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January 25, 1999 - #70
Not only is Thomas the premier doubter, but he's also taken over the English Muffin empire. This is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) in my book (Chapter 234 The Doubting Thomas' and The Thomas' English Muffin Happy Happenstance or Heinous Happenstance You Tell Me). Well, enough of this talk of Thomas and his doubts and Muffins. Let's talk about Julius and his Orange, or Mrs. Fields and her Cookie. On second thought, let's not. No, on second thought let's talk about dental floss in keeping with this week's dental theme. Yes, there is a certain dental frisson in this here column, don't you think, dear readers? May I just say that someone had to sit down and actually invent dental floss? And may I also say that this person is long overdue for a pat on the back. Because, frankly, Dr. Herbert Floss is one of the great unsung heroes of teeth. Without him, we would not be able to insert a piece of white whatever-the-hell-it-is between our teeth and eject the food bits therein. Dr. Floss was an odd man, an unhappy person whose whole life was dedicated to finding just the right thing to eject food bits from between the teeth. This was an all-consuming thing for Dr. Floss, it was his obsession, and he sacrificed all else in his life in the pursuit of his dream. He never married and he never even had a girlfriend. All he had was his floss. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Floss, and if Heidi Fleiss was still available, I can't help but think that a match made in heaven would have been made. Had Heidi Fleiss married Dr. Floss she'd have been Heidi Fleiss-Floss and all her problems might never have happened. Anyway, not to beat a dead wombat, I floss regularly, after every meal. One must be careful that there aren't any people in the line of fire when one is flossing. People don't react well when the stray food bits get on them.
I'll bet you're glad to see a new paragraph, aren't you? I'll bet you're glad we're all through discussing Dr. Floss, aren't you? I know I am. In fact, I think we have exhausted this whole dental business. I wasn't even aware of how much I was going on about it, but perhaps that is because I am in dental denial. In any case, we shall have no more talk of things teeth. Except to say that tooth names are amongst the stupidest names of all. Let me just list a few of my favorites: bicuspid, molar, and eye teeth. Need I say more? Yes, of course I need say more. "Bicuspid." Doesn't that sound like a race horse? "Molar" sounds just like "polar" only with an "m". And eye teeth? That is just stupid beyond repair. Why not "I, Teeth". Or, "Aye, Teeth". Will someone please stop me before I go one step further. Because, frankly, this column is starting to resemble the touring musical Fame: Whose bright idea was it? But enough about me.
All right, dear readers, you wanted "those bits" you're going to get "those bits". Miss Meryle Secrest wasn't sure she was ready to get into "those bits" but I feel that's because she has some issues about "those bits". After all, in Stephen Sondheim: A Life, we didn't get nearly enough of "those bits". "Those bits" were given short shrift. Don't you feel we should give short shrift to the word "shrift"? Isn't the word "shrift" just too too? Or perhaps two two? I'm not trying to avoid "those bits" I just go off on a tangent when I see words like "shrift" and "tangent". I just have a profound dislike for those two words and you can't even have any fun spelling them backwards ("tfirhs" and "tnegnat"). Where was I? Oh, yes, "those bits".
I've told you about certain "bits" before, for example, my first crush when I was seven, the person I used to pick up in the middle of the night, and a couple of others. Before I get to my first real Real serious romance, I will tell you about one other, just because I can. When I was about twelve or so I got a call from someone, someone who said they went to school with me but that I didn't really know. Said person, we'll call said person ML, said that they really liked me from afar and would like to get to know me. I, of course, am a sucker for people who like me from afar and who want to get to know me, so I was definitely interested. ML suggested we meet at the public libraray, which was just a few blocks from my home, at five o'clock the following day. Naturally, I said yes. Of course I said yes naturally, why would I have said it unnaturally? Anyway, the next day arrived as next days are wont to do, and all day I was very nervous about my library assignation. I put on some nice clothes and off I went. Just to be on the safe side, I brought my library card with me. That way, if the meeting was a bust, I could at least check out a book. I walked into the library. I looked around. I didn't see anyone who fit the description that ML had given me on the phone. Then, suddenly, I saw ML, peeking from behind a stack of books, shyly. I went over to the stack of books and said "hi". ML was very attractive, jet black hair, very thin. We sat at a library table and began to talk. Unfortunately, one is not supposed to talk in the library and we promptly heard a loud chorus of "shhhhhhhhhhhhhh" in stereophonic sound. We escaped the library, and I walked ML home (about a mile from where I lived). We had a lovely time and I saw ML several times thereafter. My only real memory of ML after the library is of taking ML to a party somewhere in Beverly Hills and getting lost and having to ask directions (I've already told part of this story before the person who gave me directions was none other than Phil Silvers of Sgt. Bilko fame). At the party ML and I kissed for the first time. I felt the moment was very Maria and Tonyesque (very passionate, just like those two crazy West Side Story kids). After that, we drifted apart as people who meet at libraries tend to do.
And now we get to my first Real Romance. I do not remember where I met the person we'll call EL (no relation to ML), but obviously we met somewhere. I was in the tenth grade in what we then called High School (do they still call it High School, or is it Middle School or Upper School?). EL was cute, EL was fun, and we hit it off right away. In a very short time we were "attached". I didn't really know what that meant, but attached we were. We went everywhere together, did everything together, even though we went to different schools. We were both volatile and emotional and way too young to be "attached". Yet, there we were, attached. A couple. Now, as you dear readers know, at some point, if you are a couple, sex is going to rear its ugly head. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, sex did indeed rear its ugly head. Oh, sure, I'd kissed before, even with tongues, but I knew nothing from sex. But my dear EL was a little more experienced than I, as EL was a year older. Soon we were touching and fondling, and, if we were feeling especially bold, fondling and touching. Oh, this was new, this touching and fondling. This was nice, this touching and fondling. Let me just say that I liked this touching and fondling. I only wanted to touch and fondle. Everything else went by the wayside, wherever the hell that is. I was addicted to the touching and fondling. Now, you have to understand that all this hot and heavy touching and fondling was done over the clothing. Oh, yes, there certainly was no touching and fondling under the clothing. That would have been too too bold and I do mean bold. But sooner or later, as my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim once wrote, if you are a couple and you have touched and fondled, well, sooner or later you're going to have to deal with "under the clothing". It is only natural. It is the Way Things Work. It is the law of Man and Woman or Woman and Woman or Man and Man or Hermaphrodite and Whatever. So, we daringly, boldly went where we'd never been before. That's right, under the clothes. We didn't look mind you, oh no, that would have been too bold. But we felt. We felt actual skin. And parts. Let's not forget parts. I feel we must have some discretion so I will not go into further detail, except to say these experiments continued apace on a daily basis. Now, I don't want you to think, dear readers, that we did anything too serious. Just the touching and fondling, over and under the clothes, ad nauseum. In those days, good girls and boys didn't get too serious as in "going all the way". I knew vaguely what was entailed in said "going all the way" and so did EL, but we just went part of the way and left "All The Way" to Frank Sinatra. The only problem was where to do our touching and fondling over and under the clothes. It was very difficult to do this in our respective homes because of our respective parents always lurking about. Our respective parents didn't want to know from any touching and fondling over and under the clothes. So, we would have to do our touching and fondling surreptitiously. I vividly remember touching and fondling in the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd. We'd found an empty room there and we just touched and fondled like nobody's business. We were very lucky that no one ever came in while said business was going on, because if anyone had come in they would have seen shocking touching and fondling and also nudity. Nudity at the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd., was, I have to imagine, frowned upon, but luckily for us we were never discovered. Occasionally we'd get so "het" up that we'd have to satisfy our touching and fondling needs elsewhere, because our houses were out of the question and the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd. was closed after seven p.m. So, where does one go to touch and fondle when there is nowhere to go? You will not believe what I'm about to tell you, dear readers. You will think that I am making it up. But I am not making it up. Every word I tell you is true. Of course if that was the case, every sentence would look like this: True true true true true true. So, I guess every word I tell you is not literally "true", because one simply must use other words to convey the point of the story. And the point of the story is this: When we were "het" up with no place to go, we would find empty parked cars, and if said parked cars were unlocked we would go in the back seat of said unlocked parked cars and we would touch and fondle over and under the clothing. I know this seems like the height (not weight) of folly and it was. But, it worked and we were never ever caught doing our business in the back seat of strange automobiles. Nuts, huh? But that's what teen passion does to a teen. The other place we went to when we were "het" up was the La Brea Tar Pits. Now, the La Brea Tar Pits are where the dinosaurs roamed way back when, before Wilshire Blvd. was a street. The La Brea Tar Pits was an immense property. It's still there, but only a portion. Years ago, they sold off the surrounding land and that is where the County Museum of Modern Art was built. So, on this site, where the construction for the museum was going on, we did our nasty business. Again, luckily we were never caught doing our nasty business. I like to think, of course, that the County Museum of Modern Art exists because of our nasty business.
EL and I were a couple for two years. EL went off to college while I was still a senior in high school, and we just sort of split apart as teen lovers will do. And for all that touching and fondling over and under the clothes, in cars, in Jewish Centers, and at the La Brea Tar Pits, we never did consummate our relationship. Isn't that funny? What's even funnier is that I occasionally still see EL, and we have dinner and we laugh and laugh about The Way We Were. I hope this first stab at providing "those bits" has lived up to your expectations, dear readers, for if you liked "those bits" there are more to come.
Just to confound those who think I never speak of musical theater in this here column, I am now going to speak of musical theater in this here column. Isn't that confounding? I recently saw a staged reading of the musical Paper Moon, based on the film of the same name, which in turn was based on a lovely novel called Addie Pray. This musical has been kicking around in one form or another for years. It was done at the Papermill Playhouse a couple of years ago, and a Broadway transfer was announced, which failed to materialize. I remember seeing the billboards at the Marriot Marquis Theater announcing the show's soon-to-be arrival. But the Papermill production got so-so reviews and the buzz was not good. That production had a book by Marty Casella, music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and Carol Hall. Ms. Hall is no longer involved in the show, and since she receives no credit I presume any lyrics she may have contributed have been replaced. I didn't see the show at Papermill, so I was happy to finally be able to see it, as I'm a big fan of both book and film.
Apparently, the authors have done a lot of work on the show, changing songs, strengthening the book, etc. The reading was directed by Stuart Ross (he of Forever Plaid). The cast was very good, with Greg Jbara terrific as Moses Pray. Addie was played by a good actress but not great singer, whose name I don't recall. But the star of the evening was Jean Smart as Trixie Delight. Her comedy timing was superb, and she was just adorable and ultimately touching, too. All that said, the show, after many years development, just refuses to work properly. It always amazes me when the creators of a show can't see obvious problems. In this show's case, the main problem is the first fifteen minutes of the show. The creators don't set the time or place well, they have Addie introduce herself to the audience and set the story in motion, only to never use that device again. The plot's beginnings are very confusing and it's hard to know who is who and what is what. Moses' first number, while charming, has no ending, it just fades away, which is not fair to audience or the actor playing the role. It would be like having Julie Andrews sing I Have Confidence but with no ending. Once the show hits the twenty minute mark, however, things improve. The book scenes work well and there are some catchy, clever songs. With some major cutting and restructuring, and a whole rethought beginning, this show could really work. I have always been a fan of the vastly underrated Larry Grossman, ever since his first Broadway show, Minnie's Boys. His work on A Doll's Life and Goodtime, Charley is terrific, too. He knows how to write a tune, and several in this show are instantly memorable. Ellen Fitzhugh's lyrics were pretty good, I thought. I don't know her work at all, and was pleasantly surprised. And there you have my two cents on Paper Moon. You see, I don't give the musical theater short shrift. I don't give it long shrift, I admit that, but I don't give it short shrift, either. Can you give something just shrift? Just asking.
A Gym Line
God, I need a workout!
Kiss your fat goodbye,
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way...
I have started to feel like I am coming down with something. That's right, you heard it here, dear readers, I am not feeling shipshape. Why I would want to feel like the shape of a ship is a whole other ball of waxy buildup. As you loyal dear readers know, The Real A hates to be sick. Being sick is anethema to The Real A. Okay, on the count of three I want everyone to say "anethema". One, two, three... "Anethema". Doesn't that sound just like what Felix does to clear his sinuses in The Odd Couple? Anyway, I started feeling lousy last night. So, I immediately did what one is supposed to do and started sucking on a Coldeeze. A cherry Coldeeze, which is slightly less barf-inducing than the other flavors. I took an Actifed. I took NyQuil. I slept and dreamt dreams of a thousand perversions. I felt a bit better when I woke up this morning, but still felt on the cusp of getting worse. I hate being on the cusp of getting worse. I hate being on the cusp of anything because of my abhorrence of the word "cusp". But I will not succomb to illness easily. That is not in my nature, and no matter how hard we may try we cannot change our natures (Serutan spelled backwards - extra points for those who remember Serutan). I was/am determined to fight this thing tooth and nail. Clean tooth, I may add, thanks to Dr. Chew. As to the nail, I have here in my hand a six penny nail and if this illness tries to get within a foot of me I will nail it, let me tell you that. A six penny nail can do a lot of damage, certainly more than a one penny nail. The other thing I did to try to help to get this thing out of me before it takes over (like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers) was I went to the gym this morning and did fifty-five minutes on the exercise bike, for a total of twenty miles. My mantra the entire time was "sweat out the sick" over and over again. The people on either side of me were sick of that line after ten minutes. They thought I was a raving lunatic. But I kept going, sweating and saying my mantra. Then that idiot with the gray hair and the spandex pants and the thong underwear up his sagging butt cheeks came in and started doing the stairmaster. So I focused all my illness on him, and my mantra became "if someone has to be sick why shouldn't it be a man with a page-boy and thong underwear". I said it over and over again. Then I went into the locker room, heaving and sweating, only to find fifty people surrounding my locker. Some things never change, but even so I changed and left. I do feel a bit better now. Hopefully, my special Real A cure worked. We'll have to see. Before we move on to the letters section, I want someone to get me the name of the person who invented thong underwear. I want to throttle the butt cheek to within an inch of his life. I know, I know, people wear them so they won't have the visible panty line. First of all, I like the visible panty line. Second of all, like there's no panty line with thong underwear? It's worse. You get that big "V" look which then disappears into the butt. I say we boycott thong underwear. I say we cast aspersions at those who wear thong underwear and let's start with that sixty-five year old gray haired page-boy, sagging latex butt cheeked tinted glassed thonged cretin. I have to eat some fruit now.
Oh, I don't know if I feel better or worse. I simply don't have time to be sick as I'm off to New York next week. I will take Actifed, suck Coldeeze and take NyQuil until I am rid of this dreaded whatever the hell it is. In the meantime, let's answer some letters, shall we?
Pitgirl has had a horrible week. Because Pitgirl found out that she was not going to be in the pit, that is, that there was no instrumentation for her particular instrument in whatever the particular show is that's going on. Pitgirl plays the trumpet (no mean feat) and yet there is no trumpet part, hence she will not be in the pit playing the trumpet. I can't think of a lot of shows which don't have trumpet. So, for now, Pitgirl may have to change her name to NoPitgirl. Hopefully, Pitgirl will be back where she belongs: in the pit doing her Blow, Gabriel, Blow thing. I am in awe of anyone who can blow something and get sound to come out.
Rafael is recuperating from his ear, nose, throat and heart travails. He has been listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song cd which he likes very much. I do too, in fact, I know this is heresy, but I would say it is my overall favorite R&H score. Every song is a delight, from my favorite, Love, Look Away to A Hundred Million Miracles, I Am Going To Like It Here, Sunday, Don't Marry Me, I Enjoy Being A Girl and all the others. I know it's dated, and sexist and racist, but I don't give a flying Wallenda frankly. And why would I give a flying Wallenda frankly. Frankly is mine and I'm not sharing it with any flying Wallenda. Where was I? Oh, yes, the very politically incorrect Flower Drum Song. There apparently are revival plans with a practically whole new book by David Henry Hwang. If it happens I'll be first in line to buy a ticket. Until then, I can always watch the movie. Rafael also wants to know what I thought of the recent Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston. Well, let me be circumspect, let me be gentle and just say that I hated it.
annyrose wrote to tell me that the dance step that I referred to last week as padebooray is in fact spelled "pas de bouree" which, she tells me, means "step of bouree". I am a little rusty with the French, so I can't tell you what "bouree" means, but I do know that Jews (like myself) at the end of the prayer for wine say "bouree pre hahgafen". So, maybe a pas de bouree is "step of end of the Jewish prayer for wine".
Evan was reading a past column in which I mentioned the skating movement known as a "lutz" and how I thought it would sound good as a law firm, like Lutz, Lutz, and Carr. Evan wanted to know if I took my lead from the Real CPA firm of Lutz and Carr or if it was just coincidence. I didn't conciously take it from the CPA firm, but I'm sure the name of that firm was swimming around somewhere in the giant bowl of soup I call my mind. I was going to call that giant bowl of soup Maria, but the Wind had already taken that name. Damn wind, you can't win.
Tom (the Wizard of Oz) has finished Miss Meryle Secrest's biography of someone named Stephen Sondheim and he enjoyed it thoroughly. Summer holiday is over in Australia and Tom is now back teaching the youth of his native land. Tom asked if I like Bobby Darin. I did, and do. Sadly, they don't make them in that mold anymore. Plus, he was married to Sandra Dee, plus he sang "If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway, would you have my baby". Can you see Mr. Stephen Sondheim cringing at that rhyme ("lady/baby")? No, if we were rhyming properly it would be "If I were a carpenter, and you were a laby, would you marry me anyway, would you have my baby". Much better. Of course it's now meaningless, but it rhymes. Tom is also very fond of Jimmie Rodgers, especially his version of the Bacharach and David classic, The Windows of The World. I loved Jimmie Rodgers as a child (well, I was the child, Jimmy was an adult), especially his great songs Honeycomb and my all-time fave Kisses Sweeter Than Wine. I remember making my parents let me stay up so I could see Jimmie Rodgers on The Ed Sullivan Show. Jimmie had a bad accident and had a metal plate put in his head, and he never quite recovered, although he did make other albums.
Brendan wrote to tell me that he likes the word "spellbinding" and that as a word it actually makes sense. Well, you know that and I know that, but how about some poor soul who thinks spellbinding is gluing some letters together. Hence, confusion reigns supreme, as always, word-wise.
Max would like to know what is the "Die, Die, Diana!" I made reference to in a previous column. Why, Die, Die, Diana! is a new musical, which premiered this past fall, in which our very own Mr. Mark Bakalor appeared. Do you suppose if Mr. Mark Bakalor were a dog he'd be known as Mr. Bark Makalor? Just asking.
Emily has been wearing her brand spanking-new handy-dandy One From Column A t-shirt and introducing "what is it, fish?" to anyone who'll listen. She tells me that she's become a Real A groupie and that if I do concerts that she and her friends will come and scream "What is it, fish?" really loud. Emily is seeing Annie Get Your Gun, starring Bernadette Peters, this week. Perhaps, after Annie sings I Got Lost In His Arms, Emily can scream "What is it, fish?". That would be a fine ovation for Ms. Peters, I should think. Finally, some of Emily's friends have made up a little verse about being a virgin. She could not remember the third line of the verse, so I have taken the liberty of writing one for her. Said verse:
When my dad is out fishing for sturgeon,
Tiffany has noticed something curious in the A Little Night Music cd cover art (from the Original Broadway Cast cd). You know, the one with the drawing of a tree. Well, if you look closely at said tree you will see actual naked people hidden amongst the branches. Well, Tiffany is positive that she sees two naked people on one branch and that they are making love. Thanks to Mr. Mark Bakalor (Kram Rolakab spelled backwards) we can take a look at this art right here and right now and see for ourselves.
Well, several people got last week's question, which I'm sure I'd used in a very early column: We know Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman are writing a musical based on the life of The Mizners, called Wise Guys. Over forty years ago, another composer was writing a musical based on the life of The Mizners. Name the composer and the title of the show.
The following people got the correct answer: Gavin (aka grehf), jon, crow, Tom Witherspoon, and steveg, but only steveg came close to getting the title right. The composer/lyricist was Irving Berlin and the show was variously known as Wise Guy, Sentimental Guy and The Mizner Story. Somehow I feel Berlin and company probably were writing a very different musical about the Mizners than the one my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, is writing.
This week's trivia question: I spoke earlier of my affection for the work of Larry Grossman, composer of Paper Moon. There are several Sondheim connections to the work of Mr. Grossman. Name as many as you can.
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next week, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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