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August 24, 1998 - #48
So, here I sit on my couch like so much fish, trying to feel better, but food poisoning is food poisoning and there's not much you can do about it. Oh, we simply must talk about something else. Have you heard that Alan Cumming will be out of Cabaret for the next few months? In other words, Cumming will be going. Well, at least Cumming knows he will be going so he is one step ahead of me.
I'll tell you what food poisoning makes me want to do. It makes me want to commit hara-kiri on my very own person with a sword. Just look at that word "sword". Are you noticing what I'm noticing? That "sword" is just "word" with an "s" in front of it. That is just lazy word-making in my book (Chapter 112 - Word-Making, The Lazy Way). Not only that, I don't like the way it's pronounced, either. Shouldn't it be like s'word, same as s'wonderful, s'marvelous? But noooooo, that would just be too too. It's got to be pronounced exactly the same as "soared" so as to confuse people even more. Of course, what is "soared" but "oared" with an "s"? How do you think the "s" feels about all this abuse? I like the word "oared" because it's something you'd do in a kayak, which, as anybody who reads this here column knows, is "kayak" spelled backwards. I am drinking 7 Up because they say it calms the stomach. Well, once again, "they" don't know what the hell they're talking about. It is no more calming than my beloved Diet Coke, so the hell with it. I'm frankly bored of this food poisoning. Why do people poison food anyway? Isn't that a federal offence? It's certainly some kind of offence and, frankly, I take offense to the offence. I think you should all come over and take care of me. You can read me stories, and together we can overcome this food poisoning.
I know this next sentence will be gross to some people, but still, it must be said. I do not like the taste of vomit. If I saw some packaged vomit in the store I would pass it up. Can you imagine if someone were reading this column for the first time? What would they think? They would think that the Stephen Sondheim (my close personal friend, you know) Stage had lost its Bakalorian mind. Instead of talking about musicals and Sondheim shows, this column is talking about food poisoning and the taste of vomit (not good). But I feel this is what is expected of me, dear readers, and I feel that is what I must deliver. I am feeling very poisoned and queasy at this particular moment in time. I do hope said feeling will abate soon. Then I can get back to feeling myself (no one else is feeling me, I may as well do it). Because frankly this whole column needs a change of direction, a breath of fresh air, a break from the food poisoning. Is this column thus far, starting to feel like High Society: About to expire? But enough about me.
Well, after nine hours of blessed sleep I am finally feeling better. I simply could not write one more word of this column while having food poisoning, and consequently I am very behind in said writing. So, to it with haste, say I.
Miss Meryle Secresta continues her searching the bowels of my brain to come up with ever new morsels for her book on me. We were talking about my love for Diet Coke and trying to figure out what caused said love and all of a sudden it all became clear, because a whole slew of long suppressed memories came regurgitating up (appropriate for this week's column). Because I may have been one of the first Diet Drink Guinea Pigs. I'm not going into the word "guinea" but just look at it and marvel at the incredible complex stupidness of that word. Anyway, forthwith: The Metrical Story.
Metrical was a diet shake much like the ones they have today, only it tasted like chocolate brick shavings. Metrical was one of the many lose weight quick fads going around at the time. And my parents who were not exactly slim (unlike me, they were not buff and trim with abs and buns of steel) leapt on this Metrical stuff as the easy solution to shedding those pounds and pounds of extra flesh. My mother used to shake said extra flesh on her upper arms and say "just like the jelly on grandma's shelf". So, in no time at all we had a refrigerator full of Metrical cans. They drank the goop religiously. What does that mean? "They drank it religiously"? What, they said a blessing before drinking Metrical? They asked the four questions before drinking Metrical? Anyway, they drank it with great Jewishness. It was the answer they'd been waiting for. Oh, they didn't lose any weight, but they thought they were. Somehow it hadn't sunk in that the Metrical Chocolate Brick Shavings Shake was meant to replace a meal. No, somehow that hadn't sunk in, so they would have the shake with the meal, thereby putting yet more calories into their ample bodies. Yes, they were the only people on the Metrical diet who actually gained weight. One fine day, my father came home and announced that we were going to be rich beyond our wildest imaginings. Since we were not exactly poor, I didn't really understand the concept of this. He explained that he'd purchased major stock in Metrical's newest product, and this product was going to be the biggest, hottest selling item in history. This product was going to be called Metricola. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, Metricola. My father couldn't have invested in Tab or any of the other major companies' first fumbling attempts at diet drinks, no, that would never have occured to him. Not when you could invest in Metricola.
So, one fine day I arrived home from school, opened our handy- dandy refrigerator (it was the most modern in the neighborhood, and had a spigot attached to the side from which poured ice water) and found every inch of it filled with Metricola. My mother explained to me that it was now all right to drink soda, now that we had our diet Metricola. I don't think mother had bothered to read the ingredients, and one shivers to think what might have been in the Metricola concoction. Well, I got out the can opener and popped the top off and took a swig of Metricola, the thing that was going to make us rich beyond our wildest imaginings. The first thing I noticed was the taste, of course. And this taste. This taste was/is indescribable, dear readers. This taste was like no other thing that I have ever tasted. If you had to ascribe to it an image, then this taste, I imagined, was like someone had scooped up an oil leak from a car and put it in a bottle and labeled it Metricola. In other words, it was heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). It was like drinking carbonated oil, say a nice 10-40 weight. My mother looked at me with great gleeful anticipation as I took the swig. Then sudden disappointment registered on her face as I spit it out on the floor. This was not a good sign, this spitting out of the Metricola on the floor. But I didn't care if she got mad, I didn't care if she was going to get the hanger out of the closet and whup me to a frazzle, as was her wont, there was no way I was swallowing that sludge. My father came home several hours later and was thrilled to see that the Metricola had arrived and that we were about to be rich beyond our wildest imaginings. My mother told him about my spitting out of the soda, and he looked at me with disgust. Who was I to spit out what was going to be the thing that made us rich (beyond our wildest imaginings)? He then poured himself a glass of Metricola and drank it. He was trying very hard to keep a positive look on his face, but said positive look didn't have a chance when the taste of Metricola actually registered. He turned pale. He looked ill. He had the look of a man who has just realized that he was not going to be rich beyond his wildest imaginings. I remember that the Metricola resided in our refrigerator for quite some time, but no one ever drank it again. It just sat there like so much fish, like so much dashed hope in a bottle. I believe Metricola hit the stores, was an instant disaster and was gone within a week. But it was my first experience with a diet drink and would lead, eventually, to my addiction to Diet Coke. We've come a long way, baby. I'll bet if I had one of those bottles of Metrical today it would fetch a pretty penny over at eBay.
The above story may also tell you a little something about the business acumen my family instilled in me. None at all. The other thing Miss Meryle Secrest has unearthed from the black hole of my memories was my obsession with flying. I don't mean in an airplane, dear readers, I mean flying. Like Superman. When I was growing up, all little boys and girls wanted to be Superman (or Supergirl). I remember receiving a Superman (or girl) costume for my birthday one year, and oh, how I loved that costume. I would just run all over the house with that costume. I would just be so annoying in that costume that my mother would have to threaten me with the hanger. Then one day I discovered Commando Cody and his Rocket Jacket. This character, Commando Cody, had been featured in a couple of Republic Serials, and week after week we kids would watch his adventures. He had an amazing leather Rocket Jacket with handy dandy control panel on the front. This control panel had amazingly complex and scientific directions next to the switches, like "up" "down" "fast" and "slow". The jacket had two rocket-like things on the back and a handy dandy helmet. Well, I wanted that jacket, dear readers. I had to have that jacket. I canvassed all the parents in our neighborhood to see if they felt that such a jacket actually existed. Yes, said they, a jacket like that surely must exist, but probably could not be purchased at the May Co. No, such a jacket would be reserved for the government and the military. This was very upsetting to me as I wanted that jacket. I wanted to turn those knobs and jump into the air and fly. After all, why should Commando Cody get to and not me? Unfair. Not right. Anyway, I finally was so annoying about said jacket that my mother took me to the store and bought me a nice fancy shmancy imitation leather jacket. As soon as I got home I took some cardboard from my father's laundered shirts (I was not supposed to do this - and was threatened with the hanger more times than you can imagine) but it was such good cardboard and so useful for so many projects that I don't believe my father's shirts ever had cardboard in them for more than an hour. I then made a brilliantly executed cardboard control panel and hooked it onto the front of my imitation leather jacket. Then I took two cylindrical buttermilk containers from the refrigerator and attached them to the back of said jacket. We always had those cylindrical containers of buttermilk in our refrigerator, yet I swear to you that no one ever drank buttermilk in our house, ever. I think my mother just liked the way they looked. Anyway, I now had my own Commando Cody imitation leather flying jacket. I donned it, went out to the yard, turned my home-made controls, and jumped up. Nothing. I just stood there, feet firmly on terra firma, not flying. This was just not right. I'd worked hard on that jacket. So, I climbed up to the roof of our garage, figuring that would be a good place to launch myself from. As a kid, that roof seemed really high, but in reality wasn't that high. As I was about to turn the controls and leap, my mother came outside and saw me. She screamed at me to get the hell off the roof or she'd go get the hanger. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but when someone threatens you with the hanger that does not exactly make you want to get off the roof, now does it? But it was too late. I'd already turned the controls. The process had begun. I pretended not to hear my mother and leapt from the roof. And I flew! Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I flew! Straight down. I landed with a loud thud on our backyard lawn. I was shaken but fine. The two buttermilk cylindrical containers were crushed. My mother ran over to me and yelled "why would you do such a thing?" and I patiently explained to her that I wanted to fly, that I'd always wanted to fly. She told me to never do it again, and went back to making her brisket. Years later, when I saw Disney's The Rocketeer (which was a homage to Commando Cody and the Rocket Jacket) it brought back all those wonderful memories and made me want to fly all over again. I dream of it often, flying over the city, soaring through the clouds. And yet, I will not bungee jump, I will not parachute. Isn't that funny? You'd think those things would appeal to me and yet they make me too nervous to even think about them.
Perhaps, next week, I'll tell Miss Meryle Secrest all about my mother and "the hanger". Joan Crawford would have been right at home in our house.
And so we continue down memory lane, rifling through the marvelous songs of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz. The song I promised, The Little Things Jews Do Together has gone missing. I shall try to find it and print it soon. In its place I offer you the team's lovely and moving ballad, Not While I'm So Round.
Can't fit in my pants now,
Another hundred shiksas
This week, here are three more of my favorite songs.
Again, these three were songs that I loved when I was growing up. I leave it to Miss Meryle Secrest to figure out why these types of songs "got" to me, but "got" to me they did.
When I was young I went to see the film Bells Are Ringing at my beloved Stadium Theater. While even then I knew it was not a great movie, I fell in love with its heroine Ella, as played by the wonderful Judy Holliday. And I fell in love with the songs from the movie, and immediately went out and bought the soundtrack on Capitol Records. I have always thought this score contains one of the best songs ever written. Thought it then, think it now. So simple, so beautiful, so heartbreaking.
The Party's Over
Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
I do believe this column reeks of having been written in the throes of food poisoning. I hope it hasn't been too much of a trial thus far, but I have no idea if it has or hasn't because I have absolutely no memory of what I've written. All I know is that the bird is outside singing the score to Side Show. And that bird, virtuoso that it is, is singing both parts. Yes, that bird is a Siamese bird. That bird is the Hilton Sisters, and if that bird had been nominated for a Tony, it would have won. What the hell am I talking about? What section am I in? Oh, yes, letters.
sparkleneelysparkle (and how many of you bright dear readers know where this moniker comes from?) says that when I agreed to begin writing this here column that I entered into Sartre's No Exit, which means I'll be writing this column forever. More about this later. sparkle also thinks I should have gone into professional wrestling, given that I have abs and buns of steel. And, thinks sparkle, a secret predilection for Speedo's. I have, in actuality, never worn either male or female Speedo's, but I have given a fine hammer lock once or twice.
Tiffany enjoyed my wrestling reminiscences and tells me that her father used to call the kids in her family "pencil neck geeks". This very selfsame father also called them "hemmy" as in hemorrhoids. This is a man whose sense of humor I would have to label "obtuse". Tiffany informs sparkle that, no, she did not see the Showtime Lolita. I, however, did, and thought it merely okay. Not a patch on the butt cheek of Stanley Kubrick's wonderful adaptation. Tiffany tells me that one of her favorite words is "pecker". She just likes that word. "Pecker" just makes her happy. Just the word itself, not even necessarily the meaning of the word. I like it, too. I've always liked it, ever since Woody Woodpecker. And of course "pecker" made our good list of synonyms for genitalia in a past column. Tiffany has sent a picture of herself (her hair is longer now, she informs me). It's not really an "activity" picture, as she appears to just be sitting on her couch like so much fish. It also appears that the lower half of her body has disappeared. Since Tiffany hasn't given a name to this picture, I will call it "Tiffany Contemplating Pecker".
annyrose wants to know if I have an opinion on William Faulkner. She has an opinion on William Faulkner and she doesn't like him much. At least she doesn't like the book she's reading by him. I must admit, I don't know Faulkner's novels at all. The only Faulkner that I'm aware of is the screenplay to Howard Hawks' film of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, which Faulkner wrote with Leigh Brackett. It's a wonderful film, but probably has more to do with Hawks, Bogart and Chandler than with Faulkner.
Stephen (not Sondheim) has rescheduled his tickets for Cabaret and will be seeing it in November. He's also going to try and send us a picture of he and Audra MacDonald. We look forward to said picture.
Robert was given a fish tie during the final performance of Joseph and so he's hoping that he will be the 1000th letter, so he can have matching fish socks. Keep writing, because we are getting close.
Kate told me a story about a friend of a friend of hers. It seems this friend of a friend's favorite movie is West Side Story (lyrics by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, if you didn't know). So this friend of a friend and the friend were making prank calls. They found someone named Maria in the phone book. The friend of a friend called this Maria and said to her a famous line from West Side Story, "Maria, Chino's got a gun!" Then she hung up. They laughed and laughed. Unfortunately, technology has caught up with the prank phone call, and Maria had Caller ID, which read out the name of the friend's father, Joseph. Maria called the police and told them someone had said "Maria, Joseph's got a gun!" The police arrived at the friend's house looking for Joseph (out of town) and gun (non-existent). The moral here is to be careful with your prank calls, because this Caller ID business has ruined things. Back in more innocent times, our favorite crank calls were: (person answers phone) "Hello?" "Hi, is your refrigerator running?" (person answers) "Yes". "Well, you better go catch it". Click. But the best was the following: (person answers phone) "Hello?" "Hi, is Bob there?" "No, you must have the wrong number." Click. (call again, person answers) "Hello?" "Hi, is Bob there?" "No. There's no Bob here". Click. (call again, person answers, now irate) "Hello!" "Hi, this is Bob. Have there been any messages for me?" Oh, those were the days.
kokol is very excited because in one week she'll be going to a new school after a year of slaving away at K-Mart. Of course, we all send kokol lots of good wishes for her tenure at the new school.
Ted sends us this activity photo. In it Ted is playing Unworthy Of Your Love from Stephen Sondheim's Assassins on the piano.
Put another candle on your birthday cake,
mordecai asks if I'm familiar with Ken Mandelbaum's book on flop musicals, Not Since Carrie. I am and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Well, it was fairly unanimous, dear readers. You do not want me to stop writing this here column. Your letters about this were quite wonderful and made me very happy. A couple of you wondered if the reason I'd brought it up was because I'd become tired of writing it. Although when things are especially busy it can be a chore, no, I haven't grown tired of writing it. It's soothing in a strange way. When I'm frankly fried it is a good way to calm down. When I have food poisoning it helps take my mind off of it. No, I was concerned about you, dear readers, and whether you were getting tired of it after a year. But, that doesn't seem to be the case, so barring any unforseen circumstances, I will continue sitting on my couch like so much fish and writing this drivel week in and week out, ad nauseum, until we all want to rip our eyes out of their sockets. Yes, I'll write this here column until the cows come home, and I happen to know that the cows have no plans of coming home, in the near future. However, the one thing I will probably not write are these damn trivia questions. I am fresh out of trivia questions. Oh, I'll do them occasionally, if I can think of fun ones. I think if I don't make them Sondheim specific then I can go in other directions (east, for example).
This week's trivia question: Since I love Bells Are Ringing so much I'll ask a question about that show. Our heroine Ella works at an answering service called Susanswerphone. Where did Ella work prior to that and what was the name of the company an allusion to?
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
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
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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