Help Support
« One From Column A...

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

December 21, 1998 - #65

'Twas the night before Christmas
With things all awhirl.
Not a creature was stirring
Except for the squirrel...

Yes, dear readers, here we are in the dead of winter, writing our second annual Christmas column. Can you feel the cheer emanating from this here column? Even though winter is dead we are still spreading cheer far and wide instead of succumbing to grief for the dead winter. Don't you think it's awfully inconsiderate of winter to be dead when we're trying to spread our Christmas cheer? I do, and I have informed said winter of my displeasure. Of course, we who live in Los Angeles don't know from dead winter because it is currently eighty degrees outside with blindingly blue skies. Have you all been doing your Christmas shopping? I haven't. I like to wait until the last minute so I can be part of the mad scramble. I like to be part of a mad scramble. And I have the feeling that on December 23rd, when I begin shopping for presents, that I will be part of a mad scramble. And after said mad scramble perhaps I'll eat scrambled eggs just to carry on the whole "scramble" thing. I make a mean scrambled egg, by the way. Why the scrambled egg doesn't come out happy is anybody's guess. I will soon be preparing for my annual Christmas Eve party which I have every year, hence the reason I call it "annual". People come from far wide, and hither and thither and yon to attend my annual Christmas bash. Our own Mr. Mark Bakalor will come from both wide and hither to attend said bash. I make my world famous spaghetti-with-things-in-the-sauce, I make my famous tuna and noodle salad, I have lots of sweets, and plates. One simply must have plates if one is to serve food. Otherwise people end up holding the tuna and noodle salad and this looks odd. Not as odd as people holding the spaghetti-with-things-in-the-sauce, as the sauce (if not the "things") drips right through the fingers which is not too good for the floor. So, we have plates, like civilized people do. We will also have cheese slices and onion dip. Happily they will be on separate dishes because it's none too pleasant to have cheese slices in the onion dip. That is just heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) in my book (Chapter 256 - What Idiot Put A Cheese Slice In The Onion Dip?).

On the first day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
A Partridge in a Pear Tree.

What does that mean? Why would my true love give me a Partridge? And which Partridge? Keith? Laurie? Shirley? And what's with the Pear Tree? My true love went and unearthed a Pear Tree and brought it to me in a truck? What kind of true love is this? She couldn't buy a wallet? She couldn't buy socks? Well, dear readers, here I sit on my couch like so much fish, pondering the imponderables as always. I would just like to know what the hell my true love was thinking, frankly. And that wasn't all my true love bought me. Noooooo, after the Partridge and Pear Tree, she suddenly unloaded three French hens on me. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but one French hen is more than I need. If I'm going to have multiple hens I want them to be Swedish. When you have three French hens all they do is sit around all day and say "Bon". At least Swedish hens say interesting profound things like "Da henska iska profundska". And ten Lords a-leaping? I can't even go there. Have you ever seen ten leaping Lords? Between the three French hens and the ten leaping Lords you've got a cabaret act. My true love is an odd duck that is for certain. And just when I think I'm finally safe, my true love shows up with six geese a-laying. What kind of present is that? Six geese getting it on. This is a gift? Six sex-craved geese, can you even imagine it. I didn't have to imagine it because my true love gave me the shtupping geese. What the hell am I talking about? Shouldn't we be discussing how Stephen Sondheim will be spending his Christmas? I just sent him his gift, actually. Four calling birds. These birds come with their own calling cards and you can have them call whoever you want. Isn't that a great present? How come my true love didn't give me four calling birds? I had to get the ten Lords a-leaping, three French hens and some horny geese.

Wow, I was on a roll (no mean feat), wasn't I? I just kept going, long after others would have called it a day. But that is my nature, and as you all know, no matter how hard we may try we cannot change our natures. Excuse me for a minute.

Well, you won't believe it. A messenger just delivered eight maids a-milking. That is the last straw! I am calling my true love and telling my true love to knock it off. What am I supposed to do with these eight maids a-milking? I hate milk. If these eight maids were a-Diet Coking that would be a different story altogether. Well, perhaps we should just move on to the next section, because frankly this column is starting to resemble the musical Carrie: While it may hold a certain perverse fascination, it can't end soon enough. But enough about me.

The Real A: A Life

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Hope you get your wish.
If you do be sure that you
Say, "Hey, what is it, fish?"

Oh, that Miss Meryle Secrest. Even in the dead of winter, even at the height of the Christmas crush, she never stops probing, never stops questing with the questions. Of course, since it's Christmas, she wants to know all about my Christmas experiences, being Jewish and all. The fact is, in my house we always celebrated Christmas. Oh, I remember a few times we made a token lighting of the Menorah, but we always had a tree and we were always told that Santa would be coming down the chimney to leave us kids goodies. The fact that we didn't have a chimney never occured to us kids. No, us kids believed that Santa was coming down our nonexistent chimney and that was that. My favorite thing to do on Christmas Eve was to sneak in to the living room after everyone was asleep and open one of my presents surreptitiously and play with it, then rewrap it and go back to bed. I felt like I was getting a jump on something. Then the next morning I would act all surprised when I'd open that present, even though I'd already played with it the night before. I loved Christmas. I have many lovely Christmas memories, and this year The Ghost of Christmas Past came to visit (in the guise of Miss Meryle Secrest), to help me visit past Christmases.

My mother loved to drive through Beverly Hills during the Christmas season. Beautiful lights, beautiful decorations, and, for some reason, always rain. I too loved driving through Beverly Hills in the rain looking at all those storefronts with their brilliant Christmas lights. We would, during these drives, more often than not stop for lunch at Ontra Cafeteria. My mother and I would argue endlessly about the pronunciation of said Ontra Cafeteria. She thought it should be pronounced On-truh and I was convinced it was On-tray (a logical assumption since the food was served on a tray). We never came to a meeting of the minds, but we did love our meals there. I would, of course, have to have as much food as I could possibly get on my tray, while my mother would put as much food as she could possibly have on her truh. It wasn't really very good food, but there was/is something exotically wonderful about eating in a cafeteria. L.A. was home to many, including the most famous, Clifton's. And after our meal at Ontra Cafeteria, if my mother was feeling especially festive, we'd go get ice cream at Wil Wright's. Now, if one would or even could do that today, you'd go there in your jeans and your t-shirt, and frankly, so would your mum. But not then. No. On these Christmas excursions, my mother would get all gussied up, wearing a fancy dress, lots of makeup, her hair sprayed to within an inch of its life, and I would be in nice pants and a shirt. Sometimes we'd drive down to the beach and pick up grandpa and grandma Gross (yes, Dave and Gussie Gross, she of the large frame, he of the "what is it, fish?") and go Christmas shopping. My grandmother would frequently give my brother and I "gelt" (money) to spend. The price for said gelt was a painful pinch on the cheek, while said grandmother shrieked "shayna punem" (pretty face). On Christmas Day we'd stay in our pjs all day long playing with our new presents. I remember with astonishing vividness my favorite presents. One was a "car" dashboard, with working windshield wipers and knobs and buttons which were just like the real thing. I just loved that car dashboard. I played with that for hours and hours, pretending to drive. Later on I learned that you needed the rest of the car to actually get anywhere. I also remember getting some kind of woodburning thing. I don't remember what it did or what you made, I only remember that you plugged it in, it got intensely hot, you pressed whatever it was on wood and the smell was nauseating. I just loved that, even though it was a total mystery to me, this wood burning toy was. Then there was the astronomy thing, said thing which cast stars on the ceiling of my bedroom when it was lit up. I loved having stars on my ceiling. I was mesmerized by those stars. I just stared and stared at those stars. I had stars in my eyes, frankly.

We also had many visitors on Christmas day, none weirder than Esther and Louis Wish. They were just downright strange, were the Wishes. He owned an amusement park somewhere in the mid-west. He would regale us with bad magic tricks and bring us strange presents, like a giant rubber ball which you'd bounce on, like you were riding a horse. The only problem was as soon as you bounced on it it popped with a loud hideous noise, sending you crashing to the floor in a heap. That, of course, sent the flaming red-haired Esther Wish into fits of laughter. I didn't much care for that big rubber ball and was always nervous from that day on whenever there was a big rubber ball about. My least favorite presents were, of course, clothes. Why is it that when relatives buy you clothes they instinctively pick out exactly what you would never wear in a million years?

And then there was Christmas dinner. We always seemed to go to my father's sister's house. I loved my Uncle Larry and Aunt Bella, they were my favorites. One of their children, Alan, used to torment my brother and me by playing an amusing game which he called "Pink belly" in which he would raise our shirts and slap our stomachs until the were bright pink. I believe that game was only amusing if you were the slapper and not the slapee. Unfortunately, I was never the slapper, as I was the youngest, and the youngest is always the slapee. We'd then eat mounds of lovely Christmas food, and then I'd usually do one of my famous death scenes. My death scenes were legendary. Whenever my parents would bring me to any party, at some point in the evening, without warning, I would "die" in some spectacular way. I don't really recall the reason for this, but die I did, in many and varied ways. My Christmas deaths were especially creative as I recall.

Well, it's been fun reminiscing with the Ghost of Christmas Past, but now Christmas Future is almost here and so I must begin the arduous preperations for making spaghetti sauce-with-things-in-it. I must make sure that Santa can get down the chimney (I have two - he can have his choice) by opening the flue (eulf spelled backwards). You simply must open the flue or Santa will not be able to come down the chimney. Then he will get cold and catch the flu and all because of the closed flue. This is known as the flue flu. Oh, excuse me for a minute.

I'm going to have to stop answering the doorbell. There were just eleven pipers piping out on my front porch. Just standing there piping away like the piping zealots they are. And you just have to stand there until they're through or these eleven pipers give you a dirty look. Luckily they finished their piping and are now annoying someone else.

The Gluckman and Fitz Songbook

Brisket roasting on an open fire,
Kreplach lying in your soup...

Yes, just in time for the Christmas season, we have unearthed yet another lost masterpiece from the prolific yet unheralded team of Morty (Adolph) Gluckman and Herman Fitz. At this time of Hanukkah and Christmas what could be more appropriate than this timeless song about mixed marriage.

Music by Morty (Adolph) Gluckman
Words by Herman Fitz

You're always Catholic,
He's always Jewish.
You sit there thinking "I'll be a Jew",
You're not a Jew.

You go to temple,
You try to like it.
You don't know Hebrew
What can you do?
You're not a Jew.

Oh, you'll eat corned beef,
Every day.
But the mayo just gives
You away.

But still you're Catholic,
And still he's Jewish.
You wear a cross and he wears a star,
That's how things are.

Hanukkah's lovely,
Christmas? Worse.
Wait I think I meant that
In reverse.

When she is Catholic,
And he is Jewish.
Like week old seltzer, you get no fizz.
A shiksa is what a shiksa is,
And she'll never be Jewish,
Not that wife of his.

Yes, that's it in a nutshell, isn't it? As usual, Gluckman and Fitz hit the nail on the head. Or, as the great Marvin Hamlisch once said of them, "They had the unique ability to be both arcane and incomprehensible, which, as you know, is a rare talent in songwriting".

My Favorite Things

Round yon virgin, mother and child,
Holy infant so tender and mild.

Just look at that lyric. What in hell is a round yon virgin? And of course the Holy infant is tender and mild. Who wants a tough and spicy Holy infant? Not me, I can tell you that. Well, for this week's My Favorite Things there is only need to print the lyrics to one song. I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's my favorite Christmas song, and simply put, one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Music and Words by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light.
From now on our troubles will be
Out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the yuletide gay.
From now on our troubles will be
Miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days
Of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us,
Gather near to us,
Once more.

Through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow.
But till then we'll have to muddle through
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days
Of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us,
Gather near to us,
Once more.

And through the years we all will be together,
If the fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Perfect, and that's all there is to that.

Letters... We Get Letters

Well, those who actually sent your addresses to Mr. Mark Bakalor have your extra special handy dandy Real A Christmas presents on their way to you. Those who got their addresses in late will hopefully receive their presents in time for Christmas, but if not you should have them directly after. I was a bit surprised at the paucity of addresses but such is life. And just where is paucity? Is it near River City? Do we have letters? Yes, we do. And without further ado we'll answer them right here and right now, although not necessarily in that order.

Robert will be going home to Oklahoma! (the state, not the musical) for three weeks, which, he says, will be a nice break from the rigors of college. It is always nice to have a break from rigors. Rigors can just be too too much sometimes. But Robert won't know from rigors for three weeks, which is all to the good, rigor-wise.

Gabriel Flores has been asked to create a musical number for a high school production entitled Hollywood Magic. Said number is supposed to pay tribute to classic horror films. He, of course, looked at the work of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, but Gabriel wants to use a movie song not a theater song and can't find one that works. I don't know if I can be of any help, other than to suggest looking at The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie, to see if the final song would be appropriate. Or perhaps something from Little Shop of Horrors (which was a film as well as a theater musical).

Cinderella writes to say that Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is also her favorite Christmas song. She'd like to know if I'll be following the Jewish tradition of attending a movie on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day I will be following the Jewish tradition of sitting on my couch like so much fish, and then, yes, I will be attending a movie.

Tom (from Oz) sends his yuletide greetings to all of us. Tom has just begun his summer vacation and won't be back with us until the end of January. Apparently, while we're in the dead of winter, Tom is in the throes of summer. That's Australia for you.

Sara points out that my production of Pied Piper of Hamelin at camp, which took place around the pool, is similar to what Stephen Sondheim and Burt Shevelove would later do when they staged The Frogs in a swimming pool. I did not want to point out the fact that I believe both Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Shevelove visited the camp I attended and saw The Pied Piper and this is where they first had the notion that a swimming pool would be a good place to put on a musical. Sara also thinks regarding the trivia question, that there is no one named Ursula in The Parent Trap. That is true of the remake, but there is indeed a character named Ursula in the original. But, the character of Ursula is not played by the actress I mentioned. No, the actress I mentioned played Ursula's friend Betsy. However, no one came close to guessing so it didn't really matter.

Tiffany, who hasn't been writing lately, is back with us. Hello, Tiffany! So, now both Emily the Errant and Tiffany the Tardy are writing again, and this makes me very happy indeed. Actually, Tiffany wrote last week but at the very moment she was sending her e-mail her computer crashed and said e-mail never arrived. Tiffany informs me that Nellie got neutered and that he's healing nicely, although he doesn't seem to cuddle as much since said neutering. This sometimes happens when genitals are removed. Tiffany saw an old movie and wants to know if I can tell her what the title is. It starred Anthony Perkins as a college basketball player and honor student. Yes, I'm happy to say that I can tell her the title, because I saw the movie when it was released and thought it very funny. It introduced a new actress to the screen by the name of Jane Fonda. It was directed by Josh Logan (he of South Pacific) and it is called Tall Story. How's that for movie knowledge!

William F. Orr sent me birthday wishes and tells me that he too has a birthday in December, on the 23rd (same as my brother). He'll be fifty-four this year and we wish him a happy birthday, too. William F. Orr asks how much I will pay him to not reveal my Real Identity. He feels he knows who I am and guesses that I turned fifty-two on my birthday. Well, we're on the honor system here, and there'll be no revealing of my or anyone else's Real Identities. However, the one thing I can assure William F. Orr of is that his guess as to my age is incorrect. I am not fifty-two. I might be younger than springtime, or older than Methusaluh, but I am not fifty-two.

Craig has been having quite a time of it. First he had to do four scenes in two days. Not two scenes in four days, mind you, but four scenes in two days. He also tripped on a faulty sidewalk, twisted his ankle, landed on his knee and arm and to top it all off spilled scalding hot chocolate on himself. Now, first of all, I try never to carry scalding hot chocolate when I'm going to trip on a faulty sidewalk. Whenever I see a faulty sidewalk I just toss that scalding hot chocolate. Then, when I trip I only twist my ankle and fall on my knee and arm. The very next day, Craig stapled his finger with a pneumatic stapler. I don't think he meant to do this, either. I think his finger was in the wrong place at the wrong time, pneumatic stapler-wise. Then he had a date with someone who apparently didn't have the ability to communicate like a normal human being, and, on top of that had rancid breath to boot. Whenever I go on a date with someone who doesn't have the ability to communicate like a normal human being and who has rancid breath to boot, I bring along a pneumatic stapler and threaten to staple their incommunicative smelly mouth shut.

Orchestra Pit (aka Ryan) will be playing the keyboard for some carolers who will be caroling (what carolers usually do) in Boston. OP also wants me to know that he abhors Smokey Joe's Cafe. I have not seen Smokey Joe's Cafe so I cannot comment on his abhorrence of same. OP has been loving the music of Stephen Sondheim for about two months now, although he has no idea what the shows said music is from are about. You'll enjoy the music even more if you can rent the videos of Sunday In The Park With George, Sweeney Todd, and Into The Woods.

Emily is home for the holidays and wants me to know she's exhausted from driving seven hours straight (better than driving seven hours crooked, let me tell you) without stopping to pee or eat, not necessarily in that order. Emily had some Jewish people over to help decorate their Christmas tree. Jewish people like to decorate Christmas trees, because it is a refreshing change of pace from a hanukkah bush.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Well, no one, not one person was even close. Actually only one person even bothered to guess. It seems last week's trivia question was just too too obscure for even you trivia experts. The question was: In the camp sequence, one of Hayley's friends, Ursula, is played by someone who went on to create a role in one of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time. Who was it and what was the musical and the role she created? I had the name of the character wrong, of course. The character the actress played was Betsy, not Ursula, and she was the camp friend of Sharon (played by Hayley Mills), not Susan (played by Hayley Mills). The actress who played Betsy (she was barely a teen then) was Kay Cole, who would later go on to create the role of Maggie in A Chorus Line. She's currently a choreographer here in LA, and occasionally still performs. What a voice she has. Who can forget the way she soars when she sings the high note on "at the balleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet".

This week's trivia question:

Name all the songs from the pen of Mr. Stephen Sondheim which have anything to do with Christmas.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, dear readers, the bird is outside singing Frosty the Snowman and I've got pipers piping, maids a-milking and geese a-laying, not to mention five golden rings that I can't figure out what to do with. I've got three hens who will only talk in their native French tongue, and to top it all off I've now got two turtle doves (like one turtle dove isn't enough). How did it happen that a turtle and a dove became one. They are horrible mutants, these turtle doves: half bird, half slow crawling reptile. They give me the creeps, these mutant turtle doves do. Oh, excuse me for a moment.

Well, that tears it. I now have seven swans a-swimming at my front door. This is very incongruous, these swimming swans, as there is no pool at my front door. There are seven swans just sitting on the ground pretending they're swimming. In any case, I wish you all the happiest and merriest Christmas ever. Stay tuned for our New Year's Eve column next week, when we will take a look back at the year 1998.

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

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

« Features



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

Follow the thread...

“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.

Which is not to say that it is perfect...”
- popcornonmyknees

Follow the thread...

Explore the rest of the Finishing the Chat Community Forum

Music, Books & More
Elaine Stritch
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
DVD: $25.49
VHS: $19.98

Nathan Lane
All Sondheim completists are sure to now own the first complete recording of The Frogs coupled with Evening Primrose. Do you?

CD: $18.97

Browse additional merchandise...


© 1994-2004 hijinks design. All Rights Reserved. | Site design and hosting by hijinks design.