« One From Column A...
April 10, 2000 - #105
Why, yes, I am running for President. Not walking
for President, mind you, or even sprinting for President,
no, I am running for President. I have run a total of
five miles so far and have at least four constituents, whatever
the hell they are. We have come up with some wonderful
campaign slogans. Of course, there's Vote for The Real A Like So
Much Fish. And: Vote For The Cheese Slice and Ham Chunk
Candidate. And: Vote For The Real A For The Real P. Ah, so many
slogans so little time. At least that's what my campaign manager
Mr. Mark Bakalor says. And isn't that the crux of the matter? Are
you looking at that word "crux" and thinking to yourself, what is
it, fish? Perhaps we ought to send that word to Roget, so we can
have Roget's Crux. In any case, my campaign manager, Mr. Mark
Bakalor, who knows a crux when he sees one, said I must have a
running mate. Would anyone like to volunteer? You can be male or
female as far as I'm concerned because I'm running for President
on a non-gender specific ticket. That is, you can vote for me as
either a male or female President and whatever the outcome I shall
do my best to fill those shoes (either loafers or pumps, depending
on the votes) with pride, or at least feet. Of course, as
President, the first bill I will enact is to throw all those
domain name squatters in the hoosegow (wogesooh spelled
backwards). Anyway, my campaign manager Mr. Mark Bakalor gave me a
list of questions from potential voters. Here are both the
questions and my answers, not necessarily in that order.
Why, yes, I am running for President. Not walking for President, mind you, or even sprinting for President, no, I am running for President. I have run a total of five miles so far and have at least four constituents, whatever the hell they are. We have come up with some wonderful campaign slogans. Of course, there's Vote for The Real A Like So Much Fish. And: Vote For The Cheese Slice and Ham Chunk Candidate. And: Vote For The Real A For The Real P. Ah, so many slogans so little time. At least that's what my campaign manager Mr. Mark Bakalor says. And isn't that the crux of the matter? Are you looking at that word "crux" and thinking to yourself, what is it, fish? Perhaps we ought to send that word to Roget, so we can have Roget's Crux. In any case, my campaign manager, Mr. Mark Bakalor, who knows a crux when he sees one, said I must have a running mate. Would anyone like to volunteer? You can be male or female as far as I'm concerned because I'm running for President on a non-gender specific ticket. That is, you can vote for me as either a male or female President and whatever the outcome I shall do my best to fill those shoes (either loafers or pumps, depending on the votes) with pride, or at least feet. Of course, as President, the first bill I will enact is to throw all those domain name squatters in the hoosegow (wogesooh spelled backwards). Anyway, my campaign manager Mr. Mark Bakalor gave me a list of questions from potential voters. Here are both the questions and my answers, not necessarily in that order.
Well, I feel we've gotten this here column off to a fine April foolish start, don't you? Anyway, perhaps it's time we end this section of the column because frankly it's starting to feel like the Michael John LaChiusa Wild Party: Too long and it could use an intermission. But enough about me.
I recently had to take a trip to the city known as Lafayette, which is located in the state known as Louisiana. My normal airline, TWA, doesn't fly to that neck of the woods, or even that elbow of the woods and so I found myself on Continental Airlines, which, I must say, has the worst leg room I've ever had the misfortune to experience. Normally, when I fly I upgrade to first class. Unfortunately, there were no first class seats available to upgrade to. As I sat down in my seat (aisle, of course) the first thing I noticed was that the seat in front of me was practically in my lap. One thing I do not care for is a seat that's practically in my lap. And you know how other passengers are. They immediately push that button so the chair moves backward. Being a slight claustrophobic, I needed to preclude that from happening, so when the passenger in front of me took his seat I leaned forward and said to him, "Hello. I hope you have no intention of pressing that button and moving your seat back, because if you do I shall lean forward and repeat the phrase Das Knaben Wunderhorn over and over and over until you want to rip the very eyes out of your sockets. Thank you for your understanding." My ploy (yolp spelled backwards) worked and the seat remained in its upright position. And so it came to pass ("And so I came to pass"? What am I, Moses all of a sudden?) that I arrived in the city known as Lafayette, where I was greeted by the people I was there to visit and do a bit of business with. Since it was dinnertime when I arrived, our first stop was a restaurant called Prejean's. It was a very nice down-home type restaurant with a good ol' boys Cajun band fiddling away. While the Cajun fiddled, The Real A ate. And ate. And ate. If you've never been to Louisiana let me just say here and now and also now and here that the food is amazing. My hosts insisted that I try the fried alligator appetizer. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I am not the type of person who can suddenly just try something called fried alligator. And yet, I was feeling oh so bold and merry that I did try the fried alligator and dang it all if it wasn't tasty as all get out. Like chicken, only not. Then my dinner arrived; fried catfish, some kind of corn cake, dirty rice and more fried catfish than you could shake a stick at. Under that plethora of fried catfish was a plethora of spicy french fries. Now, this is not the type of meal that people with heart problems should eat, but since I don't have any heart problems, I proceeded to demolish that dinner until there was nothing but an empty plate. At this point I was beginning to resemble a sumo wrestler and I felt like I was going to explode. After that fine repast we went home, home being their palatial 50s- style abode. For those who live in major cities and know what house prices are like, here is a little culture shock: This house was on two acres of gorgeous land, had five or six bedrooms, waterfalls, a guest house and every other kind of room you can imagine. Cost of said house: $200,000. Here in Los Angeles, California, that same house would cost over a million dollars. Anyway, I got to stay in the guesthouse which was only fitting as I was a guest.
The next day began bright and early with a trip to an authentic Louisiana airboat tour of authentic Louisiana swamps. Oh, what fun we had. Our tour guide was an affable fellow with an affable Louisiana Cajun accent. We saw alligators (non-fried) which looked just like logs. It is very exciting to see an alligator which looks just like a log, as you can well imagine. We also saw some herons and some egrets. Once, for a complete change of pace, we saw some egrets and some herons. We also saw trees. Lots and lots of trees. After our swamp adventure we went to a little dive and ate big Po' Boys. Believe me when I tell you, dear readers, my fried shrimp Po' Boy was the size of my couch. I ate the first half and thought I was going to die. Oh, it was incredibly delicious, make no mistake about it. As I began to eat the second half my eyes started to take on that glazed quality that fine corpses have, so I gave the rest of the sandwich to the son of my hosts. Yes, the son of my hosts finished off half of my sandwich after eating an entire one on his own. A growing boy can do such things. Older Jews cannot. A few short hours later it was time to go to dinner. I'd barely digested the Po' Boy, but nevertheless off to dinner we went, this time to a restaurant called Copeland's. At Copeland's I decided to eat "light" and had the Crawfish Etoufee, one of my favorite dishes. Oh, it was yummy. It came with a biscuit that turned out to be one of the single best-tasting things I have ever had the good fortune of having in my mouth. Buttery and light as air. The etoufee was spectacular. Here is an interesting side note about Copeland's: Mr. Al Copeland, for whom the restaurant is named, is also the man responsible for Popeye's Fried Chicken and Biscuits.
The next day was a lazy one, spent lounging around the house and discussing the business at hand. The business at hand got rather boring, so we turned the discussion to the business at foot. When we were through, I went jogging because I was starting to resemble a large swimming pool. Oh, one thing I've forgotten to mention because they forgot to mention it to me: My hosts had cats. As loyal readers of this column know, I am allergic to cats. These people not only had cats, they had eight cats including a pregnant one. Now, anyone who knows anything about cats knows that when a cat senses someone doesn't like it or is allergic to it the cat will immediately go up to that person, rub itself all over that person, jump on that person, in short will do everything in its cat power to torment that person. I was that person. Luckily, I had a large supply of Actifed with me and the cats never really bothered me, try as they did. A good thing, too, because that very day the pregnant cat gave birth to three kittens, which brought the total to eleven cats. That night we went back to Prejean's where I, once again, had the fried catfish platter. It was every bit as delicious as the first time. On my final day, we finished doing our business and then went to a restaurant whose name I have forgotten where I ate a very good meal that I can no longer remember, although I'm quite certain it was fried. While at this restaurant I learned another interesting Louisiana tidbit: One of my favorite restaurants in both Los Angeles and New York is Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Well, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse began life in Louisiana. I have always wondered where that weird name came from and now I know. And because I know, that means you get to know, too. The steakhouse began life as Chris' Steakhouse. An enterprising lady named Ruth ate there one night and was so enamored of it that she became a regular diner there, and eventually bought Chris out, renaming the restaurant Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Wasn't that a good story?
The following morning, I left for home, several pounds heavier than when I'd arrived. On the trip home I managed to upgrade to first class where the legroom was a smidgen better. Still, the person in front of me made the mistake of putting their seat back and I spent a good deal of the flight leaning forward and repeating the phrase Das Knaben Wunderhorn ad nauseum. I'm quite certain that this fellow thought I was insane but that's the price he had to pay for putting his seat back. All in all, it was a splendid trip and sometimes I find myself dreaming of fried what is it catfish.
The very evening of my return from Louisiana I attended the new musical Martin Guerre. Well, not exactly new. This is a show which opened in London several years ago and which got rancid notices, but it's a show which its producer, Mr. Cameron Mackintosh, refuses to give up on. I believe this is its third incarnation. In that regard, it's rather like Mr. Frank Wildhorn's The Scarlet Pimpernel. In any case, there I was at the Ahmanson Theater waiting to see the new show by the authors of the phenomenon known as Les Miz.
The house lights dimmed, and the orchestra began playing. The first thing I noticed about said orchestra was how cheesy it sounded. Either the sound system was at fault or the orchestrations were, because it sounded like a low-rent summer stock orchestra. As the lights come up there is a war going on. People are running about and then someone comes on waving a large flag back and forth. I thought for a moment that they were going to do Les Miz but start at the end of the first act. Then a cannon was rolled out, pointed at the audience, and fired loudly. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I'm not a fan of musicals wherein the first thing that happens is a cannon firing at me. Anyway, we then meet two best friends, Mr. Martin Guerre and Mr. Arnaud du Thil. They are French which is only natural since the musical takes place in France. In fact, they pronounce the name Martin without the "n", so that we know they are French. Anyway, there is a flashback and everyone sings very loudly for quite a long time. I know that some people like this sort of thing, but I am not one of them. First, the music has none of the sweep or melody of Mr. Claude-Michel Schonberg's other two shows, Miss Saigon or Les Miz. Whatever one thinks of those shows, there is some melody going on. Here, the music just lies there like so much fish, as if Mr. Schonberg had just thrown a bunch of notes on the page and hoped they would somehow make a tune. For the most part, they don't. And the lyrics, dear readers. What can I say about the lyrics? Well, I'll cut to the chase and say they are amongst the worst and most puerile I've ever heard in all my years of attending musical theater. Everything is declaimed in this show. They sing at people, rather than the songs coming from the character. I mean, the title character sings "I, I'm Martin Guerre" (in a song cleverly titled I'm Martin Guerre) over and over again. He doesn't know he's Martin Guerre? He's trying to convince himself he's Martin Guerre? He wants us to know he's Martin Guerre. Believe me, we know he's Martin fershluganah Guerre. I wanted to shout, "Tell me something I don't know" at the stage. And how come when he's singing this song it's suddenly Martin with an "n"? The rest of the time it's pronounced in the French way, but for this one song he's suddenly from Philadelphia? Anyway, on and on the show went for two and a half hours. Along the way various people die whilst singing at the top of their lungs. Oh, and the set by Mr. John Napier, is a very drab affair. I'm sure that's what they were going for and Mr. Napier delivered in spades. There is one neat effect towards the end of the show, when an upstage wooden wall burns. I was mesmerized by this burning wall. Unfortunately, while the wall is burning a major character is passing away downstage. I missed it because I was watching a wall burn. And, as little flamelets would fall to the floor you could see water squirting on them from the left and right wings, which looked rather like two men going to the bathroom. By the way, I noticed that there was a Martin Guerre website - www.martin-guerre.com. That annoying hyphen is in there because some greedy wazoo had already taken martinguerre.com. Excuse me for a moment, I'm just getting some e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 00:18:07 -0700 (PDT)
As I've already mentioned, I came back from Louisiana several pounds heavier because of eating a never-ending succession of fried food. So, I decided to go on a diet that a friend of mine has been on. He's lost twenty pounds in a very short period of time. On this particular diet, you may eat as much fruit as you like for your morning meal. For lunch you may have vegetables with a meat or vegetables with a starch or you may have vegetables with a vegetable, but under no circumstances are you to have vegetables with a meat and a starch. If you do that they come to your house and kill you. The proportions must be seventy-percent vegetables to thirty- percent meat or starch. For me there are two problems with this diet: I don't like fruit and I don't like vegetables. However, being the game person I am, I decided to give this new-fangled diet a chance. So, for example, the first day I had a big salad with turkey in it for luncheon. Fine and dandy. For dinner I had stir-fried vegetables over rice. Fine and dandy. The next day I had a big salad with salami in it and then for dinner I had stir-fried vegetables with chicken. The next day I had a big salad with nothing in it and a tiny bowl of pasta and then for dinner I had stir-fried vegetables with shrimp. After the fourth day, I began to hate this diet. I began to have nightmares in which malicious vegetables and salads would sing "I, I'm Martin Guerre". I began to think, "If only I could reverse the size of the portions so that I'm eating seventy percent meat or starch and thirty percent vegetables". I became mean and surly to anyone who resembled a head of lettuce (you'd be surprised how many people resemble a head of lettuce, but that's another story). But damned if I wasn't loosing weight. Three pounds disappeared from my body the first week. In celebration, I immediately ate a large salad with cheese slices and ham chunks. That, of course, is a no-no, but I said yes-yes and did it anyway. And there you have the story of The Weird Diet. By the way, I just tried to clear the domain name of weirddiet.com. Taken.
So many letters, so little time. This is what happens when you go three weeks between columns and eat too much fried catfish. Just think, if I'd only eaten twenty salads with every helping of fried catfish, I would have lost weight. I was thinking of retitling this section The Real A's Letters so I can be more like Roget (he of the Thesaurus). On second thought, who wants to be like Roget?
Do you know that if Roget were to invent the Thesaurus today and tried to clear the name for the Internet, someone would already have it. I don't mean to keep harping on domain squatters, or even banjoing on domain squatters, but frankly I have had it up to my eyeballs, dear readers. Anyway, let's get to those letters.
Alice asks what the running time of Company is. Well, I've had Company that can run very fast, especially when they try my onion dip, but I've had Company that runs slower than a constipated snail. That said, the running time of the musical entitled Company (by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, who, by the way, has just celebrated his brand spanking new 70th birthday!) is probably between two hours and fifteen minutes to two-and-a-half hours. And speaking of running, I'm running for President in case you've forgotten.
Cody writes to tell me that he's doing a report on Jewish/Yiddish playwrights and asks if I could tell him where he might find some information on-line. I'm sorry to say that I have no answer to this question. If any of our dear readers can help, please do so. Also, try searching an AOL keyword, such as Schwartz, borscht or bris.
Anna was wondering how she might be able to get in touch with Mr. Stephen Sondheim to get his autograph. Mr. Sondheim is very good about responding to correspondence, so write to him care of his agent, Flora Roberts (actually Ms. Roberts is no longer his agent on account of having passed away, but the agency still bears her nam. Our handy-dandy host and campaign manager Mr. Mark Bakalor reminds us that you can send Mr. Sondheim a message here at Sondheim.com. Anna also wants to know when the next workshop of a Sondheim show will take place. That's hard to know right now as Wise Guys is in a state of flux. That, it seems, is the crux of the matter. Yes, the crux is the flux. Anna also wants to know if the rumor of Mr. Sondheim's love of chocolate cake is true. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor, my campaign manager, might know the answer to that question. If not, perhaps my campaign manager, Mr. Bakalor, can bake a chocolate cake, send it to Mr. Sondheim (care of Flora Roberts, his deceased agent) and see what the response is.
Tony is a grad student at the Boston Conservatory of Music (BCM, taken) and is presenting a thesis on the theme of loss through the music of Mr. Stephen Sondheim (the birthday boy). He asks if I have any suggestions. Quite a few of the songs of Mr. Sondheim deal with some kind of loss or another. Perhaps you could get more of a response at Sondheim.com's discussion forum...
Jim asks if I ever remembered the name of the "hit" side of Dicky Do and The Don'ts immortal Flip Top Box. This question refers to a column from long ago, but interestingly, as soon as I read the question I remembered what the flip side of Flip Top Box was. It was one of those novelty song hits that come along every now and then (think White Witch Doctor or Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-dot Bikini) and it was called Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu. I'm certain it must be on some collection of weird songs should you have the need to check it out.
Chuck is hoping that what he wrote me can get to Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Chuck lives in Hawaii and has a group of singers called The Company Singers who are doing musicals in concert. They just did an evening devoted to Rodgers and Hammerstein and now wish to do Assassins, which apparently isn't available in a concert version. Chuck should send his request to Mr. Sondheim care of Flora ("I'm dead already, leave me alone") Roberts at the address listed above.
Wu Shenling from Hangzhou China sent me one of the finest e-mails this column has ever received. It really moved me and will touch all of you as well. I print it here so that we may all share it together.
First of all, doesn't the name Wu Shenling sound like a Chinese rabbi? Now, I enjoy surrealism as much as the next person, but doesn't that e-mail just take the chocolate cake? I racked my brains (that's the second time I racked my brains in this column - perhaps we should shoot a game of pool using my brains) as to why Mr. or Rabbi Shenling would send me this e-mail. And what I figured out was this: Mr. or Rabbi Shenling obviously did a search on "wooden hanger" and found my reference in a past column to those wonderful days when my mother would occasionally come after me with a wooden hanger. So, given the circumstances surrounding my mention of wooden hangers, why would Mr. or Rabbi Shenling think I would want any of his fershluganah hangers. Still and all, he did take the time to write, so perhaps I'll purchase just one wooden hanger to make him feel like his e-mail was not wasted.
Rrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrwrw wrote the following:
What are you?
Thank you rrw for that pithy and cogent e-mail. I have referred your e-mail to Mr. or Rabbi Wu Shenling so that he may furnish you with some wooden hangers. Hopefully you will find good use for them. For example, you can try beating yourself with one of them. I say only this, rrw: Mr. Mark Bakalor is a computer expert and can read the headers from whence your e-mail came. He has been known to track down writers of such letters and he has been known to come to their houses and steal their forks. So watch it, mister or miss, we are on to you.
Roy would welcome any information regarding either the original Off-Broadway production of Assassins or any subsequent productions, particularly in Europe. I do believe one of the most exciting productions of Assassins was directed by Mr. or Rabbi Wu Shenling. The critics were especially entralled with his use of the wooden hanger as a metaphor for why people feel the need to assassinate Presidents.
The Real John from The Real UK tells me that he's thrilled I am running for President and asks if I would also be interested in running for Mayor of London. Ordinarily I would jump at the chance to run for Mayor of London, but I can't be President and Mayor at the same time. And on top of that, Wu Shenling has also asked me to run for office in China. When it rains, it pours, running for office-wise.
Stephen (not Sondheim) asks what I think about the renaming of the glorious Selwyn Theater. For those who don't know, the powers that be are renaming the Selwyn Theater The American Airlines Theater. Frankly, I find it confusing. I mean, do patrons of other airlines get to go to the theater or only people who fly American Airlines? Will they put windows in the theater so people can have either an aisle or a window seat? Will people be able to put their chairs back so that I can torment them by saying Das Knaben Wunderhorn repeatedly? Will they stop a show in the middle because of weather? These are the questions we must ponder, and ponder them we will, by yiminee.
Seanm has finished the run of Fiddler On The Roof, in which he played a Motel. Next he might get to play Rolf in The Sound of Music or "what's his face" from South Pacific (Lt. Cable? Emile de Beque? Nellie Forbush?). Seanm asks what I think of Maria Friedman, the singer. I have never heard Maria Friedman, the singer. I have, however, heard Maria Friedman, the slide trombone player, and I'm quite fond of her valve work.
Seagull offers complete support for my Presidential candidacy. Seagull will rally voters, make posters, bake cookies. In fact, Seagull will do everything but vote for me because Seagull hasn't reached voting age yet. So what, I say! That's the problem with this country today. Too many stupid rules! As President, I will change all the rules. I will pass a bill (or at the very least a Robert) that says anyone can vote, be they man, woman, or child, or even alligator, whether alive or dead, if someone wants to vote, by golly their going to damn well have the right to vote. Now you see if Mr. Mark Bakalor were up to date and hip and cool he would put some streaming audio of a crowd cheering. But, noooooo, we can't have streaming audio because we are not with it, internet-wise. Nonetheless, please imagine a crowd cheering the above remarks.
Lysa, a new dear reader, has been a Sondheim fan forever and just happened to happen on this here site in a very happenstance way. Lysa is sorry to hear about my head. I am happy to report that my head is entirely healed. Lysa also would like me to explain the constant references to fish. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor, my campaign manager, can point her in the right direction (I believe the story is repeated in Column 50).
Andrew's mother would like to know what the heck Stephen Sondheim, Richard Skipper and that millionaire guy's friend are doing in that poster with them. First of all, perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor, my campaign manager, will be kind enough to reprint the picture in question.
According to Andrew's mother, Andrew has no memory of being there when he caught that big fish. That is because it is a doctored photo, and Andrew has, in fact, been inserted over the real photo of Dr. or Rabbi Wu Shenling.
Amezy has an upcoming biography project in school and has chosen Mr. Stephen Sondheim. She has decided that she and her friend want autographed photos of said Sondheim and wants to know how they could get them. See all the references to the late Flora Roberts above.
Erin will also vote for me when she comes of age. Erin is doing The Will Rogers Follies and while she is a big fan of Mr. Cy Coleman, she feels it is not his finest hour. I must concur on that point.
Joey will also vote for me as President and wants to write our campaign song. In fact, she has written one to the tune of Old Friends but we can't have a campaign song with "Old" in the title. We are the new even though we look like the old.
PatLaceyBulb (aka Gav) misses our trivia section. Unless we go back to a regular weekly column, the trivia section doesn't make much sense. Gav also wants someone to tell him what musical film composer Angelo Badalamenti wrote. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor, my campaign manager, can find the answer.
Paul Broussard asks if there's any word on a cast album release of the new Putting It Together. While the show was taped live by The Broadway Network, they have not made a deal with anyone for the CD rights.
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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