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

February 22, 1999 - #74

Well, dear readers, I have an admission to make. What is this admission you might ask and I might tell you because you have a right to know. This admission is that I am hungry. I know this because my stomach is revolting and making noises. Not "revolting" in the sense of "disgusting" but "revolting" in the way that Spartacus did. Isn't that a good analogy? Revolt/Spartacus, that just says it all. Actually, the noises my stomach is making are revolting in the sense of disgusting. You can hear them all the way down the street, these revolting/disgusting (not revolting/Spartacus) noises. So, here I sit like so much fish, stomach both revolting and revolting (one more "revolting" and we can have a law firm). The question is, why don't I eat something if my stomach is making noises. And that, of course, is the crux of the matter. "Crux". There is just nothing I can say about that word. Except: Why? Anyway, I can't eat something at the moment because in two hours I am going out for a large meal and I want to save all my fat grams and calories for said meal, because I am eating said meal at one of my favorite restaurants in all of Los Angeles. That restaurant is known as Musso and Frank's Grill and is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, dating from the late teens. I've been known to date from the late teens myself. And if the teens want to date who am I to say nay (yan spelled backwards). In any case, I shall be eating my beloved Salad with Vinagrette (no beets) and Pounded Steak with Country Gravy, served with Lyonnaise Potatoes. Just typing that made my stomach yearn and long for the serving of said meal. I have just realized that I've written quite a long paragraph about a revolting stomach and Pounded Steak. I do believe we've sunk to a new low, and so fast, too. Usually I try never to sink to a new low until the second or third paragraph, but it seems I've outdone myself.

I would have never written the paragraph above if my damn stomach hadn't been revolting/revolting. I would have written brilliant notions on the musical theater as I know it, but those notions might have been noxious and a noxious notion is not to be tolerated. Isn't "noxious" an especially stupid word? All those letters working to no purpose whatsoever. Of course "notion" is no day in the park, either. Speaking of a "day in the park" did you know that a good day to be in the park is Sunday, especially if you're with some one named Georges. And they say this column needs more Sondheim. Hah (hah spelled backwards), say I. I am so hungry I shall eat like a horse. "Eat like a horse". I know that saying is supposed to mean that you will eat scads of foodstuffs, but frankly I've never seen a horse eat scads of foodstuffs. Oh, a few oats here and there and the horse is happy. So, whoever made up that saying "eat like a horse" was beaten with a stupid stick. If I was really going to eat like a horse I'd put a bucket around my head, but they frown on this sort of activity at Musso and Frank's Grill (located on handy dandy Hollywood Blvd.). Oh, dear readers, there is so much to talk about and yet I can't think of anything but Pounded Steak. I had intended to write the most amazing column I'd ever written and all that's coming out is Pounded Steak. Pounded Steak. Pounded Steak. I know that after I eat the Pounded Steak I shall feel ever so much better. I shall feel sated and at one with the world at large. In the meantime, I shall try to be lucid and not only talk about the upcoming Pounded Steak. I shall, for example, talk about my new HandyMan.

I got a flyer the other day from a HandyMan, a retiree looking for the odd job to do. I called him immediately, because I liked the thought of hiring a HandyMan. He seemed Handy on the phone so I said "Come on over, I shall find an odd job for you to do." And so, the next day came the HandyMan to my HandyHouse. We found many odd jobs for him to do, for example, The Fixing of The Broken Gate. I have had a broken gate for one year, said gate being off its hinges and just sitting there like so much fish. That means that anyone could just push it aside and come into my yard, and we just can't be having anyone push broken gates aside and come into our yard now, can we? Well, darned if the HandyMan didn't just up and fix that broken gate. He put it back on its hinges and put a dead bolt lock in it for good measure. So now anyone can't get in my yard unless they break down the gate or unlock it, whichever comes first. Then he attended to his next odd job, The Fixing Of The Fence. For some reason the fence in my yard which seperates my house from the house in back of mine had fallen down. Yes, you heard it here, that fence just fell down, willy-nilly and also nilly-willy. It had been propped up in a herky-jerky fashion, which merely looked herky-jerky. I might not have minded had it looked jerky-herky, but one simply can't have a propped up fence which looks herky-jerky. Well, darned if the HandyMan didn't fix that propped up fence in no time flat, whatever the hell that means. Yes, in no time flat that fence was just like new, standing upright just like fences are wont to do. This HandyMan certainly was Handy. And we had more odd jobs for him, for example The Fixing Of The Hole In The Wall of The Bathroom. I'd had a leaky pipe some months ago, and a handy dandy plumber came and he just punched a whole in the wall in order to get to the leaky pipe. Then he just left. So I just left that big hole in the wall because what do I know from a hole in the wall. I put a piece of cardboard over it, but this was not aesthetically pleasing. Well, darned if the HandyMan didn't just up and plaster that ugly hole. Now I have an actual wall without a hole in it. The HandyMan also did some assorted caulking. I've never had anyone do assorted caulking so this was very exciting this assorted caulking was. All in all the HandyMan did a fine and handy dandy job. I have just written a novel-length treatise on a HandyMan, for God's sake. I must be hungry or something. Perhaps I'd just better end this section and go eat (Pounded Steak, didn't you know?) because frankly it's starting to feel like the new musical Captains Courageous: It just doesn't quite work. But enough about me.

My Dinner at Musso's

Do you remember, dear readers, how just one short paragraph ago I was hungry with a capital "H"? Well, I am no longer hungry with a capital "H" or a lower case "h" either. And therein lies the tale of My Dinner At Musso's.

We arrived at the restaurant at 7:30, myself, my dinner companion, and my friends, a married couple and their cute nine year old daughter. Oh, what a festive party we were. Well, they were festive. I was starving. They couldn't bring the famous Musso and Frank's sourdough bread to the table fast enough. As soon as it arrived I ate two pieces before anyone had a chance to say "boo". I'd eaten a third piece by the time they did say "boo". I then asked them why they'd said "boo" but they had no answer. I felt much better with three pieces of sourdough bread in my stomach. While we were looking at the menu (I, of course, knew what I was going to have, but still I made the pretense of looking at the menu because that is just the thing to do) a short gray-haired man stopped by the table and said "hello" to my friend, because they'd worked together many times. This short gray-haired man turned out to be Van Dyke Parks, a wonderfully talented composer and record producer, who did all of Randy Newman's albums, as sometimes arranger and co-producer. I, however, have always loved him for his genius arrangement of the Cole Porter song "Anything Goes" that he did for the group known as Harper's Bizarre. While it was very nice to meet Van Dyke Parks, we had food to order. I went first and ordered my beloved Pounded Steak with Country Gravy and Potatoes Lyonnaise, a salad with vinaigrette (no beets) and a Diet Coke. My dinner companion proceeded to order the exact same thing, and then the wife of my friend ordered the same thing. I couldn't believe there were two food copycats at one table. The daughter ordered a hamburger and my friend ordered Veal Scallopini. Well, the meal was superb, with much country gravy being consumed by the copycats. We ate until the cows came home. While we were eating we had another visitor stop by the table, this time it was famous actor Charles Nelson Reilly. Luckily we had pretty much finished our dinners, because Mr. Charles Nelson Reilly loves to talk. He can just talk until the cows come home. Thank goodness the cows had just come home, and Mr. Reilly and his dinner companion sat at the booth next to us and ordered Chicken Pot Pies for two. Then, just when we thought we couldn't possibly eat another thing, we all ordered dessert. Regarding dessert, my dinner companion said, "No, perhaps I'll just have a bite of yours". I ordered the Musso special Bread Pudding with Whipped Cream. My friend immediately ordered the same thing while his wife and daughter ordered a sundae and a Napoleon. Well, our dessert arrives. My dinner companion took the bite they said they would. Then another bite. Then another bite. Why, did you know that my dinner companion ate three quarters of the Bread Pudding with Whipped Cream? Can you believe it? Three quarters of my Bread Pudding was in my dinner companion's stomach and said companion showed no remorse about this whatsoever. I only had about three bites of my Bread Pudding which was no longer mine. This dinner companion usurped the Bread Pudding. Yes, you heard it here, usurped the Bread Pudding. It is a heinous (heinous, do you hear me?) thing to have one's Bread Pudding usurped, but once said Pudding is usurped there is simply nothing one can do about it except glare at the usurper, which I, of course, did. When I got home I had to sit on the couch like so much fish, filled to the brim with Pounded Steak but not Bread Pudding. I simply could not move. There was a time I would not have been so full, but since I have been working out my stomach has shrunk (no mean feat) and I cannot ingest the scads upon scads of food that I, just a mere few weeks ago, could and did. By the way, as we were leaving the restaurant we stopped and said goodbye to Charles Nelson Reilly, which took twenty minutes. Did you know that Mr. Reilly starred in two big Broadway musicals, neither of which were written by my close personal friend whose name I've forgotten because it's been so damn long since I've mentioned him. Yes, Mr. Reilly was the original Bud Frump in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, and he was the original Cornelius Hackl in Hello, Dolly! He even made an album once on which he and Robert Morse sang duets. It was called A Jolly Theatrical Season and it sold at least one copy. I know this because I bought it.

The Lesson

Yes, I have learned a valuable lesson in this week's column, and that lesson is to never write a column on an empty stomach. First of all, you get ink all over your stomach and it's hard to get it off. Second, have you ever tried writing a column of this length on your stomach? You have to write really small and then everyone would have to come to my house and try to read it on my empty stomach, because you simply cannot scan a stomach, empty or otherwise. Have you noticed that this entire column has been about food, most noticibly Pounded Steak and Usurped Bread Pudding with Whipped Cream. Anyway, I have learned I cannot write a column on an empty stomach because I am just too ornery and all I can think of is getting food into my hungry maw and having it travel down my waiting gullet so that it can fill my empty stomach and enable me to write a column that is about something other than food for example a tidbit or two about that guy you know the one Sondheim or something and don't you just think I need to throw in some punctuation somewhere because these are just a bunch of words one after another in yet another example of a giant run-on sentence which is just hurling forward which is what I feel like doing because I have stuffed so much food down my hungry maw and gullet and I just think it's time for a period don't you? Of course that's a question mark not a period but it did the trick. I promise you that the next section, whatever it may be, and let's face it, I'm winging it, will not be about food. There. I said it and I'm glad.

The Real A: A Life

Given the fact that I've been jumping all over the map, column-wise, Miss Meryle Secrest has asked that I just do some free-form remembering. First of all, let's get something straight. Excuse me for a minute.

There, I just took a hanger and straightened it. Now that we've got something straight, may I just say that I opened up a map and jumped all over it and now the map is in tatters? May I just say that? I guess I may since I just did (did spelled backwards). So, here I sit on couch like so much free-form fish and I shall attempt to do what Miss Meryle Secrest wishes, because as the djinni is wont to say, "Your wish is my command". Did you, in fact, know that the djinni is wont to say that? I did, because when I was a tyke I read a book entitled The Arabian Nights and in said book there was a djinni who said "Your wish is my command". Now, let us look at the name "djinni". Have you ever pondered and wondered at the mind that decided we had to put dots at the top of letters? Not all letters, mind you, just certain letters which I presume were decided upon by the man who deemed it necessary to put the dots up there in the first place. Where was I? Oh, yes, the djinni and how I shall attempt to do Miss Secrest's free-form bidding.

As I was driving to the framer's today (to do some framing - a good thing to do when you are going to the framer's) and sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway on a Saturday morning at eleven I suddenly thought to myself that this bumper to bumper traffic defies credulity. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, the traffic was defying credulity and credulity was none too happy about being defied. Anyway, there I sat, not moving, and I suddenly asked myself "Myself, who the hell are these people, where are they going and why are there so many of them out in their cars on a beautiful Saturday morning?" Time was, and not so very long ago I might add, that you could take a drive anywhere in Los Angeles on a Saturday morning and just have no traffic whatsoever on the freeway. But now, no matter what time or what day, there is always traffic. And the amazing thing is that there is no reason for the traffic. There were no accidents, no cars off to the side of the road. There was just three miles of non-moving bumper to bumper traffic and once you passed the three miles the traffic abated and was fine. Why? How can there be traffic and then no traffic just like that? It's like nine hundred cars just disappeared, fell into an abyss and freed up the road. It makes no sense. Yes, it defies credulity. This city used to be swell, but I like it less and less because of this inability to get where one wants in a timely fashion. I later found out that all the people driving today were going to their framers, too. Coincidence or plot, you tell me.

I can remember a time when the freeway I was travelling upon didn't even exist. I can remember a time when we had to take a windy dirt road to get to the valley because the 405 didn't go that far. I can remember a time when there were no cineplexes and even neighborhood theaters were palaces of dreams. I can remember a time when there were no video games, no malls and when jumping on a trampoline was considered grand exciting fun. I can remember a time when calypso pants were all the rage. What am I going on about? I sound like a ninety-year old with no teeth. Who cares that I can remember a time? But, this is what happens when you are granting Miss Secrest's free-form wish.

Have you ever sat and pondered (or stood and pondered, for that matter) what art changes our lives, changes the way we feel, makes us grow? What art influences us? I have sat (like so much fish) and pondered that very thing. Art, of course, is subjective. What is a life changer for one person is a bore for another. To Kill A Mockingbird by Miss Harper Lee instilled in me a profound love of literature and a wonderful understanding of tolerance. The paintings of Norman Rockwell made me fall in love with art, and made me discover all the other masters I fell in love with. There were always cast albums around my house, albums I loved, albums I wore out, but it wasn't until I heard Anyone Can Whistle that I was taken to a place I'd never been to, where whole worlds were opened up to me because of the brilliance of the music and lyrics. I'd never heard such word-play before, and the music got inside of me like nothing else had before. Same with the piano playing of Bill Evans. I realize that I've been through some of this territory before but I feel some of it bears repeating, and frankly, when you free-form, you tend to be senile and forget whether you've already talked about things or not. The singing of Al Jolson, Robert Weede, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Arthur Prysock, all had a profound effect on me. I know there's a point to all this but I'll be damned if I can figure it out. Am I just spewing forth great chunks of free-form nothingness? You tell me.

Well, I am through free-forming. Any more forming and I want to be paid for it.

The Handyman Part II

The HandyMan did such a handy job, that I had him come back and build an overhang for my patio. I now have a covered patio so I can buy patio furniture. Before I couldn't buy patio furniture because the patio had no overhang, it was not covered and said furniture would have gotten ruined in the rain, just like my two lawn chairs got ruined in the rain. You know who loves my new covered patio? The bird. You remember the bird? It's been on the road, doing a bus and truck tour of Guys and Dolls in which it stopped the show nightly with its rendition of Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat. Well, the tour ended and the bird is back and singing up a storm. In fact it is out there right now, singing I've Got To Be Me from Golden Rainbow, and singing it on my new covered patio. This summer I shall be able to have an actual barbecue. Won't that be exciting? I can make ribs, chicken and even shishkabobs. Or, if I have a non-Jewish crowd, shiksabobs. Of course non-Jewish nose jobs are also known as shiksabobs. I think the trick is to write this column on a half-filled stomach rather than a full or empty stomach. I feel that during the writing of this entire column that I have been channelling the spirit of Eugene Ionesco.

Letters... We Get Letters

Do you know that at this time I cannot recall one single word I've written in this particular column? Isn't that terrible? Or maybe it's for the best. In the meantime, we have gotten a plethora of letters, so let's just plow through the plethora, shall we?

Emily informs me that she saw The Vagina Monologues in which a lot of her friends performed. I presume she means they performed the monologues and not in the actual vagina, but that is a question for another day. At the end of The Vagina Monologues (will the sequel be The Penis Duets?) the director opened up the floor to a question and answer session. Why it was necessary to open up the floor for such a session, I have no idea. When you open up the floor there is always a danger of people falling through to whatever lies below. In any case, no one was asking questions, so Emily asked the key question, "What is it, fish?" and the director replied, "Yes, it is". Emily is not feeling well. She's feeling a bit fluish. I'm feeling a bit Jewish, and my patio covering is feeling a bit newish. The sky is bluish. The End.

Pitgirl tells me that her days as Paintgirl are over. She recently saw a vexing performance of Tommy at a nearby high school. Visually stunning, says she, but the sound quality was horrid and she didn't like the arrangements they used one bit. That is vexing. I have never heard of such a vexing thing as that. That will go down as the vexiest thing I have ever heard. And I have heard many a vexing thing, but none compare to this, vex-wise.

AnnaOD (not aAnna) is the only one who filled in the missing words from last week's missing word sentence, which should have read: This is an example of a sentence which would leave out every other word. AnnaOD gets extra points, which she can add to other points she may have laying or lying around the house or home. Her production of Drood opens in two weeks and she feels it is a most vexing thing, although not on a plane with the vexing Tommy. Apparently no one knows their lines, the accents are ridiculous and on the whole it is a terrible thing to behold. But there is still two weeks to go and in the theater, as we all know, miracles can happen. This could end up being the greatest production since the vexing production of Tommy.

fred2000 sent me belated Valentine's Day greetings, which we thank him for.

Mackoy is miffed because his stopover holiday in Hong Kong has gone kaput. He is bummed, and wants to know if I have any tips on how to lose weight with the least amount of stress and pain. I have found that the easiest way to lose weight is to cut down on the fat grams. That works just fine for me. Instead of eating two hundred fat grams, I go down to about fifteen and the weight just flies off (no mean feat). Mackoy also sent me a recipe for Sauteed Mangoes but sadly I can't try it because it is loaded with fat grams and my weight is busy flying off now, not that there was that much to go flying but flying the weight is. The isn't any wait for the weight to fly, it's just flying, flying, flying. There is nothing worse than a weight wait or a wait weight for that matter or any other matter.

Stephen (not Sondheim) wrote to tell me that he hasn't written in a long time. Stephen has been reading the column, though, and, in so reading about "those bits" has decided I am or was a male, because my partner in "those bits" sounded female. He feels that it would be farfetched to assume I am a Lesbian. I am not at this time a far or close fetched Lesbian, but that does not rule out the possibility of being a Lesbian at a later date. I also cannot rule out the possibility that I am a hermaphrodite or someone who eats cheese slices. I feel that no matter what my gender that I have the best characteristics of both male and female. Stephen recently saw the tour of Footloose and thought it trashily catchy. Or is it catchily trashy?

annyrose is only in one show now, as the other show closed. She also wants to go to New York. I will be going again in two weeks, so perphaps we shall just go together and paint the town red (no mean feat).

Anna (not AnnaOD) is no longer an asipiring performer as of last week. She feels if she can't even get the part she wants in a high school play she's not even going to try to devote energy to being on Broadway. Now, Anna, you cannot give up so easily, just because you lose a part. Aspiring performers lose many many parts and have many many disappointments but some who perservere do end up getting the parts they want. However, if the performing isn't that important to you, then you should try to find something that is really important to you. Anna is now seeking a career so that she won't be a vagabond teenager and she's thinking about becoming an online columnist. I think that's a splendid idea, and I'd like her to write one paragraph of a sample column (One From Column Anna) and send it to me. I will then give it to the powers that be. The powers that be will then take a gander at it. After that I don't know what the hell happens. Perhaps Mr. Mark Bakalor will create a site called The Vagabond Teenager or How I Learned To Write A Column and No Longer Be An Aspiring Performer.

Sarah writes to say "shame on me" (or skammen as Ingmar Bergman would say) for not knowing what Stagedoor Manor is. Why, Stagedoor Manor has been faithfully putting on Sondheim shows with the under-eighteen campers for decades. I feel properly skammened for I, who am a close personal friend of Mr. Stephen Sondheim and under-eighteen campers, should know these things. Frankly, I am vexed that I didn't know and if someone can send me Judge Turpin's horsehair whip I shall properly flog myself while singing Come Play Wiz Me. Sarah also says that I should try love in real life. If someone can send me some, I shall, while singing Epiphany.

Gavin tells me that I never gave him my opinion on William Finn's musical Romance In Hard Times. I have no opinion having never seen the show, although I have heard one song from it (the name of which escapes me - a very pretty lullaby or ballad) which was beautiful.

Craig is currently rehearsing scenes from Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady and Assassins. I think he should combine all three into one brand spanking-new musical called My Saigon Assassins. Craig also asks what Broadway show had the shortest run. I'm afraid I could take up an entire column listing shows that closed in just one night, after just one performance. And, of course, there were some shows which closed during previews.

Tiffany informs me she is getting all her hair cut off. We will apparently receive before and after pictures which we will, of course, print for all our dear readers. Nellie the Cat is going to be in a Cat show, although not one by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Nellie has been entered in the "best eyes" category. Here's hoping Nellie wins "best eyes". I want to be entered into a category for "best thighs" or minimally best abs and buns of steel. If anyone knows of such categories please let me know so I can enter them posthaste. Tiffany saw bad boy Nate a couple of months ago, and decided to give it one more try and asked him out. He said yes, took her number and then, surprise of surprises, never called. May we just say that Nate is the living definition of "butt cheek", and we hereby decree that Tiffany is to waste no further thought on said butt cheek. My pet peeve is people who say they're going to call and then don't. Yes, that is my pet peeve, as opposed to my pet, Peeve.

Rafael has received his handy-dandy Christmas gift, which apparently took all the way to Valentine's Day to reach the Phillipines. He also tells me that Roasted Pig Intestines are a popular street food in the Philipines, to which I must respond, "What is it, fish?".

Mordecai and several others wish to correct Anna about the location of the Papermill Playhouse. It is indeed in Millburn and not Paramus.

She says it's Millburn,
And you say Paramus
She'll call it Millburn
So, you call a shamus.
Millburn, Paramus,
Paramus or Millburn
Let's call the whole thing New Jersey.

Three letters didn't arrive in time for me to answer, so I'll get to them in next week's column. Do try to get your letters to me by the Friday before a new column is posted, that way I'll be certain to get to it.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

Come, come now, dear readers, I am vexed that not one of you even attempted a guess at last week's question: Name the other composer/ lyricists who auditioned scores for Ragtime. There were four in addition to Flaherty and Ahrens, who got the assignment. I'll give you one, and then I'll expect at least some guesses for next week. David Shire and Richard Maltby. Your turn.

In addition, name the John Kander/Sondheim connection.

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



Questions? Comments?

Thank goodness I have come to the end of this column. Or should I thank badness? I'm always thanking goodness and frankly badness is just getting the short end of the stick, whatever the hell that means. This column has just jumped all over the damn map ending somewhere in Costa Mesa. Oh, how I wish I had a Pounded Steak to comfort me, and some unusurped Bread Pudding with Whipped Cream.

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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