Saturday, March 31, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Sunday, March 25, 2007
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
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
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
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!"