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

March 23, 1998 - #27

Well, dear readers, our live chat was a success! We chatted, and we were live. I gather that those are the two ingredients necessary to have a successful live chat, and so, a success we were. I finally met some of you face to face. And you met me face to face. And yet, we have no idea what we all look like, other than a bunch of words on the screen. For awhile I thought I was not going to be able to participate in said live chat because I was not "Java enabled". Now, I have always felt that I was as Java enabled as the next person, but here I was, being told I was unequivocally not Java enabled. That I was, in fact, Java deficient. That I had no Java. That Java was simply not part of my very being, my essence. In other words, someone, somewhere had decreed that Java and The Real A were just not happening. So, I had to accept this and I had to put on a large coat and hat and slink to another location, not wanting to call attention to the fact that I was not Java enabled, so that people would point at me and stare and smirk and say "Outcast! Not Java enabled! Leper!". In any case, I participated in the live chat from another person's computer where I was Java enabled. Once I was Java enabled I felt much better.

The chat itself was fun. There was lots of drivel and it was not all coming from me. Everyone contributed to the high level of drivel. We anagramed, we sat around like so much fish, we came up with one great coprophiliac joke (which is the first one that had anything to do with Mr. Stephen Sondheim): Who's a coprophiliac's favorite Sondheim actress? Glynis Johns. Mr. Sondheim was discussed, which was only proper given that this is a Stephen Sondheim site. It was revealed that I was both Lorna and Joey Luft, and that Mr. Mark Bakalor had formerly been a woman (a shocking revelation). The most interesting part of the live chat was trying to keep up. Someone would ask me a question, but by the time I had written my brilliantly pithy answer, seventeen people had written other things and my answer made no sense to anyone because they'd forgotten the question. Do you know what it's like to come up with a pithy answer and have no one appreciate the pith? How often are we pithy? And on the odd occasion when we are pithy I want that pith noticed! No one noticed the pith. The pith was unnoticed by all. I hate that. Anyway, you'd have all this writing, people just jabbering away and then all of a sudden, everyone would just stop . At the same time. As if a giant brain freeze occurred in everyone at the exact same moment . I called this a lull. It happened three or four times, this lull. And isn't lull one of the more useless words in the English language? Just look at it, it just sits there, totally useless. Too many "l"s for one thing. Here's another interesting thing about lull: It rhymes with dull, mull, null, hull, cull, and gull. And yet, it does not rhyme with pull, bull, or full. Why? Who decided? The person in charge of rhyming was sitting around and thought "Ooh, I know what I'll do - I'll have some of those words rhyme, but not all of them! This will wreak havoc and cause all sorts of confusion!" Frankly, I think this person in charge of rhyming is an annoying twerp. What the hell was I talking about? Oh, yes, the live chat. It was fun. Mr. Mark Bakalor (the former woman) was supposed to moderate but he quickly lost control of the chat room and just sat there, not doing much of anything. Oh, occasionally he'd say "Get your questions ready for The Real A" but everyone just ignored him and went their own damn way. We had lots of lovely visitors, including Tiffany, various Marks and Matts, Emily, der Brucer (without his ever-lovin' S. Woody White - or was S. Woody White lurking?), Anita, Yves, Jason, Ouijigirl, The Two Jakes, and a few people I didn't know, like RyderPI (sounds like a Tom Selleck TV series) and BirdyNum2 (not the same bird who is outside my window at this very moment singing What I Did For Love). I presume since none of our various Jons were there, or Abigail or the Wheaton North guy or Glen or S.M. (Stolen Mail? Stale Meat? Somewhat Mordant?), that they were/are also not Java enabled. It is a terrible thing, this not being Java enabled. I suggest that Mr. Mark Bakalor (formerly Mabel Bakalor) do something about this. We must all be Java enabled. It's only right. We denizens of the Stephen Sondheim Stage simply cannot go through life knowing we are not Java enabled. This is simply too much of a burden to bear. How are we to know if there's a "lull" if we are not Java enabled. Oh, and my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, was not there because he's not Java enabled either. He is prone, however, but apparently not to Java.

By the way, this is our 27th column, and I'm told that whenever the 27th column falls on March 23rd that it is a cause for celebration. Is this going to happen every week? I'm not celebrating anything anymore. I'm just going to turn into an old curmudgeon. That someone actually had the temerity to think up a word like "curmudgeon" is another story altogether.

Have I said that the Live Chat was a success? Our Live Chat was so successful, that we are thinking of doing a sequel. Live Chat II: Look Who's Still Talking. But only if you're Java enabled - otherwise you can't play. Apparently Side Show, Triumph of Love, Street Corner Symphony and The Capeman weren't Java enabled and they couldn't play either. But enough about me.

Here and There

Isn't that a nice title for this section? I don't know what the hell it means, but I'll tie it in somehow. "Here" and "there" are really the same word, you know, but some smart-ass just threw a "t" in and a whole new word was born. And then another person took a look at how simple that was, and said "The hell with him, I'll go him one better. I'll throw a "w" in front of "here" and create my own word!" Of course, the rest is history. You see, this section now makes perfect sense. It has meaning, and frankly, I find it rather pithy myself. If there is anyone out there who does not find it pithy, I will brain them. "I will brain them". Who on earth made that one up? How do you "brain" someone? Do you go to a hospital, see if they have a brain lying around, and if they do, you ask if you can have it so you can go "brain" someone? So, let's say the above scenario works, and you have this brain, and you go find someone deserving of "braining" and then what? You hurl this brain at them? This seems an awful lot of work for a seemingly pointless endeavor. Still, if "braining" is your thing (it is mine) then these are the lengths one must go to.

You see what happens when you're not Java enabled? You start writing meaningless drivel that just goes on and on and has nothing to do with Stephen Sondheim (unless someone would like to brain him).

I didn't really have to start a new paragraph, but I felt there was a lull and we simply have to begin a new paragraph when there is a lull. That is why paragraphs were invented (by Ludwig von Paragraph, the great German doctor who also created the word "nostril"). Before he came along everyone referred to nostrils as those holes in the bottom of your nose through which you suck up air. Dr. von Paragraph was a visionary, and one day he looked in the mirror at his nose and thought to himself, I'll call those holes "nostrils". He received nothing for this brilliant word invention (not to mention the word "paragraph" from which he also received not one whit) and he died in relative obscurity until this column.

Cabaret has opened (I'll bet you thought I would never get around to discussing musicals, huh?) and has gotten pretty much unanimous raves. Ben Brantley's review was especially humorous, as he talks about the original staging of Harold Prince (which I doubt he saw, since he would have been all of seven years old) and he says that the film version of Cabaret came out in 1970 (it came out in '72). It seems that the NY Times has ceased to care about facts. A recent article about cast albums, by Stephen Holden, was so riddled with errors it wasn't even funny (well, it was funny), the best of which was crediting the authorship of the musical Les Miz to Andrew Lloyd Webber. NY Times, stand up and take a bow.

My Favorite Things

Listening to my eBay mantel clock ticking away (hence, no earthquake) reminds me of the comment I made about when it stopped ticking and we had the earthquake - that it seemed like a Twilight Zone moment. And that got me to thinking about the extraordinary impact that "The Twilight Zone had made.

Who could have ever predicted that a little half hour black and white television program, hosted by its author, would become one of the most well-known TV shows of all time? It has never been off the air since the day it began. Rod Serling, the show's creator and host, was, like Dr. von Paragraph, a visionary. He'd already made quite a name for himself in television drama, with his teleplays Requiem For A Heavyweight and Patterns. But in creating The Twilight Zone, he created not only a title that has become part of our language, but a show that reverberates for each new generation that discovers it. Serling wrote most of the shows himself, but he also enlisted several other great writers, such as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. The stories they came up with were/are timeless gems that never cease to capture the imagination.

The show premiered in 1958 on CBS and was pretty much an instant hit. It was on every Friday night at ten. Since I was already very old in 1958 (having been born during the Prussian War) I watched every single episode. Never missed one. I had a ritual every Friday night, which was this: My best friend and I would go to the little nearby Italian restaurant called Scarantino's and get a salad and their great spaghetti to go. We'd then take it back to my house, go into my room (one simply could not watch The Twilight Zone with one's parents), turn off the lights and be prepared to be weirded out in a major way. Which the show never failed to do. Oh, some episodes were a little lame, but that was okay, because we knew that ultimately (and more often than not) we'd get ones like Eye Of The Beholder (the bandaged woman with the supposedly hideous face, being revealed as a beautiful woman living in a society of ugly people, only she was considered the ugly one), the wonderful episode called Living Doll, about Talking Tina ("I'm Talking Tina, and I'm going to kill you" - what was better than that I ask you), Where Is Everybody? (about the guy who finds himself the only one in town), Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (the gremlin on the airplane wing), Little Girl Lost (the precursor to Poltergeist), Room 22 ("room for one more, honey"), The Hitchhiker, and on and on and on. So many classics, and I do mean classics.

But of all the great shows, the one that holds more resonance for me personally than all the others, is called Walking Distance. Simply put, it is one of the highest moments in all of television, and certainly it is as good as anything Serling ever wrote. Briefly, the show is about a tired, burned out executive named Martin Sloan (a brilliant performance by Gig Young), who would like nothing more than to go back to the simple times of his youth. One day his car breaks down right around the bend from the town he grew up in. Since the car will take a few hours to fix, he decides to walk to the town and see what it's like. When he arrives, he finds he has stepped back in time, to the town of his childhood. As he walks around town he sees the old ice cream parlor, the merry-go- round, everything unchanged, exactly the way it was when he was a kid. But the idyll of this "step back in time" is shattered when he pays a visit to his parents. Of course, they refuse to believe him when he tells them that he's their son, and they close the door on him. He eventually runs into his younger self, and he warns the young Martin to be careful, to not settle or compromise his life. No amount of telling the plot can convey the ineffable sadness and melancholy of this episode. It is brilliantly written, directed, and acted (the young kid is played by Ronny Howard!) and the score by Sondheim fave Bernard Herrmann is heartbreakingly beautiful. The show taps into what most people feel about wanting to go back in time to the scene of their childhood, and in fact I still have recurring dreams about "stepping back in time" and revisiting my old neighborhood. If you've never seen this episode, you owe it to yourself to seek it out (it's on video); if you're not in tears by the end of the show, I will simply have to brain you.


Did you think, dear readers, that I was going to go this entire column and not bring up a topic most important to people who frequent this site? Whew, that was a long-winded sentence, wasn't it? I hated that entire sentence even as I was writing it. "A topic most important to people who frequent this site"??? Who wrote that? Couldn't have been me. I would never write something that normal. It almost sounded like a real writer had written it, and we simply cannot have that, now can we, dear readers? If I start writing like a real writer, this column is doomed, do you hear me? Only a butt cheek would've written that sentence. Okay, one, two, three... Butt Cheek! My only excuse is that my dinner party is over, and I, once again, have eaten just enough food to make sure that I cannot move at all. And I reek of garlic. I'm expecting my neighbor from three doors down to come over and tell me I reek of garlic, that's how much I reek of garlic. I seem to have lost my train of thought. My train of thought has been derailed, has gone onto another track, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about anymore. What was the point??? Oh, yes, "a topic most important to people who frequent this site". Yechhhh. That one is going down in the pantheon of sentences I'd like to obliterate. Of course, I could have just deleted it, but nooooo, then I wouldn't have gone off and wasted an entire endless paragraph filled with absolutely nothing but drivel. What would Dr. von Paragraph say?

So, what is this "topic most important to people who frequent this site"? I'll tell you what said topic is. Why, it's my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim's birthday, that's what said topic is! That's right! March 22, and Mr. Sondheim is now 68 years old. Can you believe it? Anyway, I just got the following e-mail from the birthday boy...

Date: Sun, March 22, 1998 2:32:46
To: The Real A (
From: Birthday Boy (

Dearest A:

Yes, it is my birthday, and yes, I am 68 years old (which is still a lot younger than you, apparently). I am sorry to have missed the live chat the other night, but I am not Java enabled so what can you do? I heard it was a rollicking success (of course, I heard that from you, so take it for what it's worth) and that all participants had a good time. I am toiling away on Wise Guys as you know. Hopefully we will finish this show before I turn 70. In fact, I've written a little lyric about it (to the tune of Send In The Clowns, like anyone wouldn't know):

Isn't it done?
Aren't we slow?
How long can two people take
Writing a show?
Send in some speed.

How can one show,
Take us so long?
I spent six months of last year
Writing one song.
Send in some speed.

Just when we thought,
That we were through...
Suddenly realized we
Hadn't written Act Two!
We had to cancel the Kennedy Center...
So, fine...
Try us again
In '99.

We're working hard,
That's pretty clear.
Someday we'll finish this show,
Won't we, my dear?
We need some speed,
We ought to have speed,
Well, maybe next year.

Ah, well, perhaps if I was Java enabled we'd be finished already. I must go celebrate my birthday now. Prone, of course.

Best to you and yours,

Well, I'll speak for all of you, dear readers, and wish Steve the happiest of birthdays. Wait a minute, I just got another e-mail, let me see what it is...

Date: Sun, March 21, 1998 16:14:20
To: The Real A (
From: Birthday Boy (

Dear Darling A:

I know that because your column is on that man's site (you know who I mean), that you might just forget all about my birthday. That's right, your friend Stephen and I share a birthday. We can't even begin to contemplate how peculiar that is, can we? Of course, I'm lots younger than Stephen, and much more famous. I wrote Cats, you know. And Les Miz, too, even though I have no memory of writing it. But the New York Times says I did, so it must be so. We are having a big bash here at Sydmonton, and all the best people are coming. Patti will be here. Glenn will be here. Betty will be here. Elaine will be here. I'm just going to sit back and watch the fun. We'll be serving chilled shrimp bits on toast, oodles of my favorite onion dip, and a main course of boiled meats. We love our boiled meats, you know. For non-meat eaters we have a vegetable fantasia. Cook has done a brilliant job this year. And of course we shall have the biggest cake, much bigger than Stephen will have. My cake will have writing on it, too. It will say "Happy Birthday, Lord Andrew" and will have candles on it. Oh, how I love birthdays. Especially mine. Well, I've got to trot off. I'm in the midst of completing five new musicals. Five. Do you hear that, Stephen Sondheim? Five. All in the last six months. And next time you have a live chat, let me know, or I shall have to spank you. I would love to have taken part. I'm Java enabled of course.

Love you madly,
Lord Andrew

I am just so astonished that these two giants of the musical theater share the same birthday, aren't you, dear readers?

Well, perhaps I'll just go have one more piece of cake, as I'm not feeling quite uncomfortable enough.

Letters... We Get Letters

Letters and chat... I feel we've gotten very close this week, dear readers. I hope that that you didn't have too much Real A in one fell swoop. We wouldn't want you growing tired of me, now would we? No, we would not. In any case, let us get to the letters, shall we?

Sean writes to say that Follies is also his favorite Sondheim show, and wants to know if I'll be seeing it at the Paper Mill Playhouse with the SSS group. I will be seeing it, but it is hard to say when. When. No, it's not hard to say "when", it's actually quite easy to say "when". Why did I say it was hard to say "when" when all I had to do was open my big trap and say "when"? Haven't I just had way too much sugar, dear readers?

Tiffany tells me that one of her professors is a Real Butt Cheek. Okay, one, two, three... Butt Cheek! She would like to give him the Butt Cheek Award For Best Butt Cheek. Tiffany also tells me that she was shy about asking questions during the Live Chat, so she wrote me some. By the way, Tiffany is not Java enabled either, and she had to sneak in to a computer at school. That is what Java deficient people have to resort to. Anyway, Tiffany would like to know how long it takes me to write this column and do I have any children. I don't write the entire column in one sitting. No, I'm afraid that would cause serious brain damage, and I'm afraid my brain is damaged enough (because I have brained too many people). All told, it usually takes around three hours. As to children, The Real A has had over seventy children (starting in 1901, a good year for children starting). Tiffany is also concerned that on the day of the Live Chat all I'd eaten all day was a donut. Actually, I'd eaten two donuts (a chocolate bar and a chocolate bar). She thinks I should eat all day, small amounts. Unfortunately, The Real A does not have the ability to eat small amounts. So, I tend to not eat until my big meal, so that I can eat as much food as humanly posible and still retain my svelteness. I know this is not the healthiest thing to do, but at my advanced age change is simply not possible.

Evan asks why I'm "incessantly rude" to Ken Mandelbaum. Oh, I'm not really rude to Ken Mandelbaum, I'm just having sport with old Ken. I think Ken's only problem is that he's a bit full of himself, and the endless "back patting" gets tiresome. Other than that, I think Kenny is just fine. I have nothing against him whatsoever. I have, for instance, never wanted to brain him. Which is more than I can say for Mr. Ward Morehouse III.

kokol wonders how many of you dear readers sing the What If parodies out loud. I could answer for you, dear readers, but what if I were wrong? So, you let me know if you go around (Sondheim reference alert!) Singing Out Loud.

der Brucer tells me it's a Tinker's Dam not Tinker's Damn. Well, maybe in der Brucer's book that's true, but in my book it's Tinker's Damn, so named because Grant Tinker, former hubs of Mary Tyler Moore, used to go around saying "damn" all the time. This is a well known fact, and is documented in my book under the chapter "Tinker's Dam or Tinker's Damn - You Decide".

Yves sent me a trivia question: Which composer did dance arrangements for a Sondheim effort and then went on to win multiple Tony awards. Too simple. John Kander. Dance arrangements for Gypsy.

S. Woody White (beloved of der Brucer) wants to know what I thought of the London reworking of Follies. Not much. If it isn't broken, don't fix it, say I. That said, I did like several of the songs that were added. I didn't think they especially worked for the show, but I liked them as songs. But any production of Follies that would cut The Road You Didn't Take cannot possibly know what it wants to be about.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

We had many responses this week - half right, half wrong. The half wrong guessed Follies, and the correct half guessed A Little Night Music.

This week's trivia question: What is the name of Mr. Sondheim's late dog, who sadly lost its life in the fire that consumed Sondheim's apartment.

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



Questions? Comments?

I am now going to attempt to get up from my couch, where I have been sitting like so much fish. Because, dear readers, even I, The Real A, must attempt to have a life. As you know, I am not "Java enabled" and so I must compensate for this. As to the idiot who invented the term "Java enabled", well, I'm just going to have to brain him, the little butt cheek. Okay, one, two, three... Butt Cheek! Have we run "butt cheek" into the ground yet? You know I'm just not happy until I've run something into the ground. Well, as the great Dr. Ludwig von Paragraph said as he was divorcing his first wife, Greta..."I'm sorry dear, but I've fallen in love with someone else, and I'm afraid there's going to be a new Paragraph."

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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