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

June 22, 1998 - #40

Once again, dear readers, I am writing this column earlier than I normally would, because once again I am going off to New York. Can you believe it? So, I am frenzied, oh, yes, I am frenzied. And harried. And a lot of other "ieds". Now, I just finished writing last week's column, hence I have absolutely nothing to write about at this time. Except lunch. I can write about lunch. Today I had a chicken wrap. Have you ever had a chicken wrap, dear readers? They are heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) and yet tasty. I can't adequately describe said wrap, other than to say it's a lot of stuff wrapped up inside what looks to me like pita bread. Stuff like chicken (hence the name "chicken" wrap, lettuce, cheese, avocado, and other things which I could not readily identify). So, you get this chicken wrap, and you peel off the paper and eat it. But I made the terrible mistake of not realizing that you are not supposed to peel the paper all the way off, because what happens when you peel the paper all the way off is that the entire contents of the chicken wrap come tumbling out of the bottom of the formerly wrapped chicken wrap. So all of a sudden you have chicken droppings instead of a tidily wrapped chicken wrap. You have a lap full of ingredients. I, for one, do not like luncheon ingredients on my lap. I find it vaguely discomforting to find foodbits on my lap. People look at you askance when you have a wrap in your lap. And then what are you supposed to do? Gracefully eat the wrap that's on your lap? Stand up and let said ingredients topple to the floor? What a dilemma, dear readers. But never fear, I'm sure I lived up to your expectations of me when I looked down at all that guck in my lap and said, what is it, fish? When I finally managed to get most of the ingredients on to a plate it was quite tasty. And, since you're all wondering, yes, I had a napkin in said lap and was so saved the embarrassment of having residue of wrap on my clothing.

Wasn't that an exciting way to start off the column, dear readers? Reading all about my lunch? And frankly, I don't think it's going to get better. I feel that I am marking time here. Have you ever marked time? What did you use to mark it? I'm using a pencil. This marking of time is actually quite boring, isn't it? I know there must be something I can write about, but I simply can't think of what it is. Isn't that terrible? Nothing is coming to me. Perhaps we can pass the time (after we finish marking it) by playing Tic Tac Toe.

         x   x

I win. That was fun. Well, we've marked the time, we've passed the time, what say we just kill the damn time, because frankly I'm getting just a little fed up with time, aren't you? Time is just standing still (no mean feat) and I think it's time to do something about it. I've got time on my hands which is similar but not exactly like having a wrap in your lap.

I tell you, dear readers, I have nothing to say. I have taken the time (after marking, passing and killing it) to try, but nothing is happening. Oh, I'm typing words, can there be any doubt about that? Perhaps if I have a bag of pretzels, that will inspire me. I'll be right back.

Well, I've eaten a bag of pretzels and guess what? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Squat. I am in deep trouble here and no one is bailing me out. I am at sea. I am adrift. I think the best thing I can do at this time (I think that "time" is the theme of this week's column, don't you?) is to try writing the rest of this column when the time is right. Do you think when the time is right that time will gloat and say "I told you so"? I hate that. Well, let's just say that this part of the column should heed the example of 1776: When it's time to close, it's time to close. But enough about me.

The Impossible Dream

Last night I had the weirdest dream I've had in ages, and I thought I'd share it with you, dear readers, because I know you'd expect nothing less of me. Let's remember that I had this dream after my meal of chicken wrap and late snack of pretzels.

This is what I can remember of my dream. It took place in a movie theater. Several people, myself included, were watching a movie (a good thing to do while in a movie theater). Then, the person I was sitting next to did something strange. He leaned down and opened a manhole cover in the floor (why there was a manhole cover in the floor is anybody's guess) and he went on down through this manhole. My curiosity naturally piqued, I followed suit. As I went through the manhole cover, this is what I found: A second movie theater that was underneath the movie theater I was in. This second movie theater was underwater. I floated to my seat and began to watch the movie. Then suddenly I was in the movie. This was a horror film, and there were various monsters, the most horrifying of which was a seemingly normal person whose face came off to reveal a hideous bloody skeleton underneath. Then there was a mutant baby crawling around doing mayhem in its Pampers. I tried to get out of the movie and finally I did and found myself back in the seat of the underwater theater number two. I tried to go up through the manhole cover to theater number one, but I could not find the stinking manhole cover! That manhole cover had ceased to exist. So, there I was in the underwater movie theater. I then "woke up" (in the dream, not in reality) and I was back in movie theater number one. I noticed a gentleman seated a few rows in front of me, and as the house lights came up I saw that said gentleman was Federico Fellini (appropriate I suppose, since the dream thus far had been so Felliniesque). I went up to him and said "Maestro, what does this all mean?" and he shrugged his shoulders and said "It's Cinema". Then I woke up for real.

What on earth does this dream mean??? I am usually pretty good at figuring out what in my day could have led to the dreams I have. But I am baffled by this. I hadn't thought about Fellini, I hadn't gone swimming, I hadn't seen a picture of a manhole and I hadn't been near a movie theater. So, the theater could obviously have represented the "theater" of life. As to the second underwater theater, I haven't the foggiest. Do I feel submerged in my life? I understand the hideous bleeding skull monster because there are several people I feel that have a "normal" face on who are hiding bad things behind their faces. As to the mutant baby in Pampers, I'm frankly at a loss. I guess the only plausible explanation for all of it is: It's Cinema. I'd be happy to hear your theories on What This Dream Meant.

Sondheim: A Life

Well, I have finished this epic book by Miss Meryle Secrest and my feelings have not changed since my last report. Very dry, no style, but some interesting nuggets to be gleaned. But it just seems to never be enough. I wanted more about the shows, more about the personal life. The only thing I did not want more of was Peter Jones, Mr. Sondheim's boyfriend/lover/wife/who-knows-what. I'd read that this character came off well in the book, but I think he comes off as an immature oaf. The implication is, at the first signs of discord, off he goes and in moments is already engaged in other relationships. I realize that this may just seem like what happened because of the way in which it's written, but I got weary of this guy pretty quick. I do believe that since the book was put to bed that Mr. Jones and Mr. Sondheim are no longer together. And things that should have been revelations to most, won't be to readers of this here column, like Mr. S's relationship with Mary Rodgers. You read about it here first. Oops, I'm starting to sound like Ken Mandelbaum. Miss Secrest also gets some things wrong because she took quotes from Mr. Sondheim without checking them. When Mr. Sondheim says that when he was living in Los Angeles writing Topper, that he and his friends used to attend Sneak Previews at the "Westwood" Theater, those of us who are natives of said Los Angeles know that he is really talking about the Village Theater in Westwood. There was no Westwood Theater until Mann's Westwood Triplex in the mid-Seventies. So there. And we hear nothing about Mr. Sondheim's legendary dungeon. I'm sorry, but this particular room in his East Side manse was notorious and I feel we should have been given some prime dirt. But, there really is no dirt in this book, because Miss Secrest is obviously fond of Mr. Sondheim, and Mr. Sondheim is alive and she'd have to deal with his wrath (she does give us some nice bits about his wrath). Still and all, it's not an unpleasant read, and I do recommend it.

The Real A: A Life

Miss Meryle Secrest is really outdoing herself in this brilliant biography of me. Oh, what nuggets we are getting. Some of this book has astonishing parallels to Mr. Sondheim's book, like the fact that both Mr. Sondheim and I used to attend Sneak Previews at the Village Theater in Westwood! Other interesting things that are coming to light: When I was four years old I was taken to the hospital with tonsillitis. As was the practice in those days, they gave me ether and removed said tonsils. But here's the thing... I remember vividly to this day what I dreamt while I was under the ether. I dreamt they were taking out my tonsils! With a clothes iron (yes, the kind you iron clothes with). They stuck that iron down my throat and my tonsils stuck to it and they pulled them out. If this dream doesn't explain so much, then I don't know what. Another shocking revelation is that I once was arrested for attempting to steal seventeen record albums from a grocery store. Not just one, mind you, not two, but seventeen! I had an overcoat on (it was eighty degrees out) and just put said albums under the coat. Why did I do this? Someone dared me to. Luckily, soon thereafter I received a brain transplant and then I never did anything like that again. I was very young, by the way. I think you can see that Miss Meryle Secrest is leaving no stone unturned. She is delving into the deepest crevices of my life. I will pass on some more astonishing details in next week's column. And believe me, I have put no restrictions on Miss Secrest and if she feels the need to bring up dungeons well, she just can go right ahead and bring them up.

My Favorite Things

Since Miss Meryle Secrest has mentioned both my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim's and my very own predilection for attending Sneak Previews at the Village Theater in Westwood, I thought I'd ruminate on that wonderful thing that used to be known as the Sneak Preview.

Let's put it simply: I lived for Sneak Previews. When my father would get home, I would immediately snatch the movie section of the newspaper away from him and see if there were any Sneak Previews anywhere. In those days, when you went to a Sneak Preview it was a Sneak Preview. Not like today when everyone and their mother knows what film is being shown. No, in those days it was a surprise. The most information you would ever get was whether it was going to be a comedy or drama, and maybe who one of the stars were. But more often than not, you'd show up at the theater and you got what you got. I don't remember when I started my love affair with Sneak Previews, but I do know it lasted into the early Seventies, which is when the Sneak Preview changed and became something wholly other.

I used to go to Sneak Previews whenever and wherever I could. The first one I ever remember seeing was at the beloved Village Theater in Westwood. It was The Tender Trap, an innocuous comedy in Cinemascope and Stereophonic Sound. But I vividly remember the curtain opening, and seeing Frank Sinatra stroll toward the camera singing The Tender Trap ("You see a pair of laughing eyes"). And I was hooked. Other faves at the Village were Blake Edwards' horribly dated but then hilarious High Time, with Bing Crosby and the divine Tuesday Weld (not to mention Richard Beymer, he of West Side Story), Edwards' Experiment In Terror (with a wheezing Ross Martin as the villain, and the wonderful Lee Remick - she of Anyone Can Whistle), and so many others. At the Village you could be sure that some of the stars of the film would be in attendance, too. I remember seeing a preview of that cinematic horror The Sandpiper with Liz and Dick at the Stanley Warner Beverly Hills, and while Liz and Dick were not there, Julie Andrews and then hubs Tony Walton were. And after that notorious preview they reshot half the film. The first sci-fi sneak preview I saw (it was also the first sci-fi film I ever saw) was Target Earth at the Baldwin Theater. I remember being so frightened when the film's ridiculous tin robot showed up that I ran from the theater and in so doing lost a thong I was wearing. By the way, in those days thongs were shoes, not underwear. Let me just pause and speak of my disgust for thong panties. Heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). Give me a pantyline any day. And like you can't tell when someone is wearing a thong? Like those don't have big ugly lines all their own. Why in hell am I talking about thongs??? Oh, yeah, I lost mine at the Baldwin Theater.

Anyway, other great Sneak Previews I saw were Bonnie and Clyde, Seconds, Bachelor Flat, The Miracle Worker, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tammy and The Bachelor and many Jerry Lewis pictures. I remember at the Bonnie and Clyde sneak, when Warren Beatty's name came on the screen, everyone booed and several people left. Warren (he of Dick Tracy and Reds - you're sensing the Sondheim connection, aren't you?) had just been in a series of stinko films and was generally not liked. At the end of Bonnie and Clyde no one in that audience could move. We were all in shock from the power of the film (remember, we had no idea what film we were going to see) and we all now knew that Warren was indeed not only a terrific actor but a terrific producer, too. That was the joy of the Sneak Preview. The sense of discovery. Even the vilest turkey would have interesting things in it. Take What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, possibly one of the five worst movies ever made, starring Mary Tyler Moore and George Peppard (that's comedy!). Even that Universal pooper had the title song, sung and danced on a rooftop by a bunch of hippies as I recall. And who choreographed said song and dance? Michael Bennett, that's who (he of Company and Follies!) And who was a second banana in the film? John McMartin, that's who (the original Ben Stone of Follies).

I wish I could run out right now and see a real Sneak Preview. Don't you? I still have a souvenir I received at a Sneak Preview. Coming out of Tammy and The Bachelor at the beloved Wiltern Theater, why, there was Tammy herself, Miss Debbie Reynolds, and she was throwing copies of the 45 rpm single of the title song. I managed to catch one, and as I did, Debbie winked at me. It was one of the high moments of my young life, let me tell you.


Today I shall talk about karma. Because today someone did something so heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) to me, that... Oh, I wish I could give you details, dear readers, you know I do, because I don't like to withhold anything from you. All I can say is that said person (and company said person works for) will rue the day they ever did dirt to The Real A. This just isn't acceptable. But you know what? Do I get upset? Do I scream and yell? No. I just sit back, safe in the knowledge that karma will rear its ugly and righteous head and take care of these butt cheeks. I think we all need to raise our voice here in a hearty chorus... One, two, three...butt cheeks! There. Now I feel better. I know you commiserate with me, dear readers. I feel your commiseration. I commiserate with your commiseration. I mean it, I'm not merely biding my time by saying that I commiserate. Nor killing time, passing time, or any other inane time saying. Our joint commiseration will be rewarded by said karma. It's only a matter of time and time will tell.

Oh, look, I just got some e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?

Date: Sat, June 20, 1998 18:19:20
To: The Real A (
From: Dr. Ruth (

My Dear Real A:

What an interesting dream you had. I feel it is very sexual in nature and that you have missed the point entirely. It is all so obvious. In the dream you go through a manhole into an underwater movie theater, in which there are seats. You become part of a movie in which there is a normal face which is peeled away to reveal a bloody skeleton underneath! There is a mutant baby in Pampers! Can you not see the meaning in this? It is so blatantly sexual. And Fellini's answer to your question, when he says "It's Cinema", can you not see that that is a combination of "Sin" and "Enema"? Water, blood, sin, mutant babies in Pampers. I feel you need some help, my dear A. You are obviously poised on the precipice of an abyss. I feel you are confused. These sexual images must be dealt with or you will end up a bitter frustrated whatever it is you are. And that other dream in which your tonsils are removed by a clothing iron! What are we to make of this? It is so blatantly sexual. The hot iron removing the tonsils! Can you not see the meaning in this? I know you were only four when you had this dream, but it was clearly the beginning of your psychosexual confusions. Please call me at once to discuss an appointment. I almost wrote you last week when I read that shocking thing about the knife through the galoshes. It was so blatantly sexual. And then after this week's revelations I could wait no more.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Ruth
Dr. of Blatantly Sexual Problems

Wow. I just didn't get that from my dream at all. I am so blind sometimes. These dreams are obviously blatantly sexual and I just could not see it. Thanks, Dr. Ruth, and I'll be calling soon.

Letters... We Get Letters

First off, several of you amazing people got the "who was the carpenter" question correct: It was Harrison Ford. I know this first hand because Mr. Ford and I used to know many of the same people and I clearly remember him building cabinets and bookcases for folks. Anyway, I must hurry to finish this here column before I scurry to the airport. I'll answer the letters that arrive too late in next week's column, never fear, dear readers.

Elizabeth wants to know if the bird outside ever sings songs from Fiddler On The Roof. It's so funny that she mentions this because at this very moment that bird is out there singing If I Were A Rich Man with the best Yiddish accent you've ever heard. You'd swear this bird was Jewish but the fact is just prior to this it was singing How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria, so we know at the very least that the bird can play a Catholic Nun as well as a Jewish Tevye.

Yves asks if I will be at the Judy Garland tribute, hosted by Lorna Luft. Unfortunately, I won't, although I'd love to be there, since I used to pal around with Lorna when we were both much younger (teenagers - way the hell back when).

Carlton agrees with me about Miss Meryle Secrest's biography of Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Hence, I agree with Carlton.

Matt writes to tell me that he has heard the new cast album for 1776 and prefers it to the Original Broadway Cast Album. While I would love to agree with Matt on this issue, I cannot. I adore the original album of 1776 and do not adore the new one. This is what we call a difference of opinion, in which there is no right or wrong, although I feel I am right, and Matt will feel that I am wrong, hence, I am both right and wrong at the very same time (no mean feat). Matt also wants to know if I've seen Rent. I am ashamed to say that I haven't, but will someday soon.

Evan is currently directing the rock musical Tommy and wants to know how I feel about rock musicals. Well, I suppose I would have to say they are not my faves. I guess one could consider Godspell a rock musical and I liked that. Tommy was okay, but way too loud for my sensitive ears. I never cared for Hair, either, although some of the music is fun.

Lindsay wrote to tell me she's finally finished with high school and has been accepted to college and she's very happy. I was finished with high school the day I arrived, and yet I still had to stay there for three years. I know, dear readers, that you commiserate with me.

Spock (yes, Spock) continues to write vaguely annoying little missives, and I continue to answer them which I think is like beating a dead horse. I have written extensively on the subject of beating a dead horse and frankly it would be beating a dead horse to repeat my musings or to answer any more of Spock's vaguely annoying little missives. If Spock would like to have fun here, then he is welcome to join in the festivities. If he is here to solely pick the nits, I'm afraid the picnit is over.

William F. Orr tells me that if the bird was singing Summertime the fish would have been jumping, not sitting. I totally concur while sitting on my sofa like so much fish with a cheese slice and a Diet Coke in hand. Well, not in hand literally, as it would be much too difficult to type with a cheese slice and a Diet Coke in hand.

Nikki is taking 5, count 'em 5, classes this summer! And she just got a job! I guess Nikki is not going to be worrying about tan lines this summer. She recommends Echinacea for my illness. However, I'm happy to report that said illness is finally over and I'm feeling fit as a fiddle, whatever the hell that means.

Leigh would like to know if I think the song Happiness can be performed out of context in a cabaret setting. I think, basically, any song can be performed in any setting, if it's set up properly. Although, would Cabaret work in a Happiness setting? Leigh (my possible son) has completed his first term at Bristol University and his music class tutor thinks Leigh is on the road to become a fine composer. That is good news indeed, and Miss Meryle Secrest is poised and ready to write his bio.

sparkleneelysparkle (the winner of the longest dear reader name - welcome sparkle) wanted to commiserate with Tiffany, first on having to listen to that bad Charles Mingus jazz cd, and second on the ongoing saga of As The Nate Turns. sparkle feels that Tiffany should give the new Follies in Jazz cd a whirl, as she might like that better than the Mingus, and sparkle feels that Tiffany should forget that boy Nate.

kokol tells me that she's still in love with a boy named Tom, but is sad because said Tom is now two thousand miles away for the entire summer. And then kokol is going away to college. This is a difficult situation. Be prepared for the large phone bills. They'll be worth it, because you must keep in contact often. I am a firm believer that absence does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder, so you two keep the lines of communication open. Long distance romance is hard, but not impossible. But you must talk. Wow, I feel like Dear Abby. Perhaps I am Dear Abby.

mrsmig sends me a big Awwwwwwwww, which worked as I now feel practically all better. mrsmig also said No More NyQuil as it sometimes causes multicolored phlegm and apparently this is not a good thing.

Valmont is also a big fan of Dorothy Parker. While Valmont likes the OBC of Follies, he feels that because of the cuts that the best first exposure to the score is the Follies In Concert cd. I suppose there is logic there, but frankly, despite its completeness, I just don't like the Follies In Concert cd. I think it sounds brittle and unpleasant, and there are just too many performances that don't do the material justice. That is why, despite the problems, I always go back to the OBC and its definitive performances. Valmont also wants to know if I've seen the script for The Last of Sheila, which he's heard had much more material than the finished film. Sorry to say I haven't.

Abigail has also been sick and so I send her a big Awwwwwwww and wish her a speedy recovery.

Alina informed me that one of the people on the Tony Awards voting committee is 1952 Olympic Men's Figure Skating Champion Dick Button. This is frightening in ways that I don't yet comprehend.

Dan has gone back and found out that in Column 22 I stated that I have never taken a drug, and armed with this information feels that that comment rules out the possibility of my being Stephen Sondheim, Young Simba and Leigh's father. I don't know what to say, and so, I will say nothing.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

And yet more people came out of the woodwork (no mean feat) for last week's question: Which single Sondheim show would you watch over and over again. Here are the answers, which I for one found very interesting.

  • Fran, Carlton, Evan, Stephen (not Sondheim), cocalora, Ethan, mrsmig, Abigail, Mikey: Sweeney Todd
  • Matt, Robert D., Arnold, sparkleneelysparkle, Russ, Anita: Follies
  • Jason, Emily, Joel, Alina: Into The Woods
  • Dan, Yves, Kevin, Robert: Sunday In The Park With George
  • Sheena, kokol, Leigh: Assassins
  • Elizabeth, cheshirecat: Company
  • Valmont: A Little Night Music
  • Jon: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

It's funny, but I was certain that the most votes would go to Into The Woods. Go know. As to my vote, I think I'd probably surprise you all and say Evening Primrose, which I just love. I really do watch it often. I love the other shows mentioned, but I don't go back to them over and over again. My close second would have been Follies, but I have the same caveat that sparkleneelysparkle has, and that's that it would have to be the original production.

Send all comments and questions to me at or use the form below...



Questions? Comments?

Well, dear readers, I must pack and run off to the airport. And why? Because the time is right. Have you noticed just how obnoxious time is? The time is "right", time will "tell", and on and on. There are just way too many "time" sayings and I, for one, say Time Out.

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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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...”
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