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

November 16, 1998 - #60

Well, here we are, beginning to write our 60th column! And do you know what, dear readers? Of course you don't know what, so I will tell you what and then you will know what. What? Oh, yes, I am telling you what. I have decided to do something totally different for our 60th column. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, something totally different. So, instead of sitting on my couch like so much fish as I have done for the last fifty-nine columns, I have gone on location to write this here column. That's right, right now I am sitting at a handy dandy computer in a whole new location. Isn't that exciting? I feel energized by this change. I feel we will reach whole new heights and dimensions and also new dimensions and heights. For example, I do not hear the ticking of my eBay mantel clock because said mantel clock is back at my house where I would normally be sitting on my couch like so much fish typing this here column. The bird might be doing the entire score to Les Miz but I would not know it, because I am at a new location where the birds are merely birds and merely do normal bird things. In fact, a bird is doing its normal bird thing right now on a blue Mercedes. Yes, through the window at my new location I can see actual automobiles and the rain and bird doo that is pelting them. Isn't that exciting? So, here I sit on a chair like so much fish writing this column from a whole other location.

This is strange, this writing a column from a whole other location. I don't know that I like the disturbing of my routine. It seemed like a good idea when I thought about it, but now that I am in the thick of it, I am not so sure. Perhaps if I were in the thin of it I would be sure. I am a creature of habit, dear readers. I am a person who revels in having a routine. And here I've gone and taken said routine and thrown it to the wind. While this is daring, it has frankly disturbed my routine, which is now blowing in the wind. Yes, routine is the answer and the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The one thing that has not changed from being in a new location is my ability to write drivel. Obviously. Isn't it interesting how "Obviously." is an entire sentence composed of just one word? That is being succinct, sentence-wise, to the nth degree. This new location has turned me succinct. Who would've thought? I, who can go on and on and on ad nauseum about absolutely nothing whatsoever, am now succinct, and all because of being in a handy dandy new location. I am now liking this new lean approach to sentence writing. Terse. To the point. No sentence longer than five words except this sentence which has more words than you can shake a stick at. I know that, because as soon as I was through writing that sentence I shook a stick at it (happily there was a stick nearby) and there were more words than I could shake said stick at, hence proving that particular saying correct. Have you noticed how my new lean, terse style has gone right out the window? Have you noticed how my new lean, terse style is now blowing in the wind along with my routine and the answer? But I like being lean and terse. It suits me to a "t". Not a "w" mind you, but a "t". Can something "suit" you to a "t" if you are not wearing a suit? These are the questions that are occurring to me as I write this here column from this new location. Not that I'm not that far from my old location, frankly. Mere blocks, but what a world of difference.

Oh, this is a bold and adventurous experiment, dear readers. I feel we are on new turf, exploring new avenues, seeking new boulevards, going down new lanes, finding new streets, delving into new neighborhoods - what the hell am I using all these street allusions for? This must have something to do with writing a column from a new location. It messes with your mind. It's like LSD (Linear Sentence Disturbance). I feel my terra is not firma. And yet, I am writing words that are more lean and terse than ever before. Is there a more terse word than "terse"? Terse is positively terse in my book (Chapter 199 - Terse: You Tell Me).

One interesting thing is, because I'm not writing this into the usual handy dandy "form" that Mr. Mark Bakalor has created for me, I have no idea how long this is, comparatively speaking. I have no idea if part one is its usual length, or if part one is terse. It feels terse and yet it also feels like War and Peace. Is it terse or is it War and Peace? You decide. I've already decided that it is like a terse War and Peace. Excuse me for a moment.

I'm back. I just read War and Peace, and my, is it terse. Nine hundred pages worth. I just flew through it. It's a real page turner and the ending is a shocker. They keep you guessing right up until the last page. War? Peace? You'll never guess in a million years. It is not as comfortable to sit on a chair like so much fish as it is to sit on a couch like so much fish. My back is killing me ("Read all about it: Person Killed By Own Back!"). Occasionally people walk by and try to look at what I'm writing, but I don't let them. I tell them to get the hell away from me is what I tell them. I tell them it's none of their damn business what I'm writing. I tell them if they want to read what I'm writing they can just go on over to the Stephen Sondheim Stage and read it like everybody else. They can't just read this column in advance. That wouldn't be fair to you , dear readers. These people would have a leg up on you (no mean feat) and we simply can't have that.

Well, this has been grand, hasn't it? I'm now going to save this here column to something called a floppy disc, which is in fact hard as a rock. Why do they call something a "floppy" when it's a "hardy"? Just asking. So, I'm going to save this to a floppy-yet-hardy disc and then send it along to Mr. Mark Bakalor, who will, with his vast technological know-how, transfer the whole damn thing to where it needs to be. You have to admit, this 60th column sure has a terse and lean feel to it. Everything to the point. Not a word wasted. Waste is a terrible thing, word-wise, and this column is living proof of that. In fact, this column is starting to feel like Fosse: Too long and too repetitious. But enough about me.

The Real A: A Life

I don't know about this writing a column on location. Surprisingly, I feel dislocated writing this column on location. I feel at sea, at bay and at eBay. Speaking of eBay, remember when I shared that wonderful picture of the J.C. Leyendecker painting I'd bid on and won? Here it is again, to refresh your memory.


There. Is your memory refreshed? My memory, of course, was freshed, thus it didn't need to be refreshed. Where was I? Oh, yes, on location, telling you a story. So, guess what I have found out, dear readers? It is a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing, that is what I have found out. On my last trip to New York I proudly took a snapshot to a prestigious gallery called Illustration House to see what they thought my beautiful Leyendecker is worth, not that I am venal in any way, shape or form, oh no, no venal here, just curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat, you know. Curiosity then went to the clinker because you simply cannot kill a cat and get away with it, even if you are curiosity. Justice will be served. Served what is the question. Served tea and cucumber sandwiches? What the hell am I talking about? Oh, yes, I am not venal, nor have I ever been venal, I just wanted to find out what my painting was worth. Well, they looked at said snapshot of said painting and do you know what they said when they saw said snapshot? Here is what they said: "That is not a Leyendecker. It is very nice, but it is not a Leyendecker". I said, "What are you trying to tell me?" They said, "We are trying to tell you that that is not a Leyendecker". I said, "So, what you're saying is that this painting which I purchased on eBay which is signed Leyendecker is not a Leyendecker". To which they replied, "Yes, that is not a Leyendecker". Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather (no mean feat). In fact, they happened to have a feather and they, being accommodating, knocked me down with it. After I got up and got my bearings back (from the blackguard that took them - those damn bearing thieves) I realized that what they were telling me was that I'd been had. It was a good thing that I was not and am not venal because what would be the point. So, what I in fact have is a faux Leyendecker, which, as they showed me, looks nothing like anything Leyendecker ever painted. I still love the piece, mind you, and would love to know who really painted it, so it could be a Real Somebody rather than a Faux Leyendecker. But you'll be pleased to know that while I was at the gallery I purchased a real Leyendecker, and it's a beaut, one of his Saturday Evening Post covers from 1921. So, now The Real A has a Real Leyendecker. I will, of course, share a picture with you in the next column. Did it ever occur to you that if I were not The Real A I would be The Faux A? Just asking.

Well, I seem to have used up the entire The Real A: A Life section telling you the faux Leyendecker story. Miss Meryle Secrest recently asked me where I got my interest in art. Was it from my parents? Well, in our house the "art" consisted of wallpaper with flamingos on it. That is the only art I remember in our house. I cannot look at a flamingo today (one came to my door and I simply could not look at it) without thinking of that hideous green and pink wallpaper. The first artist I ever became aware of was the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali. I remember watching the motion picture Spellbound, directed by my hero, Alfred Hitchcock. In this film there is a dream sequence which was designed by Dali. Full of his weird hypersurreal imagery. I was so taken with it, that the next day I went to my beloved Pickwick Books in Hollywood and bought a book on Salvador Dali. I totally fell in love with his work, and still love it to this very day. Then I discovered Norman Rockwell, and I knew I'd found an artist that "spoke" to me. I just so responded to his down-home heartwarming folksy paintings, and I loved his sense of humor, too. There is a wonderful Saturday Evening Post cover entitled Triple Self Portrait that is one of the great illustration paintings of all time. Anyway, Rockwell created such an idealized world, one simply wanted to live in those paintings. No flamingo wallpaper there. No parental types sitting in a chair with their zubrick hanging around like so much smoked salmon. I used to ask my parents "Why can't we live like that" to which they responded "We don't live like that?" to which no further response was necessary.

The Gluckman and Fitz Songbook

You won't believe it, dear readers. First of all, I'm back at my usual location, sitting on my couch like so much fish, but that isn't what you won't believe. Remember last week, someone pointed out that maybe I should list the publishing information if I print lyrics? Well, I received the following e-mail just moments ago from someone named Milton Nussbaum III. Let's see what it says, shall we?

Date: Sun, November 15, 1998 12:17:18
To: The Real A (
From: Milton Nussbaum III (

Dear The Real A:

I received notice that you have been printing the lyrics of Herman Fitz without crediting Mr. Gluckman and Mr. Fitz' publishing firm. While I applaud your bringing their marvelous songs back into the spotlight we must ask you to credit their company if you are to continue publishing the lyrics. For example, what if someone read your column and decided to sing a Gluckman and Fitz song at Carnegie Hall? How would they know who to pay the royalty to? Since this publishing company has only received one royalty check in the last thirty three years (for $5.36) it is very important to us that people know where to send royalty payments. They sure haven't been sending them here, let me tell you that. In future, please give credit where credit is due, or I will have to ask you to cease and desist from printing any lyrics. Feel free to continue to not print the music, that is fine with us. We feel the time is right for a Gluckman and Fitz resurgence and we just want to make sure that the next $5.36 gets to us in a timely fashion. These offices don't pay for themselves, you know. I apologize for the length of this letter, but frankly I haven't written a letter regarding Gluckman and Fitz since Mick Jagger wanted to record their song I Ain't Got No (Salami Sandwich). We refused because of Mr. Jagger's tight pants, and then he just went off and did a similar song which made ours go abegging. Menasha Skulnik was all ready to record I Ain't Go No (Salami Sandwich) but when he heard that Rolling Stones song he just threw up his arms and said "feh". So perhaps this letter is a little long-winded. I know that Morty and Herman would appreciate your devotion to their work. If I could tell them about it I would, but they are dead, as you know, so telling them would fall on deaf ears. If they were alive telling them would still fall on deaf ears because neither one of them could hear very well. You could go on for hours with either one of them and their response was inevitebly "What?", or sometimes "Eh?".

Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

Milton Nussbaum III

I can assure Mr. Nussbaum III that I will indeed credit the publishing company from now on, starting with next week's column. By the way, have you ever fallen on deaf ears? It is none too pleasant for the owners of the deaf ears, and it is no mean feat as well. In an amazing coincidence, the bird is outside singing I Ain't Got No (Salami Sandwich). Mr. Nussbaum need not worry, as the bird pays all royalties directly to the Harry Fox Agency.

My Favorite Things

Well, I must say, according to the bulk of the e-mail this week, most of you are enjoying my little journey through My Favorite Songs, and have asked me not to stop. Hence, I will let the majority rule and the folks who don't like this section will just have to throw up your arms and say "feh". Have you ever thrown up your arms? Perhaps if people stopped eating their arms, then perhaps they wouldn't throw them up.

This week I thought I'd share three songs by two of my favorite writers, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. I fell in love with their work the first time I heard The Fantasticks, and I've loved their work ever since. Here's a perfect example of what they do better than anyone else, from the aforementioned The Fantasticks.


Hear how the wind begins to whisper,
See how the leaves go streaming by.
Smell how the velvet rain is falling,
Out where the fields are warm and dry.
Now is the time to run inside and stay,
Now is the time to find a hideaway,
Where we can stay...

Soon it's gonna rain,
I can see it.
Soon it's gonna rain,
I can tell.
Soon it's gonna rain,
What are we gonna do?

Soon it's gonna rain,
I can feel it.
Soon it's gonna rain,
I can tell.
Soon it's gonna rain,
What'll we do with you?

We'll find four limbs of a tree,
We'll build four walls and a floor,
We'll bind it over with leaves,
Then duck inside to stay...

Then we'll let it rain,
We'll not feel it.
Then we'll let it rain,
Rain pell mell.
And we'll not complain,
If it never stops at all...
We'll live and love within our own four walls.

To fully appreciate that wonderful song, you must sing it or hear it with Mr. Schmidt's incandescent music. I especially love the lyric "velvet rain" and "rain pell mell". This next song is a real gem, from their show Celebration. It's very rueful and very lovely.


I'm glad to see you've got what you want,
All of your dreams came true.
I'm glad to see you looking so well,
Happiness goes with you.

Once in awhile,
I start to recall
When we were both so blue
I traded dreams with you
Now look how grand you are
My but you've traveled far...

I'm glad to see you've got what you want,
Your star is rising high.
Here is my hand
Best wishes and

Short, to the point, and beautifully written. Finally, here is another wonderful creation from The Fantasticks. Many people have sung this, but my favorite version will always be Barbra Streisand's.


I'd like to swim in a clear blue stream,
Where the water is icy cold.
Then go to town in a golden gown
And have my fortune told.
Just once! Just once!
Just once before I'm old!

I'd like to be not evil
But a little worldly wise.
To be the kind of girl designed
To be kissed upon the eyes.
I'd like to dance till two o'clock,
Or sometimes dance till dawn.
Or if the band could stand it
Just go on and on and on!
Just once! Just once!
Before the chance is gone!

I'd like to waste a week or two,
And never do a chore.
To wear my hair unfastened,
So it billows to the floor.
To do the things I've dreamed about,
But never done before.
Perhaps I'm bad, or wild, or mad,
With lots of grief in store.
But I want much more than keeping house,
Much more,
Much more,
Much more!

And there's so much more Schmidt and Jones that's equally wonderful, including the entire score to 110 In The Shade, which, if you haven't heard it, is a masterpiece.

Letters... We Get Letters

Why is it that when we wake up in the morning (which I have just done) we have what is euphamistically described as "sleep" in our eyes? This "sleep", which resembles three day old eggbread, is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). It sits in your eyes like so much fish, this sleep does, and then you wash it out or pick it out or whatever it is that you personally do to get the "sleep" out of your eyes. Isn't the "sleep" in our eyes useless? What good does it do? And yet, there it is. Every day, as we arise. We arise, and there it is. I just thought I'd mention it as it was on my mind and in my eyes. It is now off my mind and out of my eyes so we can move on to your letters, dear readers.

Mackoy would like to know how long it takes me to write this here column, and do I slave laboriously over each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each section, or does the column just write itself. Now, first of all, if this column could write itself why didn't the fershluganah column just stand up and say that it could write itself? That would have saved me a lot of work. Usually, it takes several hours over the weekend to write this here column. Then I have to proof this here column, rewrite bits, delete bits, add bits, and then it is sent off to our very own handy dandy final proofer who does the final proof, checking for grammatical errors and punctuation problems that I may have missed. After that, I usually give it one more look-see, and then up it goes.

Steve G. has found yet another album that Michelle Lee can be heard on. It is the cast album of Bravo, Giovanni! on the Columbia label. This was one of two unsuccessful musicals composed by the talented Milton Schaefer in the 60s. Did you know that Michelle Lee's real last name is Dusick? I happen to know this because once upon a time I knew her brother, Kenny Dusick. Now, my question is, after Michelle changed her last name to Lee, did Kenny? Did he become Kenny Lee, the famous accordion player and record holder for eating the most fish sticks in an eight hour period? Just asking.

Robert is stressed (yes, stressed) because his show, Edward II, is opening. Apparently a preview performance went well, so hopefully the opening (which, as you read this, has already occured) did too.

Isabella is going to Chicago (the city, not the musical) where she is not going to see Chicago (the musical, not the city). It is her first trip to said city-not-musical and she will be seeing A Sunday Afternoon. I presume this is a play of some sort, perhaps the sequel to my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim's first musical, Saturday Night.

jas loves the printed lyrics in this here column. He/she sings along as he/she reads them. That, of course, is the hope. I would like to imagine all of you dear readers, sitting at your computers like so much fish singing these lyrics out loud.

Rafael also loves the printed lyrics as they remind him of some favorites of his, and also introduce him to some that he was not previously aware of. That, of course, is the hope. And we hope Rafael is singing these lyrics as well. Rafael asks if I am familiar with a song he loves, an obscure Johnny Mandel/Marilyn & Alan Bergman song entitled Where Do You Start? I am, and it's really not that obscure, as it's had several recordings, although none by Holly (formerly Hollis) Flugelstein. Rafael likes Michael Feinstein's version. May I just proclaim loudly that I am a huge Johnny Mandel fan, and that he wrote one of my all-time motion picture themes, Emily, from that motion picture entitled The Americanization of Emily, which starred Julie Andrews as said Emily.

Kate informs me that she's actually seen a chicken running around with its head cut off. It seems her dog S.O.B. (yes, you heard it here, dear readers) would somehow mistake a running chicken for one of its squeaking dog toys. So, S.O.B. would just get her jaws around the running chicken's neck and bite down, thinking, of course, it was one of her squeaking dog toys. The chicken (which was not one of S.O.B's squeaking dog toys) would then find itself minus its head and it would run around aimlessly until it ran out of blood, at which point it would just fall over and lie there like so much fish. And then, on these occasions, Kate and family would have chicken for dinner. Isn't that a good story? I suppose it never occured to S.O.B. that squeaky dog toys are not animate. That thought never seemed to imbed itself in S.O.B's little dog brain. Kate is stressed (not from the Chicken Incident) because she is about to take her driving test. She wants to know if I have any advice for her regarding said test. I do: If the driving instructor gives you any problems, just relate the story of S.O.B. and The Headless Chicken to him. He'll pass you right away.

Otto, in a suprising bit of synchronisity, has also seen a chicken with its head cut off. He informs me that they run around fast. I must say I really can't blame them. These chickens seem to be getting the short end of the stick in my book (Chapter 214 - The Chicken With Its Head Cut Off Can Expect No Long Stick).

Jon B. has another guess as to my Real Identity. First, let's recap:

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, dear reader Matt, Pitgirl's physics professor, Michael Larson director at the Stagedoor Manor, and Yves of Finishing the Chat, and record producer Bruce Yeko.

Jon B. wants to know if I'm the person who posts at Talkin' Broadway's All That Chat under the name The Cosmic Anchovy? That is a fine guess, and a natural one given the fish reference. Let me just say, however, that, to me, the Anchovy is a hairy smelly, slimy maggot of a fish and frankly anchovies skeeve me. Other than that, and the fact that I do not post at Talkin' Broadway's All That Chat, I feel that I could possibly be The Cosmic Anchovy on days when I am not Michael Tough, The Singing Janitor.

Gavin (aka grehf) is tempting me with wonderful trade offers for my Smile video. Those offers are tempting, grehf, but the one thing you can always know about The Real A, is that I am loyal and true, and if people ask me not to make copies, I respect that and I don't. I believe in being loyal and true. In this world, those are admirable traits. Do not despair, though. Many people have these tapes, and I believe some of them even advertise in the classified section of Show Music Magazine. It should not prove difficult to get what you want, especially given your tempting trade offers. I do hope you understand my reasons and that you will forgive me.

Brandon recently saw a musical entitled Pacific Overtures written by someone named Stephen Sondheim (have you heard of him?). It has become Brandon's favorite Sondheim show. Brandon and a friend have made an actual CD, which apparently consists of random comedy sketches. I like random comedy sketches myself. Here's one now:

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

You know what I am beginning to like about this section? I like the fact that I think I have the answer to the question, but you people teach me a thing or two, too (and let's not leave "to" out in the cold). And that is what happened with last week's question: There have been two attempts at doing a plot-oriented musical series on television. One recent and one in the 60s. Name them, and, in the case of the 60s show, name the stars, one of whom was a major musical comedy star, and the other of whom would go on to star in a major musical motion picture. The answers I was seeking were Cop Rock (score by Randy Newman and others) for the recent one, and an ABC show called That's Life for the 60s one. That's Life was a book musical tv series which starred Robert Morse and E.J. Peaker. E.J. Peaker went on to star in the musical motion picture Hello, Dolly! with Barbra Streisand, in which she played Minnie Fay. But, you well-informed dear readers, informed me of some other original musical tv series of recent vintage, which include, Rags To Riches, Fame, Hull High, and a pilot for a musical which didn't sell called Shangri-La, which starred Terrence Mann. Who knew?

The folks who got partial or full correct answers are:

Steve G., Isabella, S. Woody White, William F. Orr, beingreen, crazyamy, Bob G., grehf (aka Gavin), Alina and jon.

This week's trivia question:

Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie (both Sondheim veterans) started out as gypsies. Name the 60s musical television show that they danced on together, and name at least one other Broadway gypsy who danced with them.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, this has been an interesting experiment, dear readers, this writing part of a column on location. It breaks up the routine, and, as you all know, if you have too much routine things can become routine. So, even though I like and need my routine it was good to change said routine lest I become routine. One has to shake things up every now and then. And when that becomes tiresome, you have to shake things down. When you shake things up or down, things don't become stale and crusted like the thing known as "sleep" in your eye. I feel this, our 60th column, has been lean and terse with abs and buns of steel. In any case, as the late Humphrey Bogart said in that marvelous motion picture Casablanca (with a slight paraphrase): Here's looking at you, dear readers. You are (as the living Stevie Wonder used to say) the sunshine of my life.

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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