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

June 19, 2000 - #107

Well, dear readers, I know I have been bad. I have been errant. I have been truant. I have been an errant truant. I know it seems as if I've vanished into thin air. Not fat air, mind you, no, thin air. It has been over a month since our last brand spanking new column and that is simply not acceptable in my book (Chapter 493 - An Errant Truant Is Not Good). Yes, it is apparent I've been errant, so the question is what have I been doing for lo these many weeks? Well, I'll tell you what I've been doing because frankly I'd like to know myself. Pursuant to my being truant, I went off to New York, New York again. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I paid yet another visit to the city that never sleeps. That is one reason why I have been errant. Another reason I've been errant is because I have been getting a tan. Not that that is an excuse for said errantness, oh, no, that is simply not an excuse. Even my Presidential campaign has had to suffer. Oh, I meant to write this here column. I sat down several times to write it, but then the phone would ring or something would come up and that would be that, which is good because I hate when "that" would be "this". Yes, things kept coming up, willy-nilly and also nilly-willy. I got so frustrated I began to hope that some things would come down, just for a change of pace, but no, things just kept coming up and there was nothing I could do about it except be errant and truant, which was also the name of a vaudeville team. What the hell am I talking about? Boy, you don't write a column for six weeks and everything just goes to hell.

So, we've missed Memorial Day, we've missed the Tony's, we've missed just about everything. We have a lot of catching up to do, don't we? Why is everything up? "Catching up", "something came up", "everything's coming up roses". I've had it with "up".

Well, you won't believe it, dear readers, but it's been one week since I wrote the above. So, not only have I been errant and truant, I have now been lax. Yes, I've been lax and there is simply no way around or even asquare that fact. I have been a lax errant truant. The good news is that I have not eaten any lox while being lax. Do you think lox can be lax? Lax lox? Of course not, because lox just sits there like so much what is it, fish, so being lax would be redundant, lox-wise. Anyway, I am through being lax. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, from here on in I will be ex-lax. This here column is going up tonight whether it's finished or not. If it's not complete, so be it, it will be an abbreviated column, which is better than no column at all. I do hope that you understand, dear readers, that my life, which was in turmoil mere months ago, is no longer in turmoil. I am busy, busy, busy and I am happy, happy, happy. That's three busies and three happies for a total of six busyhappies. Here is some exciting news: Mr. Mark Bakalor has moved into his very own dwelling. He now has his very own place and he is feeling mighty fine about it. He is even having a party to celebrate both his new dwelling and his upcoming birthday. Isn't that just too too? And best of all, we're all invited. Every last one of us is invited, and there will be ham chunks and cheese slices for all at the new dwelling of the soon-to-be older Mr. Mark Bakalor. Mr. Bakalor will be singing the title song of Martin Guerre and he will be dancing the Swim. Since I will not be able to make the trip north for this event, I hope to see it when it's on tour.

Since this is going to have to be an abbreviated column (or abbr. clmn.) I'm afraid I'm going to have to abbreviate this section of the column, which is not such a bad idea since it's beginning to feel like the opening number of the Tony Awards: Horrifying. But enough about me.


Has anyone noticed that I've been errant, truant and lax, which is also a law firm? Just asking. Well, while I was in New York I happened to go to the theater on several occasions. Normally, I see mostly musicals, but on this trip I saw mostly plays. Here is what I saw and what I thought about what I saw.

The first play I saw was entitled Dirty Blonde, which was a play about the legendary Mae West. It was very enjoyable, and well directed by Mr. Sondheim's very own James Lapine. Did you notice I just mentioned my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim? No one can say this column isn't on topic, can they? There is always a six degrees of Sondheim and we will call your attention to each degree as they occur. My, that was a sentence fraught with something-or-other, mostly other. Where was I? Oh, yes, the play entitled Dirty Blonde. Ben Brantley, the critic for the New York Times said that we would not see a finer original play this season. While that may be true, and while it was definitely entertaining, it is hardly a great play. In fact, the best lines were not written by author Claudia Shear, they were written by Mae West, the titular Dirty Blonde of the title. The performances by Kevin Chamberlin and Bob Stillman, as a variety of characters, were excellent. Author Claudia Shear plays the role of Mae West. I know many people who think this woman a brilliant actor, but I don't think her performance was totally successful here. I always felt she was more a raconteur than actor, and her Mae West, while serviceable, isn't great. Still, there are many fun moments and some genuinely moving scenes involving the wonderful Mr. Chamberlin. Mr. Stillman, some of you may remember, was the star of the musical entitled The Last Session. In fact, one memorable night, I supped with Mr. Stillman and Mr. Mark Bakalor, and here is the proof:

The next show I saw was entitled Dame Edna: The Royal Tour. I'm not really all that knowledgeable about Dame Edna, although I had seen her on television once or twice. I'd also walked by the Booth Theater on numerous occasions, seen the sign, and thought, "Oh, who needs to see that". But, I hadn't booked another show, so I walked up to the box-office an hour before the matinee and got a tenth row center seat. Well, let me tell you, dear readers, am I ever glad I did. This was simply the most entertaining show I've seen in years. Dame Edna literally had me in tears, and I do not laugh in the theater easily. In fact, the ten year old girl sitting next to me began laughing at me because I was laughing so hard with tears streaming down my face. I haven't laughed this hard since I saw Catskills on Broadway several years ago. In that show, there was a comic named Mal Z. Lawrence who had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to die. In any case, if you haven't seen Dame Edna's Royal Tour you must. She'll be playing all over these United States come fall. Warning: If you sit close, you will most likely become part of the show. The bulk of the show is audience participation, so I imagine the show changes quite a bit, but I must have been there on a good day because I don't see how it could have been better.

That night I saw an act at the Sullivan Street Playhouse (home of The Fantasticks) performed by Miss Rita Gardner, who, coincidentally, was the original "girl" in said The Fantasticks, forty years ago (at the very same Sullivan Street Playhouse). Miss Gardner was splendid as she traversed the world of the off-Broadway musical, many of which she has appeared in. If you'd like the six degrees of Sondheim connection, Miss Gardner starred in the musical A Family Affair, with many Sondheim collaborators, including Larry Kert, James and William Goldman and Harold Prince. Miss Gardner is a diminutive delight.

The next day I saw the play entitled Dinner With Friends, which recently won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. I thought it was a very nicely written play, but when I think Pulitzer I think Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf or plays like that, and this just isn't in that league. The cast was very good, especially Matthew Arkin (son of Alan, brother of Adam) and Lisa Emery (I have no idea who her father or brother are).

The irony is, because this column is so truant, I'll be going back to New York at the end of the week to see even more shows, including the Tony Award-winning Copenhagen.


Can someone please tell me what happened to the first six months of this year? Last I knew it was January, and now it's June. They say that as you get older the years go by faster, but this is ridiculous. First of all, who is "they" and why are they saying this? "They" always have something to say, don't "they"? Frankly, I'd like "they" to just shut their traps for a while, because I don't want to hear that as you get older the years go by faster. In any case, I believe that these last months have gone missing. They have simply disappeared, these months have. It is, to put it simply, a mystery worthy of Dame Agatha Christie or Dame Edna: The Mystery of The Missing Months. There is no point to this other than to say it is June and I don't know where the hell these other months have gone. Oh, well, you know what "they" say. "They" say that falling in love is wonderful. Wonderful, so "they" say. Furthermore, "they" all laughed at Christopher Columbus, which was very shortsighted of "they".


Last night I had occasion to sup at a restaurant called La Boheme on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. I only bring this up because La Boheme is a very trendy pricey restaurant, the sort which drives me crazy. Oh, the atmosphere and design are nice. But, like so many of these restaurants, the menu is too too strange for me. All the dishes sound wonderful until you start reading about what is actually in them. Why is it that these places always put things I've never heard of in their food and these things always sound like dog drool to me? For example, there was an appetizer called Katiefi Shrimp or something (I know I've misspelled the "Katiefi" but it was something like that - or maybe it was Kafieti or Kadafi - who remembers?), which is shrimp presumably encrusted with "katiefi", whatever the hell that is. Well, I like encrusted shrimp as much as the next person, but then the menu says it's swimming in something called Lemon Aioli. Well, that simply tears it for me, dear readers. I'm not having anything swimming in Lemon Aioli. I don't want to know from Lemon Aioli. Anyway, all the dishes have something like that. So, I found the least adorned thing, the beef in some kind of wine sauce, with garlic mashed potatoes. It arrived, and damned if this beef wasn't swimming, not in Lemon Aioli but in some grotesque brown guck that reminded me of what dog food is usually swimming in. I gathered that this was the "wine" sauce. First of all, I hate wine, but "they" say you're not supposed to be able to taste it when it's used in cooking. Guess what? I tasted it. It tasted bad, it tasted awful and yet, there was my beef, swimming in it. The beef was not only swimming in the brown dog food sauce but it was also sitting atop the garlic mashed potatoes, which, of course, meant that the garlic mashed potatoes were also swimming in the brown dog food sauce. However, I was so hungry, I had no choice but to eat it. My friend, the actor Jason Graae, had the encrusted shrimp in Lemon Aioli, which he professed to love, and the Lobster Salad, which he also professed to love, and both of which were teeny weeny appetizers. The bill for this meal? With tax and tip, $102.00. This is why I don't like trendy restaurants. I don't mind paying $102.00, but for that I want a world-class meal, not a piece of beef sitting on potatoes and swimming in brown dog food sauce. Next time I want La Boheme, I'll buy some McDonald's and listen to the opera.


I do love getting all your letters, dear readers, and I would love to answer all the ones you've sent in the last few weeks, but I simply have no time. So, here's the deal: Send me new letters and I do promise to answer them in the next column, which will be coming in a timely fashion (pedal pushers and a cashmere sweater). I do apologize, and if your query was important then please query again.

Well, since we are in the letters section, I may as well print one letter:


There. I will say that I had at least four letters that continue to ask how to get hold of Mr. Stephen Sondheim. As I've said before, you can usually contact him through his deceased agent Flora Roberts. I don't have the address, but if you call information in New York, they will give it to you. They're usually very good about forwarding mail to Mr. Sondheim, and he's usually very good about answering said mail.

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

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Questions? Comments?

Well, dear readers, I'm afraid that's it for this column. You know what "they" say - Time Flies When You're Having Fun. And time is flying, months are missing, I am errant, truant and lax and off to New York. I promise a nice long column on my return, with a new What If and perhaps a new chapter from The Real A: A Life by Miss Meryle Secrest (she's been on safari, but is now ready to resume writing about me). I am now going to eat a perfectly lovely meal which has no Lemon Aioli and no brown dog food sauce.

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

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

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