Did you all have a lovely Thanksgiving? Did you eat lots of turkey and whey? I did. I went to a friend's house, a wonderful family, who, for purposes of this column, we'll call The Jones' (in Real Life they are also called The Jones'). Said Jones' also had Mrs. Jones' sister and her family, and Grandma Jones on Mr. Jones' side. We all had a wonderful time, said Jones' and guests. We sat on our tuffets and the festivities were grand. One of Mrs. Jones' sister's children kept running around and poking people on their butts and saying "Cheeks of love" as he would do so. There was no explanation as to why he was doing this, but do it he did, over and over again, poking and saying "Cheeks of love". The Jones' had forgotten to get Diet Coke, so I was forced to drink something called CranApple and then CranRasberry. I liked the latter better than the former, although neither the former or the latter were a patch on the cheeks of love of Diet Coke. Grandma Jones was most amused when I looked at the turkey and said "What is it, fish?". Daughter and son Jones are two of the most beautiful children who ever lived. Daughter Jones isn't exactly a child, though, at eighteen. I remember reading daughter Jones stories when she was but a wee one year old. A tiny little one year old. She is now 5'9" tall and a shiksa goddess. Son Jones is in middle school and plays guitar in the school jazz band. After dinner, Mrs. Jones read a few of her short stories at my request. My favorite was a story about vomit. We had pumpkin pie and Mrs. Jones' famous lemon cake for dessert. A wonderful evening was had by all, and I hope your Thanksgiving was as warm and wonderful as my evening at The Jones' was.
"Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go". As you can see from that brilliant nursery rhyme, Mr. Stephen Sondheim was not above cadging from said rhyme in his song Little Lamb. It's a good thing he cadged from that one rather than Little Miss Muffet, otherwise the song would be called Curds and Whey, and would go something like this:
Curds and whey,
I just went to Gelson's and tried to buy a four and twenty blackbird pie and the woman there looked at me askance, I tell you. She looked at me as if I were a fetid wart, I tell you. I then went across the street to Four and Twenty Pies restaurant and ordered a four and twenty blackbird pie. Never heard of it, said they. I said "Where do you think the name of your stupid restaurant comes from, you bunch of pie yokels?" They had no answer. So, here I am, four and twenty blackbird pieless. It is raining again, and somewhere the old man is snoring. Enough with the nursery rhymes. This column is starting to feel like the musical Grand Hotel: People come, people go, nothing changes. But enough about me.
See, dear readers, I confounded your expectations. Didn't you just assume that this section would be The Real A: A Life? And yet, it isn't. It is a section entitled The Eye Exam. You see, I do have the ability to change like the weather. First it's sunny, now it's rainy, and I can be just as contrary, just like Mary. Not the Mary who had a little lamb, but the Mary who was quite contrary. Isn't it funny that the Mary with a little lamb just couldn't get rid of the damn lamb, that ever-present lamb who was just everywhere she was. And yet, Little Bo Peep lost her sheep. First the sheep was there, then the next thing you know, kaput, no sheep. The sheep had taken a powder. What the sheep did with the powder is another story altogether. If only Mary had had a sheep and Little Bo Peep had had a lamb things would be very different today. Where was I? Oh, yes, The Eye Exam. Before we get to The Eye Exam, The Real A: A Life will appear later at the end of the column, for reasons which will become obvious.
Today I decided it was time for me to get a new pair of glasses. I have two pair, one that I keep in the car, for movies and shows and the like, and one I keep in the house, for watching tv and the like. About six months ago I stepped on my house glasses and because of said stepping my house glasses were barely together and the lenses were scratched. So, off I went to the place where I get glasses. They suggested I take an eye exam, as my last one was over five years ago. So, they put me in a room with a doctor who proceeded to give me various tests. And here is what he found out: My vision in my right eye has actually gotten a little stronger, while the vision in my left eye has gotten quite a bit weaker. This is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) eye news. It's not like I use my left eye more than my right eye. I don't put a patch over my right eye so that the left eye has to do all the work, vision-wise. It's not like I exercise only my right eye because I want it to be stronger. Yet, here were facts, irrefutable facts. So, they had to make the left lens stronger than the right lens. This is fine in theory, but they have to be very careful, because if there's too much of a difference it throws your balance off and you get nauseous and have the urge to throw up. You could even get dizzy and fall over. The doctor put a weird frame on me so that I looked like I'd escaped from a science fiction motion picture, and he tested various lenses and we finally found the one that didn't make me dizzy and nauseous. Unfortunately, by the time he found this lens I was already dizzy and nauseous. But now I will have brand spanking new glasses and I will be able to see and be seen. I got my first pair of glasses when I was sixteen years of age, but I never wore them. When I was twenty-five I noticed that I couldn't read the credits of a film I was watching. I went home, found my glasses and voila, everything was in perfect focus. I went and got a new prescription and frames and what we found out was that my eyes had not gotten one iota worse in that nine years. I believe that's because I never wore the glasses. Even now, I only wear them when I need to see in focus. Otherwise I'm just fine without them. I'm nearsighted, which means I have blurry vision when I see far. Near I can see perfectly. That is the story of The Eye Exam in all its complex and fascinating glory. I am glad I got it off my chest. If you've ever had an eye exam on your chest you know why it's important to get it right the hell off there.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away I wrote about my annoyance of internet spam. The most obvious thing I can tell you about spam is that it is "maps" spelled backwards. And that it is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). The reason I bring it up again after all these many columns is because I have been receiving such a plethora of it. Every type of spam you can imagine. Even pornographic spam. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, I have received pornographic spam. I mean, what if I were but a mere sprig of a youth, an impressionable child, and I went to a website called www.barnyard.com thinking it was all about cuddly animals. Well, if I were a child and went to that website, what I would see would ensure that I would turn into a mass murderer or theatrical agent. Let me just tell you flat out, you do not want to go to a website that says "barnyard". But that's not all. No, there's spam for other lovely websites like teenbondage and lactating females. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I have no real urgent need to see a lactating female, or, for that matter, a teen in leather and face mask ensemble. I get so much spam it isn't even funny. If you are like me and hate said spam, be sure to write to abuse@whatever the server is and report these evil spam people. One poor jerk actually left a phone number you could call, which I, of course, did, and I left a message on his machine the likes of which he probably has never heard. I lambasted him. I sheepbasted him, too. I gave him a piece of my mind, let me tell you. I called him a butt cheek, dear readers. I called him a wazoo and a flying Wallenda. I told him if he ever spammed me again someone named Vito would be paying him a visit. And worst of all, I used up all the tape on his answering machine! No, spam must be stopped, especially the pornographic spam. I'm all for pornography if that's what people should desire, but not when kids can accidentally see things that they just shouldn't see. Actually, there are things that no one should ever see, and I'd have to put "barnyard" high on that list, along with "enema" and anything with the word "wet" in it. Stop the spam, say I, for enough is enough, as my close friends Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer once said.
It is still raining, dear readers. We've had steady rain all day and into the night. The rain was pelting the roof of my house and was making more noise than the squirrel. Ah, the squirrel, you say? Perhaps The Real A is just making that whole squirrel business up, you say? Fear not, dear readers, because I have the proof that said squirrel exists. Here is an actual picture of the squirrel having a meal after running amok for several hours.
Here are three songs that I just adore and which always make me feel warm and wonderful. Comfort songs, I call them. First up is a real honey of a song, with simply gorgeous music and the most wonderful simple lyric.
RIGHT AS THE RAIN
MAKE SOMEONE HAPPY
YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING
I am now wearing my new glasses and my lazy left eye is more in focus. I can see the left side of my handy dandy One From Column A form just as well as the right side of said form. Isn't that just too too excellent? Have you been sending your Real Addresses to Mr. Mark Bakalor? He reMarked that he has gotten but a few, so send them in before it's too too late. In the meantime, on to your letters, which were bountiful and plenty, not necessarily in that order.
OP (Orchestra Pit) wants to know if I had chosen to write One From Column B would I be The Real B? In other words, does The Real A stand for "arbitrary" or did I choose it for a reason? I'll tell you the truth, dear readers, because the truth is what you always deserve. The "A" simply stands for "Anonymous" and that is all there is to it. If I'd been The Real B it could have stood for The Real Buttcheek and we didn't want that now, did we? So, One From Column A seemed like the natural thing to call this here column and so that's what we did. OP would like to add his guess to our ever-growing list of guesses as to my Real Identity. Here's our list, which is ever-growing, by the way, or BTW in "net" lingo:
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, Yves of Finishing the Chat, record producer Bruce Yeko, and the Cosmic Anchovey.
Pitgirl (no relation to Orchestra Pit, but if they were to marry we could say, "Hey, look, it's the Pits) tells me that if you remove those pesky "e"s from "eerie", that the leftover "ri" can still come in handy if you know someone named "Ri". I'll remember that, should I ever come in contact with someone named "Ri". Excuse me for a moment.
Well, you won't believe it, but there was just a person at my door selling candy and their name was "Ri"! So, pitgirl's information has already come in handy, which is dandy.
Mackoy has to cook for his family this Christmas and because of my propensity (a ten dollar word) for dinner parties, wants to know if I have any suggestions or recipes other than my famous Wacky Noodles. While I consider myself a good cook, I basically make one dish: Beef Strogonoff. If you come to my house for dinner that is normally what you get. It's quite delicious. I make a mean spaghetti sauce, although why the sauce gets so damn angry is anybody's guess. Can't it just be a nice sauce? So, I don't know what to recommend, really. Dee Dee (who is married to cousin Alan, and who recently partook of said Strogonoff) is really the gourmet cook in the family. I shall ask her for a recipe for a nice Christmas dinner and will print it right here in this column.
Tom (from Oz) caught the Tribute to Cameron Mackintosh video and enjoyed it. I haven't seen it and so cannot comment. Tom wants to know if I've ever seen David Campbell (from Oz) perform in New York. No, but I have seen him perform right here in Los Angeles, at The Cinegrill nightclub. He put on a very good show and was very personable, too.
Shlomit Appel wants to know if anyone anywhere has a copy of Hieronymous Merkin that he can buy or borrow. Well, Shlomit, it isn't currently available on video, so it's hard to find. I don't even have a copy of it. I will let you know if any of our dear readers has it.
Craig just wanted me to know that, for him, even worse than loud music is smoke, as in a smoke-filled room. I, too, hate a smoke-filled room, especially one with loud music.
Cinderella has a broken heart over the sad news about Julie Andrews, and is even sadder because many of her friends are not understanding about said news. Cinderella is also a fan of Paul Simon, and wants to know why The Myth of Fingerprints is not in the film The Myth of Fingerprints. I have no answer, other than to say that it is sometimes difficult to get the rights to certain songs.
Isabella did indeed get to view the Seurat painting while she was in Chicago. She also rode the "L" (I once rode the "M" but that's another story), shopped on the Magnificent Mile, and rode a big ferris wheel at Navy Pier. It sounds like Isabella had a fine old time in the Windy City.
Robert is through with Edward II and is in callbacks for Don Juan I. Because of his too too busy schedule he will not have an opportunity to see Putting It Together at the Taper.
Anna tells me her school is not doing Tommy, they're doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood by my other close personal friend, Rupert Holmes. She'd like to know my opinion of said show. I like it very much, but as you dear readers already know, I am a longtime fan of Mr. H. Anna is auditioning with a Cy Coleman song called You There In The Back Row and wants to know if I'm aware of the song and if I think it's a good audition piece. I know the song very well and it's a fine audition piece. Cy Coleman can do little wrong, in my book (Chapter 216 - The Seldom Wrong Cy Coleman).
Andrew Milner enjoyed the Dorothy Fields lyrics and points out that she was a family friend of our very own Stephen Sondheim, and in fact, Sondheim's very own father introduced Fields to her husband of many years.
grehf (aka Gavin) is feeling stressed, with too much homework and the effort it is taking to get everything done. He wanted to vent, and vent he did. He is now vented and feeling better. It is always good to vent, otherwise you may implode and that is not a good thing.
annyrose informs me that I should try Pop Rocks as a good mouth explosion experience. I have never had a Pop Rock, so, perhaps I'll give it a try. I presume this is an actual candy and not a real rock.
Rafael also loves Dorothy Fields and sang along as he read the lyrics (which is what you should all do). He has the London cast CD of Sweet Charity with Juliet Prowse, as that is all he could find. He'd like to have the soundtrack with Shirley MacLaine, but that is sadly not available on CD. However, take my advice and get the Original Broadway Cast CD with Gwen Verdon. It's the best, vibrant and electric, with Verdon never better, and a great supporting cast to boot.
Jon B. recommends Tito Puente's mambo version of Pick Yourself Up as a really cool version that will have me dancing. For anyone who has seen me dance, this is not necessarily a good thing. But I love Tito Puente, so I'm sure it's a swell version.
Only four people knew the answer to last week's question, what do the movies Never On Sunday and Stephen Sondheim have in common? This surprised me. The four who knew were Craig, Andrew, grehf (aka Gavin) and Sara. The answer is Never On Sunday was turned into the Broadway musical Ilya, Darling! (which starred the film's Melina Mercouri) with music by Manos Hadjikas and lyrics by Joe Darion. When the show was clearly in trouble, Stephen Sondheim came in and helped with a couple of songs.
This week's question involves another Sondheim connection: What is the Sondheim connection with Mel Brooks' The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein?
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Now, you astute dear readers know that I usually just end the column right about now. But I decided to do the A Life section last this week, for reasons you will, I know, understand.
I have been so enjoying these trips down various memory lanes, courtesy of Miss Meryle Secrest. I have been trying, however, for some weeks, to figure out how to write about something that is difficult to write about, but I've decided to just do it, because it is something I just feel I should do. I strive, as you know, to make this column funny and clever, and hopefully I occasionally succeed. I also hope that every now and then you actually glean some knowledge from this here column. But this is different, dear readers. This goes where I have not gone before. I hope you will not mind taking the journey with me. Anyway, this next story, as always, is true. I wish it weren't.
I have, dear readers, buried in a box in my storage facility, a piece of paper. And on this piece of paper is written the following (in my teenage hand): Stephanie - You're the one, I'm the two. A dopey little attempt by the teenage me to be witty and charming.
I met Stephanie Gorman in high school, when I was in the second half of the tenth grade. She was in my drama class that semester, and we just hit it off instantly. We were the fastest of fast friends. She had a terrific personality, a great smile, deep brown eyes, and was cute as a button. I made her laugh constantly and neither of us could keep a straight face when our drama teacher would pretentiously pontificate on This Subject or That Subject. We ate together on the lunch court often, and sometimes we even braved the school cafeteria with its nausea-inducing array of dishes with names like Shepherd's Pie and Spring Garden Special. We'd pass each other notes in class, and sometimes after school we and others would go hang out at the Beverlywood Deli and have fries. We'd have long phone talks at night, too. I simply adored her.
In the eleventh grade, our classes didn't coincide, and so I didn't see her quite as often, but we still lunched and spoke often, just not everyday. One night, after dinner, I picked up the newspaper (the Herald Express, my father's favorite newspaper) and perused the front page events. I then thumbed through the next few pages. And somewhere around page three or four I stumbled on a picture of Stephanie Gorman, looking cute as a button with her adorable smile and her soulful eyes. I thought, "Wow, what's Stephanie doing in the newspaper?". My eyes traveled upwards to the headline above the picture, which read: Los Angeles girl raped and killed. I stared in disbelief for what seemed like hours. The article said that someone had broken into the Gorman's house (her sister and parents were out) and raped and murdered the teenager and that they had no suspects or clues. I didn't really know what "rape" meant other than that it was sexual and that it was bad. I could not move, could not speak, could not do anything. I was numb. There was no one for me to even talk to, as I was not close with my parents, and my best friend of many years had recently decided that I was not worthy of best friend status. The next day I went to school expecting to hear something about the horrifying news, but not one person said anything. In those days, things like that were more often than not, swept under the table, not talked about. I was despondent. I went to our usual place on the lunch court and just sat there trying to make sense of why such a thing could happen. Of course, there was no way to make sense of it. How do you make sense of a beautiful vibrant person having her life ended before it had really begun, by some faceless nameless sick piece of scum? That night I climbed the stairs next to the garage (we'd moved to a house in Beverlywood) and sat staring out at the lights of Los Angeles and I railed at the sky how unfair it was. Yelled and railed and wept for Stephanie Gorman. Soon after, her sister and parents moved to parts unknown. And soon thereafter the police admitted they had no hope or expectation of ever catching the son-of-a-bitch who had done it. And soon thereafter I opened one of my schoolbooks and out fell a piece of paper with the words: Stephanie - You're the one, I'm the two. I'd meant to give it to her at our next lunch. But the next lunch never occurred.
I have never, in all my years, forgotten Stephanie Gorman. Never forgotten her smile, never forgotten her laugh, never forgotten her friendship. My memory of her resides permanently in the deepest place in my heart.
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...