Here is a disgusting thing that happened. After I was awakened by said hammering a few days ago, I got up, showered, dressed and went off to do what it is I do. As I locked the front door (and heard the insistent echo of hammering nearby) I looked over at the doormat, which was to the side (I've been meaning to throw it out and buy a new one). There was what, at first glance, looked like a coprophiliac offering from a doggie, onto which ants had swarmed. Now, let me say here and now that I do not like ants. Ants exist for no discernable reason other than to annoy me. So, there I was, faced with swarming ants, the insistent echo of maniacal hammering nearby, and what looked like a doggie brick or two. But as I stared hypnotically at it, I suddenly became aware of what that doggie offering really was. If you have a queasy stomach, do not read further. Skip to the next section immediately. Because what I saw, dear readers, was heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). What I saw was the guts of something and a portion of said something's former leg. I immediately wondered if I'd done anything untoward to someone, who might have left this as a voodoo thing. But, as you, my dear readers, know, I never do anything untoward. I do many things toward, but never untoward. That is just the way I am. I am a toward kind of person. I went back into the house and got out my trusty can of Raid (for a moment, I thought about going next door and using it on the psychotic hammerer, but he wouldn't have been there anyway) and used a half a can of said Raid on those damned ants. I took those ants out! I then put on some gloves and took the whole mat and its mess, put it in a plastic baggie and put it in the trash can where it now resides until the trash collectors come and get it. Someone told me that cats will sometimes come and leave such "offerings" at one's doorstep, as if it were some kind of "gift". If that's the case, then why didn't Andrew Lloyd Webber include a scene like that in his musical Cats? That certainly would have livened things up. No verisimilitude, that's what I say to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Wasn't that a thoroughly disgusting story? And yet, it really happened, so I had to relate it to you, dear readers, because I know you expect nothing less from me. Excuse me one moment.
You see? I just ran next door and as soon as I got to the fence there was no maniacal hammering and no psychotic hammerer. This is absolutely maddening. But I did pass the bird who was singing "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" from Fiddler. The bird must know that on Sunday it will be Rosh Hashanah. I wonder if the bird keeps kosher? I wonder why I am hearing maniacal hammering by a psychotic cretin who is giving me the Gaslight treatment. Frankly, I am tired of the Gaslight treatment and would like some other kind of treatment. Where was I? Oh, yes, Rosh Hashanah. For those dear readers who are not of the Jewish persuasion, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. So, we wish a Happy New Year to all our Jewish readers.
Did you know, dear readers, that you can find love on the Internet? This is called a segue. Love On The Internet. Sounds like a bad tv movie, but it is true. You heard it here, dear readers, love on the Internet. There are now several sites where said love is just waiting for you. It's the online equivalent of personals ads. You write a profile and people of the opposite or same sex read it and then respond to you if they have a hankering to. I recently visited one of these sites and perused various profiles. I suddenly had a hankering, and I wrote to one person who had described themself thusly:
Type of body: Trim, athletic. Age: 35. Location: San Fernando Valley area.
Type of body: The size of a palatial mansion. Age: 35, perhaps twenty years ago.
Have I said that I am being given the Gaslight treatment? I think the psychotic hammerer now has a friend over, because there is way too much hammering going on for just one psychotic to be doing it. I'm telling you they are hammering and yet nothing is being built. Wait! Perhaps they made a tape of someone hammering! They play said tape, then as soon as I run out there they craftily stop the tape. Do you realize that I've spent the entire column thus far talking about psychotic but apparently non-existent hammerers, Rosh Hashanah, love on the Internet, and non-advertised parrots? This is what is known as a potpourri. A stew. A melange. It's like The Scarlet Pimpernel: You throw enough ingredients in and something's bound to work. But enough about me.
Miss Meryle Secrest will simply not stop. She badgers, she bullies, she cajoles. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I look at that word "cajoles" and I just think "caholays". I mean, if frijoles is "friholays" then cajoles should be "caholays". That is only fair. Who would make up a word like "cajoles" (selojac spelled backwards)? Do we want to know that person? And if we did know them would we cajole them? Just out of spite? What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, Miss Meryle Secrest and her endless cajoling.
I know we've been spending a lot of time in my childhood years, but this is the way Miss Meryle Secrest works. She feels these childhood years hold the secrets to what we become. And just what is "secrets" but "Secrest" anagramed?
Here is something Miss Meryle "Secrets" Secrest caused me to remember by cajolation. When I was a mere sprig of a twig I saw a motion picture entitled North By Northwest. Oh, how I loved that motion picture. I saw it for the first time at my beloved Wiltern Theater, which was around the corner from my father's restaurant. I had never seen anything quite like North By Northwest before. It was so exciting and clever and funny and that Cary Grant was so handsome and charming and that Eva Marie Saint was so sexy and beautiful and that James Mason was so suave and so evil and Martin Landau was so oily and gay and have you noticed that this is quickly becoming the longest sentence without punctuation in the history of sentences? It's what is known as a run-on sentence and there is a certain breathlessness to it that I admire from afar (afar being my new handy dandy couch where I sit like so much fish). What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, North By Northwest. I was so taken by this film, that I went back three times that week. I practically memorized the dialogue, and I loved the music so much, I practically memorized that, too. I remember going to the record store to see if there was a soundtrack of that glorious Bernard Herrmann (favorite of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim - and I bet you thought we'd never get around to mentioning him, did you, dear readers, but after all, this is my life by Miss Meryle Secrest, he's already had his life by Miss Meryle Secrest. How many of you realize that we are still within the parens? How many of you remember what the hell I was talking about before the parens? I have abused said parens haven't I?) score, but there wasn't. I tried to coerce and cajole (a potent combination) the kids in the neighborhood to "play" North By Northwest, but the idiots in my neighborhood hadn't even seen it and couldn't be bothered. No, they had their Colorforms, and their Mr. Potato Heads, what did they know from North By Northwest. So, I would recreate scenes by myself. I would run down the street pretending I was being chased by a crop duster, while humming the exciting music by Bernard Herrmann. What must people have thought, seeing this kid running down the street, humming loudly, fleeing from a non-existent crop duster? And it's not like I did this down residential streets, nooooo, I did it down major boulevards like Pico and La Cienega. I found out that a "single" of the love theme had been released on 45 and I went to Wallich's Music City and every other record store in the city to try to find it. No one had it. No one seemed to be able to order it. No one had ever heard of the pianist who was doing it (Russ Conway and His Orchestra) and I began to think it was a joke being played on me personally by the powers that be. I looked for that 45 for over a year and never found it. However, this story has a happy ending, record-wise. Years later, when I was in my twenties, I was nosing around in a used record store, looking through old 45s, and there it was! The love theme from North By Northwest by Russ Conway and His Orchestra. After all those years, it really existed. The powers that be weren't giving me the Gaslight treatment after all. All those years I had given the powers that be a bad rap. I got home and played it, and it was really awful. Anyway, I ended up seeing North By Northwest wherever it played. After it left the Wiltern it started doing its subruns and I just went from theater to theater seeing it over and over again. I even got on a dreaded bus in the pouring rain and went to Hollywood and saw it at an awful theater called the NuView. When I came out of the theater it was still pouring, but that didn't stop me from running down Hollywood Blvd. pretending to be chased by that infernal crop duster while singing the theme at the top of my lungs.
That was not my first brush with a Hitchcock film. Or Bernard Herrmann. No, even at an earlier age I knew who those boys were. For some reason, even as a very young child from the time I could read, I paid close attention to the credits. One day I went to my beloved Lido Theater with my not-beloved brother. They were showing a double bill of The Man Who Knew Too Much and Autumn Leaves. Now, I haven't seen Autumn Leaves since that day, but I can tell you there was a scene where Cliff Robertson threw a typewriter on Joan Crawford's hand and this so upset me that I immediately left the auditorium and went to the bathroom. For some reason which I find elusive, I always loved bathrooms in movie theaters. What this means I leave to Miss Meryle Secrest to figure out. If the bathroom were upstairs as they frequently were, I would invariably roll down the stairs on my way down, much to the alarm of the people who worked in the theater. I just loved rolling down stairs, that was just the height of fun. It never occurred to me that I could have broken my neck. But, back to the story. As I came out of the bathroom and was preparing to roll down the stairs, I noticed a door ajar. Before I continue I'd like to know if a jar can be adoor? Anyway, there was this door and it was ajar. Being naturally curious, I wandered over to said ajar door and peered in. And what I saw was so amazing that it amazed me. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I was amazingly amazed. Why, you may ask, and I will tell you because you have the right to know. I was amazed because this was the projection booth. There were two huge projectors. I was mesmerized watching the film run from its reel into the projector, and the beam of light making a little mini-image on the porthole glass. I had no idea this was how the whole megillah worked. Oh, I'd often sat in the auditorium and looked back at where that shaft of light was coming from and the little image on the porthole, but I just thought someone was up there watching tv or something. The projectionist saw me, saw that I was mesmerized and invited me in to watch him do the changeover to the next reel. Even though I didn't know what a changeover was, I knew I had to see it. He took up his position by the projector that wasn't running, put his hand on a lever. He then told me to look out the porthole and to watch the upper right portion of the screen for a dot that would appear. Magically, a moment later, said dot did appear. He pulled the lever and the projector started up and somehow just as the reel came to an end on the other projector, this projector started showing its reel at just the right time. Wow! For years I would amaze and impress my friends with my knowledge of the dots and What They Meant. The man let me watch him work for the duration of Autumn Leaves. At intermission I thanked him, left the booth, rolled down the stairs and then saw The Man Who Knew Too Much. As soon as the credits started to roll I knew that I would forever love the music of Bernard Herrmann. I made a mental note of his name as it passed by in the credits. And I made a mental note of the director's name, Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know what a director was, really, but I just intrinsically knew that I would love a Hitchcock film. And The Man Who Knew Too Much was great. It had a little kid in jeopardy, so I could totally empathize with it. And it had Doris Day singing Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be) which I just thought was grand. And of course, the next day I immediately went to the record store and bought the 45, which, thankfully, was easier to find than the Russ Conway and His Orchestra version of North by Northwest.
Next week, perhaps Miss Meryle Secrest will begin delving into the teen years. Perhaps we will talk about the first time someone made out with me in the back row of the Four Star Theater during Where The Boys Are. Do you know that if Meryle Secrest wrote a bio of a film star, she could call it My Reel Secrets, which of course is Meryle Secrest anagramed.
Yes, it's that time, dear readers. Another walk down memory lane, another look at my favorite songs, those songs which were so important to me for a variety of reasons. Here's a potpourri, a stew, a melange, spanning many decades. Let's start with a classic Rodgers and Hart song. I know that my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, does not especially like the lyrics of Lorenz Hart, but, while Mr. Hart isn't my favorite, he's certainly written some pretty terrific lyrics. Especially this one, which I first heard in the motion picture Jumbo, which was not about my brother, believe it or not, but was about an elephant. This song had nothing to do with said elephant, however, but I find it ineffably touching, especially as sung by the wonderful (and already mentioned) Doris Day. The music by Richard Rodgers is, as usual, as beautiful as it gets.
LITTLE GIRL BLUE
TIME AFTER TIME
I THINK IT'S GOING TO RAIN TODAY
In honor of Rosh Hashanah, I have found a terrific Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz song. I think this one should have been a hit, but somehow it just didn't catch on.
INTO THE SHUL
Have I mentioned that you can now find love on the internet? More importantly, are you reading this or off trying to find love on the internet? I'm typing this here column, so obviously I am not finding love on the internet at this particular moment in time (as opposed to that particular moment in time). My finding love on the internet is just going to have to wait until I am through with this here column, but this is a sacrifice I'm willing to make, because I adore you, dear readers. In fact, I think we can all find love right here in this column. We'll have our own singles matchups. Yes, I think this is a swell idea. In the meantime, perhaps I'll just answer your letters while you're off looking for love on the internet which you will soon be able to find right here.
Emily writes to say that she has purchased a fish. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers. All right, everyone in unison: What is it, fish? She has named said fish "Doggie". She did this so that people would be confused. Of course, the fish will also be confused. Emily will find this out the hard way when the fish starts barking. On another related fish note, a friend of Emily's sent her a handy dandy pocket trout that lights up when you press its belly. I light up when my belly is pressed, too. Emily's car battery passed on, but with a live fish and a pocket trout with lightable belly, who needs to go anywhere?
Dan, Dan, The Cello Man (I don't make this stuff up, you know) wanted to let our very own annyrose know that the lead character in Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms (as opposed to Faulkner's A Farewell To Arms) is named Lt. Frederick Henry. I'm sure that annyrose, annyrose, She Of Ten Toes, thanks Dan, Dan, The Cello Man.
Pitgirl (I don't make this stuff up, you know) is confused, much like Emily's fish named Doggie. Here is the source of her confusion: Apparently her physics professor has announced the he is The Real A! She wants to know if there's truth (verisimilitude) in this or if it's a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) and foul (as opposed to fowl) lie. I'm afraid I can say nothing about this. I'm afraid all I can do is add said physics professor to our ever growing list of candidates.
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, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, dear reader Matt, and Pitgirl's physics professor.
Tom, who hails from Australia, writes to say that he is a dear reader from down under who reads this here column every Tuesday like clockwork. He is especially enjoying our "favorite songs" section and tells me that three of his favorites are Not A Day Goes By (by my close personal you-know-what), Misty, and the great Strouse & Adams song Once Upon A Time. Good choices all. By the way, I hope you all realize that I'm not doing Sondheim in the "favorite songs" section, because you all know those songs every which way but loose, and I think it's more fun to do ones you might not know. I will occasionally throw one in, though, just out of fairness to Steve, because, after all, this site is named after him.
Anna informs me that she does not have an unnatural fear of microwaves. Just a normal, down to earth everyday concern for those who use such things. Her concern has been duly noted. Anna would like to know if I've heard the cd of Saturday Night. I have and have written about it. I love the score but do not love the cd. However, since the only way you can get the complete score is to get the cd, I recommend it. Anna also asks if I know anything about the English production of Assassins. I don't, although I do know they added a song to it called Something Just Broke.
Elan sends me felicitous wishes for my brand spanking new couch. Elan feels that last week's Gluckman and Fitz song Anyone For Brisket could have been written by a fake, perhaps an Englishman. But I can assure Elan that it came directly from the pens of G & F. Elan also would like to know some of my favorite comic performers from eras past. I've already spoken of Jack Benny and Danny Kaye, but I also loved The Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Chaplin, Red Skelton, and many others too numerous to name. Elan asks if I've heard of and like Spike Jones, Anna Russell, Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman. I have and I do. Very funny, all.
Tiffany is thrilled to have won her fish socks (which will soon wing their way to her, even though they really should be swimming their way to her) and to have been our 1,000th letter.
Evan sends this picture of his production of Tommy.
S. Woody White has a brand spanking new eight week old Chihuahua. Congratulations to both S. Woody and the Chihuahua. Have you ever seen a more convoluted bunch of letters than "Chihuahua"? And why the repeated "hua"? One "hua" wasn't enough?
Sara wants to know if I made up Gluckman and Fitz or if they're some obscure Sondheim spoof writing team. I would never take credit for making up such a wonderful team as Gluckman and Fitz. I also don't believe their songs are spoofs. Okay, dear readers, we need to convince Sara, so clap your hands really loud if you believe in Gluckman and Fitz. C'mon, I can't hear you. There, that's better. Yes, that's it. Can you hear, Sara? Everyone believes in Gluckman and Fitz so they must be real. That was a close call, wasn't it? But as always, you came through, dear readers, clap-wise. Sara would also like to know how Miss Meryle Secrest can write a biography when neither she nor anyone else knows who or what The Real A is. Sara feels that I'm definitely not Sondheim or anyone well known. This I can tell you: When Miss Meryle Secrest is finished you will know all.
annyrose is also trying out for Tommy (like her friend Kristina). Is Tommy the only musical that's being performed these days? Everyone is doing it. Apparently it is the thing to do, or as my young friends would say, "It's the bomb". We wish annyrose luck, and hope she'll let us know what happens.
Anita wants to know if I love the song The Very Thought Of You. I do. Perhaps in a future column, we'll print the lyrics.
Rafael asks if Cy Coleman's score to The Life is as good as his Sweet Charity, City of Angels or Seesaw. While I like The Life, it is nowhere near any of those scores. Rafael also wants to know if he should get the cast album or the concept album. By all means, the cast album. The concept album is simply horrible.
cheshirecat has chided me (yes, chided me) for "cheating" (yes, cheating) in the Gluckman and Fitz lyric for Anything For Brisket. Now, cheshirecat, before you chide you need to really know what you're chiding about. a) I never cheat, ever. b) What has Gluckman and Fitz to do with me? They are real, or didn't you hear the thunderous clapping that was going on earlier. Here is the "mistake" cheshirecat thought Herman Fitz made: Rhyming "rye" with "Brie" (as in Matzoh Brie). One thing becomes obvious, and that is that cheshirecat is not Jewish. Otherwise he would know that the "brei" of matzoh is not the same as the "brie" of cheese. Said cheese "brie" is pronounced "bree" but said Matzoh "brei" is pronounced "br-eye" hence the rhyme with "rye". So you see, the world of rhyme is safe once more.
I was, frankly, surprised at the amount of right answers to last week's trivia question, what obscure show was the wonderful song Never Before from? And then two dear readers admitted they had cheated and searched the answer on the internet (while they were taking a rest from looking for love). Now, we simply can't have that, can we? If you don't know the answer I'd just like you to make one up. That would be fun, and I'll print your made up answers. But it's no fun if you cheat by using internet databases. The correct guessers were:
Evan, S. Woody White, Sara, Rafael, Steve G., and cheshirecat. I'm not mentioning the people who admitted they'd fudged. I'm just not. Don't try to pry it out of me because I will simply not be pried. I take pride that I can't be pried. The answer: Never Before, from Whoop Up! by Moose Charlap and Norman Gimbel.
This week's trivia question: In our beloved Valley Of The Dolls, three people recorded the vocal for Helen Lawson's song I'll Plant My Own Tree. Name them, and name the one that was ultimately used in the film.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...