Thursday, January 29, 2009
broadway & bankhead

As I go on with my "B"'s.....(Oh , look at 'the Birds' in that picture of the 'b'......)...I said that BROADWAY was a bigger subject in my life than just a little paragraph....in fact, there may be a few 'Broadway' posts....time will tell.....The following story actually happened and it very very much involved "Broadway" and a Broadway legend.....But here is the background......There was a very famous, bordering on 'infamous', actress in Theatre, Film and Radio---and some Television, too.....named Tallulah Bankhead. She was a larger than life actress who worked in the New York Theatre for a number of years in the early 1920's, but who's reputation as a theatre 'star' and 'legend' was actually cemented on the London stage, where she spent eight years and starred in 24 plays. This brought her back to Broadway where she really hoped to shine---and she did: She then became a Broadway Super 'star' and her reputation as a witty eccentric outspoken and sometimes outrageous person, was established beyond doubt.

Tallulah Bankhead was born in Huntsville, Alabama and her father and her grandfather were both in The House Of Representatives in Washington, D.C.---her father serving as Speaker Of The House between 1936 and 1940, representing the state of Alabama.....Eventually, Tallulah Bankhead did Films and Radio, too. In November of 1950 she was the star of a wonderful 90 minute radio show called "The Big Show" on NBC every Sunday night. It was broadcast from a Beautiful theatre that was part of Rockefeller Center at that time, called, The Center Theatre....."The Big Show" was on the air for about two years and every truly important super star of Films, Stage, Radio, Television, etc. appeared on that show. (Lawrence Olivier and Vivian Leigh with Tallulah Bankhead) I actually got to see many of the dress rehearsals for that show, because The Feagin School of Drama & Radio...(Later adding Television to it's name) was in The International Building of Rockefeller Center and because of that, we students got to see all sorts of "special" theatrical happenings around the city, and most particularly in Rockefeller Center.....By the time I actually saw Tallulah Bankhead on the stage in a play, it was 1945 and I had not yet turned 14.....Remember, she was a huge huge star having created the role of Regina Gibbons in "The Little Foxes", (above) and then creating 'Sabina', in the great Thorton Wilder play, "The Skin Of Our Teeth", and so many more too numerous to mention, and, according to my research, Bankhead had already done 32 plays before she appeared in The Little Foxes' in 1939. An aside here: The character of Margo Channing in the movie "All About Eve"---probably the greatest film ever made about The Broadway Theatre and the characters who inhabit it---was modeled after Bankhead in some small degree.... (Even down to the dress and the pin and the hair.....The similarity was rather uncanny and pretty much undeniable, too......) Bette Davis played "Margo" and it is interesting to note that Davis just happened to star in a number of films that were adapted for films from some of Bankhead's greatest stage roles, including 'Regina', in "The Little Foxes".

So....now the stage is set.
I am 13 years old and have been going to the theatre in New York City since the time I was four years old. I usually went with my family or some of my family. And we saw just about every great great play and musical of the late 1930's and then throughout all of the 1940's and till the end of the 1950's.....

I was friendly with a girl in Junior High who I will call Dina...that was not her name but....well, I have no idea where she is now and I would not want to embarrass her in any way, because this story is really more about her.....She loved going to the theatre too, and often we would talk about what we had seen over the Summer Holiday or The Christmas Holidays, etc.....Anyway.......

This one day Dina mentioned how much she wanted to see Tallulah Bankhead in "Foolish Notion", a play that was playing at The Martin Beck Theatre on West 45th street, just past 8th Avenue....
I wanted to see it too, and so we made a date to go to a matinee....I don't remember who actually got the tickets, but we did get two tickets in the balcony....those were the only seats available, even though this play was not a success at all---Tallulah had such a huge following, people would come see her in anything, at least for a while.....Anyway, we were happy to get them! So, we met at the train station in Great Neck and took The Long Island Railroad into Manhattan. Then taking the Subway at 34th to Times Square, where we walked over to the theatre, which was the only theatre past 8th Avenue on 45th Street....all the other Theatres, The Shubert, The St. James, The Majestic, etc...were right there between Broadway and 8th.....The Martin Beck----now called The Al Hirschfeld Theatre after the great great New York Times theatrical caricaturist----was just past 8th avenue, kind of all by itself.....


Dina was very very excited and I would have to say, almost giddy....I was certainly thrilled to be seeing Tallulah on the stage, but I was not overtly hyper about it. My excitement was more contained. She did seem somewhat overly excited to me...but, that was okay. This was a big big deal. The houselights went to half and the audience quieted down and then the lights dimmed out completely and the curtain went up.....
The audience went wild the minute they saw Miss Bankhead.....Dina screamed with joy.....I applauded loudly....And the play began.

By the end of the first act, my right arm was getting sore because every time Bankhead said a line or a speech, Dina would elbow my arm with enthusiasm---making sure I heard each speech....as if to say, "Wasn't that great?"!

No one I had ever gone to the theatre with had ever done that before or had seemed so involved with the 'actress' more than the play.....This went on all through the play...As I recall, it was a three act play, as were most plays back then. In a way, I wasn't really able to enjoy the play itself or for that matter, Tallulah Bankhead's performance....I was waiting for each elbow-in-the-arm-blow and in some ways was sorry I had come to see this play with her. She was almost fanatical about Bankhead, and this was new to me. When the play was over she whopped and hollered and stood on her feet and kept applauding even after all the rest of us were done and Bankhead had taken her very last curtain call.....Dina kept saying to me.."Wasn't she wonderful? Wasn't she just Wonderful?" I agreed. She then said...."I have to see her. We have to go to the Stage Door...Come on, hurry...I have to see her...!" And though I really wasn't as enthusiastic as she was, I thought...Well, okay, why not? We got outside and it was raining....Not heavily, but it was definitely raining....We both had umbrella's because it had been sprinkling when we left Great Neck earlier in the day....But, I said....'Maybe we should just go back to Penn Station and go home'...."NO"! She insisted...."I have to see her....I HAVE TO SEE HER!"

We stood in the rain near the Stage Door of The Martin Beck Theatre.. There were maybe a dozen or so people besides us. A huge Cadillac Limousine was idling at the curb near the Stage Door....She said, "That must be her car. That means she is still in there...". She was almost crazed. But, I thought, well, okay. She really really wants to see her.....I thought, she wants to get her autograph, you know? And I understood that.....Other people from the cast came out, signed some autographs and went on there way.

It was raining harder now....I cannot tell you how much I wanted to leave......just get to the subway, go back to 34th street and get on the train to Great Neck....We waited. I don't really remember how much time went by, but it was almost dark by now and the rain was coming down more heavily.....Finally, the Stage Door opened and out comes a women in a cloth coat followed by another woman in a very long fur coat carrying a little dog in her arms, and a man walking next to the fur-coated lady, holding an umbrella, shielding her from the now, heavier rain....It was Tallulah. She went right past all of us, and hurried to the car, not stopping for anything, and with Dina screaming after her..."Miss Bankhead, Miss Bankhead" and trying to follow her---where, I knew not---I was deeply embarrassed, to say the least....Bankhead quickly got into the car and the door to the car slammed shut----all of a sudden, Dina ran over to the back of the car and got on it and crouched down on the back bumper.....!


I couldn't believe what I was seeing....I wished there had been a big hole in the sidewalk so that I could just fall into it and no one would know that I was with her or that I even knew her.....She was crouching there, prepared to hang on to the back of that car as it took off....From inside the car, this voice bellowed: "Get off there you little fool!". It was Bankhead, in that so recognizable deep whiskey voice......And the man who was carrying the umbrella came over to the back of the car and kind of forced Dina off.....And, then, the car sped away very quickly, down 45th street going toward 9th Avenue.....

I didn't know what to say to Dina or even to do. Nothing like this had ever been in my experience before, or since, I might add. And it all happened in less than a minute! People stared in disbelief and then slowly dispersed. I honestly don't remember what happened after that.

I know we somehow got to the subway and then to Penn Station and we got on the train and went home. Needless to say, I did not go to the theatre with Dina, ever ever again. I just didn't know what she might do another time and I guess, I didn't want to find out. She was a true 'fanatical fan' of Tallulah Bankhead, and seeing her get on the back of that Limo in the pouring rain is about the most Bizarre thing I've ever personally witnessed in regard to obsessive worship of a 'famous' person. Frankly, besides being terribly embarrassing, it was rather scary, too!.



Eighteen years later, when we were doing "Spoon River Anthology" at The Booth and then at The Belasco, there were 'fans' who waited at The Stage Door every night. They would ask for your autograph, and each night it would be the same people. Most of these people never saw the show. That's not what they did. I don't think any of these kinds of obsessed fans ever saw the plays that the objects of their obsessions were in. They just gathered every night and stood there at the Stage Door, and waited. (And there were certainly always people waiting by the Stage Door who had seen the show...and of course they were soooo very appreciated.) The "Group" of fans who never did see any shows always knew the time when the curtain went down on every show on Broadway that they were particularly interested in----well, I mean interested in the people in these plays. And they would go from theatre to theatre. I remember one particular woman...she was called "Broadway Celia". She was there every night. The first time she spoke to me she actually said...."Are you anybody?" How do you answer that? After a while she knew me and would always say 'hello', and sometimes ask me for my autograph, as did a number of other 'fans'. These 'fans' often ran in packs....the same people every night at different theatre's, all waiting at the Stage Door for 'the stars', like Betty Garrett. But over the years, I have never seen anyone do anything inappropriate or over-the-top, the way Dina had done.Of course, my teenage friend Dina was just 13 years old back in the day, and I have no idea whatever happened to her, but, as far as I know, Tallulah was her only passion. If there were other stars as well, I didn't know about them----and I didn't want to find out, either. (lol) This incident was my only experience with this kind of 'out-of-control-star-worship', and as I said, it was pretty scary.




More To Come........




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Monday, January 26, 2009
rain/sun

A rainy day on the hill......and the view was almost completely obscured by this overcast foggy soup..... What a difference a day makes....well, two days really....But the point is, this is what I normally see on a sunny not too smoggy day.....It's not precisely the exact same view----but close enough. And here below, another "rainy" view...... Looking straight ahead towards La Brea and across the city at Baldwin Hills.....Well, you can only see the closest foliage and not very well at that.....But....two days later...... You actually can see waaay across this city....It is a far-away shot, but the difference from the rainy day and this day is quite extraordinary....Then below, another view..... Looking at that mountain right across from me with, to the left, Century City beyond and the Pacific Ocean, beyond that....well, not in this picture, of course.....And below...... Now, you can see that mountain and if it had been a wider picture, you would have seen the rest.....But I was trying to mimic the picture above, so...all we really see is that mountain, and in the far distance, those trees that I love so much on the side of the hill. Then I went to the other side of my house and took a few more pictures of the foggy rainy look of everything..... I love that the trees where my Hawk Baby's would 'lite' are almost the only thing that is clear and they really stand out because the mountain is so obscured by the fog.....It almost looks like nothing is behind those trees..... And now, two days later, those trees are almost invisible in a way because the Hill is visible behind them....Quite incredible, isn't it? Then I stood where I could see a slice of the city beyond and a Beautiful Euphorbia Amak Variegated, closer in the foreground..... I was still on the right side of my house...(as you face the city) right by the metal staircase going down to the side of the house towards my garden below......A sunnier day and not so much a picture of the side of the house and of course, you see the city beyond, looking towards the ocean and LAX.....I then went to the other side of my front patio, and looking East and North now, I took a couple of pictures of the trees you can see further down my street, and up on the hill......... I love the look of those trees up there in the overcast fog....In the foreground, to the right, are two of the Yucca Rostratta's in my front yard, in silhouette.....And there, way in the distance is a very typical California look---a Date Palm and another tree that I honestly don't know the name of----but it sure is a lovely artful tree beyond the palm, and it all looks extra pretty to me in this light.....Then, two days later, this is almost the same view of those lovely trees...... It is beautiful....clear and clean and green, including the Rostratta's there in the foreground....But you know what? I truly like the picture above this one better....I think because it looks so very mysterious and kind of in a Hounds-Of-The-Baskervilles-Fog-On-The Moors type mysterious way....Something we don't see a lot of here unless we have a special rainy foggy day like we did on January 23rd.....I liked that day a lot, and I think it's because of the very stark contrast that you can see in the pictures in this post.....

More To Come.......

Note: More "B" Posts are coming...I'm just working on a couple that are rather time consuming...But, they will be on there way as soon as I get all the pictures I need.......I'm so glad you are all enjoying these...I am having a wonderful time doing them.....Thank You, dear Kenju.....


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Friday, January 23, 2009
blanche, broadway, booth

Still working on the letter "B", which makes me think of the name Blanche.....And of course, as with so very many other words in the English language this word sounds the same as another word---'blanch', and anybody that cooks knows what that word means...
But for me, the name BLANCHE conjures up for me a very strong image....Blanche Dubois in "Streetcar Named Desire".......a Beautiful Beautiful play by the great Tennessee Williams, that was a very important part of my life.....This play is one of the great great works of this gifted writer, and it made Marlon Brando a 'star' on Broadway. His was an incandescent explosive exciting and riveting performance....and I was lucky enough to see him, along with Jessica Tandy as 'Blanche' and Kim Hunter as 'Stella', in that original production! And one of the Producers of that Broadway production...(Another "B" word, for me....) back in 1947, was a very bright talented woman named Irene Selznick----one of the two daughters of Louis B. Mayer and the first wife of the great great film producer, David O. Selznick....("Gone With The Wind", etc....) A little over twenty years later, I got to meet this visionary lady....But that, is another story for another day.....In the summer of 1951, "Streetcar" came back into my life in a very big way.

I was an Apprentice at The Sea Cliff Summer Theatre, and I actually got to "act" on the stage, not just do props or paint sets! I was cast in a real part in a play. And that play was "Streetcar Named Desire", and I played the woman upstairs, Eunice Hubbell. (That's me in the center, with my house dress and my hair clip and my fan....and that is Helen Twelvetrees on the right, playing Blanche....) Those weeks of rehearsal and then playing the play were incredibly memorable in so very many ways----not the least of which was being in such a truly great great play....(I actually did a post about this back in early 2006, and if you are so inclined you can read about it--in detail---there....just click on this paragraph and it should take you there!) That week of performances earned me my Actors Equity Card, which meant I was a bonafide 'professional' legitimate actress.....Just twenty years old and I became certified, sort of. That was a really big thing back then, and honestly, I think it still is probably a very big deal when one earns their Equity Card.....

There is another BLANCHE that comes to mind after Miss Dubois, and that is the 'Blanche' in "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane"....If you have never seen this film, do yourself a huge favor and rent it. It is Betty Davis as 'Baby Jane Hudson', and Joan Crawford as 'Blanche Hudson'. It is really a horror film of sorts, and these two film star-veterans are both magnificent in it----Betty Davis gives such a daring brave performance---brave, because she does not look prettied up, at all....And daring, because she pulls out all the 'stops'.....There is a famous line---I honestly cannot remember exactly what Crawford says to Betty Davis to evoke this response, but it is in regard to her being in a wheelchair.....Betty retorts in the meanest most knowing way...."But you are Blanche, you are in a wheel chair....!"






There was a fantastically brilliant 'actor-female-impersonator', named Charles Pierce...And he used to do both Betty and Joan in that scene---together! He was brilliant because without changing his make-up or almost anything else, he played both Jane and Blanche--while basically talking to himself as each character, and, you bought it, completely. He was hilariously funny and wicked. I've never seen anyone quite like him before or since....He was something to behold!

BROADWAY

Well, this is a word that carries so much history in my life....from the time I was just a tiny tot, my parents took us to The Theatre. We saw just about everything there was to see as the years went on, and I'm sure it was during those early years, even before my teens, that I got bitten by the bug. The Acting Bug, that is.....So, all through the mid to late 1930's, into the glorious 1940's and 1950's....Broadway was at my fingertips in the sense that it was there for my enlightenment and enjoyment......I learned so much from going to the theatre....about life and love and hate and fear and sadness and I was continually moved and exhilarated by all of it---even the things that weren't that great....I Loved All Of It! You know what? BROADWAY is going to have it's own post....there is just so much more to say......!

BOOTHAnother name....but also, another word that has more than one meaning.....When I think of 'booth', I certainly think of things like Voting Booth, or a booth in a Restaurant, and many other kinds of booths, too....And where names are concerned, of course, one cannot help but think of John Wilkes Booth....But the "Booth" I think of first, is "The Booth Theatre", and that theatre is certainly related to John Wilkes, because it was his brother, Edwin Booth, the truly great great actor in the Booth Family, amd this theatre was named for him. He was a great American actor and this wonderful theatre is right there in what is considered the Heart of the Theatre District, just between Broadway and 8th Avenue in the middle of the block, cornering 45th street and Shubert Alley.....I got to see many many plays there for 60 years, and I also got to 'play' the Booth Theatre in 1963, which was absolutely like a dream come true........


More To Come.......





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Wednesday, January 21, 2009
baby

And so we go on with another word for the Alphabet Meme.......Once again, this is rather lengthy.....so there will be more "B" posts...(Forgive me Judy....)....I have written about this particular "B" before, but not in a very long time......So, here goes. BABY

Baby was my very first cat, along with her brother, Sugar.....They were strays that my sister and I found one day while we were still in Great Neck after my mothers death, in 1966. We were doing all those things one must do to divest a home of the treasured belongings--and the not so treasured things, as well.....It was a big big job....my mother had lived in that house for 40 years. We had all grown up in that house. My mother died April 2 and we were finally finished with the dividing and disbursement of the "belongings", in early September....Here is how Baby and Sugar came into my life......

One day, my sister Gene and I came home from somewhere Baby and Sugar came into our lives. It was in late April or early May.....(A third little stray, Silky, came a few weeks later---another story for another day.....), The kids across the street where all upset because they had found two little kittens who were seemingly stuck up underneath this parked car....The Kittens were hiding, of course....Somehow, we got them out of there and since these kids weren't able to take the kittens....We brought them inside the house and put them in a back room with food and water and a sand box, and then closed the door, so Gene's cat Louis would not scare them and so they could get used to being there and being with us. They were both so adorable and so very young.....
Baby was a Calico, though she was more Black & White with just a small amount of Orange/Brown. Her brother Sugar, was all Orange Tiger Stripped and a very sweet very scared little guy....The two of them clung to one another....Dear Sugar even took to sucking Baby's toe(s) as if he were nursing, and she let him do that for quite a while till she got bigger and I think got kind of bored with it....He then discovered his own back toes and would kneed the bed as he sucked his back paw, which he brought forward so he looked like he had three paws as he 'nursed'....So very endearing.Gene and Jimmy's cat Louis, never did get used to the kittens, and it was decided that I would take them back to California with me....by this time, Silky had appeared....So, when we were finally finished with the tasks at hand in September, I brought them back with me to Los Angeles.....The joy and pleasure and love and laughs that they brought into my life was immeasurable. As Baby came into her first heat, I mated her to another cat who had 6 toes, as she had.....her paws were adorable. The day she gave birth to her baby's was a fantastic experience, all around. The "boys" were in the room, resting and sleeping and watching over her...She was in a big box that I had prepared, which luckily, she was very happy to use....Watching her give birth and realizing that she knew exactly what to do was a stunning thing for me to see.....She was "A Queen" that day, in my mind. No one had taught her anything. She just knew exactly what to do by instinct. So this little scared stray kitten, became this magnificent 'mother-earth mother' that day....It was pretty Awesome....Baby lived to be 20 1/2 years old. She outlived Sugar by almost 15 years, and her son Teeny, from her second litter, who became one of my crew---yes, I had four cats all together for a couple of years, and they were all indoor-cats---(They never went outside....not up here in these hills). Dear Baby outlived Silky, a very special spirit, who was 17 1/2 when he died.....Both Silky and Baby died in my arms, right here in my house. Baby was a wise beautiful girl who understood all sorts of things about comfort and comforting. All four of this first group understood that. But because Baby was with me the longest, I think I remember her the best.... Although, in truth....Sugar, with me above, was incredibly memorable, too.....Everyone loved Sugar...even people who didn't like cats. I think it was because he would go up to people like a dog....He was very very friendly and I guess one could say 'needy', like a dog....I think if he could have wagged his tail, he would have....lol! I lost him when he was only 5 years old....and it just about broke my heart.

Below.....is dear dear Silky..... A quiet, contemplative spiritual cat. He was like a Buddha, in a way.....He would just sit by and quietly bring a peacefulness to wherever he was.... A calm contented comforting presence. The only time I heard him 'meow' was the day he died......He was a great great cat. And then there was Teeny....Baby's son from her second litter.... The "baby" of the family, who quickly became the alpha cat...He was such a sweet dear funny ballsy little guy. Very bonded to me....we slept like spoons sometimes, his back to my front, or his back to my back. I had him for nine years. In truth, each one was memorable, But, maybe because Baby hung in with me for those 20 1/2 years, she held a special place in my heart. And as I have said elsewhere on this blog, she was the longest most enduring intimate relationship in my life.........What a great cat she was...and I want to say, what a great 'dame' she was, too.....




More To Come......



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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
barack

Today is Inauguration Day. This is the most exciting Inauguration Day in my lifetime. And you all know the reason why! The First African American President ever elected to these beautiful United States of ours---I look at this dear young family and my heart is so full and the tears come, again and again......They give me Hope. He gives me hope. He gave me hope from the get-go.....And though I was unsure that Barack Obama could actually be elected President of The United States, he was the man for me and I supported him as I had not supported any other Presidential Candidate since 1968.....My faith was renewed in 'we the people' by his actually getting elected....Hallelujah

Among other things, he makes me feel that we will be alright.....that this country will be alright and that our standing in the world community which has been so eroded, will be restored again so that the people of the world will once again look to America as a haven, filled with love for all mankind, leaving greed and selfishness behind....The hope that we will, once again, return to aspiring to the highest ideals in all of us and that 'we the people', join with our new President, and act in concert with him......THAT is part of the hope he gives me.....

Sunday, I watched the Concert On The Mall, and just cried and sobbed, all the way through it. The enormity of what We The People actually had accomplished in what is, I am sorry to say, still a racist country----just overwhelmed me as I watched and listened and sang along and tapped my foot with and cried in between. These were tears of joy and wonder and and a feeling of Awesomeness that I cannot even explain in words.

It is what is in my heart. My heart is so very full as we embark today on this hopeful new road. And, I will no doubt need a whole box or two of Kleenex as I watch all the activities from early morning to the wee hours of tomorrow morning---I don't want to miss one thing. Not One.......
What A Day This Is!.....A day I never ever thought I would see in my lifetime.....Hallelujah, Hallelujah

And to echo what is said in a this very beautiful blessing:

"This Is The Day We Are Given....Let Us Rejoice, and Be Glad In It"

Bless our new President and his dear family....give him the wisdom and the courage and the heart and the strength to help our beautiful extraordinary country come out of the darkness and back into the light......




AMEN, AMEN!


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Monday, January 19, 2009
birthday

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! What a day this is, my dear Reverend....because you devoted your entire life to the almost impossible task of seeing to it that everyone is truly equal in our beloved country, and you actually sacrificed your life in this impossibly difficult but just cause, tomorrow, we will all witness and rejoice in and be deeply moved by the Inauguration of the First African American President of these United States. And you, dear Dr. King---you played such a huge part, along with many others, in planting the seeds so that we would see this glorious day come....I wish you the happiest of Birthdays, dear Dr. King, hoping that you are resting well in the certain knowledge that so much of your 'Dream' ---the dream you spoke of back in August 1963, has come true.....I thank you with all my heart for being the inspiring visionary that you were, and for never giving up.....ever, ever. Bless You and Keep You, dear dear Martin Luther King, and a Very Very VERY Happy Birthday to you......This was another "B" word and because of the specialness and enormity of this day....it stands alone!


More To Come.......


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