This is the first column being written under the new handy-dandy system developed by the absent Mr. Mark Bakalor who is off in Compton or wherever the hell he is, doing shows and acting up a storm. I've heard it is not easy to act up a storm as you get wet and have to shout to be heard over all the thunder. Mr. Mark Bakalor, our disappearing landlord is singing and dancing whilst we toil away writing this here column. I will write, I will correct, I will proof and then Mr. Bakalor will get a finished column. A done deal column. So that he can put it right up and have to do no work whatsoever except for all that fershluganah singing and dancing which he does just a little too well, if you catch my meaning. Why, I'd wager that Mr. Bakalor isn't even thinking about us, dear readers. I'd wager that he is only thinking about singing and dancing and speaking lines. Oh, yes, I'm certain that Mr. Bakalor will be speaking lines with a fine orotund quality like Orson Welles or Alfred Lunt, who, by the way, was well known for always having lint on his suits. The Lunt lint was legendary. Do you suppose if Alfred Lunt's name were Alfred Lint that he would have had "lunt"? Just asking. In any case, I'd wager that Mr. Bakalor is just singing, dancing, and speaking lines with great fervor and sparkling vivacity. I think there was a point to all this but I can no longer remember what it was or is.
Have I ever written about the chair in my office on which I sit on like so much fish? This chair should be known as The Incredible Shrinking Chair. This chair has a mind of its own, and out of the blue (not out of the red, mind you) the seat will suddenly be closer to the ground. Where once I was sitting high and mighty, I suddenly am sitting low and lowly. Once this shrinking begins to occur I get closer and closer to the ground, appearing shorter and shorter until I can barely see over my desk. Suddenly I have to look up at my computer screen when I type. Finally I have to resort to turning the chair over and turning the various and sundry knobs until, once again, I can sit like a normal person and not like Jerry Lewis. I hope you all enjoyed The Story Of The Incredible Shrinking Chair. It's going to be a mini-series soon and it is, of course, based on an actual event. Playing the role of The Real Sinking A will be either Patty Duke-no-longer-Astin or William Shatner, whoever shows first. The role of the chair will be played by Heather Locklear. You know, this is getting too surreal even for me.
I have only one question, dear readers: What the hell am I talking about?
That was a nice pithy paragraph, wasn't it? Someday I will know what the hell I'm talking about and perhaps it will be a day in which Lent is observed. Did you know that Alfred Lunt, who was notorious for his lint, observed Lent? Just asking.
Now, this is just plain weird. Not fancy weird, mind you, no, just plain weird. After writing the previous paragraph I went home. Then I began writing this paragraph the following morning. And do you know what, dear readers? My chair is now suddenly higher. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, my chair, which yesterday was a shrinking chair is today an amazing colossal chair. Perhaps the chair people came in and made it taller. Perhaps someone is messing with that thing I like to call my mind. Perhaps it only seems as if my chair is higher and my mind is simply playing tricks on me. Yes, perhaps that's it. My mind is simply playing tricks on me. For example, my mind just managed to pick the Queen of Hearts out of a deck of fifty-two cards. Other tricks my mind likes to play on me are the disappearing coin trick and levitating a woman. Perhaps this chair has a mind of its own. Perhaps this chair is... Alive. Why can't furniture be alive? Plants are living things, why not sofas and chairs and tables? Think about it for a minute.
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Now that a minute is up what have we surmised? Why we have surmised nothing whatsoever, that's what we have surmised. And why have we surmised nothing whatsoever? Because we all spent that minute looking at all those fershluganah numbers, that's why. Where was I? Oh, yes, living furniture. Perhaps that sofa on which I sit like so much fish has feelings? Perhaps we should take some quality time and speak lovingly to our sofas. After all, our sofas only ever see our butt cheeks, and what kind of life is that. Our sofas could use a kind word every now and then. Our sofas have rights! Not lefts, mind you, but rights. Sofa power, baby. This is what happens when too much jet lag has set in. You become incoherent and start babbling on about living furniture and lint, lent and Lunt (not necessarily in that order). That is just plain nuts in my book (Chapter 414 Put The Fancy Nuts on Hold and Give Me The Plain Nuts). I think that the best thing to do is to end this section of the column right here and now and also right now and here, because, frankly, it's starting to feel like the new Kander & Ebb musical Over and Over: Dead. But enough about me.
A wonderful event is happening this week, dear readers, and it isn't Lent or Lunt or even Lint. No, this week will see the release of the brand spanking new Randy Newman CD. Any new release by Randy Newman is a cause for celebration, so let's all get up off our respective couches and low/high chairs and dance the Hora right here and now and also right now and here.
There, wasn't that fun? I'm winded, are you? I must catch my breath. Of course, shouldn't someone throw my breath so that I can catch it? Just asking. In any case, I managed to get hold of an advance copy of said Randy Newman CD and in fact it is playing right this very minute as I write this. It is hard to write whilst listening to the music and lyrics of Randy Newman, because you suddenly find that you are writing sardonically, with sentences filled with mordant wit, biting social commentary and the like. For example, don't you find the previous sentence filled with sardonically mordant wit and biting social commentary and the like? I know I did.
This new Randy Newman CD is yet another great Newman album, although, as with most of Mr. Newman's work, it takes a few listenings to get used to. There are some classic Newman moments, none more so than the song entitled Shame, which is scary and hilarious and had me laughing out loud. And there are two beautiful new Newman ballads, Every Time It Rains and I Miss You. It's wonderfully produced, as are all Mr. Newman's albums. I recommend it to one and all and also all and one. As I've already written in columns of yore, I have been a Newman fan since the late 60s, when I discovered his sardonic songs filled with mordant wit and biting social commentary and the like. Which brings me to:
Harper's Bizarre. How many of you know who Harper's Bizarre were? Well, I'll tell you who they were just in case you don't know. Harper's Bizarre was a group who had a few hits on the Warner Bros. label, back in the late 60s. I remember liking them very much, and so when I saw a collection of their hits on Warner Archives I snatched it up. After listening to it three times I can tell you that they are as good as I remember them being. The amazing thing about listening to it is how brilliantly the songs are produced. They are as fresh sounding today (actually better than today) as they were back then. The producer of these tracks was a gentleman by the name of Lenny Waronker, to my mind one of the greatest record producers who ever lived. He also worked with Van Dyke Parks and a whole host of Warner Bros. folks, and those folks just happened to include the young and upcoming singer/songwriter Randy Newman. So, on the Harper's Bizarre album you will find several songs by Mr. Newman, some of which are quite obscure. They do a splendid version of his splendid Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear, with a splendid orchestration by Mr. Newman himself. In fact, many of the songs on the compilation would be right at home on the Broadway stage. My favorite track on the compilation also happens to be their biggest hit, Cole Porter's Anything Goes. Now, the fact that at the height of acid rock and the Stones, The Cream, the Jefferson Airplane, a group could have a hit song with a Cole Porter chestnut just speaks for how adventuresome music was back then. Their version of the song is two minutes of pure heaven, two of the most perfectly recorded minutes I've ever heard. The arrangement (by Perry Botkin, he of The Young and The Restless theme and Bless The Beasts And The Children) is brilliant as are the harmonies and the blending of the voices with the band. My other favorite track is their version of the Cahn/van Heusen song, Pocketful of Miracles, a song I've always loved but now love even more. I suggest you all go out and buy it immediately, and soon you will be tapping your toes (no mean feat) and humming along and perhaps even dancing the Hora.
Miss Meryle Secrest and I were sitting by the hearth the other night (I often sit by the hearth even though I have no idea what a hearth is other than "heart" with an "h" tacked on for no reason whatsoever). Anyway, there we were, sitting by the hearth, eating some hamburgers, which is a thing I like to do while sitting by the hearth like so much fish. So, there we were, sitting by the hearth eating our hamburgers when I suddenly thought, "Hey, there' no "ham" in this hamburger". That had never occurred to me before, this missing "ham" in the hamburger. After all, if there's "turkey" in a burger we call it a "turkeyburger", do we not? So, why is there no "ham" in a "hamburger"? This is an anomaly of the highest order. Not the shortest order, mind you, but the highest order. Why, a hamburger should, in fact, be called a "cowburger" or "steerburger" or "beefburger" but certainly not a "hamburger". All these years I have eaten hamburgers and there hasn't been one damn ounce of ham in them. I'm thinking of suing the word people, but I don't have an address. Yes, those word people deserve a lawsuit. And just what is a lawsuit? Blue serge. Double breasted? Pin-striped? Is there a doctor suit? Or a construction worker suit? The fact that there is a word like "suit" at all speaks volumes. Look at it, just sitting there like a piece of rotten cod. "Suit". I can just imagine some brilliant thinker looking at a coat and matching pants and thinking, "Ah, I'll call this coat and matching pants a suit". Of course this selfsame brilliant thinker probably came up with "coat" and "pants" too. And if you paint something with two coats of paint, can you therefore paint something with two pants of paint? Words. Can't live with them, can't live with them. They're just so damned arbitrary. Damned arbitrary. In fact the very word "arbitrary" is arbitrary in my book (Chapter 459 - The Arbitrary Arbitrary). What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, The Hamburger Which Had No Ham which is also a novel of espionage by John Le Carre.
Well, all this talk of hamburgers got me to thinking about my love affair with the hamburger. Hamburgers and I first got acquainted at a little corner coffee shop called Kentucky Boys, which, coincidentally, was located on an actual corner (Pico and Sherbourne Dr. to be exact). My brother and I would go to Kentucky Boys and sit at the counter, and it was at this very selfsame counter that I first had greasy meat on a bun (aka hamburger). Oh, how I loved the Kentucky Boys hamburger. Oh, how yummy it was. I just couldn't get enough of Kentucky Boys hamburgers and I ate them at the slightest provocation (like if someone said "Hey" I'd go eat one). I can still taste them to this very day, even though they went out of business when I was eight years old. Oh, that was a sad day. One day the sign said Kentucky Boys and then the next day it said Ty's. Yes, Ty's had bought out Kentucky Boys and presumably the Kentucky Boys packed up their wares and went back to Kentucky. Ty's was okay but no Kentucky Boys. Ty's was owned by the father of a schoolchum of mine, Bruce Tidings. But Ty's had no glad tidings for Mr. Tidings and soon went out of business. The original Kentucky Boys building is still at the corner of Pico and Sherbourne. It is now a mortuary which somehow seems appropriate.
I had two other favorite burgers back then. One was from Scot's (the Scottieburger), who had delicious nineteen cent hamburgers. Scot's was located on Pico and Westwood Blvd. next to the wonderful Picwood Theater, where I saw many movies, including Miss Doris Day in Midnight Lace and Mr. Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Oh, how I loved those Scottieburgers. Unfortunately, Scot's went out of business when I was ten. My other favorite burger of the time was from The Apple Pan and was called The Hickory Burger. Oh, how I loved the Hickory Burger. The Apple Pan was located in West Los Angeles on, you guessed it, Pico Blvd. The Apple Pan did not go out of business when I was eight, nor did they go out of business when I was ten. In fact, amazingly, they are still in business and you can go there right this very minute and have your very own Hickory Burger (if you can get in that is - it's always very crowded). I, for some reason, haven't been to The Apple Pan since I was sixteen years of age. I may just have to go over there today because my mouth is watering (no mean feat). Of course, after that along came McDonald's and Jack In The Box and the rest is hamburger history. Of all the fast food joints in all the world my favorite today is In and Out Burger. Oh, how I love an In and Out burger. They really remind me of the burgers of my youth. "The Burgers Of My Youth". That sounds like a Booth Tarkington novel. And, before I move on to the next section, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Cassell's Hamburgers which was not located on Pico Blvd. If I remember correctly they were and are located on 6th Street and did/do have wonderful burgers sans ham.
Loyal dear readers who have been reading this column since it began will know that I was one of the first to discover eBay. Since then, eBay has become a household word, and popular beyond all belief. It is not as much fun as it used to be, and one cannot get some of the incredible bargains one used to get. But I still love it, still bid and win lots of useless items and the occasional useful item. EBay has become a way of life for some sellers, and they are making lots of money by just selling their accumulated junk. I predict that garage sales will be on the wane soon, because people can make much more money selling junk on eBay because there are mad people who will pay extraordinary amounts of money for the stupidest things. I would be one of those mad people, of course, and am proud of it. Here is what I am not proud of. I was one of the first who knew that eBay was going to go public. I knew that the shares were going to sell for $18.00. But I have never involved myself in the stock market, it's always seemed too complex and weird and time-consuming to me. So, therefore I did not purchase stock in eBay. Had I purchased stock in eBay (let's say 100 shares at eighteen bucks a share) I would now be truly wealthy and I do mean truly. EBay stock soared, going up to a high of over four hundred dollars. The question, of course, is, had I bought the stock, would I have had the guts to wait until it hit four hundred dollars, or would I have sold when it hit thirty dollars? These are questions, which can have no answers, as I didn't buy the stock. And one simply can't play the "what if" game, can one? Imagine the art I could have bought with all that money. Oops, I'm playing the "what if" game, aren't I? I just said I wasn't going to play the "what if" game and then I immediately played the "what if" game. I should be flogged like Judge Turpin for saying I wasn't going to play the "what if" game and then playing the "what if" game. I'll take the blame and shoulder the shame for playing the game. Wasn't that poetic? Perhaps I should think about writing the next column entirely in verse. Perhaps not. For what could be worse than writing in verse? It sounds much too terse, like a really small purse. So, let's put a curse on writing in verse. Let's put the verse inside of a hearse. Oh, and please call a nurse.
Many letters stated disappointment at our mini-column last week. Hopefully that will not happen again, but since Mr. Mark Bakalor is off in Duarte or wherever the hell he is doing shows, one never knows (there's that damn verse again). Also, I don't quite know how the letters section will work in upcoming weeks, as he won't be able to send your letters to me until the Monday on which he puts up the new column. Hence, there may be some lag time. Oh, yes, we may just have some lag time and there is nothing any of us can do about it because Mr. Bakalor is singing and dancing (just a little too well, if you catch my meaning).
Joey wrote to tell me she's going to see Saturday Night in Chicago. Of course, she could just as easily see Chicago on Saturday night, but that's another story. Hopefully, Joey will have a review for us.
Simon Wallace was reading a past column in which I mentioned the lyricist Fran Landesman (she of Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most) and he tells me that Ms. Landesman is alive and well and living in London, and is still writing songs, and in fact is writing them with Mr. Simon Wallace himself. Fran is now seventy-two years of age and still seeking recognition. I have recognized her for years and loved her words for years. Hopefully, Sony will get around to reissuing the cast album of The Nervous Set which she wrote with the wonderful Tommy Wolf and said recognition will wing its way to London.
Tom Guest (Oz) has, thanks to this here column, obtained a copy of the soundtrack to Reds, which, as you all know, has some music by what's-his-name, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Tom asks if I know the music from the film The Go Between, which he has also just gotten. I do, and I too really like it. It's by the marvelous Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), from the film directed by Joseph Losey.
Alan G. agrees with me about the reissue of Gypsy and therefore I agree with Alan G.
Rafael asks how he can get a copy of all my Ed Sullivan tapes. Unfortunately, they came to me with the caveat that I not copy them for anyone, and since I take my caveats seriously (I don't take them with a grain of salt, whatever the hell that means) I haven't copied them for anyone.
Roy S. is back in Merry Olde England having vacationed in California where he had fun with a capital "F".
Duff has finished doing Into The Woods (apparently directed by I.M. Nincompoop) which was very successful. Duff recently met Richard Muenz and Donna McKechnie who were doing a reading of a new show entitled Reach For The Stars. Duff has some involvement with said reading although he did not specify what that involvement was.
John asks if Ben Wright from Into The Woods has been in other Sondheim shows. Perhaps one of our Sondheim experts can answer that question, although my instinct tells me no (not that I asked my instinct for its opinion but my instinct just says whatever the hell it wants and the devil take the hindmost).
Mordecai wrote to tell me that he is currently in rehearsals for Animal Crackers and that Harpo is being played by a woman. This would then be a sexually ambiguous version of Animal Crackers. Perhaps they could have a man play Groucho and a hermaphrodite play Chico.
Nancy asks if my friend is making any efforts to have the Sullivan tapes released legitimately. My friend is not in that kind of position, but one would hope that these things will find their way to being released at some point in time. One of the reasons that they haven't been, I'm sure, is the horrifying morass of details in having to clear the performance rights from all the various estates and such.
Emily tells me I forgot to answer her letter, and I'm afraid that sometimes these things just go into the ether and disappear. Emily saw Animal Crackers at the Arena Stage in Washington and thought it was funny. I don't know if that's the same sexually ambiguous production that Mordecai was/is working on or not. The choreography for the production was done by Miss Baayork Lee, she of Promises, Promises and A Chorus Line.
Only one person answered the last trivia question, which Sondheim performers went on to be writers. Jon answered correctly with Christopher Durang and Craig Lucas.
This week's trivia question: Since we were talking about the wonderful Harper's Bizarre version of Cole Porter's Anything Goes, name the groundbreaking film that used their version of the song for the main title of the film.
Trivia answers, questions, comments...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...