WEEK 37 / 6 MARCH – 12 MARCH 2015

253 FRIDAY 6 MARCH 2015

Candy – Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers

Your Hit Parade - 1945

Candy belongs to a group of songs that I discovered in the early 1990s, mostly through Time’s “Your Hit Parade Series, The War Years”. The song was also featured in the movie “Bugsy” which it is perhaps where I listened to it for the first time.

I’ve always been intrigued with the melancholy that varnishes this song. I guess that by trying to make it a romantic ballad, the arranger ended up with a sad tune. However, the reason could be that most likely this is a song about lovers separated by war. Whichever the case may be, I think it is one of the prettiest songs from that era.

Song Title: Candy – 1944   Genre: Pop   Artist: Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford & The Pied Pipers   Composer: Alex Kramer   Lyricist: Mack David, Joan Whitney   Album: Your Hit Parade – 1945

Favourite Lyrics: I wish that there were four of him / So I could love much more of her / He has taken my complete heart / Got a sweet tooth for my sweetheart


City Lights – Liza Minnelli

The Act

Unlike Milhous and Hampton, Täche was an outdoor cat; she was used to going outside every night. However, we always kept her indoors with the other two cats. She was small, frail and getting old, we feared she’d be harmed by other cats. She wasn’t happy about that and tried to step out whenever she had a chance. She would sit at a window frame in the living room every night and stare outside as if the City Lights were calling her to come out and savour again the nightlife in the streets she had once roamed. One day she escaped through a narrow gap in a basement window that a contractor hadn’t shut properly. We were distressed. We went around the neighbourhood looking for her and distributing flyers with her picture and our phone number. We also kept water and food on the front and back porches in case she got hungry and decided to come back home.

In the beginning, there was just Milhous, a magazine-cover yellow cat with soft fur, whom Ronald, my partner, and I adopted at the Washington Humane Society in October 1997. At the time, he was known as ‘Big Boy’ and believed to be five. Nobody knew his original name, he had been dropped at the shelter by a woman who claimed she was only taking care of him while his human was away, but she couldn’t care for him anymore. I guess she dropped off the cat in such a hurry that she neglected to give the receptionist his name. ‘Big Boy’ went to a foster home where he had to be kept away from other cats because he had been declawed by his previous human and couldn’t defend himself against attacks from other cats. We named him Milhous after Milhouse Van Houten from “The Simpsons”.

In February 1998, Hampton, from Hampton, Virginia, also came from the Washington Humane Society. This time around, his humans had to regretfully give the three-year-old cat away because their toddler was terrorising the poor kitty. Unlike Milhous, Hampton was on death row. If we hadn’t taken him, he would have been put down in a matter of days.

The first encounter between the two male cats was a tad tense. While Hampton sat with us on the sofa, Milhous slowly approached him. He looked at both Ronald and I and, after giving us a how-dare-you-bring-another-feline-into-my-house look, he slapped Hampton across his face and retired to the basement full of indignation. However, within a few days, they were the best of pals, licking each other’s furs, keeping each other warm on cold winter nights and playing with each other. They would remain a tight twosome for years.

Milhous, on the left, and Hampton on a slow Sunday afternoon in March 2002

Milhous, on the left, and Hampton on a slow Sunday afternoon in March 2002

The four of us lived happily for a few years in a row house on Capitol Hill until Miss Täche, an eight-year-old socialist lesbian cat, came to live with us. We’ve all had known señorita Täche for some time, though. Her human, Sarah, had been our upstairs neighbour when we lived in a duplex house down the street. Sarah would look after our boys when we were away and vice versa we’d take care of Täche when Sarah was away. We often let the three cats play together, as well.

Whenever Täche would come back from her nightly escapades, she’d stop in front of our door and have a little chat with our cats; kind of like, “I’m back guys, lots of stories to tell. Catch you later.”

Täche turns back while assessing the situation to see if she could escape on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2001

Täche turns back while assessing the situation to see if she could escape on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2001

In 2000, Sarah got a job in Manhattan and couldn’t take Täche with her. She knew how much we loved her and asked us if we wanted to take her in. We agreed. We couldn’t bear the idea of the petite white cat, with a coquette black spot on her forehead, going to a shelter.

As soon as she moved in, the three felines reconnected. The boys welcomed her into their twosome that soon became a threesome. She quickly became the leader of the pack. After she arrived, the cats’ behaviour changed, they seemed to be better organised when it came to relating to us. For instance, they started to take turns every morning at 5 at our bedroom door demanding to be fed. They also learned they needed to move a few steps away in case we water-sprayed them through the crack at the bottom of the door. They respect her leadership a lot, I guess it was because she still has her claws and knew how to use them.

We thought she was a natural organiser, a socialist to a certain degree, and we were also convinced she was a feminist dyke. I’m not sure why we thought that, but we always got that vibe.

It all wasn’t just a one-way street, though; I believe some of the boys’ affection for each other rubbed on her. She eventually accepted being groom by either cat, and she would bundle up with them on a cold night. She also learned some of the boys’ non-co-op techniques, like just lying on her side to avoid being moved. Of course, she didn’t carry the 27 and 30 lbs. that Milhous and Hampton carried respectively, she was small and light and we could move her with just one finger.

A day or two after her escape, we contacted Sarah to let her know that “señorita Tächita”, as I used to call her, had gone missing. Sarah was devastated and told us of places where we could look for her. Ronald and I would wait for night to fall to go out and look around the places in the neighbourhood Sarah had suggested, but we couldn’t find her.

Almost a week had gone by when Ronald went into the kitchen one morning and found her standing in the middle of the room. Her white coat was not as pristine as usual, but she was in good spirits. We later figured out she had found the strength to push in through the same basement window she had used to escape. I don’t know much about cats’ behaviour, but I’d love to think that Milhous and Hampton missed her and were relieved to see her back. I can only imagine all the stories she related about her adventure.

One or two years went by, and it was time for us to move to New Zealand. We called Sarah to let her know about our plan and informed her we were planning to take the three cats with us. However, we wanted her blessing to bring Täche along. Sarah’s living situation had changed; she had married and was living in an apartment on the upper west side where she was allowed to have pets. She didn’t want Täche to go away, as a matter of fact, she was trying to find a way to get her back. As painful as it was to us, we agreed to give her up. It was the best thing we could do for Täche; we fear the complicated move would be too much for her.

One Saturday morning, Sarah took the Amtrak from New York and came to D.C. to pick up Täche. We let the cats played for a little bit in the living room one last time. I’d like to think they said their goodbyes. I touched noses with her and kissed her. Sarah put her in a carrier and took her away.

Milhous and Hampton came to New Zealand and had a beautiful layback life (as you’re supposed to have in New Zealand) until the end of their days. Milhous died in his sleep in 2008, we thought he was 16 at the time. Hampton passed on almost three years later, at 17.

Last I heard of Täche, sometime in the mid-2000s, she was living the life in Manhattan. Although I don’t think Sarah let her out on the New York streets, I’m sure señorita Tächita was content with just sitting on any window frame, looking out and being mesmerised by the City Lights.

Song Title: City Lights – 1977   Genre: Music   Artist: Liza Minnelli   Composer: John Kander   Lyricist: Fred Ebb   Album: The Act

Favourite Lyrics: Country air means zilch to me, / I won’t breathe nothing I can’t see. / So let me quit and hit those pretty City Lights.

255 SUNDAY 8 MARCH 2015

Dancin’ – Olivia Newton-John, The Tubes

Xanadu (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

This song from the movie “Xanadu” came into my life around the time I had started to be aware of older music styles.

In the film, two characters, a former Big Band orchestra leader and a young man debate what to do with an abandoned venue in Los Angeles. Should it be an elegant club to highlight the Big Band bygone era? Or should it be a venue to feature rock and roll concerts? The song presents both music styles on their own, but then it introduces a spectacular mash of both music flairs.

Surprisingly, at the time, I gravitated towards the 1940s style of the montage. I thought its feel and cadence was more appealing. I suppose that was the first time, at 15, that I thought my musical taste was different from others in my age group.

Song Title: Dancin’ – 1980   Genre: Soundtrack   Artist: Olivia Newton-John, The Tubes   Composer: John Farrar   Lyricist: John Farrar   Album: Xanadu

Favourite Lyrics: Forget about the blues tonight / Sweet thing / Forget about the rules tonight / Sweet thing

256 MONDAY 9 MARCH 2015

Drums In My Heart – Philip Chaffin

Through The Years

Probably, at times you may feel you are in the middle of a storm, and can’t believe your luck when the sun finally comes out. Often, you just tend to walk in the shadow, until one day you decide to jump on the sunny side of the street. Or how about that feeling of waking up one Saturday expecting rain for the weekend but finding abundant sunshine? Whichever the case may be, you feel overjoyed and grateful to be bathing in light.

I’ve battled with mild depression and social anxiety most of my adult life. Not serious enough for me to require any heavy medication, and yet powerful enough to put me under the blues and isolate me from the rest of the world. I can spend days immersed in my own world, just waiting for the storm to stop and longing for a radiant Saturday so I can walk on the sunny side of the street. During those days, when I finally step into the light, I feel so joyful, happy to be alive and content to be part of the human race again. I can hear the drums in my heart, filling with joy.

Song Title: Drums In My Heart – 1932   Genre: Musical   Artist: Philip Chaffin   Composer: Vincent Youmans   Lyricist: Edward Heyman Album: Through The Years

Favourite Lyrics: Drums in my heart / I hear the drums roar / Deep in my heart / Filling with joy.

257 TUESDAY 10 MARCH 2015

Feelings You’ve Got To Hide Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley

Side Show

Feelings You’ve Got To Hide comes from the 1997 musical “Side Show”. The show tells the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, a set of Siamese twins who highlighted the vaudeville circuit in the 20th century. I talked about the show during Week 21 when I featured “I Will Never Leave You” on the list.

Halfway through the first act, Daisy, the dreamer, tells her sister how she feels about Terry, the man who is about to make them stars. Violet, who’s more of a realist, cautions her sister about the feelings she has for Terry and exhorts her to keep those feelings to herself. They’re freaks, and no one will ever see them as marrying material.

At the time the musical came out, a few people talked about the real meaning of this song. Come to think about it, maybe it was just Ronald and me who theorised about it. Nevertheless, it is hard not to draw parallels between the conversation between the sisters and a gay teen boy talking to his best pal about the feelings he’s having for another boy. There was a time, perhaps it’s still the case when young gay men or lesbians couldn’t openly talk about the feelings they were having for another person of their same gender. Those were feelings they had to keep bottled up. We wondered if the lyricist, Bill Russell (I guess we assumed he was gay) drew from his own experience to write such exquisite lyrics.

Song Title: Feelings You’ve Got To Hide – 1997   Genre: Musical   Artist: Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley   Composer: Henry Krieger   Lyricist: Bill Russell   Album: Side Show

Favourite Lyrics: Why do I feel like I swallowed a butterfly? / Tickling inside / Makes me laugh / Till I want to cry / Why are my eyes turning moist / While my throat is dry? / Is it that handsome guy?


Finale B (No Day But Today) Rent Original Broadway Cast

Rent (1996 Original Broadway Cast) [Cast Recording]

When I worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, I used to be the producer, director, and co-editor of a monthly TV magazine in Spanish called “Día a Día”, (Day to Day). It was basically a newsreel featuring development stories from the Latin American region and highlights of events at the IDB headquarters. The show was offered free of charge to TV stations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Often, we would include human-interest stories.

In July 1997, we produced a story about HIV and AIDS in Latin America. The statistics out of the region were alarming, HIV/AIDS had become the epidemic of the marginalised, affecting women and children in particular. We complemented the story with the personal crusade of four co-workers who decided to take part in the 1997 AIDS Ride from Raleigh North Carolina to Washington, DC.

From 1997 to 2002, every summer thousand of riders would take on a 375 kilometres trek from Raleigh, North Carolina to Washington, DC. Their objective was to raise money towards the care of people affected by HIV/AIDS. Another common activity designed to raise funds and awareness for the cause was the AIDS Marathon, which I did in 1999, but I may tell you more about it in another entry. Both events, the ride and marathon, ran into high costs and at the end, very little money was going to the charities it was intended to benefit. The last ride took place in 2002, and the last marathon in 2006.

1997 was the year I was obsessed with “Rent”, the musical. I had seen the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner show twice and thought it was perhaps the most important show of the 1990s. Not only did the show highlighted the ravages of the AIDS epidemic among the disenfranchised in America, but, in my estimation, it also reinvigorated the American musical theatre. Sadly, his creator Jonathan Larson didn’t live to see the success of his masterpiece. Larson died of an aortic dissection, probably caused by an undiagnosed Marfan syndrome, the night before the show’s official opening.

To end our “Race Against Aids,” I wanted to do a montage using one of the songs from “Rent”, Finale B (No Day But Today). In order to do that, I had Milena, one of my associates, hunt down Jonathan Larson’s family to try to get the rights to use the song.

Milena was a fierce producer whose charm over the phone had made the Univision video librarian in Miami give us hours and hours of historical footage for free. Later that summer, she’d also get, exclusively for us, never-before-seen footage of Princess Diana visiting Africa, which we used in a story in a land-mine story we did after she died in a car crash in Paris. However, after pleading with Larson’s sister and lawyer, she couldn’t persuade them to give us the right to use the song in our “Race Against AIDS” story. It was understandable after a year “Rent” was still the hottest show on Broadway, and I’m sure they had already made intricate deals that wouldn’t have allowed them to make exceptions for anyone. In the end, the story went on the satellite to the region without the final montage.

Every now and then, we would handpick stories and do English versions for our own show-reel. “Race Against AIDS” was one of those stories we also produced in English. I’m glad I decided to include the final montage in that version so I can show it to you now.

Song Title: Finale B (No Day But Today) – 1996   Genre: Musical   Artist: Rent Original Broadway Cast   Composer: Jonathan Larson   Lyricist: Jonathan Larson   Album: Rent (1996 Original Broadway Cast)

Favourite Lyrics: There’s only us / There’s only this / Forget regret– or life is yours to miss. / No other road / No other way / No day but today

259 THURSDAY 12 MARCH 2015

H-A-P-P-Y; We’ll Take A Glass Together David Jackson, Danny Strayhorn, Michael Jeter, Brent Barrett, Ensemble

Grand Hotel

This is another fabulous song that I often fantasise with doing on a big stage with a bevvy of dancers behind me. Saying anything else about this incredible number, from the musical “Grand Hotel”, would take the fun away.

Song Title: H-A-P-P-Y; We’ll take a glass together – 1958   Genre: Musical   Artist: David Jackson, Danny Strayhorn, Michael Jeter, Brent Barrett, Ensembe   Composer: Robin Wright/George Forrest   Lyricist: Robin Wright/George Forrest   Album: Grand Hotel

Favourite Lyrics: We’ll take a glass together and we will lift it to the good life / and as we’re lifting it we will most sincerely say / ‘Prosit’, ‘Your health, sir’ ‘Salute’ and “Skol’, ‘Nasdrowje’, ‘A votre sant?’ / For one warm moment in this cold and careless days / We’ll celebrate (We’ll take a glass)