Summer is here, and with it the urge to drink rose and just generally goof off. It's a great season, and I like to play hooky as often as possible. The food is great, the garden is putting on a show, and everyone is giddy from the sunshine. This is early summer. Live it and love it, because before you know it, you'll be blasted by dry heat from the furnaces of Hell, and all the rose in the world won't make it easier to bear, although it can be fun to try.
On the darker side, we are all enduring a relatively new phenomenon...the impossibility of finding anything to wear! It's summer outside, but the stores are selling wool, sometimes exclusively. It's a new season they call "pre-fall". It is currently July, you say, and I need something for right now! You should have been there in March.
I have a friend who lives on the Left Bank of the Hudson River. These are the Catskills, where Rip van Winkle slept in days of yore. My friend has a small, cozy shack up on a grim little pond he likes to call a lake...And a Walmart just around the corner. He's lucky they didn't drain the lake for their parking lot; you know how they can be. The lake is stocked, which makes the water murky. Everyone hopes for water that is "gin-clear", but with fish in it, that ain't gonna happen, I keep telling him.
Speaking of the Catskills, in the thirties, forties and fifties, they were a haven for summering Jewish families and known familiarly as "the Borscht Belt". There were some huge hotels there, Grossingers, The Nevele (eleven spelled backwards) Brown's...some were great, some not, but they did give you a LOT of food. Which was important. (You remember: "The food is terrible! And such small portions!").
And entertainment. Huge names played their showrooms; there were bands, singers,comics, and hordes of young people bent on getting laid. What a cauldron.
During my first summer in NY, I toured in a bootleg version on Fiddler on the Roof; we had to hide in case Actor's Equity caught up us. What I mostly remember was the gang of actors, who were hilarious, and washing my unmentionables (they were unmentionable then) in the tin sink. It was the summer The Beatles album Rubber Soul came out, and I will never forget Jeffrey (who went with Sandy) running up the stairs, waving the album, yelling, "I got it, I got it!"
Music was first and foremost on everyone's mind, and everyone with a spark of creativity only wanted to make their lives in it, it was that irresistible. I was just one of the millions who succumbed to the passion. My next record is mostly music that was popular around that time. It's called, "It's The Girls", and it will be out in November...
As our world grows smaller and smaller, and we learn of the infinite number of ways in which human beings can hurt each other, ultimately, there is only music left. Play it, sing it, dance to it, spread it around, for all the joy it brings. I have made music my whole life, and I am still learning and loving it, all of it. Every season on this site, I chat about some of the music I have made, and give you a little insight into why I chose the songs I did, and what the experience was like…
The album we will discuss this season is Some People’s Lives, made in 1990, and another happy collaboration between me, Arif Mardin, and Marc Shaiman. The moving “From a Distance” became a surprise hit for us, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. In retrospect, it captured a kind of longing for peace that had not been expressed musically in a long time. It’s a great, great song, universal in its longing and tone. Whether it’s sung with a huge orchestra, or just a guitar, and I have sung it all these years in every configuration possible; it still brings down the house, not because of the way I sing it, but because it’s what everyone wishes for. Daily.
A song that has a special feeling for me on this album is “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” a ballad by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolfe from a show called “The Nervous Set”, which had a small success off-Broadway in the 50”s. Of course, it became a jazz classic in the hands of Anita O’Day, one of those remarkable singers of the day; and my fascination with those neurotic times (think Mad Men, the Beats, and the Bomb) continues to this day. Just think, it was only 10-15 years after WWII ended; can you believe it? No wonder people were neurotic! I was just a kid in those days, and the world was brand new to me, but when I think about it now, what people of my parents’ generation had to absorb is unbelievable; the Depression, the War, the Holocaust, Reds under the Beds...I don’t know how they kept it together.
Marc Shaiman contributed a beautiful arrangement of “He Was Too Good to Me” paired with “Since You Stayed Here”, by Rubens and Larsen, which I could never get through without breaking down…Jude Johnstone contributed “The Girl is on to You” and Janis Ian gave me one of my favorite songs of all time, the title track, “Some People’s Lives” which, in a lyrical feat, manages to be so sad, yet hopeful at the same time.
Some people’s lives,
run down like clocks,
one day they stop,
and that’s all they’ve got
Some lives wear out
Like old tennis shoes
no one can use
well, it’s sad, but it’s true
Didn’t anybody tell them
Didn’t anybody see?
Didn’t anybody love them?
Like you love me?
I always think of my husband, the Baron, whenever I sing it.
“Moonlight Dancing” provides a soundtrack for those outdoor cocktail parties you’ve been planning since you’ve been in hibernation, and “All of a Sudden” sort of feels like a throwback to the New Wave 80’s, late, as I usually am, since this album came out in 1990! So get out your crinolines and skinny ties and pour yourself a Long Island Iced Tea...et voila!
As you can probably tell, I really liked this album; the songs, the arrangements, and let’s discuss that cover photo! We shot it on one of the most beautiful days I can remember in LA, and the picture was taken at sunset, at what we call “magic hour”. I hope you play these songs at sunset, love them, and have many, many magic hours of your own...Here’s to Spring!
“It is an honor to play a human being”…this is a quote I recently heard that made think about what a privilege it is to be part of the profession. I’ve acted since I was 14 years old, and every part brings its own challenges and thrills. Some parts are 100% successful, but many are elusive, no matter how hard one tries. The joy of solving the riddles never gets old, though. Here are some greats, near greats, also rans, and DOAs that I lived through…judge for yourselves.
Summer is here, and we are still busy cleaning up after a long season of letting things slide. Look again at all that stuff you have been squirreling away for years and be ruthless: make piles: keep, toss, and disown (What is this? Where did this come from? That’s not me!) Take heart, it happens to all of us. Here are some newly uncovered photos that I can’t toss without showing them to you first…
I’m excited to announce the brand spankin’ new nyrp.org. Recently re-launched, the new and improved site designed by Four32C is easier to navigate, can be read en español, and is viewable on any (yes, ANY) of your devices including your cell phone, tablet, watch… whatever. My favorite part? The new stories we’re telling on the blog – there are a lot of people behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, adjacent to the scenes… and now you can get an inside view of who makes up the very fabric of NYRP, like staff, community members, volunteers and supporters.
We hope you enjoy and take a few minutes to explore.