Friday night vibe than a Saturday morning vibe? I'm feeling like it does have a Friday night vibe. And frankly, I feel it's good sometimes to roil the waters, as it were. To stir the pot, as it were. So, here I am, roiling and stirring, both water and pot. This column certainly has a different vibe so far, and all because of said stirring and roiling. You can never have enough stirring and roiling in my book. Do you feel that this column thus far has given the word "drivel" a whole new meaning?
And speaking of drivel, we can anagram it. It's "Dr. Evil", for all you Austin Powers fanatics. Pretty nifty, eh? Eh? I'm starting to sound like I'm from Canada, eh. Why is "eh" pronounced like the letter "A"? Maybe I'll just change my name to The Real Eh. Nah. And what is "nah"? Huh? And what is "huh"? Uh... Who in hell made up all these stupid short words? Eh, huh, nah, uh. Sounds like a doo wop song. Have I said that it's Friday night? Eh? Man, there's a whole different vibe on Friday nights, isn't there? Shouldn't I be out somewhere, having a life? Should I be sitting here on my couch like so much fish, writing a column, when other people are out having fun, dating, seeing movies, going to the theater, smooching, spooning, holding hands? Should I be sitting here doing anagrams on a Friday night? This is what it's come to? I'm sitting here on a Friday night trying to figure out what cretin made up the word "eh". I need to get out, I need to dance the tango or the cha cha, or, if I'm feeling very bold, the pachanga. But nooooo, here I sit on a Friday night doing what I normally do on a Saturday morning. On Saturday morning it is normal to sit on the couch like so much fish. But on Friday night? Is it worth it, all for a new vibe? All because I feel the occasional need to roil and stir? I have wasted an entire Friday night, and for what? This endless palaver? Was this palaver worth staying home on a Friday night to write? I could have written this very same palaver on Saturday morning, although it would have had a whole different vibe, but it's a moot point anyway, because I am working tomorrow morning. A moot point, do you hear me? Have I just had an episode? It feels like I just had an episode. In fact, this whole column is starting to feel like Sondheim's (bet you thought I'd never mention him) new show Wise Guys: Will it ever be done? But enough about me.
First off, let's all wish my close personal friend Ms. Bernadette Peters a happy birthday. Bernie (as we like to call her, although some people prefer 'dette or na) is 54 years young and looks damn fine if you ask me.
The ubiquitous Ken Mandelbaum (or Mandelbread as we like to call him) has, in his own words, a new "site within a site" where we can all catch up on the very latest gossip, the up-to-the-minute (hyphens, not dashes - dash, not hyphen) Gossip According To Ken. Is this cause for rejoicing? Who needs the latest gossip when you can come right here and get stale gossip? I'm sure that Ken is a very nice boy, but frankly I don't like the way he pats himself on the back (no mean feat) when he feels he's right. He always says things like "as I reported months ago" or "as you read here first", but he never says a damn thing when he's printed something that's incorrect. Ken just doesn't pipe up then, let me tell you. Anyway, for those who need an up-to-the-minute gossip fix, I'm sure Ken's new site-within-a-site will do the trick.
Side Show was dead. Then it was reopening. For sure. Then it was officially dead. For sure. Then it was officially reopening. For sure. Now, finally, the producers have reported that the show is officially officially dead, for sure, which means there is no chance of its officially officially for sure reopening. Don't you just think that the names of these shameless dopey producers have to be Larry, Moe, and Curly. Oops, sorry Curly's officially dead, so it's Shemp. Oops, sorry, Shemp is officially dead, so it's Joe. The real pity is that these publicity mad Stooge producers led the cast and crew down the garden path for weeks. They should be drawn and quartered for it in my book. But then we'd have to hire an artist to draw them, we'd have to get change for a dollar, and no one ever has quarters, so let's just drop the whole damn thing, which is of course just what the producers of Side Show have done. But it will be opening in London soon. For sure. On the twelth. Of Never. Or February. Same thing. Let me anagram Side Show: Show Dies. Pretty nifty, eh?
The two new revivals in New York are upon us. The Sound of Music is apparently serviceable, but not much more, although that won't make a whit of difference in my book, as the Hallmark ad blitz will most likely work wonders at the box office. By the way, have you read my book? It's quite long. The buzz on the revival of Cabaret (originally staged in London) is incredible. This production is staged in a nightclub setting, with the audience seated at tables. Apparently, this conceit works really well, and it has already become a hotter than hot ticket.
All this recent talk of my grandfather, The Stool Man, has brought back a flood of memories. It's brought back vivid images of two of my favorite places when I was growing up (during the Crimean War).
My grandparents lived in Santa Monica, on the boardwalk in a residence hotel called the St. Regis. It was situated directly across the boardwalk from the Ocean Park Amusement Pier. First though, a little about the Hotel St. Regis. I don't think there was a person living there under the age of seventy, and they were all given to pinching the cheeks of young kids, which I think they thought was endearing (it wasn't). The hotel had a very scary elevator, too. It had a mind of its own, and would frequently go to whatever floor it felt like. My grandparents lived in a two room apartment that always smelled of salmon, onions and vinegar, as that was my grandmother's favorite thing to eat (to which my grandfather of course would say "what is it, fish?" and my grandmother would triumphantly answer "yes, you idiot, it's fish!"). A word about my grandmother. She weighed over two hundred pounds (she was always on a diet - a diet which consisted of eating everything in sight), dressed in black and always sat on a big black chair. It was hard to tell where she left off and the chair began. She had more lines on her face than a Thomas Guide, and she pinched cheeks harder than anyone else. The apartment also had a murphy bed (a bed that pulls down from the wall), which I'd never seen before, and I used to think they had to sleep on the bed in its "up" position, as I'd never seen it pulled down. The apartment had two windows which looked down on the Ocean Park Amusement Pier.
Ah, the Ocean Park Amusement Pier. The stuff that dreams are made of. It was magical to a young kid. It had games and rides and carnies and everything. There was The House of Mirrors (with the fat lady laughing on top), there was Toonerville (I don't even remember what that was, but the name used to give me nightmares), there was a scary rollercoaster (legend had it that several people had gone to their deaths on that rollercoaster), and, of course, all kinds of game stands. My grandfather owned one of these, a giant roulette wheel, with a giant teddy bear to be had if you were a lucky winner. My two favorite things were the Dome Theater, a great old movie palace of dreams, and the vanilla custard ice cream stand that was located directly next to my grandfather's roulette wheel. Has there ever been anything like those vanilla custard ice cream cones? I know we've had Foster Freeze and Carvel and others, and I've tried them all, in the vain hope that it would somehow taste like that vanilla custard ice cream, but they never even came close.
Then they tore down Ocean Park Amusement Pier, and in its place they built what was to be the "Disneyland" of Santa Monica, Pacific Ocean Park (or POP). My grandparents still lived in the Hotel St. Regis, which was now conveniently located directly across the street from what became the entrance to POP. From their windows, you could see Neptune's Kingdom and all the wonders beyond. You could also still smell the salmon, onions and vinegar. My grandfather had retired (there were no game stands at POP) and so he just sat home every day, perfecting his "what is it, fish" delivery, while my grandmother ate and had long conversations about bunions and corns. How this woman ever got a pair of shoes on in the first place is beyond me. My grandfather would torment me by asking me to help my grandmother up from her chair. Charles Atlas would have had trouble getting her up from that chair, and it usually took two or three family members to do it.
POP. Gone was the Dome Theater, gone was the vanilla custard ice cream stand, and in its place was a second rate, intrinsically seedy "Disneyland" wannabe. Of course I loved it. It still had The House of Mirrors (with the laughing fat lady on top), still had the rollercoaster (painted and fixed up), and some cool rides, like the Flight To Mars. My favorite place, though, was a magic shop on the promenade, where I used to buy great magic tricks to amaze my family and friends with. I still have somewhere a small guillotine which I got there. You would put a cigarette in the bottom hole, bring the blade down and the cigarette would be chopped in half. Then you would have somebody put their finger in the hole above that (yes, you are reading correctly), and you'd bring the blade down and it would magically pass through their finger and still chop the cigarette below in half. Can you imagine them selling such a thing today? I mean, what if you'd armed the blade incorrectly? I shudder to think of the finger collection I could have had.
Anyway, POP didn't last more than ten years or so, and then it was boarded up and sat there for years (the final episode of The Fugitive was shot there). Then the whole thing, including the boardwalk and the Hotel St. Regis was torn down, and in its place they built two high rise apartment buildings. I still go down there sometimes, but obviously it's not the same. Oh, you still have the Venice Boardwalk, with it's amazing and amusing daily parade of brain death...but sometimes when I'm standing near those high rises, I can swear I smell salmon, onions, and vinegar, and hear the fat lady laughing...
This week we'll try a different kind of what if. What if Stephen Sondheim (have you heard of him?) had written The King and I? And it goes something like this (to the tune of Into The Woods):
This has been a very frustrating experience, writing this week's column. Oh, yes, dear readers, very frustrating! Why, you ask? Because sometimes the Internet decides to be persnickety, the Internet decides it's just going to have sport with people and ruin their day. And this is just what the Internet decided to do to me. Oh, yes, that darn Internet decided to wreak havoc with The Real A and wreak havoc it did. Why, you know what that darn Internet decided to do? It decided to just not "send" sections of the column to Mr. Mark Bakalor. It decided to lose a whole section of the column, so that I had to write said section all over again. Now, is that playing fair? Is that nice? It's bad enough to have to write drivel like this once, but twice??? I'm sure that you can understand my frustration and my ire. Especially my ire. My ire speaketh large at the moment. You know what happens if you anagram "ire"? Nothing, that's what. That's how stupid that word is. What good is a word if you can't anagram it? So, I just hope, dear readers, that the Internet will be oh so kind as to allow me to send this section of the column, because let me tell you there is no way, come hell or high water, that I am writing this again. Do you hear me, Internet? Come hell or high water. And just what in the name of Zeus does that mean? "Come hell or high water?" Like if hell decides not to show, that high water is a suitable equivilant? Get me the numbskull who made it up, and I will throttle him, come hell or high water. Well, let me just calm down, massage my ire, and try to send this darn section of the column. If you are reading it, it worked.
Who knew there were so many Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness fans out there. It's hard enough to find fans of the movie, period, but fans of the movie who also read this column? I would've said it was nigh unto impossible. Of course I would. I'm prone to using stupid sayings like that. I'm prone, Steve's prone, I think prone is the way to go, don't you? Anyway, on to the letters.
A Nameless Individual (although I have my guess as to who it is) tells me that he's totally nuts about Mercy Humppe, and that he fell in love with the delovely Connie Kreski, who played the titular Mercy Humppe. Connie was a stunningly beautiful blonde, for those who don't know, a Playboy Playmate, and the then girlfriend of James Caan. Her fame was short, and in the early eighties she was doing makeup on the Playboy On The Air cable show. Where else can you get information like this but here at the Stephen Sondheim Stage? Nameless also wants to know how I happen to have a copy of the unavailable film. A friend of a friend of a friend gave it to me. That is all I can say, and I can say no more.
Robert Viagas, managing editor of Playbill On Line sent a nice e-mail informing me that he was not happy that someone (you all know who) used a Playbill computer to write me a nasty note. Robert sends everyone at the site his best wishes, and says if he finds out who did the deed that disciplinary action will be taken. I suggest making the perpetrator listen to the cast album of Bed and Sofa one hundred times. If this doesn't teach him a lesson, nothing will.
Tiffany mentions that the friend (much more than a friend as it turns out) that introduced her to Sweeney Todd, has gone and turned into a jerk with a capital J. All I can say, Tiffany, is that if he's a jerk with a capital J, then, in the words of my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim, he is Unworthy Of Your Love. Do you hear me, Tiffany with a capital T, which in my book (yes, that same endless book) stands for Terrific. T for Terrific also asks what I think of meeting people online and then later in person. I don't have a lot of personal experience with this, although I did meet Mr. Mark Bakalor, who seemed quite a nice chap, despite the fact that he is prone (like Steve and me) to getting stranded in a jalopy in some God-forsaken one horse town. As for finding romance on the Internet, well I suppose it has worked for some and not for others. As you know, I am feeling ire at the Internet at the moment and have nothing good whatsoever to say about it. Tiffany also wants to know if I watch The X Files. I certainly have seen a few episodes in my time, and it's a swell show. It is to today what The Twilight Zone was to a different generation.
Abigail writes to say she feels that Mr. Anonymous from last week could in fact be Glen (that bad boy), and that if in fact that is the case that he should be slapped with a cantelope. Punishment by fruit is always a good thing in my book. Someday I hope to have my book published, then I can stop quoting from it ad nauseum.
Andrew reminds me that the lyrics to Mercy Humppe (music by Newley) are by Herbert Kretzmer, who just happens to be the same Herbert Kretzmer who wrote the English lyrics to Les Miz.
William is also a Mercy Humppe fan and that he's the proud owner of the soundtrack album. He also reminds me that I neglected to include cast member Milton Berle who played the role of Good Time Eddie Filth.
Cheshirecat wants to know what the "YCPF" means at the end of Mr. Stephen Sondheim's e-mails to me. I believe it stands for "Your Close Personal Friend" although I suppose it could also stand for You Creepy Perverted Firehose.
A Sivorinov (no relation to A Nameless Individual) tells me that a "sow cow" is in fact a Salchow, and that it and the Lutz were both named after the people who first performed those moves. Why anyone would pronounce Salchow "sow cow" is beyond me. Does this mean there is someone named Toe Loop somewhere?
Gregg is also a fan of Mercy Humppe! I'm beginning to think we should form a fan club. We could call it The Humppers. Don't go there.
Jon B tells me that his father has the soundtrack to Mercy Humppe and recalls the wonderful ditty about Trampolina Whambang with some fondness. Who wouldn't?
Jule has a guess as to who The Real A is. All right now, let's recap once again. So 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, The New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, and Leigh's father. Jule's guess is that I am Corky from Waiting For Guffman. This is a wonderful guess. There's only one problem with this guess, and that is that Corky is a fictional character. I am a Real Character. But, then again, what is Real and what is Fiction. These are the universal questions in my book. My book is filled with Universal questions. I even occasionally provide some Paramount answers.
kokol (e.j.) is also having boy problems like my pal Tiffany. Seems she has a friend who attends college about 800 miles away, and this dear friend and kokol (e.j.) would write to each other three or four times a week, and also speak on the phone and e-mail each other. Now said friend is suddenly not writing and not there when she calls. The sneaking suspicion is that said friend now has a girlfriend and can't be bothered. kokol (e.j.) wants to know why guys do that. First off, not all boys do that, just the majority. Boys will be boys and this is in their genes for the most part. Some boys are cowardly little weasels and are not to be trusted. You seek out one of the good ones, kokol (e.j.). Boys who are too busy or scared to be truthful are Unworthy Of Your Love (I know I used it before, but it's so appropriate). kokol (e.j.) also offers this coprophiliac joke: What is a coprophiliac's favorite planet? Uranus. Which also just happens to describe said friend in my ever expanding book.
Well, well, well, we had some mighty fine answers to last week's question. You people really know your stuff, and frankly I would expect nothing less.
Mr. Sondheim doesn't like or understand the word "arranger" because he considers himself the arranger, in that he provides a detailed piano part to all his music, from which the orchestrator works.
An arranger is someone who will take a piece of music and figure out a routine if the composer hasn't. Or they'll change the routine (layout) of a song. Or they'll reharmonize the song. Or they'll put together a medley of several songs and make them work thematically. Or they'll create a vamp, or a rideout. In other words, they will "arrange" the song or the music.
An orchestrator will take someone's piano part, or someone's arrangement and assign the notes to the orchestra. Where this gets complicated is when you have "composers" like the recently deceased Bob Merrill, who wrote his melodies on a xylophone with no harmonic structure, or Anthony Newley, who hums his melodies, or Charlie Chaplin who did the same. Chaplin wrote what are considered wonderful scores to films like City Lights and Modern Times (which contains the beautiful song Smile), but who should get the real credit? Chaplin (who made up the tunes) or David Raksin and Alfred Newman who harmonized them and figured out how they would work in the film, and orchestrated them, too.
This week's trivia question should really get you thinking. So, put those thinking caps on, and get to work. Anagram the name Stephen Sondheim. There will be lots of different answers, which I'll share with you next week. To get you started, here is my anagram for Stephen Sondheim: "So, he minds the pen". Happy anagraming.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...