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September 7, 1998 - #50
"Hello, and welcome to One From Column A, my new weekly column. When Mr. Mark Bakalor suggested I do this, I suggested he get a prefrontal lobotomy."
Are you all sitting on your various couches like so much fish? Do you all have your cheese slices and ham chunks and Diet Coke? Because without said accoutrements we cannot possibly celebrate. No, to celebrate we must have our accoutrements.
It has been quite a journey, this column has. It started out like a song, it started quiet and slow with no surprise. But in the morning I woke to realize: A bird was outside singing showtunes. To be honest, I had no idea what this column was going to be when I began it. I was floundering like so much fish. If you read the early columns you can see me trying to find my way, to find the style, to find the point. One fine day it finally hit me. What I did to deserve being hit I don't know, but hit me it did. I suddenly knew: There is no point. I could just write anything off the top of my head (no mean feat) and that was the point. Then it became easy. Then it became a pleasure. And it remains a pleasure to this day, except when it's a pain in the buttcheek. I love doing this column and I love each and every one of you, dear readers.
Ah, the bird is outside singing The Night They Invented Champagne in honor of our celebration. It's doing high kicks out there in honor of our celebration, and it has its accoutrements. In honor of our celebration, I have some very exciting news, dear readers. I have just purchased a brand new couch on which I will soon be sitting like so much fish. It is much more comfortable than my current couch, even though said current couch has been a loyal and true friend to my buttcheeks.
We have been through so much, dear readers. We've been through Reno, we've been through Beverly Hills, and we're here. We've been through our disgruntled few phase (and aren't we glad that the disgruntled few have gone with the wind?), we have had the coprophiliac joke book, we've had a time/ space continuum, we've had the war between my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, and his close personal friend, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, we've had "what if", we've had Gluckman and Fitz, we've had our multi-talented bird, we've had Carol Channing, we've had sport with the English language, in other words, we've had a plain old-fashioned handy dandy good time. You have been there as I got buff and toned with abs and buns of steel. You have been there as I threw up. You have been there as I've traveled hither and yon, yes, in short, we have shared things together. We are like two old Jews sitting around saying "what is it, fish?". Oh, enough preamble, let's get directly to the amble, and maybe even the postamble. Let's relive ("revile" anagramed) some of our glory moments. So, do you all have your accoutrements? Just remember, this column, dear readers, is like Cats: It's Now and Forever, as long as Japanese tourists keep coming. But enough about me.
Oh, we have spewed forth a lot of drivel in the last year. Drivel in all directions. I think the first time I achieved total drivel was way back in Column 5. Let's take a fond look back at that first bit of drivel, shall we?
Well, did you all overeat? Stuff yourselves silly? I did. I thought my stomach was going to bust open just like John Hurt in Alien. Why do we always overeat on holidays? In my case there is only one reason: I am a pig. But, Thanksgiving dinner was lovely, and I hope you all had lovely ones, too. While I was eating my second helping of yams, I suddenly thought, what idiot came up with the name yams? This is as stupid a name as I've ever heard. If I were a yam (and some have accused me of this) I would change my name immediately. Turnip is also annoying. And squash. Where did that come from? Someone was sitting around one day and they looked at this thing and said "I know, I'll call it squash!" It makes no sense. Cous-cous. Do you wanna' know the person that came up with that name? I don't. Words. In fact, I have had it with words. From now on, when writing this column, I am no longer using words.
High in a room,
Andrew is boring,
No more talk of Sondheim,
Many of you have asked the derivation of "what is it, fish?". Well, here's the story, direct from Column 20.
So, I'm just sitting here on my couch like so much fish, listening to the rain. I am listening to the rain because it is raining, hence the sound of rain. Sondheim. Now, sitting here on my couch like so much fish has brought back memories of my grandfather. Why, you ask, as well you should? Because my grandfather loved the word "fish" and would use it whenever possible. No matter what plate of food they would set before him, whether it was steak or a hot fudge sundae, he would look at it and say, "What is it, fish?" I mean, at every meal I ever ate with my grandfather, he said this. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Ham and eggs? "What is it, fish?" Baked potato? "What is it, fish?" And sometimes, if he was in a particularly jolly mood he would add "Is there sauce on it? I wouldn't eat it if there was sauce on it." I asked my parents many times why he would say that, and they had no answer. My grandmother had no answer. No one had an answer. Only my grandfather had an answer, and his answer was "What is it, fish?" Which, of course, is not an answer at all, it's a question. A question with no answer. No wonder I turned out the way I did. I think we can lay the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of my grandfather. He was what is usually referred to as a "character". He would sometimes excuse himself from dinner, go to the bathroom, then come back in and announce that he had made a stool and we should all go look. Now, remember, we were eating. But apparently, at his age, making a stool was no mean feat, so some members of the family dutifully trotted off and admired his handiwork. You will be happy to know, dear readers, that I did not. I drew the line right there. I simply would not, as a child, and will not, as an adult, get up from a meal and look at a stool. Why am I talking about this? Why have I dredged up these memories? Why have I used the word "dredge", surely one of the ugliest sounding words ever created? Dredge. What function can a word like that serve? Of course, one might also ask what function this entire paragraph has served.
Remember our synonyms for genitalia? If you don't, here's how it all began.
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).
We've had many, many e-mails from famous celebrities. Here, for example is one from Mr. Frank Wildhorn, composer of Jekyll and Hyde.
Dear Mr. A:
My name is Frank Wildhorn. Perhaps you've heard of me. I've written two musicals currently wowing them on Broadway. Someone we both know told me to take a gander at your column. I waited until today and thought: This Is The Moment. Well, my feeling is that there's just too much stuff in this column about that Stephen Sondheim. Haven't we all had enough of Stephen Sondheim? Isn't he just a bit... passe? I mean, okay, he's written a few shows, but so have I and I have yet to see one mention of me! How can you talk and talk and talk about the musical theater without mentioning Frank Wildhorn? What do I have to do? For God's sake, I gave the world Jekyll and Hyde! What was it before I got a hold of it? A book! An old book. Not a vibrant new musical. So, let's give some credit where credit is due. And don't forget The Scarlet Pimpernel! Okay, so it's only playing to sixty percent of capacity. What has that got to do with the quality of the piece, I ask you? Can you imagine if Stephen Sondheim had written either of these shows. He'd probably be all over his rhyming dictionary trying to be clever with Jekyll rhymes. I so admire Leslie Bricusse for never stooping to that. I love the fact that all his rhymes are inferior. It makes the music stand out, doesn't it? Isn't that the sign of a great lyricist? In any case, keep up the good work, but really, let's have less Sondheim and more me.
Linda sends her love.
Dear The Real A:
You know, I simply could not lurk anymore, I just had to write and tell you that my beloved Jimmy and I read your column all the time. I get a real kick out of it, and Jimmy just sits there (like so much fish) and doesn't get it at all. If it's not Marcus Welby he doesn't know from it. I have finally found happiness with Jimmy. The other seven hundred and thirty men I've been with were only diversions, I was never really happy, I only thought I was happy, but now that I'm happy I know that I wasn't really happy.
I just love Stephen and his work, even though the guy sometimes doesn't know from a lyric, and I have to ask him to fix them for me. Send In The Clowns...Who could sing that song? It made no sense till he wrote me my own special verse. I'm an actress, I have to be able to play the lyric and the lyric was missing something and I couldn't play it until he wrote me that special verse then I could play it fine. Judy Collins? Sure, she sold a million copies of it, but it didn't make any sense. But what does Judy Collins know about a lyric, she sings folk songs.
I don't want you to worry if people give a flying whatever for your nostalgic waxjobs... Jimmy and I love them. Oh, before I forget, our favorite synonyms for genitalia are muff and dong. We like them so much, that we gave those names to our two dogs. Unfortunately, they're both male, and Muff is very confused. Anyway, I called my friends The Bergmans, and had them write you a special lyric to one of my biggest hit songs, The Way We Were. I'll sing it to you now (we'll fix the high notes later).
Isn't that beeyouteeful? Jimmy is in tears right now. He just loves the way I sing lyrics by the Bergmans. We watch Yentl over and over again for that very reason (I directed it, you know, and those putzes couldn't even give me an Oscar! Putz is a synonym for genitalia, by the way, and is a perfect description of every male in Hollywood, except my beloved Jimmy). Well, I have to run now. We're trying to figure out who the next big thing is in the record business, so that I can go do a duet with them.
(I love that he doesn't mind that my name will always be before his - now that's a secure man!)
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,
Just thought I'd take a moment from writing my new musical Wise Guys to say congratulations on your 50th column. That one person could write so many words which have absolutely no merit whatsoever is simply amazing to me. But no one writes words with no merit better than you (with the possible exception of Leslie Bricusse). The fact that you do this week in and week out is both mesmerizing and hideous at the same time. So, don't change a thing. And the best of luck on the next 50 (you should live so long and so should I). I'm certain that by the time you reach your 100th column that I'll be finished writing Wise Guys. Maybe.
Even though we're taking a look back we simply must have a couple of selections from the Gluckman and Fitz Songbook. Since we're in a celebratory mood, here is a very rare song of celebration by the celebrated team of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz.
BAR MITZVAH BOYS
You know, dear readers, I often speak of the singing and dancing bird who resides in my yard (where I sometimes sit on one of my two lawn chairs). I remember well the first time I realized I had a musical comedy bird outside. Here is what I wrote about it.
As I write this, there are birds outside chirping like mad. This is known as birdsong, but I could swear that the bird who is right outside the window is singing the tune to "Get Me To The Church On Time". Is it possible that birds do productions of famous musicals, and that this bird once played Alfred Doolittle? If this were true, would the bird playing Johanna in the all-bird production of Sweeney Todd have to be a Green Finch and Linnet Bird, or do they have color blind bird casting? I'm telling you, this bird outside my window is singing show tunes. And singing them well, I must say. Can you imagine if Andrew Lloyd Webber were sitting here instead of me? Instead of Cats we'd have Birds. This is all very intriguing, this notion that singing animals do musicals. I, for one, would like to see the Cow version of Moo Fair Lady. Or the sheep production of The Baah Friend. Oh, just shoot me and get it over with.
Since the beginning of the column we've had a virtual potpourri of guesses as to The Real A's identity. Here's a listing of the ones we've had so far:
male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesandrini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony-nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's shows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel, Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, George Furth, New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, Leigh's father, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, and dear reader Matt.
A male or a female?
As you know, dear readers, getting your letters week after week is a special treat for me. However, when we began this here column, there were some naysayers. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, there were naysayers. And said naysayers would write to me their naysayings, to which I just had to say nay. To give you an example, here is a naysaying letter I received from someone named Glen, and my reply to said Glen.
We were/are so close, dear readers. I was so hoping that we'd reach the 1,000th letter in this here celebratory column, but alas (sala spelled backwards) it wasn't meant to happen. Unless there is a flurry of letters at the last moment we will be awarding those fish socks in our 51st column which of course should be our 52nd column if it weren't for that fershluganah foulup with the computer and the Internet. I know they will be going to a worthy dear reader. In the meantime, let's answer this week's letters, shall we?
Laura (a new dear reader) has been looking forward to this here celebration, even though she's only been reading the column for a few weeks. I do hope Laura has enjoyed some of our reminiscences (look at all those letters just strung together with no point whatsoever - what kind of a numbskull would spell a word like that??? And what kind of a numbskull would put a "b" in the word "numbskull"?) and that she'll be a loyal and true dear reader for many columns to come. In any case, Laura, in anticipation of our celebration, has been sharpening her cheese slicer. Does that mean she's also been sharpening her ham chunker?
Tiffany asks the age old question: Does she go to bed or go get ice cream? And I will provide the age old answer:
Anita is enjoying the Gluckman and Fitz songbook. This is good, because their trunk is a bottomless pit and we have only scratched the surface. I hope the surface enjoyed said scratching as there is nothing worse than a surface with an itch.
Roy S. saw Barbara Cook in concert last week. He especially liked her version of You Could Drive A Person Crazy which she does a little slower than the song normally is done. Perhaps she should retitle this song to You Could Slowly Drive A Person Crazy. Just asking.
Josh also likes The Fifth Dimension (the group, not the "beyond that which is known to man") and their rendition of Laura Nyro's Wedding Bell Blu-Hooz. Josh points out that Mr. Stephen Sondheim has said that he is a fan of Ms. Nyro's.
Emily, in a shameless attempt to win those fish socks, wrote a one-word letter (which is better, I suppose, than writing a one letter word) and that word was "Fish". You were close, Emily, but no cigar at this time.
Robert writes to say he likes Harry Connick's crooning of old standards (on the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack) and he doesn't care who knows it. Robert is moving, too. He is in the throes (not the throws) of leaving Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! and moving to Gluckman and Fitz' California! So, the next time we hear from Robert he will be writing from a brand spanking new handy dandy e-mail address.
Jon B. tells me that his Harry Carey isn't my Harry Carey. His Harry Carey is a sports announcer named Harry Caray, who is not to be confused with Harry Carey, hara kari or hara kiri. But of course we are forgetting the great wrestler Hairy Cary, who was known to swing his opponents from his ample eyebrows.
Vladimir also loves It's A Perfect Relationship and he also knows about Francois Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse. But does Francois Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse know about Vladimir? Just asking.
sparkleneelysparkle liked our last column more than sparkle liked the new movie "54" which is about the infamous NY disco Studio 54, which is not to be confused with Heinz 57 or Column 50.
Well, you smart people just keep guessing the answers to the trivia questions no matter what we throw at you. The following people got the correct answer to where does sparkleneelysparkle's name come from:
Anita, Gary, Andrew, Vladimir and Beingreen all knew it was from the classic film of Jaqueline Susann's classic novel Valley Of The Doll's. In reference to Patty Duke's character Neely O'Hara - "Sparkle, Neely, sparkle!"
This week's trivia question:
One of my favorite show songs, when I was a younster, was "Be A Santa". Name the musical it's from and who wrote it. Then name the person who was in the chorus who would go on to become an incredibly famous force in the American musical theater.
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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