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

March 30, 1998 - #28

The hardest part of writing this fershluganah column is the first sentence. There, I'm glad that's over with. I think I'm going to start each fershluganah column with that sentence, so that I never have to worry about it again. Haven't we hit drivel warp speed quickly, dear readers? There are times when I have absolutely no clue what I will write about. Actually, some feel I never have a clue as to what I'm writing about, but that's another kettle of so much fish. Anyway, most of the time I'm just flying by the seat of my pants. "Flying by the seat of my pants"??? What in hell does that mean??? How does one fly by the seat of their pants, pray tell? In the seat of my pants, for example, reside butt cheeks. Okay, one, two, three...Butt Cheeks! Now, my butt cheeks have done many things, but flying is not one of them. Who made this saying up? Obviously someone who flew by the seat of their pants. I really want to know how to accomplish this. Now! Do you hire Flying by Foy and have them come over and rig the seat of your pants, so that you can then fly? Wouldn't this be awfully expensive just to have a stupid saying make sense? I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. I just seem to be flying by the seat of my pants, waiting for inspiration to take hold. Since that probably won't be happening, I'll continue to fly by the seat of my pants if you don't mind and even if you do there is nothing that anyone can do about it because you cannot stop someone who is flying by the seat of their pants in mid-air because they could fall and bruise themselves and damage something important and I don't seem to be able to end this sentence which just goes on and on without point and will soon be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest pointless sentence ever written.

Whew. This fershluganah column can only go up from there, don't you think? Last night I saw a new musical revue entitled Naked Boys Singing. This show contained actual naked boys who were indeed singing. Now, what was the point of this show, you might ask, and, after seeing it, I certainly have no answer for you. It contains some okay original songs, nothing great, and some nice performances. The problem when you have naked boys singing is one of concentrating on the singing and the songs when there are a bunch of zubricks hanging there like so much fish. Whether one is male or female (audience- wise) it is very distracting, these zubricks are. You're all sitting there, shaking your collective heads, aren't you? You're sitting there thinking "What the hell is a zubrick?", aren't you? Well, dear readers, a zubrick is a synonym for the male appendage. Not the female appendage, mind you. I like it ever so much better than those other words for the male appendage. Zubrick just has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? A zubrick ring. Frankly, I just don't feel that nudity is so wonderful on the stage. It's a little too immediate. And this was in a sixty seat theater, which is really immediate! This is just too close for comfort, zubrick-wise. But I, for one, also thought the nudity in Passion was off-putting. I was in the second row, and let me tell you how strange it was trying to concentrate on my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim's beautiful song "Happiness" while Marin Mazzie's boobs were bobbing around. Not to mention her yoni. Yes, her yoni was in full view, at least in previews. I think they cut some of the yoni exposure by the time the show opened. You're all sitting there, shaking those collective heads again, aren't you? Well, like zubrick, yoni is a synonym - for female genitalia. These two synonyms for genitalia are my favorites. Zubrick and Yoni. Sounds like two aliens from another planet, doesn't it? The planet Genitalia. Well, we thought this fershluganah column couldn't sink any lower, but we were wrong, weren't we, dear readers? But in sinking to new depths, at least we got in the name Sondheim, didn't we? Because this fershluganah column is located on the Stephen Sondheim Stage website, isn't it? Now, how the hell did we get on the subject of synonyms for genitalia? Oh, yes, Naked Boys Singing. Well, in any case, it was mercifully short (the show! Keep your collective minds out of the gutter). There are many other synonyms for genitalia, by the way (you didn't honestly think I could stop, did you?). Sometimes it's fun to match up male and female synonyms for genitalia. Like: For the hopeless going nowhere romance - wiener in a dead end street. I could go on, but I feel we are very close to crossing the line here. The last time we crossed over the line was our coprophilia jokes. Well, we can't stop there, can we? This column is all about crossing the line! You people send me your very own favorite synonyms for genitalia. Have fun matching them up in creative ways, too. Here's another example: If you're Chinese and homosexual: Whang and Schlong seem to go together, don't they? Put on your thinking caps, dear readers. I feel this is right up your collective alleys (a synonym for genitalia, by the way).

Now, I know you're all sitting there, shaking your collective heads, thinking "Has The Real A's front porch light gone out?" "Yes" would be the obvious answer.

You know what I did? I had Mr. Mark Bakalor send me a printout of my first 25 columns. I am having them beautifully bound (like a book). Would you like to know how many pages my first 25 columns took up? Two hundred and fifty! That is a lot of drivel, let me tell you. That is two pounds of this fershluganah column. Well, I think it's time we move on to other things, don't you? Because, frankly, the column thus far is like a show by John Michael La Chiusa: Obtuse and just a little out there. But enough about me.

Evening Primrose

I notice there is often discussion here at the SSS about this little television musical by someone named Stephen Sondheim. I had occasion to watch it the other night and here are my thoughts.

It's brilliant. Plain and simple. First off, it's based on a short story by the great John Collier. In my book (not the bound book of columns - my other book - the one that's longer than Gone With The Wind), it's one of the best short stories ever written. It's a little gem, a perfect, economical, poetic and ultimately touching story. James Goldman did the adaptation and Sondheim wrote the score, and it aired on ABC Stage '67. Since its initial airing it has never been repeated, a great loss, in my book (Chapter 18 - A Great Loss). However, they have a black and white copy at the Museum of Broadcasting in New York and LA, and, if you've never seen it, you need to make an appointment and take a look.

Most of you know the plot, but here is a bare bones synopsis: It's about Charles, a poet, who joins a secret society that lives in a department store. While pursuing his muse he meets and falls in love with a girl named Ella. After the two of them decide they want a life in the outside world they try to escape before "The Dark Men" come, take them away, and turn them into mannequins. The cast is wonderful, with Anthony Perkins swell as the poet Charles, and Charmian Carr (Liesl in the film of The Sound of Music) charming (albeit not a great singer) as Ella. The score that Sondheim concocted is a delight. He took inspiration from Collier, and his lyrics contain bits of Collierisms from the book. The opening number, "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here", is a terrific scene setter, with Perkins making his way around the empty (but not empty) department store. But it's Charmian Carr who gets the Sondheim masterpiece, I Remember, which is, to put it succinctly, one of the most beautiful and touching character songs ever written. Period. The lyrics are pure poetry, and some of the most evocative Sondheim has created. The character of Ella has been living as part of the secret society that makes its home in the department store. She'd fallen asleep there as a youngster, and was taken in by the society and made to be a servant to the crotchety old lady who serves as their leader. She has vivid memories of things she remembers from the outside world, which are all correlated to things she knows from her world in the department store.

I remember sky,
It was blue as ink.
Or at least I think
I remember sky.

I remember snow,
Soft as feathers, sharp as thumbtacks,
Coming down like lint.
And it made you squint
When the wind would blow.

And ice like vinyl on the streets,
Cold as silver, white as sheets,
Rain like strings and changing things
Like leaves.

I remember leaves,
Green as spearmint, crisp as paper...
I remember trees,
Bare as coat racks, spread like broken umbrellas

And parks and bridges, ponds and zoos,
Ruddy faces, muddy shoes,
Light and noise and bees and boys
And days...

I remember days,
Or at least I try...
But as years go by
They're a sort of haze...
And the bluest ink
Isn't really sky.
But at times I think
I would gladly die
For a day of sky.

I mean, what is better than that? And that old poop Gottfried thinks that lyric doesn't work! Which, of course, makes Gottfried a butt cheek. Okay, one, two, three...Butt cheek! The score also contains the delectable Ella, and the gorgeous Take Me To The World. The show was shot on location at a department store in New York, which gives it a perfect weird feel. It's a shame that it can't be done on stage as a one-act, as it would work really well. But Sondheim and Goldman's rights only included television. There have been many original musicals written for television, but I can't think of a one that achieved the perfection of Evening Primrose. If you can't manage to see the video, you ought to read the Collier story, then listen to the score. You'll get the idea.

You know, I had no idea I was going to write about Evening Primrose. I am really flying by the seat of my pants here, don't you think? So, we've gone from zubricks and yonis to a wonderful Sondheim musical. Works for me.

My Favorite Things

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. That is the sound I make after doing one of my favorite things, which is taking a nice steaming hot shower just before bedtime. There is nothing more relaxing than that, and the fact is I am sitting on my couch like so much fish, and I am so relaxed I can barely type. I am at one with my couch. The couch and I have melded. Ooh, doesn't "melded" sound like a Jerry Lewis word? Can't you just hear Jerry saying "melded"? Okay, everybody say "melded" just like Jerry... One, two, three...Melded. Perfect. You all sounded exactly like Jerry, especially der Brucer. I have totally lost my place in this fershluganah column. Oh, yes, my favorite things.

This week I'm going to talk about one of my favorite motion picture comedies. This motion picture has a connection to something currently playing in New York, and also Mr. Stephen Sondheim. (have you heard of him?). Also, to things musical. This movie was a childhood favorite of mine and I adore it to this day. Now, wouldn't it be mean if I didn't tell you what it was? I could just sit here (like so much fish), melded with my couch and just keep you in suspense. But I'm not going to do that because that would make me a zubrick. The motion picture is The Court Jester, and it is a classic. It stars Danny Kaye in his finest screen role and it co-starred the brilliant Basil Rathbone as the evil Ravenhurst, Mildred Natwick as the maid Griselda who has special powers of hypnosis, and a host of great character actors. It also stars not one but two actresses who would go on to appear in Stephen Sondheim shows. That's right, you heard it here. The leading lady is Glynis Johns (absolutely endearing) and a very young and astonishingly beautiful Angela Lansbury as Princess Gwendolyn. The film is a musical of sorts, with several clever songs by Sylvia Fine (Mrs. Kaye) and Sammy Cahn. It's a spoof of swashbucklers and is just as sumptuously produced as The Adventures of Robin Hood. The writer/directors are Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, the same team responsible for the Broadway musical (and current Encores! revival) Li'l Abner.

The film is legendary for its hilarious dialogue, and the comedy in this film was a huge influence on me. The most famous lines in the film occur in a scene where Kaye, a bumbling fool who is impersonating the dashing Fox impersonating a court jester, is going to have to duel with a dastardly deadly knight. But Mildred Natwick has put poison in the goblet that the knight will drink a toast from, just prior to the duel. She tells Kaye (feel free to join in if you know it): "When he drinks the toast, he dies. Just remember this - The chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison, but the flagon with the dragon has the brew that is true". Well, Kaye of course, tries his damnedest to remember it, but keeps getting it wrong, keeps mixing it up. Finally, he gets it in his head just right. Unfortunately, Mildred has some bad news for him. She tells him: "There's been a change". He looks dumbstruck. "A change?" "Yes, they broke the flagon with the dragon.". "They broke the flagon with the dragon?" "Yes." "Where's the pellet with the poison?" "In the vessel with the pestle. The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true". Well, Danny goes nuts trying to remember where the pellet with the poison is, and it's one of the funniest scenes ever put on film. Just to recap: The vessel with the pestle has the pellet with the poison, but the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true. The other famous bit of dialogue which is repeated endlessly throughout the film (just my style) is: "Get it? Got it. Good". And the sword fighting scene with a hypnotized Danny fighting the evil Rathbone is brilliantly choreographed. Danny's been hypnotized by Griselda so that when she snaps her fingers he will be the "greatest with the blade". Unfortunately, every time anyone snaps their fingers he comes out of the trance and is his usual inept self. In and out he goes, and you just have to see it to know how truly inspired the clowning of Danny Kaye is.

The songs of Fine and Cahn are wonderful, with memorable tunes and clever lyrics. There are several trademark Kaye patter songs, and one absolutely beautiful ballad, a lullaby sung to the rightful heir to the throne, a baby (with a Purple Pimpernel on his butt cheek), called I'll Take You Dreaming. Lansbury has never been more winning or more beautiful than in this film. She is a comic delight. And Glynis Johns as the no-nonsense heroine is delightful. So, you must run to the video store and rent (or even buy - it's only fifteen bucks) the tape. You won't be sorry.


Are you thinking of your synonyms for genitalia? I certainly hope so. In the meantime, I just got this e-mail which I thought I'd share with you...

Date: Sun, March 29, 1998 12:16:24
To: The Real A (
From: Carol Channing (

Oh, You Darling Real A:

I just love your column, I do, I really do. It's so strange, just like me. But here's something I've been dying to ask you, Mr. or Ms. A: Why doesn't Stephen write me a show? Don't you think I'd be wonderful in a Sondheim show? Of course, he'd have to write me some melodies I can sing, like my wonderful Jerry Herman does. I simply would not be able to sing those songs from Passion, would I? I wouldn't know how to find the notes. I really wouldn't. I know there are notes in there, but who would want to sing them? They're peculiar. They are. I'd like to play Clara though. I'd do the nude scene, too, I would, I really would. That would fill the theater! Oh, by the way, my favorite synonyms for genitalia are johnson and happy valley. Don't you just love those? I do, I really do. I mean it. Why you would ever call the male appendage a johnson, I don't know. It's odd. Why not a jerry or a robert or a desmond? I don't get it, I really don't, but I like it, I really do, I like that it's called a johnson. I don't understand it, but I like it. Well, I could go on like this for hours, but it's time for my husband, Charles Lowe, to give me a standing ovation. He does this every night whether I'm doing Hello, Dolly! or not. You keep up the good work, you hear?

A big kiss,

It's amazing, the people who write, isn't it? This fershluganah column must be getting popular with the populace. Well, I feel we need to say the word "melded" just one more time. One, two, three... melded.

The Capeman has closed. I will be looking forward to the cast album, though, as I really liked a lot of the music. Dreadful lyrics, although divorced from the show I'm sure they'll play better.

One hears that Quentin Tarantino is a major embarrassment in the revival of Wait Until Dark. This is a surprise? Rent the movie, it's great. Alan Arkin is terrific as the villain, Hepburn is ravishing as the heroine (originally played by Lee Remick on Broadway) and the film's big scare will still send you a mile out of your chair.

Do any of you out there crack your toes? I'm just wondering if I'm the only one who thinks that is a really pleasurable thing. Probably I am the only one who thinks that. Probably you are all out there shaking your collective heads trying to figure out where the subject of toe cracking came from. Well, I just cracked my toes, that's where it came from. Toe cracking is especially nice after a long hot shower. The toes are ready to be cracked, they're longing to be cracked. However, cracking your toes in front of others is not a good idea, as the sound will usually send unsuspecting folks scurrying from the room in abject horror.

The What If Dept.

My goodness, this fershluganah column just doesn't end! So, what if everyone's close personal friend Stephen Sondheim had written A Chorus Line? And it goes something like this (to the tune of Everybody's Got The Right To Be Happy):

Everybody's got the right to audition,
Do your best
Cause all the rest
Is a whim.
Will he choose me, will he pass?
Will he like my tits and ass?
Is it back to dancing class? Up to him.

Everybody's got the right to a tryout,
Step, kick, kick
Well, that's a trick
I can do.
If I bare my soul today,
Will you cast me in this play?
Will I go or will I stay? Up to you.


Hey, Cassie,
Mess up your career, babe?
Is that why you're here, babe?
Back here on the line?
Hey, Cassie,
Still you're lookin' fine
Go on and learn the tap routine...



SHEILA (to herself)

Hey, Sheila,
Coming off too bold, dear?
Feel a little old, dear?
Letting down your hair...
Hey, Sheila,
Is he gonna care?
I'm gonna take a valium now...


Everybody's got the right to audition,
As we start
Who'll get the part
Well, we'll see...
Keep it up you're doin' fine,
How I hope this job is mine,
Please God send me down a sign...
Is it me?
Which one from this Chorus Line?
Is it me?

Letters... We Get Letters

Tiffany writes to say that her fershluganah finals are over! She also wants to know just who Mr. Mark Bakalor is. Apparently she clicked on his name and saw a bunch of pictures and also some stuff about website design. Is he involved in the theater? How come he looks so young? Well, The Real A has answers to all your queries. But before I get to them, I just have one word to say: Melding. Mr. Mark Bakalor is the site host (or "parasite") here at the Stephen Sondheim Stage. As we all learned from the Live Chat, Mr. Mark Bakalor was formerly a woman, but those days are over and now he is a man. He is involved in theater as an actor and now as a director at the college he attends. He has also appeared on the television. Mr. Bakalor looks young, but looks can be deceiving. But not in the case of Mr. Bakalor who is young. He is a happy-go-lucky sort, and he loves the work of Stephen Sondheim which is why this site is not called the Herman Shmelling Site. Mr. Bakalor is also a website designer, and designed this here site. What am I, his publicist? This is way too much information about Mr. Mark Bakalor. You may e-mail Mr. Bakalor and he will tell you volumes about himself and his former life as Ms. Mabel Bakalor.

Anita enjoyed the Live Chat and has suggested to the above Mr. Bakalor that we do it once a week. This, of course, is simply not possible, as I am not Java enabled and can't always depend upon the kindness of strangers who are. But we will do another Live Chat soon, and I do hope all you dear readers will be there for it. We will keep you posted.

Lindsay wanted everyone to know that she too sings the What Ifs aloud. I would like all the people who sing the What Ifs aloud to make cassettes of themselves singing the What Ifs aloud and send them to Mr. Mark Bakalor who will then forward them to me through a special process known as the mail.

Spock wrote to ask some question about the misuse of some grammar in the Sondheim e-mail of last week. He doubted the master would use such grammar. Thank you for pointing this out, Spock, and I will forward your comment to my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Thank you for writing and live long and prosper.

Erzulie tells me that he/she wrote a letter to the NY Times about the Webber/Les Miz error and that they didn't print it! Do you know why they didn't print it? Because they are butt cheeks! Okay, one, two, three... Butt Cheeks! Excellent. Erzulie was also sorry to have missed the Live Chat, but will hopefully be Java enabled by the next one.

Josh writes to say that he usually skims through the column reading bits and pieces, but that he really enjoyed my Follies memories. Thank you, Josh. But you must never skim through this fershluganah column again. You must read every morsel, every nugget, you must skip nothing. Skimming is simply not done, you know. Now you're going to have to go back and read all two hundred and fifty pages over again.

Leigh (I'm his father, you know) wonders the following: If John Kander did the dance arrangements for Gypsy, how come he hasn't done them for his own shows? For the same reason Jule Styne didn't do his own for Gypsy. It's a separate job, and is always done by a separate arranger, working with the composer and choreographer. The composer wouldn't have the time to sit there and do the dance arrangements on a new musical. Too much else to do.

Jon (C. not B.) tells me that the Prussian War took place in the late 1800s and that if I indeed was born back then, then I would be a bit old. A bit old? That's what I'm trying to tell you. That's why I'm sitting here like so much fish, eating a cheese slice. This is what you do if you were born in the late 1800s.

Fred didn't know about the fire that destroyed Stephen Sondheim's home. The fire was apparently caused by a faulty lamp wire. Luckily, Sondheim's important papers and music scores were in a fire-proof vault. Not so luckily he lost his dog, his irreplacable collection of antique games, and much memorabilia. The house has been rebuilt and Mr. Sondheim is once again residing in it (he also has a house in Connecticut).

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Boy, you all know your Sondheim dog trivia, that's for sure. The name of Sondheim's late poodle was Max. Max was very cute, and he once tried to hump my leg.

This week's trivia question:

In the 50s, Sondheim wrote liner notes for an album of music by a well-known composer. Name the composer, the album, and the label.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, that's finally it for this week's fershluganah column. Remember your assignment for next week, synonyms for genitalia. Let us not be crass, however. Clever ones, cleverly matched, that's what we want. I know you can do it. We're all (synonym alert) members of the same (synonym alert) club. So, whip out your Roget's Thesaurus and go to work. And just who the hell did Roget think he was taking a possessive credit on a Thesaurus? What ego! What gall! I mean, the amazing thing is that basically Roget was a one-man thesaurus show. Why am I talking about Roget? Who gives a Flying Wallenda about Roget? I have only one word to say about Roget: Melded. Okay, one, two, three... melded.

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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