Saturday, January 31, 2009

Today is Carol Channing's birthday: the grand dame of Broadway Theatre was born in 1921 or is this day eighty-eight years young. What an amazing performer and singer!
Channing was introduced to the stage while doing church work for her mother. In a 2005 interview with the Austin Chronicle dear Miss Carol recounted this prophetic experience:
"My mother said, 'Carol, would you like to help me distribute
Christian Science Monitors backstage at the live theatres in San Francisco?' And I said, 'All right, I'll help you.' I don't know how old I was. I must have been little. We went through the stage door alley [for the Curran Theatre], and I couldn't get the stage door open. My mother came and opened it very easily. Anyway, my mother went to put the Monitors where they were supposed to go for the actors and the crew and the musicians, and she left me alone. And I stood there and realized – I'll never forget it because it came over me so strongly – that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It's a mosque. It's a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards." I think that's the way great theatre comes over people. I remember how it happened to me. I had been cast in a community theatre's production of "The Wizard Of Oz" (for which I subsequently wrote a brandnew libretto, songs and score and the owner of theatre, Mr. Mark Shipley invited me to come to a complimentary performance of the show he was going to do just before Wizard opened. It was "Fiddler On The Roof". Bar none, that was the show that convinced me that I wanted to write for the theatre. Theatre was now my new passion. I remember the performance of actor Duane Thomas as Tevya so clearly! And the dream sequence just about knocked my socks off. Amazing show! Amazing memory! James Kirkwood (the librettist for "A Chorus Line and the play "P.S. Your Cat is Dead" tells a very humorous tale about Carol Channing in his biography. I had heard that actor's egos were mind blowing and this little episode just about takes the cake. Jimmy had written a show called "Legends" which co-starred Mary Martin. All during the rehearsals the production had used the same set they planned on using during the run. At the last moment, a decision was made to replace the comforter that draped the couch with a new one. Great use of it was used by the actress. Regardless, out it went into the garbage and the collectors were right on time on Friday morning to pick it up with everything else being thrown out! OMG. You have never witnessed such a display of emotions. Carol refused to go on that night until that original comforter was recovered and returned to that sofa! Why? Because Carol Channing claimed that all of her karma was in that comforter. The crew had to go searching for every dumping ground in the city. It was finally found just as it was getting dark in NYC. John has begun orchestrations for "Broadway Angels" and we hope to have that done and we've passed another hurdle for The Barter Theatre's production of our "little Bit of Broadway"-- we are keeping all fingers and toes crossed. Praise God for all His help in our pursuits. Today is also Eddie Cantor's birthday who was born in 1892 and Mario Lanza who was born in 1921. In 1985 one of the greatest Broadway flops of all time opened. It was the first show to be developed by the Goodspeed Opera in Chicago and starred Mark Hamill ("Star Wars") It was called "Harrigan And Heart" and lasted only four performances. Broadway can be ruthless!

Monday, January 26, 2009

This past weekend on both Friday, January 23rd and Saturday, January 24th, John Nugent and I went into the studio and with the help of our new Finale 2009, we were able to eliminate the need forever for a live piano player. Even though we dearly miss our friend Tim. But After the last hire, where the player really couldn't play that well, we decided we needed to go a new route. We recorded songs in preparation for the competition that we are aiming for on February 1st, less than a week before now. We recorded a lot of songs. the very best came from a singer that came from "The Touch A Life Show" His name is Perry Hayes. Perry may very well be today's Paul Robeson. He recorded our first song from "Edgar, Alan & Poe" called "Anything You Dare"-- which in my opinion came out the very best followed by the first song that we recorded from "The Shadow Of Freedom" This title tune tells of the anguish that Senator Thomas Ross went through back in 1868 when the radical Republicans (who really hated the South) were attempting to impeach Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson for simply carrying on the policies that Lincoln, himself had begun. Bill Lewis and Molly Summer recorded "Marvelous Tales" and Bill recorded "Is There Anything Left? from "The Revenge of Ichabod Crane". It was fun recording "Wannabee, Georgia" with a big group and "Surrender in Love" from "The Wild Swans" is an amazing song. We recorded also "We've Been Praying Our Little Beads Off" and "Incognito". Sometimes a song you don't really think will be sensational is and that was a song from "Revenge of Ichabod' sung once again by Perry Hayes called "When You're A Man With Money"-- it was brilliant. Perry normally charges folks a lot of money to hire him and so to receive his services free because he happens to believe in you very much is a nice touch. And so that little song "Touch A Life With Love" that I wrote way back in 1982 has now helped to raise a lot of money for homeless charities has now been the stepping stone to a wonderful talent that we could simply not afford to hire otherwise. We recorded about eighteen songs in the ten hour period between the two days. Thank you, God for your many blessings on this one. Thanks to Molly Summer, Bill Lewis, Perry Hayes, Nicholas Netzby, Tara Hadley and all the other singers. I had invited Terry Snyder to join us, but he simply was too busy this past weekend-- maybe next time. The voices of Terry Snyder and Tony Westbrook are dearly missed by me. They were simply incredible both individually and as a duo. Few people can sell a song like both of these incredible men. Today "Rent" by the late great Jonathan Larsen opened Off-Off Broadway and yesterday, the 25th, The Phantom Of The Opera" first decended upon the Majestic Theatre Stage in NYC and he still goes on after twenty-one years. Wow!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Today would have been Oliver Hardy's birthday. Oliver Norvell Hardy bar none with Stan Laurel were the funniest comedy team ever put together. Olie was a sweet kind gentleman who sang so sweetly, it may just shock you. My uncle was Oliver Hardy's tailor. Olie was a very big man: -- a incredible stature-- he stood six foot one and weighed in at three hundred pounds. It took four men to deliver one suit to the mammoth man of incredibly honest comedy. In the 1970's I raised money for the Alhambra Public Library showing many Laurel & Hardy shorts and features at the Holy Trinity Church in the same city. I will never forget the kindness of it's pastor: Father Harold Hultgren. We donated a lot of sixteen milameter films to the library's collection in that way. But here's a little Laurel and Hardy history you may not have realized. In 1926, a hot leg of lamb changed the future of both Laurel and Hardy. Hardy was scheduled to appear in Get 'Em Young but was unexpectedly hospitalized after being burned by a hot leg of lamb. Laurel, who had been working as a gag man and director at Roach Studios, was recruited to fill in. Laurel kept appearing in front of the camera rather than behind it, and later that year appeared in the same movie as Hardy, 45 Minutes from Hollywood, although they didn't share any scenes together.
In 1927, Laurel and Hardy began sharing screen time together in Slipping Wives, Duck Soup (no relation to the Marx Brothers film of the same name) and With Love and Hisses. Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey, realizing the audience reaction to the two, began intentionally teaming them together, leading to the start of a Laurel and Hardy series late that year. With this pairing, he created arguably the most famous double act in movie history. They began producing a huge body of short movies, including The Battle of the Century (1927) (with one of the largest pie fights ever filmed), Should Married Men Go Home? (1928), Two Tars (1928), Unaccustomed As We Are (1929, marking their transition to talking pictures) Berth Marks (1929), Blotto (1930), Brats (1930) (with Stan and Ollie portraying themselves, as well as their own sons, using over sized furniture to sets for the 'young' Laurel and Hardy), Another Fine Mess (1930), Be Big! (1931), and many others. In 1929, they appeared in their first feature, in one of the revue sequences of Hollywood Revue of 1929 and the following year they appeared as the comic relief in a lavish all-color (in Technicolor) musical feature entitled: The Rogue Song. This film marked their first appearance in color. In 1931 they made their first full length movie (in which they were the actual stars), Pardon Us although they continued to make features and shorts until 1935. Perhaps their greatest achievement, however, was The Music Box (1932), which won them an Academy Award for best short film - their only such award. I pay today for our new president. God Bless Him and God Bless America

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today marks an interesting day to feel older. For today my youngest niece turns thirty-five years old. My dear Jacqueline, daughter of my eldest sister, Lorie has always been a dear sweet person who has always loved me. I took so many pictures of her when she was a little girl. She was the most photogenic subject I ever had. When my niece was seven years old (or about to be) we asked her what she wanted for her sevnth birthday. She smiled and looked so cute and said "I want a globe of the Earth". Now there was an unusual request from a sevn year old girl so we asked her "Jacqueline, you're only seven, why do you want a "a globe of the Earth". Without hesitation, Jacqueline blurted out "Because-- I want to keep my fingers on the world". Great moment in family lore! Today is also the birthday of dear Benjamin Franklin (born in 1706) and Betty White is eighty-seven years old today. Jim Carrey turns forty-seven and remains one of my all time favorite comedians. I howled at "Bruce Almighty" as so many others in this country did. Interesting date also for copyright. The United States Supreme Court ruled on this day in 1984 that copying programs broadcast on television onto a video cassette recorder did not violate the program's copyright. It was a close decision 5-4. Imagine that! Imagine now there will be no more video casseytte recorders made. What I paid for one of the very first of these in 1977 was crazy-- almost fifteen hundred dollars. It was the first time i had financed anything. Of course, the real memory of this day came in 1994-- the big Northridge earthquake struck on the morning of this day in 1994--fifteen years ago today. I was living in Hacienda Heights at the time and was spared big damage by not living in this area at that time. I do remember that we had a total blackout that lasted several hours and the closure of the 101 freeway because of a big buckle that had been created by the quake. Today is also the birthday of the voice of Darth Vader aks James earl Jones and last but not least dear old Al Capone. Look what tax evasion did to that guy! Beautiful summer like day today in January. Recording session is next week. I am very excited about that on January 23rd and 24th. The new oprchestrations thaT My partner, John Nugent is creating is simply breathtaking.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today would have been Ethel Merman's 100th birthday. The great Ethel whom Richard Rodgers said could hold a note longer than Chase Manhattan was an amazing performer. She introduced the songs "I Get A Kick Out Of You" and "Anything Goes" plus of course "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Everything's Coming Up Roses." Stephen Sondheim tells that Ethel was a amazing singer but by the time "Gypsy" rolled around she would become rather "mechanical". Of course when she knew that a celebrity or a critic was in the audience, she would be the best performer of all time. A trick was hatched by the producers to tell her that "Sinatra is in the audience" "Judy Garland is in the audience" etc. Of course, they were not, but if Ethel thought so-- look out below. The lady came alive. Ethel could upstage the best of them and was very bitter when Rosalind Russel got the part of Mama Rose for the Warner Brothers Movie. Her "diva" antics on the movie "There's No Business Like Show Business" made Jack Warner declare that she would never again appear in a Warner Brothers movie-- and she didn't. Her last major role was that of Milton Berle's mother in "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Also sad to note the passing of Ricardo Monteblan. Something I did not know: Ricardo was married to Loretta Young's sister and both were devout Roman Catholics. Of course, I remember every week on “Fantasy Island,” there was a fairy tale of wish fulfillment and exotic luxury that was shown on ABC from 1978 to 1984, a planeload of visitors with unachieved dreams flew in to a remote resort somewhere in the Pacific and were greeted by their dream facilitators, the sleek and suavely welcoming Mr. Roarke, played by Ricardo and his assistant, an irrepressibly spirited dwarf named Tattoo, played by HervĂ© Villechaize. They became one of television’s most legendary odd couples.Though Mr. Roarke became Ricardo's signature role, it was a mere bump in the timeline of a career that spanned decades, media and genres. Mr. Montalbán embodied stereotypes, fought them and transcended them in his years in show business. His entire reputation, both as smooth Latin seducer and parodist of a smooth Latin seducer, was capsulized in a television advertisement from the mid-1970s in which he served as pitchman for the Cordoba, a luxury car being introduced by Chrysler. He purred over the automobile’s assets, including the seats, upholstered, he said, in “soft, Corinthian leather,” a phrase that became a campy giggle-inducer, especially after it became known that there is no such thing as Corinthian leather, from Corinth or anywhere else: the description was just a marketing invention. Today also marked the beginning of Prohibition in 1920, the opening of "Hello Dolly" on Broadway in 1964 and the death of Carole Lomabrad in a plane crash in 1942. John and I are preparing for a new recording on January 23rd and 24th. John is busy at work on all orchestrations.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Today is the 60th birthday of Kenny Loggins. He has a new album out that I love. Kenny and I attended San Gabriel Mission High School together from 1962-1966: a long time ago. But I have great memories of those days and great memories of Kenny: whom I ran against for student body office in 1966 and for his Varsity basketball team, I was the official statistician for the players. I counted all the defensive and offensive rebounds and even the "Traveling" and "Double Dribble " errors. At one point, I even kept score. Our coach was Michael Crowe-- an amazing man, himself! Kenny Loggins was always a gentleman, a great student and always kind to a guy like me. His best friend was Peter Hermes, now an important lawyer. I went to school with Peter since the first grade. We both are songwriters, but Kenny is famous and I am not, but that's okay. I still try and give back to God every effort that I can. And that is the important thing. So Happy 60th birthday, Kenny. Thank you for all of your music and songs. My favorite is one that he wrote while we still were in high school together called "House on Pooh Corner!" He is preparing songs now for a new Winnie The Pooh cartoon-- and that brings up my second favorite song "Your Heart Will Lead You Home" from "The Tigger Movie":-- a tune that he co-wrote with my other heroes: The Sherman Brothers. I also love "Celebrate Me Home" and of course "Danny's Song". Happy Birthday, Kenny! God Love You!

Monday, January 05, 2009

I've resolved this year to be less bogged down with worry-- it just doesn't do any good. John Nugent and i continue prepping for our big submission by January 11th and again we are going to work as hard as we can --but without worry. Today would have been one of my favorite author's birthday. Her name was Jean Kerr and in case you don't recognize the newsmenthink of the blockbuster novel and movie Please Don't Eat The Daisies". The movie starred Doris day and the amazing David Niven. In one of her books, Jean tells the hilarious story of one of her kids getting a speaking part in his school play and being very disappointed. What was the play his mother wanted to know and what part did you get? It's "The Garden of Eden", the rueful son wailed and I have the part of Adam. His mother (Jean Kerr) was very proud and said "Oh, my, that's the lead, Adam is the father of all mankind. And Jean Kerr's son wailed "yeah-maybe, but the snake has all the lines". Isn't that just what happens in our lives? We have the lead. We have the top role. We're important-- we assume. But oh yes, the snake (the guy we never counted on-- he has all the lines-- and all the angles, and all the ways to get around our importance and authority. Jean wrote a book about it called "The Snake Has All The Lines". If you want to really laugh, read her long running play "Mary, Mary". I performed the lighting for this show way back in 1966 right after my father died. It was staged at the San Gabriel Little Theatre. It starred Gary and Linda Hamner and David P. Klain. How I miss those wonderful days Here are a few of my favorite Jean Kerr quotes.
"A lawyer is never entirely comfortable with a friendly divorce, anymore than a good mortician wants to finish his job and then have the patient sit up on the table."
" A man speaks only when driven to speech by something outside himself - like, for instance, he can't find any clean socks."
"Being divorced is like being hit by a Mack truck. If you live through it, you start looking very carefully to the right and to the left."
" Do you know how helpless you feel if you have a full cup of coffee in your hand and you start to sneeze?"
"Even though a number of people have tried, no one has ever found a way to drink for a living."
"Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn't permanent.
"I feel about airplanes the way I feel about diets. It seems to me that they are wonderful things for other people to go on."
" I make mistakes; I'll be the second to admit it."
" I think success has no rules, but you can learn a great deal from failure."
I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being skin deep. That's deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas? "
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, it's just possible you haven't grasped the situation.
"Man is the only animal that learns by being hypocritical. He pretends to be polite and then, eventually, he becomes polite. "
"Marrying a man is like buying something you've been admiring for a long time in a shop window. You may love it when you get it home, but it doesn't always go with everything else in the house."
"One of the most difficult things to contend with in a hospital is that assumption on the part of the staff that because you have lost your gall bladder you have also lost your mind.
"Some people have such a talent for making the best of a bad situation that they go around creating bad situations so they can make the best of them.
" The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old. "
"When the grandmothers of today hear the word "Chippendales," they don't necessary think of chairs.
"You don't seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help. "

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Today, marks my 400th blog entry since June of 2006. I would like to write something every day, but things don't happen to me as much as others. If I lived in NYC like my great friend, Tony Westbrook, I am certain that just walking up and down the streets could provide a daily detailed observation. Today marks my favorite voice actor's birthday: the one and only Sterling Holloway.In 1926, the 5-foot-9-inch (1.75 m), 124-pound (56 kg) Holloway moved to Hollywood to a movie career of almost 50 years. He worked with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Lon Chaney Jr, Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Bing Crosby, David Carradine. Though he was a busy movie character actor and an athletic dancer, he soon found his niche as a voice actor. What an amazing voice actor he was! Holloway served in World War II as a member of the Army's Special Services unit. He produced a show for servicemen and toured with it near the front lines in North Africa and Italy.In 1941, he was heard in Dumbo, as the voice of "Mr. Stork." Here is something that I did not know about him: It was the fact that Walt Disney earlier considered Holloway for the role of Sleepy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but story man Pinto Colvig (Pinto was the voice of Goofy later on) ended up getting the job. Of course, I would have never guessed that Goofy's voice could somehow be Sleepy's, but such is the way with voice talent. Sterling was the voice of the adult "Flower" in Bambi, the narrator of the Antarctic penguin sequence in The Three Caballeros, the narrator in the Peter and the Wolf (my all time favorite) sequence of Make Mine Music. He voiced Kaa in The Jungle Book, The narrator in Goliath II, and the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. His Disney Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes are well known. Disney honored him as a Disney legend in 1991. His last narrating credit was the Moonlighting episode Atomic Shakespeare. His last film credit was for the movie Thunder and Lightning. Holloway played the role of Hobe Carpenter, a friendly moonshiner who gets help from Harley Thomas (David Carradine). Wouldn't you know that the last credit a great actor gets to play is something called "Thunder and Lightning"? Today is also significant on Broadway as perhaps the day that more Broadway musicals close on a single day than on any day in Broadway. Scheduled for their last performances today are "Young Frankenstein", "13", "Grease", "Hairspray", "Boeing Boeing", -- a lot biting the dust at once. Of course dear Mel Brooks got a little lofty about "Young Frankenstein" deciding not to report its grosses-- a long held Broadway tradition and trying at one point to get $450.00 a ticket. As my dad used to say "Nothing is colder than the shadow of your last success-- you're bowing and you've forgotten to bring your coat and end up with a nasty cold only ego can provide." Today on this date we lost the great T.S. Elliot, the author of Murder In The Cathedral in 1935, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (my all time favorite poem) and of course as best known today the author of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats--- or "Cats" for short. Today was infamous for the opening and closing in one day (a matinee no less-- not even an evening performance of Mitch Leigh's ("Man of La Mancha") classic flop "Home Sweet Homer"-- what a stinker! How does a guy who writes one of the most classical musicals of all time write a dud like this. The story is quite funny-- not the play ==the behind the scenes. It seems that the producers had attached Yul Brynner to the show under the condition that the show was guaranteed to appear on Broadway. The key word here-- note this carefully contract makers and writers was the word "appear" and not the word "run". The musical opened in Los Angeles and was handed disastrous reviews. But Yul Brynner being a very stubborn man threatened to sue the pants off of every producer and would obtain a cease and desist order from these individuals from producing anything again until the case had been resolved. Oh oh. Now what? Yul Bryner was represented by Irving "Swifty " Lazar and Melvin Belli-- two forces you never messed with in Hollywood. The suit was for sixty-eight million dollars-- a hug sum in 1976-- not so bad today, even. The solution? It "appeared" on Broadway for one Sunday afternoon performance on this very date. Yul Brynner was so angry at seeing the closing notice that he vowed never to appear in a Broadway or other musical ever again and to disavow any knowledge of the composer and of course the producers . In reality does nothing more at all until his death in 1985 of lung cancer. In 1981 another one performance flop opens and closes in one day: That poor musical was Victor Gialanella's,"Frankenstein". Today we lost Barry Fitzgerald in 1961 and today would have been the birthday of one of my all time favorite actors: Mr. William ("What A Revolting Development, this is") Bendex. John and I received our first published copy of our musical "Broadway Angels"-- boy, does it look slick! All bound and ready for the public!