Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Last night was the second ASCAP -Disney Musical workshop held at the Disney Studio Commissary. It was hosted once again by the amzing Stephen Schwartz (who looked a little grayer than last year) The Two musicals presented were ON DRAGONS WINGS a lovely concept for a children's fantasy and JESUS' KID BROTHER-- a big comical "Spamalot" type spoof on the life of a supposed kid brother (yes, brother of God). There was a lot of great talent there-- especially in the first show. But both missed the basic questions that every single musical must know. These questions are "What is my story about?" and "What does my protagonist really truly WANT and NEED. The first was a sweet children's story-- but this is a Broadway hopeful presentation and this sweet endearing fantasy with all of it's charm and originality hasn't a snowball's chance of making it on the Great White Way. If its only purpose is children's theatre across the country-- fantastic. But New York audiences are NOT going to pay $110-125 to watch a story about a sweet little water bug who yearns to dance with tadpoles in a mythical though wonderfully magical water pond. There's no danger in nthis musical. There is no antagonist present (at least in the first 25 minutes presented last night! The second show is a real romp and is a very funny spoof. But once again, there is no real antagonist and we really don't know what the supposed younger brother of Jesus Christ ( his name is Larry) really wants and therefore really needs. It was funny and original and clever, but if we don't have a real antagonist and a goal and a purpose for the protagonist, we simply don't have a musical. Dear Danny Simon used to say "If you haven't got a real conflict by page three (or in three minutes) you don't have a story. In both musicals, there is no real conflict. Even Winnie the pooh has a dilema by three minutes into the movie. The "KID BROTHER" had a great opening, but had a second number which could have been the opening number-- so choose one. Comedy is hard. Farce is evn harder. You can not repeat jokes. You have to have a real purpose. The girl that Larry falls for is the daughter of PONTIUS PILATE ("I'm a pilate that wants to fly--ugh) and I'm just not terribly sure that that works. And the songs-- well, they just are not that memorable. The opening number for JESUS KID BROTHER may be an exception (IT'S TOUGH TO BE A JEW IN BIBLICAL TIMES) but I think both shows need major re-working! Today are two important birthdays too. Carol Channing (born in 1921) is 86 today.Channing was introduced to the stage while doing church work for her mother. In a 2005 interview with the Austin Chronicle, Channing recounted this experience: "My mother said, 'Carol, would you like to help me distribute Christian Science Monitors backstage at the live theatres in San Francisco?' And I said, 'All right, I'll help you.' I don't know how old I was. I must have been little. We went through the stage door alley [for the Curran Theatre], and I couldn't get the stage door open. My mother came and opened it very easily. Anyway, my mother went to put the Monitors where they were supposed to go for the actors and the crew and the musicians, and she left me alone. And I stood there and realized – I'll never forget it because it came over me so strongly – that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It's a mosque. It's a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards." Carol Channing's first job on stage in New York was in Marc Blitzstein's No For an Answer, which was given two special Sunday performances starting January 5, 1941 at the Mecca Temple (later New York's City Center). Channing then moved to Broadway for Let's Face It, in which she was an understudy for Eve Arden. She had a featured role in a revue, Lend an Ear, where she was spotted by Anita Loos and cast in the role of Lorelei Lee, which was to bring her to prominence. (Her signature song from the production was "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.") Channing's persona and that of the character were strikingly alike: simultaneously smart yet scattered, naïve but worldly.Channing came to national prominence as the star of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly! She never missed a performance during her run, attributing her good health to her Christian Science faith. Her performance won her the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, in a year when her chief competition was Barbara Streisand for Funny Girl. She was deeply disappointed when Streisand, who many believed to be far too young for the role, successfully campaigned to play the role of Dolly Levi in the film, which also starred Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford. Today also would have been the 86th birthday of Mario Lanza. I am old enough to remember just how his amazing talent impressed me so. He died tragically at age thirty-seven of a pulminory embolisim.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Today is the 79Th birthday of Broadway legend Hal Prince. Amazing Hal! It's been ages-- but he certainly left a great mark. A distinguished director and producer -- the supreme Broadway showman -- whose career has lasted for many decades. "Hal" served his theatrical apprenticeship in the late '40s and early '50s with the esteemed author, director, and producer George Abbott. In 1954, he presented his first musical, "The Pajama Game," in collaboration with Robert E. Griffith and Frederick Brisson . His association with Griffith continued until the latter's death in 1961, mostly with hits such as "Damn Yankees," "New Girl in Town," "West Side Story" and "Fiorello!" (1959). "Hal's first assignment as a director, was a horrible failure! From then on, he has been the producer or co-producer and/or director for a whole range of (mostly) successful (but nothing mind blowing like "WICKED") musicals such as "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962), "She Loves Me" (1963), "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964), "Baker Street" (1965), "Flora, the Red Menace" (1965), "It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman" (1966). He almost gave up musical theatre entirely after the Superman musical actually had people walking out of the theatre. The critics were not kind and the songs simply weren't that memorable. The book by the late great Peter Stone is what saved the show! And then came the miracle! The miracle's name was "Cabaret" Almost two thousand shows and three revivals put Hal back in the game. That was followed by Kander and Ebb's "Zorba" (1968), Stephen Sondheim's "Company " (1970), "Follies" (1971), "A Little Night Music" (1973) and "Pacific Overtures" (1976. Three mega hits were next and these included "On the Twentieth Century" (1978), "Evita" (1978), and back to Sondheim with "Sweeney Todd" (1979). The pot breaker was "Merrily We Roll Along" (1981)-- and it was a long time before another Sondheim-Prince collaboration was attempted. Three gigantic failures were next. First was the ultimate musical disaster: "A Doll's Life" (1982), (which opened and closed in two weeks) "Grind" (1985), (which was notorious for trying to work on Broadway without the Dramatists Guild. This was followed "The Phantom of the Opera" (1986), "Roza" (1987), and "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (1992). Hal has received more Tony Awards than anyone else.The list does not include restaging and directing the original productions in several different countries, nor his work with American opera companies such as the New York Opera, the Houston Opera, and the Chicago Lyric Opera. He dipped into the past with his superb staging of the Broadway revival of "Show Boat" (1995). This was followed by a disappointingly brief run for Prince's revival of the 1974 version of "Candide" (1997) and "Parade" (1998).

Well last night was the first of the ASCAP Musical workshops at the Disney Studios. It was nice to see David and Chris Holmes again after two years and Kevin Kaufman: old friends from the past. The musicals presented were very odd. The first was called "ROMANCING THE THRONE"" or to put it mildly "Camelot"meets "The Producers". Lot of shtick, gimmicks and clever lyrics, (and the performers were VERY GOOD) but after twenty-five minutes we don't have a clue whose story this is. No one in New York City is going to pay an average of $125.00 a seat to watch a musical that we are not sure whose story it is. Schtick works when we are on firm ground about who the story is about, what do they want, what are their dreams and how we (the writers) are going to get them there. The second "THE EMERALD MAN" was simply to bizarre for me and for Tim Doran who was there with me. I hadn't seen Tim in four months and he looked wonderful. "THE EMERALD MAN" tells the tale of a disturbed young teenager whose mother has married soon after his father's death and is a total comic book and super hero nut. In his mental ramblings, he is offered the chance to escape the world of realty by becoming a super hero. Again, the plot is confusing, the songs are not memorable and their is a confusion of journey-- this time we know who's story this is: we simply don't have a real clue as to how he got there. The ring his father had worn the youth wears around his neck and is the dramatic device as to how he becomes the super hero "EMERALD MAN". Now every super hero has a super power and a purpose. I swear I don't know what this young super hero's power or purpose is-- except his determination to rid the world of unhappiness-- boy, is that a tall order! Maybe in the longer version this show will flesh out. Stephen Schwartz was there of course and so was Dean Pitchford (the co-author of "Footloose, the Broadway musical) along Harold Stone, the producer. A BIG CROWD showed up-- and a really nice refreshment spread. Not the usual cookies and coffee only routine for a change! But I did get a new inspiration for changing "THE TRAVELING COMPANION" show opening to something far more exciting. The merchants showing off their wares they we have now just doesn't make it. We need to start the show off with a bang! Add some danger and intrigue. Well sometimes you have to change Hans Christian Andersen. His stories are wonderful , but they don't tend to be dramatic enough! Well going back to ASCAP tonight-- we will see what they present tonight! One more thing-- its also the 79Th birthday of MITCH LEIGH and the 90TH birthday of Joe Darion-- and they dear friends are the composers of "THE MAN OF LA MANCHA "-- they never had a second success-- at least never like this one. Which just goes to prove that it only takes ONE great musical to be a grand success on the Great White Way! By the way, Mitch Leigh is the guy in the jolly Santa like white beard in the picture with jazz man Willie Ritz.

Monday, January 29, 2007


We lost the great Robert Frost On January 29Th, 1963-- the very same year we lost John F. Kennedy in November. What an amazing poet. I have written a song in tribute to this great man entitled "MILES TO GO". It was recorded brilliantly by my dear friend TONY WESTBROOK. I remember the day of that recording session. It was a tough go for him. Dear Terry Snyder who was there recording other songs with him and solo helped him nail it-- and when he did-- it was absolute magic. Overall, I think it's the very best thing Tony has recorded since FLY ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Of course everyone knows that Robert Frost read a special poem at JFK's inauguration on January 20Th, 1961. It was an amazing moment.Though not notably associated with any political party, Frost recited the poem, "The Gift Outright". Nominally a tribute to the country's early Colonial spirit ("This land was ours before we were the land's"), the poem ends on an optimistic, but characteristically ambivalent, note:
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Frost had intended to read another poem, "Dedication", which he had written specifically for Kennedy and for the occasion. But with feeble eyesight, unfamiliarity with the new poem, and difficulty reading his typescript in the bright January light, Frost chose only to deliver the poem he knew from memory (which he did in strong voice, despite his 86 years).
In April 2006, a handwritten copy of "Dedication" was donated to the Kennedy library in Boston, Massachusetts; it had come from the estate of one of Kennedy's special assistants (who died the year before). On the manuscript, Frost had added "To John F. Kennedy, At his inauguration to be president of this country. January 20Th, 1961. With the Heart of the World," followed by, "Amended copy, now let's mend our ways." After removing the paper backing from the frame, a Kennedy archivist discovered a faintly-legible handwritten note from Jacqueline Kennedy "For Jack, January 23, 1961. First thing I had framed to put in your office. First thing to be hung there."

The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young ambition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday's the beginning hour.

Frost represented the United States on several official missions, including a meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. After the latter meeting, he told a press conference in New York on September 9 [1962] that Khrushchev "thought Americans were too liberal to fight," a remark which so angered Kennedy, that he severed the hitherto cordial relations between himself and Frost, refusing so determinately to speak to him again that he declined both Stewart Udall's request in January 1963 that he send the dying Frost a final message and ignored "pleas from the eighty-eight year old poet's deathbed." Great men have even greater tempers. All Robert Frost had done was report what the Russian leader had said. My struggle continues to raise the money to get my car out of hawk and I'm praying I can rid myself of the extra financial burden of a monthly rent-a-car expense very soon. Another car exchange, now I'm driving a Dodge Cavalier. Well at least I'm doing a lot of interesting test drives!

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Yesterday I neglected to include a photo of the late great Jerome Kern in honor of his birthday. Here is a shot of him on stage at the curtain call of "Showboat" in 1927-- its very first Broadway production. Kern's lyricist partner in all of this was the late great Oscar Hammerstein II-- long before he collaborated officially with with the equally great Richard Rodgers. A Jerome Kern melody is simply wonderful after all of these many years. We lost Mr. Kern on November 11Th, 1945-- cut down in his prime. By the way,. I am putting into publication tomorrow the first volume of my songs entitled "STAGES OF LOVE-- WANTED FOUND, LOST AND FORGIVEN. I am reprinting the dedication of the volume and the composer's notes here:
This initial publication of forty-three songs is humbly dedicated forever To Tony Westbrook. Tony was the first artist who had enough faith in this composer to venture many long hours in the recording studio, the rehearsal hall and helping to define the sound and structure of these first recordings. Many of the songs in this volume were recorded by him for the very first time in the years 2000-2003. And so for his faith, dedication and hard work, this first published work is humbly dedicated to him: a talent to be reckoned with for many years to come!!

Composer’s Notes

Twenty- Seven years and counting. That’s how long it’s been since I first had a song that I had written performed on a stage or recorded by a gifted singer. It’s a comforting thought to know that I have been able to work and create many songs with some very incredible talent: some of whom are represented as my co-author and collaborator in the songs in this book.

Some of these include my great friend and first collaborator: Randy Ames
and my arranger and best friend Tim Doran. Without, Tim’s amazing faith in me and without his most incredible talent the music writing would have stopped in 1990. Tim is my angel on earth. I would like to thank Terry Snyder, Adam Simmons, Greg Lastrapes, Billy Murphy and Michael Criste. And of course: Tony Westbrook to whom this publication is dedicated.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Today would have been the birthday of one of the greatest songwriters of all time: This man was Jerome Kern. Jerome Kern was born in New York City in 1885 and loved music from the very beginning. His father pressured him to go into business with him and only a costly mistake saved the great composer for us and all the world. One day Kern was ordering pianos from an Italian merchant at the age of eighteen in 1903. Instead of ordering TWO pianos as he was supposed to, he ordered TWO HUNDRED pianos. The action almost put his poor merchant father out of business altogether and established The Steinway Piano company. It was decided by both father and son after this mistake that Kern was not going to be a successful buyer in his father's mercantile business. So with one mistake, in one felt swoop, a song writing career was born and a great piano company was established.
The 1910s were a productive and noteworthy period for Kern. He married an English woman, Eva Leale, in 1910 and in 1914 had his first hit, "The Girl from Utah" -- another adaptation of a British show. In 1915 Kern began writing musicals for the Princess Theatre in New York. These productions, "Nobody Home," "Very Good Eddie," "Oh Boy!," and "Oh Lady! Lady!!," were distinguished by a new approach to musical theater, developed by Kern in collaboration with librettist Guy Bolton, and, beginning in 1917, the talents of lyricist P. G. Wodehouse.The musical revue format, with unrelated numbers strung together, was replaced by a more coherent story, more sophisticated songs, and characters that were more believable and realistic. The transformation of the Broadway musical did not happen overnight, however, and Kern also wrote the music for more conventional shows, including "Leave It to Jane," "Sally," which included the popular "Look for the Silver Lining," and "Sunny."Kern wrote his most important work, "Show Boat" " in 1927 with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The production, which included the songs "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and "Make Believe," is notable for the richness of its music and its influence on other Broadway composers, who saw it as a model of writing for the musical stage. Today some believe it reflects racist attitudes; protesters tried to ban a 1993 revival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but the production went on to great success and re-opened on Broadway in 1994.A close examination of "Show Boat" reveals that it is actually quite progressive for a show that was written in 1927. The plot, involving a woman who is prohibited from performing on the show boat because she is bi-racial and is married to a white man, is compelling, as is the song "Ol' Man River," which is the complete antithesis of the more upbeat tunes popular at a time when many whites did not wish to acknowledge their injustice to African Americans. "Show Boat" was made into a film musical three times -- in 1929, 1936, and 1951. In 1954 it became part of the New York City Opera's standard repertory -- the first musical to be adopted by an opera company.
In 1915 Kern began writing musicals for the Princess Theatre in New York.The 1930s saw a string of Kern musicals: "The Cat and the Fiddle"; "Music in the Air"; "Roberta," which was made into a film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in 1935 and which included the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"; the Astaire/Rogers film musical SWING TIME, featuring "A Fine Romance" and the Oscar-winning "The Way You Look Tonight"; and VERY WARM FOR MAY, which was a flop but from which the song "All the Things You Are" -- perhaps Kern's best song, if not the best popular song by any composer -- survives.In the 1940s Kern moved to Hollywood and devoted the rest of his career to writing music for films. He contributed the songs "The Last Time I Saw Paris" to LADY, BE GOOD, "Dearly Beloved" to YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER, and "Long Ago and Far Away" to COVER GIRL. He died in New York in 1945; his last score was for the film CENTENNIAL SUMMER, which was released in 1946.Most of Kern's manuscripts were assumed for decades to be lost. But in 1982 hundreds of manuscripts by Kern and other Broadway composers were found in a warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. In an article in THE NEW YORK TIMES on March 10, 1987, the year that the manuscripts were inventoried after having been moved to Manhattan, Kern scholar John McGlinn was quoted as saying that the discovery was "like opening the tomb of King Tut. There are major works here that had been presumed lost forever; shows that were never revived and were assumed to have vanished off the face of the earth." Included among the findings were the complete scores for "Very Good Eddie," "Leave It to Jane," and "Sunny," and the original manuscripts of "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and music that was cut from "Show Boat" after the 1927 production. This "lost" music was added to a 1988 recording of "Show Boat," restoring the musical to its origin
Some of Kern's other Broadway shows include
"The Cat and the Fiddle""Girl from Utah""Oh, Boy!" "Oh, Lady! Lady!!" "Roberta" "Sally""Show Boat" and "Sunny". Although the story of his life was mostly ficvtionized in an MGM movie called "TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY" the film features some top Hollywood stars singing some very incredible Jerome Kern tunes. God love you, Mr. Kern. I always love your music!

Friday, January 19, 2007


History buffs take note! Today would have been the 200th birthday of General Robert E Lee. If any general in history had more fame than he is pretty unlikely. Not even General MacArthur had quite the diostinction of historical fame as this grand gentleman from the South. Choosing the Confederacy was a very difficult choice for this honorable man.Lee at first opposed the Confederacy and nearly accepted a major Union command, but when his home state of Virginia seceded he chose to join with his family and neighbors and fight for Virginia. His first major command came in June 1862 when he took over the Confederacy's premier combat force, the Army of Northern Virginia with responsibility for defending Richmond Lee's greatest victories were in the Seven Days Battles and at Second Bull Run Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville , but he suffered reverses in his two invasions of the North. Narrowly escaping defeat at the Antietam in 1862 Lee was forced to return to Virginia. He was decisively defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, with his escape routes cut off by flooded rivers. Because of a desultory chase by General George Meade Lee escaped to Virginia. There was little further action in 1863, but in spring 1864 the new Union commander, Ulysses S. Grant began a massive war of attrition with multiple battles designed to wear away Lee's army. In the Overland Campaign of 1864 and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864–65, Lee inflicted massive casualties on a foe superior in terms of men and matériel, but was unable to replace his losses and his army crumbled away. Lee was forced into defensive trenches and had no resources to mount a significant offensive. Vastly outnumbered in spring 1865 Lee was forced to flee but was soon surrounded. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9th 1865, marked the end of the war. His victories against numerically superior forces won him enduring fame as an astute and audacious battlefield tactician, but his strategic decisions—such as invading the North in 1862 and 1863 and neglecting the Mississippi Valley—have generally been criticized by military historians.
In 1865, as manpower reserves drained away, Lee promoted a plan to arm slaves to fight for the Confederacy (and free them); the first black Confederate combat units were in training as the war ended, though one unit is known to have fought during the retreat from Richmond in April 1865. He blocked dissenters from starting a guerrilla campaign to continue the war after his surrender at Appomattox.
After the war, as a college president, Lee supported President Andrew Johnson s program of Reconstruction and inter-sectional friendship, while opposing the Radical Republican proposals to give newly freed slaves the vote and take the vote away from ex-Confederates. He urged reconciliation between the North and South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the nation's political life. Lee became the great Southern hero of the war, and his popularity grew in the North as well after 1880. He remains an iconic figure of American history. Today is also the 63rd birthday of teen idol Shelly Fabres ("Johnny Angel") and the birthday of Edgar Alan Poe (Nevermore!) Personally, this car repair has been so much to bear. Now the guy who has fixed my car has gone back on his word to let me have the fixed car while I am paying for it! I simply can not understand this man's logic-- doesn't garage space in a relatively small body shop come at a premium. And of course this rental car is so damn expensive. I only hope that I make it throught this terrible hardship! Everybody, please say a prayer that I can find a solution.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Today is the birthday of Danny Kaye. He was born in the same year as my mother. We lost this comic genius twenty years ago to a sudden heart attack.Kaye was a familiar face on television. He starred in his own musical-variety series, "The Danny Kaye Show," for four seasons (1963-67). It won him an Emmy Award in 1963. He also received an Emmy for his 1975 appearance on "Danny Kaye's Look-In and the Metropolitan Opera," part of "The CBS Festival of Lively Arts for Young People" series. The following year, he starred opposite Sandy Duncan in "Pinocchio," and as Captain Hook to Mia Farrow's "Peter Pan."
When he returned to Broadway in 1970 in Two by Two, he hurt his hip but continued with the show, appearing night after night for 10 months either on crutches or in a wheelchair.
Although performing was the backbone of his life, Kaye's heart was also with UNICEF for which he was a permanent ambassador-at-large to the world's children. He was so identified with the United Nations agency that, when in 1965, UNICEF received the Nobel Peace Prize, Kaye was selected to accept it.
The entertainer logged thousands of miles on his UNICEF jaunts. He once went to 65 cities in five days and did all the piloting, one of his hobbies. He started flying, also "100 years ago," with a single engine plane and has since flew 747s.
Laughter, however, is what he did best--singing, impersonating and miming, making audiences laugh and cry in the same breath, changing staid adults into grinning children by making faces at them or following a routine such as one he used in Washington D.C. when presented with an award for his work with UNICEF from B'nai B'rith International.
At the end of his standing ovation, he told the audiences to keep standing. He suggested that they all sing "Happy Birthday" to no one in particular. At the end of the song, he asked them why they were "standing up like fools." Then he made faces at the photographers for 20 seconds "so they would go away."
As a youngster, David Daniel Kaminsky wanted to be a doctor. He has become one, using what is considered the best medicine.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Twenty years ago, just five days after his 83rd birthday, we lost the beloved Ray Bolger . I have great infinity with the character of the Scarecrow from the "The Wizard Of Oz". It's a great character and dear Ray played it so perfectly. The reason that I have such great infinity for the role is that is the role and the play that launched my songwriting career. Had it not been for a local production of "The Wizard Of Oz", with me being cast as "The Scarecrow" in that production, I would have never gotten into songwriting. I've certainly told this story before (on my first blog entry) God does work in mysterious way. How I got cast in the first place, I shall never know. I couldn't then and can't now dance a step except maybe the Waltz and The Cha Cha cha. And my singing voice was never that amazing. By the way, Today would have been Ray Bolger's 103rd birthday. Ray Bolger was an amazing entertainer and was so ultimately charming and sweet. A reporter asked him once if he still received royalties from the many showings of "The Wizard Of Oz" on television. He answered."No, I don't, but I'll settle for the immortality it has always awarded me. I have other infinities with this dear man His father was a house-painter,(just like mine) his mother a homemaker.(just like mine) He was inspired by the vaudeville shows he attended when he was young to become an entertainer himself. He began his career as a dancer. His limber body and ability to ad lib movement won him many starring roles on Broadway in the 1930s.
His film career began when he signed a $10,000 a week contract with Lions gate Films in 1936. His best-known film prior to The Wizard of Oz was The Great Ziegfeld (1936), in which he portrayed himself. Bolger's studio contract stipulated that he would play any part the studio chose; however, he was unhappy when he was cast as the Tin Man. The Scarecrow part had already been assigned to another lean and limber dancing studio contract player, Buddy Ebsen.In time, the roles were switched. While Bolgerwas pleased with his role as the Scarecrow, Ebsen was struck ill by the powdered aluminum make-up used to complete the Tin Man costume. (The powdered aluminum had been inhaled and coated Ebsen's lungs, leaving him near death. Ironically, he would outlive all the principal players of Oz.) Ebsen's illness paved the way for the role to be filled by Jack Haley. Ray Bolger's performance in Oz was a tour De force. He displayed the full range of his physical, comedic, and dramatic talents playing the character searching for the brain that he's always had. The Scarecrow's sympathy for Dorothy Gales plight, his cleverness and bravery in rescuing her from the Wicked Witch of the West (played by dear Margaret Hamilton) and his deep affection for her shone through, endearing the character -- and Ray -- in the public mind forever. Following Oz, he starred in several more films and had a sitcom called Where's Raymond? from 1953 - 1955 (also known as "The Ray Bolger Show"). He also made frequent guest appearances on television. In 1985 he and Liza Minnelli , the daughter of his Oz co-star Judy Garland starred in "That's Dancing".Ray Bolger died in LA of cancer just five days after his 83rd birthday, and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California, and was survived by his wife of 57 1/2 years, Gwendolyn Rickard. I went to see "Rocky Balboa" tonight. I really didn't expect much from this movie because I had seen all of the other Rocky movies. my cousin, the late James Crabe has been the director of photography for the first "Rocky" film back in 1976. Boy, was *I surprised. It was a terrific picture. The old heartstrings from the original characters still pull on your emotions and you really cheer for the old boy. I liked the part where Rocky says that life can be a vicious fighter and knock us down, but its not hard life punches us, it's how many times we get up from off the ground and punch BACK.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Today is the 81st birthday of one of my all time favorite comedians: the one and only Soupy Sales. This dear man has provided me with more laughter and joy than you could ever imagine. I did voices for him briefly when Clyde Adler was ill many many years ago and that was the best money I ever made in my life. Of course I remember the risque things that he did and said-- oh the limitations of what you couldn't say or do on television in those days. I remember well the "words of wisdom" that were written on the chalk board every day such as "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you" and the constant pies in the face. Soupy made pie-in-the-face an art re-invented. How well I remember the celebrities on the network version of the show. I did find out something I did not know about him-- that back in New York City version of the show in 1978, he and Howard Stern were feuding with Stern allegedly cutting the strings on Soupy's in studio piano. For those of you who may not remember all of the characters, here they are again:
White Fang, "The Meanest Dog in the USA", who appeared only as a giant white shaggy paw with black triangular felt "claws" jutting out from the corner of the screen. Fang spoke with unintelligible short grunts and growls, which Soupy repeated back in English, often for comic effect. Next came Black Tooth, "The Sweetest Dog in the World". Also seen only as a giant black paw, and with more feminine, but similarly unintelligible dialogue. Hippie the Hippo, who never spoke at all. There was also Pookire the Lion, a 1950's hipster with a rapier wit. His repartee with Soupy was rapid-fire. For example: Soupy: "Do you know why my life is so miserable?" Pookie: "You got me!" Soupy: "That's why!" Other famous characters were:Peaches,Soupy's girlfriend, played by Sales in drag. "The Count" was an old vampire that used to say "One, Two, Three Four, tell the people what she wore-- no words can describe my emotions!" There was also the "Little Kid Next Door" who talked kind of falsetto with things like "My mother walks like a bird, talks like a bird and eats like a bird, but she's not around anymore" Then Soupy would ask the kid what happened to her and the little kid would answer with something like "The cat ate her" There was also a rich dog named "Marilyn Von Wolf" and of course the man next door who always complained about one of White Fang's antics ("Your dog just ate my trombone") or something silly like that. I loved it when Pookie the lion performed one of the Fractured fairy tales or did one his PookieTheatre routines. I still have Soupy's albums with wonderful songs like "Pookie", the Toreador" and "You're My Best Friend" sung to the character of "Black Tooth" Such memories! Such fun! Happy Birthday, dear Soupy Sales!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Kenny Loggins and I went to high school together at San Gabriel Mission High School in San Gabriel, California over forty years ago. Today we are both fifty-nine years of age. We are both songwriters. We both ran for student office in our senior year and made a speech on the same auditorium stage. He played basketball for the Varsity basketball team and I was the statistician for the same team We were both awarded a Varsity letter for our efforts. There of course the similarities end for Kenny Loggins is a world famous songwriter and I am yet to find my fifteen minutes of fame. Kenny had written "House On Pooh Corner" back in high school. He was incredibly talented as was then as he is now an amazingly kind and wonderful guy. His amazing songs from "Celebrate Me Home" to "Danny's Song" and "Footloose" show his amazing versatility and mind blowing talent. I went recently to my fortieth high school reunion and although he wasn't there, he was being talked about by everyone in attendance. Someday I hope to be the talent this man is. I must keep on trying to improve my craft all the time. He's been kind enough to return a letter or two and someday I do hope to see him in person once again. And as far as his great success-- fantastic! It just couldn't happen to a nicer and more talented and certainly gracious man. Not long ago, he added lyrics to "House On Pooh Corner"-- I think they make an incredible addition to an already amazing song! God love you, Kenny!

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Happy New 2007! I had a nice quiet New Years Eve with John and stayed home and fixed a beef brisket in the new crock pot barbecue that John got me for Christmas. It's great! The man with the amazed expression on his face is that of the late great Senate Majority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. What an amazing character he was! Today he would have been one hundred years old! Happy Birthday, old fox! He was quite the politician! I wonder though what he might say that the first female speaker of the House in the history of the United States has been elected by her peers. Can Hillary as president be far behind? Her name is Nancy Peonne-- an Italian girl. Now that makes me twice as proud. I think finally the walls of prejudice are coming down ever so slowly with every passing year. Got a huge paycheck for Christmas sales at work and that of course will help me pay off the car a little more quickly. Well, as soon as I do, I can take this woman who hit my car to small claims court. I have the day off and I continue the work on another musical idea I have. The grant that I received a few years back from ASCAP of over $7500 requires that I keep writing something-- so I will honor my word! Well until next time!