Thursday, September 24, 2009


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


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


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


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


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


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 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"

Sunday, September 13, 2009


They say that all good things must come to an end and tonight after the 7pm performance in New York City at the John Golden Theatre, Avenue Q will close on Broadway after a run of over six years. The show grossed 117 million dollars and every one of its songs are so well known by now.To be precise for the bean counters and sharp pencil boys the show was fully capitalized at $3.5 million and recouped its full investment in ten months on Broadway. As of June 21, the musical had grossed $117,009,852 and had returned $23,500,000 to its investors to date. Major productions have also played Las Vegas, London, Australia and the road. Avenue Q features music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, whom John and I got to meet at an ASCAP workshop at the Disney Studios two years ago. It has a libretto by Jeff Whitty and direction by Jason Moore. Puppets were conceived and designed by original cast member Rick Lyon.
Today is also the birthday of dear sweet Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop (in a rendition of Helen Kane meag hit)) and Olive Oyl of Popeye fame.She was seen by animator Max Fleischer, who was looking for an actress to provide the voice for his Betty Boop character. Mae did that "Boop-boop-a-doop" routine, in a style similar to that of the song's originator, Helen Kane, while at the same time evoking something of the naughty allure of film star Clara Bow, was exactly what Fleischer wanted. From 1931 until 1939, Questel provided the voice of Betty Boop in more than 150 animated shorts. During the 1930s she released a recording of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" which sold more than two million copies. From the mid 1930s Questel also provided the voice for Olive Oyl in the Popeye animated shorts. She based Olive's nasal vocal style, and expressions like "Oh, dear!" on the persona of the legendary character actress ZaSu Pitts, and ultimately played the role for more than 20 years. Questel refused to move to Miami, Florida when Fleischer Studios relocated there in 1938. Margie Hines was the voice of Olive Oyl during the Miami years. Questel returned as the voice of Olive Oyl when Paramount Pictures moved the former Fleischer Studios which became Famous Studios back to New York City. She filled Jack Mercer's shoes as Popeye when Mercer was temporarily drawn into war service. When Hanna-Barbera began making new Popeye cartoons for television in 1978, Questel had to audition for the role of Olive Oyl, and lost out to another voice-over actress.
In addition to her signature voice of Olive Oyl, Questel also provided the voice of Felix the Cat (three shorts produced by Van Beuren Studios), Little Lulu, Little Audrey in their respective animated shorts. In the 1950s, she was the voice to the title character of the interactive, and pioneering Saturday-morning cartoon series Winky Dink and You. A fabulously funny story is told when she appeared onscreen in the 1930s as herself, the most noted being in a 1933 "Hollywood on Parade" short. After she finishes a musical number Bela Lugosi enters in his full Dracula costume and says to her in that wonderful accent he had "You have Booped your Last Boop!" before carrying her off. The job possibility and a second interview fizzled yesterday. It was a commission only position. Who the hell can depend on that? John and I had to drive ina new rental (while my beast was being repaired) all the way to Malibu to see a product tested in a filthy Union Service Station. We saw so many multi-million dollar homes along the way, but can you imagine pu;;ing up to this eyesore in the middle of the most expensive real estate in the world. The restrooms were ungodly. This poor company was trying to sell a car cleaning product at a gas station. They couldn't take credit cards. Now I ask you: how many people have $30.00 cash beyond what they plan to spends on gas? It is a great product, however. And speaking of Malibu did you hear about the bank executive who was using a foreclosed twelve million dollar home that she supervised for Wells Fargo Bank as her personal weekend retreat, even holding a lavish party there. Some people are pure pieces of work. I no longer do business with Wells Fargo and now happy that I don't.
Well, Church is on soon and I need to get ready.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


On this day in 1866, was the premiere of "The Black Crook " now considered to be the first piece of musical theatre ever produced that conforms to the modern notion of a "book musical". The book is by Charles M. Barras (1826-1873), an American playwright. The music is mostly adaptations, but some new songs were composed for the play, notably "March of the Amazons" by Giuseppe Operti, and "You Naughty, Naughty Men", with music by George Bickwell and lyrics by Theodore Kennick.
It opened on September 12, 1866 at the 3,200-seat
Niblo's Garden on Broadway, New York City and ran for a record-breaking 474 performances. It was then toured extensively for decades and revived on Broadway in 1870-71, 1871-72 and many more times after that. It was originally produced by the theatre's manager, William Wheatley, who also directed the piece. The cast also included Annie Kemp Bowler, Charles Morton, Marie Bonfanti, J.W. Blaisdell, E.B. Holmes, Millie Cavendish and George Boniface.This production gave America claim to having originated the musical The Black Crook is considered a prototype of the modern musical in that its popular songs and dances are interspersed throughout a unifying play and performed by the actors.The musical is set in 1600 in the Harz Mountains of Germany. It incorporates elements from Goethe's Faust, Weber's Der Freischütz, and other well-known works. Evil, wealthy Count Wolfenstein seeks to marry the lovely village girl, Amina. With the help of Amina's scheming foster mother Barbara, the Count arranges for Amina's fiancé, Rodolphe, an impoverished artist, to fall into the hands of Hertzog, an ancient, crook-backed master of black magic. Hertzog has made a pact with the Devil-- the first use of this plot device) who is known as Zamiel, "The Arch Fiend": Hertzog can live forever if he provides Zamiel with a fresh soul every New Year's Eve. As Rodolphe is led to this horrible fate, he escapes, discovers a buried treasure, and saves a dove. The dove magically turns out to be none other than Stalacta, Fairy Queen of the Golden Realm, who is pretending to be a bird. The grateful Queen rescues Rudolph by bringing him to fairyland and then reuniting him with his beloved Amina. The Count is defeated, demons drag the evil Hertzog into hell, and Rodolphe and Amina live happily ever after. Today also is the day in 1962 when President John Kennedy made his famous ambition to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We also lost the amazing Johnny Cash on this day in 1963. Where does time go so quickly? Of course all Broadway and Off Broadway theatres were closed on this day, in 2001 the day after 9/11. I was reading a quip by the late great Larry Gelbart. About three years before his actual demise (yesterday September 11th) a press report made an error and actually reported his passing in a major newspaper. The great Larry was quoted the next morning as saying "I was dead, but I'm better now". Well, now he is gone, but he's "better now" making God laugh. Don't forget, Larry actually wrote the screenplay for "Oh, God" starrring the late George Burns and the late John Denver. One of the funniest moments in the film is when George Burns playing God is asked a series of questions by religious leaders to determine if he really is God. They ask him "Has God ever made a mistake?" Now there's a tricky question. Dear Larry, the writer had George say one of the funniest lines ever "Of Course, I 've made mistakes-- take the avacado-- I made the pit too big!" That is just plain honest funny. God rest you, Larry!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today is of course the 8th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies of all time. I remember the morning of Sept 11, 2001 very well. I was working for Hooper Camera way back then in Corbin Village. My friend Tim Doran woke me up that morning and said "Turn On Your television, you're not going to believe it" Yes, it was very hard to believe that the United States of America had been attacked on her own soil by terrorists. Of course, I wrote several songs for that tragic incident in the months that followed including "We Are Different Now" and "City In The Sky"-- and that incredible ballad co-authored with my dear friends Tony Westbrook, Tim Doran and Terry Snyder entitled "Sad Day For The USA" But tonight we lost an absolute Broadway and comedy legend. His name is Larry Gelbart, one of the funniest writers on the planet. He worked with Neil and Danny Simon on early television and wrote some of the greatest Broadway librettos and motion picture screenplays of all time. Quips and one-liners came easy to Mr. Gelbart. He began his career in radio and came of age in the smoky writers' rooms of TV comedy shows of the 1950s: variety shows featuring Bob Hope, Red Buttons and Sid Caesar. The writing staff of "Caesar's Hour" included Neil and Danny Simon, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, who, like Mr. Gelbart, would become American comedy legends. Larry shared three Emmy nominations for comedy writing for "Caesar's Hour." His first brush with Broadway was with the bomb The Conquering Hero, based on the film "Hail, the Conquering Hero." His "Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum", however, was packed with broad vaudeville jokes and situations (drawing on ancient Roman comedy), and the show was a smash. It helped that the cast was filled with clowns like Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford. His 1976 Ben Jonson-inspired low comedy, Sly Fox, starring George C. Scott was revived on Broadway in 2004 (with Richard Dreyfuss). Larry moved the plot (about a greedy miser who seeks the fortunes of all around him) from Renaissance Venice to Gold Rush San Francisco. A multiple Academy Award nominee, Mr. Gelbart wrote or co-wrote screenplays for the films "Neighbors," "The Notorious Landlady," "The Wrong Box," "Not With My Wife, You Don't!," "Movie Movie," "Blame It on Rio, "Oh, God" (which won a writing Oscar nomination), "Tootsie" (sharing a screenwriting Oscar nomination with Murray Schisgal and Don McGuire), and the HBO movies "Barbarians at the Gate," "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and "And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself." He wrote the pilot for the TV series "M*A*S*H," one of the most prolific television shows of all time. And today, on this date, five years ago, we lost one of the finest lyricists of all time. His name was Fred Ebb and his collaboration with John Kander was pure magic. If you listen to "Curtains" one of his best Broadway comedies, you will hear a tribute song to him called "I Miss My Friend." John Kander wrote this with Fred's lyric, but listening to it will entice a tear or two. The Disney Expo goes on this weekend at the Anaheim Convention center. Betty White, one of the original "Golden Girls" and Robin Williams (the voice of the genie in Disney's classic "Alladin") were there picking up their Disney legend awards. Now there is word that the Disney folks will being back Captain Eo, the three dimensional spectacle film that featured Michael Jackson. It's a smart financial move because Jackson is pretty amazingly popular after death. And the current resident film there "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" is getting very tired and barely attracting audiences. I have finished the libretto to "Knocking On Heaven's Door" and I am now working on the libretto to "Valentine" (yes, the saint we honor on February 14th) It's interesting because there is little written about the noble monk. He became friends with an Roman Emperor who would visit him in his cell in ancient Rome in 278-279 AD. I will need to invent some dramatic developments for this show. But so far the lyrics have really turned out well. I am especially proud of the song "Just As God Made Us"-- and today ASCAP awarded me my seventh ASCAP plus cash award that I will receive in January. It's a nice honor as a songwriter.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Today dear Sid Caesar is another year older. The classic comedian who was such an amazing part of early television and classic movies like "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" turns eighty-seven years old today. In the picture is Sid with Mickey Rooney and Carl Reiner at his side. Funny man who continues to make us laugh! Although he's eighty-seven now, dear Sid has remained active by appearing in movies, television shows, at award shows and autograph signings. In 1995 he appeared in the movie The Great Mom Swap. In 1997, he made a guest appearance in National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation and The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit in 1998 based on a Ray Bradbury novel. Also that year, He has outlived Bob Hope and Milton Berle, where the three were greeted with a long standing ovation. He reprised his famous double-talk skit in an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 2001, to which he was received with an extended standing ovation by the crowd, as well as a surprise birthday cake from the cast and crew. In 2003, he joined the late Edie Adams and Marvin Kaplan at a 40th anniversary celebration for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. In 2004, Caesar's second autobiography, 'Caesar's Hours', was published, and in March 2006, Caesar was presented with the 'Pioneer Award' at the 2006 TV Land Awards. Although appearing quite frail, Caesar performed his famous double-talk for over five minutes. Today I have an interview with a company called Tri-Universal-- no, not the movie company, but a marketing company in Carson, which I understand is about forty minutes away from my home here in Van Nuys. Marketing is something I really understand and appreciate. Nothing happens for you without it. And with Creative Horizons, I've been doing lots of it -- twenty-eight campaigns so far. So think good thoughts for me today and keep me in your prayers.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Good old Harry Truman was probably most of the most important presidents of the United States. No US president has ever been this honest or direct. You knew where you stood with Harry without any second guessing, presumptions or guessing games. He was simply as dead honest as Abraham Lincoln (a;though Lincoln was quite the politician, himself) and George Washington, the father of our country. But here is a unique story about Harry that you have probably never heard before. It really tells volumes about the man. Even though we should know that Harry Truma was a very different kind of President. "Give 'em Hell Harry" probably made as many, or mor important decisions regarding our nations history as any of the other forty-two Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his ultimate greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House. The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence, Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than thei years in the White House, Beth and Harry Truman lived their entire lives there. When Harry retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year. After President Eisenhower was inaugurated Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them. When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."Even later, on May 6, 1971 , when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor, on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I dont consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise." As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food. Modern> politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale. -- like in dear old Illinois ) Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell you the truth,there's hardly any difference! I say dig him up and clone him!! This is for discussion. I'm sure Lincoln and Washington would agree. Hell, they might even be there with the first shovels!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


My favorite songwriters in the entire world are Robert and Richard Sherman. I was twelve years old when I heard my first Sherman tune. The song was "Mr. Piano Man" sung by the amazing Annette Funicello. It was lively. It was fun. It had a catchy tune and a great lyric. I had also loved "You're Sixteen" by Johnny Burnett recorded in the late 1950's and later made famous all over again by the one and only Ringo Starr. Now because songwriting has always been exciting to me, one of my first reactions was to find out exactly who had written this wonderful song.. By the time Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color had premiered on my birthday in 1960, I was asking "Who are those guys?" Who are Richard and Robert Sherman? I kept listening. Disney released "The Parent Trap" and by this time, I was their biggest fan. I liked everything they wrote. The tunes of "Ugly Bug Ball" sung by the legendary Burl Ives and the song "For Now, For Always" in "The Parent Trap" were constantly circulating in my head. So now turn the clock forward. By the year 1984, I was really into writing for musical theatre big time-- even an Off-Broadway show. We attracted investors for this show from this venue and we were all set to go on: The Minskoff Theatre, Broadway USA. And then? The bottom dropped out and we lost our production for the lack of two hundred and fifty-four thousand dollars. The investor had withdrawn the money due to illness and we could not find another investor in time. The theatre was painted and the marquee was up. And then, the dream fell apart. But they don't call me "Tenacity Jones" for nothing (but that's another story) I don't stop writing at this point: I just direct the creativity into commercial jingles for famous products like Dr. Pepper and Oscar Meyer hot dogs. In 1989, I was operating a literary agency. Among many others, I represented the late great Morey Amsterdam who wrote hundreds of songs and was living off the income of three including the best of them all "Rum and Coca Cola". By sheer chance, I was invited to a songwriter's social function in 1993 and saw a young man with dark hair and expressive eyes who wore the name tag "Robert Sherman". I have never been afraid of asking questions. So I walked up to this stranger and asked : "By any chance are you related to the amazing songwriter Robert Sherman?" He looked right at me and said "Why, yes I am; he's my father!" At that point, I begin flooding him with a fan's enthusiastic information and trivia questions that not even he can answer. I guess I impressed him. Robbie was also a brilliant songwriter and he soon became my client as well. I did get to meet his dad (one of my heroes) in November of the following year. Richard and Robert were preparing a show at that time called "Busker Alley" and they working very hard for it's opening on Broadway at the Saint James Theatre. It was to be produced by Fran and Barry Weissler. Yes, the same folks who pulled a closing stunt with Christine Applegate in the revival of "Sweet Charity". The very first production of "Busker Alley" on the road to Broadway was to be at the Mccaulley Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky on April 7th of 1995. It It was to star dear (now old) icon Tommy Tune and the late great Marcia Lewis. It was to be choreographed by Tony Walton. Long story short, the production journey ended in Tampa after Tommy Tune broke his foot. That "broken foot' could have easily healed before Broadway, but all the investors pulled out. Barry and Fran -- what were you thinking? This poor old musical had gone through more title changes ("Stage Door Charley, "Buskers, etc) than you could ever imagine. Now flash forward to November 13, 2006 when a one night only performance was staged by the York Theatre starring Jim Dale and featuring a cameo by Glenn Close. It was directed by Tony Walton. Now the musical had new life. The song score had been incredibly improved and revised. Jim Dale was to star as Charlie. On September 1, of this year, the current producers pulled a Barry and Fran and announced that they were cancelling the show and returning all sponsorship and investment money due to the death of one of the writers and the illness of another. The late AJ Carothers, the original librettist had died two years before: a given even before negotiations had even begun between the remaining parties. And Robert Sherman at eighty-three simply had an advanced bout with Gout. Why Broadway producers continue to pull the stunts of David Merrick, "The Abominable Showman" amaze me. Don't they realize what they do to the creative process?
But don't worry about "Busker Alley". To quote the great Robert Sherman "It has had more life than a Cheshire Cat" and it will find new investors. Had I the money, I would writing the check right now. All by myself! That's how much I believe in "The Boys" -- Richard and Robert Sherman: the song team that gave us more memorable tunes than George M. Cohan. They are busy at work on new shows as well including a Broadway staging of their classic movie "The Slipper and the Rose" . What a great show! What a great time! Walt Disney would be proud of you!