Tuesday, December 08, 2009

WORKING AT DISNEYLAND'S EMPORIUM


"HEY, MOM-- SAY HELLO TO WALT UP THERE IN HEAVEN FOR US AND THANK HIM FOR
EVERYTHING IN THIS MAGIC PLACE"

These days I have two jobs. I sell cars for Nissan and there's my fun job working part time at the Disneyland Emporium. Every one there is so nice and wonderfully friendly . I've been working mostly at nights and because it's Christmas at the Disneyland resort, it's all very beautiful. The other night I had a bird's eye view of the Candlelight Procession-- which is a gathering of a great many choruses from schools and universities from all over Southern California. Jon Voight was the narrator this year and he did such a wonderful job. At the end of it, Jon looked up to heaven addressing his late mother and asked her to say "Hi to Walt" up in heaven and to thank him personally for all of the great traditions that he started. I must say that I am amazed just how busy this store is. People buy so much stuff that you say out loud "What recession?" One lady bought over nine hundred dollars of Disney memorabilia in CASH.It is simply amazing. The merchandise is all great stuff. Some of the sweatshirts and the children's outfits are really well designed. Of course when I get off at 2:45 in the morning, the park is completely empty and it looks all so surreal. It's quite an experience and a real joy to work here. The Emporium was one of the original 1955 shops open when the park opened on July 17, 1955. Saturday night, December 5th was Walt's birthday and it was a joy to remind my customers that it was indeed a very special day. It would have been Walt's 108th birthday. I am convinced that he is always watching over Disneyland. His loving spirit is all over the park, but especially on Main Street. So as I go home each night, I turn towards his old firehouse apartment and salute and say "Goodnight, Walt, thanks for all of this!"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Thus was a sad day of reflection for me. And that's because thirty-five years ago at about 9:00 pm, I lost my dearest mother, Virginia Ricciardi in an automobile accident. My dear mother never had a chance. My mom was the kindest, the most loving and the most generous soul equal only to my dear father Louis M. Ricciardi. My mother was my very best friend. She truly believed in me-- and that was before I started writing songs. My mom would simply do anything for those she loved and those who loved her. WE kids never had a poor birthday or a poor Christmas-- not even a poor Halloween or the Fourth of July. I can remember so vividly that white flocked Christmas tree in our living room with every kind of present under it that you could ever imagine. My sweet dear mother would work so hard. She made home made pizza that everyone in the neighborhood absolutely went nuts over. She made the best dinners. Her specialties were Spanish rice, lasagna, meat loaf, tuna casserole (with a Bisquick brand crust) and roasts. I still adore roast beef today. But the real treasure that my mother held was her most amazing heart of gold. I loved her so much. She never tried to "change me". She accepted the who and what that I was "warts and all". I just wish she could have known about the songwriter that I have become . She played the piano and loved doing that. My Uncle Mario would come over on Wednesday afternoons and he would sing those wonderful sings like "Granada" " I Will Wait for You" "Old Man River" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". There is one haunting melody that my mother played-- especially after my dear father died in 1966. She absolutely missed him so much! I have put lyrics to it at last and now want to put the melody with the lyrics. I am certain my dear mother is in heaven. She was kind and loving to every soul she met. When my mother was your friend, dear readers, you couldn't find a better one in all the world. I am so grateful to her and my dad. I guess I got all the creativity in the family-- the music from my mother and the lyrics from my dad. My dad painted with brush strokes. I paint with lyrics to songs. Thirty five years is a long time, but I remember every sweet nuance of her character. I remember the way she laughed. I remember how she loved to go out and eat and have her little drink of whiskey with water on the side. I remember how she loved hot sauce on just about everything she ate-- even omelets and especially steak! She loved watering and planting in her garden. She loved badmitton and in her younger years adored tennis. She loved playing Canasta with my aunts and she loved us kids like no one else could. She loved her wine and smoked far too much and I lost her at age sixty-one on this date in 1974. Painful? Still! But I know that my dear mother who had a crooked spine and who just walking around the super market was a real challenge sometimes was my champion. I will love and honor her memory FOREVER. I miss you, "Mama Dootz"(my nickmame for her on Ralph Street days) I really truly miss you! Play the piano for God-- Lord knows He needs the comforting sound of those amazing melodies that you used to play for all of us!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

YOU AND THE NIGHT AND THE MUSIC


The picture that you see is all that is left of the historic Tin pan Alley buildings in New York City. can you imagine that there used to be fifty-three different publishers in just this one set of buildings? Wow! Today is the 70th anniversary of a great song composed by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz who also gave us that amazing MGM signature song "That's Entertainment" The song was featured in a very forgotten Broadway musical called "Revenge in Music". The musical opened and closed in thirty-eight performances and then being Christmas time , the theatre had nothing else to present and they re-opened the show where it fared better (154 performances) Back in those days, you didn't need a long time to recoup your music. In case you don't remember the lyrics of the great show, here they are.


You and the night and the music
Fill me with flaming desire
Setting my being completely on fire


You and the night and the music
Thrill me but will we be one?
After the night and the music are done


Until the pale light of dawn and in daylight
Hearts will be throbbing guitars
Morning will come without warning
and take away the stars


If we must live for the moment
Love 'til the moment is through
After the night and the music die
Will I still have you?


Until the pale light of dawn and in daylight
Hearts will be throbbing guitars
Morning will come without warning
and take away the stars!


If we must live for the moment
Love 'til the moment is through
After the night and the music die
Will I still have you?


When you get a line like "Hearts will be throbbing guitars" --you know you have a well written lyric line. That lyric was supplied by Dietz's partner Arthur Schwartz.


But Dietz was more than simply a great composer because In 1919, he joined Goldwyn Pictures Corporation as publicity director. In 1924, he became director of advertising and publicity for MGM, a position he held for over 30 years, rising to vice-president. He devised the company symbol, Leo the Lion, and its pseudo-Latin slogan, "Ars Gratia Artis".In 1923, Dietz wrote the lyrics for an Arthur Samuels melody called "Alibi Baby," which was a hit in W.C. Fields’ stage show, Poppy. For the next few years, Dietz collaborated on several Broadway shows, including Dear Sir (1924), with Jerome Kern, and the revue Merry-Go-Round (1927).Many of Dietz's greatest songs were written in collaboration with composer Arthur Schwartz, with whom he first worked on The Little Show in 1929 (songs from that production included "I Guess I'll I Have to Change My Plan”). Other notable songs written by Dietz and Schwartz are "Something to Remember You By" and “The Moment I Saw You” from Three’s a Crowd (1930). “Dancing in the Dark" from The Band Wagon (1931), "Alone Together" from Flying Colors (1932), "You and the Night and the Music" from Revenge With Music (1934), "By Myself," "Triplets," and "I See Your Face Before Me" from Between the Devil (1938). Well today is my first official day at Disneyland working in the Main street Emporium. Well we shall see what this brings. I have always wanted to work for Disneyland, but I never had the opportunity or the necessity to be so motivated. Well, until next time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A PIECE OF WORK AND A DAY THAT PERKS





Well, today, dear friends is good "Black Friday", the busiest shopping day in all of the world. Retailers depend on this day as a make or break day in their retail sales success or failure. For years, I weathered these awful days behind a cash register. Today, I will watch it from a new perspective-- at a car dealership as a car salesman/ referral specialist. It should be interesting. Today is also the birthday of the dear "abominable showman", himself David Merrick. Now here was a piece of work that simply had no equal in Broadway history. Dear old, now departed old David was known for his love of publicity stunts. One of his most famous promoted the poorly-reviewed 1961 musical Subways Are For Sleeping. Now here was a musical that simply had nothing going for it. It simply didn't pass the standard "who cares" test. Now David knew this musical was in deep financial trouble and so to boost attendance Merrick found seven New Yorkers who had the same names as the city's seven leading theater critics: Howard Taubman, Walter Kerr, John Chapman, John McClain, Richard Watts, Jr., Norman Nadel, and Robert Coleman. Merrick invited the seven namesakes to the musical and secured their permission to use their names and pictures in an advertisement alongside quotes such as "One of the few great musical comedies of the last thirty years" and "A fabulous musical. I love it." Dear David Merrick then prepared a newspaper ad featuring the namesakes' rave reviews under the heading 7 Out of 7 Are Ecstatically Unanimous About Subways Are For Sleeping. Only one newspaper, the New York Herald Tribune, published the ad, and only in one edition; however, the publicity that the ad garnered helped the musical remain open for 205 performances (almost six months). Merrick later revealed that he had conceived the ad several years previously, but had not been able to execute it until Brooks Atkinson retired as the New York Times theater critic in 1960 since he could not find anyone with the same name On the morning of August 25, 1980, Gower Champion died of a rare blood cancer. Merrick kept his death a secret so he could announce it himself at the opening-night curtain call for 42nd Street, which he had produced and Champion had directed. Merrick suffered a stroke in 1983, which confined him to a wheelchair. He established the David Merrick Arts Foundation in 1998 to support the development of American musicals. Merrick was married six times, to Lenore Beck, Jeanne Gibson, Etan Aronson (twice), Karen Prunczik, and Natalie Lloyd. He was married to Lloyd at the time of his death in London; all of his previous marriages had ended in divorce. But these are but two of the grand stories about him. I also would like to recommend a movie playing for the holidays. It's the Jim Carey version of "A Christmas Carol" -- See it in 3D. Carey is absolutely brilliant playing Scrooge and all three ghosts of Christmas, past, present and yet to come. I am now convinced that dear Jim Carey can play just about anything. Of course, I have always loved the Charles Dickens story-- it is an absolute classic. I had a nice dinner with my sister this year-- her turkey dinner was absolutely delicious.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2009


Today is the last Thanksgiving Day of the decade. It's been an interesting ten years. Some has been very happy and some (like in 2001 has been extremely sad) Another decade is upon us. What will it bring? Electric cars are on their way I am told-- won't that be rich when the price of gas will plummet because there is no longer a demand for it! I am grateful and so thankful to have not one job (albeit part time) but two which can be as many hours as I need to fill in the rest. As much as I love Disneyland, I would never have guessed that I would be working there. But there I will be starting this Saturday afternoon at Two O' Clock in the afternoon. Right there on Main Street USA , in the biggest retail space in the park The Emporium. And here's the plus -- catty corner from Walt's old private apartment above the Main Street Fire House. The light in that magic window (which is kept lighted always) is a gentle reminder to all of us as to who exactly this amazingly great but simple man actually was. Intrinsic is a wonderful word and it kind of sums up Walt best-- because without any more than a grammar school's education, the man with the famous mouse was intrinsic about music, screen stories, amusement parks, and best of all the public. He knew what they would embrace and he knew what they would not. As far as Thanksgiving itself, this will be the first that I will be without a beard or a goatee in almost thirteen years-- shaving was required for the Disneyland job-- but hey-- change is good. Thanksgiving origins are interesting to note. The date and location of the first Thanksgiving celebration is a topic of modest contention. The traditional "first Thanksgiving" is the celebration that occurred at the site of Plymouth Plantation, in 1621. The Plymouth celebration occurred early in the history of what would become one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. The celebration became an important part of the American myth by the 1800s. This Thanksgiving, modeled after celebrations that were commonplace in contemporary Europe, is generally regarded as America's first. Elementary school teacher Robyn Gioia has argued that the earliest attested "thanksgiving" celebration in what is now the United States was celebrated by the Spanish on September 8, 1565 in what is now Saint Augustine, Florida. Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Thanksgiving dinner is held on this day, usually as a gathering of family members and friends. So Happy Thanksgiving to all. I am so grateful to my friends. Especially dear Tim Doran -- bar none without him, I would not be a songwriter today. My thanks and prayers are with him today. I am grateful too to my writing partner, John Nugent-- what a genius! What an amazing composer! He was gift wrapped by the Lord and given to me as a grand present in September 2007-- Thank you, dearest God!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A DISNEYLAND DISAPPOINTMENT


I was all set to begin my training at the Magic Kingdom, early Saturday morning but it was not to be I guess. Have you ever heard of the term wardrobe malfunction? Well there I was with my $58 shoes, new haircut, properly shaved face, not to mention new dress socks and everything else and I had the wrong kind of shirt-- pin striped must match pin striped shirt and not having an an extra shirt in my car, I sadly had to walk away and re-schedule for next week. It's just not Walt's Magic Kingdom any more. When the look is more important than the heart. Oh well, we re-aim and hope to please next week. Let's hope it goes better next time. It was not a good drive going home and disrespectful family (my nephew, Kevin) only added to the feeling of failure.
Maybe its time to cut that life line altogether.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

VETERANS DAY


Today is Veterans Day and this gentleman is Joseph Ambrose, the last World War One Veteran. Today is the 90th anniversary of the holiday. Created by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An act approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner named Al King had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. King had been actively involved with the American War Dads during World War II. He began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into "All" Veterans Day. The Emporia Chamber of Commerce took up the cause after determining that 90% of Emporia merchants as well as the Board of Education supported closing their doors on November 11, 1953, to honor veterans. With the help of then-U.S. Rep. Ed Rees, also from Emporia, a bill for the holiday was pushed through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954.Congress amended this act on November 8, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with Veterans, and it has been known as Veterans Day since.Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978 it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11 (with the exceptions described above). Since this change, there has been a trend against being closed on the holiday. It began with businesses (excluding banks) and in recent years some schools and local governments have also chosen to remain open. So to our beloved Veterans, God Love you and keep you safe. You are what makes this country great!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A REALLY CRAZY RECESSION REACTION STORY


I've been to Stamford-- way back in the mid 90's with Sheldon Craig-- who I haven't seen or heard from in many years. But we left New York City by train and went on a one day trip to Mark Twain's old house, which by the way is right next door to the old house of Louisa May Alcott, the author of "Little Women". Twain's house was amazing and it was quite a treat for me. Stamford was known as Rippowam by the Native American inhabitants to the region, and the very first European settlers to the area also referred to it as such. The name was later changed to Stamford after a town in Lincolnshire, England. The deed to Stamford was signed on July 1, 1640 between Captain Turner of the New Haven Colony and Chief Ponus. By the Eighteenth century, one of the primary industries of the town was merchandising by water, which was possible due to Stamford's proximity to New York. In 1692, Stamford was home to a less famous witch trial than the well-known Salem witch trial, which also occurred in 1692. The accusations were less fanatical and smaller-scale but also grew to prominence through gossip and hysterics.Starting in the late 19th century, New York residents built summer homes on the shoreline, and even back then there were some who moved to Stamford permanently and started commuting to Manhattan by train, although the practice became more popular later. Stamford incorporated as a city in 1893. But the reason I write about my memories of this town today and my memories of it is due to a very odd story that appeared in this morning's USA TODAY. Of course the recession has caused job losses, and famous companies like Ritz Camera and the Reader's Digest failing. It has caused people to lose their homes and steal clothes off the clothesline-- and that you can figure out why! But believe it or not Stamford and other cities in Connecticut have a new crime that has been created-- and the reason the paper says is all being blamed on the recession. The crime although petty is becoming very alarming to local merchants. And that's because what is being stolen from stores is now growing to quantities that are really alarming. One guy in Stamford was busted for being caught with eight hundred packages of this. Another five hundred and eighty-seven. A third guy was caught with four hundred and there were a total of seven more arrests in which the thieves had at least two hundred and fifty packages in their position. No, its not cans of coffee. It's not apples or oranges. It's not cigarettes-- that would be easy to understand. The thieves were trying to resell them to kids and adults alike and so far the number of thieves in any quantity has now risen to twenty-six in one month. Oh yeah, its not condoms either. What's been stolen and then is being re-sold to kids and adults alike--It's.... now, get ready, friends, because this is a strange one and I can't figure out this one........
It's packages of CHEWING GUM-- mostly Wriggley's but also Clove and Trident. All stolen like the little coffee creamers at Seven-Eleven. And being re-sold at street corners. Now that's weird. Eight hundred packages of Juicy Fruit? Now if you're gonna steal something and re-sell it-- why CHEWING GUM? The world is a very strange place. Now wouldn't dear old Mark Twain or Will Rodgers have a field day with that one. I continue working in Alhambra until Friday and then go over to the Magic Kingdom for Saturday and Sunday training. I have to buy black laced shoes. I hate laces on shoes-- oh well. I also talked to an old friend yesterday who's a Franciscan scholar on American History and Political science. I hadn't talked with him in years but he found me though the Creative Horizons web site. Boy, did he give me an education. History and political science fascinate me. They were my minors in college. Robert of Smooth Sounds also called me. It seems someone has stolen old masters from a studio in which he used to work and put them in their entirety on a web site and is selling them. He wants to sue. Well, that's all fine and good but I advised him to review his copyright certificate, and then enlist a take down artist and a musicologist to determine how much copyright infringement is involved here. To go into court and sue based only on what is heard on a recording master puts the work up for speculation and conjecture. But if a take down artist puts this material down as an arrangement and this printed material is also brought into court, the speculation and conjecture disappear. I also advised him to copyright the sheet music after he has assembled all of this into a single book. Poor George Harrison found this out the hard way after he was sued over the song "My Sweet Lord" by the composer of "She's So Fine" Copyright is a really important issue to do right and maintain properly. Well, until next time. And to Stamford residents I ask the question: "Does your chewing gum lose it's flavor on the bed post overnight?"

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Well, it looks like my days of being a car salesman in Alhambra are coming to an end unless an amendment is made pretty quickly here. Now I realize that mistakes can be made, but when a downright lie has been told to you, then it's time to leave. When my friend Tim first sent me the Craig's list ad lead for the Alhambra Nissan job, I was pretty excited and I applied. Now since Craig's list has a bad reputation for credibility in the first place, one thinks twice about answering an ad of any kind. But hey, I needed a job-- my unemployment was running out. Of course this very day the president extended unemployment benefits in California by twenty weeks. But who knew that then-- not me! So off I went back to the city of Alhambra one of the two cities that I had grown up in and met Mr. Al Bennett, a really nice guy that I assumed was the hiring manager for Alhambra Nissan, himself. Now, he never once said that he was running his own automotive consulting business and from every move that he made, one would have assumed that he was indeed the hiring manager. Well, I passed his interview and his psychological test with flying colors and was told that I was hired and that training began the next day at 9:30am. I had to cancel a doctor's appointment at the last moment and that cost me $100 to do so. Okay, I reasoned, I needed a job. So I am right on time the next morning and there are a total of twelve people there who I assumed were all "hired" like me. No, dear friends, there are twelve people still trying to get hired and they must get through their training. Some were pretty experienced, but only ONE in actual car sales. The others were guys like Joel (who had been in construction) and Ron (who had sold comfort beds) and Habid who actually had sold Honda cars. The rest were so green around the ears that you could smell it. There was a 41 year old comedian who wanted to have a steady job besides "standup comedy' . And there was three students still going to school and one young magician who wrote rap tunes and songs but needed a permanent gig. Well, the training was pretty interesting that first day and I came back for more the very next day at the same time. Well, here was reality day. Not only were we NOT getting paid for these days of training, but we were going to have to fork over $400.00 for the training. We had to we were told that we had to "pay our dues" to get into a new industry. Now trust me when I tell you, dear readers that absolutely never in my entire working career have I ever had to "PAY" for any kind of employment training. But then we were told that the dealership would reimburse us of this $400.00 at the end of six months. Well, I reasoned-- that wasn't too bad. And when I told the trainer (good old Al Bennett) that I couldn't come up with $400.00 all at once he agreed to let me pay a down payment of $150.00 and make the rest of the payments in $50,00 twice monthly deductions from my check. Well, reasoned optimistic me, that sounded fair especially if the dealership was going to reimburse the money. Well that was another mis-representation-- the dealership doesn't do that. Al also claimed that the dealership would pay $1600.00 a month for salary plus would pay 22.5% commission of the PROFIT from any new car or used car sales. If you split a commission with another salesman that would be 11.25% each. Well today I received my first paycheck at 4pm and guess what? It was not $10.00 an hour. It was not $9.00 an hour. It was $8.00 an hour minus taxes. I checked with the others hired with me. was this simply something I had misinterpreted. No, it was not. They had all been told the same as I. The other thing not mentioned in those classes was the necessity and expense of a special DMV licence required to sell careers. That was $51.00. And then I had to pay for fingerprints and a background check and that was $58.50. So with the doctor, the $150.00 down and the DMV licence and fingerprinting we are up to $358.50-- or more than 58% of my weekly unemployment check. Holy Toledo! When I called good old Al, he almost tap danced over the telephone. So I wait for my Disneyland job to start which I almost gave up for this position. We had been warned in Al's classes never to misrepresent the facts of any car feature or detail or that we could be personally sued for as well as the dealership. Well, I have been corn walled good and I am very unhappy about it. Well, it came too easy and it had only been the fourth e mail in a year and a half that had ever actually been answered on a Craig's list ad. Oh well, too bad. Al is a sweet man and has many many endearing qualities about him. And his young son Michael is incredibly bright and multi-talented. But Al needs to as my father used to say "Say what you mean and mean what you say, or else credibility just flutters away." And guess what, you can NEVER get your credibility back-- it's like trying to regain your reputation. Six days as a car salesman has opened my eyes a lot. Now I head for the best job of all. The one in Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom for a lot more money an hour.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A LOT OF STUFF HAS HAPPENED


Well much has happened since my last blog. I have now spent a week as a car salesman and I will tell you that all of the things that you have heard is mostly true, except that this dealership has class and dignity. They still play amazing games to get people to buy cars, but i must also tell that people play amazing games to somehow find the right price. Our dealership has seventy-two month contracts-- that alone will lower the monthly cost of any auto loan. This weekend we had what they call a slasher sale. Now of course, it's a big gimmick. They take all the selling prices off of the cars and play a "Was" and "IS" game. They put up a tent and drive a selected car under it. Then they gather a crowd -- music and hype over the microphone and the action begins. Now they urge the crowd to yell out the words "Slash It". And supposidly the louder the crowd yells, the lower the price goes. Oh brother! And i see customers who walk over $1500.00! Game players all! Good grief, fifteen hundred dollars divided by seventy-two payments equals to about $20 a month! Who the hell is going to keep a car for more than four and a half years with what the future will be offering in a little more than three? Will I stay there? Well it all depends on my Disneyland assignment that i go for today at 4pm. I have always dreamed of working at my very favorite place in the whole world. But of course the dealership pays $10.00 an hour plus commission and Disneyland pays $9.05 and there is no commission. I will also need to join the union. I went to some expense to becoming a car salesman. I had to pay training, a DMV special licence and be finger printed. About $250.00-- but as my John reminds me, you need to be happy at your work especially at my age. And from the dealership I come home exhausted. It's a real grind. There's also a gay themed retail store that has been trying to reach me called "The Crate and Barrel" in Pasadena-- so we shall see-- Ah life, when it rains, it pours. So off we go today to see what Dearest God has in store for me. I trust Him completely now. Jesus is the center of my life and that makes me the happiest of all. Well one day more passed and I went down to Disneyland for my interview and I finally found a part of the Magic Kingdom that doesn't have many smiles. It's the casting department. Now I fully realize that these guys don't do much more than shuffling forms and W2's and union papers (oh yes, I had to join a union to sell in a retail store-- for the very first time in my life) but come on guys, this is still the happiest place on Earth and you are welcoming the newest cast members for Walt's place. Smile! Make us new guys excited that we're working for $9.05 an hour. I hope to make a difference here. After all, I've always wanted to work at Disneyland. I never dreamed that I would get the chance. So I will continue to work at the dealership until November 13th. My first orientation is all day Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 am-- ouch! These guys have everything regulated. Even to what kind of shoes you can wear. They took my picture for my ID and now I'm officially part of the Mouse House and very proud to be so. After all, I got to meet him as a kid how many can say that? Well onward to a new day at the dealership.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

THE LOTTERY WAS WON WHERE?



I found this story to be very amusing. I play the lottery. Mostly I play "Fantasy Five" because the odds are so much better---even though 50% of the big Three Hundred Million Mega Million lottery was recently won at a liquor store in my home town of San Gabriel, Ca-- a store I used to patronize as early as 1972. But yesterday the $117,000 "Fantasy Five" lotto was in Nipton, California at the Primm Valley Lotto. The lucky numbers were 4-14-21-28-30. Now because Fantasy Five is won so often, and split so many ways (four winners winning $16,666.00 just a week ago) the jackpot rarely rises above $125,000. The minimum jackpot is $50,000. The hell with megamillions, what $117,000 would do for my life would astound you, Now what is so special about Nipton, Ca. Well guess what? It has a total population of THIRTY (30) people. Good grief, not only would everyone in town KNOW that you won the lottery, they would all be ringing your doorbell trying to borrow some money. If you look at the color picture on the top, you will see what dear old Nipton looks like today. Talk about the original ONE HORSE town, The black and white picture was taken the days it was founded in 1900. The city of Nipton sits on northern edge of Mojave National Preserve, west of Searchlight, Nevada. The history of Nipton began in 1900 as a place for gold miners to reside. For many years, Nipton had the most lottery ticket sales in the state for the California State Lottery. When a new office opened nearby immediately outside Primm, Nevada, Nipton lost its number one ranking, as Primm was easier and faster for Las Vegas residents and others to get to. (Although that office, despite having a Nevada address and phone number, is located on the California side of the border and is actually within city limits of Nipton.) Some of the town fathers (they actually have some) intended to make Nipton the gateway to the Mojave National Preserve. As of July 2009, all you will find there at Nipton is a five-room hotel, originally constructed in 1910, a trailer park, a small general store, and a café that is open on most days called The Whistle Stop Cafe-- although it's nowhere near a train station.The ZIP Code is 92364 and the community is inside area code 760. Oh by the way, with nothing to see, no theatre or major store and no gas station in the town proper, the Bed and Breakfast Inn with only FIVE rooms is $78.65 per night plus tax. WOW! Oh there was two other funny stories. Aboard a Delta plane, a passenger dropped his cell phone into the vent while talking on it. The flight on the plane was delayed several hours while the plane was dismantled! YES-- dismantled. Oh brother! And there was also the story of the New Jersey single girl who went to a party dateless and came home dateless. She was a bit depressed and walked into her bedroom and discovered a drunk but extremely handsome policeman in her bed. He had come home from a similar party, got drunk and walked home (well at least he WALKED) He had been living in the same apartment complex but on a different floor. He got off the elevator on the wrong floor and walked into the woman's unlocked apartment. The girl NEVER locked her apartment. He went into her bedroom, undressed and fell asleep until the girl had screamed at his discovery. He was arrested and suspended. But the girl paid his fine and they are now dating steadily. Go figure!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A GREAT PROUCTION AND A GREAT WRITER







One of the most amazing writers in the world of theatre was the late great Moss Hart. Moss wrote comedies with the equally amazing George S. Kaufman-- and what plays they were. There was of course "The Man Who Came To Dinner" "Light Up The Sky", "George Washington Slept Here" and the Pulitzer Prize winning "You Can't Take It With You" -- one of the funniest plays ever written. Moss Hart was also a brilliant director who helmed such Broadway blockbusters as "My Fair Lady" and Camelot. Sadly, this brilliant man died in 1961 of heart failure at the still tender age of fifty-seven-- one year shy of my own father who died of a massive heart attack at age fifty-eight just five years later. Today also is the anniversary of the opening of Pippin-- Steven Schwartz's first big Broadway show directed by the legendary Bob Fosse. The show was based on the life of Pippin the Hunchback, the son of Charlemagne. The show was partially financed by Motown Records. As of April 2009, Pippin is the 29th longest-running Broadway show. Pippin was originally conceived by Stephen Schwartz as Pippin, Pippin, a student musical performed by Carnegie Mellon's Scotch'n'Soda theatre troupe. According to musical theatre scholar Scott Miller in his 1996 book, From Assassins to West Side Story, "Pippin is a largely under-appreciated musical with a great deal more substance to it than many people realize....Because of its 1970s pop style score and a somewhat emasculated licensed version for amateur productions which is very different from the original Broadway production, the show now has a reputation for being merely cute and harmlessly naughty; but if done the way director Bob Fosse envisioned it, the show is surreal and disturbing." Of course I must also comment on the death of my dear Soupy Sales at the age of eighty-three. The picture that you see was taken on his 8oth birthday when he was awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame". The late Johnny Grant has gotten a pie in the face here too! Soupy was one of the most talented comedians to come along. He made me laugh as a child and I earned a few bucks with him as well. Who could forget White Fang, the meanest dog in the whole wide world, plus Black Tooth the kindest. Then there was The Count, The Little Boy Next Door", Marilyn Von Woolf, Pookie The Lion and Hippy the Hippo. And the day of the naked lady who appeared at his door. Oh boy! Every dentist could have used his "Words of Wisdom" message "Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you!" God love you Soupy Sales. I cried a good bit for you. As you enter heaven, make God laugh-- Lord knows, he needs it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Yesterday was a go back to my past day. I paid a visit to an old friend. Of course, unbeknown to me "the old friend" had re-located itself a bit. The old friend was the Alhambra Public Library. And now it had moved to First Street in Alhambra right next door to City Hall. I can not tell you how many happy hours that I spent in that library. My dear father loved it so. He would take us kids (my sister Annette and I especially) there on Tuesday nights when I was small. They would stamp the books with the date due as many times as you had actual books borrowed. In that way, our dear father (and other parents, I presume) would know just how many library books had to to be returned on that particular due date. My dad would get so mad at us kids if he found a book was missing. The library's collection was precious. The library had several locations over the years and one temporary location was actually in an old super market while they were finding the funds to build a permanent building! Those were tough days! I remember when i was about ten years old going to the old library and discovering my first Disneyland recorded soundtrack there. It was "Sleeping Beauty" . The record had been well used. It was my birthday and we were so poor at that point that my "birthday present" was a brand new library card. But that library held so much for me otherwise. I got to know a research librarian there by the name of Ann Mcowsky. Ann was a be speckled older woman who was the most devoted librarian you could ever hope to meet. Perhaps I'm the only one to remember her because I don't think she ever married or had a child and she died of brain cancer. While I was in college and beyond, I started raising money for the 16mm film collection of the library. My friends and I started a series of film festivals at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church Parish Hall. Dear Father Hultgren was an amazing minister who was kind and good of heart who allowed us to use the hall for our film showings. With my old 16mm Graflex projector, I would run Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Our Gang comedies in that old parish hall auditorium and we bought a number of 16mm films for the libraries permanent collection including "The Little Drummer Boy" and the Saul Bass masterpiece "Why Man Creates" plus we long leased a few Disney cartoons from the Walt Disney Company. Well, today I returned there and obtained a library card. Imagine that! I haven't been at this library (at any of its three or four locations in over thirty years. Since my new job will be close by at Alhambra Nissan I thought about getting my first new library card in almost that same period. I also donated some of my recordings of my songs for their collection. That felt good. And then as John Nugent and I were driving home, we passed by Holy Trinity Church. Nothing had changed about that grand facade! What a flood of great memories. Dear Father Hultgren was so amazingly kind. So I thought of him fondly this afternoon. I could still see his face in my mind. I hadn't seen that church in over thirty years. Wow! I took out some library books and found a very interesting detail about the life of Jerome Kern, the composer. I'm going to have to verify the story, but if it is true, it could make an incredible musical story that would incorporate bot the actual fact and a bit of fiction. According to the book, I was reading, Jerome Kern was on his way to an audition in New York City for a revival of "Showboat" in 1946. He had a stroke as he was on the streets walking to the theatre where the auditions were scheduled. The book that I was reading said that he had no identification and was sent eventually to a hospital on Governor's island -- the assumption was that without any kind of ID, he was simply an immigrant without insurance. Good grief! This was Jerome Kern. As I looked on Wikepedia, that article said that he indeed had a stroke but that his only Id was his ASCAP membership card. Kern was in search of a drug store looking for the medication that he needed so badly. I'm not sure how he would have gotten the medicine without wallet or money but I need to find this out. At any rate, I thought of an idea-- if he really was shipped off as an immigrant without ID and maybe without memory that he was indeed the great Jerome Kern what would happen if he met a young composer from a foreign country who passionately wanted to be a composer, himself. Could the great man actually inspire or teach the foreign kid a few things? Crazy? Well, no more crazy than the MGM musical film of his life that came out in 1951 that starred Robert Walker and Van Heflen. That was the purest form of fictionalized biography ever produced. But at any rate, it was a great day of memory that i truly enjoyed. Monday I had applied for a job at Disneyland-- without success. I am convinced that the folks who run Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom today want no part of a guy with a real Walt Disney, the man, not the icon knowledge. What was I thinking? Oh well!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A NEW JOB


I have a new job! And I can sum it all up under the banner headline "God Draws Straight With Crooked Lines" My dear friend, Tim Doran has been so amazingly wonderful in finding me leads on Craig's List. There were employment ads for Star Trek Conventions in Hollywood, a furniture store sales job, a dog bakery in Pasadena, a therapeutic chair store in Tarzana and so many more. Well one day, he sent me an add for a sales job at Alhambra Nissan in Alhambra. Now trust me, dear friends, I have sold many things in my life, but NEVER a car. What appealed to me that the job was in Alhambra, Ca-- a town along with San Gabriel, Ca (next door to each other) where I had grown up and spend many happy years of my childhood. Also I learned that there was NO recession in Alhambra, home town of dear old Phil Spector among others. So On Tuesday of this week, I went to an interview in Alhambra to meet Al Bennett who was actually an independent contractor who trains people to become a car salesman. Now, I'm not talking about features vs. benefits of individual cars. No, this is "the art" of selling a car. An untrained salesman gets into some very bad habits like using the words "May, I help you" and talking while putting his hands into his pockets. But everything is about getting the car sold in the proper way. Here at Alhambra Nissan, sales people can make 22% of the profit and that can mean $500- 600 pr more per car. There are also spiffs and bonuses just like the camera industry. So I went through the paid training program after being selected. It was a risk, but you gotta take chances in this weary world if you want to farther than you have been before. It was a two and a half day unpaid training session that literally covers some incredible steps to selling an automobile at a price with a good profit on the vehicle. Ultimately I was assigned to be headquartered in the Service department where I am to greet customers who have just been given an incredible estimate to repair the cars, or where I notice that the mileage on their cars have reached a point of no return. Then I am to refer them to a regular salesman on the sales floor. We split the commission evenly. Disadvantage: I only get half of the commission. Advantage: I won't have a sales quota because I won't be actually selling a car and I won't have to test drive any car. Requirements include that I must be licensed by the DMV and have finger prints taken which of course is a brand new experience. Of course, it's very curious to me to be required to be licensed when I am not actually selling the car. But God seems to be leading me here in a very odd way. I will keep you posted. We are scheduled to start this coming Friday. So we shall see where this leads us.

Friday, October 09, 2009


On this day in 1958, we lost one of the greatest popes of all time. Pius XII. This amazing individual was the pope of World War Two having been elected on February 8th, 1939. Pius XII defined and declared as dogma that Mary, the mother of Jesus was assumed body and soul into heaven. I remember him as the pope of my childhood. Back when I received my first Holy Communion the fast before receiving Holy Communion was pretty strict. That fast banned food and all water twenty-four hours before receiving the sacrament. Today also would have been the 69th birthday of John Lennon. John Lennon revealed a rebellious nature, and biting wit, in his music, on film, in books, and at press conferences and interviews. He was controversial through his work as a peace activist and visual artist. After The Beatles, Lennon enjoyed a successful solo career with such acclaimed albums as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine". After a self-imposed "retirement" to raise his son Sean, Lennon reemerged with a comeback album, Double Fantasy, but was murdered less than one month after its release. The album would go on to win the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In 2002, respondents to a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted Lennon eighth. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Lennon number 38 on its list of "The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time" One month before his death the great John Lennon proclaimed "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" And congrats to our president for winning the Nobel peace Prize. What an amazing honor. Mr. Obama is only the third sitting president to win this amazing honor. The other two were Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. Mr. Carter won the honor after he left office. Regardless of your politics, we all should be proud of him,

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

THE MAGNIFICENT CONFESSION LIBRETTO DONE


Today, I have finished our latest musical libretto called "The Magnificent Confession". John Nugent and I really wanted to do a show that was mostly music and had a minimal amount of dialogue as many pop-rock musicals do. This story does not purport to be the musical re-telling of the "Jack, The Ripper story. There is already an opera by the name of "Lulu" (the name of the heroine) composed by Alban Berg who also composed "The Violin Concerto" He was a student of Arnold Schoenberg (the uncle of Claude Michel Schoenberg who of course was the co-writer on "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon". John and I have taken a completely different spin on the story. We use the story of course and the victims names and even the real Inspectors, but we thought, "what if there were a real reason that Jack The Ripper" did what he did? What if he had been forced into a seminary like the great Thomas Aquinas had but something very bad had happened to him there? There is a reason for everything in this world, so why not with Jack The Ripper. It will be a pop-rock musical-- something very different than what we have ever done before. Some of the songs are "If You Convince Me?" and "They Say That I'm a Doctor Now!" One thing for sure is that we examine the darker side of the Catholic Church. I am a proud Catholic but I know there were times in our church's history that selfish men put her in a very bad light. Folks like Pope Julius II and several bad priests. We examine here the effect of pride on what should be very holy men. Evil makes no distinction when it picks a person to work with. The devil, do not forget even attempted to sway Jesus Christ! Remember the devil's first temptation to man is "God needs you to do this!" We also ask the question of Who is actually worse? The murderer on the street or a prideful priest who arbitrarily withholds God's forgiveness in Confession, thus condemning his victims to hell.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

MACK AND MABEL 35 YEARS OLD TODAY




On this date in 1919 was the premiere of a pretty much forgotten Broadway musical called "Hitchy Koo". In that musical, however would be the premiere of the very first Cole Porter song called "In A Lovely Garden". Cole Porter was twenty-eight years old. And today Al Jolson first sang "Toot Toot Tootsie" and "April Showers" in another forgotten Broadway show called "Bobo". Interesting bits of history both. But thirty-five years ago one of my all time favorite Broadway musicals "Mack and Mabel" opened at the Majestic Theatre. Despite rave reviews for the late great Robert Preston and the still sexy Bernadette Peters, the show only received "fair to middling reviews" and closed after only sixty-six performances. The show had pre-Broadway tryouts in San Diego and then Los Angeles, opening to rave reviews and brisk box office sales in both cities. Buoyed by the critical acclaim and initial public enthusiasm for the show, Herman and company ignored a number of critical warning signs. Neither Sennett nor Normand were particularly lovable characters, and their story was darker than that usually found in a musical. New York audiences of the 1970's were not supportive of darker characters. Robert Preston (as Sennett) was too old for Bernadette Peters (Mabel), and their characters lacked chemistry. What were they thinking? Director and choreographer Gower Champion devised a number of eye-catching visual effects and spectacular dance sequences set to Philip J. Lang's orchestrations, but their brightness proved to be too great a contrast with the somber mood of the piece. Gower's concept of setting the action in the corner of a huge movie studio sound stage created problems with the set and limited the staging to the extent that it was seen as static and boring. Most importantly, audiences didn't want to invest two-and-a-half hours in a musical where the heroine dies tragically at the end. Not in the 1970's where a disgraced Richard Nixon had just resigned the presidency two months before in August of the same year. Efforts were made to resolve the problems at The Muny in St. Louis, but this venue was a "terrible mistake." Because The Muny was so large, the performers overplayed and pulled the show out of shape. By the Washington, D.C. Kennedy Center engagement, "nothing was working", and Champion changed the staging of scenes that had previously worked By the time the show opened at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway on October 6, 1974, it was less successful than it had been four months earlier and the show closed after only sixty- six performances, Herman's first major flop. Despite the reviews and short run, the show received eight Tony Award nominations - for the book, direction, set and costume design, choreography, lead actor, lead actress, and the production itself as Best Musical. Herman - whose melodic score had received the best notices - was not nominated. Herman was deeply disappointed, since the project had been one of his favorites (and remains so, even now), and he felt producer David Merrick had done little to promote it, saying "He never invested in advertising. He never came to the theatre." Why does that not surprise me? What a piece of work Merrick was! Despite its failure, the show has developed a cult following. News of a job interview came through this morning at a Los Angeles Florist Shop. Imagine me -- selling flowers. Well I love Broadway, so maybe the Eliza Doolittle spirit has come down upon me. I am waiting for the shop to contact me and confirm my twelve noon interview appointment. It pays $10 an hour.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Damon Runmon was a classic story teller. If you've watched "Guys and Dolls" or "Pocketful of Miracles" or even "Little Miss Marker" (made into a modern film called "Forty Pounds of Trouble" with Tony Curtis and the late great Phil Silvers then you have an idea of what his storyteller. That film is only one of two films to use actually use Disneyland as a major location on a film this one, however the only one filmed while Walt Disney was alive. To be said that your writing is very "Runmonesque" is a great compliment. Remember the film "Yours, Mine and ours with the amazing Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda? Well that was based on a Damon Runyon story. His early years are fascinating: After a notable failure in trying to organize a Colorado minor baseball league, Runyon moved to New York City in 1910. For the next ten years he covered the New York Giants and professional boxing for the New York American. In his first New York byline, the American editor dropped the "Alfred," and the name "Damon Runyon" appeared for the first time. A heavy drinker as a young man, he seems to have quit the bottle soon after arriving in New York, after his drinking nearly cost him the courtship of the woman who became his first wife, Ellen Egan. He remained a heavy smoker.His best friend was mobster accountant Otto Berman, and he incorporated Berman into several of his stories under the alias "Regret, the horse player." When Berman was killed in a hit on Berman's boss, Dutch Schultz, Runyon quickly assumed the role of damage control for his deceased friend, correcting erroneous press releases (including one that stated Berman was one of Schultz's gunmen, to which Runyon replied, "Otto would have been as effective a bodyguard as a two-year-old.")Runyon frequently contributed sports poems to the American on boxing and baseball themes, and also wrote numerous short stories and essays. He was the Hearst newspapers' baseball columnist for many years, beginning in 1911, and his knack for spotting the eccentric and the unusual, on the field or in the stands, he is credited with revolutionizing the way baseball was covered. Gambling was a common theme of Runyon's works, and he was a notorious gambler himself. A well-known saying of his paraphrases Ecclesiastes: "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the how the smart money bets.
Runyon's marriage to Ellen Egan produced two children (Mary and Damon, Jr.), and broke up in 1928 over rumors that Runyon had become infatuated with a Mexican girl he had first met while covering the Pancho Villa raids in 1916 and discovered once again in New York, when she called the American seeking him out. Runyon had promised her in Mexico that, if she would complete the education he paid for her, he would find her a dancing job in New York. Her name was Patrice Amati del Grande, and she became his companion after he separated from his wife. After Ellen Runyon died of the effects of her own drinking problems, Runyon and Patrice married; that marriage ended in 1946 when Patrice left Runyon for a younger man. Damon died in New York City from throat cancer in late 1946, at age 66. His body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered from an airplane over Broadway in Manhattan by Captain Eddie Rickenbacker on December 18, 1946. One of the things that you will notice about all Damon Runmon stories is the near total avoidance of past tense (it is used only once, in the short story "The Lily of St Pierre") is not the only oddity of Runyon's use of tense; he also avoided the conditional, using instead the future indicative in situations that would normally require conditional. An example: "Now most any doll on Broadway will be very glad indeed to have Handsome Jack Madigan give her a tumble ..." (Guys and dolls, "Social error"). There is an homage to Runyon that makes use of this peculiarity ("Chronic Offender" by Spider Robinson) which involves a time machine.
Some examples of Runyonesque slang terms include the following:
pineapple—pineapple grenade
roscoe/john roscoe/the old equalizer/that thing—gun
shiv—knife
noggin—head
snoot—nose
There are many recurring composite phrases such as:
ever-loving wife (occasionally "ever-loving doll")
more than somewhat (or "no little, and quite some")
loathe and despise
one and all -- It's fun stuff to know the origin of.
Other news I have just finished Act one of our new musical called "The Magnificent Confession" John wanted to do an almost all singing show and after some consideration, I came up with an idea: Just as in "The Wicked" what if there were another side to Jack The Ripper? What if there were a real reason that he murdered only prostitutes? What if he had been forced to do something in his youth and that literally took him away and kept him captive and this away from a beautiful girl
that he really loved? What would happen if when he finally found that girl again, desperate times had turned her into a prostitute? And then she rejects him totally because she can not give up the whore's easy life? Might that turn this now angry man against every woman who chose to be a "lady of the night"-- Think about it.

Friday, October 02, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUD ABBOTT & GROUCHO MARX




Today would have been the birthday of the greatest straight man who ever lived. Those are not actually my words. Those are the words of the great Groucho Marx whose birthday is also this very day. He said those words on the day that Bud Abbott died of prostrate cancer. Groucho was born in 1890. Dear Bud brought the very best out of Lou Costello. He was a comedic genius. All you have to do is to watch his timing on that immortal sketch "Who's On First" and you will see what I'm talking about. Abbott crossed paths with Lou Costello in burlesque in the early 1930s. Abbott was producing and performing in Minsky's Burlesque shows, while Costello was a rising comic. They formally teamed up in 1936 and performed together in burlesque, vaudeville, minstrel shows, and cinemas. In 1938 they received national exposure for the first time by performing on the Kate Smith Hour radio show, which led to the duo appearing in a Broadway musical, The Streets of Paris. In 1940, Universal signed Abbott and Costello for their first film, One Night in the Tropics. Although Abbott and Costello were only filling supporting roles, they stole the film with their classic routines, including an abbreviated version of "Who's On First?" A common misconception is that Abbott and Costello are the only two non-baseball players who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The comedic duo are not members of the Cooperstown society anymore than the sports writers and broadcasters who are acknowledged by separate awards. However, a plaque honoring and a gold record and transcript of their famous sketch has been included in the museum collection since 1956, making them one of the few non-baseball players or managers to have a memorial in the Baseball Hall of Fame. During World War II, Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world. Between 1940 and 1956 they made 36 films, and earned a percentage of the profits on each. They were popular on radio throughout the 1940s, primarily on their own program which ran from 1942 until 1947 on NBC and from 1947 to 1949 on ABC. In the 1950s they brought their comedy to live television on The Colgate Comedy Hour, and launched their own half-hour series, The Abbott and Costello Show. Norman and Betty Abbott, the children of Bud Abbott's sister Olive, started on their own careers with help from their uncle: Betty as the script girl on Breakfast at Tiffany's and Norm and who directed live TV. After Olive's husband abandoned his family (allegedly going for a pack of smokes and never coming home), Abbott supported them. Bud changed every one's name back to Abbott and raised them as his own children. He also adopted two children with his wife Betty.Abbott's great-grandniece and granddaughter of Norman Abbott, Kathleen Abbott aka Lisa Bay, was born to Chrissy Abbott in 1966, while Chrissy was attending Beverly Hills High School, and is the adopted sister of director Michael Bay.Relations between the two partners had been strained for years. In their early burlesque days, their salaries were split 60%-40%, favoring Abbott, because the straight man was always viewed as the more valuable member of the team. That was changed to 50%-50% after they became burlesque stars. However, other accounts state that the 60%-40% split was Costello's idea. "A Good Straight Man is hard to find" is attributed to Costello. Yet, the sixty-forty split had long irked Costello. Later, after Buck Privates made them movie stars, Costello insisted that the split be reversed in his favor, and it remained sixty-forty for the remainder of their careers. Costello's other demand, that the team be renamed "Costello and Abbott," was rejected by Universal Studios. The result was a "permanent chill" between the two partners, according to Lou's daughter Chris Costello, in her biography Lou's on First. The partners' relationship was also strained by Abbott's battle with alcohol, which began when he took to heavy enough drinking in order to combat the effects of epilepsy. Abbott's alcoholism did not please Costello either, considering the latter's wife's problem with alcohol. The team's popularity waned in the 1950s, and they were further bedeviled by tax issues—the IRS demanded heavy back taxes, forcing the partners (both of whom had been serious gamblers) to sell most if not all of their assets (including Costello's rights to their television show). Abbott and Costello parted ways formally in July 1957. Lou Costello died on March 3, 1959. Fifty years ago this year. I was able to see afew pictures of the new Walt Disney Family Museum that opened in San Francisco yesterday. The place looks absolutely amazing-- what a wonderful tribute to Walt Disney, the man, not just corporation.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME




Well, today I turn into a senior citizen. I am sixty-two years old today. I don't feel any older, so maybe that's good. My dear friend Tim Doran was the very first to phone me a greeting followed by my sister Annette. I received a lovely card from my sister Lorie and a hand made birthday card from my two great nieces-- (my nephew Robbie's children) and that is a first. Although I have several great nieces and nephews, I have never before received a hand made birthday card mailed or given to me. That was a real treat that really made my date. This I see is my 475th journal posting. I've been doing this for over three years starting in June of 2006. I share a birthday with the great Jim Henson who would have been 73 years old today and composer Anthony Newley ("What Kind Of Fool Am I?) And dear old F. Scott Fitzgerald who would have been 113 years old today. Amazing! I continue work on the libretto for our latest musical "The Beautifully Bald Brooklyn Boys Choir"-- so far, it's a real hoot of an original story. God has blessed me with many talents. So I thank Him this day for always watching over me and for giving me great friends like Tim and amazing collaborators like dear John Nugent. Well whistle happy birthday. By the way, the song "Happy Birthday To You" earns $2000 a day every day of the year collected by Warner Chapel music who vigorously protects its copyright-- (and sues people) that copyright will expire on December 31, 2016 in Europe, but not until 2030 in America. How about that!

Friday, September 18, 2009

THE FIRST RODGERS AND HART AND MOSES IS HAVING A BAD DAY


On this day in 1923, the very first book musical by Rodgers and Hart opened at the Knickerbocker Theatre. Of course it featured a libretto by the amazing Herbert Fields. It's world famous song is of course "Here In My Arms". It ran for a year which back in those days was a great run. It starred the matinee idols of the time Helen Ford and Charles Purcell. Charlie Purcell was a heartthrob of an actor who was particularly popular from 1909- 1926. In this musical he sang also "Bye and Bye" This was Charlie's best known show. His last Broadway show was called "Park Avenue" The plot was rather unique. The musical was based on a true Revolutionary War incident, its heroine is Mary Lindley Murray who, under orders from General Washington, detained British troops by serving them cake and wine in her stylish Kips Bay Manhattan home long enough for some 4,000 American soldiers to reassemble in Washington Heights in September 1776. Reality gives way to fanciful fictionalization with the addition of a pair of love stories, one involving Mary's daughter Jane and British General Tyron's son Harry, the other focusing on the on-again, off-again relationship between Mary's Irish niece Betsy Burke and British Capt. Sir John Copeland. Also playing a role in the plot is a houseful of beautiful young ladies eager to engage the enemy in more than just conversation, and a group of handsome young men happy to forget their patriotic duty for refreshments, music, and flirtations at the Murray mansion. I don't think I know of another musical that actually takes place during the Revolutionary War! And then as my headline promised, there's the hard luck story of Reverend Gregory Moses, a Baptist minister who was hit in a crosswalk by a hit and run driver, on a Sunday after his church service. He then went to the hospital and while he was there, his car was stolen and his dog was kidnapped and his great big picture window in his living room (the one he used to look at that "milk and honey" landscape) was broken by an errant baseball. So you see, even Moses can have a bad day! And don't forget to read the story about the black Washington DC secretary who discovered that she was now "king" ( I guess her country doesn't believe in queens) of her native country in West Africa-- the town of Ghana. How these people select the heir after the death of a current monarch is absolutely hysterical. Here's how it went -- The town elders got together for the ritual to pick a successor. Praying, they poured schnapps --( yes, you read right!) on the ground and waited for steam to rise as they recited the names of 25 relatives of the late king. The steam would come when they reached the name of the relative the ancestors had blessed as the next king. The choice fell on the late king's niece -- Ms. Bartels, who has been working as a secretary at the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington for the past 30 years learned about it in a late-night telephone call from a relative, who addressed her as "Nana" -- a title Ghanaians accord people of stature. The woman said that she spent three sleepless nights before she decided to accept her royal responsibilities. Then she traveled to Otuam for her coronation. During the ceremony, she was lifted on a litter and carried throughout town. She took the opportunity to warn the all-male elders not to assume they could push around a female king. "If you step on my toes, I will hit you where it hurts," she said.That story made my day! John and I have completed the first song in our newest musical called "Valentine". It's a beautiful song akin to "One Last Miracle" from "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway." It would be nice if Tony Westbrook could record it-- its right up his alley! I so miss his singing! Now we are working on a charm song for the same show called "Someone Could Love You"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

GOODBYE HENRY GIBSON


Another veteran Laugh In cast member is gone. Dear Henry Gibson passed away yesterday one week shy of his 74th birthday. Henry was such a sweet man. I've met him and Joanne Worley as well as my dear friend Arte Johnson. My favorite role of him besides the judge on Boston Legal was his voice work on "Charolette's Web" as Wilbur The Pig. The great Sherman Brothers tune "I Can Talk" comes to mind.
Gibson brought a wonderful warmth and whimsy and a charm to 'Laugh-In.' That went a long way to balance some of the political, satirical and bawdy humor . Laugh In creator sGeorge Schlatter said."Henry was a sweet, gentle man. Any piece we gave to Henry took on a different shape when he read it because he infused his own whimsy and his own gentle intelligence and wit to it."In the show's famous cocktail party scenes, when the music would stop and each cast member would deliver a funny line, Gibson was a religious figure holding a teacup and saucer."My congregation supports all denominations," he said on one show, "but our favorites are twenties and fifties."But Gibson was best known as the poet, holding a large flower and beginning his brief recitations with his signature catchphrase, "A poem, by Henry Gibson.""He wrote all those himself," Jon Gibson said. "It was a point of pride that he only read poems that he himself wrote."During one of his frequent guest appearances on the show, John Wayne spoofed Gibson by coming around the wall holding a flower and delivering "A poem, by John Wayne.""Roses are red, violets are green," Wayne said, "Get off your butt and join the Marines." Funny! Also God love Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary fame who also passed away yesterday at age seventy-two. Who will be celebrity number three? I am amused reading this morning that the Senate has passed a bill that would force Am Track to rescind its mandatory no guns on a train bill. Granted these are guns that you check in your luggage , but you can't take guns on a plane. Why should you be able to take a gun on a train? Okay, lets say that I tell you --the Ticketmaster: "Don't worry, Mr. Am Track employee-- that gun is perfectly disengaged and locked away. Huh! Do you Remember that old song "I Didn't Know The Gun Was Loaded. Oh yes, here's the kicker: If Am Track does not reverse its policy, it will lose a 1.6 billion dollar government subsidy-- (OMG) wait a minute-- Am Track is owned by the government. It's penalizing itself. Isn't that like saying to your manhood-- "Give me what I want or I'm going to cut you off!" Maybe this is the same guy who wants to fine us $3800.00 for not having health insurance! We don't accomplish progress by shooting ourselves in the foot! If you're fining yourself 1.6 billion ddollars to be paid to yourself -- who does that help, including yourself! Guess what happens when 1.6 billion dollars is paid by you-- to yourself. Except, the sharp pencil boys in Am Track won't think of that and they'll lay off God only knows how many train engineeers, conductors and the lowly train ticket seller at Union station-- In order to compensate for paying something that is making a round trip journey from self to self! Mark Twain and Will Rogers would have had a field day with this one. Even a re-hashed Dan Quayle wouldn't be this good a target! Look, the Constitution says that citizens shall have the right to bear arms-- that doesn't mean OWN any arms. The word OWN and the word BEAR has two different meanings in the dictionary. look it up! And in no place in that definition does it say anything about having the right to transport the damn thing on a train! Train/ plane-- locked up/ not locked up. Disengaged or able to fire one last forgotten bullet when the damn locomotive hits a rough spot on the track. What if that suitcase with that one forgotten bullet is right next to a stored in the baggage department extra oxygen tank that a disabled person is taking with her or him? Lets get to the business of fixing this recession before we worry that somebody is not going to have the right to transport a gun on their travels. Oh my! Oh dear! Priorities please, priorities!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

AN ARBORETUM TRIP AND LLOYD WEBBER DOES OZ




Yesterday, John and I went to the Los Angeles County Arboretum located in the city of Arcadia.-- right across the street from Santa Anita Race Track. We had a nice surprise when we discovered that admission was "free" on Tuesdays during the summer. Well, that saved us $16.00. Of Course, The Arboretum is where they filmed the opening sequences if the hit television show "Fantasy Island" with the late great Ricardo Monteblan. But they also filmed all of the old Tarzan movies there plus some "Murder She Wrote" and films like "The Boys From Brazil. Even Jerry Lewis filmed part of a movie there. It's really a beautiful place-- and it's so quiet and peaceful there. I had gone as a kid in high school with my camera club in the years 1962-1966 where I had taken more pictures than I can ever count. The old Coach barn brought back a lot of photographic memories as did the wild peacocks that roam the grounds there. The site's modern history began in 1875 when Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin purchased Rancho Santa Anita and constructed its buildings and grounds. Baldwin's influence was a strong presence on the site. A certain flamboyance was evident in the creation of a showcase at Santa Anita. Baldwin in some ways anticipated the development of Las Vegas creating Arcadia as a kind of prototype destination resort. The Oakwood Hotel, the Santa Anita racetrack and the creation of Arcadia as an independent city made it possible for Baldwin to become its first Mayor. The first liquor license was issued to his oldest daughter Clara Baldwin. This becomes more significant when one understands that dear old Pasadena which borders Arcadia was dry from its founding in 1886. A major motivation for incorporation being the banning of liquor in the city. Although many towns in southern California were dry, commercial viticulture flourished around the San Gabriel Mission (where I attended church for years) since mission days. Baldwin started an award winning winery to supply the thirsty tourists, sold land to settlers as well as running a private water company and brick works. A partnership with Henry Huntington (The Huntington Library) and the Santa Fe Railroad insured that passengers could arrive by rail from Los Angeles and other locations as well as bringing freight, such as building supplies and taking away ranch produce for sale.The arboretum itself began in 1947 , the year of my birth with the state of California and Los Angeles jointly purchasing 111 acres to create an arboretum around the Baldwin site. By 1949, the first greenhouse had been constructed and the site's plants inventoried. In 1951, the first 1,000 trees were planted, and in 1956 the arboretum was opened to the public. Ongoing construction of gardens and greenhouses took place during the 1950s and 1960s, and in 1975-1976 the Tropical Greenhouse was opened and the Prehistoric and Jungle Garden completed. Construction and renovation of both greenhouses and gardens has continued to this day. A nice day for both John Nugent and myself. I had to laugh when I read this morning that Andrew Llyold Webber is going to write six new songs for a NEW musical adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that is to based on the book and the movie. He will keep "Over The Rainbow" and many of the other songs. The reason that is a bit funny is number one the "Wizard" is how I started in musical theatre way back in 1980. I wrote an oirginal score and an original libretto for Mark Shipley's Gallery theatre in Ontario, Ca. The other reason that this is a bit funny is that absolute amazing resilience of this classic story. It just keeps being re-invented. We all can guess how much money Stephen Schwartz is making on "The Wicked" (which take the Wicked witch's perspective on the classic story) and "The Wiz" is being readied for a brand new premiere on Broadway next year. There is even a new musical version that takes the story from Toto's point of view? Well, not much else to report. Going to clean my apartment today. Doesn't that sound like fun!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JACKIE COOPER AND A TRIP TO TO THE ARBORETUM




Jackie Cooper turns eighty-seven years old today. I especially loved to see him as a child actor in the "Our Gang" comedies and MGM pictures like "Skippy". My favorite role of his was a television series in the 1950's called "The People's Choice" in which his co-star was a basset hound name Cleo-- who of course "talked" to the audience commenting dryly on what had just happened to her owner. The voice of the dog was Mary Jane Croft (who was Lucile Ball's I Love Lucy friend/ nemesis The series was a 1955-1958 half-hour black and white sitcom airing on NBC. It starred Jackie Cooper as Socrates "Sock" Miller, an ex-Marine and New City, California politician. Of course the dog who balefully observes Sock's dilemmas, were recorded on the soundtrack for the viewers' amusement. Much of Cleo's dialog is in the form of witty wisecracks. The popularity of the basset hound breed increased markedly with the run of the show. But I found it interesting that he also is a wonderful television director on such classic TV shows like "Mash". Today, John and I are planning a trip to the Arboretum in Arcadia where "Fantasy Island" and many other movies like "The Boys From Brazil" were filmed. The old Tarzan movies were also filmed there. So we'll look and around and see some beautiful flowers and fauna. I finished the new musical's libretto and lyrics yesterday and now John and I will create the music. It is the story of Saint Valentine,the martyr priest who was killed by the Emperor Claudius II in the year 279. Of course, so little is known about the gifted saint that John and I had to take some real liberties with the story. We do know that Claudius only ruled two years and was done in by the Bubonic Plague. We had to figure a way to connect the barbarian with the priest. In real life, Valentine was arrested and imprisoned for marrying Christian couples publicly. But we had a dilemma: why would a Roman Emperor come to visit a priestly prisoner? We did discover that Claudius was disturbed by dreams that he had at night and so we decided to make Valentine a interpreter of dreams like the Joseph in the bible stories. Our real cheat was deciding to bring Zenobia, "The Warrior Queen" and Valentine together. Zenobia was one amazing woman. she was very brave and very beautiful and she captured all of Egypt and all of Palestine before she was defeated. Of course, John and I had to transplant her a few years forward to make the idea work. We hope that makes it fly. In real history, Claudius was very curious about Christianity but continually warned Valentine not to try and convert him. Dramatically that seems all well and good, but what would make Valentine actually continue to try the conversion so we brought in Zenobia for a bit of the betrayal angle. Let's hope that flies too. The final song in the show (The "Eleven O' Clock" number just before Valentine's execution is called "I Have Love Because Of You" was written in the vein of "One Last Miracle" that my friend Tony Westbrook sang and recorded for our musical "The Ghost Who Saved Broadway". Who knows? Maybe Tony can record that one too. Are you reading this, Tony? Also last night I invited my friend Tim over for a belated birthday bash. I made some rib-eye steaks on the BBQ after marinating them all day with baked potatoes, corn and veggies. Dessert was yogurt and fresh Swiss cheese-- Tim absolutely loves cheese. Well we're off to go see Fantasy Island, aks, the Arboretum in Arcadia. Boy, I can still hear the words "The Plane, the plane".

Monday, September 14, 2009

JOHN OFF TO FLORIDA AND 1980 WASN'T GOOD FOR ME TOO




Today, my John took off to Florida to see his mother and sister and his nephew and niece. It's been four long years. I dropped him off at LAX without incident. The D23 convention wrapped up in Anaheim, yesterday. Pretty amazing stuff here. I understand. The picture you see here is of Walt Disney's desk the day before he checked into Saint Joseph's Hospital for the last time way back in late November 1966. He died there on December 5th of the same year. Funny, my dad passed away in January of that same year. Look at that phone! An Emmy and an Oscar happened to be there on his desk that day and he had just written out a check. That's his personal pen and reading glasses. I read today where the unluckiest year of them all was 1980 for Charles Strouse, the composer-- and 1980 wasn't a terribly good year for me ether-- with the exception that I started writing for musical theatre in that same year for the Gallery Theatre in Ontario. Charles Strouse wrote a musical called "Charlie and Algernon" which opened and closed after seventeen performances. "Charlie" is the musical telling of the motion picture "Charly". The musical had a book and lyrics by David Rogers and music by the aforementioned Mr. Strouse. It is based on the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.The title characters are a mentally retarded man and a laboratory mouse, respectively. Charlie volunteers to participate in an experimental intelligence-enhancing treatment, and his rapid progress parallels that of Algernon, who had been treated earlier. When the mouse's enhanced intelligence begins to fade, Charlie realizes he too is fated to revert to his original mental state. The ill fated show opened on September 14, 1980 at the Helen Hayes Theatre and ran for those investment busting 17 performances. The cast included P. J. Benjamin and Sandy Faison. In 1979, the musical opened as Flowers for Algernon in London's West End with Michael Crawford as Charlie. In the London staging, Michael Crawford performed one number in a spotlight while the trained white mouse ran from one of his hands to the other, by way of Crawford's shoulders and neck. The audience reaction to this was so positive that Crawford repeated it with another live mouse (while playing an entirely different character) in 2003 while starring in the West End Llyold Weber musical The Woman in White. Charlie and Algernon was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Original Score. A London cast album was released on the Original Cast Records label. Later in the season, disaster would finish Mr. Strouse once more. He and old time lyricist Lee Adams joined forces to write a sequel to "Bye Bye Birdie"-- which is being revived in 2009 on Broadway. Picture this: It's twenty years later and Conrad Birdie is missing. Guess who was playing Conrad? Believe it or not it was the late great Donald O' Connor-- in a jump suit for God's sake. This poor misfit musical open and closed in four performances. It reminds me of Walt Disney's old philosophy "You can't top pigs with pigs" That referred to the studios in 1933 clamoring for more cartoons starring that fearless pork trio "The Three Little Pigs". So here's the opening synopsis from this show-- you be the judge-- especially if you know the original masterpiece: As the house lights dim, we hear a woman's voice telling us, in story-teller-lady fashion: "Once upon a time, so long ago that New York City hadn't even been bankrupt once, there lived a young man in the music business named Albert Peterson, who loved his secretary, Rose. His only client, a rock-n-roll idol known as Conrad Birdie, was being drafted into the army, and Rose wanted Albert to give up the music business, marry her, and become...an English teacher! Alas, Albert's mother--a frail and gentle old lady with many of the same endearing qualities as Snow White's stepmother--opposed the match. But love triumphed, Conrad vanished, the mother was banished, Albert married his Rose and became an English teacher and they all lived happily ever after. [Ominous chord.) Till now." After the Overture, we see two shadowy figures in a darkened room, and, after Albert finds the light switch, we learn that Rose and Albert are burglarizing their old office, looking for the contract that will put them on the trail of Conrad Birdie. It seems that Birdie disappeared 18 years ago, and Albert has been offered twenty thousand dollars if he can track down his former client and get him to perform on a TV Grammy Award special along with other giant recording stars of yesterday. Albert has accepted the challenge, eager to return to the music business, and Rose is unhappy about it. "Albert," she pleads, "if NBC wants Conrad, let them find him! We have too much at stake!" Oh well! Can someone say Neil Simon rip off? Ah, well, even great writers have great flops-- but another Strouse flop was coming-- this time with Alan Jay Lerner called "Dance A Little Closer" which the critics dubbed "Close A Little Faster"-- which it did in four performances. Then another flop-- this time with Stephen Schwartz in a mis mosh musical called "Rags". But Strouse's bad luck was to continue for he followed "Rags" in 1993 with "Nick And Nora" with nine performances. Based On "The Thin Man" it boasted a book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Richard Maltby. Ironically, Mr. Strouse also wrote the music score to the most disastrous movie flop since Howard The Duck-- the one and only "Ishtar". But Charlie persist. From his pen is coming a musical called "The Night They Raided Minsky's". Why isn't he writing with Lee Adams? oh well, maybe Charlie is living the words of Larry Gelbert "I was dead once or twice, but I'm better now"