My wealth

Yesterday I began (albeit a day early) celebrating my birthday as I usually do; a month long of art, music, entertainment and culture.  My actual birthday isn’t for almost three weeks, but the best thing about the fall season is that everything returns which I find most appealing, which my heart craves.

I love that fall stretches the brain with things that are rich and abundant. I love that school starts and it’s time to put on our thinking caps. The Nobel prize for Literature gets announced and it’s time to roam bookstores and libraries. Although I do this year round, I’m convinced in the fall there is a different scent; of wood, leather and old money. Museums get new selections that portray the human experience. Art galleries hold openings with wine and cheese receptions. Films lose their superficial summer quality and ring in real drama. And perhaps best of all, Symphonies and Opera resume.

Last night at Disney Hall, Gustavo Dudamel lead the L.A. Philharmonic and opened with Beethoven’s Coriolan overture. Dudamel is very physical and electrifying in his approach.

It was followed by Creative Chair John Adams’ Absolute jest, a piece for string quartet and orchestra, in which the composer interwove fragments of Beethoven’s late quartets, bits of the 8th and 9th symphonies, the Hammerklavier Sonata and other archetypal Beethoven excerpts.

Adams’ on stage verbally narrated his personal transformations next to Beethoven’s music, and that’s when I zoned out. Not because I thought his comparisons pompous, but because I don’t want to hear an educational discussion at a symphony by a man who isn’t even garbed in a tux! That’s best as a pre-event discussion and I prefer no talking on stage.

I must admit, I mentally came back when I realized how sophisticated and distinctive his composition was and the juxtaposition of the instruments revived me once again.

However, the crown of the program was the mighty Yefim Bronfman teaming with Dudamel for one of the most profound and poetic of all piano concertos, the last one that Beethoven was able to premiere as soloist.

Choose to be Happy

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The title of post was inspired by a number I heard in the musical Grey Gardens, which I saw Saturday night at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.

The first act is engaging only as generic musical theater, as if book writer Doug Wright and director Michael Wilson were anxious to dispense with the preliminaries and get to the more meaty second act.

But I liked the first act since the younger Edie played by Sarah Hunt is living in grandeur.  She is pretty and vivacious with none of the idiosyncrasies intimating her later, fractured self. Her most affecting song, “Daddy’s Girl,” is a desperate plea to convince her fiance, Joe Kennedy of her fidelity.

As moving as it is, the first act actually belongs to Rachel York as the elder Edith, a mother from hell who demands the center spotlight. She is even more impressive after intermission when she switches from Big Edith to Little Edie, taking over the role from Hunt as the now 56-year-old former debutante, holed up with her mother, played by Betty Buckley.

Gone are the Kennedys, the bright colors, beautiful people and sparkling champagne — replaced now with filth and decay.

In act two,  we see the character’s charm and eccentricity as she models a bizarre ensemble with stockings over shorts and an apron that doubles as a cape — as if to say to hell to a “mean nasty Republican town.”

Thoughts like “It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. Do you know what I mean? It’s awfully difficult,” sound like something Tennessee Williams might have written but were actually lifted from the documentary.

Grey Gardens is a portrait of being without men in a man’s world, at a time where wealthy women were powerless, victims of chauvinism and self-delusion.

Big Edith only wanted her independence, a virtual impossibility for a woman with nothing more to offer than a vibrant falsetto. And her daughter Edie is someone who, due to poor parenting and a hint of mental illness, found all avenues of escape cut off.

Like most of us one time or another, they are trapped by an uncaring world and by their own shortcomings. The point is brought home in Edie’s heartbreaking lament that ends the show, “Another Winter in a Summer Town,” sung by a woman who will always be on the outside looking in. It’s a condition familiar to anyone who has ever felt defeated and estranged — rich, poor, loved and unloved, and it’s what gives Grey Gardens its emotional resonance.

Los Angeles Music Center
Los Angeles Music Center

Three Men

Is anyone as happy as I am that autumn is making it’s way here? It causes me to be in a celebratory mood. We begun last night with an instant uplift of music. We went to an amazing vocal performance, The Phat Pack at the Plaza. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hlnBujP5Cs

The show consists of three male singers; two tenors and a bass-baritone that blend in famous Broadway tunes along with their own witty songs. The threesome met while doing Phantom, and when the show closed they decided to create their own show. Their name is obviously a play on words taken from the Rat Pack. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Pack

The singers and their musical accompanist, who is the true genius behind the show; Philip Fortenberry, a very talented pianist showcases their fine voices and his playing is superb!

The show opened last year, closed for awhile and then reopened. Last night’s show wasn’t well-attended but folks don’t know what they’re missing! I recommend it to anyone who appreciates good music and enjoys listening to professional artists that care about what they do.

Ahh, Good Times

Here is a good example of how foolish a reasonably intelligent person can be.

When I was in my twenties, I got a freelance job for a television show.  It was my first which lead me to another and on and on. The show was a magazine format; and great fun, and I had one brilliant idea after another, going places, interviewing artists, and I believed what they were doing was the greatest thing on earth.  We taped 13 shows and everything would have been fine, except I was naïve. Because I have never thought solely about money but it’s imperative that I derive pleasure from work, I decided that what I would do, is hold off on submitting invoices to the producers, until they owed me a decent amount.  Then I would submit the invoice and have a bundle of money, instead of a trickle I had been receiving.

Clearly this was a very bad idea. However, I worked diligently for weeks, submitted an invoice, whereupon the producers couldn’t find a network that was interested and they went bankrupt.  Suffice it to say, I never saw a dime. The crew formed a legal case against the producers, and  they were so full of venom, that I didn’t want to be a part of it,  and I knew I would be better off re-directing my energies to find a permanent job in entertainment (which I did).  I wrote it off (hard as it was) as a lesson to be learned.

So why am I thinking about this now? Because not long ago, I gave a talk to a group of children, in a public library and it was a lot of fun.  But when I stepped up to the podium, I happened to look over to the shelves at my right and, lo and behold, there was a book with one of the “celebs” I interviewed.  Staring at me.  And so my first words got mixed up with my silent thoughts. Afterwards, I was thinking about how strange it was that that book, of all books, should be right in my line of view; and how odd it is when the past and present converge, a sensation I have been having a lot lately.  Maybe it is simply a function of middle age, that I have lived enough of my life that every event in the present triggers a memory of the past. Or maybe there are force fields converging and I am at the epicenter and am about to explode. But the end result is that I find my present-self continually bumping up against my young self, as though we are both ghosts haunting the same bit of space.

Isn’t one of the joys of writing to be able to spend time with your younger self again, and with the people who you knew and loved in the past?  You can also see the psychological aspects of a relationship in a new and fresh way. Anyway, after the library talk was over, I went home and had to scrounge for a video player and loaded the video into it.  I looked and listened and could still remember how proud I was of some of the language, and what pride I felt in doing my work.  So lesson to be learned; always have a contract and collect money up-front, half way through and at the end of the job.

So what about you? What’s the most foolish thing you’ve done professionally? And more importantly, what did you learn from it? imag009NU

A Mensch

He was born Joseph Levitch but the world knows him as actor and comedian Jerry Lewis. He was one of my childhood favorites and I laughed hysterically at his mania.

But the belly laughs didn’t stop then. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I went to see his televised 87th birthday tribute.  His actual birthday takes place on March 16 but airs on PBS early 2013. I should have taken a box of tissues, his comedic intent is pure insanity and I along with the audience was enthralled by his nonsense and idiocy. However don’t be fooled—as a human being he’s as sharp as a needle and his lively mischievous mind never waivers. The man is brilliant and has a flair for improvisation, as well as being multi-faceted, he has achieved international fame. The French love him, so much in fact that they presented him with the Legion of Honor and gave him a medal. I think they appreciate his gift for pantomime. And judging by the large Brazilian contingency in the audience, that flew in to see him live, they too adore him.

A few old-time celebrities were papering the house.  Two rows behind me were Tim Conway, Edie Gorme and Steve Lawrence who called out, “hey Laaa-dy.” Also to my right across the aisle was Cuba Gooding Jr.

That night I found out that Lewis was in New York days before discussing The Nutty Professor that will be coming to Broadway in the future.

Lewis has made Las Vegas his home after marrying a show-girl thirty years ago. And it was in Las Vegas where he hosted the annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon in which he raised nearly 2.5 billion dollars. That’s what I call the world’s greatest fund-raiser and a mensch with a big heart.

Ten, a complete number

Is anybody out there as happy as I am that it’s October. The desert is most beautiful this time of year; if fall ever arrives.  Today it’s 100 degrees. Even so, I am hopeful. The lantanas are in full bloom, and the color orange is everywhere.  Soon a vibrant red will hit overtaking flat shades of brown. It’s my birthday in two and a half weeks and I celebrate the entire month. I started today.  My husband bought me a new pair of sneakers, not the kind you wear to the Gym, but the fashionable slender kind you wear to walk in. We’re seeing the performance of the Broadway musical Wicked this week-end and going to the opening night gala celebration of the Las Vegas Philharmonic playing Mussorgsky on the 20th.  The fridge is stocked with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne to ring in the occasion.  And I found just the right recipe to bake myself a Tres Leches cake. Best of all, with two occasions to dress up and attend the Smith Center I will feel a remnant of my former cultural life—in my element again—being social with culture, art and refinement all around me. Alive again!

So to all you October gals and guys and I know plenty of them, —here’s to this month being a charm.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztoSUhbNntQ