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

February 15, 1999 - #73

Well, dear readers, here I am, faced with the usual dilemma: what type of column to write? I feel that occasionally we should have a whole new type of column, that we should shake things up. After all, we wouldn't want a certain sameness to start creeping in, would we? Can a certain sameness run in, or jump in, or must it always creep in? Just asking. You know, as I'm typing these words I feel a certain sameness creeping, running and jumping in. What can we do about this? Perhaps I should write a totally serious column. Perhaps that will alleviate the certain sameness that is creeping in like so much fish. Yes, I think that's the ticket. A serious column. That will be new. That will be exciting.

But before I begin my first brand spanking-new handy-dandy serious column, may I just say that I have decided that I've been writing this column incorrectly since the very beginning. This is a column after all and being a column shouldn't it be written like this:









You see? I've been writing this column across when columns are notorious for going down. If columns were like crossword puzzles we could have it both ways but columns are not like crossword puzzles, hence we cannot have it both ways. Frankly, I like to have things both ways, don't you, dear readers? But columns are rigid things (especially the columns in Rome) and one must either abide by column rules or do what I do and ignore them totally. It would take me three weeks to write a column the correct way and that would be heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). Where was I? Oh, yes, a serious column. Now, the trouble with a serious column is that you have to be serious. It is hard to be serious when you constantly have to type words that cannot be taken seriously. That is the problem with the English language in my book (Chapter 324: The Problem With The English Language or Nuts To Words). It is becoming increasingly apparent that I cannot write a serious column and the culprit is the English language. There you have it in a nutshell. Isn't it interesting that there are things in nutshells other than nuts? I found it interesting, which is why, of course, I mentioned it.

Perhaps I can write a column in which I leave out every other word. Let's see how that would look: This an of sentence which leave every word. Well, I like the idea of it, but frankly every other word is missing and that renders the sentence both meaningless and pointless, which, of course, is something I strive for. Extra points for those who can fill in the missing words.

Oh, I am at a loss as to what kind of column I should write. I need inspiration. I need to light a fire under myself. But, I'm not in a self-immolation mood right now and besides, lighting a fire under myself would only result in roasted butt cheeks.

Has anyone else noticed that I don't appear to be writing a serious column? Has anyone else noticed that there are just a few too many vowels in the word "serious" and that if we took away said vowels all we'd be left with is "srs". The vowel is an interesting thing, isn't it? For example, someone had to look at "aeiou" (uoiea spelled backwards) and say, "Ah, I think I'll call those random letters vowels". And what is "vowel" but "bowel" with a "v"? And what is "bowel" except "towel" with a "b"? Will someone please book me an appointment for some electroshock therapy please? Now, if this were a serious column, I'd be talking about my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. Then we could call this column Seriously Stephen Sondheim. But what can you say, seriously or otherwise, that hasn't already been said, seriously or otherwise-wise? For example, I could tell you that Merrily We Roll Along is a musical, but don't most people know that? I could tell you that Stephen Sondheim pulls his face when he speaks, but don't most people know that? I can tell you other things but since most of you would know them wouldn't a feeling of sameness start creeping in? Have I been using enough vowels in this column? I wouldn't want to upset the vowel inventor, although by this time he/she is probably residing in vowel heaven/hell where he/she frankly belongs. If he/she is in heaven/hell do you think he/she is sorry/grateful? Regretful/happy? Oh, why look for answers where none occur? Will someone please tell me what the hell I'm talking about?

Well, so far, I feel this has not been a serious column, despite my best efforts (stroffe spelled backwards). Frankly, this column is starting to feel like the revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown: And the point would be? But enough about me.

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Did you think, dear readers, in all the confusion about which type of column I should write, that I would forget the we must celebrate a most wonderful holiday? And I don't mean President's Day, either. No, I mean the wonderful holiday which, this year, falls on a Sunday. Now, why this wonderful holiday would want to fall on Sunday is a question only Sunday can answer. Perhaps Sunday did something to this wonderful holiday, and this is the wonderful holiday's retaliation. In any case, this wonderful holiday is entitled Valentine's Day. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, it is the day in which we send our valentines little candy hearts and greeting cards and offer kisses and even a special dinner. Valentine's Day was named after Herman Benito Ballantine, who woke up one fine day and decided that he wanted a day named after him, and since Mother's Day was already taken, and Herman Day didn't seem to have enough oomph to it, he said "Ballantine's Day so it shall be". Someone then asked the logical question, "Okay, Herman, but what happens on Ballantine's Day?" Herman replied, "Listen, sweetheart" and the rest is history. Mr. Ballantine sent little candy hearts and greeting cards to all the people he knew (4) and when they queried him as to what these unsolicited hearts and cards meant, he told them "Why didn't you know? It's Ballantine's Day!" Unfortunately (or fortunately) these people (4) misunderstood him and thought he said Valentine's Day. From this misunderstanding we now have a wonderful holiday! Mr. Ballantine was, for the rest of his life, miffed that he never got the proper credit for inventing Valentine's Day. But ever since then, people everywhere have been sending little candy hearts and greeting cards to their special and not-so-special valentines. Wasn't that an interesting bit of Valentine/Ballantine trivia? Did you know that the song My Funny Valentine was originally sung in the Rodgers and Hart musical Babes In Arms to a character named Valentine? Did you know there was a saint named Valentine? Did you know that several mobsters were gunned down in what is historically known as The St. Valentine's Day Massacre? Did you know that I have only received one little candy heart and greeting card, whereas I used to receive at least double that number? Did you know that I am wishing each and every one of you dear readers a Happy Valentine's Day and sending you all lots of Valentine kisses?

The Real A: A Life

Because it is Valentine's Day, Miss Meryle Secrest wants some good Valentine's Day stories. I would be happy to oblige if I had any good Valentine's Day stories. I do remember that in the sixth grade I had a tremendous crush on a person we'll call LL (no relation to EL or ML). Oh, how I pined away for LL. Everytime I looked at LL my little candy heart went pit pitta pat (just like the Rain On The Roof). I so wanted LL to be my Valentine, but not just on Valentine's Day, but on every day. A full-time Valentine with no days off. But I didn't even know if LL was aware of me. After all, LL had never even given me the right time of day. LL would constantly give me the wrong time of day and this sent me a subtle signal that perhaps all was not going to be well in Valentineland. So, along came Valentine's Day, and I made LL the most wonderful hand-made greeting card and with it I gave LL twenty chewable sweet candy hearts and I signed the card "I hope you will be my Valentine" and "Love". I sheepishly went up to LL on the lunch court and handed LL the card (sealed in a handy-dandy envelope). I could see that LL had many other cards from many other admirers. All during the rest of the day my little candy heart went plink-planka-plink, wondering what LL would think of my handi-dandi-work. As I was packing up my books and getting ready to walk home, LL ran up to me and planted a big kiss on my cheek and said thank you for the wonderful card. Needless to say, I was walking on air (no mean feat) all the way home.

LL and I never did get together as a romantic entity, even though we remained friendly all the way through high school. Not close friends, just the kind who say "hey" to each other. Flash forward to three years ago, 1996. I get a call from someone named Cary Stock. Somehow he managed to find me, and he informed me that it had become his mission to put together a reunion of our sixth grade class. When I realized he wasn't joking, I asked him how many people out of the eighty kids in the class he'd found. His rather astonishing answer was sixty-four! I told him that the whole thing sounded too weird for me, but I said there was one thing and one thing only that could get me to the reunion. He said, "You mean LL?" I said, "How on earth did you know that?" He told me that since I used to go around with drool hanging out of my mouth every time I looked at LL, that everyone knew it. I trepidatiously asked him if he'd managed to find LL and his answer was... Yes! I made him give me LL's phone number then and there and I agreed to come to the reunion. That very evening I called LL, got the machine, and left a message. I told LL that I'd heard about the reunion and how weird it seemed and that we hadn't spoken in years and could LL guess who was leaving the message. The next day I received a call, and the first words spoken were my name. LL had figured out it was me immediately. Isn't that funny? We talked about the reunion, decided we would go together, and then LL asked if we should have dinner before said reunion. I sheepishly said yes. Not, cowishly or lambishly, no sheepishly, which is the way I always acted around LL. Well, on June 12th, we met for dinner and had a grand time. We laughed and talked for hours, reminiscing about this and that and also that and this. LL had been unhappily married, but was now happily divorced and living with someone and had a daughter, who, as a youngster, had appeared on Broadway in a play. Then LL pulled out a photo and showed it to me. It was a picture of LL taken in the sixth grade. LL told me to turn it over. And there, on the back of the picture were the words "photo taken by (my name) on June 12th". June 12th! How weird could you get. Here we were, sitting in a restaurant on June 12th, looking at a photo which I'd taken of LL many years before on June 12th. Shall we all hum the theme from The Twilight Zone? Anyway, we went to the reunion, had fun, and we talk every now and then and even every then and now. Wasn't that a nice Valentine's Day story? I think Herman Benito Ballantine would be proud.

My Favorite Things

In honor of Herman Benito Ballantine and his Valentine's Day, here are three love songs from Broadway musicals that I particularly like. Not the most well-known, but they certainly do get to me. And they are:

Music by Jule Styne
Words by Bob Merrill

I know he's around when the sky and the ground
Start in ringing...
I know when he's near by the thunder I hear
In advance.
His words and his words alone
Are the words that can start my heart singing.
And his is the only music that makes me dance.

He'll sleep and he'll rise in the light of two eyes
That adore him...
Bore him it might, but he won't leave my sight
For a glance.
In every way, every day, I need less of myself
And need more him, more him.
'Cause his is the only music that makes me dance...
Yes, his is the only music that makes me dance.

GIFTS OF LOVE (The Baker's Wife)
Music and Words by Stephen Schwartz

A fresh picked rose,
Beside my bed.
The coffee pot there
Hot there
When I raise my head.
Each day the first things that I see
His little gifts of love for me -

When days were cold,
And nights were rough.
I thought his small ways
Ought to be enough.
So, now why can't I gratefully
Accept his gifts of love for me?

Oh, it's time I stop to think,
Time I start to learn,
Time I give him something in return...

I'll share his bed,
I'll bear his touch.
To seem more sunny
Shouldn't hurt too much.
To force a smile is not so grim,
He'll think they're gifts,
They'll seem like gifts of love to him.

I'll save my dreams,
For when I sleep.
And spend the waking
Promises I keep.
I'll do the best I'm worthy of,
And call them gifts
He'll think they're gifts
To him they'll seem like
Gifts of love.

I just adore that song. If you've never heard it, I recommend it and the rest of The Baker's Wife score. It's a honey. The final song is from a great big Broadway flop, but I've loved it since I was a teen, with it's infectious tune and imagery-laden lyrics. "Imagery-laden lyrics". Is that not a perfect sentence for Jerry Lewis? Okay, everyone, let's all do our Jerry Lewis impression. One, two, three... "Imagery-laden lyrics"! Wasn't that fun?

Music by Sammy Fain
Words by E.Y. Harburg

Love, love, when you're in love,
The world is your balloon.
Rain is confetti rain
The moon's a lantern moon.
Glow-worms are footlights in the clover,
For they know
Life's a bang-up show
Why should it irk us,
Ain't it a circus?

Yours is the gate that swings
To clowns and Tinkerbells.
Yours is the hope on wings,
The heart on carousels...
Yours is the earth to play with,
On a summer afternoon.
For when girl loves boy
The world is a toy Balloon.

Pretty little world - valley and stream
Floating in rainbow weather.
Something for a girl and boy with a dream
Something to share together.
Lucky are they who never lose the spring,
To youth and spring...

Yours is the gate that swings,
To clowns and Tinkerbells.
Yours is the hope on wings
The heart on carousels.
Yours is the earth to play with
On a summer afternoon.
For when girl loves boy
The world is a toy

Isn't that just a perfect song for valentine sweethearts? Methinks it is, and if methinks it is, it is, for methinks correctly in this particular instance. Speaking of "methinks" perhaps I should write a Shakespearean column.

To be or not to be
What is it, fish?

What do you think?

Letters... We Get Letters... Almost

Well, this is going to be a very short section this week. Why, you might ask, and I might tell you because frankly you have a right to know. The reason this will be a very short section this week is because Mr. Mark Bakalor left town last Monday (the 8th) and won't be back until the evening of Herman Benito Ballantine's Valentine's Day. Thus, I have only received a handful of e-mails, ones he forwarded before departing last week. So, I know there are many more which I won't be able to answer until next week's column, and that will, of course, include some trivia guesses. Every year at this time, Mr. Mark Bakalor decides to up and leave town to go away for a week and do something theater related. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I find this going away for a week to do something theater related to be a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing. Do you know when I was just typing the word "heinous" I hit a wrong letter and it came out "heinoun". I think I've invented a new thing, the heinoun. It can take its place alongside the noun, the pronoun, and the antinoun. Perhaps some of you dear readers can send me some examples of heinouns. And, in keeping with Mr. Mark Bakalor's week-long something-to-do-with-theater theme, make your heinouns theater related. Let's answer the few e-mails we have, and I will try to answer them in as long-winded a fashion as I possibly can, so that this section of the column has some semblence of heft. Column sections must simply have some semblence of heft otherwise they seem heftless or even heft-lite.

Jon wrote to tell me that "By gum" is a fake curse, "gum" being a substitute for "God". Now, I am here to tell you that gum, whatever its brief pleasures may be, is no substitute for God. Where God is concerned, accept no substitutes. Jon sent several examples of other fake curses, such as "Judas Priest" for Jesus Christ (Judas Priest was the stand-by for Jesus Christ but he never got to go on, because Jesus was notorious for never missing a performance). I know a few other lesser known fake curses, such as "rear panels" for butt cheeks, "Sonova Beach" for son-of-a-bitch, "mustard" for bastard, "bastard" for mustard, and on and on.

Cinderella tells me that finding Diet Canada Dry Ginger Ale is not worth any effort whatsoever. She feels that it is yucky muck. Is "muck" an example of a heinoun?

Ryan says that he got lost in Boston after his piano lesson, but after going down highways and byways and streets and avenues, he finally found his way home. Ryan hopes I had fun in New York (I did) and is sure I was at the Papermill Playhouse Follies CD signing at Barnes and Noble (I wasn't - I'd already returned home).

Pitgirl (yes, Pitgirl) has joined paint crew (will she change her name to Paintgirl?) on account of not being in the pit for Anything Goes (even though the orchestra will be onstage and not in the pit). She's having a lot of fun being a paintgirl even though she'd rather be a pitgirl. Perhaps one day soon she'll get to do both and can then be paintpitgirl.

Anna tells me that if I'd paid any attention at all at the Papermill Playhouse I would have realized that the Playhouse is the papermill. Yes, you heard it here, the playhouse is a converted papermill. And I, because I was not paying attention didn't even realize it. I rarely pay attention, because frankly attention can go out and earn its own money. Why should I pay attention, what did attention ever do for me? Anna also said that I should inform everyone that the Papermill Playhouse is in Paramus, New Jersey not Millburn, New Jersey. Apparently there is some confusion in this matter and I hope we are all straightened out.

Normally there would be more letters here, but as I've already stated Mr. Mark Bakalor went and took off with nary a care about all those letters which would be piling up, and he did so because he is doing something that is theater related, and I for one say poop (poop spelled backwards).

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

I'm sure there are others who have guessed the correct answer to last week's trivia question, Name the Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh/ Sondheim connection, and if so, I will add your names to the list next week. But, because Mr. Mark Bakalor left on a week-long trip to do something with theater, only one person got an answer in in time and that was crow. And the answer: Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh were among those who were invited to write and audition songs for Gypsy. As you may know, the job was given first to Stephen Sondheim, who was hired to do both music and lyrics, until Miss Ethel Merman came on board and insisted that Jule Styne provide the music.

This week's trivia question: More recently, several composer/lyricists were invited to write and audition songs for Ragtime. We know Flaherty and Ahrens got the job. Name any or all of the others who auditioned.

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



Questions? Comments?

Did you notice that I never got around to writing a serious column? So, I apologize if a certain sameness was creeping into this here column, but hopefully we kicked that certain sameness right in ye olde butt cheeks. Is "butt cheeks" a heinoun? And don't you think my use of vowels in this column was absolutely astonishing? On that note (G sharp) I shall bid you adieu (French for adieu) and again wish you the happiest Valentine's Day.

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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