Friday, November 24, 2006
the past nudged by the present

A million years ago, I was "coaching" in New York City at a place called VAMP Studios. Voice, Arrangements, Music, and Production...V.A.M.P.
This was the full service place for the budding singer and in some cases for the already Performing Professionally, singer/actress/actor.
The 'principals' involved in this fantastic one-stop service were, VOICE: Richard Camillucci, of whom I have spoken before....
Arrangements: Luther Henderson (pictured to the right) one of the finest Musical Arranger/Conductor/Composers of the 20th Century---(Google him, please....he was one amazing gentleman), and Music...well, everything these men did involved 'music' but indeed, there were a number of accompanists that played for the recipients of these services....and they were all fantastically talented....and last but not least, Production: Buster Newman. Buster was an amazing man that knew how to bring out the best in you and the best in producing a professional 'nightclub act'. As a team, these guys were unstoppable.

I met a lot of wonderful people through VAMP Studios....many of whom remain in my life, or did till they passed on, to this day....One of the Great Great people I met was a woman named Marcella Markham. She was an actress and a singer working with Buster and Cami on improving and refining her skills. She was married to a very interesting man...quite a bit older than she was...Frank Kingdon and they had a little boy about 5 years old, named Tom. Frank was a wonderful writer and a liberal activist---having backed Henry Wallace and The Progressive Party back in 1947-48, but who had fallen into the Blacklist Hole of the early 50's, which had sent him packing....and had also sent him to the 'ghost writing'-farm where he wrote for some of the most famous political men of his generation who were not afraid to hire him to pretend he was them, as long as no one found out. This is where things were, when I met Marcella. She had been in the Original Broadway production of Eugene Oneill's "The Iceman Cometh"...playing 'Cora'....a landmark production which opened on Broadway in 1946. I met Marcella in 1953. She was nine years older than me.

Marcella was a born and bred New Yorker and we really hit it off, big time. She had a great sense of humor and was incredibly bright and endlessly interesting to me....She was in my eyes a very sophisticated woman with great heart. A woman who followed her own star so to speak and was not anything like anyone I had known before that time, and certainly not like any one of my peers....and, it turned out she had a very handsome brother who happened to be a trumpet player then working as a salesman for the then rather large department store in the Bronx called Alexander's. And I met him because Marcella thought we would make a nice couple. We began dating and I was crazy about him. Sometimes I would stay overnight at Frank & Marcella's apartment in the that Bob and I could have more time together....It was a very exciting time....

This memory of Marcella and in turn her brother Bob was stirred by an article I read in the New York Times the other day. It was about that fascinatingly gifted English actor, Bill Nighy. Remember him in "Love Actually"? He was the over-the-hill Rocker guy who has a comeback with his most famous recording....I LOVED that movie a lot! And I adored Bill Nighy a lot, a lot!! Since that time he has had a much higher profile in the United States, being cast in many many films, three of which are coming out soon...and he is opening at The Music Box Theatre on Broadway in a play called "The Vertical Hour" on November 30th....thus, this interview-article in The Times titled "A Veteran Actor's New Role: Thinking Woman's Crumpet". It is a charming artcle and covers the fact that at 56 Bill Nighy is suddenly the 'leading man' who gets the was charming and very informative, too.

In the article he talks a great deal about his early years as an actor and his even earlier years as a young teenager, leaving home after listening to Bob Dylan's first album...and what happened to him after that...Okay, Okay...I'm getting to the Marcella Markham part....
He speaks about his very first professional job as an actor where he played a body guard. This was in a production of Tennessee Williams play "The Milktrain Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" and the actress playing the lead who's body he would be guarding was named Marcella Markham....(Parenthetically here: Marcella and Frank were divorced and Marcella moved to England, re-married and began having a 'real' acting career again, their in the UK which is where she was when this incident happened....this was now in the late 60's and early 70's.....and just fyi: I wrote an original score to this same T. Wiiliams play for a production here in Los Angeles in the mid 60's....)

In the article Bill Nighy talks about the first day of rehearsal of this play and I quote: "My process, which hasn't changed was to create a hostile parallel universe in which I was about to get fired. She, (Marcella that is) looked at me a long time and in an act of tremendous kindness, which I have never forgotten, she said; 'Where did you find him? This kid is fabulous'....." And that was truly the beginning of his serious career as an actor. After reading this article I found another quote from him about this incident with Marcella, which was more extensive and actually covered this same story in a much more complete way....:

"The leading lady was the beautiful and glamorous American Actress, Marcella Markham....She came in, in a big coat and huge shades and sat while I spoke the lines for the first time in rehearsal. I was very nervous and my breath was short, so I had a little difficulty delivering them. I couldn't move, either, it turned out, which was disappointing because I had a gestrure planned: I was going to point. I finished, and, rather than replying, Marcella continued to stare at me from behind her big dark glasses for what seemed like an eternity, during which time I invented a hostile parrallel universe where I waited to be punished. This has since become traditional in my work, It's as near as I come to a process. She then turned to the director, Nicholas Kent, and asked: "Where did you find this boy?" But rather than going on to say 'And why are you wasting my time?' as I was expecting, she turned back to me and said, "He's sensational." Trust me, I wasn't - and no one else in the room was that way mistaken - but she'd watched me suffering and was moved to a great kindness. I was humbled by it and built a cave of love around her from that moment on."

Well, I loved reading this story for so very many reasons....first of all, one rarely if ever hears of Marcella any more----she died of breast cancer a number of years ago I'm sorry to say---and to read this truly great story from an actor that I admire so very very much is delicious, plus third and most important, it reminds me how encouraging and supportive Marcella Markham was...and that she continued to be so is not really a surprise but more of an affirmation about this woman that I knew to be a very generous and loving spirit. I know that knowing Marcella when I did changed my life in a big way....she couldn't have been more supportive of me as 'an artist' and also as a woman....And maybe more importantly I saw that a woman could have a career in show business and a life, too, an important thing to learn at not quite 23 years old in the early 1950's---and a very very young 23, a that.....I loved Marcella a lot and I was 'in love' with her dear brother---and he was one of the men that I dreamed of having a baby with....Remember, I was a very young 23 going on 12!

This picture above and to the left is from that Original Broadway production of "The Iceman Cometh"....
and this one to the right is also from that production....and in this photograph, Marcella is second from the left

as you look at the photograph....I wish I had some other pictures of her and of her brother Bob, too...and somewhere I do have a picture of him but I couldn't find it....I promise that if and when I find it I will post it....And somewhere I have a picture of Buster Newman, as well....(A lifetime of photographs that need to be scanned into my will take forever, I swear.....)

Having my memory jogged about Marcella was a wonderful thing because it took me back to a time when I was truly naive and rather innocent about show business and when I had my whole life ahead of me with everything to look forward to and, most importantly, when I was surrounded by incredibly supportive and encouraging people who were happy to help me along my way....

One other interesting fact about Marcella: She wrote a little book that was first published in is called "OLD is...GREAT!" It is truly a "little" book---6" X 4 1/2". It was a collaboration with a wonderful illutrator named Dominic Poelsma, who took Marcella as his Muse....
It's a charming little book that has one sentence on each page with a drawing illustrating the text...for instance: 'Old is...when candlelit tables are no longer romantic because you can't read the menu'...and the drawing shows you just that...and one other example...'Old is...when you can tell the truth openly because no one would believe it anyway'....It's not a deep book, but it is very amusing and the drawings are delightful...Marcella always had a great sense of humor and especially about herself....She was a truly wonderful friend to me and it was lovely to read what Bill Nighy said about her all these many many years later.....

More To Come.....

Links to this post:


had this to say:

What a beautiful post. I hope that in future years when I look back on my life I see the people in my life in such a positive light!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 4:22:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Marcella sounds like a wonderful lady, very talented with a warm heart, and I loved reading your reminisences about her, although I have to admit I hadn't heard of her before (but that black and white portrait photo of her does look somehow familiar so maybe I have seen her in something???).

I too *adore* 'Love Actually' and pretty much everyone in it!! It's such a heartfelt film, I could watch it 100 times and still 'need' to see it again!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 5:23:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Another wonderful trip down memory lane, Naomi. I hope that you had a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 6:50:00 AM PST 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving Day, with great food and good company.
What a lovely post. I don't think I've seen the movie "Love Actually", unless it was on yesterday afternoon... was Liam Neeson in it? If so, I really must. He is my favorite.
Anyway, it is nice to see evidence of the "down to earth" people in entertainment. Thanks.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 7:47:00 AM PST 

Blogger mar
had this to say:

I will have to find this little book! you know, nice women are often named Marcella , lol :)

I loved Love Actually and the old rocker too! he seems to be quite a person if he had time to remember Marcella with such kind words. Good for him! And nice memories of yours.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 8:19:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Lovely post Naomi. I have never heard of Marcella before. So wonderful the people that have touched our lives and how we remember them. How wonderful that you were such great friends with her and her brother. Aren't those wonderful memories just great!! Another thing to be thankful for.

Hope your Thanksgiving was great and that Sweetie got a special treat. My cats did, they got tuna! That is their favorite!! :)

I so enjoyed reading this Naomi and getting another glimpse into your life. Thanks for sharing!!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 8:35:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

"love actually" WAS playing yesterday afternoon- i got in on the tail end of it. but i had seen it before. i love the post- it's so nice to take trips down memory lane. even though i'm still somewhat young, i do it often!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 8:53:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I love hearing about these great people from your past who have somehow fallen off the radar screen. Of course I immediately had to look up Marcella in the L.A. Times archives. There wasn't much there but I did find this great anecdote about a time she was appearing in a scene with two other women. They were sitting on a couch in a fancy parlor but one night someone made a mistake and when the curtain opened the backdrop was a huge outside view of New York City instead of the parlor. Without missing a beat or breaking character, Marcella glanced behind her and said, "That's the biggest damn picture window I've ever seen!"

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 8:55:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Bill Nighy is awesome.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 10:42:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I do so love your stories! I also love the movie Love Actually, so it was really interesting to hear about Bill Nighy's beginnings :)

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 12:19:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I love how you introduce us to such wonderful souls. Even though Ms. Markham is no longer with us, her spirit lives on in your words, and she continues to influence everyone who reads your work.

I hope you never stop sharing your memories in this way. It is some of the best reading on my docket - and I'm sure I'm not alone.

Popped by from Michele's after a long day in a distant city. I've just posted a new entry that might bring you comfort.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 4:31:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a nice trip back in time for you and a nice story for us. Marcella did sound like a very special person. Helping others in the world of creative arts goes a lot way as you both have proved.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 5:24:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I love your stories and hearing about a world so very different from mine.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 5:39:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Naomi, I have never heard of her before and I do want to see her book. I hope it is still in print.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 6:43:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

"Love Actually" has been my favorite movie ever since it came out on DVD. (I have no budget for theaters now.) (Nor for theatres, which is a tremendous heartbreak for me as I even breathe better in a theatre. . . .)

The way you describe your friends, Naomi, is the way an artist describes his/her favorite paintings, or perhaps the way he/she describes things/people that ache to be painted. The love just glows off my monitor, as I read your word paintings.

What a wonderful friend you are, to those you've loved in years past and right now. And lucky us, to be able to read your 'take' on things and people.

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 7:58:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

here from micheles' in the middle of a wonderful weekend.
bless you, my dear!

Friday, November 24, 2006 at 11:04:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I didn't read it all but it seemed very good to me. I came here for another purpose. I discovered that you had a cat blog. So I think you also love cats lol ! Yesterday I had an idea to put cat lovers together and blog once a week about their cats. So if you are interested go to my cat blog for more information.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 1:41:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

A wonderfully written post, Naomi; I enjoyed reading it.

Can I ask you why your Neocounter hasn't changed, yet mine was changed to a Neocounter2, and is not so good?

Michele sent me here.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 2:02:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Spooky time!! I am actually listening to the beautiful melodious tones of Bill narrating 'Meerkat Manor' while reading this post!!

I actually loathe Love Actually - but I adore Bill Nighy. He was the only good thing in the new Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as Slartibartfast....the planet designer.
He is gifted, sweetnatured and really very, very attractive.

*We* have excellent taste, Naomi! :-)


Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 2:43:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Another amazing trip down your lovely memories, Naomi and it’s also another wonderful chapter of your book! I have never heard of Marcella before, but she sounds like an adorable person!
I love so much “Love Actually”, it’s a cheer movie and the music is great, too!
Last but not least, I am looking forward to seeing Bob’s picture!
Have a nice weekend!

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 6:39:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Wow. How wonderful to have the memories you have! I love it when something happens to 'spark' certain pages of our history back into focus. This was so interesting, I always love to hear about 'back then' have such a great way of brining it all back to life.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 7:39:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Your life is so interesting...hearing of your times in NY and such, really entertains me. :)
Thank you for sharing.
Hope you had a marvellous Thanksgiving.


Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 7:55:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

What a fascinating story, I liked Bill in 'Love Actually' as well, I'm afraid that the actress is unknown to me. Popped by from Michele's this time, hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 10:59:00 AM PST 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

Back again from Michele this time.
I have to go check on my "pumpkin patch". It is time to pluck the last ones. I think I have three more posts in my head and pictures, before ending this tale.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 12:15:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Another fabulous piece of your life in NY. I wish so much that you would gather all these tales together in a memoir of the acting profession before it became all "star driven" and not talent driven.

I love Love Actually, too. We own the movie and I always feel so sorry for Bill Nighy's character in the beginning and so glad for him by the end. He was great in that film.


Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 1:26:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I remember Marcella's book "OLD is...GREAT!" My mom showed it to me back then!

Just reading your wonderful post makes me miss New York!

Hi, Michele sent me!

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 4:17:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I came here for the cats. I red your blog but unfortunately don't know enough to make a comment.

I can understand that you don't like to be told what day to write, me too. But as I write everyday I found it interesting to participate to a group, just to see how others interprete a theme and that in itself is already a psychological study !

Now for the cats, never I would have believed that so many people are interested. I thought max. 15 and now there are about 40 participants ! After the first shock I thought just wait and see (which is not in my temper usually) the most important thing is that everybody has fun. There are a lot of cat groups but all with blogging cats and honestly even if I love my cats, too much is too much. Maybe because of that this idea had such a lot of success.
It will be on tuesday. There are some suggestions written on my catblog.
I am curious to read about your cat !

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 8:39:00 PM PST 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

I meant to ask you if you were having friends for Thanksgiving or if you were going somewhere. And of course, if your were having a bit of that "turkey chocolate" that looks so luscious.

Here from Michele this time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 10:06:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Hi! Technically Michele sent me.... Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm an Oklahoma/Kansas girl but most of my family is in Northern California or Louisiana.

What a wonderful post, you've had such an interesting life!

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 10:28:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Isn't it wonderful to have such good friends. I enjoy readng your stories about your early years in the entertainment business. Thanks for the history lesson on Marcella.

Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 12:35:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks for your NeoCounter comments. It seems they will go through all of them and change them. I was only on a 2 week trial when they changed mine. The maps only come on when the cursor is pressed firmly down, and will ALWAYS scroll unless you make the list longer.

Is that progress?

Michele returned me here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 3:30:00 AM PST 

had this to say:


Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 9:24:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I have recently just noticed this actor, Bill N. I had forgotten his role in Love Actually until you mentioned it, but I saw him play a hippie guy recently and then a villian in ....and now I can't think of it. I'll have to ask Joe to jog my memory....but I like him a lot!

Constant Gardener!

Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 3:13:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Really wonderful. I learn so much here. Now, I ask you: If you didn't have a blog, would have written as much about your experiences and the people you've known as you do in Here in The Hills? It's a moot point-because here it all is. For everyone!~,:^)

Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 6:10:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a wonderful story. I'm so glad that Bill thought to mention her. I think it's important for people to know what an incredible impact they can have on a person's life in just one brief instant; and that impact can be for good or for bad. How blessed you have been to know such beautiful people. I also was once 23 going on 12. I was sooo naive! :-)

Monday, November 27, 2006 at 10:53:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Ahhhhh she sounds like someone I would have just had a BALL with! I'll have to see if I can scare up a copy of her little book! Thanks for yet another great share Naomi!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 at 2:54:00 PM PST 

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Name: OldOldLady Of The Hills
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