This is strange, this writing a column from a whole other location. I don't know that I like the disturbing of my routine. It seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, but now that I am in the thick of it, I am not so sure. Perhaps if I were in the thin of it I would be sure. I am a creature of habit, dear readers. I am a person who revels in having a routine. And here I've gone and taken said routine and thrown it to the wind. While this is daring, it has frankly disturbed my routine, which is now blowing in the wind. Yes, routine is the answer and the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The one thing that has not changed from being in a new location is my ability to write drivel. Obviously. Isn't it interesting how "Obviously." is an entire sentence composed of just one word? That is being succinct, sentence-wise, to the nth degree. This new location has turned me succinct. Who would've thought? I, who can go on and on and on ad nauseum about absolutely nothing whatsoever, am now succinct, and all because of being in a handy dandy new location. I am now liking this new lean approach to sentence writing. Terse. To the point. No sentence longer than five words except this sentence which has more words than you can shake a stick at. I know that, because as soon as I was through writing that sentence I shook a stick at it (happily there was a stick nearby) and there were more words than I could shake said stick at, hence proving that particular saying correct. Have you noticed how my new lean, terse style has gone right out the window? Have you noticed how my new lean, terse style is now blowing in the wind along with my routine and the answer? But I like being lean and terse. It suits me to a "t". Not a "w" mind you, but a "t". Can something "suit" you to a "t" if you are not wearing a suit? These are the questions that are occurring to me as I write this here column from this new location. Not that I'm not that far from my old location, frankly. Mere blocks, but what a world of difference.
Oh, this is a bold and adventurous experiment, dear readers. I feel we are on new turf, exploring new avenues, seeking new boulevards, going down new lanes, finding new streets, delving into new neighborhoods - what the hell am I using all these street allusions for? This must have something to do with writing a column from a new location. It messes with your mind. It's like LSD (Linear Sentence Disturbance). I feel my terra is not firma. And yet, I am writing words that are more lean and terse than ever before. Is there a more terse word than "terse"? Terse is positively terse in my book (Chapter 199 - Terse: You Tell Me).
One interesting thing is, because I'm not writing this into the usual handy dandy "form" that Mr. Mark Bakalor has created for me, I have no idea how long this is, comparatively speaking. I have no idea if part one is its usual length, or if part one is terse. It feels terse and yet it also feels like War and Peace. Is it terse or is it War and Peace? You decide. I've already decided that it is like a terse War and Peace. Excuse me for a moment.
I'm back. I just read War and Peace, and my, is it terse. Nine hundred pages worth. I just flew through it. It's a real page turner and the ending is a shocker. They keep you guessing right up until the last page. War? Peace? You'll never guess in a million years. It is not as comfortable to sit on a chair like so much fish as it is to sit on a couch like so much fish. My back is killing me ("Read all about it: Person Killed By Own Back!"). Occasionally people walk by and try to look at what I'm writing, but I don't let them. I tell them to get the hell away from me is what I tell them. I tell them it's none of their damn business what I'm writing. I tell them if they want to read what I'm writing they can just go on over to the Stephen Sondheim Stage and read it like everybody else. They can't just read this column in advance. That wouldn't be fair to you , dear readers. These people would have a leg up on you (no mean feat) and we simply can't have that.
Well, this has been grand, hasn't it? I'm now going to save this here column to something called a floppy disc, which is in fact hard as a rock. Why do they call something a "floppy" when it's a "hardy"? Just asking. So, I'm going to save this to a floppy-yet-hardy disc and then send it along to Mr. Mark Bakalor, who will, with his vast technological know-how, transfer the whole damn thing to where it needs to be. You have to admit, this 60th column sure has a terse and lean feel to it. Everything to the point. Not a word wasted. Waste is a terrible thing, word-wise, and this column is living proof of that. In fact, this column is starting to feel like Fosse: Too long and too repetitious. But enough about me.
I don't know about this writing a column on location. Surprisingly, I feel dislocated writing this column on location. I feel at sea, at bay and at eBay. Speaking of eBay, remember when I shared that wonderful picture of the J.C. Leyendecker painting I'd bid on and won? Here it is again, to refresh your memory.
Well, I seem to have used up the entire The Real A: A Life section telling you the faux Leyendecker story. Miss Meryle Secrest recently asked me where I got my interest in art. Was it from my parents? Well, in our house the "art" consisted of wallpaper with flamingos on it. That is the only art I remember in our house. I cannot look at a flamingo today (one came to my door and I simply could not look at it) without thinking of that hideous green and pink wallpaper. The first artist I ever became aware of was the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali. I remember watching the motion picture Spellbound, directed by my hero, Alfred Hitchcock. In this film there is a dream sequence which was designed by Dali. Full of his weird hypersurreal imagery. I was so taken with it, that the next day I went to my beloved Pickwick Books in Hollywood and bought a book on Salvador Dali. I totally fell in love with his work, and still love it to this very day. Then I discovered Norman Rockwell, and I knew I'd found an artist that "spoke" to me. I just so responded to his down-home heartwarming folksy paintings, and I loved his sense of humor, too. There is a wonderful Saturday Evening Post cover entitled Triple Self Portrait that is one of the great illustration paintings of all time. Anyway, Rockwell created such an idealized world, one simply wanted to live in those paintings. No flamingo wallpaper there. No parental types sitting in a chair with their zubrick hanging around like so much smoked salmon. I used to ask my parents "Why can't we live like that" to which they responded "We don't live like that?" to which no further response was necessary.
And then there were The Banks. The Banks were my parents' best friends. The Banks knew from art. The Banks new from nice, because The Banks had Money with a capital M. They lived in a much tonier neighborhood than we did, even though I believe we were pretty well off ourselves. This was a constant source of annoyance to my mother, who wanted to live in a tony neighborhood like The Banks. But, apparently our bank account didn't have the same kind of money in it that the Bank bank account had. My mother, of course, never spoke of this to The Banks, but she spoke about it ad nauseum to my father, who would usually belch loudly in response. No one could belch as loudly as my father could belch, and with such a heady aroma, too. We spent much time with The Bank family. There was Helen and Fischel (do you think Helen ever said "What is it, Fischel?") Bank and their two strange children Hilton and Ira Bank. Only someone named Fischel would name a child Hilton. Anyway, these Banks were mighty strange. They had a maid named Alma, who was very nice but also strange. This maid named Alma annoyed my mother very much because she did not have a maid named Alma or any other name. We had a cleaning lady named Lulu Salmon (these fish things are omnipresent in my family) but she was only once a week, not full time like Alma. The Banks lived in the then-new area known as Cheviot Hills in a huge house. The best thing about said house was in the dining room. Under the dining room table, buried under the rug was a button that you could step on which would then alert Alma that she should come into the dining room. I was obsessed with this button under the rug. I would go into the dining room at every opportunity, crawl under the table and hunt around until I'd found the button so I could press it. Of course this had the problematic effect of causing Alma to come into the room, and she'd chase me out of there. I loved that button under the rug but don't ask me why because, frankly, I haven't a clue. Fischel Bank was a nice man, who was around my father's age. His beautiful wife Helen was probably twenty years his junior. This annoyed my mother very much as she was not twenty years my father's junior. She was three years my father's junior, hence she was seventeen years senior to the beautiful Helen. There really is no point to this story other than to say that everything about The Banks annoyed my mother and yet they were our best friends. Hilton was my brother's age and Ira was my age, and I just remember them being decidedly weird, which could have had something to do with the fact that their parents were decidedly weird. Later (after my father took it on the lam - another story for another column) my mother became estranged from The Banks for reasons I was not privy to. Before I tell you the unhappy end to this Bank saga, I just want to let you know that you can "take it on the lam" or, in the case of mint jelly, you can "take it on the lamb". I just thought you'd want to know that. As to the end of the Bank saga, things must have been weirder than any of us could have imagined, because young beautiful Helen took her own life, and shortly thereafter the rest of The Banks disappeared.
You won't believe it, dear readers. First of all, I'm back at my usual location, sitting on my couch like so much fish, but that isn't what you won't believe. Remember last week, someone pointed out that maybe I should list the publishing information if I print lyrics? Well, I received the following e-mail just moments ago from someone named Milton Nussbaum III. Let's see what it says, shall we?
Dear The Real A:
I received notice that you have been printing the lyrics of Herman Fitz without crediting Mr. Gluckman and Mr. Fitz' publishing firm. While I applaud your bringing their marvelous songs back into the spotlight we must ask you to credit their company if you are to continue publishing the lyrics. For example, what if someone read your column and decided to sing a Gluckman and Fitz song at Carnegie Hall? How would they know who to pay the royalty to? Since this publishing company has only received one royalty check in the last thirty three years (for $5.36) it is very important to us that people know where to send royalty payments. They sure haven't been sending them here, let me tell you that. In future, please give credit where credit is due, or I will have to ask you to cease and desist from printing any lyrics. Feel free to continue to not print the music, that is fine with us. We feel the time is right for a Gluckman and Fitz resurgence and we just want to make sure that the next $5.36 gets to us in a timely fashion. These offices don't pay for themselves, you know. I apologize for the length of this letter, but frankly I haven't written a letter regarding Gluckman and Fitz since Mick Jagger wanted to record their song I Ain't Got No (Salami Sandwich). We refused because of Mr. Jagger's tight pants, and then he just went off and did a similar song which made ours go abegging. Menasha Skulnik was all ready to record I Ain't Go No (Salami Sandwich) but when he heard that Rolling Stones song he just threw up his arms and said "feh". So perhaps this letter is a little long-winded. I know that Morty and Herman would appreciate your devotion to their work. If I could tell them about it I would, but they are dead, as you know, so telling them would fall on deaf ears. If they were alive telling them would still fall on deaf ears because neither one of them could hear very well. You could go on for hours with either one of them and their response was inevitebly "What?", or sometimes "Eh?".
Thank you for your understanding in this matter.
Well, I must say, according to the bulk of the e-mail this week, most of you are enjoying my little journey through My Favorite Songs, and have asked me not to stop. Hence, I will let the majority rule and the folks who don't like this section will just have to throw up your arms and say "feh". Have you ever thrown up your arms? Perhaps if people stopped eating their arms, then perhaps they wouldn't throw them up.
This week I thought I'd share three songs by two of my favorite writers, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. I fell in love with their work the first time I heard The Fantasticks, and I've loved their work ever since. Here's a perfect example of what they do better than anyone else, from the aforementioned The Fantasticks.
SOON IT'S GONNA RAIN
I'M GLAD TO SEE YOU'VE GOT WHAT YOU WANT
Why is it that when we wake up in the morning (which I have just done) we have what is euphamistically described as "sleep" in our eyes? This "sleep", which resembles three day old eggbread, is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). It sits in your eyes like so much fish, this sleep does, and then you wash it out or pick it out or whatever it is that you personally do to get the "sleep" out of your eyes. Isn't the "sleep" in our eyes useless? What good does it do? And yet, there it is. Every day, as we arise. We arise, and there it is. I just thought I'd mention it as it was on my mind and in my eyes. It is now off my mind and out of my eyes so we can move on to your letters, dear readers.
Mackoy would like to know how long it takes me to write this here column, and do I slave laboriously over each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each section, or does the column just write itself. Now, first of all, if this column could write itself why didn't the fershluganah column just stand up and say that it could write itself? That would have saved me a lot of work. Usually, it takes several hours over the weekend to write this here column. Then I have to proof this here column, rewrite bits, delete bits, add bits, and then it is sent off to our very own handy dandy final proofer who does the final proof, checking for grammatical errors and punctuation problems that I may have missed. After that, I usually give it one more look-see, and then up it goes.
Steve G. has found yet another album that Michelle Lee can be heard on. It is the cast album of Bravo, Giovanni! on the Columbia label. This was one of two unsuccessful musicals composed by the talented Milton Schaefer in the 60s. Did you know that Michelle Lee's real last name is Dusick? I happen to know this because once upon a time I knew her brother, Kenny Dusick. Now, my question is, after Michelle changed her last name to Lee, did Kenny? Did he become Kenny Lee, the famous accordion player and record holder for eating the most fish sticks in an eight hour period? Just asking.
Robert is stressed (yes, stressed) because his show, Edward II, is opening. Apparently a preview performance went well, so hopefully the opening (which, as you read this, has already occured) did too.
Isabella is going to Chicago (the city, not the musical) where she is not going to see Chicago (the musical, not the city). It is her first trip to said city-not-musical and she will be seeing A Sunday Afternoon. I presume this is a play of some sort, perhaps the sequel to my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim's first musical, Saturday Night.
jas loves the printed lyrics in this here column. He/she sings along as he/she reads them. That, of course, is the hope. I would like to imagine all of you dear readers, sitting at your computers like so much fish singing these lyrics out loud.
Rafael also loves the printed lyrics as they remind him of some favorites of his, and also introduce him to some that he was not previously aware of. That, of course, is the hope. And we hope Rafael is singing these lyrics as well. Rafael asks if I am familiar with a song he loves, an obscure Johnny Mandel/Marilyn & Alan Bergman song entitled Where Do You Start? I am, and it's really not that obscure, as it's had several recordings, although none by Holly (formerly Hollis) Flugelstein. Rafael likes Michael Feinstein's version. May I just proclaim loudly that I am a huge Johnny Mandel fan, and that he wrote one of my all-time motion picture themes, Emily, from that motion picture entitled The Americanization of Emily, which starred Julie Andrews as said Emily.
Kate informs me that she's actually seen a chicken running around with its head cut off. It seems her dog S.O.B. (yes, you heard it here, dear readers) would somehow mistake a running chicken for one of its squeaking dog toys. So, S.O.B. would just get her jaws around the running chicken's neck and bite down, thinking, of course, it was one of her squeaking dog toys. The chicken (which was not one of S.O.B's squeaking dog toys) would then find itself minus its head and it would run around aimlessly until it ran out of blood, at which point it would just fall over and lie there like so much fish. And then, on these occasions, Kate and family would have chicken for dinner. Isn't that a good story? I suppose it never occured to S.O.B. that squeaky dog toys are not animate. That thought never seemed to imbed itself in S.O.B's little dog brain. Kate is stressed (not from the Chicken Incident) because she is about to take her driving test. She wants to know if I have any advice for her regarding said test. I do: If the driving instructor gives you any problems, just relate the story of S.O.B. and The Headless Chicken to him. He'll pass you right away.
Otto, in a suprising bit of synchronisity, has also seen a chicken with its head cut off. He informs me that they run around fast. I must say I really can't blame them. These chickens seem to be getting the short end of the stick in my book (Chapter 214 - The Chicken With Its Head Cut Off Can Expect No Long Stick).
Jon B. has another guess as to 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, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, dear reader Matt, Pitgirl's physics professor, Michael Larson director at the Stagedoor Manor, and Yves of Finishing the Chat, and record producer Bruce Yeko.
Gavin (aka grehf) is tempting me with wonderful trade offers for my Smile video. Those offers are tempting, grehf, but the one thing you can always know about The Real A, is that I am loyal and true, and if people ask me not to make copies, I respect that and I don't. I believe in being loyal and true. In this world, those are admirable traits. Do not despair, though. Many people have these tapes, and I believe some of them even advertise in the classified section of Show Music Magazine. It should not prove difficult to get what you want, especially given your tempting trade offers. I do hope you understand my reasons and that you will forgive me.
Brandon recently saw a musical entitled Pacific Overtures written by someone named Stephen Sondheim (have you heard of him?). It has become Brandon's favorite Sondheim show. Brandon and a friend have made an actual CD, which apparently consists of random comedy sketches. I like random comedy sketches myself. Here's one now:
You know what I am beginning to like about this section? I like the fact that I think I have the answer to the question, but you people teach me a thing or two, too (and let's not leave "to" out in the cold). And that is what happened with last week's question: There have been two attempts at doing a plot-oriented musical series on television. One recent and one in the 60s. Name them, and, in the case of the 60s show, name the stars, one of whom was a major musical comedy star, and the other of whom would go on to star in a major musical motion picture. The answers I was seeking were Cop Rock (score by Randy Newman and others) for the recent one, and an ABC show called That's Life for the 60s one. That's Life was a book musical tv series which starred Robert Morse and E.J. Peaker. E.J. Peaker went on to star in the musical motion picture Hello, Dolly! with Barbra Streisand, in which she played Minnie Fay. But, you well-informed dear readers, informed me of some other original musical tv series of recent vintage, which include, Rags To Riches, Fame, Hull High, and a pilot for a musical which didn't sell called Shangri-La, which starred Terrence Mann. Who knew?
The folks who got partial or full correct answers are:
Steve G., Isabella, S. Woody White, William F. Orr, beingreen, crazyamy, Bob G., grehf (aka Gavin), Alina and jon.
This week's trivia question:
Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie (both Sondheim veterans) started out as gypsies. Name the 60s musical television show that they danced on together, and name at least one other Broadway gypsy who danced with them.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...