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

July 27, 1998 - #44

Well, frankly, this column has been nothing to sneeze at. This column has just hummed right along. I must go now and eat some more Paul Newman Extra Hot Salsa so I can have the heartburn again.

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

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

One From Column A...

July 27, 1998 - #44

Well, dear readers, I told you I was going to shake things up at this here column, and shake them up I have by writing the end of the column at the beginning of the column. That was so bold and adventurous, don't you think? To deviate from the norm like that is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And why would anyone want to sneeze at it? If you sneezed at it this column would be covered with snot, and we wouldn't want that, now would we, dear readers? Is sneezing at something good or bad? I can't tell. I am confused because I began the column with the end of the column and I just don't feel I should be writing anything more. I feel I should be through with this here column because I've written the end of it, and yet I've got to write the rest of it now because I had to go and be bold and adventurous. This is what happens when you deviate from the norm. And just who is Norm and is he a deviate? I feel like I'm hallucinating and this is because I've already written the end of the column and yet here I am with a whole column to write. Do you think I should repeat this just one more time? Do you feel I'm being just a little redundant here?

Here is the problem as I see it. I have just eaten chips with Paul Newman extra hot salsa. I couldn't have the mild, the medium or the hot, nooooooo, I had to have the extra hot. What this means (and those who've read the end of the column, which was at the begining, already know this) is that I am now suffering from painful heartburn. So, to calm down my heartburn, I ate some sourdough pretzel bits. These sourdough pretzel bits not only did nothing to abate said heartburn, they have bloated me to the point where I feel I am about to explode, like John Hurt in Alien. Only instead of an Alien bursting out of my chest, it will be a giant salsa surrounded by sourdough pretzel bits and liquid Diet Coke. I don't know what the hell I'm talking about anymore. My brain has liquefied into a puddle of Jell-O. Speaking of Jell-O, does anyone remember Junket? I remember we had boxes and boxes of Junket in our house, and yet my mother never ever made it. It just sat there like so much fish, for years. Have you been reading this column, dear readers? Do you have a clue where any of this is heading? I don't think I'm going to shake up this column anymore. It's just that deadly combination of a shaken up column, extra hot salsa and sourdough pretzel bits and nothing to sneeze at. Well, it could be worse and when I figure out how I'll let you know.

Wait. I know how it can get worse. It can get worse by the very act of my continuing to write. Maybe I should just skip to the middle of the column as long as I'm shaking things up. I was originally going to stir things up, but like James Bond, I prefer shaken, not stirred. Next week perhaps I'll just take various sentences from different parts of the column and have a Column Collage. The one thing I will not be doing next week is eating chips with Paul Newman extra hot salsa. Well, I can see this is going to be one endless column, because this fershluganah column is just all over the map. There's a little in Asia, there's a little in Italy, there's a little in Outer Mongolia, I mean it is all over the map. Perhaps if I mapped out the rest of the column I'd begin to see the form, but since I've deviated from the Norm, the form is no longer the norm form. Do you know if you slightly rearrange the letters in "form" they spell "from". But if you slightly rearrange the letters in "norm" they spell "nrom". You see my point? "Form" works and "norm" doesn't. And how do you think Norm feels about that? I feel it's time to move on to the next section of the column, whatever the hell that is. I have no idea because I have subverted the norm form of this column. In fact, this column is beginning to feel like the set of Whistle Down The Wind: No matter what I do it just won't work right. But enough about me.

The Impossible Dream II

Where am I in this column? Is this the middle? The second part? I'm sooooooo confused!

Well, whatever part it is it is. Doesn't that just look stupid? "It is it is". That is redundancy at its height. And what is the height of redundancy? 5' 10"? I know I'm supposed to be writing about something here, but I'll be damned if I can remember what it is. Oh yeah, The Impossible Dream II.

Yes, dear readers, last night I had another wacky dream. But unlike the last wacky dream I told you about, this one was a nightmare. Yes, you heard it here, a nightmare. I no longer remember it in detail, but here is what I do remember. Warning: This may be a little gross for our more squeamish readers. As I said, I can't remember the plot of said dream, but at some point in the plot I can't remember someone was pointing at my ear and looking at it in disgust. I went to a mirror and looked and what I saw was truly terrifying. It was a huge load of earwax, which extended somehow from the middle of my ear to my neck. I thought, "no wonder they are looking at me in disgust, I have this huge load of earwax coming out of my ear which extends to my neck". It was dark brown and certainly not attractive. I realized right away that a Q-tip wasn't going to do the trick. So, being a pragmatic sort, I reached up and began to peel the earwax off my shoulder and up toward the ear. As I got to the ear it began to take the skin off it, yes, it took the skin off my entire ear. I had gotten rid of the heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) earwax, but my ear now resembled a raw skinless chicken breast. I mean an actual raw skinless chicken breast, that's what my ear looked like. I screamed "how am I supposed to hear with an ear like this???" People answered me, but I could not hear them. That's when I woke up, in a sweat, heart pounding. I got up and went to a mirror, and my ear was fine. Why do we dream such things as these? I hadn't seen a raw skinless chicken breast since I'd cooked one several days prior to the dream. I have not one whit of earwax, so I have no clue what that was about. No, I am befuddled by this dream. Befuddled am I. I have no more to say about this dream, so say no more I will. If any of you dear readers have any clues I will be happy to hear what they are.

The Sondheim Performer

To wrap up my treatise on the great Sondheim performances, I will add the following folks.

While I love Bernadette Peters and feel she was perfectly fine in Into The Woods, my honors for the great performance in that show goes to Joanna Gleason, who was simply luminous and really came into her own here. Her performances since Into The Woods have all been good, but here she just sparkles with humor and pathos and gets everything just right.

Assassins was truly an ensemble effort, so I'm not going to single out anyone from that show. Which brings us to Passion. I will be brief and just say that Donna Murphy did the near impossible with this performance. She took the plunge and became this unattractive, unlikeable, neurotic sick woman. Donna is a very attractive person, and pretty likeable, too, and to watch her totally sublimate herself to this character was astonishing. Passion is not a musical I love, but Donna Murphy's performance as Fosca was a tour de force of musical theater acting and singing.

In closing, let me mention Anthony Perkins' wonderful turn as Charles in the television musical Evening Primrose. All his quirkiness worked perfectly for the role, and I have always been really fond of his singing voice. Let's not forget that Mr. Perkins had starred on Broadway in Mr. Frank Loesser's musical, Greenwillow, and also that he had solo albums on RCA Records. And let's not forget his brilliant performance as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho, which I feel would make a wonderful musical.

The Real A: A Life

Have you read Miss Meryle Secrest's interview right here at the SSS? Mr. Mark Bakalor should be commended for getting said interview, but can you believe she does not mention her new book about me? I will be having stern words with Miss Meryle Secrest about this. Still the work continues apace and she has prodded my memory banks for more withdrawals. For example, these latest revelations.

When I was a Young Child, my father and I were passing by a supermarket close to the restaurant he owned. This particular day, said supermarket was having a contest. If you guessed the amount of jelly beans in a huge container, the Young Child of the winner would get to go on a live tv show, something, if I'm remembering correctly, that was called Space Ranger or something like Space Ranger. This show was brought to you by Oscar Mayer, who, with his Weenie Wagon, was at this supermarket as we happened to pass by. So, my father took a guess at how many jelly beans were in that there huge bowl, and guess what? He won! Which meant I, as his Young Child, was going on television, on the Space Ranger show! Live! I remember the day arrived, and I was taken to the studio, and was immediately mesmerized by all the lights and the cameras. Remember, I was a Young Child, what did I know from lights and cameras? I knew from fish. They took me and put me, as the winner of the contest, onto the set of the show with the actors. I don't really remember much else, except them handing me all kinds of Oscar Mayer goodies that I was the winner of. And I also have a memory that in addition to the Wieners and the Bologna and the Pimento Loaf, that I won a pair of Buster Brown shoes (with the picture of his little dog Tige on the box). As soon as the show ended, some gruff man gruffly took all my prizes away from me and said they were props, that we'd be getting the real prizes delivered to us in a few weeks. I did not believe this story and so I kicked the gruff man in the shins. However, the story does have a happy ending: In a few weeks we received what would be the first of a year long supply of Oscar Mayer foodstuffs. But I never got my Buster Brown shoes (with a picture of his little dog Tige on the box). And that is why, to this day, if people try to give me props I will not accept them. Blame it on the gruff man who taught me an important life lesson about illusions and reality.

As soon as I'd brought up my father's restaurant, wouldn't you know, Miss Meryle Secrest wanted to know all about that. My father's restaraunt was a very well thought of Steak House in Los Angeles. My father would take me with him to work during the summers when I was off from school. I got to hang out at the bar area and drink Ginger Beer, a disgusting concoction, but I liked it because it had the word "beer" in it (remember, I was a Young Child). At the back of the bar was a giant Grundig radio, which I was obsessed with because it was a Short Wave radio and you could get stations all around the world. I just used to stare at all those knobs and dials and wonder at the fact that I could hear all the way to England and France and even Long Beach. Then I used to go into the kitchen, in which there was a vat (at least I remember it being a vat) of huge shrimp, which were used for the Shrimp Cocktail. I just used to stand in said kitchen, wolfing down said shrimp, one after another, after drenching them in the wonderful cocktail sauce. What a life for a Young Child. Then the chef would prepare me a great turkey sandwich on white bread, which I would then take to my beloved Wiltern Theater and see great movies, like Hercules and Jack The Ripper and Li'l Abner and Have Rocket Will Travel starring The Three Stooges. Which brings me to the story I alluded to in last week's column: How I Met The Three Stooges.

The Three Stooges had made a huge comeback, and were once again as popular as they ever were. This was due, in part, to a local Los Angeles tv show hosted by Don Lamond (who used to frequent my father's restaurant - see how we tie all this together, Miss Secrest and I?) which began showing the old Stooges shorts, which became the rage with all Young People. The show was soon syndicated all over the country and the Stooges were back. Kids everywhere were poking each other in the eyes, doing "nyuks" and generally being annoying as only Stoogemaniacs can be. Well, one fine day, The Three Stooges were going to make a live appearance at the Moulin Rouge, a nightclub at Sunset and Vine (which would later become the infamous Aquarius Theater). Of course Mr. Lamond, being a habitue of my father's restaurant, gave him free tickets to said live appearance. So, off we went to see them. Just before the show, I was taken backstage to meet them and have my photo taken with them. Dear readers, I cannot tell you of my excitement. I was ready to nyuk and poke and everything. And suddenly, there they were: Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe (Joe De Rita, a replacement for the original third stooge, Curly, then Shemp, then Joe Besser). Curly Joe immediately came up to me and was really nice and fun and friendly. Then Moe and Larry came over, and they were the meanest gruffest men I'd ever met. I did refrain, however, from kicking them in the shins. It didn't help that they were two of the most unpleasant looking humans ever put on earth, but they were old and cantankerous and just wanted to take the photo and do the show and leave. As soon as the photo was ready to be taken, however, they all put their arms around me and smiled like we were all the best of friends. The camera snapped, and off they gruffly went, except for Curly Joe, who shook my hand and made a "face" at Larry and Moe as they went off. I no longer have that picture, but I check eBay every now and then, just on the off chance that someone is selling a picture of The Three Stooges with unknown smiling child. Fat chance, or, as Curly would say, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

The What If Dept.

Yes, finally, it's back. Finally I have gotten off my butt cheeks and resuscitated this here section. So, what if Frank Loesser had written The King and I? To the tune of Guys and Dolls:

When the King's a guy,
And Miss Anna's his "I",
You can bet there'll be fireworks in Siam.
Though they're worlds apart
Do you think there's a chance?
For a little romance
When he pops the part about Shall We Dance?

When the King says "etc."
And he constantly frets
That no knot will the two of them ever Thai.
Then by God and by Buddah,
When he makes with the attitudah,
Well, the King's only doin' it for some "I"
Some "I', some "I"...
The King's only doin' it for some "I"!


Have I done the letters yet? This is the problem when you've shaken up this here column. I don't have an inkling what I've written or haven't written. For example, I haven't an inkling whether I've written what I'm writing right now. I might have already written what I'm writing now and then where would we be? We'd have two sections called Stuff that had the same Stuff in them. And that would be both heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) and redundant. And what the hell is an inkling? Why is "ink" in that word? "Ink" is out of place in that word, although if one wrote that word in ink then at least you would have inked the "ink" in "inkling". That word should just not be allowed to exist in my book (Chapter 66 - Inkling And Five Reasons It Should Not Exist Although One Reason Would Be Enough). Oh, wait a minute, I'm just getting some e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?

Date: Sat, July 26, 1998 14:07:08
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dear A:

I know I haven't written for quite some time, although I have been writing (just not to you) trying to finish my new musical, Wise Guys. First of all I just wanted to say, who cares if you like Passion? Secondly, I'm a little miffed that Meryle seems to be doing a better job with your book than with mine. I'm anxiously awaiting her take on your sexuality, because frankly, I feel you are very confused. And thirdly, I'd like to thank you for mentioning the performance of Anthony Perkins in Evening Primrose. It's funny that you bring up the fact that you think Psycho would make a good musical, because for a time I was writing one. This is a fact that no one knows, not even Secrest, so you have a real scoop for your column. Here's a little sample of one of the songs (I ended up using the tune a couple of years later, for I'm Lovely):

I'm Psycho,
What I am is psycho,
I'm a little psycho in my head.
You don't want to shower,
Or within the hour
You'll be dead.

How I love to stab.
How I love to wear Mom's clothes,
Though they're a little drab...

But I'm happy,
Happy being psycho.
With a schizo it's so clear you'll die...
But this psycho wouldn't hurt a fly.

It's an early work, but I'm quite fond of it. In closing, let me just reiterate: Who cares if you like Passion?


How prescient I am sometimes. Who knew that my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim had written a musical of Psycho? But somehow I must've had an inkling, hence my being prescient.

Letters... We Get Letters

I think this is where I'm supposed to be, but I can no longer remember because of this fershluganah shaken up column. Let's hope I haven't already answered these letters because that would be redundant and I just hate being redundant because to be redundant is, by its very nature, redundant. There, have I been redundant enough?

Tiffany has been listening to Assassins and the songs have been filling up her brain like so much fish. Her cat Nellie has figured out a way to climb up the dresser and get into her sock drawer. He apparently opens said drawer, removes a sock, and triumphantly drops it on the floor. This is a sick cat. This is a cat which needs therapy. First of all, the sock drawer? Now, if you were a cat would you go to the sock drawer? I don't think so. But, maybe Nellie thinks the word "sock" is just too too stupid, like I do. Why would anyone call these pieces of material that we humans put on our feet "socks"? The mind boggles and, occasionally, so do the socks. Tiffany has had no flings, especially not with Eric, who she has given the cold shoulder to. Now Tiffany only has a hot shoulder left. And just what is Eric doing with that cold shoulder? Tiffany also wonders if sparkleneelysparkle is a man or a woman, to which I can only answer: Yes.

Extra! Extra! Tiffany just this very minute sent me a picture of Nellie, which I, of course, will share with you, dear readers. When this photo was taken, Tiffany was attempting to get Nellie to do The Crab (a Tiffany invention) wherein Nellie arches his back and walks/hops sideways on his toes.

Nellie doing 'The Crab'.

No animals were harmed in the performing of The Crab, but I just tried it and I am now out of whack. Yes, you heard it here, I have done The Crab and I'm out of whack. It was the arching of the back rather than the walking sideways on the toes that did it. So, a warning to all of you: Do Not Try This At Home. I think we should have had a picture of Nellie in the sock drawer, sock in mouth. If we had, I would not now be Out of Whack.

Pat has recently discovered Michael Feinstein and really likes him. He loves Michael's version of the Gershwin song Liza, which is done as a homage to Al Jolson, although Pat admits to never having heard the Jolson version. I like Feinstein okay, but if you've never heard Al Jolson do Liza, you've never heard Liza. Jolson was unique, and no one did/does the songs he did quite like him. Rent The Jolson Story on video and you'll probably get Hooked On Jolson. Pat also feels that by my revealing the record stealing episode that my identity could be tracked down through criminal records. Unfortunately for Pat, there are no criminal records on the incident. I do have several criminal records, among them Walter Brennan singing Songs Of The West.

Emily writes to say she loves Mike and Ike's. And she's felt fowl, too, as she has a rubber chicken on her keychain, which is, I suppose, as good a place as any to have a rubber chicken. And most importantly, Emily has mashed potatoes!

Greg informs me that it is redundant (yes, redundant he says) to say "from whence" when what you should be saying is just plain old "whence". I would like to know from whence that information came, frankly. I am a founding member of the Redundant Language Committee, and we all think "from whence" is perfectly acceptable, and we also think it's perfectly acceptable.

Michael is performing in Anything Goes and South Pacific at his college in Allentown, PA. But here is the heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing that has happened to Michael. He and his roommate are being kicked out of the room they share, which is being given to Freshmen. Which is better than giving it to men who have curdled. So, they've offered Michael and his roommate a similar room on a higher floor, or a much smaller run down room. The choice would seem clear and it is for Michael. But his roommate wants the run down room, and the nasty old rooming committee will not separate them. No, apparently Michael and his roommate are the Hilton Sisters of Allentown. This is a foul/fowl conundrum. For example, why would said roommate want the smaller run down room? We will be interested to know how it all turns out.

Louis (everybody loves Louis) wants to know if Bring On The Clowns, the song sung by Frank Sinatra, is a Sondheim song. If so, when was it written and what is it from. Obviously, Louis is new to this here forum. I know you are all in the kitchen getting fruit ready to toss, but we'll just inform Louis that the song is entitled Send In The Clowns and is indeed by Sondheim, and is from the musical A Little Night Music. Bring In The Clowns is a song by the little known team of Gluckman and Fitz. In the interest of history, here is part of the lyric:

Ain't life a bitch?
Go eat a pear.
I like to greet people in
My underwear.
Bring on the clowns

Bring on the clowns,
Or they will cry.
And if a clown is downhearted
Someone must die.
Bring on the clowns,
There's gonna be clowns
Just don't ask me why.

Gluckman and Fitz wrote several other well known songs, such as Every Day A Little Debt, You Could Drive A Person To Pomona, Too Many Marvins, and their best, The Little Things Jews Do Together.

Eileen was wondering if I'd heard of any video tape of the recent London production being released, and if so, where can she find it? Does anyone else feel there's something missing? That Eileen has omitted something? Like, for example, what recent production? However, because I answer all queries, I shall go out on a limb (no mean feat) and say, yes.

Sugar Nymph (yes, Sugar Nymph) has a question about actor/singer Davis Gaines. The question is is Mr. Gaines black or white. The first thing I'd like to know is, is Sugar Nymph a friend of Eileen, because these are two of the most surreal letters I've received. That said, the answer to your question is: White as a slice of Webber's bread.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

While there was no one answer to last week's question, you all did very well in pinpointing the key words that Mr. Sondheim has used over and over again. And they would be:

  • Perfect
  • Little
  • Pretty

In addition, some of you suggested the following words would also fall into this category:

  • Beautiful
  • Moment
  • Die or Death
  • Connect
  • Window
  • Grim

This week's question: What is your favorite Sondheim comedy song?

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



Questions? Comments?

Remind me never to shake up this here column again. Remind me never to write the ending first, because now here I am writing the ending again, which, as you've all learned from this week's column, is redundant. So, given that I've already written the ending of this column, I'll just pretend that this is a coda to the ending. A postscript to the ending. An addendum to the ending. Am I being redundant?

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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Recently Overheard...
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

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“I found [the Sondheim Celebration's Company] to be completely delightful. Almost all of the numbers excited and energized me, and most of the scenes were about as pitch-perfect as you can get. I just sat there with a big smile on my face the whole show.

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With three hand-held cameras, one major theatrical milestone and nearly nineteen hours of footage, this rare and intimate look with Original Cast Album - Company is a must for any Sondheim fan.

DVD: $26.96
VHS: $24.95

One of Sondheim's most beloved works is sure to be Sunday in the Park with George, available on DVD, video tape, and CD.

CD: $13.99
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All Sondheim completists are sure to now own the first complete recording of The Frogs coupled with Evening Primrose. Do you?

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