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JOHN ASTIN HOW THE PROFESSOR IS SPENDING HIS SUMMER VACATION
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Copyright: June 28, 2009
By: Laura Deni
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JOHN ASTIN - HOW THE PROFESSOR IS SPENDING
HIS SUMMER VACATION
Academy-Award nominated actor John Astin, best known as Gomez Addams, the patriarch of
the original The Addams Family television series, is known around John Hopkins
University as Professor John Astin, creator of the new Theater Program.
On stage in Lansing, Michigan he is currently known as Gene in the BoarsHead Theater
production of Bluff, in which he co-stars with Max Shulman, Linda Setzer,
Anthony Blaha, Julie Sihilling and
Prentiss Benjamin, daughter of Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin.
Yesterday morning Astin spoke with Broadway To Vegas about his varied career. When he isn't
on stage, he's a professor at John's Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Is he playing hooky from school to do this show, or it this summer vacation?
"I wouldn't dare play hooky," he answered. "I have just finished answering E-mails from
a bunch of students. I can't get away from it. This is sort of like a vacation. In a few days,
I hope to clear up all of the stuff that is lagging back there (at John's Hopkins) and be
able to concentrate on this. Rehearsals have gone well."
Performing Bluff at BoarsHead Theatre is the culmination of an unusual chain of events.
"BoarsHead is very nice," he commented about the 250-seat Equity house, which is Mid-Michigan’s
oldest professional resident theater. "I heard about it from the director, James Glossman.
It's funny how all of this is interlaced. When James Glossman called me - gosh - ten
or twelve years ago - about a play, he had gotten my number from a mutual friend.
I was really too busy to do anything. But, he was great to talk to on the phone
and he sent me the script. I read it and really loved the part and decided
to make the time do the play. That is the same play that we are doing now."
"So, James and I have done it before. Linda Setzer who plays my wife in the play
had done it before."
Max Shulman as Neal, John Astin as Gene and Prentiss Benjamin as Emily in Bluff.
Previously performed doesn't necessarily mean instant recall.
"Actually, having done it before,
makes things take a little bit longer," he confessed. "Whenever I repeat a role, I
start fresh and sort of throw everything
out and take a clean approach."
"I like the role. The play itself deals with relationships in a very interesting way. It
also involves the audience. Jeffrey Sweet has done a wonderful job," he said about
the play's author. "The play has a style. It's not unique by any means, but he just does
it very well. It involves the actor talking to the audience and then performing for
"I don't think of addressing the audience as being separate from the role. I don't
address them as John Astin. I address them as Gene. There are lots of laughs. But,
it has a very serious undertone. It gets people talking to one another after
the show. Bluff deals
with family relationships. It starts with a relationship between two young lovers.
Then it's a young woman and her mother. Then it's the young woman and her step-father.
So, there is the relationship with the step-father to the mother; the mother to the daughter;
the daughter and her boyfriend; the step-father and the boyfriend. A lot of ground is covered
in the play and it's covered with great, good humor and lots of audience involvement.
It's why, when I didn't have time to do it 12-years ago, I made the time to do it. There is so much in it."
"Director James Glossman and I became friends. He was the first instructor I hired at
John's Hopkins when I started the Theatre Program."
In 2001 Astin was signed on for a one semester visiting professor gig at John's Hopkins
turned into a re-occurring role. He got rave reviews and is now a fixture.
A Hopkins alumnus, Astin spent much of his first five years on campus expanding
the university's academic theater offerings into a full complement of courses in acting,
directing, playwriting and production through the Theatre Arts and Studies Program, which
he directs. Students can now earn a minor in Theatre Arts, with courses cross-listed by
the Humanities Center and the Writing Seminars, where the Astin-led theater revival is
housed and where Astin earned his undergraduate degree decades ago when it was known
as the Department of Writing, Speech and Drama. Astin works closely with students,
both in the classroom and on the Merrick Barn stage, where his Johns Hopkins
University Theatre troupe performs to sold-out crowds.
Many institutions have good theatre programs, but they don't have instructors who
actually earned a living in the profession.
"You're right on," exclaimed Astin.
John Astin teaching at John's Hopkins. Photo by HIPS/Will Kirk
"It's one of the things that I promote. It's almost unique. I don't know, at this moment, of any university theatre
program that has a known actor working every day in the program. It's
interesting. When I first started this, in the first classes that I taught,
there were a couple of very talent, very dedicated young men.
Immediately before they graduated I had them assisting me. Then I had them actually teach
acting. I realized after this went on for a bit, that - talented as they were - that
they hadn't been around long enough to have the eye to help people who are just
beginning. From that point on, I've been teaching Acting One. I'd love to teach
nothing but advanced, but you've got to have the foundation - you have to. I decided that I wasn't going to pass off Acting One to anyone else."
"We have more than one really good director in the program. But, James was the first one that I hired."
Astin peppers his lectures with his unique behind-the-scenes view, stories of his life on the stage and screen, and his personal experience with the works the class is studying. While leading a class discussion of Samuel Beckett's absurdist play Waiting for Godot, which the students were required to read and write a short paper about, Astin recalled first performing the role of Vladimir years ago while working in the Actors' Colony in Baltimore. "Four or five pages into reading it, I literally threw it across the room. I didn't like it at the time. I thought it was phony. But what I didn't know then is that it's a play that can have an impact and move the audience."
Student response to Astin has been so favorable that, in the April 24, 2006 issue
of The JHU Gazette, the school publication printed student comments about Astin.
One student wrote:
"I think the class is great. It's a fun performance to watch in itself, behind which lies
a really cogent philosophy. John is a great advocate for art in its various forms and
speaks with great authority on film and theater. The assignments are also good. The
close reading of Waiting for Godot was an object lesson in Aristotelian value creation -
which makes me sound like a philosophy kid, but really I just mean it showed us what makes
a good play good."
- Mitchell Frank, sophomore, Writing Seminars major, Shaker Heights, Ohio.
Astin's courses draw students from diverse disciplines, including biomedical engineering, public health, political science and math - Astin's Johns Hopkins major before transferring to the program that was the precursor to the Writing Seminars.
"Because each student and each section of students is different, I have to dip into my 50 years of working with people," Astin said. His teaching technique is drawn from his own early experiences as a stage actor in New York City theaters, where he learned to tap into his own personality while assuming roles, and from his five years of study with the late Harold Clurman, American theater master and founder of the Group Theatre.
"I use an approach I call The Process which contains a great deal of flexibility," Astin said. "It encourages freedom and the courage to expand, hopefully broadening the perspective of the student. One can't simply apply a rigid formula to teach acting because good, credible acting comes from the treasure that lies within the actor. Understanding and experiencing that principle has a usefulness that extends beyond acting."
Like every other institution of learning in this country, the budget axe is forcing department heads to fight for dollars.
"I've won one part of the battle, but I've got to go back and fight another one," he admitted.
"I just got my budget. I'm going to lose a very valuable assistant if I can't give
her a little bit more money. They have given me wonderful feedback on what I'm doing,
but I need a few more bucks. In some ways lots of programs develop their own
funding. This is not unique to Hopkins. When something is starting up,
that takes University General Funds, and they are harder to come by. The program so far
has been very, very successful. And, our graduates are doing very well. One is on Broadway right now. And, several are working in the theater. So, they are proving the worth of the program."
The requirements for the minor in Writing Seminars with a concentration in drama are two semesters of Introduction to Fiction and Poetry, one course from the English Department (Shakespeare is recommended), one course from the Department of History, one course from the Department of Philosophy, one advanced course in the humanities, two courses of a foreign language at the intermediate level, and five advanced courses in the Writing Seminars such as the acting and directing workshops, a workshop focused on Chekhov and O'Neill or Projects in Theater, special projects created for and tailored to the individual theater student. The acting and directing courses introduce fundamental techniques, improvisations and scene work.
In a classroom setting there are certain rules - no cell phones, no Twitter, no
passing notes. In the theater the most serious problem used to be patrons coughing or
unwrapping hard candy during a performance - the crunching paper sounds distracting
the performance. Then we entered the cell phone age with showgoers advised before
a performance to turn them off.
Patti LuPone simply stops the show - something she has done both in New York and last week
in Las Vegas. That Las Vegas stoppage was reported in the New York Times with LuPone
penning a reply.
"Well, good for her," exclaimed Astin. "Turn it all off. You're cheating yourself. Stopping
the show is actually a favor to everyone else. That kind of distraction changes the whole
ambiance of the performance. Disturbances have been going on for a long time with people
who cough. I remember hearing that Barrymore once was saying his lines - 'A horse, A
horse! My kingdom for a horse!' Somebody had been coughing in a box (seat) throughout the
show. Barrymore looked up at the box and said; 'Saddle yonder braying ass,'" reported Astin
who didn't know if that annoying cougher had been escorted out.
Astin has yet to stage for his students his one man show Edgar Allan Poe - Once Upon
Midnight, a play by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid, which he premiered in 2001,
the same year he started at Hopkins.
John Astin as Edgar Allan Poe
"Frankly, I'm so busy with the program I haven't had
a chance to do the Poe play. I keep getting all kinds of requests for it. In fact, I owe
a booking agent a phone call to tell him - Sorry, I don't think I can do it. I need to
come up with a show that is easier to prepare and doesn't require the tech support
that the current show does."
Astin has been a fan of Poe since childhood. Blame his mother, Margaret Linnie Mackenzie Astin.
"My mother introduced me to The Purloined Letter," Astin recalled about the third of Poe's three detective stories featuring the fictional C.
Auguste Dupin, the other two being The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The
Mystery of Marie Roget. These stories are considered to be important early forerunners of the modern detective story.
"I know my age at that time because, on my 12th birthday we moved to another place,"
continued Astin. "I remember the room I was in, because
I was so stunned to the solution to The Purloined Letter, I remember
sitting in the room and looking around the room for places where the purloined
letter might have been. I still have a image of that room. So, I was 10 or 11
when I first read it. Next I read Murders in the Rue Morgue.
My mother helped me out with some of the vocabulary. She introduced me to similar stories."
"She had writing talent, never realized," he softly stated. "Women of her generation had a
tough time with a career. I know when she doing graduate work at Columbia - it
was even unusual for a woman to be in grad school. She was also working at the old,
old New York Post. They called her 'The Kid' or 'The Girl.' She
actually went out and did stories in the slums. She was a gutsy lady. But, as she used to say,
she traded her MA for an Mrs."
"Her dad, Alexander G. Mckenzie, was a newspaper editor and writer for a lot of papers. He was at The Salt Lake Tribune. He was the first person in Montana, I think, to have a typewriter."
"I grew up in a scientific household. My Dad was a scientist and rather well known one," said John referring to Dr. Allen Varley Astin, who was the director of the National Bureau of Standards now the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
"My brother is a researcher," he said of younger brother Alexander Astin, a professor emeritus at UCLA. "He and his wife founded the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. They have retired now. It's kind of funny, they have been in academe all their lives and now they are sort weaning themselves away, while I am getting into it."
Brother Alexander has also dipped his toe into John's world.
"Many moons ago, when he was in the Public Health Service, I saw my brother in a
play somewhere in Maryland. He was very good. He played Patsy the Hood in Three
Men On a Horse."
While the Astin family has had no trouble excelling in a variety of areas,
actors are noted for getting typecast. Did playing Gomez on The Addams Family push Astin into a corner?
John Astin as Gomez
"Being so identified with Gomez doesn't bother me," he answered. "I loved the character. I loved doing it. And, I'm grateful."
The Addams Family was based on the characters in Charles Addams' New Yorker
cartoons. The 30-minute series was shot in black-and-white and aired for two seasons in 64 installments on ABC.
When Astin starred as Gomez, the macabre head of the family, from 1964-1966 salaries were on
a different level.
Astin admits that the series didn't directly create financial security.
"We didn't get much in the way of residuals back then. The weekly salaries weren't what
they are now - not at all. Comparatively, I made very little money on The Addams Family, but it put me in a position to do very well in many other things."
It is Astin that selected the first name for his character - Gomez.
"Charlie died over 20 years ago. It's too bad David Levy or Nat Perrin aren't around,
because they were the creative force behind the show," he said referring to the
executive producers. Perrin was a close friend of
Groucho Marx and writer of several Marx Brothers films. Perrin created story ideas, directed
one episode, and rewrote every Addams Family script. Much of the dialog is his (albeit uncredited).
"And, they welcomed contributions from the rest of us, too," stressed Astin.
"All of us had some input. Anyway, Charlie had suggested the name Repelli or Gomez.
David and I quickly chose Gomez."
"It was the spirit of the cartoons that I tried to put into character of Gomez.
Charlie didn't give us much to go on, just a brief paragraph on each of the characters.
They had never been named before the series. And, there was nothing known as The Addams
Family. In fact, Charles Addams was a little leery about the series being called
The Addams Family. He thought if the series bombs he didn't want his name
attached to it. As it turned it, he was very happy."
From 1988-1990 Astin took his quirky personality to the set of Night Court portraying
Harry Anderson's eccentric stepfather Buddy Ryan, a former patient in a psychiatric hospital. His catchphrase was the capper to stories involving his hospital stay or past strange behavior: "...but I'm feeling much better now." He was later revealed to be Harry's biological father.
"I'd love to do a series with that character," Astin declared. "It's a wonderful character. One of these days I should approach Rheinhold Weege who created the show, with an assist from Harry Anderson, and wrote that character." Weege had previously worked on the award-winning and wry series Barney Miller
in the 1970s and early 1980s.
"Harry and I got along famously. I loved his outlook and approach to things. I enjoyed him tremendously."
A Hurricane Katrina victim, Harry Anderson has relocated to South Carolina.
Astin lives happily with his third wife, Valerie - who seems to have a secure sense of herself. She needs it.
"It's funny, sometimes I might walk ahead of her. If she's stopped to look at something,
she is behind me. And, people will pass me. Then as they are going by her, one will say to
their friend - 'Yeah, he's married to Patty Duke.'"
Actually, he once was.
Oscar and Emmy-Award winning actress Patty Duke plays the role of Madame Morrible in Wicked at
San Francisco's Curran Theatre
His first wife was Suzanne Hahn with whom he has three sons; David, Allen and Tom.
His second wife was Patty Duke. They had a son Mackenzie and John legally adopted her son
Sean Astin when they married.
"By the way, she opened a few weeks ago in San Francisco playing in Wicked," he said about his ex-wife. "The grandchildren were already crazy about the show, so to be able to go see Grandma in it was wonderful for them.
They all had a good time. But Valerie has been my wife for 20 years and we are very happy, rock solid."
Any words of wisdom?
"The bottom line is - go see a play. Go see a play wherever it is. We should build a culture
of going to the theater. We don't have it. Most other countries do. It's a great activity.
Nothing will ever replace the theater for impact. Life is unpredictable, which is
why theater is perhaps the greatest medium of all. If it's done right, theater is a
living presence in front of us. If it is done right, you have an experience that is unmatchable.
From July 8 to July 26 John Astin can be enjoyed in Bluff at the BoarsHead Theater in Lansing, Michigan.
THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND
FLOWER DRUM SONG by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, based on the
1957 novel of the same name by Chinese American author C. Y. Lee.
This is a CD to treasure, from the vibrant overture to the showstopping, heartbreaking
rendition of Love Look Away, sung to
perfection by Arabella Hong.
The Broadway production opened in 1958 featuring, for the first time in Broadway
history, a mostly Asian cast. The musical was successful (as the novel had been),
garnering six Tony Award nominations, including a win as Best Conductor and
Musical Director for Salvatore Dell'Isola, and spawning a London production,
national tours and a 1961 musical film, but the musical and movie would fall out
of favor as the civil rights era re-defined how minorities should be portrayed on film.
Flower Drum Song was revolutionary for being not just a show that featured a
virtually all Asian cast, but for being the only musical about Asian-American characters.
"Asian" musicals, South Pacific; The King and I; Miss Saigon; Pacific Overtures
are about Asians who live in Asia. Flower Drum Song features characters who
were born in America who just happen to be Asian. This is despite the fact that the producers of the original production cast "star" non-Asians in leading roles.
Principal cast includes: Miyoshi Umeki (Mei Li), Larry Blyden (Sammy Fong), Juanita Hall
(Madam Liang), Ed Kenney (Wang Ta), Keye Luke (Wang Chi Yang), Arabella Hong (Helen Chao),
Pat Suzuki (Linda Low). With
Rose Quong, Patrick Adiarte,
Ed Kenney, Keye Luke, Conrad Yama, Harry haw Lowe, Jun Lee, Peter Chan, Jack Soo, George Young, Anita Ellid, Chao Li and Ellen Nakamura.
The star power of this CD is impressive. Larry Blyden, a Caucasian was cast as Chinese
playboy Sammy Fong. Blyden, who died in an automobile accident in Morocco seventeen days
before he would have reached the age of 50, received a Tony nomination for his
portrayal of Sammy Fong.
During World War II, Japanese-American actor Jack Soo was sent to the Topaz War
Relocation Center in Utah. Fellow internees recalled him as a "camp favorite" entertainer,
singing at dances and numerous events.
Soo finally earned his big break in 1958 when he was cast in this Broadway musical hit,
in the role of the show M.C. and comedian Frankie Wing, whose
big number is Gliding Through My Memoree. He was working in San Francisco in the Forbidden City nightclub which was portrayed in the musical and movie. He was offered the chance to go to Broadway on the condition that he change his name to something Chinese, as Flower Drum Song tells a story set in San Francisco's Chinatown. It was at that time that he adopted the surname "Soo." Jack moved up to the Sammie Fong role in 1961, when the film
version of the musical was made.
Like Jack Soo, Pat Suzuki and her family were forced into a camp during World War II.
A few months after the United States entered world War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
forced the Suzuki family and more than 110,000 other Japanese American residents of the U.S. Pacific coast states, to evacuate their homes and enter American concentration or detention camps,
located either in Western deserts or near Arkansas swamps.
Suzuki's rendition of I Enjoy Being a Girl is deemed to be the definitive
recording. However, Suzuki did not appear in the 1961 film version of Flower Drum
Song. Actress Nancy Kwan performed the role in the film and singer B. J. Baker dubbed
her singing voice.
Miyoshi Umeki was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for
her performance in this production. A Time magazine cover story remarked that
"[T]he warmth of her art works a kind of tranquil magic".
Juanita Hall was classically training at Juilliard School.
A leading black Broadway performer in her day, she was personally chosen
by Rodgers and Hammerstein II to perform the role of a Chinese-American
in Flower Drum Song.
The production opened for out-of-town tryouts on October 27, 1958 in Boston's Shubert Theatre
and had its Broadway opening at the St. James Theatre on December 1, 1958. Directed by Gene Kelly
in his first outing as a director on Broadway, Flower Drum Song ran for 600 performances
A distinctive, often-overlooked title in the R&H canon, Flower Drum Song (1958)
perhaps made its most striking impression through its original Broadway cast recording,
which introduced such songs as I Enjoy Being a Girl; Love, Look Away and
A Hundred Million Miracles. That recording returns expanded in this
CD with six long-unavailable bonus tracks, all "covers" of the show's top songs,
all recorded while it was still a Broadway sensation. Considering that, it's daring
that all of those bonus tracks express the songs in tempos and vocal styles dramatically
different from the Broadway Flower Drum Song renditions.
If the five bonus tracks have one thing in common it's hot-to-trot, Vegas cabaret
Grant Avenue by Florence Henderson with Sid Bass and his orchestra and chorus is a
snazzy, almost Vegas lounge version. It starts and ends with a gong, but that's as Far Eastern
as it gets. A extremely unique take on this classic.
Love, Look Away by Pat Suzaki with George Sirovo and his orchestra is her own,
less intense, more melancholy interpretation. Fan Tan Fannie is a jazzed up,
rapid shot-gun approach by Sandra Church, who was about to become part of a
legend as the original Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy, backed by
the Luther Henderson and his orchestra.
Like a God, which wasn't included in the movie version, is a dramatic song about the
empowerment of love,
powerfully sung by Ed Kenney on this CD. In this
bonus track section, this song, meant to be sung by man, is presented by Florence
Henderson in another - almost campy - arrangement reminiscent of what used to be seen in
Vegas production shows - or as a skit on The Carol Burnett Show.
Sunday by Pat Suzuki backed by George Stevens and his orchestra is a chirpy
rendition with some dooby-dooby-doo
riffs thrown in for good measure.
I Enjoy Being a Girl also performed by Florence Henderson
backed by Sid Bass, his orchestra and chorus is peppy. Of all
the bonus tracks, this is the song most suited to a revved up orchestration. This CD's bonus
tracks are a perfect study of how an orchestration can change a song's meaning.
This exceptional CD was produced by Goddard Lieberson.
Reissue producers: Didier C. Deutsch, Darcy M. Proper.
Recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York, New York on December 7, 1958. Includes liner notes by Didier C. Deutsch.
All tracks have been digitally remastered. The engineers were Fred Plaut and Bud Graham.
CELEBRATING JULY 4th
THE ANNUAL PBS SPECIAL A CAPITOL FOURTH
Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Jimmy Smits, serves as host.
The 90-minute special will boast performances by cast members from various U.S. companies of the Tony-winning musical Jersey Boys as well as Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Natasha Bedingfield, Michael Feinstein, Andrew von Oeyen, the Muppets and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Erich Kunzel.
The concert will be broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and will conclude with a fireworks spectacular.
BOSTON POPS 4th OF JULY CELEBRATION one
of Boston's most famous and popular events, the concert and fireworks display,
features a live performance by the Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockwood. Televised nationwide, this free event takes place on Boston's Charles River Esplanade.
This year the featured artists include Oladunni Oladipo singing The Pledge of Allegiance,
U.S. Congressman John Lewis, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the musical group Syncopation composed of Aubrey Logan (soprano vocal, trombone);
Christine Fawson (alto vocal, trumpet);
David Thorne Scott (tenor vocal, trumpet);
Tsunenori “Lee” Abe (bass vocal, trombone, arranger); and superstar Neil Diamond.
MACYS 4th OF JULY FIREWORKS 2009 to
celebrate the 400th anniversary of the exploration of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson,
Macy’s will stage a show stopping pyrotechnic show over the Hudson River instead of the East River this year.
The Macy's July 4th fireworks display originally made its debut on the Hudson River in 1958 before becoming an East River tradition in 1976.
The 2009 Macy's fireworks show will feature more than 40,000 shells exploding at a rate of more than 1,500 per minute (that's eight times more high-level fireworks than last year's show). At approximately 8:20 pm on July 4th, the 26-minute display will be set off from six barges positioned between 24th and 50th Streets on the Hudson River.
The fireworks will be synchronized to a score of patriotic standards, classic river-themed works, and original music. The legendary New York Pops will perform the musical score under the direction of Steve Reineke. Broadway superstars Audra McDonald and Idina Menzel will perform.
Before the big fireworks show, spectators can enjoy an FDNY Fireboat water show (featuring arcs of red, white, and blue arcing 300 feet in the air) and an Air National Guard jet flyover.
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ART AND ABOUT
OCEANIC ART: A CELEBRATION OF FORM
curated by George Ellis, director emeritus of the Honolulu Academy of Arts,Oceanic Art: A Celebration of Form features 97 three-dimensional works, primarily from Melanesia and Polynesia, but the exhibition also includes objects from Micronesia and Taiwan. Works on view come from three major California collections: the renowned personal collections of Valerie Franklin and Edward and Mina Smith Collection, as well as the extensive holdings of the Sana Art Foundation.
The exhibition includes a variety of three-dimensional objects, including sculptures, traditional adornments, weapons, and objects used in everyday life. Many of these are encoded with cultural and social meanings, some of which still function within certain Oceanic cultures today. The exhibition displays the works in groups that not only allude to their original daily uses but also provide for rich cross-examination of the variety of contexts in which these objects functioned.
Oceanic Art highlights an exceptional gathering of diverse works, including a rare life-size sculpture from Nuku‘oro in the Caroline Islands (Micronesia), the only such figure in a private collection. Elaborate hand-carved sculptures, exquisite architectural elements, and several striking figures from New Ireland, Admiralty or Manus Islands, and a rare Easter Island (Rapa Nui) carved figures will also be on view.
Through January 3, 2010 at the San Diego Museum of Art in San Diego, CA.
WORKSHOP MISSONI: DARING TO BE DIFFERENT
an exhibition celebrating the life and work of the legendary Missoni family, whose
Milan-based fashion house started out in 1953 as a small family owned business, run
by Rosita and Ottavio Missoni.
Missoni knitwear is known for its multitude of patterns such as stripes, geometrics,
and abstract florals, in a kaleidoscope of colors. They are also known for the
liberal use of many different fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, rayon and silk.
The exhibition also explores less familiar aspects of the Missonis’ artistic
activity, as well as their sources of inspiration, drawn both from the
natural environment and from Europe’s Modernist era, epitomized by
the work of Sonia Delaunay, Gino Severini and Giacomo Balla.
The business prospered, with the support of legendary editor Anna Piaggi,
then at Arianna. On a trip to New York, Rosita met the French
stylist Emmanuelle Khanh in 1965, which led to a collaboration and
a radical new collection the following year. Their fame was assured
in April 1967, when they were invited to show at the Pitti Palace in
Florence. Rosita told the models to remove their bras, supposedly because
they were the wrong color and showed through the thin lamé blouses. The material
became transparent under the lights and caused a sensation. The Missonis were
not invited back the following year, but the business skyrocketed.
With their designs being championed in the US by Diana Vreeland, editor
of Vogue, they opened their first boutique in New York City, inside
The early 1970s saw Missoni reach the peak of their influence in the fashion
world. Tai Missoni then became more interested in other projects, everything
from designing costumes for La Scala, to designing carpets and tapestries.
Rosita has admitted that in the 1990s she lost interest in fashion, before
handing over to her daughter Angela in 1998. Rosita now is responsible for overseeing the design of all home projects.
The three children of the founders play a large part in the business. Vittorio (born 1954) is the Marketing Director, Luca (born 1956) was responsible for the design of the menswear collection through the Spring/Summer 2008 collection, and Angela (born 1958) is Creative Director for womenswear and took over menswear beginning with the Fall/Winter 2008/2009 collection.
Luca's daughter, Jennifer Missoni, is an actress who starred as Elissa in the Off-Broadway production of Angry Young Women in Low Rise Jeans With High Class Issues which opened September 13, 2007 at The Players Theater in New York City.
Angela's daughter, Margherita, is also studying in New York to be an actress, and is also a model, signed to IMG Models. She is the unofficial "muse" of the Missoni collection and the face of their two perfumes.
A specially commissioned film by Maggie Norden of the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, will be screened during this exhibition.
July 1 – September 20, 2009 at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London.
SPREADING THE WORD
HISTORY ON FOOT WALKING TOURS
the Ford Theatre's popular event which are guided by actors playing characters
from Civil War Washington, has premiered a new walking tour Mrs. Lincoln’s Confidante:
Elizabeth Keckly, written by Ford’s Theatre Artistic Programming Advisor Jennifer
L. Nelson. The theatre also continues the walking tour Investigation: Detective
McDevitt, which premiered in 2008.
Mrs. Lincoln’s Confidante: Elizabeth Keckly, is directed by Patrick Torres.
Starring Danielle Drakes as Elizabeth Keckly (1818-1907),
a woman born into slavery who purchased her freedom and worked her way to
success as the free black woman and confidante to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and the author
of her autobiography, Behind the Scenes Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House.
Mrs. Keckly utilized her intelligence, keen business savvy, and sewing and design skills to arrange and ultimately buy
her freedom (and that of her son George as well), and later enjoyed regular business with the wives of the government
elite as her base clientele. In this 90 minute 1.5 mile walking tour, she tells the story of her
friendship with the Lincoln family and of her efforts to
help former slaves find their way in newly free Washington City.
Investigation: Detective McDevitt, written by Richard Hellesen, directed by Patrick Torres. Starring Kip Pierson as Detective James McDevitt who revisits and reexamines the sites and clues from the investigation into the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy. This tour lasts approximately 90 minutes and makes at least eight stops that saw important events on the night of April 14, 1865. The distance walked is approximately 1.4 miles from Ford’s Theatre to the White House.
The tours take place through August 28, 2009 in Washington, DC.
AMERICAN POPULAR SONGBOOK
will be a daily event at the
National Museum of American History in Washington, DC beginning July 5. Short
musical performances at two of the museum’s Landmark Objects - the John Bull
locomotive and the Horatio Greenough statue of George Washington - tell stories
of transportation or patriotism, independence and freedom. The performances
examine the correlation between the themes of the songs. Selections include
songs by popular American songwriters such as Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan,
Woodie Guthrie, Johnny Mercer, Les Brown and Harold Arlen.
SARAH JESSICA PARKER, MATTHEW BRODERICK AND BIG BROTHER
JAMES WILKIE have welcomed twin girls - Marion Loretta
Elwell and Tabitha Hodge Broderick - to their family. A surrogate mother
gave birth Monday, June 22, 2009 at the East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry.
MICHAEL JACKSON POSSESSIONS AUCTIONED OFF
David Gest at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas last Friday, June 26. The auction had been arranged months
ago and pertained to 21 Jackson-and Jackson 5-related auction items, the property of
a concert promoter and ex-husband of Liza Minnelli. It is Jackson who introduced Gest to Minnelli
and was best man at their wedding.
The Jackson auction items included; a single sheet of paper with handwritten lyrics for the 1987 hit song
Bad; an original painting by Michael Jackson of Mickey Mouse
conducting a singing Pluto, his name signed in black and white in the bottom right
corner; a sheer white shirt adorned with pearls and Swarovski crystals that
was worn by Michael Jackson on his 1984 Victory Tour; vintage photos of
Jackson from the ‘70s, early concert posters and Jackson-worn costumes.
With the death of pop music icon, the items skyrocketed in value and fans and collectors
to own something that had belonged to Jacko. Originally expected to fetch a
total of $6,000, the items were gaveled down at $205,000.
In addition to Michael Jackson items, the celebrity memorabilia included lots from Elvis
Presley, Marilyn Monroe and numerous other celebrities. See Broadway To Vegas column of May 31,
SOMETHING ABOUT BEING KING first
Lou Diamond Phillips starred on Broadway as the King of Siam, in the 1996 production of
The King and I, winning an Outer Critics Circle Award and nominations for both
Tony and Drama Desk awards for his performance. On September 11, 2007, Phillips joined
the touring troupe for
Lerner and Loewe's Camelot, in the role of King Arthur. Now he has been crowned King of the Jungle on the second season of the NBC television reality series I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here.
THE MIDTOWN INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL
The Midtown International Theatre Festival - known as MITF - presents their Tenth
Anniversary Season Launch Party
on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at the Bleecker Street Theatre in The Big Apple.
Launch Party will feature previews of upcoming shows in the MITF. Scenes and musical numbers will be performing from the following:
Bartholomew Fair, NJ, by Billy Mitchell, produced by The Theater Company / David Zimmerman.
A twisting, madcap knot of deceit, disguises, puppets - and New Jersey!
Musical number: Jersey Born and Livin' On
featuring Phillip Corso, Mark Dunn, Leticia Diaz, Benjamin Holmes, Courtney Kochuba.
Checking In, written and produced by Brian Hampton.
Only one rule for the weekend: No boys. No babies. Six high school friends reunite for a weekend in Atlantic City...and new truths spill out.
Scene featuring Brian Hampton, Bevery Lauchner, Anna Nugent.
Insecurity!, book, music and lyrics by Mickey Zetts, produced by Oberon Theatre Ensemble.
The recession proof musical!
Musical medley featuring the Icky House Club (Paula Galloway, Carlos Rafael Fernandez, and Mickey Zetts).
Las Escenas de la Cruz (Scenes of the Cross), By iDo Theater! and Daniel Carlton, Produced by iDo Theater!
At the border between the United States and Mexico, a line is crossed between dreams and reality.
Scene: Got Freedom? featuring Emmanuel Jimenez and Jessenia Hernandez.
Not My Daughter, by Ann Mary Mullane, produced by No Apology Theatre
An actress's big Broadway debut reveals more than she bargained for - and forces her parents to confront their own perceptions of their little girl, all grown up.
Scene: The New Apartment featuring Mariclare Mullane, Genevieve Ortiz, Ann Mary Mullane, Robert Mullane.
Pound: The Poet on Trial, Written and directed by William Roetzheim, Produced by American International Theatre, INC.
Poet Ezra Pound stands trial for high treason, with the audience as the jury.
Scene: Meet Ezra Pound featuring Jeff Berg.
Southern Man, by Stuart Katz, Jeff Pierce, and Colleen Pierce,
produced by Colleen Pierce and Katzcando Productions.
Follow the adventures of a WWII POW in this timelessly profound tale of camaraderie, love, survival and triumph of the human spirit.
Scene: Meeting the Guys / The Russian Camp / My Darling Lilly featuring Jeff Pierce, Stuart Katz, & Elaine Gavalas.
That's Showbiz!, music by Colin Chaston & Tony Clout, book and lyrics by Colin Chaston,
produced by Janski Productions Limited.
If only all celebrity talk shows were like this!
Musical number: One In The Eye For Love.
AUGUST; OSAGE COUNTRY will close after the June 28 performance, having played 648 performances and 18 previews. The play, which opened on Dec. 4, 2007, at the Imperial Theater and transferred in April 2008 to the Music Box Theater, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama as well as the Tony Award for best new play. A national tour is scheduled to begin in Denver on July 24.
RESTORATION written by and starring two-time Tony Award nominee Claudia Shear.
La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley directs the cast which includes;
Alan Mandell, Natalija Nogulich, Daniel Serafini-Sauli and Kate Shindle.
Giulia Alfani, a once-rising star in the world of art restoration, is now working out of her late mother's garage in Brooklyn. Her mentor, Professor Williams, arrives with the opportunity of a lifetime: he has secured Giulia an interview with L'Accademia in Florence for the job of 'refreshing' the 'David' in preparation for its 500th birthday.
The play follows Giulia as she restores the iconic statue and develops relationships with a strikingly beautiful museum administrator and an omnipresent head of security. These encounters spark a life change in Giulia, allowing her to discover the statue's imperfections, as well as her own.
Inspired by the actual restoration of Michelangelo's 'David' in 2004 Shear traveled to Florence several times, meeting with experts at the Galleria dell'Accademia and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure - the most respected restoration center in Italy - as well as interviewing the woman who performed the statue's 2004 restoration. She was also given exclusive access to the 'David' in order to become immersed in the world of the play.
The creative team includes Scott Pask (set designer); David C. Woolard (costume designer); David Lander (lighting designer); Dan Moses Schreier (sound designer); Kristin Ellert (projection designer); Gabriel Greene (dramaturg); and Lisa Porter (stage manager).
Commission by La Jolla Playhouse, Restoration officially opens June 28 with performances to
July 19 at the Mandell Weiss Forum in La Jolla, CA.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME; THE MUSIC OF CY COLEMAN
a World Premiere devised and directed by Tony Award-winner David Zippel who won the Tony Award for
directing City of Angels.
Musical Direction is by Billy Stritch;
orchestrations are by Don Sebesky; and Lorin
Latarro serves as Choreographer.
In a career spanning seven decades, Cy Coleman created a glittering string of pop standards made famous by the likes of Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. He also wrote literally hundreds of hits for the musical theatre, which were performed in shows including City of Angels; Sweet Charity; Barnum; The Life; Little Me and Will Rogers Follies.
The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman is an elegant evening of songs
performed by a stellar cast, including David Burnham, Jason Graae, Sally Mayes, Julia
Murney, Billy Stritch and Lillias White. Both Mayes and White made
their Broadway debuts in Coleman shows. These powerhouse vocalists are backed by an onstage
eight-piece swing band.
“The structure of the show is similar to that of The World Goes 'Round or Starting
Here, Starting Now,” says Zippel. The show has no dialogue but has connective staging.
It uses the personality of the performers and the sequence of the songs to create a
context for each number and continuity.”
“For instance,” continues Zippel, “the opening number is The Best is Yet to Come
in which each performer enters trying to top the prior one. Come the day you're mine,
refers to the audience. In addition to highlights from Coleman’s musicals and pop standards
(sung as solos and in various combinations by the performers), the show also includes a
few surprises - unpublished Coleman works, and ends with a ‘megamix’ medley of Cy
songs we just couldn’t live without. The show will run approximately 85
minutes without intermission."
The germination for the piece began when Coleman, Larry Gelbart and Zippel were working
together on City of Angels. One evening after a rehearsal, Zippel asked
Coleman why no revue of his works existed. Coleman quipped, “That’s for when I’m gone."
Years later, Zippel approached Coleman’s widow Shelby, and Damon Booth at Notable Music
(Coleman’s publishing company), about the idea. Although they had been approached many
times before, they knew that Zippel and Cy Coleman had been close collaborators and
had similar sensibilities. Says Shelby Coleman, “David put together a workshop of
about 30 minutes of the show which we attended, and we were astonished and delighted
by his vision, and by the caliber of artists he assembled.
We knew this would be a marvelous expression of the many facets of Cy’s musical
personality: his charm and wit, his romantic optimism (and pessimism), his sense
of the ironic, his sass, and his sweetness.”
Last week on June 14, Cy Coleman would have been 80-years-old. His birth and life
will be celebrated at a “Rat Pack” style party following the official
press opening on Sunday, July 19. The event will take placed at the Marriott Ventura Beach Hotel. Honorary Hosts for the evening are Shelby Coleman (Cy’s Widow) and Damon Booth, President of Notable Music, Cy’s Publishing Company. White dinner jackets and cocktail attire suggested.
FALLING BODIES Written and directed by Jonathan Levi; music by Bruce Saylor.
Co-commissioned by An Appalachian Summer Festival and Nine Circles Chamber Theatre in celebration of the festival's 25th anniversary, Falling Bodies integrates actors and musicians in an imagined meeting between the 17th-century "father of modern science," Galileo Galilei, and the 20th-century author of Survival at Auschwitz, Primo Levi.
First seen during the 2008 festival, it returns after a maturing process that included more workshops and sold-out performances in the US and Italy. Featured performers will be Gil Morgenstern, violin; Lauren Weiss, flute and Yousif Sheronick, percussion.
Monday, July 6, 2009 at the Rosen Concert Hall of
Appalachian State University in
Boone, North Carolina.
POTOMAC THEATER PROJECT The annual summer mini-fest from this politically minded company, which transplanted itself to New York in 2007 after 20 years in the Washington area, will include The Europeans, by Howard Barker, directed by Richard Romagnoli, and Thérèse Raquin, Neal Bell’s new adaptation of the Zola novel, directed by Jim Petosa.
The Europeans is set in the aftermath of the climactic struggle between Christianity and Islam in the seventeenth century. A harrowing love story,
dramatizing the power of the individual to subvert the political mayhem which political systems impose on people.
The 23rd Season takes place at Atlantic Stage 2 in NYC June 30 - July 26, 2009.
CHILDREN<./font> by A. R. Gurney, directed by John Tillinger
kicks off the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The production, presented in association with the Westport Country Playhouse,
received rave reviews during its Connecticut run. Children stars Mary Bacon, Katie Finneran, Judith Light and James
Waterston and runs July 1 through July 12. Williamstown, MA.
THE COMEDY OF ERRORS by William Shakespeare.
Directed by Kirk Boyd.
Antipholus and Dromio are bewildered. Everywhere they go, they seem to have already been there. And the more they try to unravel the lunatic events around them, the more farcical their lives become. It’s double the laughter and twice the fun in Shakespeare’s youthful comedy of, not one, but two sets of twins and the shenanigans swirling around them.
The performers include; Michael Brusasco, Carly Churchey, Ian Durant, Lisa Ferris, Rick Ford. Matthew Henerson, Phil Hubbard. Carol Linnea Johnson, Michael Littig, Erik Mathew, Quinn Mattfeld, Roderick Peeples, Robert Ramirez,
James Sargent, Marcella Rose Sciotto,
Presented by the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival
June 29 to August 29, 2009
in the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, in Cedar City, Utah.
UK Parrotheads are getting their coconut bras and grass skirts ready as the legend that is Jimmy Buffett comes to O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire for one night only July 5.
CHRIS BOTTI appearing at the Ottawa
Jazz Festival on Tuesday, June 30 in Ottawa, Canada. On Thursday he at another Jazz festival, this one in Montreal. It's the Festival International De Jazz De Montreal.
DIANA KRALL in the spotlight Tuesday,
June 30 at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. On Thursday she
performs at the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis, MA. On Friday the show
is at Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion in Gilford, NH and on Saturday she can be enjoyed at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA.
U2 has a split date at the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The performances are on Tuesday, June 30 and on Thursday, July 2.
CAROL CHANNING A CELEBRATION STARRING RICHARD SKIPPER
featuring the 5-piece Jon Weber Ensemble with back-up singers:
Michael Hopewell, Kristopher Monroe and Rocco Arrigo. July 5 at Tim McCloone's Supper
Club in Asbury Park, NJ.
THE CHARLOTTE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA is the largest
and most active professional performing arts organization in the central Carolinas. Committed to expanding the orchestral
repertoire through commissioning, the Charlotte Symphony has offered the world premieres of more than 30 compositions.
Led by crowd-pleasing conductor Albert-George Schram, the Charlotte Symphony's Italian-themed performance on June
30 is entitled That's Amore!, and takes the audience on a journey through sweeping symphonic scores by popular composers. Farthing Auditorium at
Appalachian State University in
Boone, North Carolina.
MICHAEL McDONALD AND BOZ SCAGGS
performs Monday, June 29, at the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville. On Wednesday the
show is at Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta. On Thursday they perform at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL and on Friday they are on stage at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, MS.
Michael Jackson in a 1984 photo crowned the King of Pop by Elizabeth Taylor, died June
apparent cardiac arrest, after collapsing in his rented Los Angeles home where he
was working on his comeback tour. He was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center where he
died. He was
Michael's father Joe, who lives in Las Vegas, immediately rushed to Los Angeles.
I first interviewed Michael Jackson for teen magazine Right On! when he was part of
the Jackson 5. Michael
was a polite, sweet boy - although mature for his age. As the years passed he appeared to
become more childlike. Even while a member of The Jackson 5, there was no doubt
that Michael was a supernova ascending. Michael redefined pop music, moonwalking his
way to superstardom and controversy.
Since being acquitted of child molestation charges in 2005, he had remained out of the
spotlight. Recently he
announced a comeback tour. At the time of his death, Jackson was scheduled to
perform 50 sold-out concerts
to over one million people, at London's O2 Arena, from July 13, 2009, to March 6, 2010.
Currently on stage in London is the production of Thriller Live, which is described
as "a spectacular, high-octane concert specially created to celebrate the career of the world's greatest entertainer and undisputed King of Pop, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5,"
Following the death on June 25, the lights were dimmed outside two
theatres where Thriller – Live, was playing in the U.K. - at the West End's
Lyric Theatre and at the Manchester Opera House, where the touring production
ran through last night.
The Lyric Theatre's production is currently booking to Jan. 3, 2010. It has already set
records as the highest-grossing weekly show in the history of the Lyric Theatre.
On the day of his death a statement issued by the producers announced that - "After much
deliberation overnight and this morning and taking into consideration the views of Michael's
legion of fans, we can think of no greater tribute to the memory of the man and his incredible
music than for tonight's performances at the Lyric Theatre in the West End and Manchester
Opera House go ahead as planned." A minute of silence was held before the performance.
Executive Director Adrian Grant, a long-time associate of Jackson's and author of Michael
Jackson – the Visual Documentary, who conceived and created the show, said in a
"Words cannot express my deep sense of loss and sadness; I am shocked beyond belief that
Michael has died. My full condolences go to his family – his children, parents, brothers
and sisters. The Jackson family have lost a son and a father, and the world has lost one
of the greatest entertainers of all time, a true legend. Michael Jackson has been a massive
influence in my life – inspiring me to get into the entertainment industry and to produce
the best work that I can. I have supported Michael for the past 21 years through my
magazines, books and now Thriller – Live, and I will continue to support and promote his legacy via this musical celebration. But my main focus right now is very much on Michael Jackson the person. He was warm, genuine, funny and smart, as well as the musical genius we all admired. Today I have lost a friend, and I will be there for his family, friends and fans. Rest in peace Michael, I love you."
In Las Vegas, Golden Nugget headliner impressionist Gordie Brown temporarily
removed his Michael Jackson segment. The Australian singing group Human Nature, in their
The Ultimate Celebration of Motown show at the Imperial Palace, performed songs
related to Jackson, while requesting that the audience respectfully remember Michael. In
New York the Apollo Theatre, where Jackson performed as part of the Jackson 5, posted a marquee tribute.
Last January it was announced that the Nederlander Organization had acquired the rights
to produce a new musical based on the 14-minute Thriller, the video spawned from
Jackson's top-selling album of the same name. The pop icon was expected to be involved
in the creation of the musical.
His 1982 album Thriller is the world's best-selling record of all time and four
other solo studio albums are also among the world's best-selling records: Off the Wall
(1979), Bad (1987), Dangerous (1991) and HiStory (1995). One of the
few artists to have been inducted into the rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, his
other achievements include 13 Grammy Awards, 13 number one singles in his
solo career - more than any other male artist in the hot 100 era and the sale of 750 million
Jackson was married and divorced twice - to Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, who is the biological mother to two of the Jackson children. He is survived by three children.
Death has not stilled controversy surrounding Michael.
It has been reported that police are questioning Michael Jackson's personal doctor,
Dr. Conrad Murray,
after the star's family suggested he died because of a drug overdose
of Demerol, a synthetic form of morphine. Dr. Murray was present when Jackson
He has offices in Las Vegas, Houston and California but is not board certified. On Saturday it
was reported that the cardiologist has hired a Houston-based law firm to represent him.
Attorneys were looking for Michael's will - if one even exists - and speculation as to
whether there would be a custody battle for his three children is
the talk of the airwaves. The children which he adored were described as Jackson's
legal but not biological issue.
Farrah Fawcett died June 25 after a long battle with cancer. She was 62.
The Texas born beauty rose to international fame when she first appeared as private investigator Jill Munroe in the TV series
Charlie's Angels in 1976. She remained with the show for just one season.
A salary dispute resulted in a lawsuit, requiring Fawcett to appear three times during the third and fourth years of the show. She was replaced by Cheryl Ladd.
Following a series of commercial and critical flops,
Fawcett longed to be taken seriously as an actress and turned her attention towards the stage.
However, on July 30, 1980 she had a rather strange opening night in Butterflies Are Free at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in
Jupiter, Florida. An obese lady in the front row of tables began yelling insults at her and making bird calls
during the performance. Later, this unidentified lady raised her dress and flashed the performers,
causing co-star Dennis Christopher to take notice, although the character he was playing was a blind man.
Nearby, a male patron began vomiting, and yet another patron fainted. Incredibly, the reviews for Farrah's
performance were positive.
Farrah also won critical acclaim for her 1983 role in the off-Broadway stage production of the controversial play Extremities, written by William Mastrosimone.
Replacing Susan Sarandon in the role, she was a would-be rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker. She described the role as "the most grueling, the most intense, the most physically demanding and emotionally exhausting" of her career. During one performance, a stalker in the audience disrupted the show by asking Fawcett if she had received the photos and letters he had mailed her. Police removed the man and were only able to issue a summons for disorderly conduct.
The following year, her role as a battered wife in the fact-based TV movie The
Burning Bed earned Farrah the first of three Emmy Award nominations. The project is
noted as being the first TV movie to provide a nationwide 800 number that
offered help for others in the situation, in this case victims of domestic abuse. In 1998
during a split from O'Neill, Fawcett had herself been a victim of domestic violence,
from the hands of an occasional boyfriend.
See Broadway To Vegas column of November 16,
While Fawcett was basking in the glow of critical acclaim, her love Ryan O'Neill
was frustrated over her refusal to marry him. During a press function in Las Vegas,
O'Neill was seated in a booth. He looked at me and patted the space next to him.
I joined him. He looked distraught. His thoughts were on Farrah. Yes, he told me,
he had asked her to marry him and she had turned him down. He didn't understand
the rejection. "What more does she have to prove? Did you see The Burning Bed?
She was great! I don't understand why she doesn't want to get married and be
satisfied with being a wife and mother. She'll be a great mother."
Their relationship would become one of Hollywood's greatest love stories
with O'Neill by her side when she died. Their son Redmond was born in 1985.
Until the end Fawcett found her forte in portraying
women in troubling circumstances. She acted in Two Women with Colleen Dewhurst,
played Nazi-hunter Beate Klarsfeld in Nazi Hunter, unhappy heiress Barbara Hutton
in Poor Little Rich Girl, and Life Magazine photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White.
She won an Emmy nomination for playing a killer in the 1989 miniseries Small
The miniseries won a Peabody Award for excellence in television, with Fawcett's performance
singled out by the organization, which stated "Ms. Fawcett brings a sense of realism
rarely seen in television miniseries (to) a drama of unusual power".
In November 2003, Fawcett again return to the stage, this time making her Broadway debut
in Nancy Hasty's
Bobbi Boland, the tragicomic tale of a former Miss Florida.
However, the show never
officially opened, closing after a week of previews. See Broadway To Vegas column of November 16,
Fawcett was described as
"vibrating with frustration" at the producer's decision to stop the process before
it had a chance to succeed or fail.
The Playbill is now considered a collector's item.
Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. Perhaps her greatest dramatic
role was the one in which she played herself in the two-hour cancer documentary Farrah's Story,
which was filmed by Fawcett and her best friend Alana Stewart. That important documentary aired on NBC on May 15, 2009 and was watched by nearly 9 million people in its premiere airing.
Farrah Fawcett is survived by her son, Redmond O'Neal, and her long time partner Ryan O'Neal. A private
funeral will take place Tuesday afternoon, June 30, 2009, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in
died June 23, 2009 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center surrounded by his family. He was 86.
McMahon was born in 1923 in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career as a bingo caller during
school summer holidays in Maine when he was 15.
He put himself through college as a pitchman for vegetable slicers on the Atlantic City
boardwalk. His first broadcasting job was at WLLH-AM in his native Lowell and he
began his television career in Philadelphia at WCAU-TV. In the 1950s, he emceed
the game shows Missing Links; Snap Judgment; Concentration and Who Dunnit?
During world War II, McMahon was a fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps serving as a flight instructor and test pilot. He was a decorated pilot and was discharged in 1946, remaining in the reserves.
After graduating from Catholic University of American with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949,
majoring in speech and drama, McMahon returned to active duty. He was sent to Korea in
February 1953. He flew unarmed O-1E Bird Dogs on 85 tactical air control and artillery
spotting missions. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserve, retiring with the rank of
Colonel in 1966 and was then commissioned as a Brigadier General in the California Air
His big break on television was the ABC daytime show Who Do You Trust? McMahon was
the announcer alongside rising star and host, Johnny Carson.
The pair teamed up again, four years later in 1962, this time on NBC's late night talk
show, The Tonight Show. Their on-screen partnership lasted 30 years McMahon
also gained fame at the host of the talent show (1983-1995) Star Search. He
also had a well received nightclub act, performing at several hotels in Las Vegas.
McMahon annually co-hosted the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. He performed in numerous
television commercials, most notably for Budweiser and American Family Publishers
sweepstakes. In the 1970s and 1980s, he anchored the team of NBC personalities
conducting the network's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
One of the nicest lunches I've ever experienced was over a decade ago with Ed McMahon. I was dining alone at the
Plaza Hotel in New York City when a waiter came over and asked me my name. I thought that was a little unusual,
but I answered and he left. Returning, he informed me that - The gentleman over there thought he recognized you
and he'd like to buy you lunch. It was Ed McMahon. He was a very thoughtful and kind person. Also, a delightful
He was preceded in death by his son
Michael Edward McMahon who died July 28, 1995 from cancer.
Married three times and divorced twice, besides his wife, Pam, McMahon is survived by children Claudia, Katherine, Linda, Jeffrey and Lex.
SHELDON (SHELLY) GROSS
theatre impresario and Broadway producer passed away on June 19, 2009, in West Palm Beach, Florida, after a long illness. He was 88.
With a career that spanned over fifty years, he created an unprecedented number of theatre operations around the country, produced shows for Broadway & National Tours and presented a who’s who of legendary performers including everyone from Judy Garland to Bruce Springsteen.
In 1955, with partners Lee Guber and Frank Ford, Philadelphia born Shelly opened
the Valley Forge Music Fair, in Devon, PA, which at the outset was a huge circus tent
presenting musicals in the summer. Valley Forge was followed in 1956 by Westbury Music
Fair, on Long Island, and Shelly and his partners subsequently built a chain of
year-round, superstar theaters that was the largest in the country. The
list of stars who appeared at the Music Fairs included: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett,
Don Rickles, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Charles, Tom Jones,
Angela Lansbury, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Patti LaBelle, Milton Berle, Kenny Rogers,
Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Grover Washington, Jr.
In addition to the Music Fairs, Shelly, with Guber, produced numerous Broadway shows, including Carol Channing in Lorelei; a revival of The King and I, with Yul Brynner; and a revival of Camelot, with Robert Goulet.
Most recently, he was able to continue his passion for theater in retirement, by becoming an active supporter of Palm Beach Dramaworks, a highly-regarded nonprofit theater company in West Palm Beach, mentoring its directors and helping to raise considerable funds for the company.
Besides his career in theater, Shelly was a published author of such novels as Havana X; Roots of Honor; and Stardust.
On May 1, 2009, Shelly and his wife Joan celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.
In addition to his wife, Joan, Shelly is survived by his three sons, Byron of Los Angeles (Ricky Tovim), Rick of Estero, Florida (Debra Hardesty), and Dan of Wellesley, Massachusetts (Anne Marie Becker), four grandchildren, Tim Moffitt, Ted Moffitt, Jake Gross and Lilianna Gross, nephew Larry Kety, niece Roberta Kety and goddaughter Sara Jamison.
A memorial service is planned for late July in West Palm Beach, Florida. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd.
West Palm Beach, FL 33401.
Next Column: July 5, 2009
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