Thursday, September 30, 2010


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Today would have been the birthday of one of my all time favorite performers, None other than Maurice Chevalier. What an amzingly gifted and incredible performer was this dear man whom Walt Disney and my friends the Sherman Brothers simply adored. He started to tour throughout the United States and other parts of the world and but returned to France in 1948.
In 1949, he was to get into large trouble by performing in Stockholm in a Communist benefit against nuclear arms. In 1944, he had already participated in a Communist demonstration in Paris. He was therefore even less popular in the U.S. during the McCarthyism period; in 1951, he was refused re-entry into the U.S. because he had signed the Stockholm Appeal. In 1952, he bought a large property in Marnes-la-Coquette near Paris, and named it "La Louque", as a homage to his mother's nickname. He started a relationship in 1952 with Janie Michels, a young divorcee with three children. In 1954, after Joseph McCarthy's downfall, Chevalier was welcomed back in the United States. He first full American tour was in 1955, with Vic Schoen as arranger and musical director. The Billy Wilder film Love in the Afternoon (1957) with Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper was his first Hollywood film in more than 20 years. Chevalier then appeared in the movie musical Gigi (1958) with Leslie Caron and Hermione Gingold, with whom he shared the song "I Remember It Well", and several Walt Disney films including one of my all time favorites "In Search of he Castaways "with Hayley Mills. The success of Gigi prompted Hollywood to give him an Honorary Academy Award that year for achievements in entertainment. In television, Chevalier appeared in an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour in 1958. In the early 1960s, he toured the United States and between 1960 and 1963 made eight films. The 1960 movie, Can-Can with Frank Sinatra. One of those films, made in 1961, was the dramatic movie Fanny, in which he starred with Leslie Caron and Charles Boyer. This film was an updated version of Marcel Pagnol's "Marseilles Trilogy." In 1965, at 77, he made another world tour. In 1967 he toured in Latin America, again the US, Europe and Canada. The following year, on October 1, 1968, he announced his farewell tour. Chevalier appeared in short film sequences in the 1969 documentary The Sorrow and the Pity. In a wartime short film near the end of the film's second part, he explained his disappearance during World War II as rumors of his death lingered at that time. His song, "Sweepin' the Clouds Away," was one of its theme songs and was played in the end credits of the film's second part. In 1970, several years after his retirement, songwriters Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman got him to sing the title song of the Disney film The Aristocats, which ended up being his final contribution to the film industry.He died in Paris, on January 1, 1972, aged 83, and was interred in the cemetery of Marnes-la-Coquette in Hauts-de-Seine, outside Paris, France. The other sad news today was the announcement in Las Vegas that the once famed Liberace museum that opened in 1979 is going to close and thirty people wil be losing their jobs. How sad! No one remembers this wonderful entertainer. He wil always be a grand part of my heart. I watched him on television in glorious black and white for years and years. He starred in a great movie called "Sincerely Yours" and I shelled out a fortune at the time for a show of his In Las Vegas with a little attraction called "The DancingWaters" the first on stage use of water shot in the air using colored lights. There is a bio pic being discussed in which Michael Douglas will play the famed pianist and Matt damon as his famous lover. Now that should be interesting. A grand free show goes on in New York City this morning as all of Broadway comes out for a free concert at 11:30am. Sure wish I could have been on Times Square this morning. We had a great rehearsal last night for our show "Edgar, Alan & Poe" and it looks like we are really getting this musical together. This is a very special story and I think its one of my best scripts yet. It's getting lots of nice comments from everyone in the cast.That's a good thing.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This of course is the 9th anniversary of what might be called the second greatest day in infamy in American History-- the first being the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. But back then, we were in a world of war and turmoil. It is scary to note that what the great Abraham Lincoln said could never happen to this country by force actually did happen. Lincoln had said that "if destruction be our lot, then we ourselves must be its authors and finishers" Well, apparently not, but while men's passions have certainly caused our beloved country some very anxious moments no act of infamy will ever equal the events of 9/11/ 2001. Not even Hitler, himself stood up in public and thanked Almighty God for an act of terrorism succeeding. That took some real chutzpah and moxie of the highest order. The pictures on the page reflect the original Towers and the planned new ones. The World Trade Center (WTC) was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan in New York City near Fulton Street ( I live on a Fulton Street) that were destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The site is currently being rebuilt with six new skyscrapers and a memorial to the casualties of the attacks.
The original World Trade Center was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the early 1960s using a tube-frame structural design for the twin 110-story towers. In gaining approval for the project, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey agreed to take over the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad which became the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH). Groundbreaking for the World Trade Center took place on August 5, 1966. The North Tower (1) was completed in December 1970 and the South Tower (2) was finished in July 1971. a thirty year life. The construction project involved excavating a large amount of material which was used in making Battery Park City on the west side of Lower Manhattan. The complex was located in the heart of New York City's downtown financial district and contained 13.4 million square feet (1.24 million m²) of office space. The Windows on the World restaurant was located on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade Center (the North Tower) while the Top of the World observation deck where i once stood and took pictures from in 1994 was located on the 107th floor of 2 World Trade Center (the South Tower). Other World Trade Center buildings included the Marriott World Trade Center; 4 World Trade Center 5 World Trade Center; 6 World Trade Center, which housed the United States Customs. All of these buildings were built between 1975 and 1981. The final building constructed was 7 World Trade Center, which was built in 1985. The World Trade Center experienced a fire on February 13, 1975 and a bombing on February 26, 1993. In 1998, the Port Authority decided to privatize the World Trade Center, leasing the buildings to a private company to manage, and awarded the lease to Silverstein Properties in July 2001.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two 767 jets into the complex, one into each tower, in a coordinated suicide attack. After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower (2) collapsed, followed a half-hour later by the North Tower (1), with the attacks on the World Trade Center resulting in 2,752 deaths. 7 World Trade Center collapsed later in the day and the other buildings, although they did not collapse, had to be demolished because they were damaged beyond repair. Sad sad, sad. In other news, the musical "Edgar, Alan & Poe' with a new and much improved cast from before. All of those actors who made excuses and quit after taking their roles and committed to them have been put into a data base that warns producers about flaky performers. It simply warns others that these individuals broke their word. It's sort of a bad credit type database about actors. As the good people of Nordstrom's will tell you "You never get a second chance to make a good impression." It's amazing at how some of the stories that these performers told about being too poor to take a job which offered 5% of the gross and then revealed that they had the money to buy cars (and got swindled doing that) and taking on entire new apartments (with all of the money that
requires in deposits and security fees) and then downright lying about their situations. I would never hire these actors again and with the database in place maybe others will not ether.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

We've been talking this week about how there is no guarantee anywhere in life. and yet some young actors insist upon it before they will commit to anything. The photo you see is of world famous writer Preston Sturges, an Academy Award winner and the guy who made "the screwball comedy" a mainstay in American cinema. In 1953, one of the most notorious Broadway flops of all time was a little gem called "Carnival In Flanders. It opened and closed on Broadway on this day after six performances. It almost destroyed Sturges emotionally. The composer of this notorious flop was Jimmy Van Huesan. Jimmy wrote a few songs you might have heard of that won Academy Awards. Titles like "High Hopes" "Call Mr Irresponsible" and Sinatra's big one "All The Way" Johnny Burke had been an Academy Award winner for the classic song "Swinging On A Star" Together this team of Burke and Van Heusen turned out some of the great hit tunes of the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. Burke was the only major composer to spend his entire career with just one studio, Paramount Pictures. His primary function as a lyricist was working on Bing Crosby films. Of the 41 films on which he worked, 25 starred Bing Crosby. Seventeen songs were substantial hits, including "Pennies from Heaven" "I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams", "Only Forever", "Moonlight Becomes You" and "Sunday, Monday and Always" and the aforementioned Swinging on a Star from the Bing Crosby film Going My Way. Carnival in Flanders had a big star in the persona of John Raitt and its book was improved by Dorothy Fields an amazing book writer and lyricist in her own career. The big song from the musical was that classic song "Here's That Rainy Day" All of that plus costumes and sets the critics raved over, but a story set far away in what is today the country of Belgium (then Flanders) in the year 1616. The odds that this musical should have been an outstanding hit were overwhelming in its favor. Van Huesan and Sammy Cahn even tried a Broadway musical called "Walking Happy" that flopped so badly it lost twelve million dollars-- which in the 1960's was a colossal amount. Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay lerner flopped with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a 1970's flop so big and so embarrassing that the Leonard Bernstein estate refuses to this day to allow public performances of the work. And if you listen to this musical's signature song "Bless this House" you will cry -- and that is a guarantee. So all of you young actors who put no faith in things that doesn't have a guarantee, beware--not even amazing legendary talent can make something successful. And don't forget the stigma of being in a flop with so much famous talent is going affect how soon you get hired for another show. Dear Mitch Leigh, the composer of "Man of La Mancha" had that one hit show-- everything else he tried flopped big time! Alan Jay Lerner and Charles Strouse have had more huge flops than any other individuals. There is no guarantee except what dear Ben Franklin said all those years ago-- death and taxes-- and maybe the continued annoyance of politics!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Nothing goes smoothly in my life. There are always so many complications and the preparation to bring our
latest musical to the stage is certainly no exception. After our efforts to run the Hope Thaetre failed because of pure greed by the managers of the church's theatre we are aiming for a much smaller venue at the Actor's Garden Theatre which is a Bohemian style theatre in which the audience sits in living room style furniture to watch a play or musical in a very intimate setting. The theatre has forty-nine seats and is an Equity-Wavier style theatre where LA's longest running play "The Eavesdroppers' has been playing Friday and Saturday nights there for almost four years. Now any play house that can still gather an audience with the same play in the same space and make a profit must be doing something right so we are preparing to bring "Edgar, Alan and Poe" there set to open on November 1st. The first thing we have learned is just how flaky actors have become since we last produced a musical. As difficult as "Little Bit of Broadway" was to pull off last year, the root cause of that was that the theatre we were using was a pro production type theatre in which the actor actually had to pay $440 in order to be cast in a show there. And the owner of that theatre was making a fortune doing ten shows a month there at every hour of the week including midnight shows and making $47.550 a month before he sold a single ticket to the general public We had four actors quit even after paying the required money. He's been doing this for eleven years now! And now, we try to showcase a brand new musical with lots of supporters including ASCAP and Disney and we are finding actors who seem so excited about creating a new role and then they panic. All of a sudden they have "classes' they never told us they had at the audition and they have barely enough to eat and a place to stay but have enough to go to San Francisco for a four day weekend. Maybe they think we don't listen to what they're saying! Actors today want guarantees of money earned without being a member of the Actor's Equity: the union that grants them the privilege of obtaining that in an Equity Wavier production. They can't sell tickets because they "don't know anybody in L.A.!" Are they living on an island? Do they not say hello to anybody? Are they not even trying to make friends? They come out from back east without job connections or adequate savings. You offer them a contract that "guarantees' they will always be a part of a future professional production and they find a way of waffling out of that on the pretense that delaying the production by two weeks has completely changed their availability when they have yet no job and no engagement that has cast them in a paying gig. We even reduce rehearsal time to accomodate their panic! Back when "Skylark" was produced, we had so many people show up for the audition. Our lead in the show, way back then was the late great Carl Packard who gave up an Equity chorus job in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific at $600 a week in 1984 money to take a non paying role in our show. His reasoning was brilliant. Who in the theatre community or Hollywood studio system was going to notice him singing "Bloody Mary' with twelve other guys? Nobody! "If I'm going to be an actor, it can't be just for money--it has to be also to advance my art and give me a chance to move on to bigger and better things. The days of being discovered in a drug store like Lana Turner supposedly was is simply legend. Of course you must pay your bills but if the production that wants you is willing to limit rehearsals to three days a week during the first month of rehearsals so that you can attend your expensive classes and hold a day job --why would you not want to try that? Are you an actor or not? Maybe you're just a wannabe. Dear God, please don't waste people's time. Don't tell people of your passion for the art when your only real passion is making money to exist. Stay home. Don't add to our freeway traffic. If we go on to Broadway, do you really think I could ever consider you again? Never. Because I would remember that all of your passion was like air in a balloon-- all hot air and no substance. I guess I will never understand today's actor. I have been writing for years and refuse to give up. I invest in my talent with the trust that God will always lead to the right destination because at the end, I will need to answer to Him. What did I do with the gifts that He gave me? Did I hide them looking only for guarantees? Did I accept a role and make a commitment and then find an excuse to break my word? What else do you break your word on? Why would you take an expensive acting class for a good deal of money, be there always on time and then not want to take a lead in a role that could bring you to Broadway? Who's going to "discover you' in that class?' The answer is nobody-- you're fooling yourself! Today's actor is simply not yesterday's actor and yesterday actor still had to pay rent, still had to buy food and still had to have a day job. Nothing has changed except the amounts. So if you're not ready, Mr, outside California actor-- stay home with mommy and daddy--don't come out here until you're ready to commit to something. An actor we auditioned had a guaranteed dinner theatre contract. He went out and bought a car and rented a nice apartment. Nineteen days into the rehearsal the playhouse doing the musical burned to the ground and the owner committed suicide. He was forced to move in with a gay friend who had his own agenda for this good looking young man. His choice was surrender or the streets-- which was really no choice. The actor surrendered because he couldn't go home and face his family who had tried to talk him out of an acting career in the first place and he had no courage for the streets. so much for the guarantee. But John and i go on-- we don't quit--any dip shit can do that!