Saturday, May 19, 2012
"Mame", "Hello Dolly", "La Cage Aux Folles", "Mack and Mabel", "Jerry's Girls"
are just some of the shows that spawned music from the head of Jerry
Herman that is played now and will be played for many futures to come.
He is proud of being 'old school' when it comes to musical theatre and
loves show-tunes with their distinct sounds.
This book was written in 1996 when he had already been diagnosed being HIV+
for a few years. He talks somewhat about his being gay, a couple of
boyfriends, having a very successful second career decorating,
restoring and architectural design and his 'comeback' with "La Cage Aux
Folles" with "I Am What I Am" becoming the gay anthem.
Between "Mame" and "Hello Dolly" he has worked with most of the legends in
Broadway musical history and he loves them all. The only one who seemed
to intimidate him was Barbra Streisand and he feels that was more his
fault then hers.
Jerry Herman is an optimist, as many of his lyrics prove, and when he is
feeling 'down' he tends to stay by himself. He has very little bad to
say about anyone, except maybe David Merrick, and he didn't always agree
with his collaborators but he was definitely a team player and proud of
it. He doesn't seem to have any animosity towards any people he has
worked with and loves telling stories about the greats that put them in a
He writes about his biggest disappointment and that was "Mack and Mabel"
not being the hit it should have been and eventually did become in a
London production when it was scaled smaller than the Broadway
production had been. He also felt there was too much of an age
difference between his stars that worked against teh show from the
moment the curtain opened. Though it hasn't happened yet at the end of
the book he is waiting for a revival of "Anyone Can Whistle" which he
thought was also overproduced in its original showing.
The only show he sort of bad mouths in "The Grand Tour" as he felt it
shouldn't have been produced to begin with and he regrets having doing
it when he knew he didn't 'feel' it.
Just reading about his interactions with Carol Channing, Ethel Merman,
Angela Lansbury, Judy Garland, Bernadette Peters, Lisa Kirk, Leslie
Uggams, Harvey Fierstein, Arthur Laurents, George Hearn, Gene Barry and
many more stars will put a smile on your face the whole time you are
reading the book.
Now at the age of 82, in July, with 2 Tony Awards plus a Lifetime
Achievement Award and recipient of the Kennedy Center honors among many
other recognitions of his life, contributions to theatre and music and a
legacy of songs that will live forever Jerry Herman has deservedly been
called 'the musical man of the moment' and, as the book cover says, 'a
much beloved and uniquely talented man.'
"I Am What I Am"
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It's my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in.
Life's not worth a damn,
'Til you can say, "Hey world, I am what I am."
I am what I am,
I don't want praise, I don't want pity.
I bang my own drum,
Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty.
And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle,
Why not try to see things from a diff'rent angle?
Your life is a sham 'til you can shout out loud
I am what I am!
I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses.
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces.
There's one life, and there's no return and no deposit;
One life, so it's time to open up your closet.
Life's not worth a damn 'til you can say,
"Hey world, I am what I am!"
Friday, May 18, 2012
Unless you are a fan of Johnny Depp and/or Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter and/or Tim Burton you will have a hard time sitting through this almost 2 hour film of “Dark Shadows”. Having never seen the original TV show I don’t know whether this is based on that or just taking the original characters and running with their names but if it is suppose to be a take off or camp it fails.
I am a big fan of Johnny Depp but I find most of the films he has made with Tim Burton, except, maybe, “Sweeney Todd” to be uninteresting. The screenplay for “Dark Shadows” was written by Seth Grahame-Smith who didn’t seem to know what he was doing. At times I thought I was watching “Wuthering Heights” or a Daphne Du Maurier novel based film. At other times I wasn’t sure if it was Eva Green on the screen or if Burton had superimposed shots of Meryl Streep from “Death Becomes Her”, especially near the end. When Bella Heathcote appeared on screen as Victoria the part screamed for Christine Ricci.
As much as I love Michelle Pfeiffer, and there is nothing wrong with her performance here and she still looks stunning, Burton should have taken some of her screen time or any of the other actors and had, at least, one scene between Depp and Alice Cooper. Why was he in the film?
The characters Depp has played over the years such as Ed Wood, Scissorhands, his very successful Jack Sparrow films, has brought him fame, awards and money but I would like to see him get away from the make up roles and get back to movies like “Chocolat”, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, “Donnie Brasco” and “Benny and Joon” where he did the acting and not his makeup and costumes like he does here.
Danny Elfman’s selection of music is right on and the production design of Collinwood Manor is more interesting than the film itself.
Stay for credits at the end of the film and take a count of how many people were involved with this film which will boggle your mind.
One last thought--maybe it is time to give vampires, and werewolves, a rest from the screen.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The Korean War 'officially' ended July, 1953, but when we arrived there in June, 1954 there were still minor outbreaks of fighting. Marines were known to go in and 'clean up' an area and that was our job. I could spend a few chapters talking about my 2 years in the Corps but I just want to touch on a few of the discoveries and adventures along with some brief thoughts that I will expand on another time. I remember going on R & R to Kyoto, Japan, and being enthralled by that beautiful country and though it wasn't that long after the atomic bomb had been dropped on parts of Japan the people were extremely welcoming to those of us in uniform.
I touched upon this once briefly and I will be brief now, too. I was out on night patrol with some guys from my unit when we were ambushed and I was faced with a 'kill or be killed' situation and I killed. To this day I remember the look of shock and that kid's face, yes, he was a kid, probably my age. I have never picked up or touched a pistol, rifle or gun since I left the Marines and I will never again. Yes, if I am faced with a 'kill or be killed' situation I know nothing can make me take another human being's life. When I read bloggers talk about owning guns and 'bearing arms' or 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' I know most of them have never killed another human being which is not the same as killing a defenseless animal.
I got a little off track here so let me continue with my return to Camp Pendelton after a year in Korea and for 5 months I didn't have a complaint in the world. I would get passes for long weekends and spend them either in La Jolla or Laguna Beach or Hollywood. I met Bob, a brilliant man, who had worked on atom bomb research and was now a professor at UCLA and had a home at Malibu Beach where we would spend weekends. One evening, alone at the Circle bar on Hollywood Boulevard, I met Tom and we had an affair in spite of the fact that he had a lover who was a director. The lover knew who I was, and about me, but didn't say a word because, as he said years later when I asked him, he knew Tom would always come back to him and he was right.
Time went by, I was promoted and my uniforms started to get a little tight. I met Fred, a civilian, who gave parties that I went to and, being the gentleman I was, would send him thank you notes and, occasionally, when I couldn't get to his place in Laguna Beach, a gift with a card saying, "Love, Martin." I was aware that Fred was into drugs but I didn't touch them nor were he and I an item. It seems one night his place was raided, some of my notes were found and turned into the Corps. I was awakened in the middle of the night by some military police who busted my locker open, took my diaries and a book that I was writing at the time and was arrested.
A little background about that time in the USA. Senator Joseph McCarthy, an ex-Marine, an ex-Democrat, turned Republican in 1944 and started to see everyone as a communist in 1950. He accused the Democratic party of 20 years of treason and said the ACLU was a front for the communist party. (Remember this in the 1950s not 2012!) He claimed there were communists in the State department, in the President's administration and pointed his finger at people inside and outside of the government (sound familiar?) without any proof. Along with attacking innocent people with the communist tag he, also, started accusing people of being homosexual without even knowing his own lawyer, Roy Cohn, was a closet case. He was censured by the Senate 67-22--guess which party the 22 represented--and even after that he started going after people in the service for being gay, at one time quoted as saying, "We are not at war, we don't need them anymore!"
I was offered a deal from the Marine Corps that said that they would discharge me with a medical discharge if I would give them the names of all the gay Marines I knew, or saw in gay situations, or they would give me an undesireable discharge which meant I would lose all and any benefits that I would have coming to me. They piled on the threats of what would happen with the latter kind of discharge, how I would never get a government job and would be suspected my whole life as it would be on my record and follow me around, etc. I would not give any names, of which I am very proud of to this day, and within 24 hours I was kicked off the base and out of the Marine Corps.
I called Tom who came down to pick me up and take him to his place. Dave was out of town directing a film with Charlton Heston and said it would be okay. They lived on Laurel Canyon Drive, next door to Marlon Brando, who I never did get to meet though I was invited to parties at his place. The day before Dave got home I rented a one room apartment a couple of blocks up from Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue not far from the famous Scwabb's drugstore. I spent the first 2 months of my third decade seeing Billie Holiday at the Keyboard Club in Beverly Hills, going to the Grauman's Chinese theatre, hearing Judy Garland sing at the Hollywood Bowl, cruising at the Roosevelt Hotel, while getting fatter and poorer. It was time to do something about/with my life.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
into the thick of life
and seize it where you will,
it is always interesting."
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I don't remember the exact date but I do know it was 1947, I was 11 years old, and I realized that I was gay. It would be a year later that I would have sex with another male and yet another year before I started activism by coming out. The second decade of my life was a very bewildering, mixed up time but then, I suppose, most teenagers could say that except I had the additional pressure of discovering exactly what being gay meant. From the ages of 13 to 16 I discovered a Manhattan that most adults, let alone teens, from 1949-1952 didn't know existed. There was an underbelly of restrooms, bars, baths and parks the majority of New Yorkers were not aware of being. I always looked older than I was so I wasn't carded going into bars--the legal age was 18 back then--or the baths. I learned about the bathroom on the 8th floor of the Rockefeller building and the two basement restrooms along with the IRT 50th street and 28th street stops.
There was also a sophisticated gay side that I was taught about consisting of going to theatres, piano bars, dinners, penthouse orgies, museums, art galleries and jazz clubs. I was described as a 'west side' kid with entry to the 'east side' gay life.
At the same time I was dealing with a family that was, and had, failed. I was asked to play a part, a role that I wasn't able to deal with. In June of 1952 I left my family, got a room in Greenwich Village, got a job as an usher at the Lyric theatre on 42nd Street, went to summer school and found time to get comfortable in a world that I wanted to be in and make better. After graduating high school I attended the State University of New York for 1 semester before deciding to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and in February, 1954, I arrived in Parris Island, South Carolina.
Someday I will get into being entrapped by the vice squad, scams against gay men in the movie houses along 42nd street by security men, a 3 month 'affair' with a celebrity, intermissions at the theatre and making dates for after, having to grow up fast and holding my own along with mentors who helped me become the activist that was able to accomplish some things but for now it is time to talk about going to Korea and ending my second decade of life taking a life only to be chewed up and spit out!
Oh did I mention that I was a fat kid and after leaving home I ended up in the hospital overdosing on 'diet pills'? No, I wasn't attempting suicide--I was just trying to lose weight faster!
After 16 weeks of boot camp in swamp surrounded Parris Island I saw, for the first time, the good looking man I could be. On leave, in New York, before being transferred to Camp Pendleton, I saw the admiring looks I was getting when I went into the 63rd Street Y or the theatre or Downey's on 8th Avenue, dressed in uniform and it would be a little over a decade before I would be getting those looks again.
I spent a couple of weeks in Camp Pendleton, California, undergoing more training. It was a huge base between San Diego and Los Angeles surrounded by hills and divided into many sections. When I arrived there a new part of the base opened and was called Camp Horno--yes, you know the punch line, you know what they called it. Along with that female Marines were referred to as "BAMs" and if you can't figure that one out e-mail me. Remember this was the mid-50s, a different world.
A surprising factor to me, though it made sense once I thought about it, and Marines here will deny it vehemently, there were many gay Marines, as discharges would show after the Korean War was over. Many teens, young males, unsure of their masculinity, sexuality, enlisted in the Marine Corps to 'prove' they were men but it didn't take me long to learn that many would rather go into the hills on weekends instead of going to nearby Oceanside or up to Hollywood and, trust me, it wasn't to hear the sound of music.
None of the above is meant to be negative about the Marine Corps. I was proud to be a Marine and I still state, with pride, that I was a Marine, in spite of how they treated me and other gay men when we were no longer needed by them.
Before I knew it I was on a troop ship on my way to Korea to 'help clean up'.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
"I AM NOT AFRAID OF STORMS
FOR I AM LEARNING
HOW TO SAIL
LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
(FROM MARIA'S CARDS)
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