Friday, December 31, 2010

THE LAST DAY OF ANOTHER YEAR


Another year ends in less than two hours. It's been a really tough one for me. I lost a car, lost a job, lost revenue on a great musical, and yet, my faith in God remains at all time high. Why? Well for one thing, I have an absolutely amazing writing partner: John Nugent. He is so absolutely brilliant and talented and kind and patient. I am the luckiest man in the world because I am connected with him. The odds in finding him: one billion million to one. I am also grateful that my very first collaborator: Randy Ames was spared death with his very recent massive heart attack. I have written some of the most beautiful songs in the world with this man. I only wish things had been more successful with him, but because my dearest God has everything in His Hands and plans, it just wasn't time back then. I pray a lot these days. I tell God that if I am ever very succesful, I will do my very best to give to others as much as he has given to me. Yeah, my life has been very hard, but I also have had some incredible blessings. I was spared death in 2006 when driving home on Halloween night, a woman turned in front of me making an ilegal left turn. I hit her broadside, but with God's amazing blessings, I didn't have a scratch. I didn't even break my glasses. She was uninsured and the cop at the scene was trying to score with her, and the car had six grand worth of damages-- but I was spared. God loves me a lot. He sends me great challenges, but he also gives me the sure way to overcome all of them. My blessings exist with my longtime companion and my dear friend, Tim Doran. He's the one who has made it possible for me to be a songwriter. I have challenges to face already in 2011, but with God's help, I will. Someday all of the sad days and disappointments will fade away. I am hoping that the new musical that John Nugent and I have written will really be successful when it opens at Mulholland Middle Theatre in February will really be successful. It's called "The Bremen town Boys" and is really a very funny musical spoof. Our web site for the musical is http://www.bementownboys.com/ and I would love every one who reads my blogs will consider coming to it and really have a great time. Our dear friend David Marc is in the show. David is our good luck charm. And maybe my manager, jimmy wil sell my television series "First Mother" to Lanie Kazan. So, I thank God tonight for all of his many blessings. My glass will held tonight as John Nugent and break open the champaigne and toast 2011. It's got to be a better year than 2010. Bless all of you who read these words of mine. They are an observation on things I see and hear. I retired this year and i never thought i would eber have to do that, but i go where God leads me. i trust in him, totally!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Christmas Belongs To You"

Christmas 2010 for me was a lonely Christmas. for me! Perhaps the saddest Christmas since my my mother was killed at Christmas in 1974. It all came due to some eye issues that I had developed and after having a car repossessed after losing my job last year. Add to that a current vehicle from 1995 that is not very freeway friendly. So there were no visits to my three sisters and no visits to my nieces or nephews and no visits to great nieces and nephews. It was indeed a lonely Christmas. My sisters seem to stay within their own immediate families and not one member of my family actually went to see one of the others and that hasn't happened ever in my memory. Way back in 1996, I had a nervous breakdown and spent all of December of 1996 and all of January 1997 in a hospital and then a halfway house in Inglewood . The hospital was Gateway Hospital and the Halfway House was Excelsior House not far from the race track. Gateway Hospital was an interesting place that helped me to calm down and actually begin to forget my troubles. My business had failed miserably and very suddenly and it was of the worst crashes of my life. Excelsior House held a lot of great memories. I actually had the calmest thirty days in that facility tan I had ever known. There were no worries there. There were kind, good and wonderful counselors. I remember an amazing black gentleman who gave me a wonderful saying that went "Everyday above ground is a great day!" I made several friends. I only wish know that I had kept up with them. But even Christmas there, I had visits from my entire family. Not this year. everybody seemed troubled. Everybody seemed too busy and my youngest sister was so not in the mood for Christmas, she failed to put up a tree or wrap a single gift. I know why, and trust me, i wish I could have done something to solve her problems instantly. If I were rich, or even comfortable, my dear sisters would never have to ask for a single thing. I would be right there to solve their problems. Why that is hard for them to really understand that is a mystery. We were raised close as kids-- really close. My mother and dad were absolute champions of generosity. They wouldn't have given you everything they had and more. Even when my dad was hopelessly out of work when we were kids, there were always piles of presents and a huge tree and festive decorations. And the food? It was incredible. My mother made her own lasagna and egg plant Parmesan-- wow was that great! And she made home made pizza too-- now that ladies and gentlemen was absolute heaven. But there was no real warmth this Christmas. But I was so grateful to my long time companion who gave me a very special and totally unselfish Christmas present and my dear partner, John Nugent continues to amaze and thrill me with his incredible musical talent. We have now completed the casting on "The Bremen Town Boys" and I am so happy for that. We had many actors quit, it was getting to be really desperate. We have an amazing director in Cat Deobler. She is really amazing. And just as thought things were calming down, I get the news that my very first musical collaborator had a very serious and life threatening heart attack. He's only 55 years old. Wow-- life is certainly not a dress rehearsal. I love Randy so much. We have written some of the most beautiful songs together including the most special song of all that we wrote together in 1981 called "Christmas Belongs To You' I always thought that this song would have been discovered and become a Christmas classic song. I can't believe hopw many years I have been at this! Oh yes-- Eight hundred songs later. I'm still writing. I'm still trying to make it again. It isn't easy. I pray to God that a miracle happens soon. In the meantime, on we go and "The Bremen Town Boys" will go on in February to a fabulous audience. It's a very funny show with a lot of laughs and honest humor. All happens in Van Nuys at a new 136 seat theatre. Let's make this a great event! Come see it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANNY SIMON


For five grand and glorious years, I was a student of a comedy genius. His name was Danny Simon. Few people have been such an influence in my life as he. Danny was a sweet man who also could be tough as fingernails on a black board. But that was good for you. That made you learn. That made you work harder than you might off. As a librettist and playwright today, I call upon his principles and his rules of writing every single day of my life. That was especially true the day when I pitched a "Golden Girls" to the producers of that show, I slew them with this one: I was asked by them to come up with a funny premise for two of the characters of the show: Sophia and Dorothy. Thinking like crazy I thought about a showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" which my then room mate at the time had gone to see the night before at midnight. So I blurt out "Sophia and Dorothy are caught in a Rocky Horror Picture show line" Now you may not know that once you would get into one of these lines there is (because of security reasons) no getting out. You get into it-- you stay in it) The producers smiled and said "That smells funny!" Ah, ha, I thought, Danny had used that term all the time in class. So I continued. "Dorothy and Sophia are caught in a "Rocky Picture Show line and are compelled to go into the theatre with all of these crazy kids. The producers kept smiling. Then one of them asked me "What would Sophia say after she was forced to watch this odd classic?" In my best Sophia voice at the time I blurted out "All of these crazy kids pointed at me and went "Virgin, Virgin". That's like pointing at Queen Elizabeth and saying "Pretty, Pretty." They were on the floor. Danny Simon was my hero and now I am good friends with his ex- wife Arlene-- and she's a hoot all by herself! Danny's daughter Valerie was also my special friend. Born in 1918, Danny began as a delivery boy before he got a job of doing publicity which brought him into contact with those who would help launch him and his brother into the celebrity sphere. Danny and Neil got a job writing for the Robert Q. Lewis Radio Show and went on to write for comics like Milton Berle, Henry Youngman, Dick Shawn and others. They were hired to do the Phil Silver’s Arrow Show by a young producer, Ernie Gluxman. As Danny says, “from then on, we never stopped working.” Next it was with that classic Hollywood personality Tallulah Bankheard in a nine-year stint with his brother as one of the funniest comedy writing teams in New York. Neil wanted to stay in the Big apple, so when Danny left for Hollywood, Neil featured him in Come Blow Your Horn, the first of six plays that featured his brother. Meanwhile, Danny found plenty of opportunity in California. He became the head writer for the Danny Thomas Show, crafted humor for Ann Southern and, as he says, “went from show to show doing over twenty-five different ones including Carol Burnett.”
Danny’s success at being a writer inspired others to hire him to direct in theatres around the country. He brought down the house in Plaza Suite with Carol Burnett and George Kennedy and he took a play he wrote and directed, Catch a Star, to the Broadway stage.When a friend asked him to come and talk to his comedy writing class, Danny was “very nervous because I never went to college and I was sure the students would laugh at me.” Indeed, they laughed. But not at him. Instead Danny became a popular comedy writing teacher, traveling to locations around the world to teach at colleges and training institutes. Now, that he’s moved to Portland, his one regret is that he had to discard over 2000 adoring letters from his students. Though there was'n’t enough space in his apartment at the Rose Schnitzer Manor, for the letters, there’s plenty of room for accolades. Like the one from Woody Allen who said, “I learned a few things on my own since, and modified some of the things he taught me, but I learned about comedy writing, unequivocally, from Danny Simon.” Danny knew the secret of comedy. He used to say that you should “write with the sense of humor you were born with.” He loved Everybody Loves Raymond because the show’s humor came from the personalities and was then stretched. The best comedy is exaggerated truth that fits the character. Everything starts with the truth.”With a twinkle in his eye and a charming smile, the Danny used to say that this comedy writing technique worked for his brother, too saying “Neil writes about people he knew and understood and he is much funnier that I am...he has a brilliant sense of humor.” The brother’s success doesn’t come from one liners. Theirs is a brand of humor that emerges from characters who tell outrageous, yet believable stories.
Ernest Borgnine, Don Rickles, Vivian Vance...the list goes on and on. But Danny is not content to rest on his very many accomplishments, he’s busy at work, starting a senior theatre company in the retirement home. He has many good actors to choose from because Phil Silver’s cousin and others who love performing also live there. Whatever happens with the theatre company, Danny is happy. In his understated, writer-type of way, he says, “It’s been a nice life.” Thanks, Danny, for adding so much humor to ours. Thanks, Danny for being the very best teacher that I ever had. I will keep your principles alive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010



Pretty scary looking? Well. some nuns can be. Some of the ones that I had as a kid were really strict and when you got an expression like this one, you just knew that you were in trouble. John and I have decided to stage "Broadway Angels" as our second vehicle at our new playhouse in Van Nuys. "Broadway Angels" is the story of six cloistered Dominican nuns whose convent sits on some very oil rich land. A greedy cardinal discovers the sister's convent is sitting on some of the valuable oil rich land in the world. So he plots to evict the sisters and take the land for himself. The sisters need a miracle pronto! And so they invoke in prayer their favorite saint Saint Michael, the Archangel who brings Gabriel along for the ride. Michael asks God for a very special miracle for his favorite nuns. The miracle will make the nuns rich. God's instructions, however are a bit odd-- the nuns must buy a vacant Broadway theatre with the miracle money. Now all of that might be okay if the deserted theatre were being used as a convent and chapel as the nuns plan. But with the devil's interference, the city insists that the theatre which is an historical landmark must be be used as a Broadway theatre or remain vacant. Now what? What kind of show would a group of cloistered Dominican nuns be able to stage. The result is the basis of our musical. Did some Christmas shopping this day for my companion John and I had a nice lunch with my great friend Tim Doran. Second rehearsal for "Bremen Town Boys" and a few more auditions. Sure hope we can find all of the actors that we need. Weather here is bleak and cloudy. I miss the sun and the warmth of California.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

HAPPY 75th BIRTHDAY WOODY ALLEN


Today is Woody Allen's 75th birthday. What an amazing comedy legend he has become. A student of Danny Simon's, Woody has long ago acknowledged dear Danny with this quote: "I've altered a few things and changed a few principles around, but unequivocally everything I ever learned about comedy writing, I learned from Danny Simon- and he's a nice man too! After Woody's false starts at NYU and City College, he became a full-time writer for Herb Shriner, earning $75 a week at first.] At the age of 19, he started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, specials for Sid Caesar post-Caesar's Hour (1954–1957), and other television shows.[ By the time he was working for Caesar, he was making $1500 a week; with Caesar he worked alongside Danny Simon. In 1961, he started a new career as a stand-up comedian, debuting in a Greenwich Village club called the Duplex. Examples of Allen’s stand up act can be heard on the albums Stand up Comic and Nightclub Years 1964–1968 (including his classic routine entitled “The Moose”). Allen wrote for the popular Candid Camera television show, and appeared in some episodes. Together with his managers, Allen developed a neurotic, nervous, and intellectual persona for his stand-up routine, a successful move which secured regular gigs for him in nightclubs and on television. Woody started writing short stories and cartoon captions for magazines such as The New Yorker; he was particularly inspired by the tradition of four prominent New Yorker’s humorists, S. J. Perelman George S. Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Max Shulman, whose material he modernized. Woody is also an accomplished author having published four collections of his short pieces and plays. These are Getting Even, Without Feathers, Side Effects and Mere Anarchy. His early comic fiction was heavily influenced by the zany, pun-ridden humour of S.J. Perelman. Allen brought significant innovation to the comedy monologue genre and his stand-up comedy is considered highly influential He also became a successful Broadway playwright and wrote Don't Drink the Water in 1966. It starred Lou Jacobi, Kay Medford, Anita Gillette and Allen’s future movie co-star Anthony Roberts. A film adaptation of the play, directed by Howard Morris, was released in 1969 starring Jackie Gleason Because he was not particularly happy with the (1969) film version of his play, in 1994 Allen directed and starred in a third version for television, with Michael J. Fox and Mayim Bialik.The next play Woody wrote that was produced on Broadway was Play It Again, Sam, which he also starred in. The play opened on February 12, 1969, and ran for 453 performances. It also featured Diane Keaton and Anthony Roberts. Allen, Keaton and Roberts would reprise their roles in the film version of the play, directed by Herbert Ross. For its March 21 issue, Life featured Allen on its cover. He has written several one-act plays,including 'Riverside Drive' and 'Old Saybrook' which both explore well-known Allen themes. They have been produced in England for the first time by The Nuffield Theatre, a south-coast art house theatre, Southampton (September 2010) and directed by Patrick Sandord. So Happy Birthday, Woody. John and I are looking forward to the auditions this Sunday for "The Bremen Town Boys". We need more men to apply however-- sure hope that happens!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

SPIDER MAN GOES BROADWAY




Tonight at 6:30 pm, New York Time, (that's 3:30 pm Pacific Time) the long awaited Broadway musical "Spiderman: Light Up The Dark" will open in previews at the Foxwoods Theatre. This little show has had the kind of bad luck that my own show "Edgar Alan and Poe" had. Following a change in producers, several delays and the renaming of its theatre, the eagerly awaited Julie Taymor musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark begins performances Nov. 28 at 6:30 PM at Broadway's Foxwoods Theatre. An official opening night scheduled for Jan. 11, 2011, but for all intensive purposes, this is the test that every musical goes through before an official opening About the recent delays, lead producer Michael Cohl had said in a statement, "Shows like ours, that embrace the challenge of opening on Broadway without an out-of-town tryout, often need to adjust their schedules along the way. Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark has an unprecedented level of technical artistry, and getting it right takes time. We apologize in advance to any inconvenienced ticket holders." The musical of course is inspired by the Marvel comic-book character that first emerged in the 1960s, and had originally been announced to arrive during the 2009 season, but it was postponed due to financing.
Recent trouble included the injury of two actors during demonstrations of the show's flying techniques: One actor broke both his wrists, while the other broke both his feet. That's what I cal very bad luck. Tonight at 7:00pm we can all watch a wonderful preview program about the show on the CBS show "60 Minutes" It should really reveal some interesting facts and figures. In the meantime, my own new show "THE BREMEN TOWN BOYS" ticks down to its audition dates of May 5th and 6th at the Actor's Garden Theatre. The progress of the show can be followed by going to our informative show web site at
http://www.brementownboys.com/. Bremen Town Boys can be described as "The Brothers Grimm meet "Noises Off". It's a fairy tale and a spoof. And some of it is very very funny. We plan to open around February 12th or so. More details will certainly follow. Now I'm writing another spoof called "Adam and Eve and Steve (When the Devil Wasn't Enough) an altogether spoof of what might have happened if dear old Adam and Eve were not as close a couple as we might imagine them to be and when the finger pointing starts, Adam rejects Eve for another "companion" -- and God turns an annoying plum tree human who of course becomes "Steve". Eve, however is not about to give up her man that easy and fights back. This could be a lot of fun! Beautiful day on this Sunday! Later on!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

99th BIRTHDAY OF DAVID MERRICK



Today is the 99th birthday of the "Abominable Showman"-- none other than dear old David Merrick. This one producer who was responsible for many famous Broadway shows was the master of the cheap publicity stunt for the Broadway stage. There wasn't any thing this guy wouldn't try. His most infamous was to announce the death of famed director Grover Champion onstage on opening night of the mega musical "42nd Street" all in the hopes of publicizing the show. Talk about dropping a bomb on a party. He would close his own show if he didn't get his way and once for a forgettable musical called "Subways Are For Sleeping", he found ordinary people in New York who had the same last names as all of the famous critics in New York. He bussed them in luxury limos to the theatre, bought their tickets, paid for their steak dinners and got them to write phony quotes of praise for a show that was just terrible. He was yesterdays Fran and Barry Weisler-- the infamous producers who did in my friends, The Sherman Brothers. John and I have written a musical whose antagonist is actually based on this creep. It's called "Death Does Broadway" And by the way that show is on our upcoming season at the Actor's Garden Theatre. Auditions for "The Bremen Town Boys" will be on Sunday, December 5th between 3pm and 9pm and Monday between 7-10pm. Merrick has a grand story to tell and half of me hates this guy and the other half is grateful that a guy like him was around to make some of these master works possible. Because sometimes it takes a real piece of work to get a classic work on the stage. So in case you don't know, here are the many plays and musicals that the chicanery of David Merrick got produced:


Fanny (1954)
The Matchmaker (1955)
Look Back in Anger (1957)
Romanoff and Juliet (1957)
Jamaica (1957)
The Entertainer (1958)
The World of Suzie Wong (1958)
La Plume de Ma Tante (1958)
Destry Rides Again (1959)
Gypsy (1959)
Take Me Along (1959)
Irma La Douce (1960)
A Taste of Honey (1960)
Becket (1960)
Do Re Mi (1960)
Carnival (1961)
I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962)
Stop the World - I Want to Get Off (1962)
Oliver! (1963)
Luther (1963)
110 in the Shade (1963)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1963)
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1964)
Hello, Dolly! (1964)
Foxy (1964)
Oh! What a Lovely War (1964)
The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd (1965)
Pickwick (1965)
Cactus Flower (1965)
Marat/Sade (1965)
Don't Drink the Water (1966)
I Do! I Do! (1966)
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966)
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1967)
How Now, Dow Jones (1967)
The Seven Descents of Myrtle (1968)
The Happy Time (1968)
Promises, Promises (1968)
Forty Carats (1968)
Play It Again, Sam (1969)
Private Lives (1969)
Mack and Mabel (1974)
Very Good Eddie (1975)
State Fair (1996)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

EDGAR ALAN AND POE --THE AFTERMATH






Well, it has been a very long time since I've written here, but "Edgar Alan and Poe" turned out to be very blessed in some ways and very cursed in others. The good thing is that we grossed about over a thousand dollars, but the expenses certainly ate a lot of that up. Lessons learned? Never beg an actor to stay in a show that he has no capacity for learning lines and songs. This guy actually offered me a thousand dollars if he could quietly exit. I should have quietly taken the money and found somebody else. Second lesson: screen people very carefully at auditions. if they are out of work especially-- that's reg flag time. Third lesson? Never ever mention the name of Macbeth on stage. I am convinced this age old curse is right as rain. We had a cast member who tried to commit suicide; one get sick with pneumonia and put in the hospital. A member of the crew had two flat tires at once on one night and had the computer so we couldn't go on that night ether. Lighting didn't work. One night we had a complete black out. It was great producing this show and we had some of the best cast members and the best crew ever, but wow-- some of these things just blew me and poor John Nugent away! We did get the video recorded and John Nugent added fancy titles to the work last night. But we will go on with our next show called "THE BREMEN TOWN BOYS" with auditions on December 6th and 7th at the Actor's Garden Theatre in Hollywood. Cat Deobler will direct and we describe it as "The Brothers Grimm Meet Noises Off". It's very funny and filled with witty lines and double entrandes. So I really want to thank Cat, Zane, Bryce, David Marc, Micahel, Perry, Julie and Diego and everybody else for giving us their all! There were many many lessons learned here. I find it so amazing that so many crazy things happened to us along the way! Meeting Perry Sites and cat Deobler alone made up for so much sorrow. Bryce Kidman is a genius and Zane Grogan really created a wonderful character. So with all things considered, it was worth the effort and we will put this show back on with all the lessons learned firmly in place!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

EDGAR ALAN AND POE GOES FORWARD


Our newest musical "Edgar Alan and Poe" goes forward. We have about fifteen days before opening night and a lot of the show is really going nicely. We have a few rough spots and not everyone is off-book yet, but all in all, John Nugent and I are quite happy with the results. We have an excellent cast who have together some absolutely amazing talent between them and individually. Our cast includes Timothy Bergen as "Benjamin Franklin", Bryce Kidman as "Alan", Zane Grogan as "Poe" and my dear partner John Nugent who stepped into the role of "Edgar" about two weeks ago. The music is very Sherman Brothers -esque and thats a good thing, Cat Deobler plays the parts of Mrs. Brown and Lanore and our dear friend David Marc plays Burt the Bartender, The Strong Armed Man and King George III. The play is a musical fantasy that is based on historical fact. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams went to their graves despising one another based only a late life encounter in France while Ben was serving as Ambassador to France. The French, then, as they are today are very laid back and "Bon Vivant" and no amount of hard diplomacy will get them to change their lifestyle. Disney found this out the hard way while they were trying to run Disneyland Paris in those early years of 1990's. So on we go to a November 1st Opening at the Actor's Garden Theatre at 1306 North Wilton Place in Los Angeles. Today is also the 93rd anniversary of "The Miracle of The Sun" when our Dearest Mother of God appeared for the last time to the three children of Fatima and gave the world a miracle that thousands witnesssed in both delight and fear. The Mother of God has always been my champion. My dear heavenly friend. I just know that she pleads my case before God more than I ever realize. So come out and see our newest musical and bring your friends. Dinner with a show is just $25.00

Sunday, October 03, 2010

RICHARD AND ROBERT SHERMAN MILESTONE




Fifteen years ago this very day, my dear friends the Sherman Brothers had a very disconcerting event happen. I was representing Bob's young songwriting son Robbie at my talent agency at the time. Boy, do I miss this young man-- Robbie Sherman proved that the apple does not fall far from the tree. He was simply brilliant! And a sweet guy too! Anyway, The Sherman Brothers, themselves were preparing at this time and on this day in 1995 for their newest Broadway style musical for its premiere in Tampa Bay, Florida. Tommy Tune was to be the star of the brothers newest collaboration called "Busker Alley" --a property that they had started to develop years before and were writing with the classic Disney writer A.J. Carothers at the time. AJ of couse wrote the script for "The Happiest Millionaire" way back in 1966. But now, we ultimate Sherman fans were all excited about this new show. But fate had other plans! Because on this day, just prior to the performance at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center lead star Tommy Tune broke his foot for the second time in two years and was left with no choice but to only sing and act his part in Busker Alley. Two other people tried dancing for him in this show, but that didn't work. Instead, the Broadway opening for November 16 is called off. The production was plagued with bad reviews from the start, and the $6 million debt left over from the broken foot and opening cancellation is not covered by Tune's insurance, which is only $3.5 million. Of course, the real culprits were good old Barry and Fran Weisler who simply lost faith in the entire show. But the show did have a history afterwards. In retrospect, Busker Alley starred Tune and featured Darcie Roberts, Brent Barrett and Marcia Lewis. Jeff Calhoun directed and choreographed, and sets were by Tony Walton. The producers had planned to bring the production to Broadway later the same year at the St. James Theatre. In the big heartbreak department, artist LeRoy Neiman created a 40-foot mural for Busker Alley on the façade of the theater, and the cast performed a number from the show at the 1995 Tony Awards ceremony. The production suffered numerous setbacks during the tour as well as two more name changes including Stage Door Charley (unilaterally chosen by the Producer's wife). The show finished its pre-Broadway tour, however, as Buskers. In 2003 AJ Carothers and the Sherman Brothers revised their book and song score, changing the name back to Busker Alley. In 2003, the Shermans revised their song score and it was produced (and soundtrack recorded, thank God) for a one night benefit performance starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close in 2006 on November 13, 2006 at the York Theatre Company presented a one-night-only big benefit concert performance of Busker Alley at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Jim Dale starred as "Charlie Baxter". Glenn Close appeared in a cameo at the end of the show as "Dame Libby St. Albans". Also in the cast were: Jessica Grové, Simon Jones, Noah Racey, John Bolton, Robert Fitch, Anne Rogers, Michael Lane Trautman and Cristy Candler. Tony Walton directed the production, with Lisa Shriver as choreographer. Aaron Gandy was the conductor, and Mark York the pianist. The CD of the performance was recorded on Jay Records. Busker Alley had been announced for a Broadway production for the 2008-09 season, with Tony Walton as director and designer and Jim Dale to star. In December 2008, the producers announced that the musical would be delayed. On August 25, 2009, the producers announced that they all were leaving the production, and, in a statement said (in part), "We will be returning all of the money to our investors and release all of our sponsors from their obligations." One of the lame reasons these investors gave was that Bob Sherman was gravely ill. Now I know Bob and he may have had his traditional bout with gout (which plagued him years before) but he was not gravely ill in August 2009 and he made a phone call to all in the loop and the press confirming this. But now it looks like another of their shows has a pretty good chance and me the ultimate Sherman fan is rooting for it. It's Called "The Merry Go Round" So now it appears that producer and former William Moriss talent agent Jack Stein has acquired the Broadway rights to the Sherman's "MerryGoRound," with a book by Paul Butler and Fred Fox, Jr. The musical was conceived and will be directed by Andy Belling. The legendary costume designer, Bob Mackie has been set to design the costumes for the production. The musical "MerryGoRound" takes place in the moment between life and death. It's the story of a young man who, believing his existence is meaningless, attempts to end his life. He is saved by his estranged father who persuades him to travel back in his memories via a magic lantern to discover the truth behind various events in his past, to convince him to change his mind and “stay on board” the merry-go-round of life. It's sort of a modern day "It's A Wonderful Life type story. The new musical contains state-of-the-art video screen projection with live performers interacting with 3-D CGI animation. Additionally the show features breathtaking illusions, never before seen on a Broadway stage, all designed by John Gaughan, who created the magic for David Copperfield and the Broadway musicals, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Merlin".A workshop was completed in Los Angeles, and plans are now to commence production early next year. Bob and Dick Sherman are the foremost lyricist-composer team in all of family entertainment, and these two amzing writers are no strangers to the Broadway theatre, having written “Over Here” (1974) and recently the hugely successful "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" in London and New York, and "Mary Poppins,” currently one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. The musical "MerryGoRound" will be their third consecutive musical to run on Broadway in the last five years. Richard was quoted as saying "Bob and I, we learned from the master - Walt Disney," "He once told us, early on in our career, 'Don't insult the kid - don't write down to the kid. And don't write just for the adult.' So we write for grandpa and the 4-year-old and everyone in between - and all see it on a different level." They are without doubt among Hollywood's most popular songwriters ever, responsible for the scores for such movie musicals as "Mary Poppins," "101 Dalmatians," "Winnie the Pooh," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats" and "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang." They are also the authors of the most-played song on Earth, "It's a Small World (After All)," Librettist Fred Fox, Jr., was a producer and writer of the hit television series "Laverne & Shirley," "Happy Days" and "Family Matters”. He also won an International Emmy for his show, “My Secret Identity". I am really rooting for "The Boys" this trip. As I used to tell Robert "I have been your fan long before there was a movie called "Mary Poppins". I started noticing the Shermans because I was such a big fan of Annette Funicello. One day a tune came along called "Mister Piano Man" recorded by Annette that was a pure sensation for me. This was the Sherman tune that made me the ultimate Sherman fan and from that day forward, I purchased every single record that had a Sherman tune on it. So now as I have my own shows produced, the latest being "Edgar, Alan and Poe" in Los Angeles starting November 1st at the Actors Garden Theatre, on Wilton Avenue, I appreciate the lessons I learned from Richard and Robert Sherman. I cried during the documentary "The Boys" when it had its premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in June of last year. Their music and lyrics will always have a honored place in my heart. And Richard's devotion to the Disney legacy is absolutely mind blowing. He attends every Disney sponsored event and movie premiere to honor Walt and to me that is the ultimate tribute. Lots of people owe allegiance to Walt Disney, but none "pay it back' as it were like the Shermans. God bless you both! And lets get this musical opened and long running
No more broken bones or lame excuses.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GROUCHO MARX


Today is Groucho Marx's one hundred and tenth birthday! He was born in 1890. What an absolutely amazing and legendary performer. Groucho Marx remains one of my all time favorite comedians. Groucho once performed at Carnegie Hall and I was privileged to view a video of it not long ago. The laughter from that audience was mind blowing.Groucho Marx made 26 movies, 13 of them with his brothers Chico and Harpo.Marx developed a routine as a wise-cracking hustler with a distinctive chicken-walking lope, an exaggerated greasepaint mustache 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 is 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 dear Groucho 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: "You can't make an actor out of clay." Groucho responded, "Nor a director out of Wood."Marx 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 very year that i was born) Groucho was chosen to host a radio quiz program You Bet Your Life broadcast by ABC and then CBS, before moving over to NBC radio and 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. Actually that's a trick question because not even Grant is buried in Grant's tomb. Groucho was the subject of an urban legend, about a supposed response to a contestant who had nine 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 this, Marx responded, "I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while." Groucho often asserted in interviews that this exchange never took place, but it remains one of the most often quoted "Groucho-isms" nonetheless. The exchange actually did occur in a taping session for the radio version of You Bet Your Life, out of which it was censored before the installment aired. As a songwriter I can tell you that throughout his career Groucho introduced a number of memorable songs in films, including "Hooray for Captain Spaulding" and "Hello, I Must Be Going", in Animal Crackers, "Whatever It Is, I'm Against It", "Everyone Says I Love You" and "Lydia the Tattooed Lady". Frank Sinatra, who once quipped that the only thing he could do better than Marx was sing, made a film with Marx and Jane Russell in 1951 entitled Double Dynamite. Oh and less i forget to honor a straight man's birthday, today is also the birthday of the greatest straight man of all time, Mr. Bud Abbott. Of course on the female side that would have to be dear Gracie Allen.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FLINSTONES 50 YEARS OLD TODAY


Today is Fred Flinstone's 50th birthday. it's also Barney's and Betty's and Wilma's and Pebbles and Bam Bam. God does that make me feel old.
Of course, the Flinstones was the first animated series on a night time schedule. It was broadcast on ABC while Walt Disney was still alive. In ended in 1966, the same year Walt passed away.
It has been noted that Fred Flintstone physically resembled voice actor Alan Reed, and also Jackie Gleason. The voice of Barney was provided by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc, though five episodes (the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 9th) during the second season employed Hanna-Barbera regular Daws Butler while Blanc was incapacitated by a near-fatal car accident. He wore a body cast and it was thought that we had lost him until his doctor thought of the genius idea of asking Mel not how HE felt but with questions like "Hey, Bugs Bunny, how are you feeling this morning?" Mel Blanc answered in that charcater's voice-- it was that genius that enabled Blanc was able to return to the series much sooner than expected, by virtue of a temporary recording studio for the entire cast set up at Blanc's bedside. It should be noted, however, that Blanc's portrayal of Barney Rubble had changed considerably after the accident. In the earliest episodes, Blanc had used a much higher pitch. After his recovery from the accident, Blanc used a deeper voice.
Additional similarities with The Honeymooners included the fact that Reed based Fred's voice upon
Jackie Gleason's interpretation of Ralph Kramden, while Blanc, after a season of using a nasal, high-pitched voice for Barney, eventually adopted a style of voice similar to that used by Art Carney in his portrayal of Ed Norton. The first time that the Art Carney-like voice was used was for a few seconds in "The Prowler" (the third episode produced).In a 1986 Playboy interview, Jackie Gleason said that Alan Reed had done voice-overs for Gleason in his early movies, and that he (Gleason) considered suing Hanna-Barbera for copying The Honeymooners but decided to let it pass. According to Henry Corden, who took over as the voice of Fred Flintstone after Alan Reed died, and was a friend of Gleason’s, “Jackie’s lawyers told him that he could probably have The Flintstones pulled right off the air. But they also told him, “Do you want to be known as the guy who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air? The guy who took away a show that so many kids love, and so many parents love, too?”Henry Corden handled the voice responsibilities of Fred after Reed's death in 1977. Corden had previously provided Fred's singing voice in The Man Called Flintstone and later on Flintstones children's records. After 1999, Jeff Bergman performed the voice of Fred. Since Mel Blanc's death in 1989, Barney has been voiced by both Frank Welker and Kevin Richardson. Various additional character voices were created by Hal Smith, Allan Melvin, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler and Howard Morris, among others. Well we were about to hire a pianist from Valley College and we brought her the music explaining that we wanted her to practice and come to a rehearsal where we would record her playing on the eighty-eight key keyboard that one of our actors provided. We were going to pay her $60 for three hours which included gas money. Then she pulled a diva's trick on us. If we were going to record her playing and use that recording for future rehearsals enabling the show to go on, she wanted $125 up front and a percentage of the show-- 2.5% in perpetuity -- Can you grasp that one? reminds me of the concert my friend Tim Doran had in 2002 and the violinist refused to wear a lapel mike to be recorded! And this is only a junior college! Dear god! And a sad note on the death of a real Hollywood star Tony Curtis. He was always such an amazing actor!

Monday, September 27, 2010

TEA FOR TWO AND I WANT TO BE HAPPY




Imagine being a songwriter with fewer than one hundred and ten tunes and having eighteen of them being considered as absolute standards of this industry by ASCAP. The composer? You may have never heard of him. His name was Vincent Youmans. But you most certainly heard of the absolute sensations of "Tea For Two" and "I Want to Be Happy" My dear friend Bill Lewis is appearing in "No No, Nanette" at Downey Civic Light Opera in October. One of his best known shows. Vincent wrote songs with the absolute legendary lyricists of his time including Oscar Hammerstein, Irving Caesar and Billy Rose. Composer Vincent Millie Youmans was born in New York City on September 27, 1898. Originally, his ambition was to become an engineer but then took a brief job in a Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1914, he joined the United States Navel and served during World War I. Returning to the States in 1918, Youmans began working on Tin Pan Alley first as a song plugger for TB Harms Company and then as a rehearsal pianist for famed composer Victor Herbert’s operettas. Eventually, Youman began writing and publishing songs and achieved his own success with several Broadway productions including Two Little Girls in Blue, Wildflower, Mary Jane McKane, No, No, Nanette, Oh, Please!, Hit the Deck, Rainbow, Great Day!, Smiles, Through the Years and Take a Chance.He also wrote the film score to that fabulous classic movie Flying Down to Rio, the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope vehicle. The score included the Academy Award nominated song "Carioca."Youmans also collaborated with the greatest songwriters on Broadway: Herbert Stothart, Otto Harbach, , Anne Caldwell, Leo Robin, Clifford Grey, Harold Adamson, Mack Gordon, BG De Sylva and Gus Kahn. His extensive catalog holds many of the great standards from the period, most notably “Tea For Two”, “Through the Years”, “The Carioca” and “More Than You Know!”. Other hits include “Wildflower”, “Dolly”, “Bambalina”, “Tie a String Around Your Finger”, “No, No, Nanette”, “I Want to Be Happy”, “Why, Oh Why”, “I Want a Man”, “The One Firl”, “Who Am I?”, “Great Day”, “Oh, Me! Oh, My!”, “Without a Song”, “Time on My Hands”, “Rise N’ Shine”, “Oh, How I Long to Belong to You”, “Orchids in the Moonlight” and “Music Makes Me”. Vincent Youmans died in Denver Colorado on April 5, 1946. He died penniless-- how sad! Rehearsals continue for "Edgar, Alan & Poe" though it looks like we have another drop out.My partner John will more than likely assume the role of "Edgar". I am beginning to believe that most wannabee actors are just that. The first conflict that comes along in their life and they must quit. This one quit partially due to modesty because the role requires the actor to be costumed in a black body suit. Now how a PHD candidate in Philosophy can have a modesty issue as trivial is that makes you begin to wonder how serious these wannabees really are. Oh well. Next time we interview these guys a whole lot more before casting them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A MAGNIFICENT COMPOSER AND A GENIUS POET




On this day in the year 1888 two remarkable gentlemen were born. One was an incredible composer. One was a magnificent poet. The composer was George Gershwin who died tragically in 1937 of a brain tumor at age forty-nine and the poet was T.S. Elliott author of such great poems as "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' and "The Waste Land" Elliott actually denounced his American citizenship. At the age of fifteen, George left school and found his first job as a performer, "song plugger" for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a publishing firm on New York City's Tin Pan Alley, where he earned $15 a week. His first published song was "When You Want 'Em You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want 'Em." It was published in 1916 when Gershwin was only 17 years old and earned him $5. His 1917 novelty rag "Rialto Ripples" was a commercial success, and in 1919 he scored his first big national hit with his song "Swanee" with words by Irving Caesar. In 1916, Gershwin started working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York, recording and arranging. He produced dozens, if not hundreds, of rolls under his own and assumed names. (Pseudonyms attributed to Gershwin include Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn.) He also recorded rolls of his own compositions for the Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon reproducing pianos. As well as recording piano rolls, Gershwin made a brief foray into vaudeville, accompanying both Nora Bayes and Louise Dresser on the piano. In the early 1920s Gershwin frequently worked with the lyricist Buddy DeSylva. Together they created the experimental one-act jazz opera Blue Monday set in Harlem, which is widely regarded as a forerunner to the groundbreaking Porgy and Bess.In 1924, George and Ira Gershwin collaborated on a musical comedy Lady Be Good, which included such futurstandards as "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good!!This was followed by Oh, Kay! (1926),[ Funny Face (1927), Strike Up the Band (1927 and 1930),[Show Girl (1929),[1 Girl Crazy (1930),which introduced the standard "I Got Rhythm"; and Of Thee I Sing(1931), the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize.In 1924, Gershwin composed his first major classical work, Rhapsody in Blue for orchestra and piano. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé and premiered by Paul Whiteman's concert band in New York. It proved to be his most popular work.Gershwin stayed in Paris for a short period, where he applied to study composition with Nadia Boulanger, along with several other prospective tutors such as Maurice Ravel, rejected him, however, afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style.While there, Gershwin wrote An American in Paris. This work received mixed reviews upon its first performance at Carnegie Hall on December 13, 1928, but it quickly became part of the standard repertoire in Europe and the United States. Growing tired of the Parisian musical scene, Gershwin returned to the United States. In 1929, Gershwin was contracted by Fox Film Corporation to compose the score for the movie Delicious. Only two pieces were used in the final film, the five-minute "Dream Sequence" and the six-minute "Manhattan Rhapsody". Gershwin became infuriated when the rest of the score was rejected by Fox Film Corporation, and it would be seven years before he worked in Hollywood again. His most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Gershwin called it a "folk opera," and it is now widely regarded as the most important American opera of the twentieth century. Based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, the action takes place in the fictional all-black neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. With the exception of several minor speaking roles, all of the characters are black. The music combines elements of popular music of the day, with a strong influence of Black music, with techniques typical of opera, such as recitative, through-composition and an extensive system of leitmotifs. Porgy and Bess contains some of Gershwin's most sophisticated music, including a fugue, a passacaglia, the use of atonality, polytonality and polyrhythm, and a tone row. Even the "set numbers" (of which "Summertime", "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" and "It Ain't Necessarily So" are well known examples) are some of the most refined and ingenious of Gershwin's output. .After Porgy and Bess, Gershwin eventually was commissioned by RKO Pictures in 1936 to compose songs and the underscore for Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Gershwin's extended score, which would marry ballet with jazz in a new way, runs over an hour in length. It took Gershwin several months to write and orchestrate it.
Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he was smelling burned rubber. Doctors discovered he had developed a type of cystic malignant brain tumor known as glioblastoma multiformet. Although some tried to trace his disease to a blow on the head from a golf ball, the cause of this type of cancer is still unknown. This type of cancer occurs most often in males, accounts for 52% of all brain cancers, and is nearly always fatal.
The diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme has been questi The surgeon's description of Gershwin's tumor as a right temporal lobe cyst with a mural nodule is much more consistent with a pilocytic astrocyt, a very low- grade of brain tumor. Further, Gershwin's initial olfactory hallucination (the unpleasant smell of burning rubber) was in 1934. It is highly unlikely that a glioblastoma multiforme would cause symptoms of that duration prior to causing death. Pilocytic astrocytomas may cause symptoms for twenty or more years prior to diagnosis. Thus, it is possible that Gershwin's prominent chronic gastrointestinal symptoms (which he called his "composer's stomach") were a manifestation of temporal lobe epilepsy caused by his tumor If this is correct, then Gershwin was not "a notorious hypochondriac," as suggested by his biographer . It was in Hollywood
while working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies, that he collapsed. He died on July 11, 1937 at the age of 38 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital following surgery for the tumor. John O'Hara remarked: "George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to.] A memorial concert was held at the Hollywood Bowl on September 8, 1937 at which Otto Klemperer conducted his own orchestration of the second of Gershwin's Three Piano Preludes. Gershwin received his sole Oscar nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 1937 Oscars, for "They Can't Take That Away from Me" written with his brother Ira for the 1937 film Shall We Dance.[ The nomination was posthumous Gershwin died two moths after the film's release.

My sixty-third birthday was on Friday September 24th and I have applied for Social Security. I am getting older.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A SONGWRITER'S BIG DAY TO REMEMBER







We begin the day by learning that the Titanic had an actual reason that she went down besides ramming randomly into a giant iceberg back in 1912, The last known relatives grand daughter has now revealed that this same officer actually confessed to this same granddaughter that it was he who steered "The Unsinkable" in the wrong direction. The ice berg is finally off the hook, dear readers which goes to prove: it's not the obstacles in your life that matter, it's how you steer your boat of life away from them-- even if you are "an unsinkable virgin ship on your maiden voyage" Virginity has nothing to do with it! And speaking of mighty ships, may we honor three composers who had their lives change on this day in history: one successfully and one fatally. It was on this day in 1925 that Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II teamed up together for the first time for a new musical called Sunny, which opened tonight at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Marilyn Miller starred as the circus performer who stows away on an ocean liner to follow her lover back to America. The remainder of the all-star cast included the first Broadway performances of Clifton Webb, Jack Donahue, and Cliff Edwards. They all help the show run for over 507 performances. Kern and Hammerstein would follow up with the mega hit Show Boat. On this night In 1964 was the opening of the musical Fiddler on the Roof at the Imperial Theatre. Sholom Aleichem's milkman whose glass is half-full, Tevye, is played by Zero Mostel. Mostel would become a star after this run, even though he was not the first choice for the role. Beatrice Arthur ("Maude") and Maria Karnilova co-star in this Bock & Harnick musical with such memorable songs as "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and "Sunrise, Sunset." And today on this date the songwriting world lost the genius of Irving Berlin in 1989. Irving was a 101 at the time of his death and wrote over seventeen hundred songs. Berlin's second very famous piano: the one he composed "I Love A Piano " on was recently moved from the ASCAP headquarters for a Jewish Heritage Museum's new exhibit. This November 5th will be the sixty-fifth anniversary of Jerome Kern's death who died from a stroke he had walking the streets of New York looking for a drug store to fill his medication needs but without any other identification other than his ASCAP membership card. He was sent to an indigent ward because no one knew who he was. Only his ASCAP card saved him. When the hospital authorities found that card they were able to send him to Doctor's Hospital in New York City where he died with Oscar Hammerstein at his bed side singing the melody and the words to "I Told Ev'ry Little Star" It was Kern's very favorite song of all and when dear Jerome Kern did not respond, Oscar hammersdtein, his closest friend at the time knew that Jerome Kern had passed on to the great eternity. And so for all of you ASCAP members-- always carry your membership card--even if nothing else-- it might just save your life some day. DEar Irving Berlin, thank you for the wonderful songs. Jerome Kern thank you for the amazing other songs I love and to Mr. Bock and Harnick-- on this day's night, you had your amazing moment in Broadway history on this night-- never quite equalled ever again.His first hit song, "Alexander's Ragtime Band", became world famous. The song sparked an international dance craze in places as far away as Russia, which also "flung itself into the ragtime beat with an abandon bordering on mania." Over the years he was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his aim being to "reach the heart of the average American" whom he saw as the "real soul of the country."
He wrote hundreds of songs, many becoming major hits, which made him "a legend" before he turned thirty. During his 60-year career he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for 19 Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood films, with his songs nominated eight times for Academy Awards. Many songs became popular themes and anthems, including "Easter Parade", "White Christmas", "Happy Holiday", "This is the Army, Mr. Jones", and "There's No Business Like Show Business". His Broadway musical and 1942 film, This is the Army, with Ronald Reagan, had Kate Smith singing Berlin's "God Bless America" which was first performed in 1938. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Celine Dion recorded it as a tribute, making it #1 on the charts.



Monday, September 20, 2010


Walter Winchell was an absolute legend in the newspaper journalism business and on this day in 1924 he wrote his first Broadway column "Your Broadway and Mine" to report that dear old Sophie Tucker had exited Earl Carrol's "Vanities" over the issue of time on stage. Looks like dear old ego is nothing new. Winchell was great friends with J. Edgar Hoover and actually helped him to arrest some key criminals, but at the end of his life was very sad as he literally lived as a recluse in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles--the very hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in June of 1968. It is reported that he actually handed out old copies of his old newspaper columns on sidewalks outside the hotel to anybody who would take them. Very very sad way to end a great life. In 1948 Winchell had the top rated radio show when he surpassed Fred Allen and Jack Benny in ratings of theirs. During the 1950s Winchell favored Senator Joseph McCarthy, but he became unpopular as the public turned against McCarthy's Red Scare tactics. He also had a weekly radio broadcast which was simulcast on ABC television until he ended that employment because of a dispute with ABC executives during 1955. A dispute with Jack Paar effectively ended Winchell's career, beginning a shift in power from print to television. During this time, NBC had given him the opportunity to host a variety show, which lasted only thirteen weeks. His readership gradually dropped, and when his home paper, the New York Daily Mirror, where he'd worked for thirty-four years, closed in 1963, he faded from the public eye.
He did, however, receive $25,000 an episode to narrate The Untouchables on the ABC television network for five seasons beginning in 1959. Many other columnists, such as Ed Sullivan in New York and Louella Parsons in Los Angeles, began to write gossip soon after Winchell's initial success. He wrote in a style filled with slang and incomplete sentences. Winchell's casual writing style famously earned him the ire of mobster Dutch Schultz, who confronted Winchell at New York's Cotton Club and publicly lambasted him for using the phrase "pushover" to describe Schultz's penchant for Blondie women. Of course Schultz later became a Roman Catholic in the last sixty days of his life in a very notable death nearing obsessed conversion. Some notable Walter Winchell quotes are: "Nothing recedes like success," and "I usually get my stuff from people who promised somebody else that they would keep it a secret."
Winchell opened his radio broadcasts by pressing randomly on a telegraph key, a sound which created a sense of urgency and importance and the catch phrase "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press." He would then read each of his stories with a staccato delivery at an average rate of 197 words per minute, noticeably faster than the typical pace of American speech. Interesting man! Another rehearsal tonight for "Edgar Alan & Poe" and I am starting to contact people by e mail who auditioned for the musical to come and see it. Sure hope that works. I've already received some words of encouragement from the initial response. We are adding a character to the show at the very beginning. He will be the persona of Edgar, Alan and Poe, himself who will sing an upbeat intro song to prevent the show opening with a ballad--which can be deadly nowadays.

Saturday, September 18, 2010





Broadway made Stephen Sondheim cry this week, instead of the other way around. (His musicals aren't exactly feel-good affairs.) A choked-up Sondheim stood on a dais under the new marquee of Broadway's freshly named Stephen Sondheim Theatre the evening of Sept. 15 at 6:30pm New York Time and thanked those who made the honor of the naming possible. "I cry easy," the 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner said, holding back some very real tears. A crowd of perhaps 400 watched as the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist flipped a switch that illuminated a white-light sign representing his signature on the marquee of the former Henry Miller's Theatre, a venue now under a long lease by the Roundabout Theatre Company. This represented only the second time in Broadway history that a living person had been so honored. A long journey and a good life from a career that began back in 1947 when Steve was a teen aged "go pher" for the late great Oscar Hammerstein. Among the onlookers that night were director Harold Prince, director Mike Nichols, longtime pal Mary Rodgers Guettel, (who of course was Richard Rodger's only daughter) and librettist John Weidman. John of course has written the books for a wide variety of stage musicals, three in collaboration with Stephen Sondheim: Pacific Overtures, Assassins, and Road Show. In 1999 he co-created the Tony Award winning musical Contact with choreographer/director Susan Stroman. He has been nominated for the Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical three times and won many Emmys for his writing on Sesame Street. All of this was alongside performers Patti LuPone and Nathan Lane. Dear Nathan in typical sharp form quipped that he was glad that an actual person was being honored on the marquee, "as opposed to the British Petroleum Playhouse or the McNugget." Or American Airlines, the name of that other Roundabout theatre. My partner John and I are busy at work finishing a new musical called "A Vow Of Laughter". This musical takes place in 1963 right after the tragic Kennedy assassination and deals with a group of desperate comedy writers who are faced with the immediate and daunting task of finding a new television series for Lucille Ball. Their current series is failing badly. So they call upon two classic writers from the 1950s to save them them who were put out of business by the House Unamerican Activities squad and Joseph McCarthy-- who these black listed writers have become since is almost too funny for words! Our nedxt rehearsal for "Edgar Alan and Poe which premieres November 1st at the Actor's Garden Theatre has its next rehearsal on Monday night at 7:00pm. Oh I did forget a bit of news. I have a new cat-- a Siamese mix named Joshua David or JD for short. What a bundle of pure energy this little kitty is. A real spitfire. He certainly will keep me young.

Friday, September 17, 2010

KING KONG ON BROADWAY-- SAY IT ISN'T SO!





As my partner John Nugent and I try to attract investors and please the ones we have for our Broadway aimed musicals, I am so damn amused when I read of outlandish attempts to bring crazy musicals and crazy musical subjects to dear old Broadway. If "Spider Man" were not risky enough, the newest tenant of Broadway in a musical of all things is "King Kong". Now I realize that my dear friends the Sherman Brothers tried to musicalize King Kong" as an animated movie. It didn't do very well-- almost a straight to video kind of thing. But a musical in which a huge audio animatronic King Kong is on stage singing is almost too funny for words! Somebody give me a break. You'd think the object lesson of Spider-man Turn Off the Dark would have been scaring producers off fantastical musicals that demand intense special effects to tell their story. But here comes King Kong—Live on Stage,And it's coming to Broadway in 2013. An Australian production company called Global Creatures (that alone is so funny) is behind the project. The show will feature a score by Marius de Vries and a book by -- now get ready for this one-- Craig Lucas, the serious-minded and respected American playwright who would seem to be in very unlikely territory here. Daniel Kramer will direct.The production will boast a cast of more than 40 onstage actors, singers, dancers and puppeteers. The design team is impressive as well, but my favorite member is Sonny Tilders who is credited with "creature design." That would be the ape, I should imagine, and maybe a dinosaur or two. Global Creatures has come up with a design for a robotic Kong. Carmen Pavlovic, chief executive of Global Creatures, said in a statement, "At its heart, King Kong is a love story (oh spare me, please) which is why we have chosen the more intimate space of a proscenium theatre to tell this epic tale. We want to immerse the audience in the emotional journey of the book and music as much as the spectacle of our pioneering animatronics and puppetry." If this is an emotional journey then I'm Peter Pan! The musical has been authorized by the estate Merian C. Cooper, the co-director of the 1933 "King Kong" film. Well, that's nice-- but money buys you anything in old New York! Broadway's booking some outlandish things of late, at least some of them are of Australian origin. In other news, it seems "Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical" has found a home in New York. Befitting the title of the piece, it's the Palace Theatre. Where else would the Queen of the Desert stay but a palace? The show — about a trio of friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback — will begin on Broadway starting Feb. 28, 2011. West Side Story will exit the famed venue in early January. Imagine that A musical classic is dumped by a queen of the highest order. And I also hear that "Promises, Promises" will close January 2nd after only 391 performances. Another show that didn't make its money back. They even added two hit Bacharach-Hal David tunes "I Say A Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not A Home". They cast Kristen Chenoweh and Sean Hayes as the stars-- but Phantom reigns on after twenty-five years and "Adams Family" is still co-king of Broadway right next to "Wicked". We had a great music rehearsal last night at my friend's house. Tim Doran is so magical at the piano. He actually made everything in the score come alive. Thank you, Tim!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

STEPHEN SONDHEIM IS HONORED TODAY


Today at 3:30 PM Pacific Coast Time, I would like everyone I know to whistle, hum, or play on a piano a Stephen Sondheim tune. Because at that time (6:30 PM) New York Time. The Henry Miller Theatre will be renamed The Stephen Sondheim Theatre. What an amazing life! What an amazing career. The man who was once a simple "go for" for the great Oscar Hammerstein during the 1947 production of "Allegro" is now only the second man in Broadway history to have a theatre named for him while he was still alive. It was during this same position as a "go for" that he met Harold Prince. What an amazing coincidence that was. As the man once wrote, "Light the lights!" Formerly the Henry Miller's Theatre, at 124 W. 43rd St., the newly constructed venue opened in fall 2009 with Roundabout Theatre Company as the operator, but with Miller's name (and the historic facade) still attached. In spring 2010 — coinciding with Sondheim's 80th birthday, and owing to Roundabout's many productions of Sondheim's work — the organization announced the name change. The marquee signage was installed the week of Sept. 6. The official lighting of the marquee ceremony will be attended by Sondheim and his colleagues Patti LuPone (who appeared in the most recent Broadway production of Gypsy — singing "curtain up/light the lights" in "Everything's Coming Up Roses") and librettist John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Assassins, Road Show), plus Tom Tuft, chairman of Roundabout Theatre Company's board of directors, and many others. The unveiling will take place directly in front of the theatre's marquee. This is a rare modern case of a Broadway theatre being named for a living theatre artist. The Neil Simon Theatre (formerly the Alvin) was dedicated in 1983 in the presence of playwright Simon; playwright August Wilson knew that the Virginia Theatre was to be renamed the August Wilson in 2005, but did not live to see the dedication that fall. So dear Stephen another honor in your name. Our play "Edgar, Alan & Poe" continues to progress. Now I must begin to attract an audience. That will be a chore I haven't done in over twenty years: audiences have usually been recruited for me! The score is really engaging and I'm very proud of our efforts on it. "Edgar, Alan & Poe" is a very different kind of show: a musical fable that says a lot about the folly of harboring grudges when our creator forgives us so many times and on so many occasions. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams went to their graves hating one another over the craziest misunderstandings in all of American history. Adams even had Benjamin Franklin's grandson thrown into prison over a free speech issue: imagine that, one of the champions of liberty, itself was but twenty years later signing the Alien and Sedition Acts which made free speech and expression null and void until it was wisely repealed. The third Alien and sedition Act is still in place today, believe it or not. Today would have been Agatha Christie's birthday (she was born in 1880) and Fay Wray (from the King Kong) movie who was born in 1907.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

WE REMEMBER PATRICK SWAYZE





One year ago today we lost an amazing performer. Another Hollywood star victim to pancreatic cancer. The same cancer that killed actor Michael Landon of "Bonanza" fame so quickly. I always loved this actor and of course so did his female public voting him the sexiest man alive in 1991 Patrick's first professional appearance was as a dancer for Disney on Parade. He starred as a replacement for Danny Zuko in the long-running Broadway production of Grease before his debut film role as "Ace" in Skatetown, U.S.A.. He appeared as Pvt. Sturgis in the M*A*S*H episode "Blood Brothers" and had a brief stint in 1982 on a short lived TV series called "The Renagades" playing a gang leader named Bandit. Patrick Swayze became known to the film industry after appearing in The Outsiders as the older brother of C. Thomas Howell and Rob Lowe. Swayze, Howell, and Howell's friend Darren Dalton reunited in Red Dawn the next year, and Lowe and Swayze reunited in Youngblood. He was considered a member of the Brat Pack His first major success was in the 1985 television miniseries North and South, which was set during the American Civil War. Patrick Swayze's big big breakthrough role came with his performance as dance instructor Johnny Castle in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, alongside his Red Dawn co-star, Jennifer Grey. Dirty Dancing, a coming of age story set to film was a low-budget project that was intended to be shown in theaters for one weekend only and then go straight to video, but it became a surprise hit and achieved massive international success. It was the first film to sell one million copies on video, and as of 2007, has earned over $300 million worldwide and spawned several alternate versions, ranging from a television series to stage productions to a computer game. Swayze received a Golden Globe Award nomination for the role and also sang one of the songs on the soundtrack, "She's Like the Wind", which he had originally co-written with Stacy Widelitz for the film Grandview, U.S A , The song became a top ten hit and has been covered by other artists. After Dirty Dancing, Patrick found himself heavily typecast and appeared in several flops, of which Road House was the most successful. His biggest hit came in 1990, when he starred in Ghost, with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. In 1991, he starred alongside Youngblood cast mate Keanu Reeves in another major action hit, Point Break. Patrick was seriously injured in 1998 while filming HBO's Letters from a Killer near Ione, California when he fell from a horse and hit a tree. Both of his legs were broken and he suffered four detached tendons in his shoulder. Filming was suspended for two months, but the film aired in 1999. He recovered from his injuries, but he had trouble resuming his career until 2000, when he co-starred in Waking Up in Reno, with Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron, and in Forever Lulu, with Melanie Griffith. In 2001, he appeared in Donnie Darko, where he played a motivational speaker and closet pedophile, and in 2004, he played Allan Quatermain in King Solomon's Mines. He also had a cameo appearance in the Dirty Dancing sequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights as an unnamed dance instructor. Patrick Swayze made his West End theatre début in the musical Guys and Dolls as Nathan Detroit on July 27, 2006, alongside Neil Jerzak, and remained in the role until November 25, 2006. His previous appearances on the Broadway stage had included productions of Goodtime Charley (1975) and Chicago (2003). In 2007, he starred in the film Christmas in Wonderland. Patrick played an aging rock star in Powder Blue, co-starring his younger brother Don in their first film together. He also starred in the A&E FBI drama The Beast,] filmed in Chicago, as FBI Agent Charles Barker. I was reading that in 180, Charles Strouse the composer had his very worse year ever. It wasn't a good year for me either, but that's another story. Charles had two big flops that year one was a musical called Flowers For Algernon based on the 1968 movie "Charly" starring Cliff Robertson and the other was a sequel to "Bye Bye Birdie" called "Bring Back Birdie". Imagine if you will Donald O' Connor in a jump suit. It also starred Chita Rivera and had a book by Michael Stewart. So much talent on so big a flop and "Flowers" was an equal bomb-- but it did last thirteeen more performances than Birdie which lasted only four! Poor Charles Strouse. He also flopped big time with "Rags' with Stephen Schwartz and the sequel to "Annie" rehearsal went very well last night. This is a great cast and they really love the script-- and that's such a good thing to know! Close call last night while driving and I thank God John and I were safe after an almost collission. The setting sun can be such a damn hazzard these days. Praise God-- how well he protects me!