92 FRIDAY 26 SEPTEMBER 2014
Miss Marmelstein – Barbra Streisand
In January 1992, I got my first job in the United States. I was in the last semester of my master’s program, and during the previous three months, I had been an intern at the Pan American Health Organization in Washington, DC.
After I had come back from my Christmas break, Guillermo, my supervisor at PAHO recommended me for a job at the Inter-American Development Bank, where they were looking for a photographer. I thanked him but reminded him I was not a photographer. He didn’t listen; he just rolled his eyes, gave me the key to his house and told me to go there. In a bookcase in the living room, there was a box with pictures, he told me to pick a few to pass as mine during the job interview.
I went to the interview one cold early Wednesday evening in mid-January, I was to meet with Willie, one of the photographers. I showed him the pictures, but he wasn’t that impressed, which bothered me a bit until I remembered that they weren’t mine.
I always disliked taking pictures. I never took a class at university and every time I had to do an assignment with stills, I got my friend Alonso to shoot them for me.
“Naturally, you’d use our gear. You can have a practice if you haven’t used our brand before.” I acknowledge Willie’s offer by nodding. Not that I had any gear or knew of any brands for that matter. “What camera do you own?” He was curious.
“What do you use here? I was fast with my answer; I was prepared for that question and knew I couldn’t get away by saying Kodak. “I heard you use …”
“Cannon.” I swiftly responded. “Sure, Cannon, that’s what I have,” I reassured him.
“That shouldn’t be a problem. You can have a practice with ours.”
“I’ll be alright,” I said confidently.
I knew I’d be fine. After all, I had already organised a quick tell-me-all-you-know-about-taking-pictures session with my friend Barbara.
The job was fairly simple, I’d have to cover for the two official photographers whenever they needed an extra hand or when they weren’t available at all. I’d also have to fill in for the photo librarian who was going on annual leave for a month.
However, Willie wasn’t just interested in my photographic abilities. He was also interested in my film and video expertise. They were about to re-launch their video unit, and they needed it, someone, to help them out. By the time he gave me the tour of their new TV Studio and showed me the video equipment they had recently purchased, I knew my chances of getting the job were high.
A few days later, Willie called me.
“We can only pay $2000 a month. So, if you think that’s a fair rate, we’d like to offer you the job.”
Fair? I had been living on 850 a month for a year and a half! I would have settled for 1500. I accepted the offer and started to work the last week of January.
At this point, I should briefly explain what the Inter-American Development Bank is. Created in 1959, the IDB is a regional development bank for the Americas and the Caribbean. It kind of works like a co-op; member countries own it, they put money in it and get loans for a variety of projects going from infrastructure to education, to health. Today, Latin America and the Caribbean are a little bit better because of the IDB’s work.
The three-month contract became an eleven-year-and-5-month gig, but I was only a photographer for three of those years, the rest of the time I was in charge of the video unit operations. I’m very proud and grateful to have worked with them for such a long period of time.
Around the same time, I bought “Just For The Record”, a retrospective of Barbra Streisand’s 30-year music career. Miss Marlmelstein from the 1962 musical “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” was part of the set. In the booklet, Streisand talks about doing the number seated on a desk chair and sliding around the stage, which naturally I tried to recreate at my new job whenever nobody was watching.
Every time I hear Miss Marlmelstein I think of that job interview and my first weeks at the IDB. It is just one of those associations of events you can’t explain, it just happens; there is no clear connection between the two.
Song Title: Miss Marmelstein – 1962 Artist: Barbra Streisand Genre: Musical Composer: Harold Rome Lyricist: Harold Rome Album: Just For The Record . . .
Favourite Lyrics: Nobody calls me: Koo-Chee-Koo or Boobala or Passion Pie / Even “Hey There Babe!” thought not respectable / Ain’t so objectable / It’s kind of crummy but chummy.
Runners Up: Happy Days Are Here Again • Cry Me A River • Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf? • Lover, Come Back To Me • Be My Guest • I’m The Greatest Star • Second Hand Rose • You Wanna Bet • Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead • I’m Always Chasing Rainbows • Sleep In Heavenly Peace (Silent Night)
93 SATURDAY 27 SEPTEMBER 2014
A Quiet Thing / There Won’t Be Trumpets – Barbra Streisand
I’m only interested in the A Quiet Thing part of this medley by Streisand; I don’t care much for There Won’t Be Trumpets.
A Quiet Thing is a tune that quietly sneaked in and gave me a moment of realisation that songs often provoke. Not all good things announce themselves with a fanfare when they arrive, expectations can often be distorted and when we finally get something we’ve wanted for a long time, all you feel is peace and serenity.
Through the years I’ve learned to enjoy those quiet moments of triumph, they can be very special.
Song Title: A Quiet Thing – 1965 / There Won’t Be Trumpets – 1964 Artist: Barbra Streisand Genre: Musical Composer A Quiet Thing: John Kander Lyricist A Quiet Thing: Fred Ebb Composer There Won’t Be Trumpets: Stephen Sondheim Lyricist There Won’t Be Trumpets: Stephen Sondheim Album: Just For The Record . . .
Favourite Lyrics: Happiness comes in on tiptoe / Well what d’ya know / It’s a quiet thing / A very quiet thing.
Runners Up: You’re The Top • Over The Rainbow • Theme From ‘Nuts’ (End Credits) • Second Chance • Seeing Things
94 SUNDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 2014
The Skin Of Our Teeth – Brent Barrett
Back in 1999, Kander and Ebb came to Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia to hold the world premiere of their new musical “Over and Over”. It was a musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin Of Our Teeth”. It was a big deal for the small black box in Arlington to have these two musical titans handpick their space to mount the show, and its artistic director, Eric Schaeffer, to be the director. A few stage veterans like Bebe Neuwirth, Dorothy Loudon and Jim Newman, descended on Northern Virginia to play for six weeks to a packed theatre.
A few weeks before opening night there was drama, Bebe Neuwirth left the show because of artistic differences; we all know what that means, don’t we? She was replaced by Sherie Rene Scott, who was probably more age appropriate than Bebe and way sexier for the role of Sabina.
Ronald, my partner, and I knew that it would be almost impossible to get tickets when they went on sale, so we decided to buy a subscription for the entire season. So, before seeing “Over and Over”, we saw “A Little Night Music”, and “Nijinsky’s Last Dance”.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show. There are many things I remember from the show, notably David Garrison and Linda Emond, who played Mr and Mrs Antrobos. Megan Lawrence as their daughter Gladys, and a pre-“Sex and the City” Mario Cantone as the Telegraph Boy, who I thought was so charming and cute (I still believe he is). I also remember one line, which comes from the original play: “It’s so cold outside that the dogs are sticking to the sidewalks.” I still use that line occasionally when I’m freezing.
When the show ended we remained in our seats, we were meeting Bruce, a friend of Ronald’s who had played Jesus Christ in the show. Bruce said he would introduce me to Sharon Wilkins, whom I had loved in “The Life” on Broadway. As we waited for Bruce, John Kander came in the house with Eric Schaeffer. I was going to ask Kander to autograph the poster I had bought, but he and Schaefer were having what it seems a serious conversation. The show had many problems, and it seems changes were made every day; at least that’s what we gathered from Bruce over beers and burgers later that night at Mr Henry’s on Capitol Hill.
In general, the show was not well received. They attempted to do it again in 06 and 07 under its new title, “All About Us”, but the show never really took off.
The Skin Of Our Teeth may be the only commercial recording of any of the songs from the score.
Song Title: The Skin Of Our Teeth – 1999 Artist: Brent Barrett Genre: Musical Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: The Kander & Ebb Album
Favourite Lyrics: We’ll survive / Fight and win / If only by the skin of our teeth.
Runners Up: A Quiet Thing • Shall We Dance? • King’s Fate – Prince’s Future – Kralahome’s Demise – Anna’s Surprise • Getting to Know You • Shall We Dance? • The Letter
95 MONDAY 29 SEPTEMBER 2014
Tom, Dick Or Harry – Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Bob Fosse
The inclusion of this Cole Porter song from “Kiss Me Kate”, is a no-brainer, it is pure fun. This is the version that introduced me to this song and the show, in general. The choreography by Hermes Pan is energetic and dynamic, and to see Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, and Bob Fosse dance and leap around the stage is the best of treats. If you’re a dancer, I’m sure you will try some of those steps next time you’re at the dance studio. If you’re not a dancer, I’m sure you’ll wish you were. “Kiss Me Kate” has the distinction of being the first musical shot in 3-D. Also, it is one of the few movies from the MGM Golden Era I’ve watched on a big screen, at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum many years ago.
Tom, Dick Or Harry inspired a passage in my novel “The Return Of The Army Of Light and Other Gay Urban Myths. You can read it here: The Return Of The Army Of Light – Excerpt – Inspired by Tom, Dick Or Harry
Kiss Me Kate—TOM, DICK OR HARRY
Song Title: Tom, Dick Or Harry – 1948 Artist: Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Bob Fosse Genre: Musical Composer: Cole Porter Lyricist: Cole Porter Album: Kiss Me Kate – Original MGM Soundtrack
Favourite Lyrics: I’m a maid mad to marry / (She’s a) / And will take double quick
Any Tom, Dick or Harry / Any Tom, Harry or Dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick / A dicka dick
Runners Up: Raise You Up / Just Be • So In LoveToo Darn Hot • We Open In Venice
96 TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2014
Dressing Them Up – Brent Carver
When I included Mister Cellophane earlier on this list (Week 06), I talked about how Kander and Ebb love to take characters and give them back their dignity. Dressing Them Up from “Kiss Of The Spider Woman” is a prime example of that.
For those unfamiliar with the show, it is based on the novel of the same name by Argentinian Manuel Puig – an excellent movie version was produced in the 1980s. Luis Alberto Molina is a window dresser who’s in prison for corrupting a minor, male. When he meets his new cellmate, Valentin Arregui Paz, a Marxist revolutionary, Molina proudly tells him stories about his days as a window dresser at Montoya’s, their main store. Among the chaos and despair of his present situation, in prison, Molina still takes pride in his profession and job.
Having the character sing this song elevates Molina from a sad middle aged lonely gay man with an active imagination to a man who can be passionate and committed to a cause, or someone he loves.
When I approached my late 30s, I fantasised with playing Molina in a small production of “Kiss Of The Spider Woman”. I think I could still pull it off. Although Molina is 37 in the play, he doesn’t need to be that young to carry the story. Actually, pairing a 50-year-old Molina with a young twenty-something Valentin could add so many layers to the story.
Song Title: Dressing Them Up – 1992 Artist: Brent Carver Genre: Musical Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: Kiss Of The Spider Woman
Favourite Lyrics: Once I asked for a Balenciaga scarf / To stuff in a mannequin’s purse / They told me, no one on earth will see! / I answered, no one on earth but me! / I stood my ground as no other dresser does / And darling guess what? Balenciaga, it was!
Runners Up: Always True To You (In My Fashion) • Brush Up Your Shakespeare • From This Moment On • So In Love • We Open In Venice • Tom, Dick Or Harry • Kiss Me, Kate • Too Darn Hot • Always True To You (In My Fashion) • So In Love [Reprise]
97 WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER 2014
The Day After That – Brian Mitchell
The Day After That and the previous song go hand in hand, they both come from the same show.
Molina doesn’t possess the strength to cope with daily life in prison, so he escapes to the movies, particularly the ones with Aurora, his idol. He loves all of her movies except the one where she played death, anyone she kissed, even a child, would die. Having seen them all, Molina makes his mission to retell Valentin the entire movies plots.
Valentin also has a movie. However, this story doesn’t have songs, dances and pretty costumes, just the truth. Living in poverty and despair, Valentin, his sister, and mother would go to church every Sunday, and on their knees, they’d thank the Lord for his many blessings. When their mother dies, at the ripe old age of thirty, Valentin and his sister decide not to spend another Sunday on their knees and escape to the city. In the city they hear a man in a political meeting talking about freedom from social injustice and inequality; if not that day, then the day after that. I guess that’s when Valentin and his sister joined the Marxist movement.
I have never seen the play, but I’m sure it was a showstopper. You only have to hear the choir of men joining Valentin in his plea to become free, to know this was one of the show’s highlights.
The first time I heard it, I could relate to its sly critique of the controlling nature that religion may have on the poor and needy. It doesn’t matter how bad you have it, you still need to be thankful for God’s presence in your life. You can’t question the vicissitudes in your life; there must be a reason for God to put you through them. If you’re patient and, above all, thankful, he’ll reward you. Obviously, chances of this happening in this life are slim. It’s about the afterlife, stupid. Everything will come to you most likely after your death.
In 1993, Liza Minnelli recorded a version to raise awareness about AIDS. This time the plea was to find a cure for the disease, which if it weren’t to arrive that day, it could be on the day after that. The war on AIDS has not been won yet, but many battles have been won, and these days it is only considered a chronic condition.
Song Title: The Day After That – 1992 Artist: Brian Mitchell Genre: Musical Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: Kiss Of The Spider Woman – The Musical
Favourite Lyrics: And we came to the city / And begged for our food / Then, one April day we heard it / Thunder rumbling / One man speaking / Thousands singing. / Someday we’ll be free / I promise you, we’ll be free / If not tomorrow / Then the day after that.
Runners Up: Gimme Love • Only In The Movies • Where You Are • Russian Movie/Good Times • Scene: The Warden’s Office
98 THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER 2014
Manhattan – Ella Fitzgerald
I first heard this song on the 1985’s TV Special “Night Of The Hundred Stars”. It was an elaborate and fabulous number with many stars singing excerpts of songs about New York. Among the stars were: Lucie Arnaz, who did “New York, New York”, Peter Allen, who did “Best That You Can Do”, and Patti LaBelle, who did “On Broadway.” Ashford and Simpson did Manhattan. I didn’t know who they were, but their soft and velvety voices made me fall in love with this song. Every time I walk the streets of Manhattan, on a good day, I can hear this song in my head.
Song Title: Manhattan – 1925 Artist: Ella Fitzgerald Genre: Musical Composer: Richard Rodgers Lyricist: Lorenz Hart Album: Kissing Jessica Stein (Soundtrack)
Favourite Lyrics: The great big city’s a wondrous toy / Just made for a girl and boy / We’ll turn Manhattan into an isle of joy
Runner Ups: Taking A Chance On Love • There Will Never Be Another You • What A Little Moonlight Can Do • We Are What We Are • La Cage aux Folles • I Am What I Am