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

August 23, 1999 - #95

Well, dear readers, here we are, halfway through August. It is a time to be footloose and fancy-free and also fancy free and footloose. Have you ever had loose feet? It is very disconcerting. One walks around with the strange feeling that their feet will come off at any moment. And then what? Then suddenly you have to be ankleloose and fancy-free. Furthermore, since when are fancies necessarily free? The last time I was in a fancy store they were charging $12.95 for a fancy. That is highway robbery in my book (Chapter 388 - $12.95 For A Fancy? Are you kidding?). In any case, it is August and I believe this column should also be footloose and fancy free although not necessarily in that order. In the spirit of being footloose and fancy-free I have been shorn of some hair. Interestingly, while I was being shorn of said hair (by Teddy, my beloved hairdresser who does the shorning) a television crew arrived and did an interview with Teddy whilst I was being shorn. I do believe the top of my head is visible throughout the interview. Isn't that exciting? The top of my head will soon have its fifteen minutes of fame. Next thing you know the top of my head will be making guest appearances on television. Soon the top of my head will be offered a series. In the sixth season of the series (entitled The Top of My Head Show) the top of my head will demand $1,000,000 an episode plus a piece of the syndication. There will be much posturing from the network, but like Seinfeld, the top of my head will win out. The top of my head will also make the 50 Sexiest Top of Heads issue of People Magazine. And the top of my head will also be in the National Enquirer when its discovered that the top of my head has gone to pot and is in rehab at the Betty Ford Center Top of Heads Wing. It is sad when the top of a head has gone to pot, but somehow it makes sense, since "top" is "pot" spelled backwards. Well, I feel we're off to a grand start, don't you, dear readers?

Has anyone noticed just how footloose (esooltoof spelled backwards) and fancy free this column is? It is hot in Los Angeles, very hot, so I am currently drinking a diet Snapple Cranberry Rasberry drink. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I am taking a break from my beloved Diet Coke and having a diet Snapple Cranberry Raspberry drink. Not a Raspberry Cranberry drink, mind you, no that would be unthinkable. It is a very refreshing drink and tastes almost real. In looking at the ingredients, I found something interesting. What did I find you might ask and I might tell you because ingredients should be shared amongst friends such as you and I. In this diet Snapple Cranberry Raspberry drink are water, plum juice, malic acid, Aspartame, potassium citrate, grape juice (for color) and of course the titular cranberry and raspberry. Now, first of all, what in tarnation are plum juice and water doing in my Cranberry Raspberry drink? Not to mention grape juice (for color). I believe what I am drinking should be called diet Snapple Cranberry Raspberry Water Plum Grape Juice (for color) drink. And I don't know about you, dear readers, but I just don't like the sound of "malic acid". I don't like having acid in my liquid refreshment. Acid, as we all know, burns holes in things and it does so with malice aforethought. Wait a minute. Why, do you realize that "malic" is "malice" without the "e"? I find that very suspicious. Well, I am enjoying my diet Snapple Cranberry Raspberry drink nonetheless. It comes in a lovely glass bottle on which I have banged my tooth repeatedly. And speaking of suspicious, just what is that "p" doing in "raspberry"?

I was driving this morning when suddenly a squirrel dashed in front of my car. Apparently this squirrel was feeling footloose and fancy free or was trying to perfect its dashing skills. Because I am an alert driver, I avoided smashing the squirrel to smithereens. These squirrels have no sensitivity. They just dash hither and thither without a care that they might suddenly turn an innocent driver into a Squirrel Killer. Squirrel Killers become morose and despondent and do nothing but sit on their couches all day, like so much fish. Some go into denial and refuse to acknowledge that they've killed a squirrel. These people usually end up on the skids. This is known as Squirrel Killers Internal Denial Syndrome (SKIDS). I mean, how would the squirrel like it if we suddenly dashed out in front of them? I'd just like to know how they'd feel about that. In any case, I got out of my car and tried to have a conversation with the squirrel but those darn squirrels don't know from conversation and was already long gone, on its merry way to wherever it was going. I hope you've enjoyed this totally useless paragraph. I know I have.

Speaking of fish, I do believe it is time to share with you dear readers the long awaited activity photo of Tiffany wearing her fish socks. As you may remember Tiffany won those fish socks because she was the author of our 1,000th letter. Here is the photo.

Isn't that a splendid photo of a person named Tiffany in a pair of what were then brand spanking new fish socks?

The big news this week is that Andrew Lloyd Webber has officially announced that the sequel to The Phantom of The Opera is dead, unlike the squirrel who is alive and well and probably in Pasadena by now. All I can say about this non-news is that anyone who believed that Andrew Lloyd Webber was really working on a sequel to The Phantom of The Opera is living in a fool's paradise such as Guam. This was all a publicity ruse to keep Mr. Lloyd Webber's name in front of the public. It is much like the endless press releases about a film version of The Phantom of The Opera. I'm certain that all of you remember the last volley of those, with Antonio Banderas being touted as the star. For months there were posts on various newsgroups about this, articles in the Hollywood trade papers, and those who have been reading this column since the beginning know that I said then and say now that there is/was/and probably won't be a film version of The Phantom of The Opera. I said that all those press releases were fabricated by the publicists of Mr. Lloyd Webber and Mr. Banderas. I really dislike this sort of thing, yet it's amazing to watch people buy into it. But you will always get the straight story right here in this here column. On a similar note (Eb), Mr. Sondheim has been victim to this Hollywood press-agentry himself, with the announcements of film versions of Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods and Assassins. Sweeney and Woods have had many announcements over the years and of course remain unfilmed. Assassins was announced two years ago and remains unfilmed as well. Hollywood just loves the prestige of buying these Sondheim properties and rubbing elbows with the elite of Broadway and true creative types, but when it comes to actually making the films they are unable to get the projects green-lighted. There. We have now had an entire paragraph peripherally devoted to the musical theater. Wasn't that refreshing? Yes, it was refreshing just like a diet Snapple Cranberry Raspberry Water Plum Grape (for coloring) drink.

Well, dear readers, I feel like I have been writing this section of the column for three days. That is because I have been writing this section of the column for three days. Not three full days, of course, just an hour here, an hour there, or sometimes an hour there and an hour here. Perhaps I should put this section of the column to bed because frankly it's beginning to feel like third bus and truck company of Beauty and The Beast: Tired. But enough about me.

Stand Up Opera

I recently attended a performance of a one-woman show entitled Stand Up Opera, a delightful evening performed by Miss B.J. Ward. Basically it's just Miss Ward and a piano (and pianist a fine show it would be if it were just a piano with no piano player sitting there like so much fish), with Miss Ward doing several operatic arias interspersed with very funny monologues and anecdotes. She manages the difficult task of going from humor to a serious aria with ease, and she sings said arias very well. The material ranges from Verdi and Puccini, to Gershwin and even the unjustly neglected Carlyle Floyd, whose American opera Susanna is represented. Her musical director/pianist, Joseph Thalkin, even gets to join in the humor and he is very funny indeed.

Opera, for me at least, is not something I warm to easily. Puccini, of course, is filled with great and beautiful melodies, and his musical style is very much in keeping with what I enjoy. Mr. Lloyd Webber also enjoys Puccini's melodies, and has paid homage to them several times, most notably in The Phantom of The Opera, in which a famous strain of music from La Fanciulla del West is quoted note for note in Music of The Night. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I've never cottoned to Verdi, nor have I rayoned or nyloned to him either. Same with the operas of Mozart. My first experience with opera (if I have written about this previously please forgive me, but I am senile) came about in a funny way. I was, as a teen, very fond of the play The Crucible by Mr. Arthur Miller. One day, while browsing at Phil Harris Records in Hollywood, California, I saw a boxed set of LPs that said The Crucible. I, of course, immediately assumed it was a spoken word album of the play, but when I picked it up I discovered it was, in fact, an American opera adapted from the play by composer Robert Ward. Now, remember, I was young, I didn't know from opera and I didn't know from Robert Ward. But being the impetuous youth I was I purchased it. And do you know what? It was glorious, filled with exquisitely beautiful music. I became a life-long fan of Mr. Ward, and actually got to meet him several years ago. You'll be happy to know that my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, is also a fan of Mr. Ward. The good news is that The Crucible is available on CD on the Albany label, which you will find under "Ward" (not B.J.) in the classical section of your music store. It's worth seeking out.

And it's worth a visit to Stand Up Opera, which is playing at the Tiffany Theater right here in Los Angeles, California.

The What If Dept.

Well, it's been ages since we've had a "what if" so I thought it high time we had one. Not low time, mind you, no high time. And frankly, I'm beside myself with joy that the What If Dept. is back with us. Okay, wait a goldarned minute. "Beside myself with joy"? Just what does that mean? Have you ever been beside yourself? And just who is Joy? And why do I want to be beside myself with her? I don't even know her. If I'm going to be beside myself I want to choose who I'm going to be beside myself with. Maybe I'd like to be beside myself with Henry or Gwen? Did that ever occur to the saying people? I will not be told who I can be beside myself with. But just how does one achieve being beside oneself? Oh, it's all too metaphysical and Zen for me. I suppose the easiest way to achieve being beside yourself would be to get a life-size photographic reproduction of yourself and stand next to it. But you'd still have to find someone named Joy. This seems a lot of trouble to go to just because someone came up with a stupid meaningless saying. Where was I? Oh, yes, The What If Dept. and how I'm beside myself with joy.

Since we've mentioned that Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of The Opera several times in this week's column, I thought it only appropriate that we use that show as our What If. So, what if Alan Menken and Howard Ashman had written The Phantom of The Opera? And it goes something like this (to the tune of Belle):

Who is that person hiding in the shadows,
Why is he near that chandelier?
Who is he behind the mask,
Do you really have to ask?
It's the Phantom of The Opera, my dear.

He loves Christine because she sings so sweetly,
She makes the music of the night.
So he takes her to his lair,
With his great big organ there,
Then she takes his mask off and gets quite a fright.

Oh, what a dreadful nightmare,
Such a horrid face - yet, so well dressed.
Will she remain a captive?
Or will she be rescued by Raoul who she loves best...

He can appear and disappear at random,
He likes to hang the stagehands, too.
He is known as Opera Ghost,
If you cross him you are toast.
He's the Phantom of The Opera
He's the Phantom of The Opera
That's the Phantom of The Opera to you!

The Real A: A Life

While I have been footloose and fance free, Miss Meryle Secrest has been very testy of late. Not of early, mind you, but of late. And a testy Meryle Secrest is not a pretty sight, dear readers. And what is the reason for this testiness? Well, she feels that after a year of writing our book that she'd at least like to know who I am. Can you imagine? I told her that just because she is writing someone's biography does not give her the right to know who they are. She feels this is the height of gall. What is the height of gall? Six-foot-one? Well, if she feels this is the height of gall, then I feel that her wanting to know who I am is the weight of gall, which is 165 pounds (but all muscle, no flab on gall, let me tell you that). In any case, she wants me to tell her who I am, dear readers, and, as we approach our 100th column, I must decide whether to do so. But will she finish the book if she knows who I am? Certainly there is something to be said for things that are oh so mysterioso. But I've told her that for now we must remain footloose and fancy free. Another reason for remaining footloose is that a musical entitled Footloose is right here in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theater. It is the tour of the Broadway show, Footloose, hence the name Footloose. I have not seen Footloose yet (either on Broadway or here). However, I feel I should see Footloose because I am feeling footloose. Now only if the ballet Fancy Free were in town, this whole city would be Footloose and Fancy Free.

Anyway, because I refuse (at this time) to tell Miss Meryle Secrest who I am, she refuses to write another word. She feels we have gone about as far as we can go until I reveal myself to her. Of course, that kind of leaves us with a book which stops in my mid-teen years, as we have not discussed my adulthood at all. That is because to discuss one's adulthood one cannot be as vague as one is when discussing one's childhood. She does not wish me to be vague anymore, she wants me to be blatant, to spell things out. Now, first of all, it is impossible to spell "things" "out". "O-u-t" spells out, not "things". I simply can't spell "things" "out" because that is against my nature, spelling-wise. I, who always did well in spelling bees. B-e-e-s. You see how well I did in spelling "bees"?

Not that Miss Meryle Secrest cares right now, but did you know that when I began college, every weekend I would pay a visit to Prebble's Produce in Pasadena. It was a fantastic place, filled with all manner of fresh produce which was presumably placed there by someone named Prebble). There were all kinds of shops there, too, and in one of said shops I used to buy Japanese Jellied Rice Candies with Amusing Toy. I don't remember if I discovered them on my own or if someone introduced me to them, but I just loved those Japanese Jellied Rice Candies with Amusing Toy. These candies were imported directly from Japan, which is why they were not called Hungarian Jellied Rice Candies with Amusing Toy. First you'd open the box which had four Japanese Jellied Rice Candies therein. Around a small gelatinous square was some clear paper. But here was the marvelous thing: You did not remove the clear paper, you ate the clear paper along with the gelatinous square. You see, the paper was edible, part of the whole concoction. That clear paper would just melt as you ate it, giving forth to the chewy Jellied candy underneath. Also in the box was your very own Amusing Toy, which you could not eat. I loved those Amusing Toys, but always wondered what was amusing about them. The toys were things like compasses and cars and such, and no matter how hard I tried I was simply not amused. I found no mirth in those toys whatsoever. Perhaps they amused someone but that someone was obviously not me. Still, I loved my Amusing Toys and amassed quite a collection of them. I wonder where they are today? If anyone has found my Amusing Toys I'd like them to send them to me immediately. By the way, you can still buy Japanese Jellied Rice Candies, but they have done away with the Amusing Toy. Perhaps someone sued them over the fact that these damn toys were just not amusing in any way, shape or form. The candies are just as neat as they always were. I have no idea if Prebble's Produce is still in Pasadena. I suppose I could call information and find out, but I prefer not knowing. Unlike Miss Meryle Secrest, I prefer things that are a little bit oh so mysterioso.

Letters... We Get Letters

I have just returned from an Antique Show, dear readers. I felt as if I fit right in, being an antique myself. They had some beautiful things, but said beautiful things were way overpriced. So, I purchased nothing at all, but I did browse aplenty. This show was held on an actual motion picture lot, Raleigh Studios, right across the street from Paramount Pictures. Raleigh Studios used to be called Producer's Studio in days of old. This studio has a lot of interesting history, and some fine day I may even tell you about some of it. For now, we have letters to answer. After all, this is the Letters section, not the Hollywood History Lesson section. And we have letters galore so let's to them, shall we?

Tom (he of Oz) finally saw the musical about Aussie performer Peter Allen, The Boy From Oz. He feels the show is a little too local in flavor to appeal to a broader audience, but he did enjoy it and thought the fellow who played Mr. Allen was great. Apparently, I didn't understand Tom's musical question last week, to name a song that starts on a major seventh. Apparently his colleague wants a popular song which starts with a major seventh interval. This is getting mighty esoteric, and frankly, though I have wracked my brain (no mean feat) I cannot think of one popular song which starts with said major seventh interval (in the key of C that would be c to a b - or do-te). I can only think of one song that does it at all, and that's an obscure one called There'll Be No Tomorrow by Dave Brubeck. That song was part of a jazz ballet written by Mr. Brubeck entitiled Points on Jazz which I truly loved as a young tyke of a tad of a sprig of a youth.

Cinderella saw Jane Eyre when it premiered in Toronto and didn't much care for it. She, however, does not regret having seen it because she feels seeing flawed theater makes you think and that it also makes you appreciate good theater all the more. I concur wholeheartedly.

Arnold M. Brockman asks if we can print an activity photo of some Haagen Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream lying on an Entenmann's Chocolate Donut like so much fish. I will endeavor to have said photo for next week's column. This week I have been on a cashew kick. I have been devouring cashews like nobody's business. I have tried to figure out why cashews are called cashews. Is it because they cost cash? Are walnuts called walnuts because they grow on walls? Are peanuts made from peas? Just asking.

Alina tells me that the Russian for "what is it, fish?" is "shto eto, ruhbah?". "Shto eto, ruhbah". Doesn't that sound like it should translate into "What are you eating, rubber"?

Stephen (not Sondheim) just got back from the city that never sleeps, New York, New York. He thought Annie Get Your Gun was terrible, but thought Bernadette Peters gave a nice if un- Tony worthy performance. Stephen recommends Hedwig and The Angry Inch and its new star Kevin Cahoon without reservation, although you might want to have a reservation if you are planning on seeing it.

montem wrote me the following e-mail, which I quote in its entirety for you now:


Now, I'm just not certain how to respond to that. I could respond, "Yes". I could respond, "no". I could respond, "And?". I could respond, "I need a little more to know your point". Or I could just eat a Japanese Jellied Rice Candy (sans Amusing Toy) and be done with it.

Queen Amidala sent me a handy-dandy e-kiss and I thank the Queen very much. We simply cannot have enough kisses, as Mr. Hershey knows so well. We love getting letters from Queens, whether they be royalty, theater, or just the city.

Sean has gotten over losing a part in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Sean has moved on. His high school is next going to put on the musical show called Fiddler On The Roof and Sean was thinking of trying out for Motel. Motel is a good role, but I prefer the role of Hotel. First of all, the role of Hotel is larger than Motel. Why be a Motel when you can be a Hotel? Why would they name a character Motel when Motels weren't even invented? Were they prescient? Were they seers? Were they roebuck? Am I insane? Sean saw Lara Teeter in Anything Goes at the Muny in St. Louis, home of the Stan Musial Steakhouse. Sean got to meet Mr. Teeter, who autographed some CDs. Do you realize if Lara Teeter married Audrey Totter they'd be Teeter Totter? Just asking.

Rafael tells me that teen pop star Joey McIntyre recently visited the Philippines and mentioned that he had appeared in the film version of The Fantasticks, which, as of this time, remains unreleased. Rafael asks if anyone has seen it. I can't speak for anyone, but I've seen it and have written about it in one of our past columns. I wish I could say it was a good film but it isn't, although it has a few interesting moments. Speaking of another film musical, Rafael remembers that when Martin Scorsese's New York, New York came out it received scathing reviews and was lambasted by everyone. Rafael is rather fond of it and wants to know if I like it. I like parts of it, and really like the Kander and Ebb songs. It's beautifully shot and directed but DeNiro is such a creep in it I find it hard to ultimately like the film. I remember the film's release very well. In fact, I would say that the release of New York, New York actually benefitted me. Now, if anyone can figure out why, you will certainly have an inkling as to who the Real me is.

William F. Orr wrote to say that the Esperanto for "what is it, fish?" is "kio ghi estas, fisho?" To which I say, "thankso".

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

We didn't have many responses to our poll last week, which leads me to believe that you don't like polls. The question was, which character in a Sondheim musical is most like you. Here are the responses we got.

  • jon - maiden from Pacific Overtures
  • joey - the baker's wife from Into The Woods
  • Anita - the baker's wife and mrs. lovett
  • Stephen - Giorgio from Passion
  • Rafael: Fosca or George
  • cheshirecat: Robert
  • prouvaire: J. Bowden Hapgood from Anyone Can Whistle
  • William F. Orr: George or Milky White

Apparently no one else thinks they are like any character in a Sondheim musical. joey feels I am like Charlie in Merrily We Roll Along. I really don't know what the hell the point of this poll was. I think I did this poll because I simply could not think of a real trivia question last week. Serves me right. This week I think we'll have a real trivia question. Here it is now: Name the theater composers who have also written film scores, and name the scores they've written (real scores, not song scores).

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



Questions? Comments?

After I wrote the above, my friend who I went to the Antique Show with called me and asked if I had seen the booth that had a lot of illustration art. I said, "What booth that had a lot of illustration art"? It turns out that I had missed the booth that had a lot of illustration art which is the one booth I would have most wanted to see. So, I hopped in my car (no mean feat) and I went back to the Antique Show at Raleigh Studios (formerly Producer's Studio) and I quickly found the booth that had a lot of illustration art. As it so happens, I had seen that booth but at the time I'd seen it I hadn't noticed the table that held the illustration art, only the stuff that was on the walls, which didn't interest me one or two whits. And so it came to pass that I purchased a glorious piece of illustration art by a glorious illustration artist named Robert Maguire. Mr. Maguire did many many covers for many many paperback books dating back to the early 50s. The art I bought was, in fact, the original art of a Dell paperback book entitled Dead, Man, Dead. The dealer also gave me a copy of said book to go with said painting. I will share an activity photo of the painting next week, but for now I will share what the cover of the paperback says: A calypso chant foretells a torrid tale of cold-blooded murder in Manhattan. They don't write blurbs like that anymore. How long has it been since you've heard an expression like "torrid tale" or even heard the word "calypso"? I loved calypso, by the way. I loved Mr. Harry Belafonte and even owned my very own handy- dandy calypso outfit when I was a mere tad of a youth of a sprig of a kid. Anyway, this cover painting is spectacular and I am very happy. I am now not only feeling footloose and fancy free, I feel as if I could sing a calypso chant. I would, but then it might foretell a torrid tale of cold-blooded murder in Manhattan.

Until next time, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...

Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

The Real A

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“I found [the Sondheim Celebration's Company] to be completely delightful. Almost all of the numbers excited and energized me, and most of the scenes were about as pitch-perfect as you can get. I just sat there with a big smile on my face the whole show.

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