Sunday, August 30, 2009

Today, August 31st, Alan Jay Lerner would have turned ninety years old. He died when he was sixty-seven years old. He died absolutely penniless and owed the IRS at the time of his death over one million dollars. The picture at the left is that of dear Mr. Lerner collaborating with his great friend Frederick Lowe. After the sheer stress of "Camelot", Frederick Lowe retired and that was the virtual end of two of the most prolific teams in musical theatre. history. Mr. Lowe absolutely resisted Alan Jay Lerner's desire to direct as well as write. Camelot was a hit nonetheless, with a poignant coda; immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, his widow told Life magazine that JFK's administration reminded her of the "one brief shining moment" of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. To this day, Camelot is invoked to describe the idealism, romance, and tragedy of the Kennedy years. So with their direction issue not resolved between them Loewe kept his word and retired to Palm Springs, California while Lerner went through a series of unsuccessful musicals with such composers as André Previn (Coco), John Barry (Lolita, My Love), Leonard Bernstein (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue , Burton Lane (Carmelina) and the absolute disaster co-written with dear Charles Strouse called Dance a Little Closer, based on the film, Idiot's Delight, nicknamed "Close A Little Faster" by Broadway wags because it closed on opening night). Most biographers blame Lerner's professional decline on the lack of not only a strong composer but a strong director whom Lerner could collaborate with, as Neil Simon did with Mike Nichols or Stephen Sondheim did with Harold Prince (Moss Hart who had directed My Fair Lady, died shortly after Camelot opened). In 1965 Lerner collaborated again with Burton Lane for a modest success on the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which was adapted for film in 1970. Lerner was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. John Nugent and I called upon the fact of Alan Jay Lerner's eight failed marriages in our own musical "A Little Bit Of Broadway" to base the character of Chester Moore upon. That musical is getting a lot of attention lately and we are gearing up for a big stage production next year in San Gabriel. Our first pro show. It's now completely re-written and other theatres in considering it have called it "compelling" and "memorable". Some theatres are wishing we'd dump the gay element of the show, but that isn't going to happen any time soon. Today would also have been the birthday of dear Buddy Hackett. The picture of him here is from the Walt Disney movie "The Love Bug". I met him once with that film's star Dean Jones selling them both a camera and he was so damn funny and one more thing-- gracious as anyone in show business I have ever met. Did you know that when Curly Howard of the Three Stooges had a stroke, the part of Curly was offered to Buddy and he turned that opportunity down. He also played Lou Costello in an acclaimed television movie called Bud and Lou in which the late Harvey Korman played Bud Abbott. Oh by the way: another story about Alan Jay Lerner: In 1973, he coaxed Fritz Loewe out of retirement to augment the Gigi score for a musical stage adaptation. The following year they collaborated on a musical film version of The Little Prince, based on the classic children's tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This film was a critical and box office failure, but has gained a modern following. Alan's autobiography The Street Where I Live (written in 1978), was an account of three of his and Loewe's successful collaborations, My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot along with personal information. In the last year of his life he published The Musical Theatre: A Celebration, a well-reviewed history of the theatre replete with personal anecdotes and his trademark wit. Interesting note: At the time of Lerner's death, Alan Jay had just begun to write lyrics for for Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera", and was replaced by Charles Hart. Now how interesting might that have made the legendary show. He also had been working with Gerard Kenny in London on a musical version of the classic film My Man Godfrey. Believe it or not Alan Jay had turned down an invitation to write the English-language lyrics for the musical version of Les Misérables. Oh my! The things that we do versus what we turn down in our lives!

Friday, August 28, 2009


Last night I was able to visit the Magic Castle in Hollywood and I had such a wonderful time. There on old Franklin Street near the classic icon United Methodist Church stands this great old relic-- an old house now converted to the most wonderful tribute to magic ever conceived. You haven't lived until you walk the halls, have a drink at one of the bars and go up down the old staircases. And you are in for a treat when you visit dear old Irma, the invisible piano player. She's a great illussion that really delights everyone who comes here. The painting of W.C. Fields on one of the walls is a pure delight. The play that I saw there was really great-- good going Bonnie and cast. When planning the trip, I knew in advance that my uncle Lyall and my dear cousin Jimmy Crabe had been associated with him over the years, but little did i know that Jim and dear Mr. Larsen had been boyhood friends. My cousin Jim was born in May of 1931 and Milt had been born in April of the same year. Milt had a large family of magicians and my cousin developed his talent. My dear cousin was an amazing magician and an absolute gentleman. My few encounters with him upfront and personal were always moments of joy -- Jim was always more interested in what YOU were doing than what he could be possibly be doing and my cousin was the cinematographer for a few movies, you just might have heard of-- like "Save The Tiger", "WW and the Dixie Dancekings", "Rocky", "Thank God, It's Friday!" "The China Syndrome" and "The Karate Lid" Part One and two. It turns out that Richard Sherman and Milt are the best of friends and of course I am an amazing fans of both Richard and Robert Sherman. My cousin Jim did a whole wealth of television mini-series also like "George Washington, the Forging of a Nation!" and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman. My dear cousin exited this weary world on May 2, 1989 due to complications of AIDS. But I still think of him, because he always made me feel like a champion and always supported my creative ventures as well. God love you, Jim--you've been away twenty years this year and you are so missed. Someday, if God id willing I will build something in your honor. And thank you, Milt for being so kind and wonderful to talk to. It was a delight meeting you and a real highlight of my humble life. I continue to write knowing that our journeys on earth are short-- and we need to make the most of what the dear Lord has given to each of us. Jimmy certainly did and it appears that Milt keeps doing it every day of his life. Keep creating, Milt. Keep forging ahead.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Well after living almost sixty-two years, I am finally getting the opportunity to visit "The Magic Castle". John's friend, Bonnie Gordon is performing in a production of "The Fantasticks" at one of their larger stages there tonight and John's mother, Mary (God love her) is providing the money to go there to see the show. My cousin (the late James Aubrey Crabe) was a member there before his untimely demise in 1990. I was always (and still am) so proud of my cousin, Jim, the son of my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Lyall. He was always such a gentleman. I remember his gentle sweet spirit and amazing good heart. Jim was always more interested in you than he ever was in himself. He was a master magician and knew Milt Larsen, the Magic Castle's founder. Larsen used to stage a great show called "It's Magic" at the old Variety Arts Club Theatre that my uncle and cousin used to always participate in. My cousin went on to become a world famous Hollywood motion picture cinematographer on such movies as "Rocky". "The Karate Kid", "Save The Tiger", "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman" and of "The China Syndrome". Cousin Jim invented the process for filming inside of a meat freezer. Do you remember how wonderful those scenes in Rocky were when Stalone is punching the sides of beef? Someday I would love to build a tribute to him in a theatre type complex. I can say forthwith that my cousins have all been amazing. As for the castle itself the building is an authentic Chateau-style mansion built in 1909 as a near duplicate of the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens in Redlands, California. It was taken over in 1963 by Milt Larsen, who began converting it to its present state.The Magic Castle houses the Academy of Magical Arts.The mission statement of the Academy of Magical Arts reads:"The Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. has been and will continue to be the premier organization in the world dedicated to the art of MAGIC. We are an organization which promotes the art of magic, encourages fellowship and maintains the highest ethical standards. We provide a friendly environment where members and their guests can enjoy the art and each other's company. Our goals and objectives are to advance the art and promote a positive image of magic and magicians worldwide."The Castle, located in the hills above Hollywood, is a popular destination for local and visiting magicians. Its first and largest illusion is its size -- the building appears much larger inside than it does from the outside. However, not everyone will have the opportunity to observe this, as the Magic Castle is a private club and only members and their guests are admitted. (Members can sponsor groups for special events as well.) A strict dress code (coat and tie for men, cocktail attire for women) is enforced, but the atmosphere inside among magicians is not formal.
One of the Castle's most famous members was the late Dai Vernon, an expert in sleight of hand, who often sat in the bar area entertaining and teaching. Vernon was the Magician-in-Residence at the Castle for many years, up until his death in 1992. Other famous magicians who have been regular performers at the Magic Castle include Mark Wilson, Jay Ose, Senator Crandall, Johnny Platt, Kuda Bux, and Billy McComb. Many "celebrity magic hobbyists" have also performed at the Magic Castle, including Cary Grant, Steve Martin, Johnny Carson, and recently Jason Alexander of Seinfeld. The top magicians in the world perform in several different formats, including an intimate close-up room, a larger parlour, and a grand stage. Informal performances around the 5 bars give magicians the opportunity to learn from and impress peers. Magician members interested in magical research have access to a substantial library of resources. The Magic Castle is also known for its Junior Program (the Magic Castle Junior Group). The Junior Group comprises highly skilled young magicians, many of whom have gone on to be well-known performers and professionals.The Junior Group consists of many members, some of which are: Edsel Chiu, Michael Stern, Aaron Rabkin, Kyle Eschen, Sean Trinh, Nathan Gibson, Mike Jacobson, Ben Jackson, Rmax Goodwin, Thomas Neal, Miles Santoro and there are also 2 auditions a year where magicians from around the world come and try out to be admitted to the program.
At the Castle, visiting non-magicians can see the best of magic being performed close up. The lobby of the Castle has no visible doors to the interior, and one must say a secret phrase to an owl to gain access, exposing the entrance to the club. Once inside, visitors can go to any of the five different shows, each of which changes weekly, where magicians exhibit their skills, and can listen to Irma, a piano-playing ghost that takes requests.
Magicians must audition to join the Academy of Magical Art and the Castle. Non-magicians can join, but only as associate members.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The last of the Kennedy Brothers has gone to his reward at age seventy-seven-- quietly in his sleep with his family at his side. Thank you, God for that. Now, you may have disagreed with his politics and his beliefs. You may have thought he was far too liberal. You may have criticized any aspect of his life, but you could not look down upon his personal courage, dedication and honesty. When Ted Kennedy gave his word, it was the purest bond you could possibly receive. He served his country in the same seat as his amazing brother. the former president of the United States in glorious service. He worked tirelessly for the cause of the common man. The reunion he will know enjoy with Joe, with Robert and of course with John should be magnificent. The Kennedy family has been cursed over the years with great tragedy . Were the sins of the father the reason for all of this? Perhaps so, because Joseph Kennedy, Sr. had a reputation that was far from honorable. Thank the living God that his sons and daughters rose above power and politics. Yes, all were human. All had scandal associated with their names with the possible exception of Eunice. But all showed great personal courage at the time that courage was most needed by their country. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the world could have certainly been plunged into World War Three by a maverick decision to invade Cuba. John Kennedy took the wiser route and saved the world. Russia had nothing to lose-- they were only holding on by a shoe string at best. And so, Mr. Kennedy, I salute you, sir. You served your nation well. You worked diligently for freedom and justice for all. You worked quietly and most nobly for all of us in every state and with every view of politics. You voted your conscience and your heart-- something not done often by politicians today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Today way back in 1960 we lost our beloved Oscar Hammerstein: perhaps the finest lyricist and libretto (book) creator of any artist in songwriting history. Richard Rodgers did not again enjoy the success of any Broadway show after Oscar's untimely demise from stomach cancer. Today, with the advancement of science, we could have saved his life.

He died at age 65, his final musical, The Sound of Music having recently opened. Besides the aforementioned work, Hammerstein collaborated with composer Richard Rodgers on such other musicals as Oklahoma!, Carousel, the Pulitzer-winning South Pacific, and The King And I. Before he joined forces with Rodgers, Hammerstein worked successfully with several other composers. The most popular of these earlier works and collaborations is his 1927 musical with Jerome Kern, Show Boat. On August 31, for the first time since World War II, all lights in and around Times Square and the theatre district will be turned off for one minute in honor of this Broadway legend. Today also would have been the 97th birthday of genius performer Gene Kelly who's amazing contributions to "Singing In The Rain" and countless other MGM classics are stuff of pure legend. It was a quiet hot Sunday today and felt a little down, but feel better this evening. I am debating on whether to officially retire at age 62 -- because finding a job is really really hard. You must apply on line and nobody seems to be giving interviews that really matter. I decided against the ADT offer-- driving sixty nine miles per day on the chance of making a sale is just too much risk. Our deadline approaches quickly for Vermont on Wednesday. I hope we make it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Today is Ray Bradbury's 89th birthday, the amazing science fiction and fantasy author who was close friends with Walt Disney. Happy Birthday, dear Ray. What an amazing life you have had. I got to meet him once at a premiere of one his stories being adapted as a musical of all things called "Dandelion Wine" But I loved his other stories like "Something Wicked This way Comes" and "Fahrenheit 451". The Disney Studios tried to make a film adaptation of "Something Wicked", but under the Disney label they simply could not properly explore the much darker areas of the masterpiece novel. Having been influenced by science fiction heroes like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, Ray began to publish science fiction stories in fanzines in 1938. Ray was invited by Forrest J Ackerman to attend the now legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria Science Fiction Club. This was where Ray met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson. His first published story was "Hollerbochen's Dilemma", which appeared in the fan magazine Imagination! in January, 1938. Launching his own fanzine in 1939, titled Futuria Fantasia, he wrote most of its four issues, each limited to under a hundred copies. Ray Bradbury's first paid piece, "Pendulum", written with Henry Hasse, was published in the pulp magazine Super Science Stories in November, 1941, for which he earned $15.He became a full-time writer by the end of 1942. His first book, Dark Carnival, a collection of short works, was published in 1947 by Arkham House, a firm owned by writer August Derleth. A chance encounter in a Los Angeles bookstore with the British expatriate writer Christopher Isherwood gave Bradbury the opportunity to put The Martian Chronicles into the hands of a respected critic. Isherwood's glowing review followed and substantially boosted Bradbury's career.
Ray Bradbury married Marguerite McClure (1922–2003) in 1947, and they had four daughters. To date, Bradbury has never obtained a driver license. And today is kind of a funny memorial too-- for on this day in 1902, an American president of the United States too his first ride anywhere in an automobile. It was of course Teddy Roosevelt. Still on the look for work. I applied at Henry's yesterday, a new grocery Trader Joe's type of place that's opening in Burbank. I heard nothing from Trader Joe's itself. I also applied to Kelly's Paper in Burbank. Everything you apply for now is on line except the one interview that I got for a furniture store assistant manager job. Still hoping for that one. I was considering being a qualifier for ADT alarm company, but I just couldn't justify driving into Signal Hill everyday at 68 miles round trip without guarantee of at least minimum wage. Keep good thoughts for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Significant things have always happened in my life on the nineteenth of every month-- good things and bad things. The 19th of October was my mother and father's wedding anniversary, though my three sisters always get that date confused with the date of my dear mother's birthday: October 25th. I do remember that on August 19th 1977 we lost the one and only Groucho Marx. Groucho was so amazingly funny. He once described the perfect woman as: someone who looks like Marilyn Monroe and talks like George S. Kauffman. Yes, I can hear it: George who? George S. Kauffman was one of the funniest playwrights of all times.He won the Pulitzer Prize. He was the early Neil Simon. His collaboration with Moss Hart on such plays as "The Man Who Came To Dinner" and "George Washington Slept Here" are absolute classics of the theatre. I'm sure that dear old Groucho would have howled about the recent story that has just come out in the news about the man who years and years ago bought the crypt from Joe Dimaggio above Marilyn Monroe's at Forest Lawn in Glendale and insisted that when he died that he was to be burried "upside down" in his coffin, secured tightly by steel bars in his casket to secure himself to remain in an upside down position so that for all eternity he could "be on top of Marilyn Monroe"-- and now his late wife is going to move his body to where she is buried and sell the empty grave site. Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo. Dear Groucho developed a routine as a wise cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint moustache and eyebrows, and an ever-present cigar, improvising insults to stuffy dowagers (often played by Margaret Dumont) and anyone else who stood in his way. As the Marx Brothers, he and his brothers starred in a series of popular stage shows and movies.Their first movie was a silent film made in 1919 that was never released, and believed to have been destroyed at the time. A decade later, the team made some of their Broadway hits into movies, including The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers . Other successful films were Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera.One quip from Marx concerned his response to Sam Wood, the director of the classic film A Night at the Opera. Furious with the Marx Brothers' ad-libs and antics on the set, Wood yelled in disgust: "I cannot make actors out of clay." Without missing a beat, Groucho responded, "Nor can you make a director out of Sam Wood."Groucho worked as a radio comedian and show host. One of his earliest stints was in a short-lived series in 1932 Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel, co-starring Chico. Most of the scripts and discs were thought to have been destroyed, but all but one of the scripts were found in 1988 in the Library of Congress.In 1947, the year I was born my hero Groucho was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC television in 1950. Filmed before a live audience, the television show consisted of Marx interviewing the contestants and ad libbing jokes, before playing a brief quiz. The show was responsible for the phrases "Say the secret woid [word] and divide $100" (that is, each contestant would get $50); and "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" or "What color is the White House?" (asked when Marx felt sorry for a contestant who had not won anything). It ran for eleven years on television.
Dearest Groucho was the subject of an urban legend, about a supposed response to a contestant who had over a dozen children which supposedly brought down the house. In response to Marx asking in disbelief why she had so many children, the contestant replied "I love my husband," to which Marx responded, "I love my cigar, but I take it out once in a while." Another interview today In Encino and if it goes well, it will manifest that good things do happen for me on the 19th of each month.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Although only scheduled for three days for August 15, 16, and 17th, the amazing Woodstock concert was actually extended one additional morning, the morning of August 18th, forty years ago today. Days of Peace & Music", held at Max Yasgur's 600 acre (2.4 km²; 240 ha, 0.94 mi²) dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York from August 15 to August 18, 1969. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 300,000 concert-goers. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most pivotal moments in popular music history and was listed on Rolling Stones 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.The event was captured in the successful 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock" which commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.The absolute legend Jimi Hendrix was the very last to play, ceremonially burning his instrument at the conclusion of his performance. He was preceded The Who --who performed their rock opera "Tommy" in its entirety. Interestingly enough the lyric "see me, feel me, touch me, heal me" occur ed as the sun began to rise over the distant mountains: an occurrence Roger Daltrey still cites to this day as one of the most moving moments of his entire career. Quite a day for rock and roll music history. Today also is the birthday of Antonio Salieri --the chief nemesis (rumored assassin) of dear old Mozart. I wonder what the old boy would have made of Woodstock. Italian composers of Mozart's day couldn't even understand a chromatic line. And speaking of those who were clueless: today is the day that George H.W. Bush nominated Dan Quayle to be his running mate: what were they thinking of? Oh well, and its also the 89th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment: giving women the right to vote. Women have accomplished a lot in eighty-nine short years. Happy Birthday to dear Patrick Swayze who's sheer guts and determination have landed him another year of living. A interview in Signal Hill happens for me today and I am thankful for it! Until next time!