« One From Column A...
November 2, 1998 - #58
It is almost time for trick or treaters to arrive, so I will be writing and treating at the same time, which will give a nice disjointed feeling to the column. I like a nice disjointed feeling, don't you, dear readers? It is far better than a "jointed" feeling, let me tell you that. I had a jointed feeling earlier this morning and it was none too pleasant. The bird is outside singing The Way You Look Tonight in honor of Halloween. The bird is dressed up as a bird, which I find very clever and creative of said bird. Said bird never ceases to amaze me, so, here I sit on my couch like so much fish, amazed. Excuse me for one moment.
We've had our first trick or treaters. Six children. We had a ballerina, a spooky apparition, a person dressed as a Hershey's kiss (I kid you not), someone in a Scream mask, an ax murderer and what looked to me like a hooker (perhaps they'd seen The Life?). I gave them each two candies because that is just what I do. Excuse me for one moment.
This time we had a gypsy, and another person in a Scream mask. Excuse me for a moment.
Wow (wow spelled backwards). The costumes this year are very creative indeed. I just had at my door a Ninja Turtle and Xena. They made an oddly endearing pair, this Turtle and Xena. Sounds like a vaudeville act, doesn't it? Turtle and Xena. I can see it now. Joe Turtle, an old Jewish magician, and his exotic assistant Xena. For his first trick, Turtle pulls a rabbit out of his hat and says "What is it, fish?". Xena, of course, just stands there, looking exotic. Oops, excuse me again.
This is going to be a busy night. Doesn't this column feel a little disjointed, because of my having to get up every two minutes to give out two candies to each trick or treater? I like this way of writing a column. When I come back I have no idea where I am, which gives the column a nice disjointed feeling, I think. Voila. I just thought I'd type that again, just for its own sake.
Well, we just had a little kid in his pajamas (perhaps they were the cat's pajamas?), a Man In Black, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and Dorothy Gale from Kansas. They each got two candies. This year I'm giving out Caramello's, Good & Plenty, Tootsie Rolls, Almond Joy, Candy Corn, Nerds, and Nestle's Crunch. A fine selection, albeit a disjointed one. "Albeit" is quite a stupid word, don't you think? It just sits there like a piece of herring, looking as idiotic as any word I've ever seen. Be right back.
I think I just had someone dressed as a CPA or a lawyer, I'm not sure. I've lost two pounds running from my couch (where I sit like so much fish) to the door and back again. It's like the squirrel - back and forth and forth and back.
Ooh, we just had several young teens dressed as the Spice Girls. How did the Spice Girls become role models for young girls, that's what I want to know? It makes young teens look like young drag queens in my book (Chapter 159 - People Who Dress Like The Spice Girls Look Like Drag Queens). I suppose it's better than dressing up like Monica Lewinsky.
Oh, this is just too disjointed, this writing and treating and treating and writing. Have I mentioned that this is our second annual Halloween column? Have I typed the word "voila" lately? Oh, it's a dark and scary night, albeit a fun one. Have you noticed that Part One of this column is just like The Fantasticks: It just goes on and on and on and never ends. But enough about me.
Miss Meryle Secrest thought that since it's Halloween she would try to scare up things long suppressed in the caverns of my cranium. To say "boo!" to the haunted recesses of my cobwebbed memories. What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, Miss Meryle Secrest and The Boo! Factor.
Here are some quick flashbacks to Halloween's past and other weird occurances from The Real A's scrapbook.
I distinctly remember getting in the mood for several Halloweens by playing a 45rpm record of a weird rock & roll song called Flip Top Box by a group called Dickie Do and The Don'ts. I know you think I make this stuff up, but everything I tell you is the truth. Flip Top Box was the flip (naturally) side of the Dickie Do and The Don'ts "hit", which, at the moment, I do not remember the name of. But I, being the weird child I was, did not care for the "hit" sides of records. I always liked the "b" side, or the flip side. In any case, I don't remember why this song got me in the Halloween mood, but I think it was because it had a psychotic laugh on it, and as we all know, a good psychotic laugh is a great Halloween mood setter. And no matter how much Miss Meryle Secrest says "boo!" I have no memory of what costumes I wore to trick or treat in or what type of makeup I wore. I do know that I once tried to wear one of my mother's girdles, because I was sure that would scare the pants off everyone. And the thought of everyone with their pants scared off them (so that they'd be running around in their underwear) was amusing to me. But my mother would have none of it. Her girdles were sacrosanct, whatever the hell that means.
On my block, there was a haunted house. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, a haunted house. Oh, yes, we kids were convinced of that. This house belonged to a woman named Mrs. Bruno. Now, you have to admit, that if there were a haunted house, Mrs. Bruno would be a good name for the owner of said house. We all thought Mrs. Bruno was weird. We all thought Mrs. Bruno was a witch of some sort, you know, the kind that abducts little children and boils them in hot bubbling oil just for the hell of it. Oh, yes, we were convinced that's what Mrs. Bruno did. The interesting thing is, I don't believe in the fifteen years that I lived on that block that I actually ever saw Mrs. Bruno. Legend had it that she never came out of her house, because it was haunted. Certainly her house looked haunted. So, we kids, as much as we wanted and needed scads of candy, would just walk past Mrs. Bruno's house quickly, without even a glance. Who wanted to take a chance that they'd be spirited inside and dropped into a vat of boiling oil? Not this kid, let me tell you. Yes, Mrs. Bruno was the Boo Radley of our neighborhood. And for all I know Mrs. Bruno is still there, 157 years old, boiling little children in oil just for the hell of it.
I remember that my brother and I would bring home oodles (yes, oodles) of candy in our bags. Of course, he always got the best candy, so when he had his back turned I'd do the old switcherooni so I could have some of the good stuff, too. We would eat said candy until we wanted to vomit, and then we would go to bed. In the morning, the rest of the candy would be gone, because my father and mother would eat it as soon as we went to sleep. This would annoy me no end. If they wanted candy they could have gone trick or treating. I do the work, I eat the candy, is the way I see it. I would be so perturbed that I would immediately go into the service porch and take a bite out of the hanging salami. I knew that would annoy my parents right back, because they hated when we kids would just take a bite out of the hanging salami. That would just gross the parents out no end, this hanging salami with a bite out of it. Of course, we won't mention the grossness of just having a salami hanging in your service porch. When company would come over they would always remark "Why is there a hanging salami in your service porch" to which my parents had no answer.
Remember earlier I said we had a trick or treater dressed as Dorothy Gale from Kansas? Did you know that I have an actual Dorothy Gale in my family? Not from Kansas, though. Dorothy Greenberg was the daughter of my mother's sister, Lily (she who was married to that most annoying Uncle Charlie). Well, one fine day Dorothy Greenberg met a nice Jewish lawyer named Marvin Gale and the rest is history. We never called Dorothy Dorothy, however. She, for some reason no one could ever explain, was/is called Dodo. Now, there are many silly names, but Dodo would have to be at the head of any silly name list. It is simply a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) name. I know if someone called me Dodo I would haul off and sock them, but she seems to like it, so who am I to say nay? I used to go to the Gale's regularly for Jewish holidays, but because I had the temerity to miss their daughter's wedding (I was working and could not get there) I have been ostracized (no mean feat) from the Jewish holiday gatherings. That is correct, dear readers, no more Dodo dinners. No more gefulte fish, horse radish, chopped liver, bitter herbs, boiled eggs, garlic chicken, brisket, fourteen kinds of dessert or pickled herring in sour cream for me, because I have been ostracized. Perhaps one day I will be unostracized and once again I will be allowed to partake of a Dodo dinner, but that would mean I would have to listen to her sing, as she always insists on singing on these occasions. She even has a microphone and a karaoke-type machine. The only problem with this is, is that Dodo is tone deaf. She sings in no key known to man. You have not lived until you've heard Dodo's rendition of Send In The Clowns. It sounds like Sondheim words but to Kurt Weill music, but Kurt Weill music played backwards, that's how tone deaf Dodo is. When you hear Dodo sing after eating a huge Jewish meal, it is akin to the feeling of bad turbulence on an airplane. But, then, when Dodo is through serenading, we get Ruta Lee singing a song or two. Yes, you heard it here, Ruta Lee, a shiksa if ever there was one, attends these Jewish Dodo dinners. Why she attends these dinners is a question that has never been answered. Of course, by this time you're probably wondering what Dodo has to do with the Halloween theme of this column. She's scary, that's what Dodo has to do with the Halloween theme of this column. Voila!
This week, in honor of Halloween, we have the long promised You Could Drive A Person To Pomona by the brilliant team of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz, the team of whom Rodgers and Hammerstein once said "I think they tried to sell me a refrigerator once". And, yes, truth be told, they were also refrigerator salesmen, but that in no way should detract from their unbelievable output. I sense there is a lot of anger in this song, which is both biting and not, a quality that is unique to this fabulous team.
YOU COULD DRIVE A PERSON TO POMONA
In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd share with you three somewhat obscure songs which I have always found haunting, hence the tenuous Halloween connection. The first of these is a wonderful song from one of my favorite childhood movies called The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. If you've never seen this film, you owe it to yourself to seek it out. It is truly weird and wonderful, one of the most surrealistic movies ever made. One can only wonder what they were thinking. This song is sung in the film by Tommy Rettig, who is feeling that the adults in his life are just a big, bullying lot. The screenplay, by the way, is based on a story by Dr. Seuss, who also provided the lyrics to the score.
BECAUSE WE'RE KIDS
THEY DON'T GIVE MEDALS (TO YESTERDAY'S HEROES)
I'd like to be a lion tamer,
I couldn't be a ballerina,
I could begin with baby leopards,
I never wanted fancy mansions,
I really like Stephen Schwartz, always have, and this is one of his best. The show has just been reissued on CD so pick it up, you'll enjoy it.
Before we get to our letters, we'd just like to note the passing of James Goldman, who died last Wednesday. Goldman, who worked with Sondheim on Follies and Evening Primrose, was a superb writer, both playwright and novelist. His brother William (author of The Princess Bride and many other novels, and the screenplays for Butch Cassidy, Marathon Man, All The President's Men and, of course, the never filmed script for he and Sondheim's Singing Out Loud) were favorites of mine when I was growing up. I first became aware of the Goldmans because of an obscure musical called A Family Affair, which they wrote the book and lyrics to (music by John Kander). I read every book William wrote (including the wonderful Boys And Girls Together) and read James' wonderful novel, The Man From Greek and Roman. His script for Follies is quite underrated (I'm talking about the original script and not subsequent versions which were not as good), it's funny, brutal and brutally honest. And his script for Evening Primrose is a honey. May he rest in peace.
I have had some mighty strange folks at my door tonight, let me tell you. It has given me a very disjointed feeling. I've had princesses, Batmen, Supermen, costumes of indeterminate origin, a living spider, and several people with hideous gaping wounds. I have gone through many bags of candy, but, voila, still have a few left to eat when I finish this here column.
Sara is saddened by the death of James Goldman, and asks if Evening Primrose will be aired again. Unfortunately, ABC has destroyed all the tapes from that series. There is a black and white 16mm print made off a kinescope, and that's all that exists. A pity. Also, I believe all rights have reverted back to the John Collier (he of the original story) estate, so there would have to be negotiations with them before anything could happen.
Emily wanted me to know that if she came to my house on Halloween she wouldn't want candy, she'd want to sit on my couch with me like so much fish (a fish duo), eating a salami sandwich. I don't eat much salami these days, because it brings up memories of the hanging salami which always had a mysterious bite taken out of it. Of course, we would welcome Emily on our brand spanking new couch because our brand spanking new couch loves to have butt cheeks other than mine sitting on it. The people on the floor above Emily are having a party and the music is too loud. The music was so loud I heard it while reading her letter, that's how loud the music was. These are different people than the loud lovemakers who live on the floor above her. Apparently, the prerequisite for living on the floor above Emily is that you be loud no matter what you're doing. Emily also wants to know if anyone has asked me to marry them on the Internet. Does she mean have I been proposed to, or does she mean has anyone asked me to perform nuptials? If it's the former, no. If it's the latter, no. I can't even match up two people from this here column, that's how pitiful Love On The Internet is.
Robert informs me that he had a freak accident. During the battle scene of Edward II (similar to the battle scene of Rambo III) he was running off stage and rammed his knee into a metal pipe that wasn't supposed to be there and yet was there, which caused him to fall onto the metal quarter staff (not the nickel or dime staff, mind you) he was carrying, which caused him to jam his elbow into the wooden part of the backstage area, which caused him to bounce and hit his head on the cement. This is known as the Edward II Domino Effect. Robert is happily still alive, and all he suffered was some minor bleeding (I don't think any bleeding is minor) and a headache. I hasten to point out that if they'd been doing Tommy, none of this would have happened.
Kristina wrote to tell me that after much procrastination, she's going to be a fairy for Halloween. That's a very popular costume, especially among my musical comedy friends.
Tom (from Oz, like Dorothy Gale not Dodo Gale) tells me that Tuesday is a holiday in Australia, namely Melbourne Cup Day, named so in honor of a horse race. Tom thinks some enterprising soul should record the Gluckman and Fitz Songbook. This is a splendid idea and such a disc could easily sell ten to fifteen copies.
Rafael, like me, also loves The Carpenters and he is not ashamed (nor should he be) to say that he cried the day that Karen Carpenter died. A sad day indeed and sadder still that there are so many wonderful songs she never got to sing.
S. Lee Lewis (not S. Woody White or S. Real A) was recently cast as The Baker in Into The Woods and he'd like some advice from you, dear readers, on how to play said role. He's seen the video with Chip Zien, but he wants to make the role his own and not merely imitate Mr. Zien. This is the right attitude, and might I suggest that S. Lee post over at Finishing The Chat where I know that you, dear readers, will offer him many wise and knowing suggestions. S. Lee also asks if I'd pass on his e-mail address to my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. It would do no good, because said close personal friend is not on the Internet. He refuses to be on the Internet because of what he describes as his addictive personality.
jas (also from Oz, like Tom and Dorothy but not Dodo) says that what we lose in Daylight Savings Time they in Australia gain. This is called The Gaining of What We Lose, or The Losing of What We Gain or The Australian Conundrum (not to be confused with The New Zealand Enigma).
Brian informs me that according to the notes in the Saturday Night cd booklet, Bob Fosse was indeed going to work with Sondheim. He was going to star in and direct the second incarnation of Saturday Night. But the fact remains, they never worked together, and if they had, mayhem would have ensued.
Seth would like to know what I think of the following scores from obscure musicals. First, let me say that I have a soft spot in my heart (no mean feat) for obscure musicals. There, I've said it and I'm glad. The scores: Grind (it's okay), Dance A Little Closer (I really love some of this score, and it's a real guilty pleasure, despite the problems), Metropolis (well, not really my cup of tea, not much of a Joe Brooks fan despite You Light Up My Life), Kelly (I like one song, I'll Never Go There Anymore, which I discovered on a Michelle Lee album - the only Michelle Lee album), and Mack and Mabel (not so obscure), and I really like most of it.
Kudos (soduk spelled backwards) to the following few who knew the answer to last week's question, what semi-musical film did William Friedkin direct? Here is who knew: Sara, Isabella and Seth. The answer: Mr. Friedkin's first film, Good Times, starring Sonny and Cher. Mr. Friedkin also directed the film version of The Boys In The Band. From there to The Exorcist. Seems natural to me. I wonder if anyone has ever dressed up as Regan for Halloween? Wouldn't that be great? You could say "trick or treat" and then throw up green pea soup.
This week's trivia question (no cheating allowed, of course): Evening Primrose and On The Flip Side were both original musicals written for ABC Stage '67. But they were not the only ones. Name all the other original musicals, and then name the only Stage '67 presentation that was an award-winner.
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...
Explore the rest of the Finishing the Chat Community Forum