'Twas the night before Christmas
On the first day of Christmas
Wow, I was on a roll (no mean feat), wasn't I? I just kept going, long after others would have called it a day. But that is my nature, and as you all know, no matter how hard we may try we cannot change our natures. Excuse me for a minute.
Well, you won't believe it. A messenger just delivered eight maids a-milking. That is the last straw! I am calling my true love and telling my true love to knock it off. What am I supposed to do with these eight maids a-milking? I hate milk. If these eight maids were a-Diet Coking that would be a different story altogether. Well, perhaps we should just move on to the next section, because frankly this column is starting to resemble the musical Carrie: While it may hold a certain perverse fascination, it can't end soon enough. But enough about me.
Jingle bells, jingle bells,
My mother loved to drive through Beverly Hills during the Christmas season. Beautiful lights, beautiful decorations, and, for some reason, always rain. I too loved driving through Beverly Hills in the rain looking at all those storefronts with their brilliant Christmas lights. We would, during these drives, more often than not stop for lunch at Ontra Cafeteria. My mother and I would argue endlessly about the pronunciation of said Ontra Cafeteria. She thought it should be pronounced On-truh and I was convinced it was On-tray (a logical assumption since the food was served on a tray). We never came to a meeting of the minds, but we did love our meals there. I would, of course, have to have as much food as I could possibly get on my tray, while my mother would put as much food as she could possibly have on her truh. It wasn't really very good food, but there was/is something exotically wonderful about eating in a cafeteria. L.A. was home to many, including the most famous, Clifton's. And after our meal at Ontra Cafeteria, if my mother was feeling especially festive, we'd go get ice cream at Wil Wright's. Now, if one would or even could do that today, you'd go there in your jeans and your t-shirt, and frankly, so would your mum. But not then. No. On these Christmas excursions, my mother would get all gussied up, wearing a fancy dress, lots of makeup, her hair sprayed to within an inch of its life, and I would be in nice pants and a shirt. Sometimes we'd drive down to the beach and pick up grandpa and grandma Gross (yes, Dave and Gussie Gross, she of the large frame, he of the "what is it, fish?") and go Christmas shopping. My grandmother would frequently give my brother and I "gelt" (money) to spend. The price for said gelt was a painful pinch on the cheek, while said grandmother shrieked "shayna punem" (pretty face). On Christmas Day we'd stay in our pjs all day long playing with our new presents. I remember with astonishing vividness my favorite presents. One was a "car" dashboard, with working windshield wipers and knobs and buttons which were just like the real thing. I just loved that car dashboard. I played with that for hours and hours, pretending to drive. Later on I learned that you needed the rest of the car to actually get anywhere. I also remember getting some kind of woodburning thing. I don't remember what it did or what you made, I only remember that you plugged it in, it got intensely hot, you pressed whatever it was on wood and the smell was nauseating. I just loved that, even though it was a total mystery to me, this wood burning toy was. Then there was the astronomy thing, said thing which cast stars on the ceiling of my bedroom when it was lit up. I loved having stars on my ceiling. I was mesmerized by those stars. I just stared and stared at those stars. I had stars in my eyes, frankly.
We also had many visitors on Christmas day, none weirder than Esther and Louis Wish. They were just downright strange, were the Wishes. He owned an amusement park somewhere in the mid-west. He would regale us with bad magic tricks and bring us strange presents, like a giant rubber ball which you'd bounce on, like you were riding a horse. The only problem was as soon as you bounced on it it popped with a loud hideous noise, sending you crashing to the floor in a heap. That, of course, sent the flaming red-haired Esther Wish into fits of laughter. I didn't much care for that big rubber ball and was always nervous from that day on whenever there was a big rubber ball about. My least favorite presents were, of course, clothes. Why is it that when relatives buy you clothes they instinctively pick out exactly what you would never wear in a million years?
And then there was Christmas dinner. We always seemed to go to my father's sister's house. I loved my Uncle Larry and Aunt Bella, they were my favorites. One of their children, Alan, used to torment my brother and me by playing an amusing game which he called "Pink belly" in which he would raise our shirts and slap our stomachs until the were bright pink. I believe that game was only amusing if you were the slapper and not the slapee. Unfortunately, I was never the slapper, as I was the youngest, and the youngest is always the slapee. We'd then eat mounds of lovely Christmas food, and then I'd usually do one of my famous death scenes. My death scenes were legendary. Whenever my parents would bring me to any party, at some point in the evening, without warning, I would "die" in some spectacular way. I don't really recall the reason for this, but die I did, in many and varied ways. My Christmas deaths were especially creative as I recall.
Well, it's been fun reminiscing with the Ghost of Christmas Past, but now Christmas Future is almost here and so I must begin the arduous preperations for making spaghetti sauce-with-things-in-it. I must make sure that Santa can get down the chimney (I have two - he can have his choice) by opening the flue (eulf spelled backwards). You simply must open the flue or Santa will not be able to come down the chimney. Then he will get cold and catch the flu and all because of the closed flue. This is known as the flue flu. Oh, excuse me for a minute.
I'm going to have to stop answering the doorbell. There were just eleven pipers piping out on my front porch. Just standing there piping away like the piping zealots they are. And you just have to stand there until they're through or these eleven pipers give you a dirty look. Luckily they finished their piping and are now annoying someone else.
Brisket roasting on an open fire,
Round yon virgin, mother and child,
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS
Well, those who actually sent your addresses to Mr. Mark Bakalor have your extra special handy dandy Real A Christmas presents on their way to you. Those who got their addresses in late will hopefully receive their presents in time for Christmas, but if not you should have them directly after. I was a bit surprised at the paucity of addresses but such is life. And just where is paucity? Is it near River City? Do we have letters? Yes, we do. And without further ado we'll answer them right here and right now, although not necessarily in that order.
Robert will be going home to Oklahoma! (the state, not the musical) for three weeks, which, he says, will be a nice break from the rigors of college. It is always nice to have a break from rigors. Rigors can just be too too much sometimes. But Robert won't know from rigors for three weeks, which is all to the good, rigor-wise.
Gabriel Flores has been asked to create a musical number for a high school production entitled Hollywood Magic. Said number is supposed to pay tribute to classic horror films. He, of course, looked at the work of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, but Gabriel wants to use a movie song not a theater song and can't find one that works. I don't know if I can be of any help, other than to suggest looking at The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie, to see if the final song would be appropriate. Or perhaps something from Little Shop of Horrors (which was a film as well as a theater musical).
Cinderella writes to say that Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is also her favorite Christmas song. She'd like to know if I'll be following the Jewish tradition of attending a movie on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day I will be following the Jewish tradition of sitting on my couch like so much fish, and then, yes, I will be attending a movie.
Tom (from Oz) sends his yuletide greetings to all of us. Tom has just begun his summer vacation and won't be back with us until the end of January. Apparently, while we're in the dead of winter, Tom is in the throes of summer. That's Australia for you.
Sara points out that my production of Pied Piper of Hamelin at camp, which took place around the pool, is similar to what Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove would later do when they staged The Frogs in a swimming pool. I did not want to point out the fact that I believe both Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Shevelove visited the camp I attended and saw The Pied Piper and this is where they first had the notion that a swimming pool would be a good place to put on a musical. Sara also thinks regarding the trivia question, that there is no one named Ursula in The Parent Trap. That is true of the remake, but there is indeed a character named Ursula in the original. But, the character of Ursula is not played by the actress I mentioned. No, the actress I mentioned played Ursula's friend Betsy. However, no one came close to guessing so it didn't really matter.
Tiffany, who hasn't been writing lately, is back with us. Hello, Tiffany! So, now both Emily the Errant and Tiffany the Tardy are writing again, and this makes me very happy indeed. Actually, Tiffany wrote last week but at the very moment she was sending her e-mail her computer crashed and said e-mail never arrived. Tiffany informs me that Nellie got neutered and that he's healing nicely, although he doesn't seem to cuddle as much since said neutering. This sometimes happens when genitals are removed. Tiffany saw an old movie and wants to know if I can tell her what the title is. It starred Anthony Perkins as a college basketball player and honor student. Yes, I'm happy to say that I can tell her the title, because I saw the movie when it was released and thought it very funny. It introduced a new actress to the screen by the name of Jane Fonda. It was directed by Josh Logan (he of South Pacific) and it is called Tall Story. How's that for movie knowledge!
William F. Orr sent me birthday wishes and tells me that he too has a birthday in December, on the 23rd (same as my brother). He'll be fifty-four this year and we wish him a happy birthday, too. William F. Orr asks how much I will pay him to not reveal my Real Identity. He feels he knows who I am and guesses that I turned fifty-two on my birthday. Well, we're on the honor system here, and there'll be no revealing of my or anyone else's Real Identities. However, the one thing I can assure William F. Orr of is that his guess as to my age is incorrect. I am not fifty-two. I might be younger than springtime, or older than Methusaluh, but I am not fifty-two.
Craig has been having quite a time of it. First he had to do four scenes in two days. Not two scenes in four days, mind you, but four scenes in two days. He also tripped on a faulty sidewalk, twisted his ankle, landed on his knee and arm and to top it all off spilled scalding hot chocolate on himself. Now, first of all, I try never to carry scalding hot chocolate when I'm going to trip on a faulty sidewalk. Whenever I see a faulty sidewalk I just toss that scalding hot chocolate. Then, when I trip I only twist my ankle and fall on my knee and arm. The very next day, Craig stapled his finger with a pneumatic stapler. I don't think he meant to do this, either. I think his finger was in the wrong place at the wrong time, pneumatic stapler-wise. Then he had a date with someone who apparently didn't have the ability to communicate like a normal human being, and, on top of that had rancid breath to boot. Whenever I go on a date with someone who doesn't have the ability to communicate like a normal human being and who has rancid breath to boot, I bring along a pneumatic stapler and threaten to staple their incommunicative smelly mouth shut.
Orchestra Pit (aka Ryan) will be playing the keyboard for some carolers who will be caroling (what carolers usually do) in Boston. OP also wants me to know that he abhors Smokey Joe's Cafe. I have not seen Smokey Joe's Cafe so I cannot comment on his abhorrence of same. OP has been loving the music of Stephen Sondheim for about two months now, although he has no idea what the shows said music is from are about. You'll enjoy the music even more if you can rent the videos of Sunday In The Park With George, Sweeney Todd, and Into The Woods.
Emily is home for the holidays and wants me to know she's exhausted from driving seven hours straight (better than driving seven hours crooked, let me tell you) without stopping to pee or eat, not necessarily in that order. Emily had some Jewish people over to help decorate their Christmas tree. Jewish people like to decorate Christmas trees, because it is a refreshing change of pace from a hanukkah bush.
Well, no one, not one person was even close. Actually only one person even bothered to guess. It seems last week's trivia question was just too too obscure for even you trivia experts. The question was: In the camp sequence, one of Hayley's friends, Ursula, is played by someone who went on to create a role in one of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time. Who was it and what was the musical and the role she created? I had the name of the character wrong, of course. The character the actress played was Betsy, not Ursula, and she was the camp friend of Sharon (played by Hayley Mills), not Susan (played by Hayley Mills). The actress who played Betsy (she was barely a teen then) was Kay Cole, who would later go on to create the role of Maggie in A Chorus Line. She's currently a choreographer here in LA, and occasionally still performs. What a voice she has. Who can forget the way she soars when she sings the high note on "at the balleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet".
This week's trivia question:
Name all the songs from the pen of Mr. Stephen Sondheim which have anything to do with Christmas.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Well, that tears it. I now have seven swans a-swimming at my front door. This is very incongruous, these swimming swans, as there is no pool at my front door. There are seven swans just sitting on the ground pretending they're swimming. In any case, I wish you all the happiest and merriest Christmas ever. Stay tuned for our New Year's Eve column next week, when we will take a look back at the year 1998.
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...