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

January 11, 1999 - #68

I must admit, dear readers, I do not feel motivated to write this here column at this here time. That's right, you heard it here, I am not motivated. And so, here I sit on my couch like so much unmotivated fish, trying to be motivated, fighting vainly the old ennui. Of course, when you are not motivated and you're fighting vainly the old ennui, then everything is totally superfluous. Do you realize that if you remove the "ous" from "superfluous" you get "superflu" which, I hear, is going around. And if you change the "u" to "y" you get "Superfly" which was a 70s blaxploitation movie, not as good as Shaft but on a par with Dolemite. This is what happens when you are unmotivated. You start talking about blaxploitation movies. Can Bruce Lee be far behind?

Ah, a new paragraph. That always helps get one motivated. Have you noticed that I have not mentioned the bird in a few weeks? That is because the bird seems to have taken a vacation, but, it is back now and singing up a storm. As a matter of fact it's been singing since nine this morning (it is now four o'clock in the afternoon), non-stop. Right now the bird is singing the score to Mr. Stephen Sondheim's Passion. This bird would make a terrific Fosca, let me tell you that. Can I just digress for a moment? Well, this whole column is a digression on account of no motivation, but still I must digress even further and ask if there is anything more annoying than a car alarm run amok? How can I enjoy the bird's beautiful rendition of Loving You when there's a fershluganah car alarm wailing away? These alarms are apparently so sensitive that if you even look at a car too long they go off. I am happy to tell you that my car alarm has never misbehaved. It has never gone off for no reason whatsoever. It is a good car alarm, and, other than feeding it the occasional lump of sugar, it requires no special attention. If someone has any idea where this column is heading would you please stand up now? Or, as they say on The Price Is Right: Come on down! Oh, I wish I could get motivated. If only they were showing an Anthony Robbins infomercial, but no such luck. No, the only infomercial on right now is for micro hair plugs. Micro hair plugs are no fun. I liked the big ugly hard-to-miss plugs, the ones that looked like Milk Duds. The ones where the hair would grow straight up like corn. Those were my favorites. Everything's so subtle now. Whatever happened to bombast? You know what the other problem is? It's getting dark out and I can't see anymore. Perhaps I should turn a light on.

Much better. Perhaps the light will help me get motivated, because in case you haven't noticed I have no motivation and am fighting vainly the old ennui. You would think, given my intense workouts at the gym, that I would feel energy and motivation. But noooooo, I feel only pain and soreness and old ennui. I did forty minutes on the exercise bike yesterday and let me tell you how sore my butt cheeks are. They couldn't invent a more comfortable seat? Whoever invented the bicycle seat must be into S&M, bondage and nipple rings. Speaking of nipple rings, while I was walking towards the locker room I noticed a three-hundred pound man take off his shirt. He was wearing two nipple rings, which were, of course, conveniently located on his nipples. I didn't chat him up, because frankly I just don't want to speak to any man or woman who has two nipple rings on said nipples. Or are they nipple clamps? Rings, clamps, Christmas tree ornaments, who cares? Ouch, I say. Same for belly button rings. Ouch. I'll stop there, which is more than I can say for some people who will put a ring in any place they possibly can. What the hell am I talking about here? Have I been talking about nipple rings? What has that, I'd like to know, to do with Stephen Sondheim? Well... Oh, never mind. Hey. I'm starting to feel some motivation. I feel the old ennui is starting to ebb. I feel the motivation is beginning to kander. Hence, we have the kander and ebb syndrome, the waning of the ennui and the onslaught of the motivation. The car alarm has finally stopped which is good as I was about to go outside with a baseball bat. I don't know. Has this column become passe? Have I, The Real A, worn out my welcome? Is this column like the eighth season of a sitcom that should have gone off the air after the seventh? You must tell me, dear readers, because I do not want to become an embarrassment. I do not want to become the column equivalent of that three hundred pound man with the nipple rings. I think if I see him again I will subtly suggest electroshock therapy or micro hair plugs. You know, I'm starting to miss the sound of the car alarm. This is what happens when you are fighting vainly the old ennui. I hate the spelling of that word, "ennui". "Ahnwee". There, much better. Well, perhaps we should put a close to this section, because, frankly it's starting to remind me of the new Kander and Ebb musical Over and Over: Can anyone say REWRITES? But enough about me.

The Case of the Missing Column: A Hard-Boiled Mystery or Egg Noir

It started off like any other day. There I was, fighting vainly the old ennui and organizing the hundreds of pages of columns to send to the binders. Making sure all the pages were in the right order and that all the columns were in the right order,too. I got to column 45, which, as it should have, followed column 44. After I finished checking column 45, I went to the next column, which should have been column 46. Only it wasn't column 46, it was column 45. Was I seeing double, or did I have two column 45s? I went to the next column which was 47. Strange, I thought. No column 46. I stared long and hard at the place where the missing column wasn't. Someone had absconded with column 46. Which meant I couldn't send the columns to the bindery. I saw crimson. I began to get steamed, like a fine piece of asparagus. I e-mailed the thug who's responsible for the column getting up. Yeah, that Bakalor kid. I told him that column 46 had gone missing. He feigned amazement and went off and checked. He came back and told me I was right, column 46 had somehow disappeared off the face of the earth. Column 46 had simply ceased to be. I said save the baloney for a sandwich. But the Bakalor kid insisted that there'd been a glitch and the column had fallen into a black hole. I suggested to the Bakalor kid that the same fate was about to befall him if he didn't come up with column 46 and come up with it fast. He asked me if I couldn't be happy with two column 45s. I asked him if he'd be happy with one 45 - between the eyes. I mean, Bakalor was supposed to be a computer whiz, he was supposed to know how these things worked, and yet he had no clue as to how the column had disappeared. I was about to get on a plane to give him a mouthful of mashed teeth when he told me he still had the original column builds. Yeah, he had the rough column, before any rewrites and changes had been put in. So I was going to have to reproof and rewrite column 46. But it would never be the same column 46. It would be a reasonable facsimile, Bakalor told me. I told him he could be a reasonable facsimile too if this ever happened again. I gritted my teeth and did what I could. So, now there's a column 46 tucked neatly between 45 and 47. It wasn't a total disaster. It wasn't a total column 46 washout. No, luckily for the Bakalor guy the story had a happy ending. Otherwise you would have found him floating face down in a bowl of shredded wheat. The columns got to the bindery safe and sound. Me? All that baloney gave me a craving for a baloney sandwich. Light mayo with a slice of cheese. On white bread. Yeah.

The Actual Activity Photos

I have noticed a certain lack of motivation in this here column. And I've decided that that's the theme. Why fight it? Surrender and be done with it. Celebrate the longeurs, say I. Why fight vainly the old ennui when one can just as easily embrace the old ennui? Haven't we just had it with the word "ennui"? Haven't we just beaten that word into the ground? I've already forgotten what section we're in. Oh, yes, The Actual Activity Photos Section wherein we have Actual Activity Photos. Here, for an example, is as Actual Activity Photo of Mr. Mark Bakalor (yes, the selfsame Mark Bakalor who lost column 46) at my Christmas bash. In this photo, Mr. Bakalor is sitting on my handy dandy couch like so much fish.

Isn't that a lovely photo? The activity, by the way, is "sitting", which is a fine activity in my book (Chapter 251 - The Art and Zen of Sitting). Now, at my Christmas bash we had a surprise person show up. Yes, you heard it here, a surprise person, who was not, as is clearly evident in the photo you're about to see, fighting vainly the old you-know-what. Our surprise guest came to pick up Mr. Mark Bakalor who was sans car. Here is an activity photo of our surprise guest, Mr. Steve Schalchlin, composer/lyricist of the hit musical The Last Session, currently playing at the Tiffany Theater right there on Sunset Boulevard.

The activity, for those who wish to know, is posing. Apparently, Mr. Schalchlin (and let's just not mention the plethora of useless letters in that name) was not sans car because off he and Mr. Bakalor went in an actual car. I do hope you dear readers are taking your activity photos (especially those who received your handy dandy Christmas treat) because we simply must show and tell, mustn't we. Don't take a page from my book and have no motivation to take said photos. Besides, if you take a page from my book won't that look odd? Suddenly there will be a page missing, rather like column 46 and we simply can't have that, now can we?


Do you know that there is a playwright whose name is pronounced the same as the word "ennui"? That's right, the famous French playwright Mr. Jean Anouilh, who wrote the famous French play The Waltz of The Toreadors. Wasn't that a useless bit of effluvia? And let's, for a moment, discuss the word "playwright". I do believe someone made a serious error when they invented that word. Shouldn't it be "playwrite"? A playwright writes. Hence, the idiot who made up the word "playwright" has clearly used the wrong "wright". Or, he used the "wright" wrong. To right the wrong we must have the right write. Are we clear on this? Oh, wait a minute, I'm just getting some e-mail. Let's see who it's from, shall we?

Date: Sat, January 9, 1999 22:10:25
To: The Real A (
From: Stephen Sondheim (

Dear Real:

Sorry to hear you're fighting vainly the old ennui. I know how that is. As to nipple rings, each to their own. I am glad you are going to the gym, because frankly you need it. Have you ever heard my song The Blob? A blob is an amorphous shapeless thing and that is what you have turned into and it is none too pretty. To keep you motivated, I've written you a special set of gym lyrics to my song Into The Woods. Here they are for your perusal.


Into the gym
To exercise.
To firm the butt
And tone the thighs.
Take my advice
Lay off the pies
There's way too many fat grams.

Into the gym
To sweat and strain.
Remember this:
No pain, no gain.
When in the gym
You must remain
To do the total workout.

Your muscles ache,
Your body's sore.
But you must make
Yourself do more.
You lift a big weight,
You get a big lift.
And afterwards you wanna
Go sit inside the sauna...

Into the gym
Today's the day.
At your age
It's the only way.
Into the gym
Without delay
To work the glutes
To use the treadmill
To pump,
To press,
To push,
To pull,
To puff,
To pant,
While using the stairmaster,
Into the gym!
Into the gym!
Into the gym!
Then out of the gym
And home to collapse.

I feel you are not really motivated in writing this particular column. Perhaps a nipple ring would do the trick.


Wasn't that nice of Steve to write me such a nice lyric? I'm going to sing it for everyone at the gym tomorrow.

James Hammerstein

Sad news, dear readers. Oscar Hammerstein's son James has passed away. As you loyal Sondheim fans know, James was Sondheim's closest childhood friend. He was 67 years old. A very nice man. His last projects were directing the Marie Osmond tour of The Sound of Music, directing the Broadway production of State Fair, and producing the hit Off-Broadway musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.

The Real A: A Life

You won't believe this, dear readers, but Miss Meryle Secrest just called me and told me that she too is fighting vainly the old ennui. So, she doesn't feel motivated to do our A Life session. Isn't that a crying shame? Just when I was going to start getting into the bits you've all been waiting for? You know, those bits. But those bits are just going to have to wait until Miss Secrest is through fighting vainly the old ennui.

You must admit you've been waiting for those bits. And I will be a lot more free about those bits than my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, was in Sondheim: A Life. I will give details, dear readers. You will get TMI (Too Much Information), I can guarantee you that. Because those bits are important to who we are and how we got that way. And just who are we and how did we get that way? Only those bits will tell. I'll give you a little preview, sort of a tidbit of those bits.

When I was sixteen, I used to wake up in the middle of the night, go into my parents' room (there was no way they could hear me as my father's snoring was so loud they wouldn't have heard a herd of wild elephants - "Heard/herd", Need I say more?) where I would "borrow" the keys to my father's car. I would then stealthily remove myself from my abode, take the car and go pick up a person I was very fond of. We'll call this person I was very fond of W.U. or Woo, for short (or long). Woo would climb out of the bedroom window and get in the car. We'd then drive to a secluded street where I would park said car. We would then smooch for an hour or so. Or I would fall asleep with my head in Woo's lap. I loved these nocturnal visits, or, as Woo and I used to affectionately call them, The Nocturnal Nookie (even though all we did was smooch, with the odd fumbling feel thrown in for good measure). I would then drive back to Woo's house, Woo would climb back in through the bedroom window and I, happy as a clam, would drive home, park, stealthily steal back into the house, return the keys from whence they came, and crawl into bed to sleep for a few hours before school the next day.

Wasn't that an exciting tidbit? There will be more substantial bits next week. No tidbits, just whole bits. Big bits. Those bits.

Letters... We Get Letters

Tiffany writes to tell me that she's suffering from lack of chocolate. She has withdrawal symptoms from lack of chocolate. She is addicted to said chocolate. Yes, Tiffany is a Chocoholic (Hello, Tiffany). She is a chocolate user. A chocolate fiend. She tells me that it would be a difficult decision if she had to choose between sex and chocolate and if she had to make the choice now she would choose the chocolate and table the sex. I don't really care for sex on a table, so I too would table the sex and opt for the chocolate. While she was writing me these ruminations on sex and chocolate, she noticed a three legged dog outside. Well, that dog also had to make the difficult choice between sex and chocolate. While we will never know for sure what that choice was, I think the fact that the dog only had three legs speaks volumes, don't you, dear readers? Yes, Tiffany needs a chocolate fix and that's because she's got a candy bar on her back. But not just any chocolate. No, only See's, or even better, Fanny Farmer. In other news, Tiffany is hoping 1999 will be the year in which she gets a Real Job. To that end she has sent out one resume thus far, to a company that makes elevators. I understand from those in the know, that working for an elevator company has its ups and downs. Said elevator company is in need of a Printed Circuit Board Designer, and wouldn't you know that that is exactly what Tiffany does! We wish Tiffany well and hope that the elevator stops on her floor. With a pound of Fanny Farmer chocolate.

Josh tells me that Christmas is also mentioned in Stephen Sondheim's song All Things Bright and Beautiful, and he is, of course correct. He also informs me that because there was no Year Zero that centuries go from one to one hundred, hence the 21st century does not begin next year. This is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) news. First of all, I once saw a motion picture entitled Panic In The Year Zero. Are you telling me this motion picture title is incorrect? No Year Zero? Did Zero Mostel know about this? So the 21st century doesn't actually begin until 2001 from the motion picture of the same name. Fine, be that way, century. See if we care.

kristina's bad health streak unfortunately did not end with the flu. No, right after the flu was over she got a weird infection in her back and even had to have a minor weird operation for the weird infection. The doctor told her he was going to numb the weird area in which her weird infection was housed, and then proceeded to pull out a huge syringe which he then proceeded to stick into the weird area of the weird infection. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I don't like having a huge syringe stuck into a weird infection. That is just pain on pain. And on top of that, he readily admitted to kristina that there is no way to completely numb a weird infected area. Hence, kristina still felt pain. We sincerely hope that the weird infection is totally gone and that there will be no more weird health problems.

jon says that I should not be discouraged about the gym. As you already have read, I am now back in my old routine and all is well, gymwise. I'll tell you what I find amusing at the gym. These studly jocks who somehow manage to workout and always check themselves out in the mirror at the same time. They seem to get off watching themselves work out. If they had to choose between sex and watching themselves work out, I do believe they'd choose the latter.

Pitgirl informs me that a List Moderator reads the letters sent to mailing lists before they're sent on to everyone, or, in her case, actually writes the letters herself. The list she moderates has twelve subscribers. This is very confusing. Are all the subscribers named Pitgirl? If Pitgirl is writing all the letters what do the subscribers do? Just read them? Do they respond to said letters? Just asking. If I belonged to the list and was sent letters I would of course respond with a hearty "what is it, fish?".

Pat King (he of Wheaton North) asks if I've ever thought about submitting this here column for actual publication as a book, since this type of drivel is so popular today. In fact, I have thought about it. Perhaps I will submit it to Random House just because of the Random nature of the column. Pat toasted me on New Year's Eve. His toast? "To The Real A: What is it, fish?". A fine toast. I'm sure the other people in the room looked at him askance. Pat is trying to get Wheaton North to do my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along. Luckily, Wheaton North's resident choreographer, one Katie Kohler, loves Sondheim. When Pat mentioned Merrily to her her eyes lit up (no mean feat). Why? Because as it turns out a classmate of hers was in the Broadway cast of Merrily. Pat wants to know if I've ever heard of said classmate, Liz Callaway. Why, yes, I have. In fact, I saw her in the musical known as Cats. Also in Miss Saigon. She has a beautiful voice and has two fine solo albums out and a third called Sibling Revelry, which is the delightful nightclub act she does with her sister, the delightful Ann Hampton Callaway. Liz has done many Sondheim songs, and was the chief singer on the Bravo special about Sondheim.

Michael received his handy-dandy Real A Christmas treat and he hasn't taken it off since. Perhaps we will have a photo of Michael in said gift to share with you all. Michael also tells me that Michael Tough, the singing janitor (who I may well be) had to cancel his first concert of 1999. Well, we will all hang tough and wait for his second concert. If there is no second concert then I'm afraid we'll have to hang Tough.

Robert admits to liking sports better than I which is fine. And Robert says that those of us who like and/or are fascinated with punctuation, should stay away from Cormac McCarthy's book All The Pretty Horses, as he has pretty much thrown punctuation out the window. I know this first-hand, because I happened to be passing by the window when all these commas and periods and colons and semi-colons came flying out, helter-skelter. Not only that but there were even a few ellipses and parens flying in the wind.

annyrose has just auditioned for Carousel and would like to play the role of Louise. We, of course, hope she gets said role, because we know annyrose would be the bee's knees as Louise.

Rafael wanted to rave about three cds he got for Christmas: Follies - The Complete Recording (although he wonders why it is called "complete" when it is missing several of the London additions and a few other bits), Painted From Memory, the new Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach album (I like it too, except for the very very very dry recorded sound), and finally Jerry Herman's Dear World. Dear World is a terrific score, one of Herman's best. Rafael asks if The Grand Tour is another lost Herman gem. It's got nice things in it, but is nowhere near as good as Dear World.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Well, I have to admit I was taken aback. Not taken aforward, mind you, but taken aback. I thought no one would guess last week's trivia question: What person who played for the Hollywood Stars baseball team went on to star in a major musical on Broadway. The following people get double gold stars for having the correct answer: Jon B., Andrew and MikeM. And the answer is: Bert Convy, who went on to star in both Cabaret and Fiddler On The Roof. Convy became best known as a game show host, and died a few years ago, much too young. At the time of his death, he was planning a return to the musical stage in a show about Pancho Villa.

This week's trivia question: Bert Convy was planning to do a Pancho Villa musical, even though there'd already been a musical about Pancho Villa. A legendary flop. Name the musical, its legendary star, and the musical's authors. Then name the other musical the authors wrote and the Sondheim connection in that musical. This is, after all, the Stephen Sondheim Stage.

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



Questions? Comments?

Well, you'll be happy to know that I am no longer fighting vainly the old ennui and am finally motivated. Unfortunately, the column is over. Isn't that always the way? I am now totally motivated and the damn column is done. Oh, well, I'll just keep motivated until next week's column. Remember to send in your activity photos. I am quite bored of being the only person around here who is sharing activity photos. I'm afraid you're all going to have to pull your weight. Have you ever pulled your weight? And why would you want to? Yet you must. You must pull your weight. You must contribute. If you can't scan your activity photos just send them to Mr. Mark Bakalor who, when he's not losing column 46, is able to scan them and put them up right here in this column.

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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