Saturday, March 31, 2007


On this day in 1943, the greatest musical theatre collaboration began as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma made its premiere on Broadway in 1943. Nineteen songs by R&H plus a full fifteen minute ballet at the end of Act One created by the amazing choreographer Agnes De Mille helped make this musical the legend it has become. Does anyone know that the original title of this musical was "Away We Go!" -- I don't think that title would have gone well. Most of the productions of this classic musical usually exclude a big powerful ballad sung by Jud in Act One called "The Lonely Room". This is a big powerful beautiful piece sung by the villain. It really makes you empathetic with his cause. The R&H library is now requiring it to be included in any new production of the piece or they will not license the musical to be done. By the way, Happy 73rd birthday to the star of the movie "Oklahoma" -- Shirley Jones who turns seventy-three years young today. Today also in 1968, Lyndon Johnson refused to run for another term as President of the United States. I was watching that broadcast back then and I remember just how shocked I was when I heard those words "I will not seek and I will not accept another term as your president!" Wow-- was that a shocker! The re-write on "The Traveling Companion" has begun and the storyboard approach is going to be implemented before a word of new libretto is typed out by me. So "Away We Go" on the big rewrite-- wish me well!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


On this day in 1973, the last American troops left Vietnam-- the costliest mistake in all of United States history. We had never lost a war before-- but we sure lost this one-- and badly. So many young Americans lost their lives defending a cause that simply couldn't be won with conventional warfare. It ruined the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and it was a sad commentary on the futility of war. Perhaps we will learn our lesson finally in Iraq. I read this morning where the United States Senate has passed a resolution that would mandate all troop withdrawal from Iraq by March of 2008. The president has vowed to veto it, but we shall see. I am hoping that Congress stands its ground. Enough is Enough!
Let's leave! For the good of the country!
A bitter lesson was learned by me on Sunday at the reading of "The Traveling Companion" Now I know what Ricky Nelson encountered at his infamous rejection at the "Garden Party" way in 1963. Lots of folks couldn't find the school we held the reading at and so we had none of their feedback. But unfortunately, "Traveling" is just too long and too linear. Today's audience wants the MGM version of "The Wizard Of Oz"
Not simply a great story dramatized. It will take me some time to recover the beating up that I got. But I need to pray about it too-- because much of the criticism came from kids in high school-- and we all know how long their attention span is. These are also the same kids who think Frank Sinatra is boring! But I think I have an approach to the re-write-- it simply is going to take me awhile to gather up the courage to do it. It may not be very Hans Christian Andersen by the time I finish with it and I may have to say on the credit page that it's simply "suggested by the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, instead of "based on the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. There is one bright note-- Act Two is far better than Act One and its usually Act Two that is traditionally the part of the show that brings it down. I wrote an old friend about it-- Mr. Charles Strouse (the composer of "Annie" and "Bye Bye Birdie". We had met at an ASCAP membership meeting in Los Angeles when I attended with J.T. Steele. He reminded me in a phone conversation that he's had more failures than successes in his life. We all know how wonderful "Annie" and "Bye Bye Birdie" was but as he reminded me there were shows like "It's A Bird, It's A Plane" (the Superman musical that opened on this date in 1966 and closed seventy-five performances later, the sequel to "Annie" called "Annie Warbucks" which opened and closed in five performances and of course the sequel to "Bye Bye Birdie" called "Bring Back Birdie" (with Donald O' Connor in a jump suit as Birdie) which opened and closed with the critics wrath in seven performances and the biggest loser of them all was with Stephen Schwartz, himself called "Rags" which opened and closed in 1986 after just four performances. "The critics assassinated that one and Stephen is still cringing after all this time" he told me. Joseph Stein "("Fiddler On The Roof) wrote the libretto. So Mr.Strouse gave me some tips, and I'm going to use them to help me do this re-write. Now I simply have to find the courage to begin.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Well today's journal entry marks blog number TWO HUNDRED. That is TWO HUNDRED journal entries made by me in this blog! Wow! I would have never guessed, I could keep it up this long! Today also is a day of hope! Tim and I are holding our first reading today for our musical "The Traveling Companion" We are gathering at Tim's school Wilson High in Hacienda Heights at 1PM to read through the play and have our first public performances of the many songs we have written together. Roberta and David Meinke and Bill Lewis will be there and I am praying that all will go well and that the actors and others who hear it will really like it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this magnus opus, not to mention money and both of us hold high hopes. Financial woes burden both Tim and I at the moment, but with God's help we'll get out of these things. Now I know why my poor dad felt so hopeless at his age-- but as that great old lyric goes by Sondheim "I'm still here! and I really do believe that you just can't walk away "five minutes before the miracle" -- because the miracle always follows and is knocking at your door four and a half minutes after you do. Work was very busy this week and Easter approaches April 9th. So I am keeping all fingers and toes crossed for today's reading! Wish us well!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Today are the birthdays of two musical theatre giants. Stephen Sondheim turns seventy-seven years old today and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns forty-nine! Of course we know both have accomplished milestones in musical theatre, but Sondheim is the only composer-lyricist that has won every major award: He has won multiple Tony's, the Academy Award (for the song "Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy) the Emmy, several Grammies and the Pulitzer Prize. Only six musicals have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Sondheim won for "Sunday In The Park With George" The others include: "Rent" by Jonathan Larson, "South Pacific" by Rodgers and Hammerstein and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" by the late great Frank Loesser. Sondheim almost quit musical theatre entirely with the failure of "Merrily We Roll Along" (one of my all time Sondheim score favorites. In the meantime, Andrew Lloyd Webber prepares for the new sequel to "Phantom Of The Opera"-- this time set in New York City. Chestnuts about Sondheim that I didn't know: (1.) Although he was a protege' of Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim and Richard Rodgers intensely disliked one another and their one collaboration (which he completed as an obligation to Hammerstein) was a huge failure-- it was called "Do I Hear A Waltz" ( I love that song) The second chestnut is that Sondheim actually wrote songs for "Mary Poppins" as part of his writing assignments under Oscar Hammerstein. Boy would I love to hear what Sondheim does to P.L. Travers. Happy Birthday to you both and also to dear Karl Malden who turns ninety-four years young today! The reading for "The Traveling Companion" goes on this Sunday at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights. I have both fingers and toes crossed!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Today is Carl Reiner's 85th birthday. Carl, the eternal straight man to Mel Brook's "Two Thousand Year Old Man is an absolute legend of comedy. He was one of the great writers for Sid Caesar and the original "Show of Shows" and worked alongside Neil Simon. He also worked on Caesar's Hour with Brooks, Simon, Larry Gelbart, and Woody Allen..In 1961, Reiner created The Dick Van Dyke Show. In addition to usually writing the show, Reiner occasionally appeared as temperamental show host "Alan Brady", who ruthlessly browbeats his brother-in-law (played by Richard Deacon). The show ran from 1961 to 1966.Reiner began his directing career on the Van Dyke show. His first feature was an adaptation of Joseph Stein's play Enter Laughing (1967), which was on Reiner's book of the same name. Probably the best-known film of his early directing career was the cult comedy Where's Poppa (1970), starring George Segal and Ruth Gordon. Keep the laughter coming, dear soul-- Lord knows the weary world needs all that it can get!

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Well, finally! On Saint Patrick's Day, I was finally able to pick up the Ford ZX3 that was involved in that Halloween night 2006 accident that I have described previously on these blog pages. $5,500.00 later and unbelievable car rental fees (almost $3,000.00) from Advantage Rent-A-Car. And then I had to fight the auto body shop to give me a warranty in writing! The previous owner of the body shop had to come to bat for me! What's wrong with people anyway? Well, I will tell you this: It's been a long, hard five months and I've learned a few lessons along the way. First is never trust an independent auto insurance dealer. And make sure you have GAP insurance on any automobile that you are financing! I also had to buy another car when the rental car company refused to rent me any more vehicles because they "couldn't make as much money on me than they could on individual renters." Crazy! Well, lessons learned the hard way-- and now we go after that woman who caused the accident in Small Claims Court.Well at least both John and I now have our own car and that will make things a lot easier! Stay tuned for further developments! I am praying I can win my money back in court!

Friday, March 16, 2007


Today is the 81st birthday of a genuine clown and incredible funny man, Jerry Lewis. I have been watching Jerry for years and simply love (still) some of his most classic films including "Cinderfella" (with Ed Wynn as the Fairy Godfather) and "The Bell Boy" and yes "The Family Jewels" and "The King Of Comedy" And yes, I admit it: I cry during those telethons. We have all heard about the bad qualities of the man, but I look for the good of people-- and always will. Jerry was born in Newark, New Jersey to a Jewish family. His birth name was Joseph Levitch, though Shawn Levy's biography, "King of Comedy", claims this is untrue and that Lewis' name at birth was Jerome Levitch. His father was a vaudeville performer. He began in burlesque in 1942 at age 16 (if the birth year of 1926 is correct) and married two years later in 1944 at age 18. He gained initial fame with singer Dean Martin, who served as a straight man to Lewis's manic, zany antics as the Martin and Lewis comedy team. They distinguished themselves from the majority of comedy acts of the 1940s by relying on the interaction of the two comics instead of pre-planned skits. In the late 1940s, they quickly rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act and then as film stars. Critics often found it difficult to describe their chaotic act beyond the laconic "Martin sings and Lewis clowns". They continued to perform in film and on television until their partnership ended in 1956 . Following their split, the two became involved in a well-publicized and long-running feud that never truly ended; the next time they were seen together in public would be a surprise appearance by Martin on Lewis's telethon in 1976 arranged by Frank Sinatra . Lewis wrote of his kinship with Martin in the 2005 book Dean and Me (A Love Story) Although the pair eventually reconciled in the late-1980s after Martin's son died, there was never any reunion. Still and all I will always love Jerry Lewis! He simply makes me laugh! And that is so damn good for me. God knows I need all the laughter I can get!

Thursday, March 15, 2007


On this date: March 15thin 1956, one of the greatest musicals of all times premiered on the Broadway stage. It was of course Lerner & Lowe's "My Fair Lady" and starred Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison and the incredible Stanley Holloway. The musical almost never came to fruition. A gentleman by the name of Gabriel Pasquale bought the rights from the George Bernard Shaw Estate in 1951. In 1952 he urged his good friend Alan Jay Lerner to make it into the musical he dreamed of making. But theatre was a dramatically different arena on Broadway in 1952. Many friends of Lerner including the amazing Oscar Hammerstein II urged him not to try any adaptation of this classic story in the 1952 world of Broadway. It would simply flop! In the original story by Bernard Shaw there was sub plot (aka the Freddy Farnsworth Hill --"On The Street Where You Live"story) Three years passed and in the interim, Lerner & Lowe famous for their fights had broken up during this period. As Lerner was reading Gabriel Pasquale obituary, he thought of the subplot of Freddy Farnsworth(mentioned in another Shaw short story) and called Frederick Lowe. They reconciled and Lerner wrote a brilliant libretto adaptation with the addition of the Ascot racing scene and the character of the mother of Henry Higgins played on Broadway by Catherine Nesbitt. The original musical production was directed and staged by the one and only Moss Hart who with George S. Kaufman wrote some of the most amazing comedies of all time including one of the funniest"George Washington Slept Here"and by himself "Light Up The Sky" I remember being involved in an amateur theatre of this great musical involving dear friends Gary Hamner, the late Ruth Ballanand a friend from Pasadena City College: Warren Chadwick. Kris Klain, daughter of a Social Studies teacher at Wilson High School played Eliza. And then my all time favorite actor from that period: Mr. John Higgins played Alfred P. Doolittle. How I miss all of my actor friends from that amazing little theatre group that was known as The Rafters. My little theatre days were indeed happy ones and I truly miss my late friends especially dear Elizabeth Gregory-- she was my mentor and probably the reason I love theatre so much to this day. God love you, Elizabeth wherever you may be. And of course I must mention dear George Von
Ravensberg and Jay Buck. All dear friends-- long gone-- but always cherished and remembered forever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


March 13th marks the 60th anniversary of one of the grandest musicals ever written. That musical is of course "Brigadoon" written by Lerner & Lowe. These gentleman also gave the world "My Fair Lady" and "Gigi". The original musical played only five hundred and eighty-five performances-- a pittance by today's standards, but it's magical score including the classic song "Almost Like Being In Love" will continue to be sung for decades to come.Lerner's story was based on a much older German story by Friedrich Gerstäcker about the magical and thus mythical, German village of Germelshausen that fell under an evil, magic curse. In 1947, memories of the second World War were too fresh to present a German-themed musical on Broadway, so Lerner and Lowe reimagined the story in Scotland, complete with kilts, bonnie lassies, bagpipes, Highland flings and "Heather on the Hill". Lerner's name for his imaginary locale was probably based on a well-known Scottish landmark, the Brig o' Doon (Bridge of Doon), in Alloway, Scotland, in the heart of Robert Burns country. According to Burns' poem Tam o'Shanter, this 13th century stone bridge is where the legendary Tam o' Shanter fled on his horse Meg in order to escape from three witches who were chasing him."Brig" is a common Lowland Scots word, meaning "bridge". It occurs in several English versions of Scottish placenames, e.g. "Brig O' Turk".Other sources suggest that "Brigadoon" was constructed from the Gaelic words: briga which means "strife" or "hill", and dùn which means "hill, hill fort, or hill village." The name may also be a reference to the Celtic Goddess Brigid as in "Brigid's Hill." The original Broadway production, directed by Robert Lewis. It starred David Brooks as Tommy, Marion Bell as Fiona, Lee Sullivan as Charlie, James Mitchell as Harry, and Pamela Britton as Meg. It shared a Tony Award for Agnes de Mille's choreography . It also won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and has had many well-received revivals over the years. It remains one of my all time favorite scores.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Today-- twenty years ago in 1987, an most extraordinary musical opened to some very rave reviews. I remember quite well seeing this amazing spectacle on the New York Broadway stage back in 1993. It was simply the best musical I had ever seen and remains in my memory forever. Now Les Miz is back on the Great White Way for a limited engagement and I urge all of you who have never seen it to experience it while you can. The same writers will soon premiere their newest musical extravaganza "The Pirate Queen". I can only hope that this show is as wonderful as this masterpiece. Today is the also the 61st birthday of Liza Minnelli-- one of my all time favorite performers. How well i remember her in "Cabaret" and of course she is the one (not Frank Sinatra) who introduced the song "New York, New York" to the world in a film by the same title-- written of course by those song writing geniuses Kander & Ebb. We lost Fred two years ago, but his work goes on through a new musical called "Curtains". Our new refrigerator has arrived here at our apartment and we need to go fill it. So bye for now!

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Today my song recording journey began in the year 2000. For on this day in March of 2000, Tim Doran and myself began a series of recordings featuring the amazing voice of our dear friend Tony Westbrook. We were recording back in the old Glendale recording studio on Victory Blvd in the same complex where my literary agent office had been four years previusly. So many memories. That old antique grand piano where the sound was so challenged and the recording studio that was experimenting with its craft each and every recording session. But it was so much fun. I remember we recorded the very first take of "If You Really Want To Know" and "Fly Me Home For Christmas" --still two of my favorite songs. And I will always remember the thrill of hearing Tony's voice. It was simply amazing. And what's more, he was a great editor and knew how to deliver and sell any song that he tried. So thanks to my arranger and dearest friend Tim Doran and thanks to Tony Westbrook. I miss him! Those old recordings are simply classic! My ambitions are still strong and I am working all the time. God will show me the way! And I am in His Hands!

Saturday, March 10, 2007



On this day in 1965, a Broadway show premiered on the Great White Way that was inspired by the genius on the left and written by another genius-- the man on his right. For here are the "Brothers Laughter" as I have dubbed them: Danny Simon and his world famous brother, Neil. I had the absolute privilege of studying comedy with Danny for four years back in the 1980's. Bar none, it was the most wonderful joys of my life. Danny was pure genius and as dead honest as they come. Oh yes, the criticism could be very tough-- "Hey, kid, this is just not funny enough". I kept writing-- and I'm still writing today because of this wonderful man's influence. So how did this all start?Mr. Simon initially wrote for radio shows with his brother. While in their teens, they pleased radio humorist Goodman Ace with a line about a witless movie usher explaining a film plot: "Joan Crawford's boyfriend is sent to the electric chair -- and she promises to wait for him."Danny Simon felt overshadowed by brother Neil. "By Neil's standards of success, I'm a nothing," he s the genius"
But together as a writing team, their rapid-fire absurdity won them work in the early days of television. The SImons wrote for Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Red Buttons, Phil Silvers and, most memorably, for Sid Caesar on "Your Show of Shows," which Neil Simon fictionalized in his Broadway comedy "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (1993).One of their colleagues, Woody Allen, spoke admiringly of Mr. Simon, telling an interviewer: "I've learned a few things on my own and modified a few things he taught me, but everything, unequivocally, that I learned about comedy writing, I learned from Danny Simon."
Mr. Simon continued writing scripts and eventually directed TV shows, and Neil Simon fled to the theater to seek his own voice. He used his older brother as inspiration for various characters, including the ladies' man in "Come Blow Your Horn" (1961), the Hollywood producer in "Plaza Suite" (1968) and the older brother in "Brighton Beach Memoirs" (1983), a comic look at their unhappy, fatherless childhood in Brooklyn."There have been more plays written about me than about Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc and Julius Caesar all put together," Mr. Simon said.Many of Neil Simon's depictions of his older brother were less than flattering. The younger Simon once told Time magazine, "My complicated relationship with Danny stems from the fact that when I was growing up, I saw him as my father. It wasn't until much later that I saw him as a brother. He'd tell me when to go to bed, how to behave, give me all the rules of life." Neil Simon's enduring play "The Odd Couple" (that opened on March 10, 1965 and ran for 996 performances on Broadway) was born out of his brother's divorce. Mr. Simon had moved in with a newly single theatrical agent named Roy Gerber in Hollywood, and they invited friends over one night. Mr. Simon botched the pot roast.
The next day, Gerber told him: "Sweetheart, that was a lovely dinner last night. What are we going to have tonight?"
Mr. Simon replied: "What do you mean, cook you dinner? You never take me out to dinner. You never bring me flowers."
The banter left Mr. Simon thinking there was a kernel for a play, and he typed out fifteen and two thirds pages, which he showed to an approving Neil. But Danny disliked the solitude of play writing and, despite encouragement from his brother to finish, he returned to collaborative television writing. Neil Simon took over the play, which became a popular stage show that was succeeded by film and television versions.Although Mr. Simon received a slice of the royalties,(15 and 2/3 %) he was left out of the acknowledgments, which rankled him and caused a decade-long rift. He suffered in his younger brother's shadow and, when asked how it felt to be Neil Simon's brother, usually replied: "Well, it's better than being Neil Simon's sister" I wanted to always dedicate something to him, but in his own gruff way he had always said "What if isn't good enough!" So my aim is to make a success of it and then say "I think this makers it good enough!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Today is Ed Mcmahon's 84th birthday. What an incredibly blessed life this good and kind man has known. He was the perfect foil for the late great Jonny Carson one of the funnierst men who ever lived. Ed was born in Detroit, Michigan, and was raised in Lowell , Massachusetts attending both Boston College and The Catholic University of America, majoring in speech and drama. At The Catholic University of America, he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. Believe it or not, kind friends, Ed McMahon began his "showbiz" career as a bingo caller in Maine when he was fifteen. Prior to working as the announcer, he worked as a carnival barker for three years as a teenager and put himself through college as a pitchman for of all things-- vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City boardwalk. No wonder he was such a perfect pitch man! In the 1950s, he emceed the game shows Snap Judgment , Concentration and Who Dunnit?. During World War II, McMahon was trained as a United States Marines fighter pilot and also served as a flight instructor and test pilot. He was discharged in 1946, remaining in the reserves.[ After college, Ed was re-activated into active Marine duty. He was sent to Korea in February, 1953. He flew unarmed OE Bird Dogs on 85 tactical air control and artillery spotting missions. Amazingly, he remained in the Marine reserves, retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1966 and was then commissioned as a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson first worked together as announcer and host on the daytime gameshow Who Do You Trust? (1957-1962). McMahon and Carson left that to do The Tonight Show in 1962. For more than 30 years, McMahon introduced the Tonight Show with a drawn-out "Heeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" His booming voice and constant laughter earned him the nickname the Human Laugh Track. My memories of him with Johnny Carson are strong and wonderful. So Happy Birthday dear Ed.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Today would have been my dad's 100th birthday. I wanted to share some pictures of him today with you, but the computer wouldd not co-operate. Bar none my sweet dear father was the kindest, most loving and amazing person. He would literally give you his last dime. I am so humbled to have had this wonderful man as my father. He gave literally until it hurt. No Christmas was poor. No birthday was forgotten. My Catholic faith and my relationship with God is possible today only because my father kept his promise to my mother and raised all of us kids in the Catholic faith. Now understand, my dad could have kept that promise by simply driving us to church every Sunday. But oh no, he supported my mother's wishes by arranging that all four of us kids attended parochial school. I dare say that without nuns and priests as my guide during all these many years, I would not be the man of faith I am. I think I would have given up a long time ago. My life has been a challenge, but i am blessed with the gift of music and my dear and wonderful friends: especially Tim Doran
who makes all the music possible. My dad was a character beyond them all. He loved opera and Enrico Caruso and oh how this man could paint. Beautiful landscapes! Amazing portraits! My painted with brushes. I paint with words. Not a bad gene share. I will always be grateful to my dad for all of his many sacrifices. He was honest. He was kind. He was the most giving of fathers. And I miss him to this day. I was just getting to know and appreciate when I lost him at the tender age of eighteen. You are my hero, my dear father! I love you-- still and always!