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

September 20, 1999 - #98

Well, dear readers, I am sitting at my handy-dandy desk like so much fish and I've just begun writing this week's column. All should be well and good and also good and well. But all is not well and good and vice versa and do you know why? I shall tell you why, dear readers, because why should you be in the dark? All is not well and good because someone, somewhere in this building is eating tuna and the smell has somehow wafted its way to the room I'm in. Now I don't know about you, dear readers, but I find it a little disconcerting to suddenly smell tuna whilst I am writing this here column. The minute I smelled it I said, "what is it, fish?" and it was, namely a tuna fish. How does the smell of tuna manage to seep its way through the walls? This smell-seeping happens quite a bit. Yesterday, we had the smell of toast. Frankly, I don't like smells intruding into my space and yet they are intruding into my space. Oh, well, I suppose there is nothing to be done about it except perhaps to have words with the Tuna Eater. But then I'd have to find the Tuna Eater and that would take me away from my writing and I would lose my train of thought. Not my airplane of thought, mind you, no, my train of thought. If I lose my train of thought then where will we be? I will have no train of thought and I will sit here thoughtless on a train to nowheresville. That might cause me to write something totally meaningless and we wouldn't want that, now would we? Something meaningless in this column? Unthinkable. Where was I? Oh, yes, the smell of the tuna, the roar of the rye. Well, I guess I'll just have to put up with it, which is fine as it has always done its best to put up with me.

Yesterday I found ants in my bathroom. I asked them what they were doing there but they had no answer. Well, who do these uppity ants think they are not answering me? On and on they crawled to no purpose but to annoy me. I had no idea where they came from and they weren't talking. So, I went to the cupboard and pulled out my brand spanking new handy-dandy can of Raid. I went back in the bathroom and showed those ants that great big can of Raid. Were they afraid of the Raid? Absolutely not. On and on they crawled, unfazed. Now, I saw the movie entitled Antz and I saw the movie entitled A Bug's Life, and the ants in those movies were cute and bright and had personality. These ants were stupid and annoying and just crawled on and on. They didn't even have cute celebrity voices. For those with weak stomachs I recommend skipping to the next paragraph. I took my can of Raid and unafraid I sprayed. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I sprayed Raid, unafraid. I sprayed Raid unafraid on each and every ant and I did so with some glee (eelg spelled backwards). Anyway, those ants were deader than a doornail, whatever the hell that means. I mopped them right up and that was the end of the ants in the bathroom. But it is not the end of the smell of Raid in my bathroom. Between the smell of Raid and the smell of tuna I am simply in olfactory hell.

It is now one day later and both the tuna and Raid smells have abated. The air once again has no offending smells. The air, in fact, smells clean as a whistle. Excuse me for a minute.

Aha, just as I suspected. I just went out and found a whistle and it is not clean, so just where did that fershluganah expression come from? "Clean as a whistle". Whistles by their very nature are unclean, because the minute you blow them they have the unseemly saliva droplets on them. How can you have a clean whistle with unseemly saliva droplets? That is a question for the ages and yet I asked the ages and they had no answer. The ages just sat there, like so much fish, in ignorant silence. I thought the ages were supposed to be sage with wisdom. The only thing sage about the ages is that "sage" is "ages" inside out. I feel this column is becoming a victim of unseemly saliva droplets, don't you, dear readers? Is "aha" a word? I know "ahi is a tuna, which, by the way, the astute will remember, is what I was smelling yesterday although I don't think it was ahi tuna I was smelling. I believe it was canned tuna. Where was I? Oh, yes, is "aha" a word? Maybe if we spelled it backwards it would be a word. "Aha". Yes, I believe "aha" is a word backwards and forwards. I believe this column is starting to smell like tuna and all I can say about that is "aha".

What a strange and peculiar week it's been, dear readers. It has been one of those weeks. A week in which nothing is ever quite what it should be. A Twilight Zone week. I've gone to three events this week and at all three of these events I have felt disembodied from the proceedings. I have felt unconnected to the proceedings and yet, by my very presence at the proceedings, I was connected to the proceedings, hence not disembodied at all. I was, in fact, bodied, but I felt disembodied so even though I was bodied I didn't feel I was bodied so what the hell is the good of being bodied if you don't feel that way? Does anyone have any idea of what the hell I'm talking about? I feel I can blame this entire section of the column on that damn Tuna Eater. That damn Tuna Eater has put me off my feed, whatever the hell that means. The whole week has been topsy-turvy and also turvy-topsy and all because of that damn Tuna Eater. Oh, well, perhaps I just better move on to the next section of the column, because frankly this section of the column is starting to resemble the casting of Miss Susan Lucci as Bernadette Peters' vacation replacement in Annie Get Your Gun: Idiocy at its finest. But enough about me.

Wise Guys

As most of you know, my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim, has written a brand spanking new musical entitled Wise Guys. He has been working on this new musical for quite some time. In fact, in an article in the New York Times written by Mr. Sondheim himself, he says he has been interested in musicalizing the story of the Mizners since the mid-fifties. It's taken him forty years to get to it, but at long last the show appears to be finished and is about to have its final three week workshop, to be held, I believe, at the same theater where Rent originally premiered. The workshop will be directed by Sam Mendes (he of Cabaret) and will star Nathan Lane and Victor Garber as the Mizners (both of whom took part in previous workshops of the piece). If all goes well the plan is for the show to come to Broadway in April, that is if there's a theater available. Right now there are no theaters available. There is a theater availability dearth. Several new musicals and revivals are sans theaters at the moment, but this will most likely change as the season goes on. Now, I have heard it from the horse's mouth (no mean feat), dear readers, that Wise Guys is looking good. I have heard it from the horse's mouth that Mr. Sondheim's score is one of his best, very accessible, very Broadway, but retaining Mr. Sondheim's unique voice. I have heard it from the horse's mouth that the book by Mr. John Weidman is very funny and very good. I hope the horse I spoke to is right, but with horses you never know. I tried to speak to a person but I couldn't find any who really knew anything about Wise Guys. The horse seemed to know what it was talking about and had a very good grasp on the current musical theater scene. It's always good to hear something from the horse's mouth, and much preferable to hearing something from other parts of the horse's anatomy. After I got the scoop, I gave the horse some oats and it seemed grateful as all get out. I shall try to finagle my way in to see the workshop so that I can give you a report. If not, I'll get a report from the horse's mouth and pass it on to you posthaste.

In Theater

As you may remember, last week I wrote a little valentine to that wonderful magazine, Theatre Arts. This week, I attended a party for the magazine which is trying to carry on in the tradition of Theatre Arts, In Theater. The bash was held at the David Geffen Playhouse, formerly the Westwood Playhouse. On my arrival I went to the entrance to check in. As I stood waiting I looked next to me and do you know who was standing there as close as the smell of tuna? Why, Mr. Jerry Herman was standing there as close as the smell of tuna. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, Mr. Jerry Herman was standing right next to me. I, being the brash individual that I am, said to Mr. Jerry Herman, "Hello, Mr. Herman, I'm The Real A." He looked at me as if I were a piece of string cheese and replied, "Yes, I'm sure you are." We then went in to the party, Mr. Herman going his way and I going mine. What a swell party this was. There were celebrities galore. For example I saw Mr. Karl Malden, star of The Streets of San Francisco, not to mention the film version of Gypsy. I saw Mr. John Randolph. Now, most of you may not know who Mr. John Randolph is, but I know who Mr. John Randolph is because Mr. John Randolph is not only a fine theater actor and film and television actor (you'd recognize the face) but he also gave what I consider to be one of the finest performances I've ever seen in a film, in Mr. John Frankenheimer's Seconds. I saw Miss Maureen (There's Got To Be A Morning After) McGovern, Adrian Zmed and his lovely wife Susan Wood, the madcap Jason Graae, film director Gary Marshall, and many many others. There were lovely hors d'ouerves (no cheese slices or ham chunks, however), and drink aplenty. I even saw Mr. Joe Brooks. For those who don't know, Mr. Joe Brooks wrote that hit song You Light Up My Life and has never had to work since. He has worked since, however, and even wrote a musical entitled Metropolis. A good time was had by all and as we all left we got special In Theater goodie bags filled with, as you might imagine, actual goodies. Congratulations to In Theater and editors Michael Parker and Kathy Henderson on their two year anniversary.

The Film Society Awards

In addition to the In Theater bash, the august organization known as The Film Music Society gave its special achievement award this weekend. I will go to any award ceremony given by an august organization. I will also attend any award ceremony given by a november organization, but I will never attend an award ceremony given by a july organization. That's where I draw the line.

You see? I have drawn the line.

In any case, there I was at The Film Music Society award dinner. Most people were in elegant attire, but I, as is my wont, was dressed a bit more casually. I don't like elegant attire. Oh, I don't mind when others wear elegant attire, but I feel very constrained by elegant attire. I feel stiff and awkward in elegant attire. I feel elegant attire is for the birds, frankly. The birds look fine in elegant attire, but as for me, I must dress only in comfortable attire. This does not mean that I looked like a derelict or anything. I was dressed nicely, just not in elegant attire, although elegant attire is in the eye of the beholder. That must be painful to have attire in your eye (if you're the beholder) but that's another story. Anyway, I was dressed in casual attire and my casual attire was perfectly fine. There were a handful of others who were not dressed in elegant attire and so I did not feel out of place.

The Film Music Society has given out this achievement award several times, and past winners have included those marvelous film composers, David Raksin, Elmer Bernstein, George Duning, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Toru Takemitsu, and a few others whose names I'm not remembering. They also gave this award to none other than Mr. Stephen Sondheim. I attended that ceremony in New York and I, like Mr. Sondheim, found it a bit peculiar that they would give a film music achievement award to a composer who'd only written (in Mr. Sondheim's words) "one and a half film scores". This year's achievement award went to Mr. Laurence Rosenthal, a wonderful film composer who I have been a fan of since I was a sprig of a twig of a branch of a youth. In fact, I would say that among the composers who helped me form my musical taste, Mr. Rosenthal is in the top ten. I had never heard of Mr. Rosenthal until I saw the film version of The Miracle Worker, for which he wrote the music. I saw that film the day it opened and fell head over heels in love with Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke, the author William Gibson and the director Arthur Penn. Most of all, I fell head over heels in love with the music of Mr. Rosenthal. From the first note of music (after the film's intensely dramatic prologue) I was hooked on Mr. Rosenthal. The Miracle Worker score remains to this day one of my favorites, and I find it one of the most moving emotional scores ever written for a film. It is, in a word, stunning. The harmonics, the colors, the way he gets underneath the scenes and the characters is masterful and brilliant. And the finale of the film, where Helen Keller finally connects words to what they mean, is one of the great fusions of image, acting and music ever put on the screen. As if that weren't enough, at around the same time Mr. Rosenthal created two other great scores, A Raisin In The Sun and his great jazzy/bluesy powerhouse of a score to the film Requiem For A Heavyweight. In my estimation at the time, he was right up there with Bernard Herrmann in brilliance. I feel, that while he has done excellent work since, he has never topped the magnificence of these three scores. But here's something you might not know: Mr. Rosenthal wrote dance music for several actual Broadway shows before writing his very own actual Broadway musical comedy. It was not successful, but it has attained something of a legendary cult status. The Broadway musical was entitled Sherry! and was a musical version of the Kaufman and Hart play The Man Who Came To Dinner. It starred Clive Revill (star of Oliver! on Broadway who'd replaced George Sanders while the show was trying out) and Dolores Gray and opened and closed within three months in 1967. The score is lovely, nice ballads and fun uptempo songs, including a smashing title number. Here is another interesting thing about Mr. Rosenthal's musical. The book and lyrics were by James Tipton who is now the host of that fine television program Inside The Actor's Studio, which some of you may remember included an evening with Stephen Sondheim. Aren't we mentioning Stephen Sondheim a lot in this column? Anyway, Mr. Rosenthal continues to write, mostly for television and miniseries, but he's also working on a new musical, too. In fact, after graciously receiving his award, he sat down at the piano and two singers sang five of his theater songs, including the hilarious title song from Sherry! It was a nice evening and a fitting tribute to a great composer.

The Real A: A Life

Normally this would be the time I write this section of the column, but this week, for reasons that will become clear, I'm going to save it for the end. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, I'm mucking about with the format, moving things around. You all know that I like things "just so" but in this column I'm taking the "just so" and standing it on its ear. Have you ever stood or been stood on your ear? It is very painful. How can one stand on one's ear? Conversely,how can one hear with one's feet? It is nigh unto impossible. Have you ever tried to speak with your nose? Not happening. Have you ever tried to smell with your elbow? Dream on. And yet, these are the eternal questions, dear readers, to which we all seek the answers. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Tuna Eater has the answers to these questions. Because the Tuna Eater might just be The One, like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Perhaps I am The One and don't even know it. Perhaps I am The Three. Perhaps I am The Walrus. Perhaps I'd better just move on to the next section of the column, which is, by the way, The Ninety-Eight.

Letters... We Get Letters

Has anyone noticed that we are a mere two columns away from our 100th column? I have, and it frightens me because I haven't even begun preperations for it or purchased the cheese slices and ham chunks and shrimp bits on toast. Of course, if I purchased those things now then they might well be stale and rotten much like this particular column is this week. I feel the Tuna Eater is responsible and that said Tuna Eater ought to be strung up by their thumbs. And while they're strung up by said thumbs perhaps they could explain to us all why there is a "b" in "thumbs". I think that the Tuna Eater should be tormented by smells in the same way they have tormented me and, in turn, you. I feel we should torture the Tuna Eater with the smell of frijoles muerte (dead beans). Have you ever smelled frijoles muerte (dead beans)? I guarantee you the Tuna Eater would think twice about ever sending the smell of their tuna into my office and, in turn, this column. Actually, this whole discussion has made me hungry. I do believe I'll go have a tuna sandwich.

Well, on to the letters. After all, isn't this the letter section? It is, and so, to it.

Roy S. (from the land of the Brits) tells me that this past summer the Lost Musicals series (I presume the English equivilent to Encores!) did that fine musical entitled 110 In The Shade. Their next show will be Finian's Rainbow (presumably without the new "fixed" Peter Stone book) and the last show of the year will be Cole Porter's Jubilee (they have been planning Jubilee for ages).

Brepat informs me that I must be male as no female would ever fling, eat, or have anything to do with lunchmeat. Ah, but this is simply not so. For example, my mother, who was known to be a woman occasionally, ate lunchmeat with great elan (not Elan, who she did not know), in fact, she ate bologna right out of the package without even bothering to put it on bread. I, whether male or female, have a soft spot in my heart for lunchmeat, even though it skeeves me. I like to buy it and just look at it and then throw it out. I especially like having Pimiento Loaf around the house, especially whilst I am loafing. Pressed Turkey also amuses me. Once I couldn't find any Pressed Turkey so I sent some regular turkey out to the dry cleaners and got it pressed. Brepat also feels that in a past column I accidentally let slip that I was a male but everyone knows that slips are for females not males, although I have known several males who enjoy wearing slips and also leather garter belts. Oh, it is all so confusing this issue of gender. But never fear, in our 100th column there will be surprises and revelations, not necessarily in that order.

Alan G. also has a copy of the Gypsy tape that I recently got. He likes Merman's acting better than any other Rose he's seen (including Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and Linda Lavin), but feels her performance falls apart during Rose's Turn. I like her performance of Rose's Turn very much and don't feel it falls apart one or two whits. But that's what makes horse racing, an expression I got directly from the horse's mouth. Alan G. also points out that on the tape of Gypsy, Louise is played not by Sandra Church but by her replacement, Julienne Marie, and that Dainty June is played by Merle Letowt (now Merle Louise) and Tessie Tura by Betty Bruce (who would do the film version as well). Betty Bruce, by the way, is truly hilarious as Tessie in the film version, and I believe her to be the definitive Tessie, just as there will never be a better Mazeppa than Faith Dane ("Ya got somethin' against strippin'?").

Riht informs me that he, too, has an Uncle Al. Perhaps Riht and I are the same person.

Arnold M. Brockman asks if there's any way he can get a tape of the tape that someone gave me of the tape of the tape of Gypsy. Well, normally I would say no, but I will leave this glimmer of hope - if Arnold M. Brockman is our 2,000th letter writer he will get the tape as his prize. We are getting close to that number, so keep those e-mails coming.

Susan C., a new dear reader from England, has been a Sondheim fan for many years since watching a TV documentary about Sweeney Todd prior to its London opening. Susan C. is currently directing her first Sondheim show, Merrily We Roll Along. She is rehearsing the show backwards, start to finish, even though they will be playing it the correct way which, of course is forwards, finish to start. So in rehearsing the show backwards they are really playing it forwards, even though when they will be doing the show they will be playing it backwards because playing it forwards would only confuse those who have come to see the show backwards. Of course, I have always felt that, to be totally true to the concept, the show should be called Along Roll We Merrily.

Rafael missed our favorite cast album poll. He sent us his list, although because he was introduced to Broadway musicals via the silver screen, some of his choices are soundtracks rather than cast albums. The Sound of Music (soundtrack), The King and I (soundtrack), Camelot (OCR), Sweet Charity (soundtrack) and West Side Story (soundtrack).

Amtrakker promises that she'll be sending an activity photo of her fish nightgown. We await with great anxiousness, fish nightgown-wise.

Anna hasn't read this here column since June. She spent the summer deciding to give up theater. Instead, she worked as a camp counselor and lifeguard, not necessarily in that order. But we're happy to report that Anna had an epiphany (like my close personal friend Sweeney Todd) and she is returning to the theater.

Mordecai notes that there was indeed a vocal selections book for The Magic Show, but I'm quite certain that it must be out of print.

S. Woody White saw a production of Lend Me A Tenor performed by Long Beach's ITC Theater Group (his ever lovin' der Brucer is on the board of said group). He thought the production splendid and very funny. He asks if I've heard of their next show, the musical Goblin Market. I have. It's by a strange writer named Polly Pen who penned another strange musical entitled Bed and Sofa, which was about an actual Bed and Sofa in case you were wondering. I haven't seen or heard Goblin Market, however, so can say neither yay or nay or even nay or yay about it.

Trivia and Other Useless Knowledge

No one got both parts of last week's trivia question, name the film and musical in which Joe Allen is featured. The following got the musical: Montem, Arnold M. Brockman, Brepat and Alan G. The musical was, of course, Applause! in which the title song takes place in Joe Allen. For some reason, for the TV version of Applause! the title song is set in a fictional restaurant in which there is no beloved Table 20. No one guessed the movie, at least the movie that is the only one I'm absolutely certain featured Joe Allen. That film is No Way To Treat A Lady, which starred Mr. Sondheim's favorite Lee Remick, and Rod Steiger and George Segal. A wonderful film based on the novel by Harry Longbaugh.

This week's trivia question: Who is/was Harry Longbaugh?

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



Questions? Comments?

The Real A: A Life

As promised, I've saved this section for last. I'm going to reprint The Real A: A Life from Column 70. I hope you'll enjoy revisiting it.

I do not remember where I met the person we'll call EL, but obviously we met somewhere. I was in the tenth grade in what we then called High School (do they still call it High School, or is it Middle School or Upper School?). EL was cute, EL was fun, and we hit it off right away. In a very short time we were "attached". I didn't really know what that meant, but attached we were. We went everywhere together, did everything together, even though we went to different schools. We were both volatile and emotional and way too young to be "attached". Yet, there we were, attached. A couple. Now, as you dear readers know, at some point, if you are a couple, sex is going to rear its ugly head. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, sex did indeed rear its ugly head. Oh, sure, I'd kissed before, even with tongues, but I knew nothing from sex. But my dear EL was a little more experienced than I, as EL was a year older. Soon we were touching and fondling, and, if we were feeling especially bold, fondling and touching. Oh, this was new, this touching and fondling. This was nice, this touching and fondling. Let me just say that I liked this touching and fondling. I only wanted to touch and fondle. Everything else went by the wayside, wherever the hell that is. I was addicted to the touching and fondling. Now, you have to understand that all this hot and heavy touching and fondling was done over the clothing. Oh, yes, there certainly was no touching and fondling under the clothing. That would have been too too bold and I do mean bold. But sooner or later, as my close personal friend, Mr. Stephen Sondheim once wrote, if you are a couple and you have touched and fondled, well, sooner or later you're going to have to deal with "under the clothing". It is only natural. It is the Way Things Work. It is the law of Man and Woman or Woman and Woman or Man and Man or Hermaphrodite and Whatever. So, we daringly, boldly went where we'd never been before. That's right, under the clothes. We didn't look mind you, oh no, that would have been too bold. But we felt. We felt actual skin. And parts. Let's not forget parts. I feel we must have some discretion so I will not go into further detail, except to say these experiments continued apace on a daily basis. Now, I don't want you to think, dear readers, that we did anything too serious. Just the touching and fondling, over and under the clothes, ad nauseum. In those days, good girls and boys didn't get too serious as in "going all the way". I knew vaguely what was entailed in said "going all the way" and so did EL, but we just went part of the way and left "All The Way" to Frank Sinatra. The only problem was where to do our touching and fondling over and under the clothes. It was very difficult to do this in our respective homes because of our respective parents always lurking about. Our respective parents didn't want to know from any touching and fondling over and under the clothes. So, we would have to do our touching and fondling surreptitiously. I vividly remember touching and fondling in the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd. We'd found an empty room there and we just touched and fondled like nobody's business. We were very lucky that no one ever came in while said business was going on, because if anyone had come in they would have seen shocking touching and fondling and also nudity. Nudity at the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd., was, I have to imagine, frowned upon, but luckily for us we were never discovered. Occasionally we'd get so "het" up that we'd have to satisfy our touching and fondling needs elsewhere, because our houses were out of the question and the Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd. was closed after seven p.m. So, where does one go to touch and fondle when there is nowhere to go? You will not believe what I'm about to tell you, dear readers. You will think that I am making it up. But I am not making it up. Every word I tell you is true. Of course if that was the case, every sentence would look like this: True true true true true true. So, I guess every word I tell you is not literally "true", because one simply must use other words to convey the point of the story. And the point of the story is this: When we were "het" up with no place to go, we would find empty parked cars, and if said parked cars were unlocked we would go in the back seat of said unlocked parked cars and we would touch and fondle over and under the clothing. I know this seems like the height (not weight) of folly and it was. But, it worked and we were never ever caught doing our business in the back seat of strange automobiles. Nuts, huh? But that's what teen passion does to a teen. The other place we went to when we were "het" up was the La Brea Tar Pits. Now, the La Brea Tar Pits are where the dinosaurs roamed way back when, before Wilshire Blvd. was a street. The La Brea Tar Pits was an immense property. It's still there, but only a portion. Years ago, they sold off the surrounding land and that is where the County Museum of Modern Art was built. So, on this site, where the construction for the museum was going on, we did our nasty business. Again, luckily we were never caught doing our nasty business. I like to think, of course, that the County Museum of Modern Art exists because of our nasty business.

EL and I were a couple for two years. EL went off to college while I was still a senior in high school, and we just sort of split apart as teen lovers will do. And for all that touching and fondling over and under the clothes, in cars, in Jewish Centers, and at the La Brea Tar Pits, we never did consummate our relationship. Isn't that funny? What's even funnier is that I occasionally still see EL, and we have dinner and we laugh and laugh about The Way We Were.

You are probably wondering why I reprinted this reminiscence about EL Well, I will tell you, dear readers. This week my beloved friend EL passed away. EL was my first romantic relationship, and a wonderful person who will always retain a special place in my heart. Rest in peace, dear heart.

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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