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September 6, 1999 - #96
May I tell you about the obnoxious people I had next to me on the plane? On the way to New York I had a dreaded window seat as all the aisle seats were taken. Being slightly claustrophobic, I much prefer the aisle to the window. As I arrived to take my dreaded window seat, the gentleman who occupied the aisle seat was already in said seat and fast asleep. Fast asleep with legs splayed out in front of him like so much splayed fish. I simply could not get over those splayed legs; they were simply blocking my way to the dreaded window seat. I asked him to move his splayed legs, but he did not hear me one jot as he was deep in dreamland. I tapped him on the shoulder gently. This did not raise him from his slumber. I tapped him harder. On he slept like a slab of ribs. When faced with a sleeping slab of ribs, one has to take drastic action. I said rather loudly, "Hey! Excuse me". On he slept, not moving one jot or one whit, Finally I kicked his foot and not lightly. On, he slept, like a large peice of Halvah. So, I just climbed right over him, stepping on his splayed legs as I did so. This caused him to finally awaken, and as he saw me stepping on his splayed legs he pulled them back with a brusque "excuse me". In return, I said to him brusquely, "No, excuse me" and down I sat with a harrrumph. He took no notice of said harrrumph and promptly fell back asleep. He remained asleep for the entire duration of the flight. I had to climb over his splayed legs when I had to use the restroom. And I had to climb back over his splayed legs when I returned. He took no notice and just laid there like a dead herring. On my return trip, thank goodness I had my beloved aisle seat. But that did not mean that I didn't have an annoying gentleman next to me. This annoying gentleman kept popping Cold-Eez into his mouth every two minutes and sucking on them loudly. Then he would cough in my direction. This cough sounded like a garbage disposal run amok. The entire trip home I listened to sucking and coughing, and when he finally dozed off, loud snoring. However, I was deeply ensconced in reading the autobiography of Twiggy, so at least that took my mind off the cacophony of coughing and sucking and snoring that was wafting its way toward me.
Have I mentioned that we are on the eve of Labor Day? Of course, by the time you read this the eve will have passed. We will be in the thick of Labor Day, sans eve. Most people partake of barbecues on Labor Day, and I have been invited to one. "Swimming and barbecue", said the invitation. I don't think I will attend, however, because I would much prefer to do nothing at all. I leave it to others to swim and barbecue. I shall watch DVDs and perhaps eat a cheese slice. Speaking of cheese slices, we are getting perilously close to our 100th column. We are on the eve of our 100th column. We are a mere four columns away from our 100th column. We must begin our plans for the big celebration. If you have any thoughts on this please pass them along and I will compile them, consider them, and perhaps even implement them into our 100th column. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I cannot wait for our 100th column. It will be filled with surprises and revelations and also revelations and surprises. We will celebrate until the cows come home. We will eat cheese slices and ham chunks and play our Lena Horne CDs. We will dance the samba and the mambo and when we tire of those we will dance the sambo and the mamba. We will parade around in our stockinged feet,. Yes, surprises and revelations will be the order of the day. Or perhaps bacon cheeseburgers will be the order of the day. It is far too soon to tell. Remember to send in your thoughts so I can compile them into a lovely folder entitled "Compiled Thoughts". Oh, by the way, here is an exciting activity photo of the view from my 28th floor handy-dandy hotel room:
Since this is a nice long weekend I thought it might be a good time to do a little spring cleaning. Now, I realize it is the end of summer but that didn't faze me one or two jots or whits. No, even though it is the end of summer I just went ahead and did some spring cleaning anyway. I pulled things out of closets where they have been piling up like so much fish. I looked through these things and then I put them back into the closet in different piles. I threw away quite a few odd bits of paper that had simply accumulated over the last year. Where do all these odd bits of paper come from? I don't remember receiving all these odd bits of paper and yet here they were, accumulating. Well, they are in the trash bag now, these odd bits of paper are, and now we can accumulate all new odd bits of paper. Who came up with the phrase "spring cleaning" anyway? Well, I can tell you because while I was spring cleaning I happened to come upon a book entitled "Spring Cleaning and The Derivation Thereof" by Sir Percy Manville Sykes. According to Sir Percy, one fine day an American auto mechanic named Eustus Bongstetter III was in his home garage oiling and polishing some springs which happened to have accumulated there as springs are sometimes wont to do. His wife came out to the garage to bring him his braunschweiger and lettuce sandwich when she saw him polishing the springs. She said, "Why Eustus Bongstetter III, what on earth are you doing?" and handed him his braunschweiger and lettuce sandwich. He replied, "I'm spring cleaning, what are you, blind?" Dora Bongstetter (nee Pritt) turned on her heel (no mean feat) and marched right back in the house where she began to clean. Hours later, Eustus, having polished those springs to a fare-thee-well, came in the house, smelling, of course, of braunschweiger and lettuce. When he saw his wife pulling things out of the closet he asked her, "Why Dora Bongstetter (nee Pritt) what on earth are you doing?", to which she replied, "I'm spring cleaning, you big turd, what are you, blind?", and the rest is history.
Do you know what I found while I was spring cleaning? I found some old sheet music is what I found. And amongst the old sheet music I found was an original piece of sheet music for the song "I Remember" from the original television musical Evening Primrose, which just happens to have a score by my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim. You remember Stephen Sondheim, don't you? This site is named after him. Anyway, there it was, this quite rare piece of original sheet music. Which just goes to show that you never know what you will find when you are spring cleaning. Other rare items I found whilst spring cleaning include a Big Hunk candy bar wrapper, a complete Los Angeles Times from 1968, a metal sign with a picture of Betty Boop saying "Please don't smoke", a 45 rpm recording of El Matador sung by the Lettermen, and best of all an unused container of dental floss. I love spring cleaning because you never know what you are going to find. There are hidden treasures in closets and cupboards and when you find them you can sell them on eBay for lots of money. I'm thinking, for example, of auctioning off the unused container of dental floss. I might get a pretty penny for it, although I'd rather get an ugly dime. Why are pennies pretty? And here's another thing that just occured to me: Do you know that the only thing that seperates a "friend" from a "fiend" is an "r"? Food for thought, whatever the hell that means.
You won't believe this, dear readers, but this is my second go-round writing this section. Why you might ask and I'll tell you because I am fuming right now (no mean feat). You see, the handy-dandy form that Mr. Mark Bakalor has created for me has its little peculiarities. For example, there is no way to save what I write, I can merely click on "send this to Mark" or "clear this puppy" when I finish writing onto the form. I just spent one hour writing this section, went up to do some additions, then went back to the bottom and was going to write a few more sentences. When I scrolled down to the bottom it scrolled me directly to the "clear this puppy" icon, and I inadvertantly pushed the wrong button on my keyboard and poof (foop spelled backwards), there went the entire section. Vanished into thin air. Not fat air, mind you, no, into thin air. The result, of course, is that I now must write the whole damn thing again and we all know it's just never as good the second time around. Love may be lovelier the second time around, but not writing this fershluganah section of the column. I was brilliant, I was witty, I was pithy. Now, I am merely pissy because my pithiness went the way of all flesh. From pithy to pissy with the mere press of a button. Now, I don't know about you, dear readers, but I think Mr. Mark Bakalor should just remove that "clear this puppy" thing immediately. If he doesn't I think we should all send him a large piece of rotting scrod.
Anyway, those who've been reading this column for some time know that I have always loved cast albums. The first ones I discovered were South Pacific and Annie Get Your Gun, because my parents had them on 78 rpm records. I used to love to listen to them and did so at every opportunity. Later, I discovered other musicals such as Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, Finian's Rainbow, etc. but not by their cast albums. No, I discovered them on a series of inexpensive albums produced by none other than Ed Sullivan. Those albums weren't very good but they got me interested enough to go back and get the originals. And I've been buying cast albums ever since, right up to this very day. So, what are my favorites? Here are a few. Of course, this is all highly subjective (as opposed to lowly subjective).
Bells Are Ringing
Irma La Douce
Of course I'd been aware of Stephen Sondheim as the lyricist to West Side Story and Gypsy, but it was the albums of Forum and especially Anyone Can Whistle which made his name forever a part of my life.
Anyone Can Whistle
A Little Night Music
Subways Are For Sleeping
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
A Time For Singing A lovely John Morris score to this gigantic flop, a musical version of How Green Was My Valley.
It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman!
Passion Flower Hotel
Other favorites are Bye, Bye Birdie, Camelot, West Side Story, The Most Happy Fella, 110 In The Shade, Flower Drum Song, Greenwillow, Pippin, The Music Man and on and on.
Looking at this list, it becomes apparent that many of these albums have one thing in common: most of them were produced by Goddard Lieberson and were on Columbia Records. I always loved albums that were on Columbia Records. I loved the way they sounded, loved the way they looked. When I was thirteen I even joined the Columbia Record Club and got a free Stereophonic Record Player and a year's worth of Columbia albums. There were other labels who did cast albums and some of those albums were quite good, but none of them ever achieved the perfection of the Columbia ones.
Ah, but I've left off one album. I discovered it in the listening booth of Wallach's Music City (Sunset and Vine) and I have never stopped playing it since. It is simple, it is pure, it is one of the greats: The Fantasticks.
And there you have it. I'm sure I've left out quite a few, but those are the ones off the top of my head. Can you imagine having all those cast albums on the top of your head? Very hard to balance, I can tell you that.
This was going to be a very long section because, frankly, Miss Meryle Secrest has been feeling left out lately. But since I had to write the previous section two entire times (thanks to Mr. Mark Bakalor's "clear this puppy" thing) I now have run out of time. I hate when that happens. I will say this: I got such a kick out of spring cleaning, that I went to my storage facility and did some spring cleaning there, too. I always find such interesting things when I nose around my storage facility. I have a big box of sheet music there, and do you know what I found in it? I found the original published music to all the cut songs from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Your Eyes Are Blue, Love Is In The Air, etc.), all published while the show was still in its out-of-town tryout. Those must be quite rare I should think. The other interesting thing I found was a very old Arabian Nights book that I had when I was a young sprig of a twig of a bud of a youth. I hadn't seen this book in years. I opened it and right there on the first page I had written my name (well, printed it in crayon) and address. Not bad for a sprig of a bud of a twig of a branch of a nib. But do you know what the most amazing thing I found in this book was? On all the blank endpapers I had drawn (in crayon) pictures of movie screens. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I had drawn pictures of movie screens. Obviously I was obsessed with movie screens when I was a mere sprig of a nib of a budding twig. Obviously I felt I had to draw movie screens. My movie screens had fancy curtains, too. And there were actual titles of movies on my movie screens. I had Cinemascope movie screens as well. And VistaVision movie screens. One of my movie screens was even playing Wichita in SuperScope, starring Joel McCrea. This is literally the only item I own from my sprig/twig/bud/nib days. I wonder what it says about me, this drawing of the movie screens. The funny thing is, holding this book I can remember drawing them. It's like it was yesterday. But it wasn't yesterday because we all know that The Real A is old having been born just prior to the Civil War (the event not the musical).
Wasn't that an interesting anecdote? It had a certain labored quality which is totally appropriate since we are in the throes of Labor Day itself.
I am still reeling over having erased an entire section and I do hope the rewritten version isn't too too boring. I know I had other things in the original version but such is life when there is a "clear this puppy" icon. Can one really reel? Can two? Should I change my name to The Reel A? I have, once upon a time, been a Reel A, did you know that? Next week in A Life I shall write a bit about The Reel A as well as The Real A. After all, if The Real A was obsessed by movie screens then the moniker The Reel A is totally appropriate, unlike the word "moniker" which is merely stupid. Frankly, I like the word "moniker" spelled backwards. "Rekinom". That sounds like what a good ol' Texas boy would say, doesn't it? "I rekinom a mite hungry, ma'am". You see what happens when you press the "clear this puppy" icon accidentally? Not only does it erase an entire section of the column, but apparently it erases all traces of sanity along with it. Well, let's get to the letters, shall we?
Eve has discovered this here column and feels that it has some of the highest class of drivel. I concur (rucnoc spelled backwards). I do hope Eve will continue to stay with us, at least until our 100th column celebration in which we shall all partake of surprises and revelations and cheese slices.
Karl has to know if the answer to the anagram is "soulmaster". Karl is speaking of a question posed in a long-ago column and that question was, what is Roast Mules anagrammed? The clue was that it was one word and that even a child would know it. So, "soulmaster" would not be the answer as "soulmaster" is not one word. No, the answer is "somersault".
Richard B. was going to donate a pound of down to my couch, but since he doesn't know who or where I am, he went to Joe Allen and asked who it is that is always eating the beloved Coconut Custard Pie (with whipped cream) at Table 20. Apparently they just glared at him impatiently. That is because they have been trained to do that whenever anyone gets too nosy about Table 20. They simply go into glare mode. Richard asks if Table 20 is located near the kitchen. No, it's toward the front and directly under the poster from the flop musical Dude. The art on said poster is of a man's jeans clad buttcheeks. Did you know that Joe Allen is going to be closed for one week for renovation, so when said renovation is completed who knows if there will even be a Table 20. Table 20 may just have gone the way of all flesh, which in my case is downward.
Pitgirl has finally found somewhere she can read this here column on a regular basis. Since she missed the column where we had the poll about which Sondheim character is most like you, Pitgirl tells me that she finds herself to be a lot like Johanna: Naive and not quite all there.
Joey got a video of Sweeney Todd as an early birthday gift. That is a nice gift indeed, although I do wish said video contained the performance of Len Cariou and wish that it had been taped on the Broadway set rather than the scaled down version in Los Angeles. Still, it's very good and the only game in town.
Riht (yes, Riht) informs me that I have done this week's trivia question before. I'm sure that Riht is right because as we all know, I am senile. Riht had an audition for plays at his school, but didn't want to be in them so sabotaged his audition. Now Riht feels bad that he gave the faculty a bad impression. I once gave the faculty of a drama department a bad impression. It was James Cagney, and it didn't sound anything like him. I then tried Carol Channing and did much better. I recommend Carol Channing if you want to give a good impression as she is quite easy to do, impression-wise. Riht is also a fan of antique shows. Riht collects 1933 Chicago World's Fair items and 30s memorabilia.
Prouvaire writes to say that he likes polls. I like polls, too, and occasionally poles. Prouvaire asks if I've seen Slaves of New York, the film which stars Bernadette Peters and is directed by James Lapine. I haven't. Prouvaire also wishes me a happy birthday, but we are a wee bit early for that event.
Tiffany tells me she once killed a squirrel. Said squirrel ran out in front of her car and the rest is history (and so was the squirrel, who was not only run over by the front tires but by the back as well). Which just goes to prove again that squirrels are ignorant critters. Tiffany was recently watching the Cary Grant film Indiscretion on AMC and it occured to her that I might just be Bob Dorian, AMC's resident host. Well, now, let's just look at our ever growing list of possibilities:
male, female, gay, straight, Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Gerard Allesan drini, George Clooney, William F. Orr, Rupert Holmes, Young Simba from The Lion King, the Tony nominated Billy from Big, a cast member from one of Sondheim's sh ows, Michael Tough the singing janitor, Bruce Kimmel, Richard Christianson of the Chicago Tribune, George Furth, New Line Theatre's Scott Miller, Leigh's father, Waiting for Guffman's Corky, Mr. Mark Bakalor's word processor, Charlie Sheen, dear reader Matt, Pitgirl's physics professor, Michael Larson director at the Stagedoor Manor, and Yves of Finishing the Chat, and record producer Bruce Yeko.
Tom from Oz informs me that I finally came up with a good example of a major 7th interval and that his friend thanks me from the bottom of her heart. Not the top of her heart, mind you, no, the bottom of her heart, which I'm told is much better. Tom has been pondering the question of what do I and New York, New York have in common, but he feels that I am not Liza Minnelli. Therefore we shall not add Liza to the list, therefore Liza will be listless.
Stoddard asks if this column's frequent reader, Mr. William F. Orr, is any relation to the William F. Orr who produced many Warner Bros. television programs in the 50s and 60s, shows like 77 Sunset Strip. Hopefully, Mr. William F. Orr can shed some light on this for us. Stoddard knows Raleigh Studios very well, and in fact spent much of his youth at the corner of Van Ness and Melrose at the now defunct Polar Palace Ice Skating Rink. Stoddard also dined frequently at the nearby Oblath's which was located directly across from the main gate at Paramount Studios. I, too, had many fine meals at Oblath's and sat next to many a fine motion picture star. The Polar Palace, by the way, burned down in 1967. Stoddard also informs me that in Japan Kentucy Fried Chicken is Kentucky No Yaki Dodi. "No Yaki Dodi" sounds like it should mean "Tell that Yak not to make a poop", but what do I know?
Sam announces to anyone within earshot that beginning September 10th he will be playing Oswald in Mr. Stephen Sondheim's musical entitled Assassins.
Several people had correct answers to last week's question: What theater composers have also written film scores? Some people who responded misunderstood and sent answers with film composers who've done theater scores, but that's another question for another day. The following all got correct answers: Alan G., Rafael, mrsmig, jon, Prouvaire, Jaime, and Larry. Here are some of the folks who've done so:
This week, in honor of the section which I erased ("clear this puppy") and rewrote, I think we shall have a poll. Name your five favorite cast albums.
Until next time, I am, as I ever was, and ever shall be...
Until next time, 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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