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 Hervé 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.