Monday, August 23, 2010


Today would have been Carolyn Leigh's birthday. I can hear you all say out loud: "Who the heck is that? Well, dear fiery Carolyn was an amazing lyricist for some of the best Broadway shows and popular songs in songwriting history. She was a spit fire. She defended her lyrics like she would have defended her children. Her most endearing lyric in my opinion was "Young At Heart" from that amazing Paramount picture of the same name that starred Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. Lyricist Carolyn was born in New York City on August 21, 1926. After attending Queens College in New York she worked as a copyrighter for radio stations and advertising agencies. Collaborating with composers such as Cy Coleman and Moose Charlap, Leigh also wrote the Broadway stage scores for Peter Pan, Wildcat which featured the Broadway debut of Lucille Ball and Little Me. Her catalog boasts some of the biggest standards to emerge from Broadway stage scores including “The Best is Yet To Come”, “How Little We Know”, “Westport”, “Spring in Maine”, “The Rules of the Road”, “Firefly”, “Witchcraft”, “I’m Flying”, “I Gotta Crow”, “I Walk a Little Faster”, “You Fascinate Me So”, “Hey, Look Me Over”, “Tall Hopes”, “El Sombrero”, “One Day We Dance”, “It Amazes Me”, “The Other Side of the Tracks”, “Real Live Girl”, “I’ve Got Your Number”, “Here’s to Us”, “A Doodlin’ Song”, “Stay With Me”, “On Second Thought”, “Pass Me By”, “When In Rome” and “Ouzo”.Leigh also contributed to the film scores of The Cardinal and Father Goose. Late in her career she also contributed to the scores for TV specials such as Heidi as well as the bicentennial show for Something to Do. Dear Carolyn Le died in New York on November 19, 1983 of a massive heart attack. Today is also the anniversary of the opening of Jerry Herman's amazing Broadway masterpiece "La Cage Aux Folles" in 1983. George Hern and the late dear Gene Barry (yes friends "Bat Masterson". Gene wasm't connecting to the part until Arthur Laurents, the original director told Barry that he had to look into Hearn's eyes every time they were on stage together. Otherwise, the audiences of homophobic 1983 would never believe their relationship was real. And it worked. This show and "Big River in 1985 were the only two American Broadway musicals to run over a thousand performances until ten more years would pass. Something that did not work opened on Broadway on this day in 1986. It was the biggest flop that Steven Schwartz ("Mr. "Wicked") would ever know in his life. Stephen wrote the lyrics! The composer was Charles Strouse ("Annie") --but Strouse had two bigger flops on "Bring Back Byrdie" and "Annie Warbucks" better known as "Annie II:)
We proceed with preparing with auditions for our new theatre. W are relying on God's help with this one. But then God is not only my Father but my very best friend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Marilyn Monroe has always fascinated me. She was an amazingly beautiful woman who died much too young back in 1963. They discovered some new pictures of her including one of this beauty in pig tails and I thought I would share them with you. Her last motion picture was with the legendary Clark Gable. It was a black and white movie called "The Misfits" Marilyn certainly fascinated a lot of people including Elton John who wrote about her in the song "Candle In The Wind". My favorite picture of hers was the absolute classic comedy "Some Like It Hot" that co-starred Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. That classic ending with comedian Joe E. Brown is bar none one of the best film endings in my memory. Today is also Robert Redford's 74th birthday. He was a student at Van Nuys High School with the late Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale. My favorite role of his was i "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". I just watched that picture again after many years and enjoyed it all over again. As a songwriter, I really appreciated seeing just how perfectly the song "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David fit the picture. No wonder it won an Oscar for Best Song of that year! The theatre project goes on as we notify every actor that has ever sung for us in the studio. The Back Stage West ad has been placed so we shall see how many actors respond to the auditions on August 29th from 2-7pm at the theatre.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Today is Mae West's Birthday: a true entertainment legend. The gal who gave us lines like "Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me" was born to two wildly different parents and even went to jail for ten days (with two days off for good behavior) after being raided by the New York City Police Department. Mae's motion picture career was one amazing ride and her very last picture 'Sextette" was actually photographed by my cousin James Crabe for which he served as Director of Cinematography", My cousin went from that picture to performing the same role for a "little" picture" called "Rocky". The director had my cousin film all of Mae's scenes from the waist up because poor Mae who was then eighty years old had a film assistant literally crawling around on the floor on her feet so that Poor Mae (who was certainly not doing very well physically at that time ) could remember where she was supposed to move. In 1932, dear Mae was offered a motion picture contract by Paramount Pictures. She was 38, unusually advanced for a first movie, especially for a sex symbol (though she kept her age ambiguous for several more years). West made her film debut in Night After Night starring George Raft. At first, she did not like her small role in Night After Night, but was appeased when she was allowed to rewrite her scenes. In Mae's first scene, a hat check girl exclaims, "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds." West replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie."] Reflecting on the overall result of her rewritten scenes, Raft is said to have remarked, "She stole everything but the cameras."She brought her world famous Diamond Lil character, now renamed Lady Lou, to the screen in She Done Him Wrong (1933). The film is also notable as one of Cary Grant's first major roles, which boosted his career. West claimed she spotted Grant at the studio and insisted that he be cast as the male lead. The film was a box office hit and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The success of the film most likely saved Paramount from bankruptcy.Her next release, I'm No Angel (1933), paired her with Grant again. I'm No Angel was also a financial success. By 1933, West was the eighth-largest U.S. box office draw in the United States and, by 1935, the second-highest paid person in the United States (after William Randolph Hearst). On July 1, 1934, the censorship of the Production Code began to be seriously and meticulously enforced, and her screenplays were heavily edited. And now about the theatre. We have made a tentative deal with the New Hope Theatre in bringing our original musicals to the stage. We must raise $2600 in capital in repertory membership in exchange for which, we we earn 34 percent of the gross and the theatre will earn 30%. The biggest twelve roles in each big cast show will share a 22% percent of the gross without expenses being deducted from the total gross of the evening. The cast will also share a percentage of merchandising and valet parking. All of which could really be wonderful. With God's help, this will become a reality. The repertory company (and each member will pay $50 a quarter for a membership will be used first to cast all roles. Only then we will go the outside world to cast the show. The potential is certainly there. I will keep you posted on future news.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Today, classic comic actor Jim Dale who was the delightful villain in Walt Disney's "Pete's Dragon" turns seventy-five. Jim is a wonderful character actor who also played a part in the Sherman Brother musical "Busker Alley". More importantly, Jim was also the star of the Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart Broadway musical "Barnum"-- the musical bio pic of the life of carnival showman and con man PT Barnum. Barnum's most famous expression was of course "Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. Marilyn Miller was one of the most popular Broadway musical stars of the 1920s and early 1930s. She was an accomplished tap dancer, singer and actress, but it was the combination of these talents that endeared her to audiences. On stage she usually played rags-to-riches Cinderella characters who lived happily ever after. By contrast her personal life was marked by tragedy and illness, ending in her death at age 37. Dear Marilyn was born Mary Ellen Reynolds in Evansville, Indiana, the youngest daughter of Edwin D. Reynolds, a telephone lineman, and his first wife, the former Ada Lynn Thompson. The tiny, delicate-featured blond beauty was only four years old when, as "Mademoiselle Sugarlump," she debuted at Lakeside Park in Dayton, Ohio as a member of her family's vaudeville act, the Columbian Trio, which then included Marilyn's step-father, Oscar Caro Miller, and two older sisters, Ruth and Claire. They were re-christened the Five Columbians after Marilyn and her mother joined the routine. From their home base in Findlay, Ohio, they toured the Midwest and Europe in variety for ten years, skirting the child labor authorities, before Lee Shubert discovered Marilyn at the Lotus Club in London in 1914.
Miller appeared for the Shuberts in the 1914 and 1915 editions of The Passing Show, a Broadway revue at the Winter Garden Theatre, as well as in The Show of Wonders (1916) and Fancy Free (1918). But it was Florenz Ziegfeld who made her a star after she performed in his Ziegfeld Follies of 1918, at the famed New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street with music by Irving Berlin. Sharing billing with Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers and W.C. Fields, she brought the house down with her impersonation of Ziegfeld's wife, Billie Burke, in a number entitled Mine Was a Marriage of Convenience. Tomorrow is our big day trying to convince the sharp pencil boys that John Nugent and I can make a theatre company fly. Our meeting is at 10:30 am. Think well of us and say a prayer. We've prepared all the charts that sharp pencil people love to see. So off to church today for some time with God-- He can make this so wonderful

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Twenty-six years ago while I was still young at age thirty five. I wrote a musical at the request and invitation of Mark Shipley who at that time owned and operated the Gallery Theatre in Ontario, California. Mark had seen a production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in New York on Broadway and came back inspired that I could turn the "Cheaper By The Dozen" story into a musical. We received conditional rights but were barred from using the "Cheaper By The Dozen" trademark name. My regular collaborators at the time Randy Ames and Eddy Magee Clement didn't like that idea and had passed. I turned to a young brilliant composer by the name of J. Eric Schmidt that I had met strictly by chance through an ad for putting another of my musicals on called "The Invitation". He saw the ad for finding actors and was applying to do music for that show. I couldn't use him at the time, but I remember I was very impressed after talking to him. So after Randy and Eddy passed, I gave him the challenge and he accepted it. He was and remains today an extraordinary talented and personable professional and was just about the most dedicated individual I have ever had the pleasure of working with. He lived in Valencia at the time and literally after a hard days work drove all the way from there to Ontario to teach the kids all the songs from the score that we had composed together! We had a lot of wonderful memories and a few big conflicts with Mark, himself who simply wanted a simple show to put on that he could make a quick buck with. And oh he made lots of money! He filled that theatre more times than you can name and made a tidy profit! We didn't, but that's another story! And now, we have a chance to produce it again at the New Hope Theatre. We have yet to get the okay, but all of us including my newest partner John D. Nugent hope that our proposal is accepted. Actors, directors, choreographers and stage technicians will actually get paid the equivalent of what non-union dinner theatre pays. Not bad! So we cross our fingers! We found out today that there will be another version of the Steve Martin version of the movie franchise in 2011 which bears the title "Cheaper By The Dozen" but bears no resemblance to the actual story of the two people who invented such things as "touch typing" and having a nurse hand a doctor his instruments during surgery. They saved the Remington Typewriter Company and Lever Brothers from absolute bankruptcy. Transversely today is Steve Martin's sixty-fifth birthday! He is now an official senior citizen. Steve started his career by working in the Magic Shop at Disneyland and at the Birdcage theatre at Knott's Berry Farm. That was where you could see a grand old fashioned mellerdrammer in which you cheered for the hero and hissed at the villain. I will keep you posted on our progress of making our dream happen!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Today would have been dear Bert Lahr's Birthday, the one and only Coward;y Lion from MGM's classic "The Wizard Of Oz" The movie poster on the left is the last movie that dear Bert was featured in, dying of cancer in December of 1967. Bert had been suffering secretly from cancer a good while and everyone thought he had been a victim of pneumonia. The poor producers had to use a double to replace Bert in key scenes. Interesting to note that there is work today on aBroadway musical version of this motion picture. Bert's most famous role was of course The Coward;y Lion in the MGM classoc "The Wizard of Oz" Bert Lahr was signed to play the role on July 25, 1938. He starred opposite Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Frank Morgan, and Margaret Hamilton. Lahr's lion costume was composed of real lion fur and, under the high-voltage lighting required for Oz's Technicolor scenes, was unbearably hot. Dear Bert also contributed ad-lib comedic lines for his character. The Cowardly Lion is also the only character in the movie who has two solo song numbers-"If I Only Had the Nerve", performed after his initial meeting of Dorothy, The Scarecrow, and The Tin Man in the forest, and "If I Were King of the Forest", performed while he and the others are awaiting their audience with the Wizard. Bert made the transition to straight theatre with "Waiting for Godot. " He got a script of Waiting for Godot, and after reading he was greatly impressed but unsure of how the revolutionary play would be received in the United States. It had been performed in Europe to great acclaim, but was somewhat obscure and intellectual. He co-starred in the premiere of Waiting for Godot in 1956 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida, playing Estragon to Tom Ewell's Vladimir. The performance bombed, a large amount of the audience left before the show was over, and the critics did not treat it kindly. In his book 'Notes on a Cowardly Lion', John Lahr describes the problems as being caused partly by the choices of the director, including the decision to limit Bert's movement on stage, filling the stage with platforms, a misguided advertisement of the play as a light comedy, and other issues. Bert reprised his role in the play's short-lived Broadway run. This time, however, it was with a new director, who had met with Beckett in Europe and discussed the play. The set was cleared and Bert was given more control over his performance. Ads were taken out urging intellectuals to support the play. It was a success and received enthusiastic ovations from the audience. Bert was praised and though he claimed he didn't understand the play, others would disagree and say he understood it a great deal. The other news is that my company Creative Horizons is in discussion and negotiations with a theatre in San Fernando to bring our original plays there. We talk to the financial folks on Monday, August 16th at 10:30 AM. John Nugent and I are really hoping for this to go well. A lot of hard work will be ahead, but hey, hard work is part of anything creative you set out to do. I feel the Good Lord behind me and encouraging me so I am ready for the challenge.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Well indeed, it has been a long time since I've put a posting here, But with the toss out out of Proposition Eight In California, I felt I absolutely had to. Thank God, justice is finally being served. Why should the law of the land dictate to anyone who they are allowed to marry and spend the rest of their lives with? I am proudly gay-- just as God made me. I have a domestic partner that I love dearly named John and we have as of July 5th been together eleven long years. This Halloween , October 31st will be the actual anniversary of our actual home style commitment ceremony. Way back in 1999 nobody would have thought this as even remotely possible. In the meantime since I wrote here last, many things have happened to me. Some bad. But mostly good. God has been so absolutely amazing in the last three weeks alone that I have been left absolutely flabbergasted. My writing partner and I, John Nugent have an opportunity t bring all of our original musicals to an eight hundred seat facility in San Fernando called the Hope Theatre. The theatre was purchased by a church group called the Living Hope Church who originally envisioned a much bigger facility on numerous acres in the Valencia area of Southern California near Magic Mountain. Nothing is official yet, but again with God's help this could a wonderful reality soon. We would begin with one of the old chestnut musicals that I co-wrote in 1984 with J. Eric Schmidt called "One Big Happy Family". It was based on the world famous stories in the book "Cheaper By The Dozen". Frank and Lilian Gilbreth were efficiency experts who gave the world such things as "touch typing" (which saved the Remington Typewriter company from bankruptcy and all the many buttons to be found on your washing machine. Before Frank Gilbreth came along in 1924, doctors in operations at hospitals reached for their own instruments-- there was nurse there to expedite the procedure. Amazing. The theatre is absolutely beautiful and once it gets approved, I will tell you all more and post some pictures here. Let us hope all goes well and let us hope the stay on the repeal of the proposition will not be extended until the appeal can be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court. And oh yes, yesterday was Lucille Ball's birthday. Happy Birthday, Lucy! And let us remember dear Mitch Miller who entertained us all with his 'Sing Along With Mitch" television programs in 1960's. He was ninety-nine years old and made Rosemary Clooney famous with a little song she at first despised and did not want to record. Miler insisting threatening to fire her if she didn't. What was the song? "C'mon A My House!"-- a classic and career starter for this late great singer!