274 FRIDAY 27 MARCH 2015
Noche de Chicago – Mirla Castellanos
When you grow up in a non-English speaking country, like I did, sooner or later, the big hits of America or the UK make their way to your radio stations in your local language. That was the case with The Night Chicago Died. The Paper Lace hit made its way to Venezuela shortly after it topped the US and UK charts.
During October and November 1974, the Spanish version by Mirla Castellanos dominated the radio waves. The song was so popular that they even made a music video, which I believe is probably the first music video I remember watching. Every time I hear this song is 1974 all over again.
Song Title: Noche de Chicago – 1974 Genre: Pop Artist: Mirla Castellanos Composer: Peter Callander, Mitch Murray Lyrics: Peter Callander, Mitch Murray Album: Baladas Inolvidables: 20 Grandes
Favourite Lyrics: Y vi a mamá llorar / La oí rezar cuando papá salió / Fue la noche que el mundo tembló / La noche que la ciudad murió.
I heard my mama cry / I heard her pray the night Chicago died / Brother what a night the people saw / Brother what a fight the people saw, yes indeed.
275 SATURDAY 28 MARCH 2015
On the Street Where You Live – Steven Pasquale
On the Street Where You Live may be one of the few songs I dislike when presented as part of the musical book of “My Fair Lady”. I prefer to hear it with different arrangements, such as this jazz rendition, which I find very romantic. Perception is subjective, and we’ll see things differently once we fall in love.
Song Title: On the Street Where You Live – 1956 Genre: Musical Artist: Steven Pasquale Composer: Frederick Lowe Lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner Album: Somethin’ like Love
Favourite Lyrics: People stop and stare, they don’t bother me / For there’s nowhere else on earth that I would rather be / Let the time go by, I won’t care / If I can be here on the street where you live.
276 SUNDAY 29 MARCH 2015 (-90)
Opening Doors – Jim Walton, Lonny Price, Ann Morrison, Jason Alexander, Sally Klein
Throughout my years at university, I met many wonderful people who made the five and a half years that took me to finish my degree in psychology an absolute delight.
I can’t remember the number of people who started with me in 1982 or the exact number who finished in 1988. However, a group of us were very tight during our career and remained close for a while after we finished. For weeks and months after we graduated, we kept scores on each other; who had gone to a job interview, who was shortlisted, and who had gotten a position.
The first one to get a job was Marisela. She went to Caracas to work as a junior psychologist at a commercial bank’s human resources department. She was followed by Eneida and Sorely, who both got jobs as professors at a private university in a town nearby. Luxelia, Lisbeth, and Dorania soon followed. We were all knocking and opening doors. However, it was I, the one who was shortlisted for the job everybody wanted to get. The local power company was hiring psychologists to run their human resources department for the very first time. It is hard to imagine that in 1988 they still didn’t have any psychologists on staff, but that’s how it was then.
I didn’t get that job, which hurt a bit, but didn’t affect me much; after all, it was the first door I was trying to open. For the next few months, that kind of became the norm. I was knocking on many doors, usually getting shortlisted but never making the final cut.
Other than the short contract my friend Marisela gave me to do a survey among the bank staff where she worked, I could not find a steady job. A good eight months after I graduated, I opened my own private practice, but after six months, I folded operations. Around that time, I saw an ad in the paper inviting graduates to apply for a scholarship/student loan to do postgraduate studies in the USA. Sponsored by a Venezuelan government agency, the program consisted of a loan to complete a master’s or PhD in any American University. It was considered a scholarship/loan because no matter how expensive the university fees were, the successful applicant would only pay US$4,000 per year.
I applied for the programme, and within a month, I was travelling to Caracas, where the agency was headquartered, to take an English proficiency test and GRE, the standardised admission test, to most graduate schools in the USA. Three weeks later, I was among the pre-selected, which didn’t surprise me; this is the part I always got to without difficulty; I was usually shortlisted every time I went after a job.
Next in the selection process was an interview in Caracas with representatives from the American agency that would help the successful applicants find placements at universities in the United States. During the interview, I had to make a case on why a psychologist should study film and television and why more people in social studies should get involved in television production, specifically in educational TV.
I must have caused a good impression because I was informed I had been selected for the program four weeks later. I had opened the first door that had remained open.
Six months later, in July 1990, I moved to the United States. Then in the Fall, I started my Master’s program at American University in Washington D.C.
Song Title: Opening Doors – 1981 Genre: Musical Artist: Jim Walton, Lonny Price, Ann Morrison, Jason Alexander, Sally Klein Composer: Stephen Sondheim Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim Album: Merrily We Roll Along (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favourite Lyrics: We’re opening doors, / Singing, “Here we are!” / We’re filling up days / On a dime. / That faraway shore’s / Looking not too far. / We’re following every star? / There’s not enough time!
277 MONDAY 30 MARCH 2015
Partners of the Heart – Orchestra
As soon as the credits started, the applause inundated the auditorium, where the film was exhibited for the first time. As pictures of blue babies faded in and faded out along with the principal contributors to the documentary, I sat and waited with anticipation to see my name appear on the screen. A few seconds later, my name, Graphics and Photographic Animations: Luis G. Portillo, rolled by. That was the first time I saw my name on a big screen.
I had come to Los Angeles to attend the world premiere of “Partners of the Heart”, a documentary about Vivien Thomas and Alfred Blalock. Thomas, a black carpenter, turned lab technician, and Dr Blalock developed surgical techniques to treat heart conditions, specifically the Blue Baby Syndrome, a congenital heart condition causing a blue tint on babies’ lips.
The journey into that auditorium at the Museum of Tolerance had started a few years before when Andrea Kalin, the film’s director, had told me about her project in a hotel bar in Mexico City. I was already familiar with Thomas and Blalock’s story. I had read about them in the Reader’s Digest and always thought theirs fascinating. Thomas, a black carpenter in Nashville in the 1930s, is hired by a famed heart surgeon as his lab assistant. Subsequently, they both move to Baltimore, where together they develop a technique, labelled by many as a miracle, which would save thousands of kids worldwide in time.
Although Thomas was the one who conducted all the experiments in the lab – and in a way was the first one to successfully complete the procedure in a dog, it was Dr Blalock the one who took all the glory for the procedure. In time, Thomas’ contributions were recognised; his legacy remains.
When Andrea was ready for post-production in 2001, she asked me to restore and animate most of the photographs used in the documentary. That was the first time I did a job of such magnitude for a film, and I loved it. I wanted to do more of it.
That evening, at the Museum of Tolerance, in Los Angeles, I realised that if I wanted to do more work like this full-time, I had to leave my job. I quit the IDB within a year and was on my way to New Zealand.
For the last 15 years, I’ve been doing post-production work for Andrea and her production company Spark Media. At first, we had to rely on DHL and FedEx to swap media and assets, but for the last eight years, it’s all been done over the Internet.
Song Title: Partners of the Heart– 2002 Genre: Soundtrack Artist: Orchestra Composer: Joseph Vitarelli Album: Partners of the Heart
278 TUESDAY 30 MARCH 2015
Piano Merengue – Billo’s Caracas Boys
Billo’s Caracas Boys was a very famous band when I was growing up, and Piano Merengue was one of its most popular pieces. I’m almost certain this was one of the first songs I ever danced to.
My Aunt María and Uncle Ramiro were big fans of this band created in 1940. They would buy the band’s records whenever they became available. If you went to a party at their house, that music would play all night. If they went to another relative’s party, they made sure to bring the Billo’s Caracas Boys records with them. We would spend the entire night dancing to Billo’s.
Song Title: Piano Merengue – 1930 Genre: Latin Artist: Billo’s Caracas Boys Composer: Francisco Alberto Simó Damirón Lyrics: Francisco Alberto Simó Damirón Album: Los Años de Oro: La Orquesta de Siempre
279 WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2015
Rose’s Turn – Bernadette Peters
Here it comes from “Gypsy”, the ultimate I’ve-done-everything-for-you-little-ingrate-and-this-is-the-way-you-pay-me? song.
For those unfamiliar with “Gypsy”, it is a musical inspired by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, an American burlesque entertainer or an ecdysiast, to use her word. Although the book is centred on Gypsy Rose Lee’s life, Broadway creatives decided to focus the story on her mother, Rose, the mother of all stage mothers. At the end of the show, Rose is pissed off. She feels Gypsy is pushing her aside. She just can’t understand how her daughter can treat her like that after all she’s done for Gypsy Rose Lee and her career. It is, without a doubt, one of the most electrifying moments ever created in a musical.
I know Rose’s Turn belongs to La Merman, but I decided to include Bernadette Peters’ version because I saw it live in the 2003 revival, which blew me away. “Gypsy” was the last show I saw on Broadway before moving to New Zealand.
Song Title: Rose’s Turn – 1959 Genre: Musical Artist: Bernadette Peters Composer: Jule Styne Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim Album: Gypsy (2003 Broadway Revival Cast)
Favourite Lyrics: Why did I do it? / What did it get me? / Scrapbooks full of me in the background. / Give ’em love and what does it get ya? / What does it get ya? / One quick look as each of ’em leaves you. / All your life and what does it get ya? / Thanks a lot and out with the garbage, / They take bows and you’re battin’ zero.
280 THURSDAY 2 APRIL 2015
Russian Movie/Good Times – Vanessa Williams, Howard McGillin, Brian Mitchell, Herndon Lackey
I have never seen “Kiss Of The Spider Woman” on stage, but I’m sure this number must be spectacular, it is very theatrical. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is based on the novel of the same name by Manuel Puig. Luis Alberto Molina, a window dresser in prison for corrupting a minor, falls in love with his new cellmate, Valentín, a Marxist revolutionary. Molina loves to watch movies, particularly those with his idol, Aurora. To kill time in their cell, he tells Valentín the plots of Aurora’s films.
This one, in particular, Russia Movie/Good Times, tells the story of Tatyana, a vedette du cabaret who dies in the arms of her lover Anatol, a revolutionary Bolshevik anarchist. She’s killed by the bullet that was aimed at Anatol. The number foreshadows Molina and Valentín’s fate.
Every time I hear this song, I stage the entire sequence in my head.
Song Title: Russian Movie/Good Times – 1992 Genre: Musical Artist: Vanessa Williams, Howard McGillin, Brian Mitchell, Herndon Lackey Composer: John Kander Lyricist: Fred Ebb Album: Kiss Of The Spider Woman – The Musical
Favourite Lyrics: So put on a smile / Start waving your hand / Whatever was grim is going to be grand. / And… / There’s going to be good times / Nothing but good times / Viva la guerra, viva la revolucion, viva-!