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One From Column A...
by "The Real A"

November 23, 1997 - #10

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to The Real A's first annual Thanksgiving column. Are you all ready for turkey? I myself had some turkey prior to Thanksgiving. That's right, I went to the motion pictures (I know, I know, you'd think I'd learn after Batman and Robin). Everything wrong with the movies today was embodied in the "film" I saw. It was entitled Kiss The Girls. It was a modern day thriller. Which means that it had really loud music, murky photography and at least one serial killer.

This film was directed by a man named Gary Fleder. First of all, you should never let a man named Gary Fleder direct a movie. Gary Fleder sounds like the name of a character Jerry Lewis would play. The fact that Gary Fleder's first motion picture was one of the worst films of all time (Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead) didn't deter the people who run the Motion Picture Industry. No, siree. After making such a horrible movie, they immediately gave him a forty million dollar picture to direct. This is known in Hollywood as Failing Upwards.

Now, there is only one way for a thriller to work. You must tell the story. Unfortunately, Mr. Fleder hasn't learned this simple rule. Kiss The Girls is so inept directorially that it is doomed from the credit sequence. And let's talk about the sound mix. Is anyone else tired of the ear-splitting levels of the movies today? I mean, this is a thriller not Star Wars. My favorite example of this overdone relentless and stupid sound is in a scene which takes place at a press conference. All the press people are taking pictures of the Chief of Police talking (like that would be an interesting photo). They must shoot a hundred pictures during this scene. And every time a flashbulb goes off it's like World War II. But louder. If you've ever taken a picture with a flash camera, you know it does not sound like The Guns of Navarone. In this scene, the camera is placed at the back of the room where the wall would be. And yet, from the rear channel speakers we hear loud and endless mumbling voices. This gives the effect that the voices are coming from behind the camera. Who are these voices? The crew? It makes no sense. And every time the camera pans it's accompanied by an ear-shattering whooooosh. What is whooooosh? Where does whooooosh come from? Panning cameras don't make a whooooosh sound. This is what they call "heightened reality" in Hollywood. I have enough trouble with regular reality. I don't need it to be heightened. Well, you get the idea. I didn't like the movie. Anyway, no more diatribes about movies, I promise.

The Real A is very excited about Thanksgiving. I will be making my famous turkey with all the fixin's. I do have someone else put their hand up the butt of the turkey, because this is just something that gives The Real A the willies. And speaking of the willies, just what are the willies? Well, for once I happen to know the answer. And I didn't have to look it up in my 20+ volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) either. Once upon a time there was a wonderful African-American character actor named Willy Best, who used to appear as the comedy relief in old scary movies. He would react to some scary noise or monster by bugging his eyes out and making his Willy face, to show how scared he was. Hence, the "willies". Don't say you never learned anything from this column. In fact, learning that kind of information from this column is like seeing the revival of Once Upon A Mattress: pointless, useless and totally trivial. But enough about me.

The Ovation Awards

As promised, here is my report on the Ovation Awards, which I attended last Monday. They took place in Los Angeles at the Shubert Theater. I arrived at seven. There were press photographers everywhere. None of them seemed interested in taking my picture. Luckily, I had brought along my own camera, so I took my picture.

I hung out in the lobby for awhile, then took my seat. The lights dimmed and the four-piece Ovation Orchestra launched into an Overture. About half-way through the overture, I noticed my very close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, entering the auditorium. He proceeded to his seat which, as fate would have it, was right in front of mine! I was in the third row seat 27, he was in the second row, seat 27. The hosts for the evening were two Sondheim alumnus, Joanna Gleason and John Rubinstein. They were both charming. It was a long evening. It was a peculiar evening. Big mammoth shows against 99 seat Waiver theater shows. Like David and Goliath.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the Best Actor In A Musical award. It went to Ned Beatty for Showboat. That's right. Brian Stokes Mitchell lost. I have nothing against Ned Beatty, but Brian Stokes Mitchell is giving a career-defining performance in Ragtime. He is brilliant. Well, that's Los Angeles for you. Unpredictable. The gasp from the audience was audible and loud. Otherwise, Ragtime picked up most of the musical awards, including Best Musical and Best Supporting Actress (Judy Kaye).

The most entertaining portions of the evening were Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, whose Borscht Belt ramblings were hilarious. And Gary Marshall, too, but not his partner Mariette Hartley, who was her usual uncharming long-winded self. She told an endless story that was so long I can't even remember what it was about (although it had something to do with Terrence McNally). Jason Graae and Yvette Freeman did a fun medley of songs from nominated musicals (which included a Waiver production of Putting It Together).

And then came the Sondheim Tribute. Now, you would think that with the master in attendance, that someone would put together a wonderful little medley or something. Sung by well-known or semi well-known people. But noooooo. We were subjected to a pointless love song medley, sung by four people of varying ability (good to pathetic, but I'm not naming names). As this medley/tribute went on, Steve sunk lower in his seat. Lower and lower. It seemed he was being eaten by his chair. The singers sang on bravely, and matters of pitch or correct lyrics meant nothing to them. After it was over, Sondheim was called to the stage to receive his award. Joanna Gleason said some lovely things about him (I'm surprised Mariette Hatley didn't come out and tell a long story about him too) and then Steve said some brief remarks ("it's wonderful to see the sense of community here. I wish we had it in New York") and then left the stage. As the show continued, he came back to his seat briefly, then got up again and went to the bathroom. A few minutes later one of the ushers came in and whispered something to Steve's companion, who then left. And that was the last to be seen of Steve. After the show, there was a reception with desserts and cheese. I asked if there was bacon, a hamburger and a bun to go with the cheese but they just looked at me as if I had just told them I was writing a musical about the Hilton Sisters.

I did see lots of lovely people, including Ovation winner Marcia Mitzman-Gaven, La Chanze, Terrence McNally, and many others. I ate one cheese slice and a chocolate bauble. All in all, an evening worthy of Salvador Dali. Frankly it gave me the willies.

War and Remembrance

I recieved this e-mail from my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim. As always, I share it with you, my dear readers.

Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1997 19:07:10
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dear Real A:

It was wonderful having you sit in back of me at the Ovation Awards. Even though I wasn't aware of it at the time (otherwise I would have turned around and said hello) I could sense your presence behind me. It was very comforting. As to Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and his new oratorio, well, what can one say? I am flattered and sickened all at once. I can now see that Mr. Webber (I'm just not going to call him Lord anymore) will not let sleeping dogs lie. So, I see I will once again have to put aside Wise Guys to address this wise guy. Next week I will have something choice for you. Right now I am jet lagged and look like a used towel. And please tell Mr. Webber that I like your column much more than he does. I hope you don't take that kind of butt-kissing English twaddle seriously. Until next week.

As always, your close personal friend,

Well, Steve is right. Lord Andrew (I have to call him Lord) is not going to let sleeping dogs lie. And what does that mean? Sleeping dogs lie? I mean, I get it, but it's so stupid. Why not a sleeping elephant or a sleeping gerbel? Honestly. Anyway, Lord Webber didn't let that sleeping dog lie. He woke that sleeping dog up. Here is what he sent:

Date: Sun, 23 Nov 1997 03:07:54
To: The Real A (
From: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (

My dearest Real A:

No matter what that bearded bunyon says, I like your column the most. There is simply no contest. Not only do I like it, I make the casts of all my shows read it. Top that, Stephen Sondheim!

I wanted to send along the brilliant opening of my new oratorio, Andrew Lloyd Webber's How I Won The War, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse (almost as brilliant as I, but not quite, hence I am a Lord and he is a Leslie). Here it is. Again, you must imagine the breathtakingly original music that accompanies it:

(England. A country estate. A brilliant composer enters. He is dashing in battle fatigues. He sings:)

The war is raging,
Like a rabid theater queen.
There can only be one victor,
In this war torn scene.

On the one front is The Brit,
(Somewhat brilliant if you please)
On the other is The Sondheim
(Who will soon be on his knees)

He may fire volleys,
But like Sondheim's Follies,
All his volleys won't be deadly they'll be duds.
Sondheim's never been in fashion
When you've written shows like Passion
Then the volleys have to land with deadly thuds

Can a Sondheim war be covert,
Have you seen Pacific Overt-
Ures? It's just so bloody in your face.
Something simple or melodic?
Something soaring or rhapsodic?
No! We get Assassins and I rest my case.

Oh, this war will just continue,
Mr. Sondheim I will win you,
So, just give up and play your final chord.
Yes, you may as well just quit, sir,
When you're dealing with this Brit, sir,
Then you may as well just bow before your Lord.

(The brilliant composer gives a "v" for "victory" sign. But all is not quiet. There are rumblings from across the sea. )

Oh, it is exciting, isn't it? I'll send you part two next week. It will be like a chapter-play. Every week a new episode. After all, I'm not one to let sleeping dogs lie.

All best,
Lord Andrew

Lord Andrew also told me that this work might have it's premiere at the Albert Hall. I'll keep you posted, of course.

Letters... We Get Letters...

The Real A had a full e-mailbox every day, so thanks to all for the nice messages. Now, to it.

Rob O wrote and told a delightful story (too long to print here) about his friend Jenny who kept saying she knew someone who has actually appeared in Sondheim shows. To cut to the chase (I love that expression) it turned out that she knows William Parry, who appeared in Passion and Assassins. Mr. Parry is a fine singing actor, and I saw him recently in The Gig and Time and Again. My first experience seeing Mr. Parry was when he went on for Richard Burton in the revival of Camelot. Obviously people had come to see Burton and there was great disappointment but Parry did beautifully and by the end of the show had totally won the audience over. He also happens to be a very nice fellow.

Thomas told me about a tv show called Animaniacs, which apparently does some funny musical theater parodies. So, I share that info here. I personally have not seen Animaniacs, so cannot comment. Oh, and if you're in Toledo (Holy Toledo! Who made that one up?) Thomas is appearing in A Little Night Music. Where, Thomas?

Fred thinks I may have slipped up last week when I said "Oh, no, now everyone will think I'm gay", and that this could definitely mean that I'm male. But gay is a term used for both men and women. So, I could be either sex. Or both. Or none. I could be like a Barbie or Ken doll. No sexual organs at all. Just space.

Steve (not Sondheim) has the album A Cabaret Christmas on DRG and says the song Three Wishes For Christmas is not on it. It should be, but maybe there are two albums with that title. I shall solve this mystery and get back to you.

Emily asks if I still visit Finishing The Chat. I do still peruse there, but don't post anymore because of the column. But, if I do see anything that's really untoward, I will be there in a thrice, you can be certain.

Laura writes to inform me that I'm not on the cutting edge of technology, because I have Laserdisc and not the brand new DVD. Frankly, I am taking a wait and see attitude with DVD. There aren't enough interesting titles yet, and the difference in quality seems miniscule. However, if it lasts, and if the software becomes more interesting, then I will simply have to have it.

Tom wants to know if there are any plans to record the Encores presentation of Cole Porter's Dubarry Was A Lady from two years ago. It was going to be done, but there were union problems (since worked out) and it didn't happen. Sadly, it's a dead issue now.

Professor William Orr read my column while his students were doing an assignment in Computer Lab. Apparently, he kept "bursting into giggles" and the students kept giving him "withering stares". I suggest you keep this up, Professor. Just start giggling in the middle of sentences. Or when you're sitting at your desk. Confuse those students! Then they'll all end up in the musical theater. William also says that he has figured out that I am him. While this appeals to my surrealistic nature, I'm afraid that I am me. Or the Walrus.

Ken wants me to hang tough and not tell anyone anything about me. He wants me to give away nothing! He wants me to stay the enigma that I am. Well, don't you worry Ken. I am enigmatic by nature, and no matter how hard we may try we cannot change our nature.

Kent points out that the mysterious song Home Is The Place by Styne and Sondheim was actually recorded by Tony Bennett, and Kent is actually correct. It's a lovely recording and a lovely song.

Sweeney02 wants to know more about the orchestra requirements for Passion. All that detailed information should be in the piano/conductor score available from whoever licenses the show.

Keep those cards and letters coming...

Trivia and Useless Knowledge Department

The Real A got many many interesting answers to the trivia question: What is the most abused, overused and misunderstood word in the English language. The most guesses went to the same two words: ironic and like. Well, like I find that ironic, don't you? Other good guesses were "I" "a" and "squidgy". Of course, this question was/is subjective. Many answers are possible. But only one answer is The Real A's answer. And only Fred, Thomas, Laura, and Paul guessed it. And the answer is...


Yes, Love. Love is a troublesome word. First, let's talk about love in the romantic sense. Here's a word that's supposed to mean, well, what is it supposed to mean? I have always felt that to feel true love is something unlike any other feeling you can feel. Something permanent. Something abiding and enduring. Something that can't go away. Something that fills the heart (poetically speaking) to capacity. And then you look at relationships. People who say I Love You blithely and easily. They become a couple. They may marry or live together. And then, things turn wrong, or they're not the people they thought they were and they break up, frequently with rancor. Well, what happened to love?

My suspicion is it never existed, at least in the form that it's supposed to exist in. Lust, sure. Obsession, sure. Control, sure. Domination, sure. But love? I just don't know how it can come and go so easily. And yet... there is a couple that I know, who have been married for twenty-two years, who are so happy, who are so with each other, who never fight (in any major sense of the word) who love(yes, love) being with each other more than anything. Who love talking to each other. Who are each other. And it is simply breathtaking to be around. It's the only relationship I've seen that gives me hope (instead of the willies). As to other kinds of love, let's just say that the word is bandied about way too casually: I love my shoes, I love Starship Troopers, I love McDonald's, I love Prozac, and on and on. Words have meanings and we should treasure them and use them carefully. Especially love. If it means what I think it's supposed to mean then it's far too precious to be facile with. I know if I go reread what I've just written I'll probably cut the whole thing or throw up, but I'll just let it stand. I hope it doesn't give anyone the willies.

This week's trivia question: Name the person who has worked with Mr. Stephen Sondheim the most.

Send all guesses to me at or use the form below...



Questions? Comments?

Wow, that was a long column. I think I'll let sleeping dogs lie and just wish you all a wonderful and warm Thanksgiving.

Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

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“I found [the Sondheim Celebration's Company] to be completely delightful. Almost all of the numbers excited and energized me, and most of the scenes were about as pitch-perfect as you can get. I just sat there with a big smile on my face the whole show.

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