Tuesday, September 30, 2008
paul newman 1925 - 2008

In a certain way, it is hard for me to think of Paul Newman no longer being alive. He was such a big part of my life, for so long. This solid presence. He was like an Oak Tree. You just felt he would always be there. I think of two performances that were particularly meaningful to me in his later film career. The character in "Absence Of Malice", and the drunken lawyer in "The Verdict"....these were from the more mature Oak Tree, and both were fine fine performances in very fine pictures that had great integrity, just like the man himself.I remember the first time I saw Paul Newman on the stage was in the Broadway play, "Picnic" by William Inge. The year was 1953, and it was Paul Newman's Broadway debut! I had seen him in some television shows before that, but I honestly hadn't registered what a really good actor he was, until "Picnic". There was an incandescence. The next time I saw him on Broadway was in 1959, (He was already a great screen presence by that time....) in one of Tennessee Williams most memorable and stunning plays, "Sweet Bird Of Youth". (He had previously starred in another great play of Williams, adapted for the screen---"Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", with Elizabeth Taylor in 1956.....) The great great Geraldine Page playing The Princess Kosmonopolis, starred in this beautiful play along with Mr. Newman, and when it was made into a film in 1962, both these stars were actually 'starring' in the film version as well---not a very common thing in those days----and they were both superb on stage and on film! I can still see him standing there on the apron of the stage, as the play began---talk about unforgettable. Paul Newman was one of those important touchstones of talented actors who's career will always be remembered as long as there is a film industry and people around to watch his pictures. A Superb Actor, And A True "Star".I didn't know Paul Newman personally, but I know many people who did, and I have never heard any of these people say one bad word about him professionally or personally. And though I did not know him, I had great respect for his talent and for him as a person, too....His generosity was legendary here in this country and all over the world, as well. The food company, 'Newman's Own', established in 1982---every dollar of the over $250 Million raised by this Salad Dressing, Popcorn and Tomato Sauce business has gone to Charity. The 'Hole In The Wall Gang', is a wonderful Camp he created for children with severe life-threatening illnesses---eventually, there were and are 11 of these fabulous Camps, throughout the world....This was a good and kind man, who personified the word integrity. His big and generous heart touched thousands and thousands of people. That legacy alone is really quite remarkable.Many years ago I was in Sardi's Restaurant one night, quite late in the evening, and he was there with a group of gentlemen having dinner after a long days film shoot of "Fort Apache, The Bronx"....as I left, I walked by his table, and our eyes met. He had the most beautiful blue eyes of any man I have ever seen....and there was this 'something' that passed between us....a moment. I never forgot it because Paul Newman was an icon of Sex Appeal in my day. I'm sure that every woman who ever locked eyes with him felt this visceral thing----this animal magnetism....This was a man!To this day, when I describe my cat Sweetie's eyes, I always say---'He has Blue Eyes like Paul Newman'.....And he truly does......! This memory just flooded back: Sitting in a movie theatre in Westwood, CA. with a date, watching the film "The Hustler"---it had just come out. The man next to me began swearing under his breath because he was so caught up in Paul Newman's performance---I thought it was terrific that he was so caught up in the film and in the intensity of Newman's performance. My date, out of nowhere, started a fist fight with this guy because he said these words in front of me. It was a nightmare, and we missed quite a bit of the next two or three scenes because of it....My date was not speaking for me, at all, and in fact, that incident changed my perception of him and that was the end of that for us! The realness of Paul Newman's acting---one of 'the greats'----caused a fist fight! I had forgotten all about that till just this minute......!My heart goes out to his dear wife of over 50 years, Joanne Woodward, and to his children as well as to the rest of his family and his legion of friends....He will be dearly missed.....And what a body of work he left us----what great gifts he left us: To have so many wonderful film performances available of his on DVD to watch anytime we want. With more than 65 plus films to his credit, he was a true Movie Star and everything that that used to mean.....The last of a certain breed, I think....Bless You On Your Journey, Dear Paul. You brought such a lot of joy to so very many people in your lifetime. Rest In Peace, dear man.


More To Come...... .






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Saturday, September 27, 2008
nightclubs - part 3

So, on the Monday after that demoralizing weekend where the pianist couldn't read music and/or play it either, I went into the Booking Agents office, which was in the Times Square area in Manhattan to pick up my meager salary. While there, I told him that I could not work these kinds of jobs anymore. I told him what a horrific nightmare it had been, and how deeply demoralizing it was, etc., etc. He than told me that the Manager of the Club had called him and told him what a trouper I was and what a great job I did and how totally professional I was, etc....

Well, that was nice, but it really didn't help me or this terrible problem that I had developed. I now dreaded working in these clubs. I now dreaded the idea of not knowing what conditions I would find, musically speaking, and how horrible the place might be, etc. And, I continued to dread the truly terrible loneliness of it all. Working these 'toilets' was becoming more and more disheartening and demoralizing and I really wasn't sure if I could do this for very much longer under these horrific conditions. George Libby, that was the Booking Agents name, had been around Show Business for most of his life and by that time he was in his late sixties. He was a really good guy; a sweet man. And he saw my pain. He truly did. And so he promised me there would be no more of these questionable situations where the musicians were concerned. He promised me he would book me into some better places....! And he did. The next job was definitely a 'new' situation. It was for two weeks in Detroit, Mich. Two whole weeks---not just a weekend here and there. And it was supposedly in a club that was a 'step-up' from these previous awful awful places....All sorts of arrangements had to be made concerning my housing, etc. I had never been to Detroit before. I knew no one there and I heard from somebody that this club was in a kind of not-so-good area. And once again, I was on my own. No accompanist to go with me-----having Nat Jones with me would have made all the difference in every way. Not only having the great comfort of a fantastic musician who knew my every move, musically speaking, but to be with a friend; someone to talk to and spend time with and someone to share the experience with---

Believe me, it would have made a huge huge difference....And this would be someone who of course would be staying in Detroit, too...and hopefully at the same Motel/Hotel I would be at....etc., etc., etc. Though the race issue in Detroit was very very bad back then, so he most likely would not have been able to stay at the same place as me. But, we did not have to deal with that problem because, once again, having my own pianist playing for me was not possible. There wasn't enough money involved to allow me to have Nat with me.....It was going to be another very lonely time, and this time, for two l-o-n-g weeks in a city I didn't know at all. As the time grew closer and closer to traveling to Detroit, I got more and more anxious.

A few days before, I began having physical symptoms that were not a lot of fun. Intestinal stuff. This was not good. I was a wreck, thinking about how lonely I would be in this new unfamiliar city, staying at a Motel with nothing to do all day but feel lonely. I started having terrible anxiety dreams....very typical 'show business' related anxiety dreams....I'm at Grand Central Station, ready to get on the train to go to Detroit. Suddenly I realize I don't have my briefcase. The one with all my music in it. It's not there. I panic. I am a wreck...Kenny Welch is in the dream...he says, "That's impossible, your briefcase has to be here. You can't go to Detroit without your music!" I wake up from this dream in a horrendous sweat, filled with anxiety----but, relieved that it IS just a dream.....but terrified still, that this could actually happen. The day before I was to leave for Detroit, I was in such a state that I knew I could not do this. I could not go. I knew I could not get on that train.

There was no joy, no looking forward, no positive anything...I just felt pure animal panic all the tine. I was like a Deer In The Headlights. I called George Libby and I lied. I said my mother was quite ill, and I was going to have to cancel. He was really nice about it...And, somewhere, I knew that he would fill that spot in no time at all. There were hungry singers right behind me that didn't suffer from all the crap I did.

I cannot tell you the relief I felt. It washed over me like a warm lovely soothing Bubble Bath! I didn't have to go do this torturous awful thing---I was let out of the Panic Prison. Such Incredible Relief, you cannot imagine. Wonderful Wonderful Relief. And yet, there was a big part of me that was ashamed that I was so Chicken-Shit. Such a baby. So unprofessional. But the other part of me knew I could not go to Detroit and survive....Let alone for two whole weeks, feeling the way I did. A part of me didn't care what people thought...Oh, I did, but not enough to make me do Detroit and go through God knows what. I truly did feel that I would die in Detroit. And I knew that THAT was unacceptable----no matter what anyone thought.

That really pretty much ended my Nightclub career. And you know what? That was okay. To me, working these awful jobs and having no joy in singing anymore----Having no joy in what I was doing and only anxiety.....well, somewhere in my being, I knew that this was not for me. If I didn't have the joy of singing anymore, I didn't want to work----at least not in those situations. See, somewhere along the way, I think I realized that I didn't want this Nightclub Career badly enough to get through whatever it was you had to get through! And I also knew--and there is no doubt in my mind---I knew that my drinking would have increased to a level that would have been truly a disaster for me. I was drinking for all the wrong reasons. (I didn't even like the taste of liquor, and still don't.) And the proof of that was, once I stopped working in Nightclubs, I stopped drinking.So, what I finally realized was this: If I was going to have success as a performer it was going to have to come in another way. And though I truly didn't know any longer what it was I wanted to do, I knew, (which is just as important---in fact, maybe more important), what I could no longer do. Career, be damned! I must admit though, that some part of me has always wondered 'what if'.....you know? What if I had gone to Detroit? Would that have changed the course of my career? Well, on the other side of that is: Would all the things that followed that period of my life have happened had I played Detroit? Would "Spoon River" have happened----The most incredibly special Theatrical experience of my life....? Of course, I'll never know....But, what I do know is, not going to Detroit was the right decision at the time. And that, in the end, is really all that matters......Later....some years later...I moved to Los Angeles, and with the help of therapy, because I really had kind of lost my way----I realized a number of secret "dreams" of mine.....Starting with going back to my original theatrical dreams. I Produced a wonderful play called, "Call Me By My Rightful Name", by the very very talented Michael Shurtleff, at The Coronet Theatre...(Those three in the picture above are, Mitzi Hoag, George Brenlin and Bernie Hamilton....the three leads in the play...)....And that led me to realizing another one of my dreams.....This dream included singing, once again. There was this charming little Piano Bar/Cabaret/ Dinner place right there in The Coronet Theatre Building. They needed a partner and I needed a home for my singing. And so I bought a half-interest in this lovely little Piano Bar---Verney's----Where I could sing and truly enjoy singing once again. And I did sing, and enjoyed every minute of it! Why? Well, for one thing, I knew the man playing the Piano, and he was and still is, an incredibly talented composer and Pianist. The fabulous Billy Barnes was playing there every night and that was another dream come true. A consummate musician accompanying me! Needless to say, that solved one of the major obstacles in the Joy of singing, for me. And, it was a wonderfully warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere, which was a huge huge plus, too. And then I joined Theatre West, this young Professional Actors Workshop...and soon after that, "Spoon River Anthology" happened.....And I went to Broadway as a Singer-Composer, part of a six member cast----all sharing this experience together..........I was a part of something so incredibly special, something so rare, that we all knew what a miracle this was----that our little show could go from a tiny Workshop in Los Angeles to Broadway.....well, that was a real "dream come true" for each and every one of us. A few years later, "Spoon River" became a CBS "Special" and again, I got to perform in it, and, I got an Emmy Nomination for the music I had written for the show....Would any of that have happened had I gone to Detroit? Well, I do not honestly know, but.....I don't think so. So I am truly grateful that I listened to this very frightened little inner self----that I listened to the warnings that my body was giving me, Big Time.....The Road Taken, as it turned out, by not going to Detroit was "truer" to my inner self in every way, and I truly believe that one decision saved me from a life of a lot of despairing horror.....And the world that opened up to me in Los Angeles was my true path.......!


More To Come........


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Thursday, September 25, 2008
more bees

This Bee...I swear he has been here before, like for the last two years...And this would be his third year.....How can I tell? The little bit of Orange on each of his legs....! I used to think that was the stuff from the flowers...but, there isn't any orange stuff inside these flowers....! And it kind of looks crusted.... See? Here he is a year ago...Or, maybe it's one of his brothers....I wonder if there are tribes of Bees that all have 'the orange leg' syndrome....? And here another one from a year ago.....It is rather curious, I must say....I will have to do 'The Google'.....(Don't you love when people call it...'The Google'...lol?).....And below, another from 2007..... And then....here is another one from just a few days ago.......He is with another Bee that is not part of 'the orange leg' tribe...... And another angle below....same two Bees...... Hard to know what this is all about...... But I sure do love my Bees.....I think of them as mine because they like all the flowers that grow right here......And I feel like they are visiting me, too, because of that.....Whatever. I'm just so happy that they are still around here on the hill....! Bravo, Bees.....!


More To Come.......


Note: The Planet Mercury is now Retrograde....which means that communication is really really REALLY bad now.
NO IMPORTANT DECISIONS SHOULD BE MADE DURING A MERCURY RETROGRADE....Are you listening Washington??
So...the bottom line is if anything can go wonky, it will! Fair-Warned is Fair-Armed....So, just go to bed and stay there till October 16th.....(Mercury goes Forward once again, sometime on October 15th.....). And the good news? As far as I can tell, there are no more Mercury Retrogrades in 2008!


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
problems

Problems have been "buzzing" around my computer...All Day! Computer problems have aged me about 5 years....and that's not good, at my age! I'll try to recover and get more happening on this blog, tomorrow....!Meanwhile......talk amongst yourselves, please......!


More To Come.........


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Thursday, September 18, 2008
1954-Part 2

So, I kept working these really lousy stinking clubs.....some a little better than others...some worse. One of these weekend gigs I was booked into The Officers Club at Andrews Air Force Base, in Washington D.C. I had never heard of it before. This was the 50's remember and Andrews had not become as High Profile to the public back then as it became after The Kennedy Assassination in November of 1963. The Officers Club was a big room, and pretty nice, too. And that turned out to be a pretty decent job, though very nerve racking at first, because I had no rehearsal with the band, just a "talk over".....Now a "talk over" is truly a scary thing to do when you don't know the quality of the Musicians. And this was a pretty good sized band. Like 11 or 12 pieces, if memory serves....with a "Leader". And there was only a few minutes to "talk it over" with The Leader. This meant looking over each song and making sure that the Leader saw the Tempo changes and the Key Changes, etc.Now, if you don't think it is a scary thing to go out and trust that the band would actually be okay, well....it was like doing High Wire work without a Net! It frayed ones nerves. But in this case, these guys were the best band I had ever worked with. Thank You, God. And for this gig, I dressed and made up at my Motel, because there was no dressing room there....Also, for this gig, I was the 'Headliner'. There was no Exotic Dancer in The Officers Club at Andrews Air Force Base. It was classier than that. More like The Persian Room of The Plaza Hotel...Well, not really, but it sure wasn't The Miami Club on Staten Island. There were other jobs. I played a pretty big club in Springfield, Mass. I don't recall the name of it. My Motel was right on the Highway. It was so noisy and kind of scary, too. I had trouble sleeping because of the heavy trucks that went up that incline all night long and, I was deeply lonely. I didn't know what to do with myself during the day. I knew no one and I didn't know the area, either. What saved me there in Springfield is really quite ironic.I had a great great friend who, it just happened, was in the Lock-Up Psych Ward of the Northampton V.A. Hospital nearby, having had a Psychotic Episode. I had promised him I would come visit him. When I first heard about his difficulty, it was really kind of scary and I worried about what it would be like to see him. But once I was there in the area, and as lonely as I was feeling----Well, I couldn't wait to see him. I was so lonely that seeing J. was something that I longed for----that I actually looked forward to---no matter what shape he was in. Lock-Up or not.And when they finally let me into the Lock-Up area, I fell into his arms, crying. He was sure I was crying for him. I wasn't. I was crying for me because I was so glad to be in his arms and be hugged by him---to see someone I knew and loved. That's how lonely I was and that's how much of a baby I was....And to tell you the truth, after that Springfiels experience...I wasn't sure it would be any different if and when I was in any other strange city.As time went on I began to realize that this was no life. At least, not for me. This loneliness was just unbearable. Combine that with the nerves of performing under conditions that were always a complete question-mark, and it's a wonder that I didn't become a full blown alcoholic. I did begin to drink a bit in these clubs, because there was nothing else to do. Nothing. And if you did two shows a night, well....you had to do something. And the idea of going off with a stranger made me even lonelier and more anxious. I was not a happy camper. This was not my 'dream come true'.Working closer to home was easier than these weekends away in God knows where, because people I knew could come to see me. And I could go home at the end of the night and be in familiar surroundings and during the day, I could be with friends and people I knew, or at the very least, sleep in my own bed and make my Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in my own Kitchen. The Motels had no cooking arrangements at all, back in those days...not even a refrigerator. One of the last jobs I actually worked was a place about 40 minutes from home....This was great! I could make-up at home and even dress at home if the Dressing Room situation was non-existent or if it was of Soft-Drink-Storage-Room caliber, which was the case in this place. Also, this was another situation where I was The Headliner. I got to the Club and was prepared with the proper musical arrangement-parts for the band, which was a trio---Piano, Bass and Drums. We went down into the basement where there was a little upright piano---Great! I would get a rehearsal. I handed the Piano Player my music....(I did 8 or 9 songs in the set.) He began with the Opening number..."The Best Things In Life Are Free"....a terrific upbeat cheery arrangement, and a perfect opener. Twenty minutes later he was still only about three-quarters of the way through that very first arrangement. It should have taken him two or three minutes at the very most. Any decent musician could have zipped through that number in about 30 seconds! By this time all my arrangements were simplified and there were no key changes or tempo changes anymore---trying to accommodate to the lack of musicianship one found in these 'bottom of the barrel' places. So it wasn't like these arrangements were terribly complicated....The 'flop sweat' was coming out on me in an obvious way. Fear and anxiety gripped me and anger too. This was unacceptable. This guy could barely read music! I finally went upstairs to find the Manager and I said to him, "This is outrageous! How do you expect me or anyone to sing with someone who cannot read music? I am embarrassed to even try to do a show! I don't want anyone to know I am here and I don't even want to use my real name.....", and so on and so forth......The truth of it was the Manager didn't know what to say....he hemmed and hawed and begged me to just get through it. I said "Oh, I'll do it and no one in the audience will know how unhappy I am about this because I am a professional, but this is terribly unfair to any performer and it is completely unacceptable and I want you to know that". It was a nightmare. A true Nightmare. But I did get through it and did the best I could under the circumstances, but....but.....the heart was going out of me. The joy of singing was nowhere to be found any longer. And this particular job was the worst.


Blogger is really a nightmare tonight, too....So I have to stop...I have no idea what will be here or what won't be here. Pictures---no pictures---Who the hell knows! The gremlins have taken Blogger over...And THIS IS A NIGHTMARE, TOO.....

So, bear with me.....the next part will happen, when it happens.....OY VEY!

Hopefully....

More To Come......


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008
bougainvillea - part 1

Looking closely at more of the beauty of nature....My Bougainvillea in the front----the one I have written about before----is exceptionally beautiful right now......It is still blooming and it gives me such a wonderful feeling to just sit out on my front patio...(Near the street....) and look at it. There are so many colors in this particular variety, and I love that you can see the variety of colors in this picture that this particular Bougainvillea produces..... Right now.....some of the flowering parts of this particular plant are on the wane....not every part, mind you, just here and there, on certain portions of this plant......And what happens is, the rich bright color of the leaves begins to fade, which is happening right now, as you can see above, and below, too..... As you can see in the picture above, that particular flower leaf has faded out to almost a 'white' color, and it is curling up as well.....this particular blossom will fall away very soon, if it already hasn't since I took this picture. Below, is the same picture, before I cropped it.... I loved looking through the green of some of the other plants right there and seeing all this pastel beauty.....Faded beauty, if you will, but still very beautiful to me...... But still....as you can see above, there is great vibrancy happening on other parts of these beautiful blooms, too....I love these little flower pods that you can see above, before they open..... The light in this picture above just knocked me out.....And there you can see the little flowers are open....How delicate they are! I LOVE the light in this picture above, too....it was the way the sun was hitting this section at the time of day I was taking these pictures. Some blooms were in the shadows because of it....Look at the variation of color here, too....Stunning, isn't it? A closer look at one of those two flowers from the picture above this one.....I fell in love with this particular Bougainvillea back in 1974 when I saw it on 'The Big Island'....I was living there in the Kona-Kailua area for 14 weeks and got to see this plant and many other Bougainvilleas many times a day.I had never seen so very many variety's and such variations of color. A lot of the Bougainvillea had grown up into some of the trees along the roads there, so it was cascading down in abundance and it was breath-taking.....I determined right then and there at that time, to have some of this particular Bougainvillea somewhere in my garden eventually. It took a while. But once I began to get so involved with Cactus and Succulents....this plant seemed like the perfect compliment to them.And in fact, it is the perfect compliment to all the Cactus and Succulent plants.....It brings this shock of color wherever I have it planted---- these multi pastel colors, wherever it is growing in my garden---and it really sets off the Cactus and Succulents in a wonderful wonderful way...... You see how the 'greens' are greener and the flowers are pinker and more orange and lavender? All the plants are prettier. They all stand out more...At least they seem to, to me. So, what I had envisioned back in 1974, in fact, is even more beautiful than I had imagined, in every way......

There will be.......

More To Come..........









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