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June 7, 1999 - #88
I am back, dear readers, from the euphemism. I do believe we should just move on, as my close personal friend Mr. Stephen Sondheim so brilliantly once said. Speaking of my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, has anyone noticed that his name hasn't appeared in this here column for ages? Is that right? Is that left? Whatever direction it is, it is heinous (heinous, do you hear me?). It has been weeks and weeks and also weeks and weeks since we mentioned Mr. Stephen Sondheim. How can one have a column at the Stephen Sondheim Stage and not mention Stephen Sondheim? One should mention Stephen Sondheim once in a while, don't you think? Just to keep the name floating in the ether like so much fish. Stephen Sondheim. Stephen Sondheim. There, I've made up for lost time. I have now mentioned that name eight times in this, our 88th column, because the theme of this column is "eight" and all its variations thereof. Have you noticed that there are four count them four totally pointless letters in the word "eight"? Do you know what song these four pointless letters were singing the other day? "We Do Not Belong Together", that's what song these four pointless letters were singing the other day. That song is by Stephen Sondheim, for those who didn't know. What spelling person decided to spell "eight" "eight"? It makes no sense on any level (even the one I have sunk to). Furthermore, who decided that eight should follow seven and precede nine? Who decided on the sequence that numbers follow? I'll tell you who, because I just happen to know. Mr. Herbert Fick, that's who. Mr. Herbert Fick was sitting around one fine day, when someone brought some numbers by and said, "Here, put these in some kind of order, because I'm tired of them just lying around in a happenstance fashion" and, of course, the rest is numeric history. Mr. Fick just arbitrarily decided what number came where and now we are stuck with his handiwork, whether we like it or not. I have always felt, for example, that it would flow much better if the sequence were one, two, three, six, eight, seven, ten. I love that flow. That is just a flow, if you follow my meaning. Much better than the flow that Mr. Herbert Fick came up with. But, the Fick Flow is what we have and the devil take the hindmost. What am I going on about? There are times, dear readers, when I feel I've gone off the deep end and this would be one of those times. Perhaps it's because as I write this I'm listening to music by a composer named Charlie Mole. If I were Charlie Mole I would sue my parents, or at least helen them. I feel we need some more euphemisms right about now, don't you, dear readers? Do you know there can be multiple euphemisms? Women have known this for years. Do you know that not only can a bathroom be a "loo" it can also be the "can" or the "head". If you put all three of those euphemisms together you get "loocan head" which sounds like a Star Trek character. Another euphemism for bathroom is "toilet" which is, of course, exactly where this column seems to have gone.
Have I mentioned that June is bustin' out all over? And being that it's June that means it's time for the Tony Awards. Not the Marvin Awards, mind you, no, it's time for the Tony Awards, so named for Antoinette Perry. Aren't we lucky that Ms. Perry's nickname was Tony? Otherwise we'd be watching the Nette Awards or the Perry Awards. I will be watching the broadcast, as I'm sure all of you will be. Of course I'll have a full review for you from my vantage point, which will be my couch on which I sit like so much fish. Well, perhaps we should just end this section of the column, because frankly it's starting to feel like a euphemism for The Scarlet Pimpernel: Finished. But enough about me.
Tension. Just looking at that word causes tension, doesn't it? Tension. Not fivesion or even eightsion, no, I'm talking about tension. When all your muscles ache and are in knots. Well, I was tense, dear readers. Yes, you heard it here; I felt tension and my muscles were in knots. Yes, knots had landed in my muscles and my muscles were a veritable Knot's Landing. And so, on the recommendation of a friend, I called The Masseuse.
The Masseuse (whose name was Lucy) arrived with table in hand, which she proceeded to set up in my handy-dandy den. I lowered the lights, and, because it's always good to have some calming music on, put on the cast album of Sweeney Todd. Lucy looked at me as if I were a euphemism for phlegm, and told me to put on something else. I did; a beautiful guitar album. She then left the room to visit the euphemism for bathroom, while I disrobed (well, disclothed, as I was not wearing a robe) and got on the table safely under the sheet so that my unclad clod of a bod was safely protected from human eyes. She then came back in the room and proceeded to do her thing, which was, in this case, to give a massage. And give a massage she did. She rubbed, she pulled, she pummeled, she kneaded, she did things with her elbows that I didn't know were possible. It was, to put it simply, the best massage I'd ever had. She left the room so that I could remove myself from the table without her human eyes spying my uncladclodbod. I robed (well, dressed, since I don't have a robe), she packed up, I paid, she left, and I felt as if I'd gone to heaven, as if I was floating like clouds on air do. I felt peace. I felt calm. I was a-tingle, aglow. I felt as if I was wrapped in plush velvet. And I still, one day later, feel that way, so potent was Lucy's massage. Oh, I Love Lucy and she will now be my permanent masseuse. If you've never had a professional massage, you owe it to yourself to get one. There is nothing better than giving your body that kind of gift. After the massage, I slept like a baby, which of course is a euphemism for "I slept like a log" which of course is a euphemism for "I was out like a light" which of course is a euphemism for "I slept well".
The wonderful Charles Pierce has passed away at the age of seventy-two. For our younger readers who might not know, Charles was one of the great female impersonators and a brilliant comic, who did dead-on impersonations of Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Carol Channing and others. His wit was rapier sharp and I've never seen another female impersonator with the ability to reduce an audience to shrieks, howls and ultimately tears of laughter. I was fortunate enough to know Charles, having met him in the mid-Seventies when he was appearing regularly at the old Studio One Backlot nightclub. He was one of the most gracious and kind individuals it's been my pleasure to have known. He always had a good word to say about everyone, was very supportive, and a wonderful and warm human being. He'll be missed. I hope he's at heaven's door right this very minute, dressed in full Bette Davis regalia, saying "What a dump!".
No sooner did I get through with writing about Charles Pierce than Mel Torme up and died, too. Mel was in his eighties (very appropriate to this eight-themed column) and had a long a fruitful life. He was known as the Velvet Throat or Glove or something, and he was a terrific singer. He was also a delightful raconteur. And, if he had done nothing else, he gave the world The Christmas Song and so will forever be remembered for that. I'll remember him as the fellow who wrapped those smooth pipes around some of the best songs ever written.
Well, dear readers, I have just finished watching the Tony Awards. It was, without question, the worst Tony Awards show I can remember. It was boring, it was trite, it was ill paced, it was horribly written and an embarrassment. First of all, giving major awards out on the PBS show as opposed to the CBS show is shameful. The director and author of a musical aren't important enough to be on the real show? The show truly needed a host (there are other people besides Rosie) and all the presenters looked pained or uncomfortable. Only Mario Cantone, Martin Short and Alan Cumming displayed any personality. Some of the thank you speeches were nice and heartfelt, but it was maddening that certain people were allowed to go on and on while others were cut off rudely. Not one of the musical numbers showed off the nominated shows to its best advantage. The number from The Civil War was worse than anything I could have imagined. Poor Martin Short was undone by his malfunctioning microphone (if Moliere were alive and writing today, would he write a play entitled The Malfunctioning Microphone? Just asking.). Annie Get Your Gun looked like a fifth rate summer stock production (poor Bernadette), Fosse's number was cut in half and the dancers looked like they didn't know it was going to end so fast, and Kristin Chenowith, cute as a button, delivered her song well, but it didn't live up to all the hype that number has gotten. The Parade number didn't do anything for me when I saw the show and it did less on the broadcast. And poor Ain't Nothin' But The Blues got bumped. But the piece d'resistance, the creme de la creme of the show was the melange of lines from the play category. What were they thinking when they decided to do this? It was so bad that it became laughable. Still, it was nice to see Arthur Miller still articulate at eighty-plus years of age. It was nice to see Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews together again, but what were they doing? And Bea Arthur. I just don't know what to say about Bea Arthur. Ever since having her face redone she just does not resemble Bea Arthur and she seems to always be "somewhere else". I don't mean to be nasty, but why do people do this to their faces? Angela Lansbury doesn't even look like Angela Lansbury anymore. Goldie Hawn's face looks like Todd-AO, and, well, I'd just better stop right now. What am I, a critic? Next thing you know I'll start discussing Jason Robert Brown's outfit. I'm starting to sound like Mr. Blackwell. Or Harolyn Blackwell. Or some Blackwell. Wouldn't it be awful if the highlight of Column 88 turned out to be the "tinkle"/"pee" euphemism contest?
I know I promised last week's activity photos for this week, but I'm afraid they're going to have to wait until next week because this week like last week this column shall be photoless. The reason for this is simple: I have to finish off the roll of film that said photos are on. I have five more pictures to go and then I will have them developed and then they will appear in this here column. You shall have the activity photos because you deserve to see them in all their splendiferous splendor.
Yes, we get letters and they all come at once at the last minute, so I will endeavor to answer as many as I can and the ones I don't get to I will answer in next week's column. As you all know Mr. Mark Bakalor is off in Altuna or wherever the hell he is, doing shows and dancing and singing. This makes doing this column very difficult. It does not run smoothly like it normally does. It's herky-jerky and also jerky-herky. Frankly, I am at sixes and sevens about it. Or is it sevens and eights? Or, in the case of this particular column, eights and eights? In any case, the fact remains that I am at sixes and sevens about it, whatever the hell that means. And now, the letters. Ooh, I just sounded like Kathry Kuhlman for a moment. Does anyone remember Kathryn Kuhlman? Does anyone still wear a hat? Kathryn Kuhlman was a wonderful televangelist and I watched her religiously (pun intended, of course) all throughout the 70s. She used to introduce her piano player (he would play thoughtful religious music) by saying, "And now, Dino at the Piano". I just loved when she said that. "And now, Dino at the Piano". Let's all say it. One, two, three... "And now, Dino at the Piano". Her other regular line which I adored was "I believe in miracles", only the way Ms. Kuhlman said it sounded like, "I believa in miraclezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz". What the hell am I talking about? Shouldn't I be answering letters? Yes, of course, And now, the letters at the Piano.
Jon B. reminds us that Priscilla Lopez (the original Diana of A Chorus Line) was a female Harpo in A Day In Hollywood, A Night In The Ukaraine, directed by tall Tommy Tune.
Michael wrote to tell me that the theater at which he works is currently doing A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum by someone or other, and the star is the same actor who just played Chico Marx in the production of Animal Crackers that Emily saw. Small world, isn't it?
Pitgirl is sorry she's been absent from her letter writing for the past few weeks. We forgive her as long as it never happens again. I'll get to her other letter in next week's column. And now, Dino at the Piano.
Jeff agrees with me about the tampering with the work of the great record producer Goddard Lieberson and therefore I agree with him. Jeff also tells me that he has access to all the old episodes of Hullabaloo, which featured two young dancers frugging and ponying their hearts out (no mean feat). Those two young dancers were Michael Bennett and Donna McKechnie. Another one of the young dancers was one of my favorites, too, the great Gene Castle.
Dyanamaria thinks this here column is spectacular. I love that. I have always wanted to write a spectacular column and now I apparently have. That is simply spectacular in my book (Chapter 477 It Is Simply Spectacular When You've Written A Spectacular Column). Dyanamaria recently played Phyllis in her high school's production of Follies.
And now, Dino at the Piano. Only one person got the correct answer to last week's trivia question: What groundbreaking film used Harper's Bizarre's recording of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. We had several incorrect guesses, like Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom which used the song in its opening scene but not the HB version, and American Pop by Ralph Bakshi, which I haven't seen so I don't know which version of the song it uses, but American Pop was not a groundbreaking film. Only jon got the correct answer, which was: The Boys In The Band.
This week's trivia question: Name as many songs as you can in which the name Sondheim appears.
Until next time, June 21, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next time, June 21, 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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