Tuesday, June 29, 2010

HOW DO YOU GET FROM PETER PAN TO ALAN CUMMING BY WAY OF ANN MILLER?

Last week I went to the Paper Mill Playhouse and saw a wonderful production of Peter Pan. My husband, Adolph Green was one of the writers of the original show which starred Mary Martin. It has become a classic and is constantly playing all over this and other countries.
After the show Margaret Styne (isn’t there another word for widow? – I hate it!) who was married to the marvelous composer Jule Styne, and I went backstage to congratulate the talented company.

Standing (L to R) Glory Crampton, Douglas Sills, me, Margaret Styne.
Kneeling (L to R) Hayley Podschun, Nancy Anderson.
As I stepped into that narrow narrow hall with its uncovered light bulbs and the cell-like row of small small dressing rooms, a tsunami of joyful memories washed over me. (A trifle overwritten – but it’s a blog for God’s sake). Suddenly I was back in 1975 playing ‘Annie’ in (no, not Annie) – mais Annie Get Your Gun.

All of the photos below were taken in that same place – another heady time – nothing here is a result of photoshopping – it’s just name photo dropping.

Leonard Bernstein; Tony Walton and Sidney Lumet; Lauren Bacall
(Click on the image to view larger photos.)
I honestly don’t know how to describe the feeling when you play a great character whose songs go beyond what you think anyone is capable of expressing. Here you are surrounded by talented professionals – and in front of you is a superb conductor and musicians. You work hard and then you let go and trust the instincts and talent of Irving Berlin and his colleagues – Okay, now I can use the hyperbolic tsunami image.


Another major Paper Mill moment was a glamorous – marvelously cast (please look them up) production of that Goldman and Sondheim stunner Follies. In my not at all humble opinion (and that of The New York Times) – we should have gone right to Broadway.

Well I could write about that experience until they find another word for blog.  My roomie in that teeny tiny dressing room – was the other divine Miss M. – Ann Miller and her wigs. Yes, all the stories about her are true, and she was a terrific dame.

In the Dressing Room
Ann Miller, Alexandra Schlesinger, and me
On Stage
Ann had her five or six jet-black wigs in her signature hair style on the ledge above our hanging costumes and clothes.

We never exchanged an unpleasant word – honestly. She named all of her wigs with a childish euphemistic variation of the word (and place) ‘vagina’. When I moved in she proudly pointed to each one and in her inimitable trumpet voice declared – “She’s ‘Twat’ – she’s ‘Pussy’ ....” And well you get it, and lest there are any kiddies out there I go no further. I had my pitiful short “natural-like” red wig trying to hold its own. She asked, “Phyl – what’s yours named?” I shrugged – where do you go from there? I laughed mirthlessly.

About an hour later I turned to her and said, “Cunterella, that’s her name – Cunterella – but for short we call her.....”

Right after the show closed I gave a swell party for the cast at our apartment, which is really lovely and has a beautiful big terrace overlooking Central Park West, and a cinemascopic view of the city that is spectacular.

Ann walked in, looked around and said to me, “Well, kiddo – you sure dipped your ass in a honey pot!”

And now the final piece in the puzzle. I went to see Alan Cumming perform at Feinstein’s Thursday night. He is original, talented, political, funny and fierce. I’m a huge fan needless to say. One of the stories he told was about performing with Ann Miller at the Hollywood Bowl. She sang ‘I’m Still Here’ from Follies. He mentioned something she said which included the word “pussy”. Afterwards I told him my Ann stories and he told me his.

And so – I realize what a lucky, beautifully maturing woman I am – those ‘good old days’ blend in and out of these goods new days.

I’m stimulated by all of it and having a damn good time!

Monday, June 21, 2010

YOU SHOW ME YOUR SUNDAY AND I’LL SHOW YOU MINE

I’ve never met a Sunday I liked. I realize that somewhere there are people who go to church, chat with their neighbors and friends, go home and have a fine big lunch with meat, read the papers, watch some sports on TV, snooze a little, dangle a grandchild, and thus are content with their Sabbath.

Somewhere else there are young couples going to malls with their cute kids, buying things they can make, or wear, stopping off at a fast food palace….driving home in the late sun, bedding down the kids, watching TV, having a fight and then making love.

And I guess right here in New York….there are people who happily sleep a little later than usual, read The Times….take a shower (and sometimes forget to give it back!)….dress in appropriate Sunday gear - unisex Juicy Couture knockoffs in amusing colors…have a nutritious fun filled brunch of ethnic variety…go to a late afternoon movie…come out to an early Sunday evening….take home a little Chinese take-out…put the leftovers together in one carton in the fridge….wash their own or each other’s hair….have some wine, watch a DVD, wrinkle tomorrow’s outfit and call it a day……okay….they’re right….it’s a day. So why do I want to commit mass murder when my Sundays roll around?

Let me tell you about this last Sunday. It was pretty nice actually, weather-wise. I made the bed, ate a bagel, read The Times….and stared…“Oh do not stare,” I said to myself….“Go out, take a walk….avail yourself….avail yourself.” All righty…. I walked on my familiar Upper West Side….nodding to no one in particular….and thought maybe it would be pleasant to hit a movie…………sold out…never mind…I can buy a DVD….hire a security guard….and watch it in my own bedroom.

No good – I’ve seen them all.

Basking in the glow of frustration I decided to take the crosstown bus home and start again….so there I was on Seventy Ninth and Broadway….bright sunlight…people to and froing….when I saw a man squatting up against the bank on the corner….no, actually first, I saw, what I thought, was a man pulling his running pants down over his legs. Then I saw that he was squatting bare assed, but covered from his knees down. Then I saw him pull up his pants. You see I didn’t just keep looking at him. I was too embarrassed and shocked, but I sneaked glances along with everyone else waiting at the bus stop. I wanted to see…no don’t look….my head swiveled one hundred and eighty degrees like Regan in The Exorcist. He gathered up his paper bag….muttering all the time….and when I looked next….I saw a mound of steaming hot bright yellowish colored excrement..……………That man doesn’t like Sundays either….but at least he knows what to do about them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

PROFESSOR STEPHEN HAWKING AND ‘SEX IN THE CITY’

After my beloved Adolph died and I found myself a “Broadway widow”, I tried many paths. I wished that there was a book “Aging For Dummies” – maybe I’ll write one – maybe I’ll share my wisdom – maybe I’ll lose twenty pounds (that’s definitely another blog).

Here’s what I know about being a ‘senior’ actress. All the parts you’re offered either have Alzheimer’s or live in Boca and are looking for a man and, if they find one – he gets a heart attack in Act II. Or she’s a Mother Superior. End of story.

I’ve never jumped on a bandwagon in my life – but Betty White has beaten the odds and given alter cockers everywhere a glimmer of hope.

NOW – BACK TO MY PREMISE – (I know, I know – I don’t have one).
But I DO have a soup├žon of advice. NYC is the place to be – at any age – because within the last two weeks I spent one night in Alice Tully Hall sitting in a seat next to the esteemed Professor Stephen Hawking in his remarkable special chair on wheels fitted with a very large computer screen facing him. The occasion was the opening night of the World Science Festival. The first act was a performing arts salute to science. A talented group, some of whom were Yo-Yo Ma, Kelli O’Hara, Alan Alda, Rebecca Luker and on and on – at the end of which Professor Hawking was wheeled to the front of the orchestra floor and the whole width of the stage arose, with him in the center. He spoke through his computer. His voice sounded relaxed, his words were grateful, graceful and witty. It was a never to be forgotten moment. Please find out more about him. In President Obama’s words, ‘…he’s led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos. In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on Earth.’

A couple of nights later I found myself (I have no idea how I got there) in a humongous line of young women and some men – munching on the $50 size popcorn sipping a $15 diet coke waiting to see ‘Sex and the City’. I saw, I stayed, I conquered – I really liked it.

Well you get it – a lot of experiences all within twenty blocks of my apartment. NY, NY is a helluva town. It levels the playing field of age.


BROADWAY REVIVAL OF ‘WONDERFUL TOWN’ - OCTOBER 2003

Adolph’s opening night….the first….with no Adolph.
No buzz buzz in our house.
No A in his skivvies showing me and then asking me about where he cut himself shaving.
No calls back and forth and more with Betty.
Very few packages, flowers, notes being delivered that I’d read to him.
“Oh how nice….isn’t that nice! How do I look?”
“Like a Greek god.”
“No….really?”
“Really Adolph you look so handsome and distinguished….black tie really suits you.”
And it did….he was meant to be out….on the town in a tux and he was.

I take a nap and pretend I’m looking forward to going alone to….alone to….no I won’t! I’ll find a pill….an oxyanything – and see if that does anything. I’ll lie down, sit up, wash my hair, rob a bank….I’ll call Adolph.
I don’t think so.


I taped this photo of Adolph to an old pin and wore it on my fancy embroidered opening night coat.
I wound up taking Adolph to his opening night.
Corny? Sure. But he would have loved it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

TO RELEASE THE MAGIC OPEN THIS FLAP
You know the old saw “some people see the glass as half full….others see it as half empty”? Here’s my dilemma….I see no glass.
What does that mean? Am I a nut job or just a lazy beauty?
Here I am happily writing to you in paperless cyberspace in my bed from whence all good and bad things come. I’m looking at the anemic, thin copies of my beloved newspapers and magazines scattered all over the covers. Oh how I used to love those overstuffed periodicals full of varied manipulations of paper that would produce smells, scents, odors, sometimes even creams.

STROKE THIS CENTERFOLD LIGHTLY AGAINST YOUR WRIST
Many years ago at the height of this olfactory madness, Adolph and I were chatting over our ritual breakfast of All-Bran and instant decaf. I said:
“Do you notice anything unusual?”
“Yes, you’re talking to me.”
“No…seriously sweet pea, I’ll give you a hint. Sniff.”

SNAP OPEN AND STROKE INNER FOLD ON PULSE POINTS
I thrust his nose into the magazine spread across my lap.
“You’ve spilled perfume on your tatty night dress.”
“You’re getting warm…so let’s pretend we’re in the doctor’s office…it’s stuffy, you’re nervous and I want to distract you. The only magazine there, is an old copy of FIELD AND STREAM.

PEEL BACK THE PICTURE OF A TROUT AND RUB FORCEFULLY ACROSS YOUR WADING BOOT
“Baby…look at this. Most magazines give these free whiffs just by doing odd things with pieces of paper.”
“But surely, my little heliotrope, it would be cheaper and less of a fire hazard, just to buy some bottles of perfume.”
“It’s that kind of thinking Adolph, that has kept you from being with it, for it, and at it. It’s why FORBES won’t even let you subscribe. Hand me that new issue of DER SPIEGEL.”

DO AS I SAY. YOU WILL SNAP. YOU WILL STROKE. YOU WILL SNIFF. YOU WILL BE GLAD.
“You’re always right my passion flower. Are there any aimed strictly at males that I might inhale?”
“Here, try this copy of MANHATTAN MACHO.”

PUNCH THROUGH THIS PERFORATION, GRIND IT ON SOME SISSY’S FACE AND RELEASE THE STENCH
“Well, what do you think now?”
“My clever calla lily. I smell better and my hostility has abated considerably. But it has given me more of an appetite.”
“What do you feel like my gentian violet?”
“How’s about some nice chicken soup?”
“Hold it a sec, while I leaf through my new batch of mags….ah, there it is. The premier copy of FOWL TODAY. I’ll have it ready in a jiff.”

TEAR OUT SIMULATED PICTURE OF CHICKEN, SHRED IT BY HAND AND DROP IT INTO BOILING WATER
But that was then – what about now?
Hold the phone! I mean literally – I’ve got it! by George I’ve got it!

TO RELEASE THE MAGIC… PRESS APP AND SPRITZ