Yesterday it rained. It poured. Rain came down in buckets, which is very painful if you happen to be standing under the fershluganah bucket. Today it was sunny and warm without any buckets whatsoever. Isn't that fascinating? Isn't that just something to waste an entire paragraph over? Apparently so, as that is just what I have done.
Last week as some of you may remember, we had a cliffhanger ending to this here column. Because an entire section that I'd written had disappeared off the face of the earth. I'd said that if that ever happened I would be writing my final column, because it is just too too frustrating and annoying. I am still pondering the fate of this here column, and hopefully by the end of it, we'll know which way the ponder has pondered. Until then, we'll all just have to wonder while I ponder. Have you noticed that "wonder" and "ponder" are spelled the same (except for the "w" and the "p") and yet they are pronounced differently? They look like they should rhyme and yet they don't. "Wander" rhymes with ponder, and "under" rhymes with "wonder" even though there is no spelling correlation whatsoever. This is the sort of thing that drives people mad. This is the sort of thing that creates holes in the universe or in cheese. This is the sort of thing, in short, that makes people senile.
Have you heard that Chicago is in Las Vegas? How can this be? An entire city is now in another city. Not only that, but Chicago is also in New York. That is nigh unto impossible. You'll notice that New York is not in Chicago, nor is Las Vegas in Chicago, and yet Chicago is in both of those cities. And would someone please tell me what that "gh" is doing on the end of "nigh". Or why the word "nigh" exists at all. Anyway, Chicago is in Las Vegas. Do you know who's in Chicago in Las Vegas? Why, that incredibly talented Chita Rivera, that's who. And that Miss Ute Lemper. Ute Lemper sounds like a Latin college motto to me. Did you know that Chita Rivera is now playing Roxie instead of the role she created in the original Chicago? She originally created the role of Velma and yet she is now playing Roxie. I wonder and ponder if while she's playing the role of Roxie, she's thinking about the role of Velma, which, by the way, she created originally. I have heard from the horse's mouth that Ute can be a bit of a pill. Yes, the horse's mouth told me this, and I, for one, am grateful to the horse's mouth. Yes, according to the horse's mouth, that darn Ute can be a pill. She has been known to walk right off the stage in the middle of a performance and not come back. Perhaps that kind of behavior is acceptable in her native Germany, but when you do that sort of thing in Las Vegas people named Carmine show up. I hope that Ute understands this because when people named Carmine show up they usually bring along the horse's mouth with them. I would like to see Chicago in Las Vegas, as I've only seen Chicago in Los Angeles (no mean feat). I have not seen Chicago in Chicago although I have been in Chicago and therefore must have seen Chicago even though I don't recall seeing Chicago while I was in Chicago, but perhaps that is because I was in Chicago before Chicago was written, but if that's the case how could I have been in Chicago if Chicago didn't exist? These are the questions that make us ponder and wonder. Is senility even a question here? You tell me. But before I leave this paragraph, did you know that Oklahoma, which was recently in London, will soon be in New York. Then we'll have both Chicago and Oklahoma in New York. Why hasn't some enterprising author written a musical entitled New York? Then we could have New York in New York and wouldn't that just be filled with serendipity?
Speaking of "serendipity" what oaf made that most ridiculous word up? More to the point, what oaf made up the word "oaf"? Just look at "serendipity". What an amalgam (maglama spelled backwards) of letters and even other words. I mean, you've got your "dip", you've got your "pity", you've got your "sere" and you've got your "n". And if that isn't serendipity I don't know what is. I have lost my mind, dear readers, and if anyone finds it, please return it as soon as possible. Oh, I think it's just time to end this section of the column, don't you? Because frankly this column is starting to feel like the new animated The King and I film: Who's bright idea was this? But enough about me.
Did you think I'd forgetten, dear readers? Did you think I would let another section go by without mentioning St. Patrick's Day? Actually, I am writing this St. Patrick's Day section on St. Patrick's Day, which is just serendipity, don't you think? In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the rest of this section will be printed in green.
There, isn't that a lovely way to show our St. Patrick's Day spirit? Now all we need is a hearty tanker of ale, some Irish stew and some nice green Key Lime Pie. Wouldn't that just make a fine St. Paddy's meal? That would make us all feel like we're in Killarny or Killkerry or Glocca Mora or Downeycalifornia. I hope you all wore green, because people who aren't wearin' of the green on St. Paddy's Day get pinched on the buttcheeks, don't they? Don't you think I'm typing with an excellent Irish accent? I could even write a book called The Real A's Ashes and it would be a big success. Wouldn't that just make Frank McCourt jealous? Actually, if I write my book I'll have to call it The Real McA's Ashes, to have that true Irish flavor. As you all know, I don't drink, so I won't be takin' of the ale, but I will be takin' of the Diet Coke. Perhaps I'll also eat some rancid meat products so that I can actually turn green. As green as this type, which I am finding slightly nauseating. Anyway, I hope you all have/had a wonderful St. Patrick's Day. I must go and watch Green McAcres.
This is our seventy-eighth column. That is meaningless (like all our columns) in itself. But do you realize if you combined column twelve with column seventy-eight you'd have twelve seventy-eight, which is the exact price I just paid for lunch.
Oh, I feel we need a change of pace, dear readers. Perhaps something pleasant to look at, like some flowers.
Before I share some more of my handy-dandy art collection with you, I thought, as a change of pace, it would be nice to have a picture of an orange tree.
Wasn't that nice? Those are the actual oranges which the Squirrel On The Roof eats. Yes, that is my handy-dandy orange tree, which just happens to be next to my handy-dandy flowers on my handy-dandy patio. By the way, Stephen Sondheim once ate an orange. You see? And people say I never talk about Sondheim. Stuff and nonsense I say. Pishtosh I say, and also toshpish. Do any of you feel I would be more at home on another planet? Just asking.
The picture I'm about to share with you was painted by Hy Hintermeister, who, apparently is a meld of two people, father and son Hintermeister, who signed their work Hy, for reasons which I'm sure must be clear to them. They painted many illustrations which were used on calendars in the 30s, 40s and 50s. Their most enduring calendar paintings were a series of scenes featuring "Gramps" "Grandma" Gramps' grandson, and the family dog. I managed to acquire the original oil painting for one of the famous "Gramps" series, right on my beloved eBay. It was quite reasonable and is worth at least three times what I paid for it, which, of course, is a good thing in my book (Chapter 333 - When Things Are Worth Three Times What You Pay For Them It's A Good Thing). The title of this painting is "Attaboy Gramps". Enough with the words, let's have the Art.
Isn't that wonderful? Isn't the detail incredible? Isn't that dog adorable? Isn't the whole damn thing just too too? The next painting is very interesting. It is the original art used for a motion picture poster. The motion picture was/is entitled "10" which was directed by Mr. Blake Edwards (husband of Julie Andrews, and the man who gave us both stage and screen Victor/Victoria), and which starred Mr. Dudley Moore, Miss Julie Andrews (wife of Blake Edwards, in case you weren't paying attention) and Miss Bo Derek. This art was used on the original poster and also on a huge billboard on the Sunset Strip. I remember the huge billboard on the Sunset Strip because I used to drive by it all the time. On the billboard, the image of Dudley Moore actually moved. This painting is by John Alvin, who is a legendary movie poster designer. He did the art for Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Alladin, Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King and many many others. Now, without further ado, here is the painting from "10".
Next week perhaps we'll have some more Art. Carney, for example.
Perhaps it was serendipity that last week's A Life was lost, because in thinking about what I wrote I realized I'd already written about it. Which means only one thing, dear readers, and that is I am senile. Next thing you know I'll start repeating myself. Next thing you know I'll start repeating myself. There, you see? Exactly my point. Perhaps if I had some pie I would be less senile. Yes, some pie might do the trick. What would be a good pie to have? I cannot get my beloved Coconut Cream Pie (with whipped cream) in Los Angeles, which is where I happen to be. I like Cherry Pie, but is that trendy enough? Because we must always have trendy pies, mustn't we? We simply cannot have pies that are passe. Yes, it is serendipity when you have trendy pies. And, of course, what is "trendy pies" but "serendipity" anagrammed? I feel we should just have a picture of a trendy pie right this very minute.
I have already written about some of my early theater experiences. Like seeing The Unsinkable Molly Brown at the no-longer-there Biltmore Theater. Not a great musical, but I loved every minute of it, mostly because of that incredible ball of energy known as Miss Tammy Grimes. From the minute she came out and sang I Ain't Down Yet, I was hooked like so much fish. I loved her, especially her funny raspy and unique voice. Her costar, Mr. Harve Presnell, was great, too. He was a big, beefy, manly man with a powerful voice that echoed throughout the theater (no body mikes in those days). A few years later when they made the motion picture version of Molly Brown, Mr. Presnell recreated his role of Leadville Johnny Brown. But it was shocking to see him, because MGM had "Hollywoodized" Mr. Presnell. He was no longer a big, beefy manly man. He was a skinny runt, with new teeth, and perfectly coiffed hair. These days, Mr. Presnell is back to looking big and beefy, but with no hair whatsoever (at least in Fargo or any of the many productions of Annie that he's been in).
The first "straight" play I ever saw was The Tenth Man, at my beloved Huntington Hartford Theater, which, unlike the Biltmore Theater, is still there, although it is now called The Doolittle for reasons which I'm sure are clear to someone. The Tenth Man was a comedy/drama by that fine writer Paddy Chayefsky. I no longer remember what it was that made me want to see that particular play, but something did, because there I was at the box office purchasing a single orchestra seat (for the exorbitant price of $1.75), a wonderful seat in the fourth row center. Before seeing the play, I walked to Coffee Dan's coffee shop and had my beloved Dodger Burger, a fine pre-theater meal. I didn't know quite what I was in for when the curtain rose, because I knew nothing about the play. So, imagine my surprise when the curtain rose and revealed the set, a synagogue. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, my first straight play was a Jewish one. About a girl possessed by a dybbuk, and the group of men who perform the exorcism (if I'm remembering correctly, said group had to consist of ten men, hence the title). I loved this play. It was very funny and very dramatic. The actors all spoke just like my Grandfather and I fully expected one of them to say "What is it, fish?" but they never did. Two of the actors became favorites of mine, Lou Jacobi and Jack Gilford. Mr. Gilford, of course, originated the role of Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, which had a score by someone named Stephen Sondheim. He also created the role of Herr Schultz in Cabaret. Mr. Jacobi appeared in many Broadway shows, but I lovingly remember him as the barkeep in the film of Irma La Douce. You know, when I just typed "Irma La Douce" I accidentally typed "Irma La Douche". What a difference an "h" makes, eh, dear readers? The Tenth Man opened up worlds to me. It was everything live theater could be, exciting, funny, dramatic and with something to say. I'm actually surprised that The Tenth Man never gets done anymore. I happen to think a revival with great actors would do really well. I saw many great straight plays at the Hartford and even some crooked ones, too, including A Thurber Carnival, Hughie (with Jason Robards, Jr.), Luv, The Glass Menagerie with Ann Southern, and Rattle of a Simple Man with my beloved Tammy Grimes. Not to mention the tour of the musical Stop The World, I Want To Get Off, starring Joel Grey and Julie Newmar. Yes, the very same Joel Grey who would go on to star in Cabaret and many other hit shows, most recently the revival of Chicago. And yes, the very same Julie Newmar who played Stupefyin' Jones in Li'l Abner, both on Broadway and on film. The visual of Mr. Grey and Ms. Newmar was unforgettable, he 5'4 and she 6'1. I fell head over heels in love with Stop The World. I know now that it's not a great musical, but then it was an incredible breath of fresh air in the musical theater. I loved the songs (Once In A Lifetime remains a favorite of mine) and I loved the staging and I loved Joel Grey and Julie Newmar. I must have seen the show eight times in its twelve week run. Mr. Grey used to have lunch at the hot dog stand right next to the theater, and on one of my matinee visits, I went up to him and met him. He was very gracious and sweet. I decided right there and then that I should write a musical. That's how influenced I was by Stop The World. I'd already fallen in love with The Fantasticks and Anyone Can Whistle and various others via their cast albums, and I thought, I must write a musical. What made me believe I could write a musical is something I have no memory of. I was barely fifteen. What did I know from a musical in terms of writing one? Squat, that's what I knew. Did I ultimately write that musical? Stay tuned, dear readers, for further shocking revelations.
And we did get letters. A plethora of letters. A bevy of letters. So, we shall get right to them, dear readers. We shall not delay one or two whits, because that would be unseemly. No, when you have a plethora and a bevy of letters, then the only thing to do is answer them posthaste. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of duty, whatever the hell that means.
Joey, a brand spanking-new dear reader has written me two lovely letters. Joey is a teenage girl (Joey, she informs me, is a nickname - but shouldn't a nickname be Nick? Just asking.) who just happens to perform in musical theater. She loves the work of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Joey asked what was up with the casting of the recent concert of Sweeney Todd. As you dear readers know, the casting certainly didn't interest me. I didn't attend because I refuse to tarnish my memory of the original production. And from what I've heard, I'm happy I didn't go. But more about that in next week's column. Joey is currently working on City of Angels, that most peculiar show by Larry Gelbart, Cy Coleman, and David Zippel. Joey is also doing a recital featuring Mr. Sondheim's work and wants a clever title for it. I think a clever title would be What Is It, Fish? or Joey Sings Sondheim. I am glad Joey found this here column, and hope she'll become a loyal and true dear reader and that she'll keep writing us.
polecat wrote to tell me that he wants more info and less trying to be funny, and he also called me a cretin. I think he meant that as a term of endearment, but I could be wrong. There seems to be a great diversity of opinion on the pronunciation of the word "cretin". Some would have it "creeeeeeeeetin" and some more cultured types would have it "crehhhhhhhhhhhhtin". Well, you say creeeeeeeeetin and I say crehhhhhhhhtin - Let's Call The Whole Thing Off. Off. There I've called the whole thing Off and what good did it do me? Perhaps I should have called the whole thing On. Or Fred.
steveg saw the Jimmy Webb revue at the Papermill Playhouse in Paramus/Millburn/wherever-the-hell-it-is New Jersey and wanted to throw a tomato at the stage. I think that's because he, like me, thought the show was a stinkaroo. Either that or steveg has a fondness for hurling vegetables, not a bad thing in my book (Chapter 346 - Hurl A Vegetable You'll Like It). steveg also thinks the Papermill's current show, the musical Wuthering Heights, is worthy of a tomato. There is a great diversity of opinion on the pronunciation of "tomato". Some would have it "tomaytoh" and some tonier individuals would have it "tomahtoe". I say Let's Call The Whole Thing Fish. And here is a photo to prove I am right.
Well, I was wrong. You can mention them in the same breath, and quite easily, too. But, as I said, they are apples and oranges. They are two fruits which pass in the night. I shall not belabor this fruit metaphor any further, because then steveg will want to hurl a tomato at me.
William F. Orr informs me that the Spanish CD of Sweeney Todd is not, in fact, in Spanish, but in Catalan, the language spoken in a place called Catalonia. I must have been in the state of Catatonia to have not known it was Catalonia. The capital of Catalonia, by the way, is Barcelona, as in "Where ya goin' - Barcelona - Oh". Or so says William F. Orr who knows these things.
Mackoy has pulled the plug on his internet account. It was costing him an arm and a leg, hence the pulling of said plug. There are several internet companies that charge money instead of limbs and I'd recommend one of those. Mackoy also tells me that he's enrolled in a performance paper in the University. I don't quite know what that means. Did Mackoy physically roll himself in a piece of paper? Does one get graded for that in University? However, he is doing well in his rolled paper and that is all to the good.
annyrose tells me that even though there are only thirty seconds of choreography completed in her production of Oklahoma!, she spends all day rehearsing those thirty seconds. Over and over again, ad nauseum. She almost got dropped on her head last week by her dance partner. Was this while rehearsing the thirty seconds of choreography or at some other time? And what was annyrose doing upsidedown? Just asking. Apparently, there are now two minutes of choreography, although they have to fix the June Is Bustin' Out All Over number, as the choreographer apparently choreographed it to the wrong music. I wonder what music they choreographed it to? Finishing The Hat? I'd personally like to see June Is Bustin' Out All Over choreographed to the music of Donna Summer, which would, of course, be appropriate, as June and Summer go hand in hand.
Tom (the Boy From Oz) was saddened by the recent deaths of Dusty Springfield and Stanley Kubrick, as I'm sure we all are. I was a big fan of Miss Springfield, and no one will ever sing The Look of Love like she did. As to Mr. Kubrick, he has made several of my favorite films, including Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, The Killing, Paths of Glory, 2001, and my guilty pleasure, The Shining. Also, we should mention the passings of Richard Kiley, who created the role of Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, and the wonderful Peggy Cass, the original Agnes Gooch of Auntie Mame.
sparkleneelysparkle loves the addition of photos in this here column. sparkle especially liked the one of Brent Barrett eating coconut custard pie (with whipped cream). I like that one, too, although I have become partial to the picture of oranges.
Emily was at a rehearsal in which the professor had everyone practice channeling the goddess Oshun (which is the same as Aphrodite or Venus, but in a different culture). Basically, this involved acting like sex-kittens for two hours. This sounds like a story 60 Minutes might be interested in. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Perhaps he meant for everyone to channel the ocean, in which case everyone would have been acting like surf-kittens instead of sex-kittens. Or perhaps one could channel both Oshun and Ocean for a little Surf and Sex. Or they could channel the Channel and the Ocean. This would be called Surfing the Channels. Whoa, some unnamed person just hurled a tomato at me. Perhaps I'd better move on to the next topic at hand (or foot). Emily also tells me that she had a dream last night, and in this dream Mr. Mark Bakalor told her that I, The Real A, wanted to talk to Emily on the phone. That was the extent of the dream. I feel this dream is fraught with meaning. What that meaning is I have no idea, but I feel that it is fraught with it nonetheless. Perhaps I'll just tell Mr. Mark Bakalor that I'd like to talk to Emily on the phone. Who says dreams don't come true?
I give up. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I give up. You are all too smart for the room. Here I thought I'd asked the most obscure trivia question ever: Who had a celebrity cameo in the film of Li'l Abner. The response to this question was not merely whelming, it was overwhelming. A handful of you thought I might be speaking of Julie Newmar or Valerie Harper or Beth Howland, but none of those folks were real celebs then. But an astonishing number of people knew the correct answer, and they are: William F. Orr, steveg, crow, Andrew Milner, mrsmig, Jed, Jon B., S. Woody White, Otto, and Brew aka Rizz. And the answer: The uncredited celebrity cameo was Jerry Lewis as Itchy McRabbit, the first person to be "stupefied" by Julie Newmar's Stupefyin' Jones. Only two people got the sidebar trivia question, name the Wait Until Dark/Sondheim connection and they were sparkleneelysparkle and crow. The connection: Lee Remick starred in the show on Broadway. sparkle threw a question back at me, which was, what was the Sondheim show Miss Remick couldn't do because of illness? The show was the Gordon Davidson production of A Little Night Music, in which she was replaced by Lois Nettleton.
This week's trivia question: Since it's Oscar week, let's have a film related question - Name the Sondheim connection to the film There's No Business Like Show Business and I don't mean Ethel Merman.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...