We're off to a flying start, aren't we? In the next section of the column I will have a complete rundown of the trip. I will share every intimate detail with you, dear readers, because I know you expect no less. Or should it be "I no you expect know less"? "Know/"no" - it is just too two confusing.
It was good to come home and get back to my couch (where I sit, like so much fish) and my routine. Routine is very important to people like me. So is consistency. Don't you just hate when people or things suddenly behave differently than they have before? Doesn't that just throw you for a loop? I, frankly, hate being thrown for a loop. Why does one need to be thrown when all one gets out of it is a loop? If I'm going to be thrown, I definitely want something more worthwhile than a loop. Would you throw someone for a loop? What do you do with a loop anyway? A loop is not a thing that is versatile. A loop is a loop. The only good thing about a loop is if you spell it backwards, and then at least we can all put on our Speedos and go for a swim. I, myself, wouldn't be caught dead in Speedos (male or female). Even though I am now buff and toned and a hardbody with abs and buns of steel, I think I would still look like a bowl of oatmeal in Speedos. Speedos were not designed for normal people. Have you ever gone to the beach and looked at people (especially men) who are wearing Speedos, but who shouldn't be? It is exhibitionism by people who should look in the mirror prior to exhibiting. They preen around in these little pieces of material just defying everyone to not look at whatever it is they think is worth looking at. I feel Speedos should be abolished. I feel they are evil. Why the hell am I talking about Speedos? Of course, Speedos spelled backwards is sodeeps, so there you are. Do you think that my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, has ever worn Speedos? Is this something we really need to know?
Well, I think this is enough preamble. Let's cut directly to the amble which will be followed by the postamble. Let's keep this first part of the column just like High Society: short, and with no point whatsoever. But enough about me.
This particular New York sojourn turned out to be a ton of fun. I only had to work a couple of days, so the rest of the time was spent seeing shows, walking, shopping, and, of course, eating at Joe Allen's.
I arrived on a Saturday evening. My flight had been incorrectly booked (we hate that, don't we - you'd think after booking so many flights it would be a piece of cake) so I had to stopover in St. Louis for one hour. This was very exciting, this hour was. I got off the plane, walked around, and got back on the plane. This is what one does when one has a stopover for one hour in St. Louis. Anyway, I got into NY and arrived at my apartment at around eight. I then immediately walked to Joe Allen's where I met some friends after their shows were through. We had fun and caesar salad, not necessarily in that order. They did not have my favorite coconut custard pie and so I had the peach and blueberry cobbler instead. I sat at my usual table (20) which is located directly under the poster for the flop musical Dude. This poster depicts a man standing with his back to the camera, displaying his butt cheeks (in jeans), so it is very appropriate that this is where I sit.
The next day I traveled to New Jersey and saw a production of Smile, the legendary flop musical by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman. I have always loved what bits of the score I've heard, so I was very interested to finally see the show itself. Unfortunately, it is clear why it failed. It can never decide its tone, and never lets you know which characters you're supposed to root for. The film it's based on works, but musicals are a different animal (zebra), and the show just never seems to click. But the score is really swell, with several wonderful numbers, the best of which are Disneyland, Shine and the title song. That night I came back to the city and went to the BC/EFA concert of Chess. It was just fine, although I am not a big fan of the show. Good performers, though, and the band was a lot more rock and roll than the orchestral sound of the recordings. The one thing they pretty much butchered was my favorite song in the score, One Night In Bangkok. Christiane Noll, Alice Ripley, Michael Cerveris, Brian d'Arcy James and Robert Evan were amongst the performers involved. Afterwards, went to the party the producers threw (no mean feat) and then went to Joe Allen's.
Monday I went to a reading of a new musical called Twist of Fate. I had actually already seen a production of it in Los Angeles, which had lots of problems. The authors had done not one thing to fix them in the interim, and it was word for word the exact same show. Pity. Afterwards met friends at Joe Allen's.
Tuesday I played and then went to Joe Allen's.
Wednesday I had a double header. In the afternoon I saw The Sound of Music, which, I must say, I rather enjoyed. I am not a fan of the director, Susan Schulman, but she did an acceptable job here. The show itself is charming and tuneful, and the cast, headed by the delightful Rebecca Luker was terrific. I especially liked the fellow who played Captain von Trapp, Michael Siberry. Afterwards, met friends for dinner at Joe Allen's. Then off to the evening performance of Wait Until Dark. Why, you say? I'll tell you why. Because anytime I hear there is one of the worst performances in the history of the theater, I'm there. And Quentin Tarantino did not disappoint. He was grotesque. His acting would barely pass muster (whatever "muster" is - or should it be "mustard"?) in a grammar school. No colors, no shading, no fun. Inept. However, his was not the worst performance of the evening. No, that honor went to Stephen Lang (who everyone tells me is a fine actor) who was truly terrible. Marisa Tomei was cute as a button but very one note. The critics all said the play didn't work and was creaky, and, as usual, the critics all have their heads up their collective butt cheeks. The play is wonderful. The production doesn't work and is creaky, not helped at all by the non-existant direction of Leonard Foglia. Nothing about this production would have passed either muster or mustard anywhere but a dinner theater. Afterwards, I met friends at Joe Allen's. They still did not have my coconut custard pie, and so I had to settle for the Hot Fudge Chocolate Pudding Cake.
On Thursday I had work to do during the day, then I went to see High Society, starring the Next Big Thing Melissa Errico. Have you ever noticed that her initials are ME, which apparently is very appropriate. It wasn't the most horrible thing I've ever seen, but that's as much as I'll give it. It seems that no one ever asked the key question: Why are we doing this musical? So, it has no point of view, no style, and the Porter interpolations are meaningless and stall the show every time they appear. Melissa tries hard (she has a million dollar smile and good teeth) but she has no real character to play and no material to play it with. John McMartin (he of Follies) is fun, and Daniel McDonald is fine, too. Randy Graff and Stephen Bogardus are not so hot, charmless and boring. For some strange reason, Graff has been given more to sing than ME. Go figure. The one unabashed delight is Anna Kendrick, the dynamite little girl, who deservedly was nominated for a Tony. She is thoroughly delightful, funny, sassy, and with a terrific voice. Afterwards I went to Joe Allen's.
Friday, I'm rather ashamed to say, I went to the evening performance of The Wizard Of Oz at Madison Square Garden. This was possibly the worst show I've ever seen, and in fact, I walked out after an hour and went to Joe Allen's. Mickey Rooney was on some other planet, Eartha Kitt was totally surreal as The Wicked Witch of The West, although I must say, this seventy-one year old woman was cavorting about the stage like a twenty year old. She was buff and toned and had abs and buns of steel. But the rest of the production wouldn't pass muster (or mustard) at a community theater. The most interesting performances were by the endless array of people selling things in the lobby and the auditorium prior to the show. Why, did you know you could get a bag of popcorn and a felt hat for ten dollars? I compensated for the waste of an evening by eating large amounts of lovely food, but not at my usual table as there were quite a few of us there that night.
And Saturday I flew home. Just a brief word about the flight. I think when they see my name on the reservation list (under The Real A) they automatically put a three hundred and fifty pound person next to me. This flight was no exception. This gentleman, who was five foot four in his stocking feet (and believe me, this guy had his shoes off the minute he sat down) could barely get the seat belt around his non-buff, non-toned non-hardbody. I would say that within ten seconds he had nodded off to sleep and was snoring in a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) fashion. And we hadn't even taken off yet! He snored the entire trip home, even when he was awake! Yes, dear readers, you heard it here - this guy snored when he was awake! Perhaps, after thirty five columns, you have surmised that I am not a patient person. This is one of my only failings and there is simply nothing to be done about it. After four hours of hearing this guy snore, I was ready to rip my eyes out their sockets. I simply cannot think when there is snoring. I believe snoring creates mass murderers. My father was one of the great snorers, and, as I've said before, could be heard all the way down the block. How my mother could sleep in the same bed in the same room in the same city with him is an enigma wrapped inside a conundrum.
You're all scratching your collective heads right about now, saying, well, what about Follies? Well, I'm sad to say that I could not get a ticket to the damn show, and let me tell you I tried everything, including my close personal friend Stephen Sondheim. It seems the Paper Mill Playhouse neglected to give him house seats for the run of the show. Does the expression "faux pas" come to mind? However, it appears as though it may be coming to Broadway for a limited run and if it does I'll see it then. I have heard very mixed reports, though, some people really liking it and some people really thinking it second rate. By the way, the director, Robert Johansson, also directed The Wizard Of Oz at Madison Square Garden. Make of that what you will.
And that was my fabulous trip to New York. The whole time I was there I thought about you, dear readers, and hoped you wouldn't forget me in my absence. But, when I got home, there was so much lovely e-mail from you that my spirits just soared. You simply take the cake, dear readers. You are the cat's pajamas.
Well, who would have thought it? After God-knows-how-many years of marriage, Carol Channing has filed for divorce from her husband Charles Lowe. Yes, the same Charles Lowe who sat through every performance of Hello, Dolly! and led every standing ovation. She has gone on several talk shows and given several newspaper interviews detailing the woes of her marriage as only she can. But, the bottom line is, apparently after fifty years or whatever of marriage, she finally looked at him and said, "what is it, fish?" and walked out. She is now staying at the home of her son Channing Lowe. Since Carol is getting divorced and her son is obviously siding with her, will he change his name to Channing Channing? Oh, wait a minute, I just got an e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?
Dear Real A:
I just had to write you and tell you that I am divorcing that brute of a husband of mine, Charles Lowe. I'm telling you first (well, I did tell the Post and some talk show people, but they don't count) because I know how understanding and compassionate you are. I do, I really do. I mean, you're the person with the synonyms for genitalia and who would be more understanding than that? I just want you to know that Charles abused me, he did, he really did. I know he's going to say I abused him just by looking at him, but that is vile, it's just vile, have you ever heard anything so vile? I mean, we only had sex once or twice in the whole time we were married. Me, one of the sexiest women on earth and all he wanted to do was play Candyland and dress up like a Nun! He did, he really did. Well, I am reinventing myself, A, I really am. I'm not wearing that silly old wig anymore. Charles forced me to wear it, and knee socks, too. He did, he really did. And you know what else? He spent all my money. Yes. He did. I earned five million dollars and two months ago I had a craving for Chicken McNuggets and he said we didn't have the money for it! I tried to tell him that McNuggets Are A Girl's Best Friend, but he wouldn't hear of it. I said, "where is my money, Charles?" and he just looked at me and said he'd spent it all. He certainly didn't spend it on Viagra, let me tell you that. I mean, doesn't that just take the cake? It does, it really does. It takes the cake. Well, it was the last straw, let me tell you. It was the straw that broke the Carol's back. I immediately called my friend Jerry Herman and asked him to write me a new version of Hello, Dolly! entitled Goodbye, Charlie. And he did, he really did. Here's the title song (you have to imagine me singing it!):
Big fat kisses,
Before we move on to the letters, did you all see the article in last week's Newsweek Magazine about the Sondheim cult? According to said article, there are actual Sondheim fanatics out there! There are actual people who are obsessed with Sondheim. The article thinks that anyone who likes Sondheim too much is a Sondhead. Now, I have to agree that I, on occasion, have met such people. They are just a little too consumed by my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim. These people sometimes forget to bathe. But this article seems to imply that people who like Sondheim have aberrant personalities. Now, I take umbrage at that, and I am here to say that I do not have an aberrant personality as regards Sondheim and neither do you dear readers. So, take that Newsweek (and we know they read this here column). As a matter of fact, Newsweek spent twom, count them, two hours interviewing Mr. Mark Bakalor (who apparently was back from doing shows in Sunnyvale or wherever the hell he was) and they did not use one word of the interview. I'd say this was an article with an agenda, wouldn't you, dear readers?
As I sit here (like so much fish) on this Memorial Day weekend, I am thinking about all the wonderful letters I receive. Of course, if we really sent letters, wouldn't they look something like:
Dear So and So:
You see my point? What we really mean by sending a letter is that we're sending a bunch of letters which make up words which then somehow make up a letter. This is totally confusing. Another case of language gone awry. If you get a bad loaf of rye bread is it awry rye? Oh, it is such madness. Anyway, I got lots of letters (a, j, l, o, s, and u) this week, so let's just answer them, shall we? Of course, this brings up a whole other thing, like how do you answer a letter? Say you get a "b". Do you answer it with a "q"? Just shoot me and get it over with. Mark my words, we will answer the letters and right now. But just before we do, exactly how would you "mark my words"? With a pencil? Pen? Why would you mark my words? It is unseemly to deface words by marking them. Okay, okay, let's just get to the letters and be done with this endless nit-picking. We can pick our nits later.
Leigh (my possible son) tells me that in England the English Muffin is known as a scone. I've eaten scones and they are heavy lumpen things that sit in your stomach like a brick (don't get me wrong, I like them). English Muffins on the other hand are light and airy and stupid looking. Leigh informs me that he prefers the Bette Midler Gypsy recording to the Merman OBC. As readers of this column know, I feel the opposite. I feel the Tyne Daly and Midler versions are lifeless affairs, and that the Merman kicks butt cheeks. Leigh feels Merman grates (like cheese) on the ear. But I find Merman exciting and perfect in the role, so, each to their own, as they say. Who "they" are is another story. The ubiquitous "they". The omnipresent "they". Leigh also inquires whether there is a recording of the Denis Quilley/Julia McKenzie Sweeney Todd. Sorry, "they" say there isn't.
Pat has finally figured out my Real Identity. First, let's recap: 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, New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, Leigh's father, and Waiting for Guffman's Corky. So, Pat, after some heavy deducing thinks that I, in fact, do not exist at all. He feels that Mr. Mark Bakalor is working with a word processor that spews out random words. In other random words, I am a word processor. I like this guess. But I don't know if Mark Bakalor is the one working with me because he is always off doing shows in Artesia or wherever the hell he is.
Elizabeth writes to say that she's happy that she's not the only one who thinks the English language is weird. Frankly, between the English Language and the English Muffin there is just a whole weird English thing going on. Elizabeth feels that words should be pronounced the way they are spelled. I think this a splendid idea. For example: thought. Pronounce that the way it's spelled. If there are letters (as opposed to letters like the one I'm answering) in a word then by golly who are we to not pronounce them. If they're there their presence should be acknowledged. Did you notice the triple play: "they're/there/their". Same pronunciation, totally different meanings. This is simply heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) in my book (Chapter 82 - The Heinous Triple There).
Erin, a new dear reader, just discovered this here column and she loves it. She has printed out copies of it for her chums at school and (Spock alert) hopefully her chums will all be saying "what is it, fish?" in short order. Erin also prefers Len Cariou to George Hearn as Sweeney Todd.
B. Peters (Barbara not Bernadette) recommends that I try Sam's in New York as an alternative to Joe Allen's. I've never been a fan of Sam's and am even less of one since all the key players have moved over to Barrymore's. No, the one thing you will learn about The Real A is that I am loyal and true. I am treated so beautifully at Joe Allen's (by Angus and the rest of the staff) that even if the food were less than wonderful I'd still probably go there. Nothing against Sam's, which is just fine, and which is frequented by lots of nice folks.
Emily wrote to ask me if she could write twice in one week and to tell me that her brother is a squirrel. My squirrel is running a 10K on the roof. And the bird is outside singing the most beautiful rendition of Shall We Dance? that you've ever heard. Of course Emily (and anyone else who'd care to) can write twice or as many times as you'd like. I love getting your letters (z, e, y, i, etc.). Emily also wants to know (in her second letter which followed her first letter) if she can have my couch when I don't want it anymore. Yes, and it may be sooner than Emily thinks. She wants to know if it smells like so much fish, but, no, it smells good, like me. I have a fine smell. That, of course, falls under the category of "Too Much Information".
Bob really loves the music in Merrily We Roll Along. He happens to have seen it on Broadway, and thought Jason Alexander was a standout even then.
Nikki tells me that she doesn't like baths either. Why, if enough people don't like baths, we might have a bath revolt on our hands. We could overthrow the bath. Yes, I'm advocating bath anarchy right here in this here column. Hear, hear. Or here, here. Nikki likes Bernadette (not Barbara) Peters' version of Not A Day Goes By best. Have you ever heard the sexually confused Italian version of that song? Not A Dago's Bi? Nikki also wants to know if Marin Mazzie was in Merrily in La Jolla. Not having seen that production, I don't know. All I remember is John Rubinstein and Chip Zien. Finally, Nikki's desert island books would have to include Jane Eyre, a wonderful choice.
Spock (yes, Spock, the language Doctor) is back and complaining about my spelling of the word "moreso", which he feels should be two words, "more so". Now, Mr. Mark Bakalor (when he's not off doing shows in Visalia or wherever the hell he is) uses a spell checker on this here column, and said spell checker let said moreso slip right on by. Irregardless of who is right and who is not right, I like the way "moreso" looks, frankly, and if it's incorrect, then I'm inventing a new word right here and now and no one can stop me. If somebody invented the word "fecund" then I can invent "moreso". And moreso I just have.
Sheila (who Mr. Mark Bakalor assures me is Spock, or at least using the same computer as Spock) wrote me a totally incomprehensible e-mail which was a little too surreal even for me.
Alina says that her favorite book is also To Kill A Mockingbird and that her second favorite is Orwell's Animal Farm. I, too, love that book, although I do prefer Nineteen Eighty-Four. In my fabulous collection of First Editions I have both in their original British firsts. Alina's favorite overall author is Steinbeck, and there's nothing wrong with that!
cheshirecat wrote to make sure that I (and all you dear readers) know that the "Cat" who wrote last week about being kicked out of their apartment is not he, and that he's safely ensconced in his apartment and none of us are to worry one or two whits.
David tells me that prior to the La Jolla redo of Merrily, there was a successful small production done at a 99 seat theater in Los Angeles, which, because of its acclaim, led to the La Jolla redo. It starred Ernie Sabella, Linda Nichols and Michael Hawkins, and David tells me that everyone in Hollywood came out for the event. I don't believe I shall touch that last sentence with a ten foot pole, a ten foot poll or a ten foot Pol.
mrsmig informs me that in addition to To Kill A Mockingbird, they would also have the following books on their desert island: the entire Little House On The Prairie set by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Outermost House by Henry Beston, I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, The Kingdom By The Sea by Paul Theroux and The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited by William S. Baring-Gould, who, I'm sure was eating an English Muffin Scone when he edited it.
Tiffany tells me that she's taking a "Social Dancing" class, and that she's already learned the East Coast Swing (as opposed to the West Coast Drag), the waltz, the fox trot, the cha-cha, the rumba and the tango. Frankly, I'd like to know what happened to the twist, the frug and the boogaloo? She also tells me that nothing, but nothing, is happening with that bad boy Nate (merely Nat with a superfluous "e" attached) who has not returned any of her calls. She wonders if he's getting the messages, as everytime she calls, his female roommate answers the phone and says he's not there. Tiffany does not like this person's tone of voice, or her English accent which she probably uses while eating her English Muffin, which, by the way, Tiffany hates! Stay tuned for further details. Tiffany also tells me she has a small crush on her sixty-year old teacher. This reminds me of a racy but funny Bette Midler (she of Gypsy) Sophie Tucker joke: Soph's boyfriend Ernie calls her and says "Soph, I'm 70 years old. I'm going to get me a 20 year old girlfriend, what do you think of that?" And Soph says "Ernie, I'm 70 years old and I'm going to get me a 20 year old boyfriend and believe me 20 goes into 70 a helluva lot easier than 70 goes into 20"! If I had a snare drum I could do a rim shot. If I had a conundrum I don't know what I could do. Tiffany also got a new kitty, and she and kitty would add a P.G. Wodehouse to her desert island books.
Well, you too too smart people just know everything, don't you? We couldn't pull the wool over your eyes, now could we? Can you also pull the cotton or nylon tricot over someone's eyes? Will it have the same effect? Anyway, just about everyone knew the answer to last week's trivia question, who was the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird based on. The answer: Harper Lee's childhood pal Truman Capote. He, in fact, took the photo that was on the back panel of the book's original dust jacket, and he dedicated one of his masterpieces, In Cold Blood, to her.
This week I'll give you a Real Stumper, but the deal is you may not use any shortcuts (like computers!!!) to find the answer. You must achieve the answer all on your own. No cheating, dear readers. In Ira Levin's sequel to Rosemary's Baby, Son of Rosemary, he gives an anagram, then, perversely, never solves it. This anagram stumped Mr. Levin for quite some time. I got lucky and got it fairly quickly. The anagram is Roast Mules. When you anagram it, it will become one ten- letter word which even a child would know. Good luck and no cheating.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...