It was spring in November, raining but once in the course of five days and that a mild midnight sprinkle, and one day the temperature climbed almost to the sixties, and you needed only a scarf, a cap, and a sweater to weather a brisk wind. Some things don't change: what Waugh called "the braying for broken glass" continues on Saturday evenings when between Covent Garden and Leicester Square we saw numerous individuals falling down drunk, and in the underground a male and female bobby were handcuffing some male and female hooligans when Stacey and I entered. I told the concierge at the hotel and he said, "this is England, and it's Saturday night."
It was Remembrance Week, which is what we used to call Armistice Day, and now call Veterans Day, but in the States it's a day off whereas they take it very seriously here. To commemorate their war dead the British wear paper poppies on their lapels, and a controversy broke out when FIFA, the football governing board, declared that England's team members would not be allowed to wear poppies over their black armbands when they played a "friendly" (which is what we more ponderously call an "exhibition game") against Spain on Saturday. Well, Prime Minister David Cameron, young Prince William, and a lot of other worthies were having none of that, and the players did indeed sport their poppies during their 1-nil victory. It gave the columnists something to chew about, and this they did, and loudly. England invented scare journalism -- hell, maybe they invented journalism altogether -- and they can certainly give US columnists lessons in raising the roof from 0 to 100 in record time, as when one such writer asserted that Germany has initiated a "stealth" program for establishing a "Fourth Reich." Joke of the week: Greece has a new Prime Minister. Angela Merkel. Repeat, this time replacing Greece with Italy.
What surprised me was the vehemence of the hatred of Tony Blair we encountered among even people of moderate disposition. One friend even felt that the ex-PM should be brought to The Hague for war crimes. Last trains on the underground now leave five minutes past midnight, which is a good thirty five minutes later than in my benighted day. The food is better though expensive, and the weirdest thing is that it is easier to get a latte or any of a dozen varieties of brewed coffee than an honest cup of tea as opposed to what they quaintly call "instant tea." Favorite pub names of the week: The Fox and Anchor. The Angel and Crown. The Camel and Artichoke.
And Joe Frazier died and every paper ran a full page obit, and there was Sinatra in the front row at the Garden photographing the "fight of the century," with Burt Lancaster doing color commentary for closed circuit TV back on March 8, 1971. -- DL
When you watch the film version of Guys and Dolls, you sometimes get the feeling that Nathan Detroit and Adelaide (Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine) are in one movie, a hoot, while Sky Masterson and Sister Sarah of the Salvation Army (Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons) occupy an alternative universe, much more serious and deep and dramatic.
Sinatra and Brando were rivals. Brando, who did not have the better voice, got the best songs. Frank Loesser did write a serenade for Frankie boy to sing to Adelaide, but the lad must have eaten his heart out to hear Brando's thin nasal rendition of "Luck Be a Lady Tonight."
Brando on Sinatra in heaven: "That guy is going to give God an earful for making him go bald."
Sinatra on Brando, whom he called "Mumbles": "I hear they're making a movie of the Bible. They wanted Mumbles to play God but he held out for a better part."
Audience participation portion: do you like the way Brando dances in the Cuba scene? Do you miss the songs dropped from the stage version -- such as "A Bushel and a Peck," "I've Never Been in Love Before," and "Marry the Man Today"? What do you think of "Your eyes are the eyes of a woman in love"? What's the best song in the show? Why do I think "G & D" is the consummate Broadway musical? Do you agree? -- DL
According to the Los Angeles Times'sDodgers Blog, the Frank Sinatra estate, holders of five season tickets to Dodger games, may be among the ardent Dodger fans joining the legal dispute between putative owner Frank McCourt and the rest of humankind. McCourt's misdeeds need no rehearsing here. Suffice it to say that he has had a ruinous effect on a proud franchise and that it seems he would rather run it into the ground than surrender to the forces arrayed against him. These include destiny, major league baseball, angry creditors, embarrassed bankers, his soon-to-be-ex-wife and facsimile co-owner, the population of Los Angeles and environs, Dodger aficionadoes and and even bitter rivals. The well-named McCourt has made only the bankruptcy and divorce lawyers happy.
The LA Times article --"Dodgers bankruptcy: Frank McCourt vs. Frank Sinatra?" -- shows how a very little tidbit of news can go far thanks to the magic of names and an old-fashioned play on words, the journalistic equivalent of a rhyme: Ol' Blue Eyes bleeds Dodger Blue just as his old pal Tommy Lasorda does.
Many a time I have gone to the movies and felt that the song over the closing credits is the best thing about the film. Sinatra's "New York, New York" trumps everything that comes before it in "Summer of Sam," as does the same singer's "Its Nice to Go Traveling" at the end of "Executive Decision" and Vaughn Monroe's "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" at the end of "Die Hard." I thought of this phenomenon tonight watching the end of "Eight Men Out" (1988) about the Black Sox scandal of 1919. When the closing credits come on, you hear a fanstastic cover of "After You've Gone" by Leigh Harris. She gives us three refrains from the immortal song, lyrics by Henry Creamer, music by J. Turner Layton -- but only after she delivers the verse. You usually don't hear the verse. Lyrically it's OK and musically it leaves us, at its end, exactly where we need to be. After you've gone and left me crying, / After you've gone there's no denying, / You'll feel blue, you'll feel sad / You'll miss the bestest pal you ever had. / There'll come a time, now don't forget it, / there'll come a time when you'll reget it, / someday when you grow lonely, / your heart will break like mine, you'll want me only, / after you've gone, after you've gone away." What a pleasure just to write it out. You should hear Judy Garland do it in Carnegie Hall 1961. You should hear Al Jolson do it. But don't overlook Ms. Leigh Harris, a new name to me, but a hell of a singer. -- DL
“The Crowd's at El Morocco: The Heyday of the New York Nightclubs”
JULIE WILSON to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cole Porter Family
DEBORAH GRACE WINER, Artistic Director, Writer & Host JOHN ODDO, Music Director & Piano MARK WALDROP, Stage Director DEBBY BOONE, vocals LA TANYA HALL, vocals JAMES NAUGHTON, vocals BILLY STRITCH, vocals KAREN ZIEMBA, vocals
Sat, April 30 / 8 pm / $62 & $52 Sun, May 1 / 2 pm / $67 & $55 Sun, May 1 / 7 pm / $62 & $52 Mon, May 2 / 2 pm / $62 & $52 Mon, May 2 / 8 pm / $67 & $55 Under-35 ticket price of $25 available for Saturday and Sunday evening shows
New York, NY: April 15, 2011 – Once upon a time, right here in New York City, storied clubs – swanky hotel supper clubs, zebra-striped celebrity showcases, smoky after-hour boîtes – ruled the night. Places like The Stork Club, Copacabana, Persian Room and Latin Quarter (run by Lou Walters, father of Barbara ) were meccas where songwriters, singers and society mingled and fueled American popular music. Author and Lyrics & Lyricists™ series artistic director Deborah Grace Winer takes the helm as artistic director/writer/host for The Crowd’s at El Morocco: The Heyday of the New York Nightclubs, on April 30 and May 1, 2. Joining her are vocalists Debby Boone, La Tanya Hall, James Naughton, Billy Stritch and Karen Ziemba.
The default on my satellite radio is 73, "Seriously Sinatra," which is almost always great, not least because you get to hear guest disc jockeys like Steve Lawrence talk about singing, maybe sing a few bars and tell an anecdote. There was the time Steve was sitting alone and Dean Martin walked in and said "Hello Steve and Eydie."
This afternoon we're listening to the singer Julius La Rosa, who was once famous for quitting (or being fired from) Arthur Godfrey's morning TV show. He was the show's singer, and a damned good one, but he had the nerve to ask for a raise. Godfrey said he "lacked humility." At least that's how I remember it, but I was maybe ten years old at that time, so I'm not ceertain I have all the details right.
Brooklyn boy "Julie" La Rosa is playing Sinatra's definitive "One for My Baby" to illustrate how Sinatra "acted the song." This is an insight one has heard before, but now La Rosa is advancing the thesis that Sinatra "improved" Cole Porter, To do so, La Rosa relies on his reliable baritone to demonstrate the rhythmical difference between what the "melodically magnificent" Porter wrote and Sinatra's swinging rendition of the first line of "I've Got You Under My Skin." The melody is indeed marvelous, but Porter's equally marvelous lyric requires a different rhythm -- the behind-the-beat finger-snapping swing that Sinatra perfected. Now La Rosa is playing the Sinatra cover. I shall pause for three minutes and forty three seconds to listen. Sublime.
Now La Rosa is doing the same thing with "It Was Just One of Those Things." And now "I Get a Kick Out of You." He sings the opening bars as written and then he sings the same in the Sinatra manner to show that Sinatra discovered the song within the song -- the rhythmical delivery without which Porter's music and words would be incomplete. How often have I listened to Sinatra's take on Porter in such Nelson Riddle-arranged records as "Songs for Swinging Lovers" and "Songs for Young Lovers / Swing Easy." But LaRosa has come up with the best radio intro to this trio of Porter tunes that I have ever heard. DL