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Oscar Levant nails it again. . .

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Oscar Levant defined a politician as a man who will "double-cross that bridge when he gets to it." Has anyone read hs book Memoirs of an Amnesiac? It's the sort of book I must have read, but I can't remember doing so. I have a feeling that I would have liked it. I am sure of it in fact.  Putnam published it in 1965. Three years later came The Unimportance of Being Oscar, another bravura performance -- not too wild, not too earnest, but full of self-deprecatory wit and wisdom. "I was once thrown out of a mental hospital for depressing the other patients," he confided. He was very fast, very smart and knowing, a good guest on a talk show, a mordant foil to Gene Kelly's native optimism in An American in Paris. He wrote these lines that he says in the movie: "It's not a pretty face, I grant you. But underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character." He also wrote "Blame it on My Youth" and other songs and was a buddy of George Gershwin. The jokes were spontaneous and delivered deadpan. When he said that he knew Doris Day "before she was a virgin," it was a valuable reminder of the band singer's brilliance -- with the Les Brown Orchestra in the 1940s, as Ruth Etting in "Love Me or Leave Me," in duets with Sinatra in "Young at Heart" -- which preceded the virginal image projected in the sugary pillow-talk movies of the 1960s. After Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism, Oscar said, "now that Marilyn Monroe's kosher, Arthur Miller can eat her." -- DL


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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly

Radio

I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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