January 31, 2018 - LIVING IN THE MOMENT
I think one of the hardest things to do in the world is to live in the moment. For a peaceful, healthy lifestyle, we’re supposed to do that right? Spiritual gurus and yogis and even your therapist will suggest you try living in the moment. It’s really hard. Heck, it’s impossible. In fact right now I am thinking about making a cup of herbal tea I have sitting on my counter as soon as I finish hashing out my thoughts on living in the moment. I can multi-task. If we really did live in the moment, we’d never get anything done. Ever. Because when you think about it, without planning for the future you’d just sit on your couch and occasionally get up and feed yourself when your stomach growls. But that wouldn’t work for long. You’d eventually run out of food because grocery shopping takes some preplanning. If you didn’t remember that you only have one can of tuna fish left you wouldn’t tell yourself you had to go to Trader Joe’s tomorrow. Telling us to live in the moment is basically telling us that we are not living the right way by folks who don’t live in the moment anymore than we do. I mean your Therapist knows that you show up every Tuesday at 3pm. He doesn’t wait until you wander by and knock on his door. People who tell you to live in the moment are giving you a real finger in your face while trying to be polite about it. “You’re just stressed out about that eviction notice you got because you don’t live in the moment”. You’re right! I don’t live in the moment!! I live in an apartment! Which will not be mine after the first of the month. Sheesh. Live in the moment. What the heck is that supposed to mean. If I actually lived in the moment I’d get on the subway and never get off. I’d just ride around and around all day and night. You have to think about what stop you’re getting off. Let’s say for fun that you do live in the moment and you’re on the A train. Just as you realize it’s your stop you jolt up as the doors are closing. Oh shit! That’s my stop!! That wouldn’t inspire peace if you ask me. And the A train’s doors hurt, trust me.
We are planners by nature. It’s totally natural. If the Pilgrims lived in the moment, well, first of all, they would have never gotten on the Mayflower, and two, if they did, we’d still be huddled around Plymouth Rock, all 325 million of us. The only positive thing about that is that we wouldn’t have screwed all the Indians out of their land.
No, living in the moment is impossible. I’m already thinking about how to end this blog post on a witty note that you all didn’t see coming. This actually means my mind has to race ahead of itself to the next sentence and the one after that. Which brings me to my final thought. One of the biggest advantages to NOT living in the moment is staying one step ahead of someone else. If we’re job hunting or looking to buy a used car, we strategically plan on sending that email very carefully. We time hitting the send button to the very moment. If we actually did live in the moment we might send that resume at 4am when we wake up and think about it. A prospective employer would notice the time you sent your email and say “Doesn’t this dude sleep?”. Or “This dude is up all night” which basically means you won’t get the job because they’ll think you’ll come in late everyday. Imagine telling your boss when he asked if you sent that FedEx package. “Not yet. I’m just living in the moment”. Well, time to make that cup of herbal tea I thought about at the start of this post! Ja ne!
January 30, 2018
Lately I’ve been obsessed with eating well. I mean obsessed. So much so that I find it a bit stressful when shopping at Trader Joe’s or selecting an item in a restaurant or fast food joint. Only a few months ago I didn’t care that the frozen Chicken with Alfredo Sauce had more salt in it than the Himalayan Salt mines or that the bag suggests four servings and that couldn’t possibly be right, because two seems more reasonable. And I am constantly playing the justification game. If I have two pieces of toast for breakfast I won’t have anymore bread that day. Then I conveniently go to a sandwich joint for lunch.
I didn’t grow up in a house that counted calories. My mother and father were both Polish and that meant a lot of food. My mother stood at the stove for hours on end, so much so that the linoleum tiles were three shades lighter in that spot than they were in the rest of the kitchen. Everything was served with a starch. Vegetables were items to be tolerated at best and sometimes abused. As punishment for being a tasteless and unappealing vegetable they were greatly overcooked. “I’ll teach you broccoli! You hateful green curse upon man! Here, spend 15 minutes in this pot of boiling water!! Make sure you tell your friends Spinach and Cauliflower! The same fate awaits them if they come snooping around my door!” Of course butter and salt made everything taste better. We used so much butter in our house that as a kid I suggested to my mother it would be cheaper to just buy a cow. Green beans were the worst. No matter what you did to them they were always tasteless and boring. And whoever thought it was a good idea to serve celery sticks with cream cheese at a party. I remember parties my mom and dad had in our house where friends and relatives would be sitting around on the plastic covered furniture chomping on celery sticks. I’d be in my bedroom reading a comic book hearing the non stop crunching on the other side of the wall. For years I thought we had termites. Then each time my parents guests shifted their weight on the plastic covered furniture they’d squeak. Squeaking and chomping. So for years I thought we had termites AND mice.
I do miss those days in my mom’s kitchen. I remember coming home from school late in the afternoon just as she was starting to prepare the big meal of the day - the midnight snack. She’d cook odd things too. Parts of an animal that you wouldn’t think would be edible. Pigs feet was one of them. Pickled pigs feet. Who ever thought that was a good idea. I guess it had a practical start. Pigs were probably hard to catch and if you tackled them and cut their feet off you could get to the better parts quicker. Still, pigs feet couldn’t really be all that good if you had to pickle them to make them taste like something. Now, as an adult, I am spending my time reading labels. Salt content, calories, suggested serving size, fiber content. My insides must be so clean and scrubbed smooth from all the fiber I eat that they’re ready for two coats of paint. Hopefully the healthy eating will continue throughout the New Year and into years to come. I’m making friends with vegetables and preparing them in a loving and kind way. Vegetables have feeling too. I like it that my celery talks back to me. I’ve made amends with broccoli too. Each time I savor each unsalted and unbuttered bite I tell myself I am atoning for the sins of my mother. Ja ne!
December 5, 2017 - Tuesday - NH
I feel good and that’s a good thing. I’ve come to the realization that feeling good in life in life is probably the best thing that life can give you. I put this ahead of money, success, fame and possession of tons of material things. This realization has come to me over the course of the past few weeks when all the issues about sexual harassment surfaced and monopolized the media. I read on a daily basis that another successful person, some of them people that had careers that I envied, had been exposed for unsolicited sexual behavior towards a non-consenting adult or in a few cases a minor. The first thing I thought about when I read each story was how quickly a person’s life can become undone. It really does happen in a blink of an eye. It was after reading a few of these stories that I came to the realization that feeling good everyday was the most important thing in life. Happiness is tied to it because if you feel good, and are aware of how good you feel, you can’t help but be anything but happy. I didn’t write this today to bring up a conversation or make a point about these sexual harassment allegations against each of these individuals. No, I’m staying out of that. There are plenty of things being written on every social media platform to take care of that. My point to make was purely abut feeling good and how I am striving for that everyday. It is so cliche to say and please forgive me that everything else is icing on the cake. I doubt any of the people called out for sexual harassment have much if any cake left.
Get up, do good work, enjoy what you have, listen, learn and be kind. I’ll remember this. If 2017 has taught me anything, or made it clearer to me as I’ve really always known this, it’s these words. I wish 2017 was an old Memorex cassette tape. I could put it in my $20 player press rewind and then erase. Ja ne.
December 4, 2017 - Monday - Winnipesaukee - New Hampshire
There is a bird outside making bird noises. I can hear him or her through my window. The bird sounds like it’s close but not too close as birds who make sounds heard through windows tend to be. It didn’t wake me up. I was already up for a bit and made my coffee. Today is our first day of rehearsal for a Holiday show here at the Playhouse. I am staying in a house that is at most 100 yards from the theater. I think this house was actually two houses joined in the middle like a pair of reconnected siamese twins. I can tell it was once two houses by the fact that there are two of everything. Two kitchens, two front doors. The area that connects the houses, which I imagine was once a little garden, or a driveway, or a bunch of trees, has become the Living Room. The area is so spacious that it fits three lwell worn arge sofas with room to spare. I remember when I was in this house last. It was two summers ago when I was here doing Peter and The Starcatcher. I recall vividly my friend Kristian dancing in that Living Room and jumping on those sofas while a song by Lady GaGa echoed throughout the house. It feels good to be back. I wouldn’t have guessed that New Hampshire would play such a big part in my life and my theatrical career. I’ve been here five times now, actually six if you count the audition that I came up for in March of 2016. I’ve pulled myself in a new direction lately, one that I am happy and very pleased with. So returning here is a good thing. I remember the last three years and forward think to possibilities in 2018. It’s a return but also a beginning.
I can hear the other tenants of the house starting to stir. We have to be at rehearsal at 10 and I haven’t quite fully grasped the bathroom details yet. So far I’ve only spotted one bathroom in this house although I am sure there must be at least two. Luckily one happens to be next to my room. Through the wall I can monitor the footsteps going in and out and determine when it’s available. I’ll jump in next and move this day forward. Ready to work and play and enjoy the New Hampshire air that seems fresher and crisper of course than the air on the Upper West Side. Not a worry or care and that’s a good space to be as 2018 is coming down the road to check me out. Ja ne.
July 23, 2017 - Sunday - Cortland NY
The housing I am in here at Cortland is a three story brick apartment building with six apartments per floor. In the fall it serves as housing for the college students in the local SUNY University about a half mile up the road. In the summer however, Cortland Rep gets to use it as actor housing. It’s quite pleasant, clean and comfortable. The sort of place you wouldn’t mind making a permanent home if you had to extend your stay in Cortland for whatever reason. The facade is red brick and mortar, the semi-exterior steps that run alongside the building and lead to the various floors are wooden. I’m on the second floor and each time I walk up the stairs the weight of my feet make a sound that reminds me of Key West. I lived in Key West in 1982 for six months and have been back several times since then. I am very familiar with the geography, the architecture and most importantly how my feet sound going up a flight of steps in an old Conch house on Truman Avenue. Those six months were very special to me and I think of them often at various times. I think of my days in Key West, busing tables at La Terraza de Marti, or making sandwiches at La Bodega on Simonton Street, when I need to take a mind vacation from wherever I am, or if I am feeling sad when I remind myself that my free spirited days of my 20’s are well behind me, or, more positively, as an accomplishment in my life that reminds me that I once had the gumption at 22 to leave New York on a whim and try my luck in a place that I had only heard of and never even visited. Two years ago I was in Cortland doing a show and sitting on this very same stoop. While I am in the same housing, I am in a different apartment on a different floor. I was secretly hoping to get the same apartment as it was not only comfortable, but it would help to solidify the memories that I will have of this place, two years, three years, ten years from now. I retain strong memories. I make an effort to keep and store them properly. I don’t feel like I do this intentionally but I do it never the less. I can easily pull up a memory of Key West in 1982, or Cortland two years ago, or lunch in the cafeteria in my High School in 1974. I can still see and hear the little gray haired lady on the cafeteria serving line holding out a large spoon, looking up to me and asking “Sauerkraut?”. When I was on that line I always played a little rhyming game with her: “Sauerkraut?” ME: “No doubt” HER: “Applesauce?” ME: “But of course!”. I don’t think she got it, she just dolled out the food and move to the next student.
Life comes down to memories. It’s important how well we retain them. I like remembering Key West each time I walk up those steps here in Cortland. It connects the two places. The line between then and now is not broken. Lots has happened to me since Key West but it’s a continuum. Maybe one day when I return to Key West, I’ll walk up a flight of stairs in an apartment I am staying in, or living in, or moved to, and say to myself “These sound just like the steps in Cortland”. Ja ne.
July 21, 2017 - Cortland NY
Perceived limitations can be quite paralyzing. Wow. What a statement to make on a beautiful Friday in Cortland at 10am sitting in a sunlit room with windows open and fans making a gentle whirr. Why would I even make such a remark? I do because I want to state it as fact finally, to put it down and look at it on my lap top screen. Confront it and spit at it. The last few days since I arrived in Cortland I was up here in a state of lethargy. Aside from going to rehearsals I didn’t have any energy to do much else. Granted I just came from a very busy week in New York where I taped a video audition, took a Musical Theater class for 3 hours, did a new play reading AND shot my new video PELICAN over two days. OK - give myself a break right? Rest is good. I sometimes think I don’t know how to do that. The minute my body goes into rest mode I feel like my mind goes into a funk. I hate using that word funk, but I can’t think of a better one right now and I want to get this all down before I change my mind about writing it. I don’t think I’m alone. That thought in itself is always comforting to me. To explain further, I start to think that I am not “up to snuff” in this field of entertainment. That I don’t have the goods. I sit and watch others and compare. Comparing is the worst thing to do and I know it. Each day there are more and more examples of success that I invariably compare and hold myself against. It’s unfair to do this to myself. I know that but can’t help or stop that portion of my brain from doing just that. Go away. New thought. What I can offer and who I am is fine, it’s unique and no one else can do or be that. Just as I can’t do or be anyone else. Oopps - there’s that sinister thought creeping back in. Back to new thought. If others don’t really get me, or understand the statements I make, or why approaching 60 I dress like a 25 year old, who cares. To thine own self be true. So on this sunny Friday in Cortland - I will finish this thought, save these thoughts, close my lap top and take that deep deep breath of air that will fill my lungs with a healing breeze so that I can accept who I am, love what I do, and most of all be happy with what I have accomplished in my life. Ja ne!
July 8, 2017 - Saturday
On Thursday this week I headed upstate for some much needed and well deserved R & R. I’m at the little cabin in the Catskills that belonged to my Mom and Dad, and before that, to my Dad’s Uncle who built the place in 1932. I barely knew Uncle Tony and maybe met him once or twice when I was kid but his presence is still very much felt in all the details and craftsmanship that he put into the place. the wood paneling is solid and the stone fireplace looks like it needs four little men in black hooded cloaks sitting around it. He was practical too. The cabin, OK small house, has a full basement and a heating system which means you can use it all year long. I don’t. I really dislike cold weather and at the first leaf fall I’m outta here. The small house is in an area called Smallwood, described as a “Hamlet” on a sign that once graced the entry and it sits off Route 17B six or so miles from Monticello and only 4 miles from Yasgur’s farm, the site of the Woodstock Festival in August of 1969. I remember when I was young and came here with my Mom and Dad on weekends they would tell me how Uncle Tony and his wife Claire would go down to the main road and hand out water to the throngs of people making their way to the Woodstock festival. When I started using the place in 1989 I would drive by a house on Route 17B that was photographed at the time of Woodstock and had gotten in all the papers. The photo showed people abandoning their cars on the road and just walking those last 3 or 4 miles. I guess crowd control and event planning has gotten a little more organized since that time. Bethel Woods Center for the Performing Arts opened up about 10 years ago on the site of Woodstock and while it initially held promise of being a major concert venue, it has since lost it’s luster and attracts only secondary touring bands from the 70’s and 80’s plus the annual Doo-Wop night. A few years ago Elton John performed on Labor Day weekend and traffic was backed up for a few miles on 17B causing an excitement and stir in the area that we hadn’t felt in a while. It was reported that 18,000 people attended the concert. I also heard Elton was flown in and out by helicopter and did not do an encore. There was also talk at the time of the opening that it would be the “summer home” of the New York Philharmonic. I was excited. I looked forward to classical music on the lawn. Turned out that the Philharmonic did not sell as well as the Doo-Wop night and Santana who will be returning for their annual concert on August 5th. I find it interesting as to what makes something a success or failure. Not that I’m saying Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is a failure, they attract a sizable crowd and have offered other types of events such as a popular Harvest Festival in the fall and a museum that tells the story of Woodstock and, I’m told, has items on display that were found on the premises at the time of the original concert. I suspect there are lots of Peace Signs in various sizes and lots of tie-dyed T Shirts to purchase in the gift shop. I guess my point is that when the Center was first announced, the local population envisioned weekly concerts coming in of major proportions. If the venue had “taken off” as they say, I am sure today we’d see Katy Perry and Taylor Swift duking it out to get the “hot” weekends like Fourth of July. This Fourth of July I don’t think they even had a show. At least it’s not on the web site. I’m happy it’s in the neighborhood though and that they found a good use for the beautiful site. From the little I know about Uncle Tony I think he’d be pleased that Bethel Center for the Arts is nearby too. I remember when I first started using the house I found an old record album on the shelf and it surprised me a bit. The record was Judy and Liza Live at the London Palladium. He must have enjoyed show business and the glamorous life that comes with it. Ja ne!
April 18, 2017
Since the November election I have been living in a hazy dream like state. Nothing seems quite real to me. I go about my daily routines trying not to focus to much on what actually happened in November. I have been actually quite productive the past few months. Good things have happened to me. However, I find I rush a bit more, as if that will make the coming four years move faster and pass without a major disaster from a President that seems determined to do things his own way. I guess it’s made me think about routines, rituals and expectations. We’ve always expected that a President will act a certain way, the term being “presidential”. When someone comes along and upsets the apple cart we are startled and uncomfortable. While things like technology and medicine change quickly, other things change slowly, like the way a President should act. Now, I am certainly not endorsing or defending our current President’s behavior. If anything, I am dead set against his handling of relationships with other countries, and the way he constantly deflects our attention from the issues that matter to us. And the fact that he won’t release his tax returns just smacks of decet and dishonesty. Heck - I’d show you my tax returns if you asked. When I get them filed - most times by the due date - I have such a sense of accomplishment that I want to show them to the world. There are moments when I look at a photo of our President and I try, really try, to see some good in his face. I try to read between the lines that are already showing from his brief tenure in office. His hair isn’t so bright anymore, a softening? Then I shake my head to wake up and tell myself this is all orchestrated, PR people in Washington are purposely trying to make him a nicer guy. It grabs me for a moment, a spilt second, until he sends out the inevitable ridiculous Tweet that wakes me up and says, “don’t trust, don’t believe”. I just hope that as a country, we’ll collectively act like adults, parents, OK, watch dogs, and keep an eye out for Junior who may need to be pulled back from time to time. We’ll need to make sure he isn’t playing with matches or other sharp objects. Not so much for hurting himself, but so he doesn’t burn the whole place down. Four years can go fast and I hope and pray it does. Ja ne!
January 22, 2017
I grew up in Elmhurst Queens. In the foot hills of Corona. My parents, Stella and Chick, didn’t move around much. In fact the house on 53rd Avenue saw me through Kindergarten, Grammar School, and High School plus a year of College. A while back my sister and I sold the house after holding on to it for many years after my Mom’s passing. One morning, a while back, I woke up and realized I didn’t need to hang on to the house to keep my strong attachment to Queens. Luckily my sister felt the same way and selling the house became a relatively effortless and emotionally painless process. Once or twice since the sale, I’ve rode the R train out to the Grand Avenue Newtown stop and visited the old neighborhood. Walked around, reminisced. I went back last week on one of those sojourns. I picked a nice sunny Tuesday. I like Tuesday’s. Tuesday’s always seem like a good day for taking an adventure. I came out of the subway right by Queens Boulevard. I stood at the top of the subway steps for a moment taking it all in. Things haven’t changed all that much since I lived there in the 70’s. To my right was Gino’s Pizza where I’d stop for a slice on my way home from Ascension School. Gino’s long retired. He’s down in Pompano Beach. I had heard he sold the business to one of the delivery boys. I went in to have a slice. “Hey Jose. How are you? I’ll have a slice with sausage. And a coke.” Left Gino’s, made a right and walked past the Midwood Deli on the corner. Took a left on 53rd Avenue and headed up the big hill toward Junction Boulevard and my old block. As I got to the corner of our street I could see our house in the distance. The new owner’s are keeping it real nice. Seems that Mr. Yin Lee likes to garden like my Mother did. And there he was, pulling weeds in the little patch of dirt my Mom used to call a front yard. I went up to him to say hello. I waved. He waved back. Silence for a moment, each of us staring at the other. I tried to tell him that my Mom used to grow these incredible beef steak tomatoes in the back yard. He didn’t understand me. He just smiled and nodded. We stood there in silence a little longer, each of us smiling at the other. I took a last look at the house and decided to be on my way. I headed down the block towards Junction Boulevard. Went past the Belfeurie’s house on the corner. I could still see Marge DeVoy hanging laundry in her backyard. I make a right on Junction and decided to check out C Town, Mom’s old grocery store. As I walked the three of four blocks I found myself looking down at the sidewalk and wondering how many times the wheels of my Mom’s shopping cart rolled over and over on each of these cement slabs. Within a few minutes I was standing in front of C Town. Nothing much had changed from the outside. Colorful signs adorned it’s large windows obstructing any view to the inside. Hawaiian Punch $2.99. Bananas .63 cents a pound. The signs were scotch taped to the windows slightly askew by a store employee in a hurry I suppose. I went inside. Things were pretty much the same. Maybe a bit more ethnic foods in the front of the aisles. Bigger bags of rice than I remembered. I decided to visit the produce department, my Mom’s favorite. All her favorites were in the bins, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, kale. Kale? We didn’t have that when I grew up. Back then, Mom called that a “garnish”.
And there, towards the back of the produce section, picking out some choice cabbages for her cabbage soup, was our old neighbor from around the corner, Mrs. Kalonic. I decided to go up to here to say hello.
“Hello Mrs. Kalonic, it’s me, Chuckie.”
She stared at me a few minutes. Her eyes blinking behind thick glasses, unrecognizing. Then, finally, “Oh my God! Chuckie! How the hell are you?”
“I’m fine Mrs. Kalonic. How are you?”
“I’m good, I’m good. Can’t complain. I have a urinary tract infection but it’ll clear up. Lot’s of cranberry juice.”
“Uh -great. How’s your husband Hy?”
“He’s good, he’s good. Had a few polyps but Doctor Ratinoff got em!”
“Yes, Mrs. Kalonic?”
“How’s your Mother?”
I was taken aback by this unexpected question. I had always assumed everyone knew of her passing. But her question begged a direct answer.
“She’s, uh, she, she’s dead Mrs. Kalonic.”
Again, her eyes blinking behind those thick glasses, this time in disbelief.
Finally - “No! When the hell did that happen?”
“A while ago. Like over 10 years ago.”
“Impossible.” The word was spoken with so much conviction that it startled me. “I just saw her last week in frozen foods.”
This time it was my eyes that blinked.
Mrs. Kalonic, in an effort to prove me wrong, even recounted the events of my Mother’s day the last time she saw her - in frozen foods. “She was coming from Curley’s in Rego Park. She just had a wash and set.”
Well all this information made my head a bit light I must admit. It kinda made me want to stroll over to the frozen foods aisle and get a bird’s eye look for myself. But I thought, no. Better to let Mrs. Kalonic hold on to her belief that my Mother was still around, here in the neighborhood, that all is right with the world and nothing had changed. I decided to say my goodbye’s and be back on my way.
“Well, Mrs. Kalonic, I gotta go. It was nice seeing you.”
“You too, Chuckie.”
“Give my regards to your husband”
“I will, I will. And Chuckie?”
“Yes, Mrs. Kalonic?”
“Tell your mother I said hello.”
July 24, 2016 - New York City
Start spreading the news. I’m chattin’ today…… so much to talk about. Two nights ago we went to see our friend Hayden play Javert in Les Miz on Broadway. Yes, you read that right. On Broadway. One of the leads thank you very much. Not the community theater production in Bayonne New Jersey. Not that there’s anything wrong with a community theater production, or Bayonne New Jersey - a lovely town. But, my dear friends, MY friend was on Broadway. Do you know what that means to a hopeful like me? It means in this great country of ours anything is possible. Remember when moms and dads used to tell their kids they could grow up to be President? Do they still do that? Anyway, you CAN grow up and be on Broadway. It was so exciting to see him on the stage of The Imperial Theater. The stage where I saw so many shows and major performers play. And Hayden was so terrific too. I got to go backstage afterward and check out his dressing room. I have to say it was smaller than expected, but maybe that’s what made it even better. It was a little run down too and like one of those dressing rooms you see in an old Busby Berkeley movie. Knowing that it might have been Irene Ryan’s dressing room when she did Pippin there in 1972, or Zero Mostel’s dressing room when he did Fiddler, sent a wonderful chill up my spine. I was breathing in hallowed air. It was particularly wonderful to tell my friend Hayden, a younger chap than myself and a New Zealander, who Irene Ryan was. I think once he found out she was Granny in the Beverly Hillbillies, he had a new outlook on his dressing room. I actually saw his eyes glow. Leaving the stage door with him and watching all the folks behind the barricade ask for his autograph was equally as exciting. He made a lot of people happy that night with his performance and that is what counts. He reached people. He sang their words and stories in the character of Javert. People related and they wanted his autograph. I was a bit luckier. I got to have dinner with him.
I wanted to talk a minute about hoarding. Yes, I think I am a (borderline) hoarder. It never gets totally out of control, but it is a black cloud that looms over my shoulder. I can’t throw things away. Not just clothes or mementoes. I’m talking mail and old newspaper articles that I someday I think I’ll read. I do hoard clothes though. I still wear T Shirts from 25 years ago. Maybe older? In the past few years a new type of hoarding has crept into the picture. Digital hoarding. I can’t delete and clean up my computer files on my MacBook, delete old emails, delete the five selfies I take each time I want to get one good picture. And boy, does it snowball after a while. I save emails where someone just responds to “all” with “Thank you, I’ll be there”. OK, got it. Delete the email Chuck. You don’t need to save that one for 10 years. I wonder if Hillary had that problem on her personal email server. It’s bad. I have photographs that are fuzzy, that are of a label I took a picture of to remember a product, of a sunset that I can’t remember where it was taken. I recently came across 7 pictures of an old co-worker’s baby girl. Cute kid for sure, but I can’t remember the kid’s name, or, I must confess, the co-worker. Yet it eats up 82MB of storage space on my iPhone. Storage space I desperately need as I am too cheap to spring for the better iPhone. Writing about it is therapeutic. I think I just might “make a brand new start of it” and start slowly deleting and organizing my files. When a director sends me a script I don’t need to save each version of it. When HB Studios sends me their weekly update I’ll read it and delete it, not save it because I may want to reference it two years from now. Yeah right. Two years from now, and 1,500 non important saved emails later will just make my MacBook and my head explode. Read it Delete it. I like that. I think I’ll make that my new mantra. Or - Come Across It - Toss It. That’s good too and works well with stacks of mail on my desk and old T Shirts from 1985. Oh and did I mention my sock drawer? I have so many single socks with a hole in the heel floating around among the good socks. If you have a Pre K child and want to have fun making sock puppets let me know and I’ll send them too you. Maybe tonight when I cook dinner I’ll try using one of the six bottles on Paprika in the cabinet. I just realized that hoarding may be connected to laziness. I’m too lazy to check if I have Paprika before I go shopping so I spend $3.15 on a new bottle. Oh God, I’m lazy too? Hoarding and lazy? This is too much for one day. I think I’ll just go read my Les Miz program and figure out if I need to save the discount coupon from Walgreen’s for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream that will expire Tuesday. Is there a Walgreen’s around here?? Ja ne!
June 27, 2016 - Monday - New Hampshire
Yesterday was Gay Pride Day in New York and spending it alone in New Hampshire was, for me, a day to reflect on and be grateful for the many positive changes in the LGBT community that I have witnessed in my lifetime. I grew up in the 1960’s when “gay rights” was a term not even used among the majority of gay people. In the 1970’s and going to my first gay pride parade, it was enough to just be allowed to march down Fifth Avenue and experience the freedom and joy of being surrounded by other people who were just like me. The dream of gay marriage had not even taken seed among us.
In the 1960’s the country was greatly divided by and focused on two main issues - the Vietnam War and racial equality for African Americans. The two most prominent figures of the time were Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. The gay and lesbian population as invisible as they were back then would discover that their time was yet to come. Stonewall marked the beginning of the movement but unlike the fight for racial equality that quickly developed momentum from prominent public figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Lyndon Johnson, and Bobby Kennedy, the unnamed gay rights movement had no political or celebrity face. No one was fighting for us except a handful of brave but relatively uninfluential activists such as Larry Kramer and Harvey Milk. In fact it wasn’t until many years later when Ellen Degeneres came out publicly in 1997 that the LGBT movement had someone as well known by most every person in the country. Liberace never came out. Neither did Rock Hudson. Tony Perkins was a conflicted gay man who married Berry Berenson and publicly led a heterosexual life. As a teenager in the 1970’s and comfortable with my sexuality I remember listening to Elton John records and wondering if he was gay. I related too much to the lyrics of his songs for him not to be. Yet he confused me and I am assuming others my age by not coming forth and being open as to who he was. When he married Kiki Dee I was totally miffed and felt a little betrayed. An Elton in the closet was better than an Elton actively trying to mislead us. And what about Rosie O’Donnell? For years she sat at her successful talk show desk and related stories about everything under the sun except who she really was. Did we actually know the real Rosie or was it all smoke and mirrors? Oh it’s great that these celebrities have come out of the closet since then and yes, they have done a great deal of advancing gay rights with their power and influence, but I still can’t help feeling a little bit betrayed by them for the many, many years that I was listening to their music or laughing at their jokes. I respect Ellen so much more. And for that matter Neil Patrick Harris. They didn’t let the possibility of loosing a multi-million dollar contract stop them from being who they are and freeing themselves from a deceptive public persona. Now that the cloak of shame has been removed from the term LGBT, gay and lesbian celebrities and politicians can be open and help further advance gay rights in our country. But I still can’t help feel sad for the many many years of confusion and many of us experienced waiting for our day in the sun - and I don’t the start of the Fire Island season. I can’t imagine what’s next. But let me dream for a second here with you on this blog. A Gay President? Openly Gay Roman Catholic Priests? An openly Lesbian member of the Royal Family in the UK? The possibilities are endless and I hope I experience one or two more in my lifetime. Heck - it could happen. We never thought we’d be able to throw out the yellow highlighted road maps we clung to in our cars and have a voice (of our choosing) telling us where to turn on our way into the future. Ja ne.
June 19, 2016 - Sunday - New Hampshire
Good morning from bright sunny cloudless hot and all around perfect Laconia New Hampshire. Say what?? I’m up in NH doing Peter and the Starcatcher at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse. I am playing the prized role (well one of the prized roles since there are so many of them in this play) of Mrs. Bumbrake, the English Nanny to Molly Aster. What a fun part. And to be playing it in one of my favorite spots in the USA. I fell in love with Meredith two years ago when I was up here doing Hello Dolly at Interlakes. Prior to that time I had no connection with New Hampshire and if you were to tell me that one day I’d be a frequent visitor I would have been surprised. There is a connection to Lake Winnipesaukee (I am so proud I can spell it correctly now without using spell check) that I’ll share with you. Two years ago when I got cast as Horace Vandergelder (yes, it’s true - I played Horace and there are pictures to prove it in the gallery page of my website) my Sister told me that my parents, Stella and Chick, honeymooned in this bucolic location. Wow. That was interesting to me as I am always sensing cosmic push / pull and yin yang stuff going on my life. I felt (and if you find this weird OK) that my parents were reaching out to me and giving me their blessing in my new found career path in life - Show Business. Too many strange things happen that way for me to negate the possibility that we are spoken to and contacted from people who are no longer with us.
I’ll leave you with a strange and very true story that happened only a few short years ago, then I have to get ready for the beach (day off!). Three years ago I told my Sister I thought it was time we sold my parents house in Queens, the home we grew up in. For years my Sister and I held on to it and rented it to a great gay couple. But when they informed us after 18 years that they were moving to New Jersey I felt we should sell the house and not search for new tenants. My Sister wasn’t 100% sure and she needed to think about it. In a reflective moment she asked our long deceased Mother what we should do and if we should sell the house, she asked Mom to send her a sign. Later that day my Sister went to the Veterinarian to pick up some medicine for her cat. While she was standing at the reception desk she happened to glance down at the sign-in sheet for people bringing their pets in. Well she almost fell down when she saw that the name of the first pet on the list was “Stella” and four names down the name of the pet was “Chelsea”. Our Mom was born in Chelsea Massachusetts. The house went on the market that week. Ja ne!
April 21, 2016 - Thursday
I read comic books. Of the Super Hero variety. I started this last year when I did 1776 up in Cortland New York. Someone in the show with me ran a comic book shop in New Jersey and we got to talking. He turned me on to the Batman series and I bought a few. After reading a few issues, I felt Batman was a little too mainstream for me. Too uber popular. I wanted a Super Hero that flew under the radar - so to speak - of the masses. So yesterday while browsing in the comic book shop on East 32nd I discovered The Flash - the fastest Super Hero alive. I thought this suited me just fine since I am always on the go. Up and down the subway steps. Leaping from my Kitchen to my Living Room in a spilt second. Racing to the laundry room like a marathon sprinter. I liked Flash’s look too, the colors of his Super Hero suit. And so far, in the first 10 pages, the story has been easy to follow. The Spiderman comic book I bought last year was a bit confusing and without a background on some these characters I was told by my friend from Cortland it’s real hard to keep up. I ended up shelving that one. So if you’re interested in a barely used edition of Spiderman - let me know. It’s yours. Free. I’ll even pay for the postage. Or - maybe like The Flash - I’ll fly it over to ya! Ja ne!
April 18, 2016
Sitting at my friend Madeline Warren’s performance tonight at Don’t Tell Mama I came up with the new title and concept for my new show - “Charles Baran Sings Songs He Stole From Other People’s Shows”. I think it’s a keeper and I’ll set to work on it immediately. Of course I’ll cop to each song I stole and from whom it came from the stage. “This next song I stole from Richard Holbrook and I’d like to do it for you now”. “I heard Tanya Moberly do this next song in her show and I stole it and it goes like this”. I think the best bird’s eye view of this show will be from my point of view from the stage - seeing everyone’s mouth’s hang open as I announce each selection.
Speaking of concepts I still don’t quite understand hash tags but I like them and I use them a lot when I am on Instagram and Twitter. I think they have something to do with searching or trying to find a topic that interests you. I like to make up crazy hash tags that no one would ever think of searching. Like #bigstarsdoinglaundry or #impossiblepeopletobewith. Not sure if this is fully in the spirit of hash tags but I like them. So if you search for some crazy thing using a crazy hash tag it might just lead you to my posts on Social Media. Do I capitalize Social Media? I am so confused! Pinterest scares me. I know it’s out there but i”m afraid to look. I just signed up for a Snapchat account and sent three Snapchat’s so far. I still haven’t figured out that purpose.
Listen, I am tired. It’s 10:50pm and I’ve been all over town today. Flat Iron, West 54th Street and Don’t Tell Mama. I’ve worn the soles of my Converse Chucks a little thinner today and my feet hurt. I am going to bed after having one to many Pepperidge Farm Tahoe White Macadamia Cookies. I couldn’t stop.
Come see my new show and hear the songs I’ve pilfered from my friends. The cards are on the table. Ja ne!
April 12, 2016
CD talk. On May 26th I am going to record 4 songs at Dubway Studios downtown in the hopes of putting out a CD by the end of the year. This is big news and exciting. I’ve never recorded anything before - well anything that wasn’t on my iPhone. We’ll have Ben music direct and Joe and Chris there on drums and bass. My friend Jim Speake put me in touch with Paul Rolnick, a Producer who knows how to do these things. In the past week I’ve already learned so much about the recording biz. I had start by finding out if the “mechanical” rights were available for the 4 songs I selected. Mechanical rights, for those of you who are as green as I was three days ago, are the rights granted to put the song on a CD (or album or internet). You don’t need any rights to record the song. You need them to put it on something that can be sold. I found out that they are easily obtained on the internet, infant there is a company that just does mechanical rights, Harry Fox. And they’re cheap too. 9.1 cents per CD you press.
I’ve been doing some other homework too and listening to some new CD’s of Broadway folks to hear what songs they selected and how they sound. The first CD I listened to was Alan Cumming Live at the Cafe Carlyle. The first two songs blew me away. Great opening number, lot’s of WOW factor. I settled back on the Long Island Railroad on Easter Sunday coming back from my sister’s house and looked forward to the other tracks. Well while the train was heading west Alan’s CD was heading south. I found him a bit pompous and biting. There’s one whole exchange with a lady at a front table at the Carlyle eating a steak that Alan, who let’s us know he’s vegan, doesn’t approve of. I thought “How rude. This lady paid $100 to see him and $50 on top of that for the steak and he insults her”. And it wasn’t only about the steak. I found the remaining songs after the first two numbers uninspired and all sounding the same. I admire him for veering away from the over recorded Mercer and Porter songbooks, as I like to do the same, but I found his selections a bit boring. In fairness I will give it a second listened this weekend to see if I missed something.
The second CD I listened to was Marin Mazzie recorded live at 54 Below. This CD I did not expect to like as 1) I don’t really know Marin Mazzie and her work and 2) I tend to like edgier artists (like Alan Cumming). So I went into it half heartedly. Well, let me tell you, I was wrong. 100%. The moment the CD began I got her “concept” for the album. She told her story through the mostly forgotten 1970’s songbook, songs from my youth that I would listen to in my friend Ronnie’s backyard in Queens under the grape arbor on a hot July evening. Marin has a clear theme, a clear voice and great patter that did not take away from the music or overpower it. This CD I am listening to again and I look forward to it a lot. In fact, I’ll put it on after I type this.
The last CD I played (these were not all in row - a few days lapsed between listens) was Tony Yazbeck. He’s a Broadway Singer AND Dancer (a strong tapper) that is making a big splash after his success with On The Town last year. He’s good looking, talented and boy, does he let you know it. First of all - when you open the CD there is this glowing testimony to his talent written by legendary Producer and Director Hal Prince. Mr. Prince goes so far as to say that Tony’s “just as great as Gene Kelly and if the Movie Musical hadn’t died out Tony would be it’s next major star”. OK, he’s good but not that good. To compare him to Gene Kelly is really pushing it. Tony’s voice, sorry to have to say this, sounds just like 100 other leading male types on Broadway right now. Nothing special or unique about it. For his debut CD he unfortunately did pick a lot of over recorded and over performed standards from the Hollywood’s heyday. Lot’s of Fred Astaire tunes. AND - OMG - he taps on the CD. OK, I get it, and one song would have been fine. But he taps on several of the songs and I’m sorry, tap dancing is just not the greatest thing to listen to on a music CD. Honest disclosure here - I did not get through his whole CD. He has like a gazillion tracks on it - a few of them duets with folks I never heard of or that were anything special and it seemed endless. This was definitely a case of more was too much.
I did hear a fantastic version of the old Simon and Garfunkel tune Sounds Of Silence recorded by Disturbed - a rock band that from what I understand does mostly heavy metal. It was unbelievable. Check it out on Youtube. I played it three times in a row.
So to recap my CD listening adventures, I wanted more Mazzie, less Cumming, and a better Yazbeck. And, it is possible to make Simon and Garfunkel sound fresh and relevant for 2016. Holy molely. Did I just write my first CD review? Ja ne!
April 10, 2016
Friends of mine named their cat Winn Dixie. Like the supermarket chain that’s primarily in the Southern States of the USA. I liked that name. I think I liked it because it reminded me of Florida and I like Florida. I’m not a cat person, but Winn Dixie was my kind of a cat. He (or was it a she?) didn’t brush up against me when I was sitting in a chair. It didn’t meow or purr constantly. And I didn’t notice a whole bunch of cat hair around. It was a very unobtrusive cat. My kind of pet. I’m not a pet person at all really. My niece has two big black dogs - I think she said they are “Newfie’s” I guess short for Newfoundlands? Anyway, they always want attention when I walk in the door. She loves them and I do get that, but I just haven’t gotten bitten by the dog vibe. Wet noses on my hand signaling the need for some petting just doesn’t work with me. Don’t get me wrong, I have thought about getting a pet, eventually, but it will be of the small dog variety. Like a wire haired dachsund. They seem just right to me. Pet them when you want, they look at you from across the room, with adoration in their eyes, and when you walk them you feel like a team. They seem kinda independent too. I’m sure they’d prefer to open the can of dog food themselves instead of waiting for someone to do it.
I admire people that can have things like pets and houseplants and children. I guess my independence for all these years has made me somewhat self centered. I want to welcome another living thing into my life but if it depends upon me for it’s survival I really don’t think that’s such a good idea. I am doing a bit better with houseplants. I have cactus. Watering them once a month, or maybe a bit extra for a “treat” seems manageable for me.
But I am a caring person. I smile at children on the subway and they always smile back. I have that kind of face. Kids do like me. So do pets. I give off lots of energy which I think is noticeable to others. It’s one of my favorite personal qualities. I don’t want to loose that. So, maybe I’m meant to be more like a lone ranger, making others feel great and happy then leaving when I must. And leave I do as soon as the dogs need walking or the houseplants need watering or the kids want to play catch.
Now, what the hell am I listening too? It’s a musical about the daughters of the Presidents. I heard a song about Amy Carter and I think I heard Dick Nixon’s daughters being sung about too. They are now singing about the hostages in Iran. As I am typing my blog today I thought I’d play something new that I hadn’t heard. But you have to kiss a lot of frogs I guess to find a canary. I don’t get a lot of the new musicals. I do like listening to Hamilton, but I miss the old school scores. Anyway - today was spent getting my fingers wet again and back to writing. So I am just free forming my thoughts. I didn’t sit down with any ideas in my head. Winn Dixie popped into my mind so I thought I would start there. Allison Fraiser. She’s singing on the CD now and I like her. You can’t miss her voice. It’s vey recognizable. Did they just say “Say Falafel?” I do believe they did.
I like typing this today because I feel safe and I don’t think anyone will read it. That’s OK and cool with me because like I said, I just wanted to get my “fingers wet” again. I’m learning a lot. Learning to keep dipping my fingers into the well of creativity and plus or minus, usable or not, it’s all good. Just work it. Put the CD on that has something you would never listen to normally and focus and try. I am sure that Picasso’s garbage can was full of wonderful doodles and scratches and paper nonsense that he thought was nothing. Maybe no one looked at it but him. Can you imagine what might have been in that garbage can? Or when Barbara Streisand sings a song in the shower, like a Taylor Swift song, that she’ll never record. Notes, scratches, words on paper that no one reads. Yet it all adds up to a final product. Just keep it going. So even though I’m just free forming my thoughts I am sure I’m working my grey muscle a bit and other things will get sparked by it.
Yada Yada Yada. I’m just a guy that can’t say no! That’s for sure. I like saying yes. I read somewhere, someone said “Just say yes, and figure it out later”. That’s a Recipe For Success. I am pleased to say that and write it down. It came at the end of this blog entry and I think it’s the wisest thing I wrote down. That and Winn Dixie is a good name for a cat. OK - now it’s on to new things. I will do a spell check. Re-read what I wrote. Try not to self edited. Post it and move on. Sing. Email. Juggle. Maybe. Things to do to make my fingers move and my grey muscle active. I am happy. Now. Happy that I did this today. Enjoy your day - to anyone that reads this. Oh - but I said no one would. OK - then you Charles - enjoy your day. Because I love you and you are special. And you did this today and it’s worth something. Not to be discarded. Ja ne!
Did they just say “Bebe Rebozo?” Yes they did.
January 23, 2016 - Fort Lauderdale FL
So, I’ve been down here in Fort Lauderdale doing The Jackie Mason Musical with Sheba Mason, Jackie’s daughter. We’re at The Empire Stage Theater on North Flagler Drive. I got here on January 2nd and immediately forgot about New York. Sorry NYC. So far I have managed to check out Wilton Manors, Towne Center Mall in Boca, DaDa Restaurant Comedy Open MIC in Delray and countless trips to the Dunkin Donuts on Powerline to use their Wi-Fi. I sit here now trying not to cough. After 3 days here I immediately came down with the worst cold I have ever had. Really. It leaves for a day and just like an annoying cousin that lives too close, it comes back for a visit. Speaking of relatives, Florida is not just for old people. Too many people think this. Sure there are lots of seniors among the hibiscus, the couple in the next booth are bemoaning the fact that Dunkin did away with their Senior Citizen discount and the husband actually said “Now there’s nothing to look forward too”. Aw shucks, I thought he’d want to live to see if Trump becomes President. Yes, all types are down here. That’s what makes it so much fun and interesting. I like a place where you can wear shorts all year long. Saves a lot on drawer space. More fit in the washer too.
I’m staying in Boca at a friends house. I have a great room and my own bath. It’s amazing. When the show was extended I offered to move to another place, but my friends said “no, stay here”. So I guess my houseguest report card will be good, maybe an A. At least a B or B+. I did break a glass after my second day. I’m sure they wondered what else will happen. Luckily that was it, so far.
On Monday I am heading to Key West for two days with my friend Jeff who was in The Fantasticks with me at Allenberry Playhouse in September. He’s down here visiting his brother for a month or two and we hung out last Saturday in Wilton Manors. We had lunch at Rosie’s, the best Gay restaurant in town. Packed and quite a scene. I’m gonna head there today after I work out.
I joined the gym and have actually used the membership. Titan Gym in Fort Lauderdale is great. Low key and serious people trying to keep in shape in a party town. It’s hard in a town where the highlight of everyone’s day is Happy Hour. I’ve seen more Happy Hour signs down here than SunPass scanners on the Florida Turnpike. It’s only 63 degrees (it feel likes 50 in Dunkin as they keep the AC on full tilt) - but I am not complaining since up in New York winter storm Jonas has buried the North East in a avalanche of snow. When I get back on February 1, I hope that snow is a memory for the winter of 2016. Somehow I doubt that but living in Florida for January has made me very hopeful. Well, maybe not for the end of my cold. I think it will be be coming with me on my flight home. Ja ne!
December 21, 2015 - NYC
Invariably I am called upon at family Holiday gatherings to say “the grace” or blessing at the dinner table. I’m not 100% sure if this is because all the usual “grace sayers” are deceased, dads, uncles etc., or as I’m an “entertainment professional” it’s assumed I’ll have a way with words and my diction will be up to snuff. Who knows. I am not complaining however. I actually like doing it. It seems to be an ice breaker and gets everyone in a good mood and happy to indulge in the food set before them. I like it so much in fact that I thought about writing blessings on the side to make a little extra cash. Here’s three I came up with this week for three different types of parties. Feel free to use them but if you do make sure you send a check to my home address.
BLESSING FOR A COCKTAIL PARTY
Dear God, as we stand here together gazing out at the west bank of your east river, we thank you for the many creatures you have created in your goodness that come before us now. The little Pigs sleeping warmly in their blankets resting on a bed of silver, the many creatures of the ocean, the shrimp and lobster that swim to us in a mixture from your Red Sea, the many fingers of the chicken that present themselves to us and remind us that God has many hands. May all this be washed with your red wine and the bounty of Saint Margarita. Amen.
BLESSING FOR A BUFFET
Dear God, as we humbly journey down the path before us, extending our hands to be filled with the wonders you have created, we remember that you present us with many options. May we be blessed with the ability to decide quickly so that our journey may be expedient and that others that come behind us will not suffer and will find comfort in the remaining options. You give us hot and cold, sweet and sour, fish and fowl and vegetables from your blessed garden. Find us now a place to rest oh Lord, so that we may partake in this goodness using both of the hands you gave us. Amen.
BLESSING FOR A SIT DOWN DINNER
Cleanse our hands oh Lord as we join them around our Holy Mother's table with many leaves. Let us locate the right instruments which you lay before us so that when the final sweetness is brought to us we have the right tool remaining in order to feast on the warm fruit. As in years past, we thank you for the instructions you have passed down from generation to generation so that our parent's parents teach their sons and daughters the proper covering of the meat so that the wondrous juices flow when Benjamin and Matthew bring the blessed lamb to our Mother's table. Give us the ability to digest all you have given us and may the special fragrances that will come shortly after all be pleasant ones and if not, pass quickly. Amen
And ja ne!
December 11, 2015 - NYC
Here is a story that needs to be shared. It's from the "Dreams Do Come True" department. About two months ago I saw a casting notice on Backstage seeking a Santa Claus for Mariah Carey's show at the Beacon. My good friend Roark Littlefield plays Santa at parties during the holidays and I think he's the BEST Santa I've ever seen. He uses his own hair and beard and is just SO friendly the kids love him. I forwarded the casting notice on to him. Now, Roark is not an actor or performer, he is a very talented playwright and director. He directed me in Two Women on a Precipice and he wrote and directed Elena where I played Carl Von Cosel. We’ve become quite close. I urged him to go to the open call and he did. He called me after the call (this is all about 2 months ago) and said he was in and out of the room in 2 minutes and didn't feel he got the gig. He said they didn’t even ask him to sing a 16 bar cut of Holly Jolly Christmas that I told him to bring along. Well I was stumped, because I felt the producers missed that one. If you met him, you’d see what I am talking about. He is a great Santa. Well fast forward to this week at The Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side of New York. Guess who's playing Santa? Every night I look up at that marquee and smile knowing that Roark is inside the house singing and dancing (yes, dancing) with Mariah Carey. Who, BTW, I am told by Roark, is really nice and not a Diva at all. It seems he was her first choice all along and it only took 2 minutes at the open call. LESSON - DON'T GIVE UP! DREAMS COME TRUE! LIFE IS AMAZING! Oh, tonight his little girl, Vivian, is seeing the show with her Mom. How proud will they be???? Ja ne!
October 31, 2105 - Halloween - NYC
Today is that once in a year crazy day where everyone feels safe to put on a wig, hat, lipstick, tights, feathers, ballet tutu - whatever - and walk around the streets of New York. Halloween is really celebrated here. In a BIG way. Last night, on my way home, I stopped in at Ricky’s on 72nd Street to see if I could find anything that “spoke” to me to go to the two parties I have tonight. I didn’t find a thing. Well, yes, a pink hat, kinda like a bowler, ($9.99) that I thought I could clip on some white carnations ($1.99 each). I added up the cost in my head and figured for the hour or two that I’d have it on my head it wouldn’t be worth it. So I passed. It was funny seeing everybody in the aisles though. Scrambling for a costume. Heard a young lady remark “I was a cop last year” while hold a $39.99 cop costume in a bag. Ah - the money changing hands. I should of dressed up like Shylock and collected coins in the front of the store.
The line was long to pay. The store was a mess. The salespeople were over it. They wanted to go home. I’m sure it’s not fun for them.
As I walked home (without a costume), I remembered all the Halloweens past. The time when I was 10 years old and I was a Marlboro Cigarette pack and went to the Elks Club on Queens Boulevard with my Mom and Dad. The time when I was 15 years old and I was Bette Davis and sat in a rec-room somewhere in a Kew Gardens basement with my High School friends. The time when I was 22 years old and I was Raisa Gorbachev and went to the Saint Disco on Second Avenue. “Oh shit, that chicks got a cat on her head” was the remark I heard when I walked down St. Marks Place at midnight.
Ah Halloween. I think I’ll just be me today. I’ve still got all those costumes in my head. Maybe when I smile today everyone will see me wearing them. Ja ne!
October 27, 2015 - Tuesday - Delta Flight 6203 in the air
Last night while trying to fall back asleep in Columbus Ohio, oh, I’d say about 2am, I started thinking about rituals and the ones we have that get us through our daily lives. Everybody has them. Some are done daily, some weekly, some monthly and some yearly, like visiting the grave of a long deceased relative. Some are very public. Like stopping into Starbucks each morning and getting a tall blonde roast and a scone. Others are private. Taking a hot bath once a week with candles and soft music playing could be considered a private ritual. I think rituals keep us motivated. We live for and look forward to our rituals. Once you take them away, what’s left.? A void. Sitting in a chair with nothing to do. I guess that could make everything we do a ritual. Even going to work although you hate to do it.
I have a ritual, well many, but one I’ll talk about now. It’s playing the lottery. Mega Millions. Not Power Ball or one of the countless other games but Mega Millions. Not sure why I picked Mega Millions, I just walked into a lottery place one day and bought a ticket. A random choice. I started playing a few years ago. Maybe two. I’m not a big player and I don’t spend much, although, I have to admit, after two years I probably could have bought a new pair of shoes, expensive ones, or tickets to a hot Broadway show like Hamilton, or maybe a plane ride to some place warm and exotic like Hawaii. Whoa. Did I spend that much? OK, let’s not think about that. Mega Millions is on Tuesday and Friday night and I play two games, same numbers each time. The numbers I picked in my one game vary by only two numbers in my second game. See, I’m giving this some thought. I’m trying to beat the odds. The two games cost me $2.00. So I spend $4.00 a week. I don’t smoke so it’s a lot cheaper than a pack of cigarettes. Justifying the expenditure right?
Yes, it’s a guilty pleasure. One I look forward to twice a week. Sometimes I forget to check the winning numbers and I have a few days to check at once. That actually is quite fun and gives me a thrill. The thought that I could have hit it big a week ago and not even known it is an exciting thought. I think if I ever do win, I’d like to not know it for a week or so. It will add to the tale as I tell it to my happy family and (envious) friends.
But playing the lottery always feels a little dirty. When I go to a bodega to buy my ticket, I get a sense of doing something not acceptable in society. I look around before I walk in to make sure I’m not noticed by an acquaintance happening down the street. “Oh, hey Charles, what are you up to?” “Nothing much, just heading in here to grab a bottle of water and a pack of Trident. Gotta run. Nice seeing you.” And then of course there’s the people you see inside buying lottery tickets. Buying lot’s of them too. They take up so much time. “I’ll take six of those scratch off cards, four of those scratch off cards, seven quick picks and two whatever else you got.” Then they stand to the side and feverishly take a coin and scratch and scratch. I admit I look down my nose just a tad as I think “I’m not one of those people.” The truth is, I am. In a smaller way. I hope and pray I won’t increase my weekly flux of lottery tickets. I don’t think I will. The two games twice a week is fine for me. It’s a private little ritual like taking that candle lit bath. It gets me through a week. It has nothing else to do with anything else that I’m involved in. Well, it was private until now. Talking about it was fun though. It made all the money I spent on the tickets worthwhile. It gave me a chance to think about our rituals and what they mean to us. How near and dear we hold them. How they shape and color our existence. I wonder, if I do hit the numbers - will I end my ritual? Maybe I’ll find a new one. If I end up with a lot of disposable income, the candle lit bath in a big jacuzzi tub may just take it’s place. Ja ne!
October 23, 2015 - Friday - JFK Airport
8:15am - I’m sitting at the counter at Urban Crave in the Delta Terminal waiting for flight 4207 to Columbus Ohio. Kirk is being honored by the City of Ravenna and inducted into their Hall of Fame. Tomorrow is a big day. Drive to Ravenna from Columbus, dinner, awards and make a speech. A speech that is formed in bits and fragments in my head. When I get to my destination I think I’ll lock myself in a room and organize and write down those free floating thoughts and make it a speech worth remembering, or at least not embarassing. For now I am sitting at the counter at Urban Crave near Gate 48 having a coffee and an unimpressive cinnamon roll. Urban Crave promises “authentic street cuisine” and looking over the breakfast menu I’m not sure exactly what that means to the folks over at Urban Crave headquarters.
Lets’ see, there’s something called “Breakfast Poutine”. What is a “Poutine” I wonder. According to the menu at Urban Crave it’s breakfast fries, scrambled eggs, fresh cheese curds and hot brown gravy. I don’t recall seeing that on the corner of 14th and Sixth in Raffie’s Halal food cart. My friend Manny that sells me coffee from his wagon on the corner of 72nd and Broadway only has cheese danish and cold (but fresh) bagels that he’ll serve up with a healthy slab of room temperature butter. No Poutine’s there.
There’s also Oatmeal Brûlée. Sounds delicious but not something you’d find at the food court in Penn Station. Maybe I could get an Oatmeal Brûlée on the street in St. Barth’s as I’m heading to the beach for an early morning swim? I think I need to pay a visit to the headquarters at Urban Crave and give them a New Yorker’s lesson on what constitutes a good street meal.
8:25am - The people next to me are having cocktails pre-flight. One’s having a rather large Bloody Mary and the other cocktail is a Mocha colored concoction which I am assuming has a Vodka and a Kahloha base. I know lot’s of folks fear flying and I am one of them, but not sure a cocktail is the best medicine to get over the jitters. By the time the flight takes off the cocktail has worn off and you are left with a cotton mouth and craving for a bottled water. I guess I’m wondering if people like booking early morning flights just so they can have an excuse to get hammered early in the day. No judgements, just wondering.
8:32am - I’m heading back to the gate now which is about 15 feet from the counter at Urban Crave. Even though my flight leaves at 9, I’m still afraid of being left behind. I suffer from that. I race to the gate to find the flight has already started boarding. Close call. Plan ahead. Get there early. Clear skies. Warm day here in NYC. Good day for going places.
8:43am - I’m on the plane now. I have the worst luck when it comes to seats. I am always in the back of the plane, many times the last row. I am starting to wonder if there is some database somewhere that shows this is were I usually sit and some super duper giant server somewhere assume’s I actually like those seats. I just never complain. What’s really funny is that the plane is half empty and yet I’m still delegated to the back, like some misbehaving school boy that was causing a ruckus and had to be separated from the rest of the kids. I am glad that the seat next to me is empty because planes are just not designed for the average person in today’s world. I think they used the measurements of Pilgrims when they design these things.
9:01am - Pilot is speaking now. He’s not very verbal and wouldn’t do well at Stand Up. He has an accent that I can’t place. When he say’s “partly” it’s more like “paht-lee” and “temperature” becomes “temp-ah-cha”. Maybe Georgia? Something vaguely Southern. We are up in the air. Taxy-ing on the run way was a bit rough. The plane was jerky and it felt like there was a few potholes, like a stagecoach heading across the Rockies. After lift off the plane dipped and dropped a bit and I let out an unintentional “whoa” but not sure I was heard. The stewardess is speaking over the monitors but since I am sitting towards the back and over a wing and the engines are roaring I can’t hear a word she’s saying. Something about ordering a beverage and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to some charity. Here she comes down the aisle with the beverage cart. I always look at the faces of the stewardesses. If they don’t look worried, neither will I. Take my cues from the pros is what I always say. I don’t feel like coffee or water, but since it’s free I’m compelled to take something. That’s my mother speaking. She’d always load up her pockets with anything offered for free when we traveled whether we needed it or not. When she died, the kitchen drawers contained packets of sugar, Sweet and Low, long dried out wet wipes, and salt and pepper packets. The bathroom had a stash of hotel soaps and little bottles of shampoo. She was always preparing for another depression. Stocking up.
Just noticed the stewardess has silver glitter eye shadow on. There’s a story there I’m sure. I am fantasizing that she plays electric guitar in an all girl punk band in Cleveland. I hope she does. Everyone needs a passion and pushing the beverage cart down the aisle doesn’t seem like a great one to me. I hope it’s music. This makes me in the mood to chill out and listen to some Bowie on my iPhone.
Short flights are the best. I think I’ll nap now with the music in my new Sony headphones. Then wake up and read a bit in my Patti Smith book - M Train. I like her more and more every time I read something she’s written. She’s a big fan of detective Sarah Linden from The Killing and so am I. That makes me happy and in some strange way safe, like Patti is making sure I’ll reach my destination safe and sound and able to deliver a speech in honor of a deserving recipient. Clear skies. Warm day. Good day for going places.
October 1, 2015 - Thursday - Allenberry Playhouse
So it seems I have to do a little retracting about my feelings toward the Pope (see below) after I read that he had a “secret” meeting with the Kentucky Clerk that refuses to officiate over same sex marriages due to her religious beliefs. It bothers me that the Pope had a secret meeting. I have the feeling of being duped. The news was announced when he was safely out of the country and back in Italy. This of course was done to avoid protests and a big hoo-ha over his meeting with the Kentucky Clerk. (I assume by now that you get the point that I don’t want to mention her name.)
Look, I’m not opposed to anyone’s belief’s, anytime and anywhere, but maybe the example I am about to give will help clarify my feelings on the matter. The Clerk has a job to do and she is refusing to do it because it goes against her religious beliefs. I’ve though long and hard about this and here is my analogy. I liken it to a waiter or waitress who is vegan and works in a Diner and serves an assortment of fare. And by the way I have met several vegan waiters and discovered as such when I asked them what they thought of the lasagna with their reply being “I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. I’m a vegan.” Ah-ha! But they still work in the restaurant and they serve me my medium rare bacon cheeseburger! Of course if that really bothered them, they have a right not to work there. The owner wouldn’t tolerate it if the waiter or waitress only decided to serve vegetarian dishes to the customers, would they? NO, they have to serve the whole menu!!
So with that point being made, I say to madam Kentucky Clerk, “Serve the whole menu or find another job!” Ja ne and peace and love to all.
September 29, 2015 - Tuesday - Allenberry Playhouse
Today, I am told is “National Coffee” day. Just what I need, another excuse to drink more coffee. I type this as I sip my lukewarm cup of Bustelo. (Cup # 2). So many important dates and events happening it boggles the mind. The Pope just left after almost a week in the US. I finally had something in common with the leader of the Catholic church, we were both in Pennsylvania at the same time. Naw, all kidding aside, he seems like a really decent guy and I have to admit his priority to spend time with the homeless and dine with them was one of the best things anyone in a place of power and influence has done in many, many a year. This even tops Madonna going to Malawi and adopting kids.
I’m a back-story kind of guy. When an event like the Pope going to homeless shelters happens, I always think about the weeks and months of planning such an event. How many shelters were looked at. How were they contacted? Did the phone ring one day and a worker there picked up a call to hear a voice say “This is the Vatican calling. The Pope will be stopping by next Tuesday for lunch. Please prepare a small informal buffet.” Or how were the school kids chosen to stand close to the Pope and get a special blessing or a peck on the forehead from him. How did that play out? Did families jostle to get there early to have their kids be first on line? Did they make their kids stay up all night and stand on the street? What kind of parents would do that? And did the kids have to go through security? Get searched like at airports and go through metal detectors? I can just imagine the ruthless moms and dads knocking other parents and kids out of the way to make sure their kids got in first. Now that is a video I’d like to see. What I wouldn’t like to see is the look of disappointment on a kid’s face when he or she was told they wouldn’t be among the chosen. That’s never a pleasant sight. But as they always say, not everyone’s a winner.
Two nights ago was a total lunar eclipse also known as a blood moon. I was hanging out with my homies here at Allenberry watching a John Waters film, my favorite, Female Trouble and around 10:45pm we took a walk out onto Myers Road, deep into the country side with mowed down corn stalks on either side of the road. The next blood moon I am told will be in 15 years so I figured I’d better tag along. We stood there in the dark in the middle of Myers Road for about a half hour with just an iPhone glow now and then to give our faces an eerie halo. It really felt like we were in the Blair Witch Project or Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. The night was kind of a bust as the sky was cloudy and the moon was barely visible. The long walk to the top of the hill down Myers Road hardly felt worth it and I got squirmy. When we got back to the house we looked up and low and behold, the moon had shown itself to us. We could have saved the walk.
Today I am being taken to Gettysburg by a couple that live across the street from the theater. I met them the other day when there was a car show here at Allenberry. Marty and Jane. I am looking forward to touring around in a car and not walking up any hills down dark roads in the midst of corn fields to look at non-existent moons. But somehow I feel that walking is involved as the Battle of Gettysburg took place in a field right? On top of that it may rain so it will be a muddy wet hill too boot.
Corn fields, blood moons, battlefields and aggressive parents - somehow this isn’t the bucolic Pennsylvania countryside that I remember from my youth. In the 60’s when the Pope came to town I was standing on Queens Boulevard hoisted high in the air by my strong armed Dad to catch a glimpse of the Pope as he made his way into Manhattan. Parents weren’t as aggressive back then. We waited our turn. Now we push and shove. We hike endless miles to be first on line only to find that a cloud has covered our moon. Ja ne!
September 26, 2015 - Saturday - Allenberry Playhouse
Keeping up with pop culture is a full time job. With the continuing proliferation of social media and the new internet websites that seem to appear on a weekly basis the explosion of new talent and personalities has been astronomical. I try my best to stay current and in order to do so I spend the first hour of each day on line checking out Buzzfeed and Mashable to see who’s hot and who’s not. I can’t keep up! Years ago we had 4 television stations. CBS, NBC and ABC (in that order on the dial) and Channel 5 which wasn’t called Fox back then. Oh yes, there was also Channel 13 but nobody watched that because it had strange shows like NOVA and Masterpiece Theater which at age 13 would put me to sleep. Now, we have an abundance of programming. I usually end up watching one or two episodes on Netflix of shows I hear people talk about just so I can say I know about them. But the minute I do that, I hear of another new show and I feel like I’m behind the times already!
And everybody is an Internet Star. I do try my best to be an Internet Star but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I have over 20 videos on YouTube and yes, I do check quite often to see how many views each one is getting. My numbers are small. One video has over 400 views and I’m proud of that. Considering I’ve probably watched it a few times myself, I still think it’s safe to safe that close to 400 people have seen it. Wow. My big moment has arrived. The other day I hit 101 followers on Twitter. I actually got a congratulations notice from Twitter. I have arrived! Not that I think anyone reads my daily Twitter nonsense. I try to be clever and funny but it’s so hard to think of something fresh to say and in only 140 characters.
So as I continue my education in all things current I’ll remember the great words of Bette Davis “I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless.” I understand, of course, exactly what she was talking about. The thirst for knowledge and hence to apply that knowledge to creative work and new ideas is endless. However, it’s the only way I know. So I’ll remove myself from this screen, open up a new browser window and continue to listen, look and learn. Over and over and over Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy it. It’s not a chore. My mom used to clip recipes from magazines and put them in a little tin box. I can safely safe that she never tried 90% of those recipes. Yet, she still clipped and filed them anyway. Knowing that she’d never make the meals that the recipes described didn’t stop her from saving them though. It’s that drive I inherited from her. A passion. It’s good to have passions. It keeps the day sunny! Ja ne!
September 24 , 2015 - Thursday - Allenberry Playhouse
Watched three great old Lucille Ball specials the other night, sent to me by my friend Mike over in England. Mike is one of the producers on The Demo Guy web series that just came out. We’ve been chatting via Facebook Messenger about comedy and what makes stuff funny. He then emailed me three Lucy specials that I believe you can’t get here in the US. All from the mid 70’s. They are fantastic. The first one, Lucy Moves to NBC is about her, Lucille Ball, leaving retirement and becoming a Producer at NBC. Lot’s of cameo appearances in it, Johnny Carson, Gary Coleman, Gene Kelly, and last but not least, Donald O’Connor. In fact the whole last half of the show is more like a Donald O’Connor special than a Lucy show. I was wondering if they were going for a spin off or something. Seemed odd that the focus shifted to him. Maybe she got bored.
Anyway, the next one was Lucy Calls The President. She plays Lucy Whitaker - I loved how they always gave her different last names in all her shows. Her trademark. Back to the plot. Jimmy Carter gets a phone call from Lucy, (of course she gets through on the first dial - duh) and tells him about some housing project in her local area, I think a suburb in Minnesota, that needs funding. Carter just happens to be in the area that week and says he’ll stop by her house on the way back to Washington and discuss it with her. Well that turns into chaos as the whole neighborhood descends on Lucy’s house and wants to be included in the dinner she is planning. Gags about stepping into vats of potato salad, sitting down on a cake, and missing deviled eggs abound. Mary Wickes makes an appearance as a neighbor or Aunt. I couldn’t really keep it too straight as people were coming and going. Ed McMahon, Gale Gordon and Vivian Vance is in it too. I love Vivian Vance. In face, I think I loved watching her more than Lucy. I always wished she had done more. Her later appearances are so rare that each time she’s on screen you savor the footage.
This episode however got me thinking on a point that I shared with Mike to get his feedback and thoughts on. Let me see if I can explain it clearly. Years ago, oh let’s say 15, it was rare for a sitting US President to make an appearance on television other than for a State of the Union Address or some other official pronouncement. The office of President seemed very respected and revered. No one would think of asking him to tell a joke on TV or be a part of a comedy sketch. In the last several years, I noticed more and more of our Presidents were making appearances on shows like David Letterman and sitting there chatting and saying funny things. Now, I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, and you know me, I’m all for a laugh. But somehow it doesn’t sit easy with me. I look at it in the broader perspective. How serious will people see our President and hence the Office of President if he is sitting around talk shows and reciting Letterman’s Top 10 list. I think these appearances cheapen his image somewhat. Jimmy Carter did not appear on that Lucy special. Carter call’s at the end of the show (you never even hear his voice) to tell her his plans had changed and he has to return to Washington. Miss Lillian, his mother, makes a very brief off set cameo to apologize for the cancellation of her sons visit and offers to come in his stead. This does play to my point. Lucille Ball was one of the most respected and powerful people in television at the time (1975) and if she couldn’t get President Carter to appear on her show that says a lot about the importance of maintaining the Presidential image. A few people have said to me in discussing this that when our current Presidents go on Letterman etc it makes them more human. Well, I think Carter was seen as a pretty human guy, he was well known for his affable personality. By not going on talk shows, that didn’t make him less so did it? In fact he was fond of his Jelly Bean jokes and promoted his relaxed persona. I can only imagine how a President like Kennedy would have used television and the social media of today to further his image. I wonder if he would have made a cameo in a Marilyn Monroe film. Seems possible in today’s world.
Gee - I hope I haven’t dwelled too long on this topic. I kinda flew in a different direction as I was telling you about the Lucy Specials. I’ll end with the plot of the last Lucy special which I am almost finished watching. Lucy adores Dean Martin and travels by bus to Las Vegas to be at his MGM Grand opening night. Only they are sold out and she can’t in. She hears through a hotel employee that Dean is giving a special show for employees of the hotel at midnight the next day, so Lucy gets it into her head to get a job at the hotel so that she can attend the special show. Well of course they make her a Parking Lot attendant and disaster ensues, then a cocktail waitress in the casino which she of course messes up and finally a Keno Girl. That’s where I left off. I think there is some mob gangster related subplot rearing it’s head when I shut down my computer for the night. The story will play out later when I resume watching. If it’s anything worth mentioning, I’ll let you know! Until that time - Ja ne friends!
September 21, 2015 - Monday - Allenberry Playhouse
Thoughts for today - don’t create for the masses, don’t create for the fame. Keep the art small and personal. If others notice, so be it. Let it be for you. Always accept yourself for who you are. (The last sentence are words in my fortune cookie from my take out food the other day. I have the fortune taped to my mirror in my room here at Allenberry and I look at it at least once a day.)
Gosh - don’t mean to get all heavy on ya, but all those thoughts popped into my head in the middle of the night and I woke up and wrote them down. Then went back to bed. I re-read them when I got up. Sometimes when I write things down in the middle of the night and re-read them when I get up, I find the thought isn’t as meaningful or special as it was when I wrote it at 3am. This time, it still spoke to me, so I thought let’s see where it goes as I write.
I have heard it say the artist’s life is a lonely one and I do understand that phrase more and more each day. I seem to find much pleasure in my alone time here at Allenberry. On off times, I like to read, catch up with the news, and watch the latest new things on Netflix. Practice my juggling. I have been wanting to write more pages on my screenplay - The Take Out Guy - but I’m finding it harder and harder to get a jump start on it. That’s a plan for tonight and doing my blog right now is helping me get going. I hope.
This past Friday I went to the York County Fair and had a great day. A group of us went from the theater and I think I had the most fun of all of them. First of all, it was hot, very hot. I didn’t mind it at all. I love hot weather so walking around the fair grounds and roasting was my idea of a good day. We ate all that wonderful fair food. Corn on the cob, a Gyro, fried dough. Then I volunteered to referee the Pig Races. They gave me a microphone and flag and I was off to the races so to speak. It was a blast. I had to wave the flag frantically and yell “ding, ding, ding, ding” in the microphone as the cute little Pigs ran around the track and crossed the finish line. Later, I rode on six rides; two ferris wheels, the roller coaster, I went into the Fun House, and the Haunted House. I really acted as a kid, and unashamedly I might add. By the time the day ended I was thoroughly spent. I had to do a show that night as we all did, but I found motivation in the memories of the fair.
Being here for so long has been a great experience. I have really noticed that I can live away from New York and not miss it in the least. I love getting up and seeing the trees and hearing the birds. I know I have to be in New York for auditions as that’s where the theater work originates for the most part, but if I hadn’t chosen to be an actor I really wonder how long I’d stay in the city. Everyone that knows me knows how much I love Florida. One of my fantasies is to do theater there for a living and be able to walk to the ocean on days off. Something tells me that would be an ideal fit and maybe that’s where I am headed. For now though all options are open as I’m still expecting to have more exciting projects in New York in the coming year. I can’t say for certain what they’ll be but I am approaching my return to NYC with the air of accomplishment. What do they call it? Visualization? I think that’s the word.
For now, being here in Pennsylvania reminds me a lot of the times I spent as a kid in the back seat of my parents car driving through this state. We’d drive though Amish country and go to the Kutztown Fair almost every year. I think I’m in the same neck of the woods, the topography is so similar. Corn stalks and old barns are everywhere. It will be odd to leave here on October 4th. Seven weeks is a big chunk of a year to spend away from home. I feel an intimate connection with the area. I see the same faces in the same places around the little town of Boiling Springs and at Planet Fitness the gym I go to with TJ an actor in the show. I’ve been here so long that the things I did when I first got here seem like years ago. My friends Joe and Ben were here and now are gone to Pittsburgh. It feels like they’ve been gone forever.
OK - now I am ready to take a look at where I’m at with Take Out Guy. I’ve typed and typed now for a while and I think I can keep the momentum going. I’ve enjoyed just free associating my thoughts on the screen and have not placed any constraints on what I’m writing. It started off one way and ended in another. Now. Over and out. Adios! Ja ne till next time.
September 17, 2015 - Thursday - Allenberry Playhouse
Spent a lot of time yesterday thinking back on the last year, I actually mean more like the past 12 months. It’s been an unusual twelve month period as I realized yesterday while thinking back on it that it’s been a year marked by a great deal of loss.
It started last year when I was up in New Hampshire doing Hello Dolly. I had just arrived there and was given accommodations in a beautiful home on the lake courtesy of a family that supported the theater. I recall sharing a nice family dinner with them early in five week stay and enjoying wonderful seasonal summer foods like potato salad and barbecue and the homemade pie. The husband and wife, dear friends to me now, introduced me to their two sons. Three days later one of those sons had died, the details of which are unimportant to the thoughts I set down now. It was an odd thing to have happened while I was staying there and it made me feel a bit like an intruder in a very personal time of a families life. Yet, I stayed as they insisted I did, and used the period to reflect with them and be supportive in anyway I could.
As I said, that is when the period of loss seems to have begun. Shortly after that, comedian Joan Rivers died after a botched procedure by an outpatient clinic that performed endoscopy located on the East Side of New York. This loss, felt by millions, resonated with me personally as I had known her and looked to her as a source of inspiration and motivation in my own career.
The loss continued. My sister and I sold my parent’s old houses in Queens, a final connection with my parents and my old boyhood neighborhood permanently gone. Next, the car we owned and of which I was so proud of decided after 14 years to give up the ghost and not run in reverse. Transmission shot. Gone.
My first acting teacher Joe Daly died from complications from a fall sustained earlier this summer. Barbara Vann, Artistic Director of The Medicine Show died in mid August. Both of these deaths had made me feel so very sad and empty. Joe was a mentor to me. He encouraged me to act and made me feel like I had something there to offer. I remember in class he used to call me “Mr. Off-Broadway” because I was getting parts while still studying. He was proud of me. And Barbara, a renown figure in the avant garde Off-Broadway theater scene had cast me in Helen of Troy New York as recently as last December and we had a great five week run of the show into February. I was looking forward to working with her more in the years to come. A diagnosis of stage 4 cancer ended her legendary career.
And finally - a beautiful tree, not sure of the kind, that graced the driveway up at our Smallwood house had to be taken down as it had become unstable and weak after many many years of service to the property and the neighborhood. I haven’t yet been to see the void I am sure it has left on the side of the driveway and I’m certain I’ll need to catch my breath as the car pulls up the street for the first time next month and I see that empty spot where a mighty Oak(?) Elm(?) Maple(?) once stood.
While all this loss is sad to write about, doing so is making me feel a bit better about it all. I believe the word is cathartic although it feels a little vulgar to use it while telling you about these wonderful people and dear memories of places and things. However, I am glad I got it all down here - on permanent record so I don’t forget these people, the car, the tree, my parents houses. I realize this entry will get buried under the many entries yet to come on this blog. Yet, like the people and things that have left me this year, I’ll know it is there if I need to remember it. I can scroll down and reread it.
As for now, today - on this beautiful sunlight morning at 9:47am here in Boiling Springs Pennsylvania, it’s time to get up and move ahead. A Remembrance Of Things Past while the future is holding his arms open for me. Ja ne.
September 5, 2015 - Saturday - Allenberry Playhouse
This has been a fantastic summer. Lot’s of fun. I’m here at The Allenberry Playhouse in The Fantasticks, playing Mortimer, ensconced in Room 245 of The Meadow Lodge, and living like a Gypsy (the theater kind, not the Hungarian kind). My little fridge in my room next to the door has a microwave on top of it, and on top of that is piled high an assortment of non-perishable “actor type” food stuffs, like Triscuits, Cheerios, Corn Chips, Oreo’s (the golden kind, not the chocolate) a loaf of white bread (to slap pieces of Kraft American Cheese on for a quick lunch, or dinner, or after show snack) and a container of Metamucil just to keep things moving swimmingly along as they say. Yesterday I found myself eating room temperture leftover Chinese Food with utensils I stole from the resort Dining Room and I realized I had actually turned into Mama Rose. Yes, the Gypsy life is finally taken hold. And I love it.
This past week the Web Series I shot for a good deal of last year finally came out. It’s called The Demo Guy. I play Melvin Zaza, the nemesis of in-store salesman Lance Xavier, the “star” of the Demo Guys. Lance is so good he can sell rubber bands to the Velcro Industry. Melvin strives to be this good. And he covets everything Lance does and owns. Except that Melvin is a real loser. Even his mother hates him. He can’t do anything right. Without spoiling any of it for you, incase you might want to tune in (all 9 episodes are on YouTube), I’ll just leave it at that.
Also this past week, I was the guest on the June Middleton show called “Minding Your Business”. I got to do three songs and sat with her and chatted for a half hour. It was wonderful. I felt like she was Johnny Carson and I was Lainie Kazan or something like that. Anyway, it was great fun. That’s also on YouTube. Between that and my own videos of Recipes For Disaster, I’ve been doing quite well on YouTube. I should buy stock.
I’m in my room, it’s 5:26pm. Dinner here is at 6:15. They feed us nicely and we get to eat what the hotel guests eat. Show tonight is at 8. I am looking forward to a good crowd tonight and to make ‘em laugh as Mortimer yells “Die again Mortimer, die again!” Ja ne!
August 24, 2015 - Monday
I have no desire to hike the Appalachian Trail. Well, that’s one thing I can certainly say with certainty. That and fly fishing. Today here in Allenberry PA I stood at the river bank and watched three gentlemen thigh high in the water gracefully arcing their rods and gently tapping the water with their hooks as the water rippled past. I couldn’t think of a more boring way to pass the time. It’s like staring at a tea kettle on the stove waiting for the water to boil. It seems endless. People may find it relaxing. I don’t. I find laying poolside at the Delano in South Beach while hunky waiters serve Mai Tai’s relaxing. But, as they say, to each their own.
Their comes a point in a person’s life where they can actually say with certainty that they will not do something before they expire and pass on to the great unknown. It’s an interesting phenomenon. The list of things you will never do grows longer quite rapidly as you age. When you’re young the possibilities are endless. Older, not so.
Let’s see. Here’s my list of things that I am certain I’ll never do:
Jump out of a plane (with a parachute of course)
Visit the Taj Mahal
Play the piano
Touch my toes (yes, I have given up and stopped trying about a year ago)
Be a waiter (although this one can move off the list, I’m just hoping it won’t)
Become a lawyer
Run for office
Eat at the White House (this one hurts to type as I can’t believe it won’t happen)
Write an Editorial for the New York Times
I’m still keeping the following things that I’m sure I “WILL DO” on my “WILL DO” list and I will only take them off said list when I take that last breath:
Win an Oscar
Win a Tony
Win the lottery
Be friends with Madonna
Live in Carole Lombard’s old house in Beverly Hills
Tell Bette Midler in person how I stole a letter from her mail box
I guess the lesson here is to always keep some things on your “will do” list and never take them off and give up hope no matter what. And trying. And determination. It’s that spunk that makes me get up every morning and keep going. Ja ne!
August 22, 2015 - Saturday - Allenberry Playhouse, Boiling Springs, PA
I have been besotted by sad news this week. With so much sunshine around me here at Allenberry, it almost seems impossible I know. But nevertheless the grey clouds have descended (metaphorically). At the risk of being a downer, I felt I needed to open up the MacBook and get it all down for posterity. And besides, I have been looking for that spark to ignite my fingers and move them to my laptop keys. Unfortunately I found that spark in the following news.
First off, I got an email from Chris Brandt, the Co-Director of The Medicine Show theater on West 52nd Street announcing that Barbara Vann, the Artistic Director of MS, has stage 4 cancer and is expected to live only a few days. This news hit me hard. I only met Barbara last year when she saw me do a reading of a new play called Dark Matter at The Medicine Show. She seemed to like me because after the reading, which was so sparsely attended that the mice that inhabit the premises were able to have their pick of any seat in the house and get nice and snuggly in the worn red velour. As I was saying after the reading Barbara asked me for my photo and headshot. Of course I complied and shortly after that I got an email asking me if I’d like to be in Helen Of Troy New York. That was January of this year. I was hoping to get to know Barbara better and do more work with her. Instead I will have to remember our work together and keep her feisty spirit alive in my memory (although her pre-show warm-up exercises will quickly be forgotten).
Then, after I got out of rehearsal yesterday for The Fantasticks (I am playing Mortimer), I get a FaceBook message from Steve Cosh the Owner of Room 53, personally telling me that he is shutting down his establishment effective August 29th. Next week! The past few months, as you may know from my prior entries on this blog, I have been Hosting my own show there, SATURDAYS AT SIX. I started it in May and I have loved it so much. I didn’t do it every Saturday, more like two or three times a month, but it was taking off and the audience attendance was growing. My format for the show was to have four featured performers do four songs each, a mini show, and I would MC and sing an opener, a closer and one in-between. Tell, a few jokes, try our material, etc. Interview the performers. I loved it. I am, however, determined to find a new home for SAS. I coined the name and it has gotten off the ground, so maybe some other venue will welcome me and keep it going.
Gee, I am happy to be back here this morning. At my blog I mean. I always have great intentions each day to write but I haven’t been. I make promises to myself and don’t keep them. But I have always done that in life. I am, however, getting easier on myself and don’t beat myself up if I don’t deliver the “daily goods”.
I am discovering there comes a time for everything and the time will tell you when the time comes for something to be done. And right now the time is telling me it’s time to hop in the shower and get ready for rehearsal! Ja ne!
August 15, 2015 - Saturday
This has been an exciting week! I got to audition for Wicked! Yes, that’s right folks, Wicked as in the Broadway musical! Thursday morning I got up at 4am, had coffee, hopped in the shower and raced down to Telsey + Co on West 43rd Street. I got there at 5:55am and I was number 2 on the Non-Equity list! In a few days I leave for Allenbery Playhouse to start work on The Fantasticks! Can not wait to get there! Ja ne!
August 13, 2015 - Thursday
4:44AM - just had my coffee and jumping into the shower. I am off to Telsey + Co to try and be the first Non Equity person on line for the Wicked open call. I feel like I’m on my way to Oz to try and meet the Wizard…….oh I hope the great and powerful will see me! Ja ne!
August 6, 2015 - Friday
Took myself to a movie today and was so inspired I couldn’t wait to get home and write. I saw Trainwreck the new summer flick with Amy Schumer and written by her as well. OK, I was expecting to be rolling on the floor laughing, splitting my pants, stomping my feet and and all that stuff that comes with a summer comedy. But in actuality it was quite a heartwarming film about an ordinary person trying to get by in New York City and messing up a lot. Trouble with love, trouble with partying, job trouble….Amy had them all. Oh sure I laughed out loud a few times, but a lot of the time I found myself being sincerely moved and drawn into her character’s life. I left wondering how much of it is actually Amy’s life up there on that screen. I suspect a lot.
Inspiration is a good thing. And it will come in handy. Tomorrow I am excited for a another great Saturdays At Six show at Room 53. I have LOVED putting these shows together. I think they get better and better. The guests are great. I am writing material specific for the shows. It keeps my mind really sharp. I love the comedy. That’s one of the reasons I went to see Trainwreck. I wanted to see what Amy does and how she does it. She has a real understated sense of comedy and I like that a lot. Anyway, tomorrow I’ll do some patter about the Republican Debate that happened this week in Cleveland. I’m glad to see that they brought back Laugh In. I always loved that show. Finally Cleveland has something to be remembered for. I’m glad they added the rim shots every time Donald Trump made a point. He’s the only one that got to speak. All the other potential Candidates had their mouths hanging down so low I could count their fillings. Shock is a good word to describe it.
Today I had a great audition for a new play, a comedy, to be directed by Cynthia Nixon. I was really proud of myself for going. I read the casting notice a few weeks ago in Backstage. It’s a play about 50 year gay men that reunite after many years. It’s called Steve. Well, when I read the characters descriptions I felt really right for many of the parts. What I am most proud of was that it was an Equity call, and being non Equity, the chances of me being seen are not all that great. However, the monitor at this audition was a really nice guy and he made sure all us “non Eq’s” got in. AND they seemed to like me. I know it’s a long shot, so I won’t say more. Just that today was an all around great day.
And tomorrow I get to sing and tell jokes. What could possibly be wrong! Ja ne!
June 30, 2015 - Tuesday
I’ve been trying to learn to juggle for over a year now. It ain’t easy. Let me tell you. Well at least not for me. I have three colorful soft leather balls that I bought last year in New Hampshire when I was doing Hello Dolly. Even though I’m not good at it, I still love them. I love the way they feel. Everyday I look forward to taking them out of the plastic container they came in. You guessed it, I refuse to give up. That is a big part of who I am. I don’t give up. I get bored with things, yes, that is true. But, if I perceive a challenge, I stay on it, and I work at it. So I practice, like a half hour each day since I’ve been up here in Cortland. I didn’t practice for bit in New York the last few months, but believe it or not, it was an intentional part of my juggling training. I thought if I walked away from it for a while, fully intending to return, I would be more relaxed and have better technique. That somehow the muscle memory would take over. Well, it didn’t. It was pretty much the same from where I left off. When I juggle two balls, I’m pretty good. Hardly ever missing. But when I go for all three, well, some throws I catch one, lot’s of time I catch two, but hardly ever all three. No matter. I keep trying.
While I was juggling just now, I had a thought. Hey - blog about it. Get all your thoughts on the subject down and work them out. Put that energy to even more productive and creative use. So here I am telling you……I can’t juggle! But, as I typed that, I smiled, no smirked actually. Because deep down inside I know that someday I will. That I will toss those three balls over and over again and never miss. It all comes down to believing. And I do believe. I believe in a lot of things, but most of all in myself. I think we have all keep trying to do the things we find hard, because it’s only in those small moments of success, when all three balls are caught that we progress and move to the next level.
The challenge is to not be afraid. Never be afraid to drop the balls. Ja ne!
June 27, 2015 - Saturday
Yesterday was a big day in our country. And I don’t mean that Donald Trump announced his interest in running in the Presidential race. He did that two weeks ago and four years before that and fours years before that…… I meant the US Supreme Court ruling that Gay, Lesbian, Transgendered folk, the whole lot of us, can now legally get married in all 50 States. Boy oh boy. I don’t think the enormity of this news has actually sunk in yet.
I’ve been an openly gay man since I was 15 and legally married in the State of New York since 2011. I came out in my High School days as Art and Design had a high percentage of gay and lesbian students. Well, maybe not lesbian. If they were there, they pretty much flew under the radar. Not sure why that was. The school would’ve benefited from a dodge ball team. Anyway, we had no problem being us and expressing ourselves. I’ve never had to hide my sexuality from anyone, well, yes, from my mom and day. But other than that, I was fortunate enough to be openly gay at every job I held. I guess I take a lot of that for granted and sometimes I need to put myself in the shoes of those that struggled or had a hard time accepting who they are. I know bullying and ostracization from friends and family can be devastating. I was spared that when I grew up. I was only in a fight once in my childhood and boy was I scared. After school as most fights were. I still remember where it occurred, in an alley behind the Radio Shack off Queens Boulevard. My opponent was Francis Quinn. Francis was a little spunk of a kid with white hair and pale eyes, my mom said he was an “albino”. I honestly don’t know what I did to piss him off. In fact that day he seemed to not want anything to do with the whole thing, he was just egged on by the others in the class. Anyway the whole thing must have lasted 5 minutes. No one won in the general sense of the word as I can recall, we just walked away and continued home. I never even told my parents. But shortly after that event, I did convince my family that I needed glasses. I had always heard that people with glasses didn’t get beat up. I can honesty say that strategy works as I haven’t been in a fight since.
I salute the 5 members of the Supreme Court that issued the majority opinion. I hope the other 4 will one day put their glasses on and see that this fight ain’t worth their misplaced disapproval. That there are bigger bullies to go after. I hope they grow to see that and learn that we are all equal. Ja ne!
June 15, 2015 - Monday
Today is our first day up at the theater. We have what’s called a “10 out of 12” day. We work 12 hours with 2 one hour breaks. Doing costumes, wigs, mics and full orchestra. Excited and looking forward to the day ahead.
On our day off yesterday I just basically hung around the house. I did a lot of work on The Take Out Guy. I put ALL the pages we have so far in order and in a binder and I sat in the laundry room and started at page one and worked through it with a pencil. Took a break and went with a few cast mates to Applebee’s for dinner. Their food is cheap! Just saying. I had a ton of stuff in the apartment to eat but wanted to get out of the house. Of course it managed to rain. I think it’s rained every day since we’ve been here. It alternates between hot blazing sun and torrential downpour. I am NOT complaining. DO NOT get me wrong. Just reporting the facts. An observation.
I was such in the mood to write this morning but now that I am staring at my Mac screen I don’t know what to say. It’s OK though. Because if you let yourself just go with it something does manage to pop out and get down on paper or computer. I can tell you that I have never really been more relaxed or at least can’t remember when I have been more relaxed as I have been up here in Cortland. We’ve done a lot of work on a HUGE show, we have 26 cast members, and it certainly did not seem hard or a difficult process. I am sure our great director had experienced a few bumps along the way, but if he did he never let them show.
The old saying “If you love what you are doing it isn’t work” is so very true. I never really understood that until I became an actor.
Each day here though reminds me a lot of my summers out in Lake Ronkonkoma with my Mom in our little Bungalow at 8 High Street. The air has the same fresh smell. The birds sound the same. There is strong memory that has returned to me and I am glad. Lake Ronkonkoma was always a wonderful time for me. As a kid I never thought those days would end. It’s nice to have them back for a few weeks up here in Cortland. OK - I’ll get off the couch now and start moving. I don’t want to keep my two room mates waiting while I get my act together. We don’t have to leave until 10:30, and it’s now 8:30, but two hours flies by. And there are three of us juggling for bathroom time.
I hope you find a memory today too that brings back a summer you once had. Maybe it’s a bird or a flower or the sound of an approaching thunderstorm. We can at times go back and yes, it’s possible to love what you do. Ja ne!
June 11, 2015 - Thursday
The Cortland air has really appealed to me and I am sleeping like a log every night. I have the “winda’s” (as my character McNair would say) wide open and the breeze is delicious (as Martha Stewart would say). However, that may not be too wise as my bedroom is on the ground floor and those two escaped convicts are still at large. It seems a worker at the upstate prison helped the two guys escape and she was supposed to pick them up on the other side of the fence but didn’t show up because she had a panic attack and went the hospital instead. Hollywood will have a field day with this one. Bradley Cooper, Johnny Lee Miller and Kate Winslet all have their next roles. I smell Oscars.
Today we have two runs of 1776. One at 10:30am - regular rehearsal and the next at 1PM - a designer’s run through so the scene, lighting and costume designers can see what’s going on.
On another front, I’ve gone back to work on The Take Out Guy. I started by sending Tim an email saying “Let’s get this thing finished!” I was inspired to get back to work on this by seeing the movie Spy the other night with my cast mates. It’s Melissa McCarthy’s new film and by golly it was funny. I laughed out loud a few times and that is an unusual thing for me. One of my cast mates insists I watch her other big hit Bridesmaids before I leave Cortland. He has it on his iPhone and we’ll plug it into the TV set and have a movie night. Anyway, back to what I was saying, my point being is I’ve started work again on Take Out Guy and really glad I did. After I sent Tim the email and he responded positively, my next step was to re-read all the material we had so far. I organized it in my computer and I’ll send it off to the local copy place to print out. I want to put it all in a binder, in order, scene by scene and see what’s missing. It will help me focus and I need that for sure.
Writing TOG has been an arduous process for me as 1) I’m not a writer and 2) I don’t know the rules and format governing screenplays. Tim’s great. He has done this many times before and knows how to do it. But I enjoy learning new things so I welcome the challenge. This all reminds me to call the local copy place now as it is 9:00am and I want to see if they got my file that I emailed them yesterday. I’d love to pick it up and hold it as a “tangible” sign of progress on TOG.
Hey - after I finish it up, maybe I’ll have the time to start that one about the two escaped convicts. Here’s the drill: they escape from prison - get picked up by the town’s local theater director and she puts them into her production of 1776 as members of the Congress. They get to hide out from the cops in the background of the ensemble and she gets two warm bodies to fill out her “under cast” production. High stakes comedy folks and I’ll see if Melissa McCarthy is available to play the town’s director! Ja ne!
June 8, 2015 - Monday
Today was our day off here in Cortland. I stayed pretty much around the apartment and really got into the groove of dorm life. For someone who never experienced “sleep away” college, living in a apartment with all the other actors is something new for me. As a kid I always wanted to go away to camp but my mother never let me. Heck, I never even had a babysitter when they went out to the Elks Club on Queens Boulevard. They dragged me along. At 10 years old I was sitting around a table listening to a Polka Band playing while Mom and Dad hit the dance floor and their friends smoked Camels and drank Scotch neat. They took me with them everywhere. Even the Republican Club on Woodhaven Boulevard. I remember sitting there on many a night tugging at my mother’s elbow saying “Can’t we go home yet?” Poking her with a Barry Goldwater pin.
Back to Cortland. So what happened today? Not much really. My one roommate, Lonnie, spent the afternoon working on an acrylic landscape painting in his room, quite nice of trees with a red white and blue theme in keeping with the 1776 spirit. My other roomie, David, got a call for an audition for Urinetown The Musical and he is in his room right now learning the song, something about Bunny Slippers. I told him I’d help him video tape it tomorrow so he can submit it to the casting agent. The three guys in the upstairs apartment had an afternoon movie party and watched something called Prisoners with Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhall that I came in on the tale end of. I caught up fast with the plot and spent an hour with them eating their Cheddar Cheese Popcorn. I went to the bank and got quarters for the downstairs laundry. Did laundry with two of the other guys in the cast. Swept the floor in my room. Basically hung out. Felt like I finally got to go to that “sleep away” college. Gosh, I haven’t hung out like this since 1980 when I was a houseboy on Fire Island. Felt real good to not have to be anywhere or do anything of urgency.
Oh yeah, I got addicted to this crime show on Netflix called The Killing. I’m up to episode 13 and can’t stop watching. It takes place in Seattle and it’s raining all the time there, so the mood of the show is dark and bleak. All the episodes so far are about one crime, the murder of this young 17 year girl found in a trunk in the lake. The show has so many twists and turns. Each time I think I figured out who did it they throw a wrench into the mix. I’m sure after I finish writing this chatter, I’ll sneak into my bedroom with a cup of coffee and watch another one.
Last thing for tonight - so these two guys escaped from a prison in a town called Dannemora up by Syracuse, not all that far from here. They escaped on Friday night by digging a tunnel 100 feet past the prison wall and came up through a manhole. Anyway, the lady in the coffee shop today said her Mom waited on them Saturday right here in Cortland at a place called Perkins. She didn’t recognize them until later when she saw their pictures on the news. Scary! They could be hanging out right around here as I type this! Locking our doors for sure tonight! Ja ne!
June 5, 2015 - Friday
So my first week in Cortland has been pretty great. Made a lot of new friends in the cast and while I am spending a lot of time alone, it’s nice to see their faces at rehearsal.
Getting out of “the City” has been really terrific. I slowed down a bit and everything isn’t so frantic. I’ve taken a few good shots of downtown Cortland and posted them on my Instagram. The Instagram phenomenon is still a puzzle to me. It’s the latest craze and it’s really all about photos as opposed to Facebook which is mainly pictures of people’s cats. When I opened my Instagram account (?) I didn’t come up with a catchy name. It’s just charlesbaran. I now see that part of the joy of Instagram is having a “handle”. The downside to that is that when people follow you, it’s difficult to know who they are. Their “handles” don’t often relate to their names or at least I don’t see the connection. My friend Preston is prestarcatcher, OK, got it. Then there’s cddthatsme for my new friend Caitlin who’s Abigail Adams in the show, and my favorite whatimeantwas who I have no idea who that is but is following me and occasionally likes my pictures so it’s cool. Oh yeah, there’s pencil_dust too which just sounds like something illegal.
I wanted to have a completely different identity on Instagram from Facebook, so for a while I was just posting photos of cool New York City street scenes that were slightly abstract. This was cool and lot’s of people, heck, who am I kidding, not lot’s maybe six tops, liked my photos. Nothing compared to some of the folks that I see who get like over 200 likes when they post a picture of themselves working out in the gym.
We are now rating our value as human beings on how many people like our posts. Sad isn’t it. I do have one Facebook friend that posts a picture of herself everyday, early, like 6am, with a catchy phrase that includes the day of the week and an alliteration - like Tumultuous Tuesday or Sultry Saturday. If she catches you on Facebook and you haven’t liked her post by 8am, she sends you a personal message asking you to “visit her post”. Should I bring a Coffee Cake? I mean really, have we become that obsessed with social media that we now hound people to like our posts?
I have to admit that I am guilty of wanting to know how many people like what I posted. I find myself checking my post throughout the day if I think it’s going to be a killer. Like when I get a new part in a show, or post a really cool photo of myself with a new baseball cap. But where will it end? Where are we headed? Will job applications one day have the question “On average, how many people like your posts each day”? Or will the number of friends you have determine whether the bank approves your mortgage.
It will be interesting so see how the future of social media plays out. I can’t think of anything further that can be down with it, but what do I know. I didn’t even see cell phones coming.
Back to rehearsal and being McNair! Ja ne!
June 2, 2015 - Tuesday
First day of rehearsal for 1776 turned out to be quite pleasant and now I am spending the evening sending out friend requests on Facebook to all the folks I met today at the theater. Cortland Rep is really first rate and well run. Kerby the Artistic Director takes real pride in the place and it shows. Our scripts were out at our places at the rehearsal table, he hung up research material from the period and the comments he made were well thought out and relevant. Basically it was great. Tomorrow will be a light day for me as I’m not called until 4pm. So what to do in Cortland………
There’s not all that much to do in Cortland, so I’ll have to find ways to kill the time. Of course I’ll work on my lines and my song, well, part of a song. I’m in Mama Look Sharp but only on the harmony line. I’m on stage with two 21 year actors (at least I think they’re around 21) so I’ll have to sit there and try not to feel like Colonel Sanders with two chickens. Speaking of chickens - today was the “Dairy Parade” on Main Street. It was at 6:30pm on a Tuesday. How random is that? Don’t most places have parades on the weekend? It was a big deal too. Lot’s of people got there early to put down their folding chairs and claim a space. The local police were also giving drivers a hard time to remove their parked cars from the parade route. There were two marching bands, baton twirlers and local officials waving from the backs of vintage convertibles. But for a Dairy Parade it was totally devoid of anything that reminded one of things dairy. I didn’t see a cow, or a milk truck or even marchers dressed in egg costumes. Just the usual parade stuff. Actually seeing all the people, and I mean there were a lot, made me excited to think that these were the same people that would come and see our show. They looked very appreciative and I’m sure they’d make a great audience. We’ll find that out in two weeks won’t we!
I really wanted to write more tonight, but all of a sudden I’m very tired. It’s 9:34pm. If I go to sleep now, I’ll wake up at 5:30am. But wait, I wake up everyday at 5:30am. I’ve given up trying to sleep late. If I do wake up early I’ll walk down to Main Street and see if the parade is still going on. The bystanders seemed to have settle in for the long haul. I’ll wear my yellow shirt and tell them I’m a stick of butter. Ja ne!
June 1, 2015 - Monday - On the road to 1776
Today is my last day in New York, well actually yesterday was. I leave this morning on an 11:30 bus to Cortland where I’ll be entering the days where cows roam freely, important issues that impacted thousands of people were being decide on in Town Halls, where there was no electricity and no running water, where you had to do your business outside in a shed with a hole in the ground, where laundry was done down by the river with a rock and a bucket. I’m not talking about rehearsals for 1776. I’m just saying I heard Cortland is a pretty rural place.
It’s great to live in NYC but also great to get out of it from time to time. Even though I am really a city boy, I love the outdoors. LOVE country air and bucolic scenes of blossoming trees, wild geese and road stands that sell fresh tomatoes and corn. The flea market in Chelsea somehow doesn’t quite compare to these things. Leaving the city now is perfect time. It’s just starting to heat up. The air is close, not a breeze, the streets and subaways are beginning to ferment and in another week the undeterminable stench of something undefinably rotten will be filling the nostrils of New Yorkers that pay $3,000 a month for a studio apartment for the privilege of breathing the same air as Madonna. Only she gets out of town in the summer and doesn’t smell it.
My adventure will begin in Port Authority where it is practically impossible to find your way around and civility does not rate high on tourist surveys. But I enjoy a good bus ride because I like to see where I’m going. In a plane, once you pass the clouds it’s anybody’s guess what direction you are headed. And by train well, train tracks are usually placed in the most un-scenic areas in every state.
I better get started. It’s 6:46am and I am finishing my coffee and will now head down to the laundry room to get a chore done that I put off all week. I need to pack at least a week’s worth of clothes as I hear it’s pretty hard to get a spot down by the local river and all the good rocks get snatched up early. Ja ne!
May 31, 2015 - Sunday
Had a great time last night Hosting Saturdays at Six at Room 53. So great in fact that I woke up with all this energy and felt like writing, writing, writing. These Saturdays at Six shows are turning into a real love fest. Everyone is warm and into supporting each other. The people I invite to perform are so talented that I sit there watching the show in amazement that I even know them. AND that they said yes when I asked them to sing! I’ll be gone for a few weeks now, doing 1776 up in Cortland, so on two dates Robin Kradles will fill in. I’m back on July 11 at the club.
One of the best parts of last night was meeting Caitlin Diana Doyle who will be playing Abigail Adams in 1776. I asked her to sing, knowing she’s be great (or she wouldn’t be playing Abigail Adams!) and she said yes and we got to met and chat. We then made plans to sit together on the bus tomorrow.
Ah - tomorrow scares me. So much to do between now and then. Well, not really. I am probably exaggerating. I just have to pack and do laundry. Cortland here I come! Ja ne!
May 27, 2015 - Wednesday
Well if you have all this stuff to talk about Charles - no one’s gonna get to hear it unless you sit down, open up the MacBook, and type it down!! There’s no easy way. Forget it. OK, so being the type of person that I am, doing sixteen projects at one time, I can only say that the wonderful amount of work and creative energy that has filled my life these past few months has been amazing.
I was called in to be an understudy in Fabulous The Queen of New Musical Comedies (or something like that) in the role of Sir Alfred Dooalot. I got to affect an over-the-top British accent and play drunk. What could be better than that. I did three performances, which led to me doing a reading this Friday of Marilyn Exposed. A new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. I’m playing all the major men in Marilyn’s life. Arthur Miller, Joe DiMaggio (I know it’s a stretch - or in my case it will be a Stritch) and Lee Strasberg. We are doing it “one, two, six” as they say. In a really hurry. In fact after I type this, I am playing the tracks over and over to learn the songs.
Saturday I have another great line up for Saturdays at Six at Room 53. It will be a blast. Last week’s was amazing! The audience is growing and people all seem to have a good time. I love hosting it. You practically have to yank the microphone out of my hand. In fact Doris Dear did exactly that this past Saturday after I asked her if she got the colorful ensemble she was wearing out of Bruce Jenner’s closet. OK - no Bruce Jenner jokes. He’s suffered enough being married to a Kardashian.
Monday I go back on the road (ha ha) and leave for Cortland Rep where I’ll be among the finest Congressional Delegates in a production of 1776. What better way to spend the 4th of July this year but in a production of a great musical about our great country. OK - no Bruce Jenner jokes……….
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone and keep moving forward because that bus don’t stop for no one! Ja ne!
May 10, 2015 Sunday - Mother’s Day
So Mom - how you doing? Things are OK with me. I've left my job and followed my dream. I know you're saying "oh no!" It's really all good and I've gotten good work so don't worry. We've sold the house. It was time. Got too hard to maintain and new owners are bringing your garden back to life. The world is different now - lot's of stuff you wouldn't recognize or understand. Gay men can marry now - I'm married. Kirk is amazing and the best thing that ever happened to me. Everything is on computer now - you would have had to learn. Terrorism is a fact of life and we all look over our shoulders now. We still go upstate and I see you there wherever I look. Sometimes I can smell your cooking when I use a pot or pan that you gave me. I started going to church again. I still look the same - maybe a bit thinner. Rest well and say hello to Dad. Love Chuck
April 11, 2015 - Saturday
Having a cheese danish and trying hard not to get the residue from my fingers on the keys as I type. I only eat half. I try eating half of everything. I call it the “cut it in half” diet. I think that if everyone tried it there wouldn’t be a need for all these fancy diets that everyone is hawking. When it comes down to it, loosing weight is simple - eat less. So the “cut it in half” diet goes like this. Bagel and Cream Cheese? Great. Eat half and save the other half for the next day. Two eggs scrambled?? Uh uh. One egg does the trick. With cereal I read the recommended portion on the box and then do less. So if it says a half a cup, I do a third. You get the idea. And it didn’t cost you $30 for a diet book.
At dinner I know it’s hard to not go back for seconds, and a lot of the time I’ll put the seconds on my plate and take a deep sigh and scrape half of them back in the pan. It works. Trust me.
I do suffer from binge eating. Oh yeah. I won’t deny it. I’ll take a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies and open it and after 20 minutes wonder where they went. But - it’s OK if I’m doing the cut it half diet on a steady basis.
Last night I was bad. I had Indian food. I love Indian food. I started to love it a while back. Not sure why. Basmati rice is my favorite rice. Curry is great. And all the appetizers are awesome. Somosa’s, Nan bread……….ain’t much I won’t try. But it is heavy in calories and adds weight to the torso. So today will be an extra diligent “cut it in half” day. Especially since I have a lot of great stuff going on and I don’t want to feel weighed down. I am Hosting a show at Room 53 called Saturday’s At Six. Steve the Owner was impressed with my gift of chatter when I filled in for Polly at her Open MIC a few weeks ago, so he gave me my own gig on Saturday’s. Before that I’ll be at The Metropolitan Room seeing Bobbie Horowitz’s show. Starts at 1pm. Busy busy. So without further ado let me say ja ne and get going. Remember - if you see that bagel - cut it in half!
March 31, 2015 - Tuesday - Last night in Queens
My Queens stay is coming to an end. Tomorrow I am back in the city. Can’t wait to sleep in my own bed again. Five weeks on an air mattress is well, five weeks on an air mattress. Nothing else can really be said about it. Let’s see - a lot has happened in the “hood” since I got here. The subway station, Grand Avenue Newtown, put in all these new turnstiles. That happened during the first week of my Queens stay. It was so long ago that the turnstiles are now actually dirty and bit old looking. Two blocks down a house had a huge fire and is basically destroyed. Sad. I walk past it everyday. It’s like a bad omen that I try not to notice. I just put my head down and speed up my step. The house across the street put in a new front door. They did it on the rainiest day possible. The new door was soaked by the time they got it installed.
Queens has the strictest recycling laws I ever seen. In the city I just put cans bottles in the one tub and papers in the other and I guess someone from the building takes them away properly. Here in Queens land you have to put everything in clear bags and don’t mix things up. Plastic in one. Cardboard and paper in the other. Trash in one. The bags are so clear you can see everything. If you throw something out in the wrong bag I hear the fine is a $100. So, as a result, for three weeks I didn’t throw anything out. I just stockpiled it in the little side room and hoped it would magically disappear. I was too scared the trash police would arrest me because an envelope got mixed up in the trash bag.
Even though I’m leaving tomorrow I am a bit sad that this will be the last time I’ll probably ever sleep on this block. It feels OK though. I needed to come back for this short time and leave the neighborhood the right way. I remember leaving when I was 19 years old. It was rushed and hurried as I had rented an apartment in a day that I had found on West 85th Street and couldn’t wait to leave and start my life. It wasn’t well planned. Like many things I do, and have done, it’s on an impulse. Now I’m saying goodbye a bit slower and with some thought about where I’m headed and what my next steps are. Almost 40 years had passed since I last slept on this block. Wow. Not sure what all that means. Too much too think about now so I’ll say goodnight. Ja ne!
March 22, 2015 - Sunday
I’ve been thinking that my last post was a “debbie downer”, so let me quickly update my blog on this beautiful spring Sunday to have it buried in my prior posts. I am still out here in Queens. Aside from the snow we’ve had as recent as Friday - it’s been quite pleasant and uneventful. In the past, when I’ve mentioned to people that my sister and I had a house in Elmhurst Queens, they would say, “Oh Elmhurst has gotten so bad. It’s so unsafe”. Well, I’ve been here three weeks now and I have to say it’s the quietest block. The people I pass on the street walking to the subway are all friendly, and always seem to be sweeping their sidewalks or walking their dogs. I didn’t see any signs of violence. No bullet holes on the wooden electrical poles. No broken Bud bottles in the gutter. The only hint of danger is this little terrier that snarls at me from behind a fence each day that I pass him. It’s basically the same neighborhood I remember but with new faces, all of them Asian. Yes, it’s become a very Asian neighborhood. I think Chinese. Although there is an Indonesian Restaurant by the subway that has good take out. And there is a great Argentinian Restaurant a few blocks away - although it’s closer to Corona. Plus Gino’s Pizza is no longer Gino’s. I heard he retired and moved to Florida and it’s owned by the Spanish guy that used to work for him.
Queens, of all the boroughs of New York is known as a cultural melting pot. More so than Brooklyn which has gotten gentrified to the point that if you don’t own a Skateboard and wear Vans you shouldn’t get off the L train.
I am happy to be back here in Queens. Each day I find something to do, or a street to walk down, that reminds me of my days here long ago. Twice I’ve been to the Supermarket where I used to shop with my Mom. Of course it’s a different name now and the aisles seem to have been reconfigured, although I’m not quite sure. In any case it’s nice to stroll up and down under the same roof that I strolled up and down under 35(?) 40(?) years ago. I can still here my Mother saying, “Chuckie, go get two tomatoes at the produce department”.
Today I’ll do some fun stuff - not Queens related. I am Hosting an Open MIC tomorrow night at Polly’s Follies at Room 53. Tonight, however, they are having a “Birthday Concert” honoring Stephen Sondheim, although he won’t be there. I don’t think Polly is that persuasive. I’ll go to that so I can say hello to the owner, Steve, and introduce myself and let him know I’ll be hosting tomorrow. We will have a good time. I’ve written two little songs especially for the night. And I’ve invited a ton of people. The regulars from all the other Open MICs.
Well, that’s all for now. Chuck Baran signing off from the land of row houses and discount stores and Indonesian take out with a fried egg on everything you order. Ja ne!
March 19, 2015 - Thursday
Ugh. Saw one of the worst plays last night. Won’t go into details as it’s not my style to bash something and bad mouth people’s hard work and efforts. But……really? It was a play about four whiny people, whining about their lives, how nothing was working out, (well it does sound like me sometimes doesn’t it?) but that’s not the point….and again……really? I don’t mind all the whininess, I guess, but it needs to be broken up a bit with something that makes you glad for someone, something. I couldn’t wait for the characters (not the actors - they were lovely) the characters to leave the stage. Each time one walked on I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. None of them had anything good to say. They was this minor plot, can’t even call it a plot, that gave title to the show about taking a pill that was part of a trial study to help women find sexual fulfillment. OK - maybe if you research a bit using that info you can find out what the show is, but If I were you I wouldn’t bother.
How do these shows get produced? So many great plays, with great stories and great characters never make it past a reading in a cheap rehearsal space, yet this got produced by one of the top New York Theater companies. Go figure.
Anyway - there’s no time to dwell on past wasted time. Just a lesson to be learned. Going forward I will take a second to find out what I am seeing before I commit to going. I rarely hit upon a klunker - only three or four times in my life, swear it, that it’s happened, but when it does…….
Today I have positive stuff to do. Like send back my contract for 1776 that I’m doing up at Cortland Rep this June. Oh, didn’t I mention that? No, I guess I didn’t! Well, so excited, to be doing a great play, with a great bunch of characters, with a story that something happens in - like getting our independence! And as I play McNair, the custodian of the proceedings, if just one of those delegates starts whining I will……………………………..!!! Ja ne!
March 18, 2015 - Wednesday
I have been staying in Queens while the kitchen on West End Avenue is being redone. I have set up “residence” so to speak on the second floor in the house next door to my Mom and Dad’s house, which was the house I grew up in. We’ve sold that house but my Sister and I still own this two family. We’ve decide it was time to sell this one too, and we will in the coming months, but the timing was right to move into the vacant apartment to avoid the chaos of renovation in Manhattan.
There are two bedrooms in this upstairs apartment, but the one I chose to put the air mattress in is the one that faces east and overlooks my Mother’s backyard. Each morning, as the sun is rising, the first thing I do is look out over her yard. The fence is the same. The cement patio that my Dad put in is still the same. My Dad even pressed my Sister’s handprints into the last completed square of cement he poured as if to permanently leave the Baran mark.
There’s even an old yellow three shelf serving cart that was ours that the new owners kept. It’s tucked in the corner of the patio against the wall of the house. The yellow cart was used each summer by my Mom when we ate outside on the patio, to try to escape the summer heat trapped indoors. “At least outside”, my mother would say, “there’s a breeze”.
The yard itself is quite different. Oh, the dirt is still there, but my Mother’s abundance of roses, marigolds, dahlia’s, zinnia’s and vegetables, ton’s of vegetables, are all gone. The new owners chose to rip everything out and start fresh. It’s probably good that they did this. My Mother’s garden had grown wild after my Mother passed away over 20 years ago. The tenants we had never quite gave it that special feeling my Mother gave it, although a few of them did try.
Looking over the backyard as I do each day of these precious three weeks that I am living here, I see everyone pass before me. Of course I see my Mother, and Father, I also see our dog Shan, a Chinese Pug that I didn’t quite care for back when I was a precocious boy, my Sister, the wedding photos we took in the backyard when she got married, our old baby blue Valiant four door car with the push button controls by the garage, the neighbors, Al and Bernice, the relatives, although I can’t recall if they ever came to the backyard. Maybe not. It was my Mother’s sanctuary and only the closest of family went back there.
I was uncertain of how I’d feel when I arrived here last week to begin my stay. I didn’t know if I’d start muttering to myself to “Get me the hell out of here”. I think a few people thought I would. Instead, this has been the most wonderful time. A time to really say goodbye to the house, the block and the neighborhood before my Sister and I sell this house and sever our ties completely with 53rd Avenue.
But when I pack up to leave next week, I’ll put a little dirt in a baggy and take it with me. This way my Mother’s garden will stay a bit closer to me while I continue on with the rest of my journey.
March 17, 2015 - Tuesday
Well, last month went by like a shot. So much happened. Let’s see…..well, last Thursday I had my show, my return engagement, at The Metropolitan Room. Recipes For Disaster! It was a great show if I have to say so myself, and very proud of how it turned out, and proud of Ben and the guys in The Dill Pickle Club Orchestra. So much fun. At first I sweated a bit not knowing how this show would do in comparison to my first one in November. But, Tom at The Metropolitan Room pulled me aside and said he liked it even better and encouraged me to do it a few more times. We shall see, we shall see.
Then, this past Sunday I Co-Hosted at The Salon for Food Glorious Food! Life Is A Banquet! It was a ball. The crowd of regulars were there and to my surprise, most of the songs performed were on theme. At Salon I’ve noticed that the ratio is 50/50 usually, but last night we hit it 80/20 I’d say.
Then, today, (I say today even though it’s 2:30 in the morning and I woke up from a nice sleep feeling rested and decide to write), today I did a reading of Company with Erin’s Actors-Own group. I was Peter. I filled in fro David Ballard who was supposed to be Peter but couldn’t make it. Anyway, Sondheim is always interesting and challenging and I am glad I got to do it! I worked on Peter’s song “Have I Got A Girl For You” and felt confident with delivering the goods. Thank you musical theater Gods!!!!
Last note for the night and then back to bed, I got cast in 1776 up at Cortland Rep. I go up June 1st and come back July 5th!! So excited about doing a summer show again. Last year’s Hello Dolly at Interlakes was so much fun.
OK - sleep will be coming up in a few minutes so that’s it for now. So great to be writing again. I miss you blog!! Ja ne!
February 12, 2015 - Wednesday
I guess it seems right that I’d be a New Yorker. I am a New Yawky kind of guy. I do New Yawky things. Several of these attributes come to mind as I have my cup of morning Joe. Here are a few to ponder………Going food shopping and over-buying and walking the six blocks home inch by inch - switching the bags in my hands every few steps (the New Yawky part is that the bags in each hand weigh the same so it doesn’t really matter. Stopping just gives you more time to run into someone you know on the street.) Waking up in the morning not by setting an alarm clock but by hearing your upstairs neighbor flush the toilet. Looking down at the ground as you walk block after block (not because you’re antisocial but because you need to dodge the dog poop that even with a pooper scooper law seems to persist.) Finding out what’s going on in the world by reading the newspaper over your fellow straphangers shoulder. Checking to see if a bus is coming whether or not you are waiting for one or just walking by the bus stop (got to monitor those bus schedules for future reference.) Not taking a cab at night unless the temperature drops below 15 degrees. Above that - New Yorkers walk! And my very favorite New Yawky thing to do……Doing a quick scan of a subway car as it pulls into the station to determine if there seems to be an odor problem (this one is really helpful and I recommend it to out-of-towner’s visiting. It’s saved me from many an unpleasant ride.)
I hope these traits of mine - and of many of my fellow New Yawkers - shed some light on our complex psychology. These are traits one is not born with but acquire over the years in order to exist happily in a city that tends to function as a giant obstacle course. Of course I wouldn’t change a thing. Well maybe install air fresheners on the 1 train. Ja ne.
February 10, 2015 - Tuesday
Once in a while, not every week, I’ll look at my smart phone and see I have voice message from a number I don’t recognize. For a brief moment, I get excited and fantasize that a casting director or agent is calling after seeing me at an audition or in a play or maybe even my videos on YouTube. But when I listen to the message it’s always something else. Like CVS calling me - a computerized voice telling me my prescription is ready to pick up, or Con Edison letting me know that power outages may occur due to winter storm warnings in the area.
However, recently I did get two emails about auditioning for two different plays. A casting director that I must have auditioned for before emailed me out of the blue with an invitation to read for a new play. That audition is tomorrow. Then Nick Minas, the director of the wonderful Stand Up Tragedy I did two years ago emailed me, well his assistant emailed me, asking me to audition for the play he is directing. That audition is next Monday. All this is a good thing of course. It means my efforts and work is paying off. Little by little. Step by step. Slowly I turn. What was that routine? I remember it was on a Lucy episode and I always laughed.
Ah - shortcuts. Abbreviations. I can just say “a Lucy episode” and you all know I mean I Love Lucy and not one of the lesser series she did later on like The Lucy Show or Life With Lucy.
I am chatting off the top of my head this morning, so I’ll wrap up. Time to get going. It’s a Tuesday and Tuesday’s are good days to be well, just Tuesdays. If you can, do something nice for a stranger today. I was told on Sunday that this week is national “random acts of kindness week”. So remember that as you get through your Tuesday. Ja ne!
January 30, 2015 - Friday
I’ve realized that with my infrequent postings on my blog I have lost my reader base. At one time I had three readers, all of them family members, but I guess they got tired of checking for updates and now it’s just me talking to myself. Which is OK because it’s kinda liberating.
This means I can write anything I want and not have to worry who or if anyone reads it. It does change things. When you write for other people, or knowing that other people will read it, I think there’s a little voice in your head that says, “What will someone think when they read that”. You are afraid to post anything that makes you sound depressed, desperate, indulgent, or just wacko.
Not that I intend to write anything along those lines today. But I feel like a new door opened up. Maybe I can be more open and honest on how I’m feeling day to day. Like saying how much I dislike the winter weather and would love to live in Florida. Well, that’s just lame. Talking about the weather is so not interesting. We all hate winter. Get over it CB.
What else, oh yeah, I had lunch yesterday with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We have a complicated relationship. Or at least I think we do. We are both actors and singers and basically at the same level. I always look to him for encouragement and approval. I know we shouldn’t do that. We should find personal satisfaction from within ourselves. But there are times when someone’s opinion does matter. When it’s someone you respect and think is talented in the field you are in. I guess you can call it peer acceptance. Acceptance isn’t quite the right word I was looking for, but if I think of it I’ll change it tomorrow. Or add it. Anyway, the lunch went well, and it was like old times seeing him. We spoke about our mutual fondness for each other and admiration. It made me feel good to tell him how I felt and that I sometimes felt a little ignored by him. And that he seems to put me in a little lower class than his other actor friends. Gosh all that sounds so needy, right? So self indulgent. But hey, like I said, I don’t have any readers, so I’m writing for myself.
Anyway, I must have done OK, because he said he respected me telling him all this and that most people wouldn’t. He ended up buying my lunch and asking me to help him hang up posters for his show in February at 54 Below. We walked around the streets on the Theater District going in and out of rehearsal studios and cabarets hanging up our respective show posters and cards. Two good friends side by side sharing a winter afternoon and moving forward. Supporting each other. Kind words and a smile. Some days that’s all it takes. Ja ne.
January 28, 2015- Wednesday
So many great things to tell you I feel like Molly Goldberg. I will be brief though because as typical with us New Yorkers, we are always …“out the door”!
First - on Sunday I sang “Square In The Social Circle” at The Metropolitan Room brunch open mic. I’m trying out new material for my upcoming shows in March and April. I thought this was a good song to sit on a stool and be, you know, conversational. Well, the dear and fabulous Marilyn Maye was in the audience and as she is an admirer of my work she always talks to me when she sees me at The Met. After the song was over and a while later, I bumped into Marilyn coming out of the loo and the first thing she said was “Honey, the song’s great for you, but get off that stool!” This, of course, is what you call free advice from a master. It’s like having Jimmy Carter help you with your thesis on Middle East Policy. I did chuckle to myself though after Marilyn spoke to me, because earlier in the week, Ben Krauss, my music director told me the exact same thing. He didn’t think it was a stool song. Ben, you were right. I didn’t listen. I will now.
The other bit of good, no, great news, was that Tanya Moberly asked me to Co-Host The Salon, (the best open mic in New York City incase you were wondering), on Sunday, March 15th. This is a huge honor and I am thrilled to be asked. I could go on and on about it, but for now, I’ll leave it at that because, hey - I’m out the door!! Ja ne!
January 19, 2015 - Monday
Yesterday was a day chock full of theatrical adventure and fun. I started the day with a tap class at Steps. My friend Nathan joined me and I think he felt it didn’t go well. He said he needed an even more basic class than “Basic”. I guess that means learning to walk in the tap shoes or something. I thought he did just fine, but I do understand the frustrations of being a beginner at something and wanting to learn quickly. I suffer from that too. I think it’s people who have that type A personality. We are over achievers. Funny think is, over achievers only hang out with other over achievers so we are constantly on the go. We never have time to just sit over a cup of coffee.
Anyway, after tap class, I had to run to the matinee of Helen of Troy New York. We gave another great show, full house, and with a little surprise for me. My friend Bjorn was in the audience with his friend and he had no idea I was in the show. He just found it on line and it sounded good. It was great to catch up. I hadn’t seen him since the production we were in of the Scottish play over a year ago.
Then to top off the night I sang at The Salon. I tried out my new Betty Hutton tune, A Square In the Social Circle. Was a big hit and the audience had some great laughs. Especially when I said I was afraid to take my shoes off because my feet would be brown from all the wet rain soaking through. Kinda gross but people really laughed.
Yes, we had a monsoon here in New York yesterday. A veritable deluge! But all the great creative stuff helped make the day go quickly and the push the winter blues back. On to Monday and a group reading of Ragtime. I get to play Henry Ford!! Ja ne!
January 17, 2015 - Saturday
“Ah, there you are” my website said to me as I opened my computer to post a few thoughts. “What do you mean there I am?” - I replied. “I have been here, doing things, keeping busy, working! What have you been doing for me, huh?” I asked my website. “Have you been sneaking into peoples computers, popping up on Google searches, trying to help me get more work, letting people know how I can entertain them, bring value to their theatrical projects??? Have you?? Have you? Huh - huh??” The website did not reply. It just stared back at me. “I thought not” I said. “You just hang out there and wait for me to do all the work. Why, oh why can’t you help and just write something yourself for once. Why do I have to think of everything.” “That’s because I’m you” said the website. “Oh” said I, taken aback. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
I then apologized to my website and said I’d make it a point to visit more often. Fill it in on places I’ve been, people I’ve met. We spent some time catching up. I told my website that I had a great first night of Helen Of Troy New York last night and we have a five week run ahead to look forward to. I told my website that I got my postcards printed for my new Metropolitan Room show today and they look great. I told my website that I had a few auditions lined up. I mentioned that a friend had sent me a great Jacques Brel song that I am going to do in my Metropolitan Room show and that I was going to send a thank you email to her right after our visit.
“So nice to see you website! Let’s have coffee tomorrow before I go to my tap class!” The website seemed to glow. A deep inner glow. I think it was because the battery on my MacBook Pro was fully charged, but I’d like to think the website was happy. No one likes to be neglected. We laughed, we hugged. I’ll be back soon I told my website.
Ah, the satisfaction of getting something done. Making a start. No matter how small. Of fulfilling a promise. A promise made to oneself. Keep moving ahead but always remember to look back. Because back is where the people that matter are. And my website. So when I walk ahead to the theater tonight I’ll remember that. Ja ne.
January 5, 2014 - Monday
It’s 2015 and I’m up to my old tricks. Well practicing them at least. I picked up my juggling balls and my ukelele after a few months and determined as I am, I am making progress. So between juggling, ukelele and tap dancing, if Vaudeville makes a come back, I’ll definitely be ready. It’s great to learn new things and keep the mind going. I always say to myself that one day I’ll wake up and enjoy doing absolutely nothing. But I know that ain’t gonna happen. I wouldn’t know how to do that.
Came home today to find a very pleasant surprise. A box of my favorite treats, “date pinwheels” sent from Kirk’s mom. I think I’ll add magician to my resume along with the juggling, ukelele and tapping because I’ll make those “pinwheels” disappear pretty fast. They certainly won’t see the weekend that’s for sure.
In two weeks I’m doing a little workshop reading of Ragtime. I’m in this new group, well the group isn’t new, I’m new in it, that meets once a month and does an “on book” musical reading of a show. Last month, my first one, we did Les Miserables. It was so great because 1) I am getting to know the many musicals that I didn’t ever learn or see, 2) I am doing it with many great fellow performers, many from prior Broadway shows, 3) it’s an exercise in learning something quickly. In Ragtime I’m playing Henry Ford. After I heard the song this morning I said to myself that Erin, the gal that runs the group and casts it, really knows what she’s doing as it’s a great comedy song and I can’t wait to do it for the group.
Friday I start rehearsals for my new show at The Metropolitan Room “Recipes For Disaster”. We’re booked twice, March 12th and April 23rd. Exciting stuff happening in 2015.
So time to pick up my uke and do some strummin’ before the night gets away from me. Up down up down up down C G B C G B Ja ne!!
January 1, 2015 - Thursday
Welcome to the new year! I wanted my first blog for the new year to be a doozy. A literary masterpiece, a journalistic achievement surpassing anything that was written in the last 50 years. So - uh - where do I start? Maybe I’ll just tell you what I did last night and leave it at that. Seems less stressful then trying to compete Michener and Faulkner.
Well…..first on the agenda for New Year’s Eve, spent in our apartment on West End Avenue, was an episode of The Andy Griffith Show. We started at the beginning where Aunt Bee comes to live with Andy and Opie. Opie doesn’t like her and on top of that, his parakeet Dickie flies away because Aunt Bee leaves the cage door open. Stupid woman. Aunt Bee decides to leave and return to her lonely life in some unnamed place when Opie has a change of heart. He stops her from leaving telling Andy “We have to let her stay. Where else would she go? She can’t do anything right.” I paraphrase but you get the point.
Next up was A Streetcar Named Desire from our DVD collection. We watched the whole thing, start to finish. Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando and of course the fabulous Kim Hunter. It is a brilliant film and totally riveting. The perfect thing to watch on a New Year’s Eve. Oh and don’t forget Karl Malden. I always like him.
Exciting crazy New Year’s are a thing of the past. Seeing a new year start in the quiet of your home is a special way to start the year. No madness, no running around, no noisemakers being blown in your ears, no half filled glasses to wash the next day. It’s good to think back on the past year - what went well, what you’d like to do better.
Highlights for me were -
Songs For A New State of Mind - The Metropolitan Room Show - November 20 - it was a sold out night and I got invited back for two more shows!
Hello Dolly - Interlakes Summer Theatre in Meredith, New Hampshire - loved playing Horace Vandergelder - a role I would have never thought of doing!
The Home - Planet Connections Festival - I was nominated for Best Actor!
Juan and Emmett - Ivy Theater Production - OMG - how cool is it to play the same role in three different productions over the past two years!
Saint Valentines Massacred at Sophie’s - what a wild night that was. So great to do my first full show with a band! Sold out the place!
Uncle Giff’s Christmas Special at the Gene Frankel Theatre - what a wonderful week with a talented bunch of performers. It was so inspiring I started taking tap classes!
Water Cooler Madness - a web series that I am so excited to see! My character, Sam, was so much fun to play! Loved it!!
I hope 2015 brings these kind of terrific projects. I’m already on a good start with Helen of Troy New York at The Medicine Show Theater starting in two weeks. And I’m back at The Metropolitan Room in March and April.
For some reason the lyrics from a Rolling Stones song just popped into my head and it seems appropriate to sum up my past year. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you will find, you get what you need. Ja ne and a happy 2015 to you all!
December 31, 2014 - Wednesday
I wanted to get one last entry in for 2014 before we say bye bye to the year. This has been quite a year and I’d like to sum it up in one word. Whoooooshhhhhh!
Gosh - things moved so fast and so much happened. I can’t keep it all straight. Ever have that problem? Things you think happened in 2014 actually happened two years before but everything seems like yesterday.
Case in point. Last night I got meet one of my favorites performers, personalities and all around cool gal Sandra Bernhard. Now I’ve been following her for years and have seen many of her shows. We caught her show at Joe’s Pub last night on a whim. I knew she was in town, but like I said, so much goes on that I thought we’d miss it for lack of time. Well not. We got tickets same day. Last two seats, the worst in the place. One seat was behind a pole and the other, no kidding, was a stool next to the waiters stand. Truth. Not a lie. The hostess, so nice, her name was Jersey, took a shine to us, and felt our pain, and said “Hey, would you like to sit in the sound booth upstairs, VIP section?” Well, it doesn’t take a fool to know when someone is going out of their way to do something extra nice, so we jumped on it. Saw the show bird’s eye, over looking the stage and sitting with the sound and lighting guys.
Sandra rocked. Always does. I love her style, her way of throwing out a bon mot, tossing it to the audience and moving on to the next thought that comes to her mind. Rare gift to handle a crowd the way she does. It was a master class in performance let me tell you.
After the show, things got better. She was in the lobby signing her CD’s, DVD’s and T-Shirts (that I really didn’t love). I bought a CD knowing that she probably wouldn’t care to sign my last week’s copy of the Village Voice, so I coughed up the 20 bucks. It was worth it cause Kirk caught a great photo op of the two of us. I put it on FaceBook within 5 minutes of being home. 52 likes so far.
Going back to my main point of things moving so fast, it is hard to believe that I’ve seen her perform so many times over the past 20 years. Seeing her last night was like seeing all those shows at once and as if they all happened this year. I think of time being a continuum of moments and if we retraced the moments we’d be back to where we started. This kind of thing fascinates me but scares me too. I want time to slow down, yet I’m excited for what lies ahead and can’t wait to find out what will come. Living in the moment is the hardest thing to do.
Right now all I can think about is the diet I am going on tomorrow. Maybe if I slow down I won’t eat so much. Moving at a New York pace makes me hungry - for more experiences like meeting Sandra Berhard in the lobby of Joe’s Pub on the day before the new year starts. It is a lucky thing to have these moments. It is not a lucky thing to forget when they happened! 2008, or 2003? The dishwasher is how old? We just bought it! Huh? Ja ne!
December 26, 2014 - Friday
Was the day after Christmas and here in our place, I’m putting away presents and still feeding my face……..
I did have every honest intention of putting a Christmas message up here on Christmas day, but rushing around yesterday morning to wrap the final presents for our journey out to Long Island and making sure that we caught the 1:12PM to Ronkonkoma prevented me from turning on the computer and typing away. But here I am today to wish my readers a belated Merry Christmas.
For today’s entry I feel like ranting. Something I never do. My target - Lincoln Center. Now, to begin my rant, I want to say that I am not a person that goes over board decorating for the holidays. We put a few merry Elves around on the bookshelves and display a couple of the holiday cards that have a special design or maybe some cheesy extra glitter. I do love cheesy decorations. But I am a firm believer that here in New York, places that are revered and that are destinations for both tourists and New Yorkers, have an obligation to dress themselves up a bit when it comes to the holiday. I know it’s hard to compete with Rockefeller Center, Saks and Macys but hey, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
So it was with great dismay that I discovered in the late afternoon on December 23rd that Lincoln Center had not one decoration up in the plaza. Zip. Nada. Not a tree, not a wreath, not a string of garland. I think I saw a piece of tinsel but it must have blew across the street from Bed Bath and Beyond. What’s up Peter Gelb? What’s up New York City Ballet? What’s up New York Philharmonic? I know arts organizations are always strapped for cash, but with all those creative minds at work you’d think they could have come up with a fantabulous way to make the plaza at Lincoln Center Plaza a winter holiday wonderland. Here are my suggestions for what it’s worth:
1) On the twelve days of Christmas leading up to the 25th, have a different artist perform on the balcony of the Met. One night Renee Fleming, one night Yo Yo Ma, one night Joshua Bell etc. Not much, maybe two pieces or songs each. Fill it out with some Carolers or the Gay Men’s Chorus (heck, they’d show up in a heart beat).
2) Have a tree competition between the Met Opera House, Avery Fisher Hall and the (I sill choke when I have to say it) David Koch Theater. That could be a lot of fun. Each theater could try to out do each other and display their tree on their respective balcony. I’m sure each year it would grow and grow and the trees would get more outrageous. Kinda like the Broadway Bares competition.
3) Have a craft fair in the plaza with hand made items from each of the 50 states represented.
4) Have a craft fair in the plaza with many different countries represented.
5) Each of the 50 States have a competition to send their best Marching Band (or Chamber Orchestra or Chorus) to New York to perform in the plaza for the twelve days of Christmas. Three performances a day for 12 days just about covers all 50 States.
I’m leaving it at 5 ideas. Very solid ideas if I have to say so myself. I toss down the gauntlet to you, readers of of Chuck’s Chatter to come up with others.
May your holidays in the years ahead be filled with good times, good friends and good ideas to spread the love and joy. Ja ne!
December 23, 2014 - Tuesday
With Christmas only two days away, and with preparations yet to be made, I have found time this morning to update my blog. Sometimes small wonders do exist.
My five show run of Uncle Giff’s Christmas Special ended on Sunday. I have to say that of the numerous projects I was involved in this year, Uncle Giff’s ranked high on the list. I had such fun with the cast, Gianfranco Settecasi, and Stephanie our Stage Manager. It was such a hoot and fun to play such over the top comedy. I had enjoyed it so much that I even went back to tap class!
My next project up is Helen of Troy New York at The Medicine Show Theater on West 52nd Street. A 1928 Kalmer Ruby musical rarely if ever done. Barbara Vann had pretty much cast it when I got involved, so I am playing all the “odds and ends”, bits, solo parts in group songs, stuff like that. I am pleased. I think it’s a rare gem of a show and happy to be involved in anyway I can with Barbara at the Medicine Show. They do great work. I am looking forward to our five week run which starts on January 15th.
I am starting to reflect back on 2014 and all the things I did, places I went and people I met and while it was a great year I felt there were still lot’s of things left unaccomplished. So I’m moving my two main goals forward to 2015; getting my Equity card and getting an Agent (or a Manager). I know these are realistic and will just require further perseverance but I am determined and I shall succeed.
Oh - before I sign off - I want to make sure I mention that last week I did a 15 minute stand up routine at my old Company’s Holiday Party. I basically roasted the firm the and owner, David Kleinberg. I had a ball and the jokes went off better than I had expected. After David had made his little annual speech at the party, thanking everyone for their efforts, I interrupted the moment by coming on with a tray and an apron asking “Who ordered the decaf skim latte?” Well, everyone roared. It was uphill from there. David hasn’t gotten to see me in one of my shows yet, so it meant a lot to me to have him see what I could do. To wrap up it all up and put a button on it, I sent him a “Thank you” note this week with a PS that read “Book me early for next year, my rates are going up.” Ja ne!
December 12, 2014 - Friday
Ho Ho Ho!!! Ok - when the going gets tough - the tough get tapping!! That’s right folks. In an hour I am heading to Capezio’s on Amsterdam Avenue to buy a pair of tap shoes and then heading right to Steps on Broadway to take my first tap class at 11:30. Being in the cast of Uncle Giff’s Christmas Special has inspired me! Many, if not all, of the cast are great singers and dancers and there is a tap number in it that makes me want to dance each time I see it in rehearsal.
If the truth be told, however, today will not be my first tap class but a continuation of my training after a rather long hiatus. 42 years to be exact.
I took tap at the Woodhaven Boulevard Music Academy on Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens. My teacher’s name was Miss Helen, no last last name that I know of. Miss Helen, back then, was probably north of 70. I remember she wore a short pale pink chiffon dance skirt with a black leotard top. We danced to 45 records. One of them was “Goody Goody”. I took a private class. Immediately after my class was over, all these girls ran in for a group class. No boys. The girls would check me out a giggle.
I loved that class. I don’t have a clear memory of why or how my lessons ended, or the reason for stopping. Back in my youth I started and stopped many things, piano lessons, water color painting, model building, stamp collecting, baton twirling. OK - I’ll admit it - I suffered from thinking I should naturally succeed at something after doing it for a week. Truth be told right? At 14 I was probably pissed off that I was not offered the lead role in the national tour of No No Nannette tapping alongside Ruby Keeler, so I quit my lessons in a huff. Just guessing that’s how it ended. Quitting things in a huff was something I did very well back then. That was something I naturally excelled at.
Anyway - back to tap it is. I will honor Miss Helen’s memory today and tap my heart out for her. I won’t quit in a huff. I’ll stick with it. Sticking with it is something I’ve been doing a lot better these days.
May the sounds of happy feet tapping fill your ears today and give you the crazy rhythm to make you want to go out there and pick up something you left off 42 year ago. A quilt, a collage, a long forgotten passion, a misplaced old project collecting dust in a box, or just a letter to a friend that you never put a stamp on and mailed. Just remember postage has gone up! Ja ne!
November 30, 2014
Well, well, well. I’ve been away for a while. Incase you were worried, all is good, great in fact. I’ve been on so many wonderful projects that I haven’t had time to update my blog properly the way I want to. I mean, it’s no sense rushing or writing something silly or uninteresting.
Anyway - I am back! Just in time for the holiday season right?
My days were so full that everything started to creep up on me. Remember a time, before computers and cell phones, when everything was manual, hard copy, tangible? I saved everything. My mom saved everything. Our basement was packed. We had stuff, lot’s of stuff down there. In the attic we had our Christmas decorations that were pulled down the week after Thanksgiving. I loved that day. Eventually we ran out of space. The basement was full. Cabinets were full. The garage was so full the car didn’t fit.
So today, I got a message on my iPhone that my storage was full. Huh. Then I turned on my computer and it told me my Dropbox was full and I could “purchase” more space. My voice mail is full too and I have to delete some messages before I can hear the friendly voices of my family and friends. So incase anyone is wondering what to get me this Christmas, maybe it’s more space. Of the cyber variety. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn how to delete.
Have a great day everyone and ja ne!
October 7, 2014 - Tuesday
Back in New York from a few days up in New Hampshire. LOVED it all. Stayed with Martha and Mark at their lovely house on the lake. I didn’t hear any loons this time. Maybe they’ve all gone back to Times Square.
Had my first rehearsal for Juan and Emmett via FaceTime. That was a unique experience. They could all see me I’m sure, but their camera was pointed at only one actor, so for the times that he wasn’t speaking I was watching him follow along on his script. The other actors were just voices coming from either side. It went well though and as it was only a reading we didn’t have to make it a full out rehearsal with heavy drama.
Got my new iPhone today. Now just have to figure out the new features. Why do they have to change things!!!! Ja ne!
October 2, 2014 - Thursday
OK, not a long post just a quick note from Meredith New Hampshire, where I am back in town to do a Kander and Ebb review this weekend at Interlakes. I drove 6 hours with two great guys in the car, Adam Tilford (our musical director ) and Kenny Green, a terrific performer also in the show.
SOOOOO tired - so I’m turning in. Tomorrow we rehearse and Saturday we open. Looking forward to a fun and wonderful weekend - New England style! Ja ne! xxoo
PS: The leaves are lovely!
September 29, 2014 - Monday
Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that make your day. Yesterday I won a prize at the Open Mic at The Metropolitan Room. I won a CD. As usual they had a little trivia game at half time. Only three questions. But always three questions I never know the answer to. Yesterday, one of the questions was “Who introduced the song IT’S NOT WHERE YOU START IT’S WHERE YOU FINISH” in the musical Seesaw?” Well… this was….finally….one I knew. My hand shot up. (Susan Winter the host and MC is very particular about raising your hand - I learned this the hard way from the very first Open Mic when I tried - and failed - to answer a question.) Anyway, I was surprised to find my hand was the only hand up! Imagine - only my hand in a room full of mostly over 40 year old show folk. Susan said “Yes, Charles?” And I stood up, relishing my moment because I knew my answer was right. Bellowed for all the room, heck the world, to hear TOMMY TUNE! I even did a little twirl to cap it off. Susan yelled “Coooooo-rrrect!!” So I go the CD.
I never win prizes. AND - remember - it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish! Ja ne!
September 27, 2014 - Saturday
Two of my most favorites things in the world are the Florida Keys and films with Bogart and Bacall. So when the two are combined as they are in “Key Largo” I am in tropical heaven. Last night, after returning home from my friend Sophia’s going away party in a Karaoke bar on Avenue A, I needed a bit of unwinding. So I popped in my DVD of Key Largo and watched the first 20 minutes. I love those black and white films, especially when the contrast is turned up high as it is in Key Largo. Occasionally I get a yen for the Keys and the feelings have once again come upon me. Maybe a trip is in store for 2015.
Got my hair cut yesterday with my barber. His name is Roman. He’s a young Israeli guy not big on the charm. He mumbles and I can never understand him. Plus he is always on his cell phone. He must get 4 or 5 calls during the course of my cut. I feel like saying something to him but I don’t. Somehow I get the feeling (although I don’t understand a lick of what he is saying to the person on the other end) that those calls are very important to him. He just grunts and agrees a lot. Sometimes he gets heated and yells into the phone and hangs up. It’s those times I worry most because he’s got a scissor in his hand and it’s hovering somewhere over my left ear. Like I said, not a charmer. For Hanukkah I’m going to get him a personality. But I love my haircut, always, and he always does what I tell him. I see him once a month. It’s these little routines in life that give a day “personality”. He may not have it, but my Friday sure did. Ja ne!
September 25, 2014 - Thursday
There are two things in life worth doing; following your dream and exercising. Sometimes you can combine the two. Here’s how you do it.
Start the morning by going to the far reaches of the Bronx carrying a heavy bag full of costumes / props for a shoot for the web series The Demo Guy. (2 hours)
Grab a banana at deli
Hop back on the 2 Train downtown to Nola Rehearsal Studios for rehearsal for the Kander and Ebb review still schlepping the heavy bag. Sing and dance(?!) (4 hours)
Grab second banana
End the day by singing at Dan Manjovi’s open mic; note to self - hide heavy bag in the back of the room. (2 hours)
Come home with Chinese take out and a slice of banana cream pie.
This routine is guaranteed to keep you in top physical shape AND save you 80 bucks a month at the gym. Ja ne!
September 24, 2014 - Wednesday
Today I’ve been thinking about shortcuts. I’ve never been a person to use shortcuts and I’m not quite sure why. I tend to do things the long way. Everything in fact. Maybe if you are reading this you will relate to what I’m going to say, because I’m convinced there must be others out there exactly like me. In fact I’m hoping I’m not alone.
Here are some of my examples of doing things the “round about” way. When addressing a letter I tend to spell out the entire name of the state, for example, Illinois rather than Il. Although as I type this I can’t recall if I ever sent a letter to Illinois in my entire life. Anyway, if I did I’d be sure to spell that one out, because I’d worry that the post office worker wouldn’t read my Il properly. They may think it’s the roman numeral 2, or worse yet two i’s and wonder where the heck to send my letter. I also tend to spell out the words “street”, “avenue” and most definitely “boulevard”. Besides, I’m not quite sure what the abbreviation of boulevard is. Is it “blvd” or “boule”?
In the subway station near my apartment I tend to get out on the other side of the station and walk around. I think that’s because I don’t like the revolving bar thing. I always worry it’ll jam and I get stuck in subway limbo and wait forever for a subway worker to free me. This fear is not entirely unfounded. Subway workers are becoming more of a rare sighting these days. Kind of like pay phones and cassette recorders.
Another example of my doing things the long way is when I cook. I need ALL the ingredients before I’ll even consider starting. No substitutions for me. Many people are very good at that and I envy it. Their recipes come out prefect regardless whether they use safflower or canola oil. This inability to substitute ingredients has resulted in a spice rack in my apartment with lots of ancient bottles of things like Cream of Tartar and Mace that I used once for a recipe 15 years ago. And what’s worse, I refuse to throw them out because I may need that Mace again. You never know. I wish the spice companies would figure out how to sell customers just a “pinch” of something. That would elevate this problem for me and give me a few extra inches of counter space.
Anyway, musing on this topic this morning at an ungodly hour, (I won’t even tell you what time I am typing this), has made me want to tackle my avoidance of “short cutting” my way through life and try the easy way once in a while. Next time I write a letter, I will force my pen to write NY or CA. I will. Promise. However, I draw the line there. If I do send a letter to Illinois, I will still spell that one out - for obvious reasons, well at least obvious to me. Oh - by the way - a big Wednesday hello to you Mom in OH and hope this gave you a chuckle. Ja ne!
September 24, 2013 - Monday
I swear the Addams family lives upstairs from me. I never see anyone from apartment 4D - only hear stomping around, usually at the wrong times. Like 6:30 am when I’m trying to wake up with a cup of coffee and enjoy the peace and quiet of morning. I’ve decided it’s Cousin It scurrying from closet to closet in that apartment. Only in a place like New York can you live for 20 years in the same building with people and never see them. It’s true. My neighbor Nan lived across the hall from me and we never opened our doors at the same time.
Now that fall is here it’s pumpkins pumpkins and more pumpkins. And the dreaded mums. I hate mums. To me they signify the end of summer. I like daisy’s and iris, and all those summer flowers that grow in 90 degree weather. Mums, with their dark colors and shades of rust and deep purple mean cold days are ahead, better hunker down. My thoughts have already turned to next spring, and if I keep those thoughts in mind I might just be able to breeze through December, January, February and March and not notice them.
Rehearsal starts this morning for Interlakes, the Kander and Ebb review. I love first days of rehearsal. So much fun to meet everyone, see old friends. I better close this laptop and get ready. I just wanted to say hello to all of you. Happy to see a new week and a still a warm day. Hope the sun is out where you are! Ja ne!
September 19, 2014 - Friday
Keeping abreast of the latest world news has always been a challenge for me. I have good intentions of reading the papers, but life happens. Today, on Facebook, a few people posted comments about Scotland but didn’t really explain what happened over there. So I dug around and found out that Scotland was trying to secede from the United Kingdom. I didn’t even know they were trying to. I always thought the Scots were happy campers and liked the status quo. They didn’t seem like complainers to me. Huh. I wonder who else is trying to secede that I don’t know about. Is Maui trying to secede from Hawaii? Is Mykonos trying to secede from Greece, or worse still are the Hamptons trying to secede from Suffolk County? (actually that would be a blessing - they can pick up the whole bunch out there and move ‘em 30 miles off shore) Hey - maybe Disney World will secede from Florida. After all they do have their own currency.
For many years Staten Island has been trying to secede from New York City and I am all for it. Staten Island gets short shrift as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t feel like a borough of New York. I don’t think our Mayor has ever been there. It’s so darn far away and takes hours to get there. Tourists never go there. I can’t think of one attraction Staten Island offers, can you? The Bronx has a zoo, Brooklyn the Botanical Gardens and Queens, well at least you have to drive through it to get to Jones Beach. But if Staten Island secedes they’ll be free to get their own attractions. Maybe they can dig a crater and boast they are the site of a UFO landing. Or how about if they manufactured some obscure product like citronella candles and they could boast that they were the citronella capital of the world! That would be cool, plus there’d never be any mosquitos so it would be another reason for people to visit.
I think I should be thinking less about seceding and reading more world events. I know there are plenty of things going on that I have no idea are happening. Sometimes however, it’s easier to watch reruns of Dick Van Dyke then try to understand world politics. Ja ne!
September 18, 2014 - Thursday
Sitting down and letting some thoughts set down at 9:30 on a Thursday night. It’s a hard thing to do, as I said before, to keep your ideas and thoughts organized and fresh so that something, anything, that’s interesting comes out. I often try to think about what happened in my day that might be worth writing about. Did I see something odd, funny, unusual or even unsettling that I want to write about? Let me think about today……..nope, nothing. I live in one of the biggest cities on the planet, and I can honestly say I did not see one strange thing on my travels today.
I did go to a neighborhood I don’t usually travel to. I went up to 130th Street in Harlem to Adam Tilford’s apartment to rehearse the songs I’m doing in the Kander and Ebb Review in New Hampshire. I was surprised how fast I got there. It does amaze me that in New York, you really can get someplace in 20 minutes if you catch all the subways just right. It was a beautiful sunny morning when I got off the train at 125th Street and I did see lot’s of local street life activity. People out on the street, just enjoying the sunshine and having coffee. I noticed a really nice restaurant that specialized in southern cuisine, fried chicken and cajun rice. That sounded great but it was only 10am so I didn’t try it out.
After rehearsal I went to 34th Street and found an equal amount of street life. So many people in this city and yet each of us are uniquely individual as we pass each other by. Sometimes I think of all the times I have walked by Macy’s in my life. This huge building that has been there for so long. My mom took me there. I went there a zillion times over all these years. Also, it’s funny how we depend on landmark’s like newsstands and coffee shops to give us a sense of place. When someplace closes it feels odd, like New York isn’t right.
The past few weeks I did feel like New York wasn’t right. It had something to do with Joan Rivers dying. It all felt wrong somehow. When she died I felt like we should all pack it in and leave New York. She was a New Yorker and her not being around made it feel like New York had died too. I felt this way when Andy Warhol died years ago. I know these feelings will pass, but for a few weeks it will seem odd. Like something is missing. We’ll move on. New York is all about moving on. Everything changes - except Macy’s I guess.
September 16, 2014 - Tuesday
Wow - new and improved stuff on my website today. Added my Dolly photos, updated the news page and finally updated my resume too. Glad to get all that done. I’m trying to stay focused about the November show as I know it will sneak up on me. I got half way through my script and stopped! When I am rehearsing with Ben, it’s so funny, I get to that part and all my patter stops. He said
“What’s wrong”? And I said, “Nothing, I just haven’t figured out what to say”! I have a nice and quiet (ha!) weekend coming up to knuckle down. Going to Smallwood.
When I think of funny things to say I jot them down on scrap paper or the back of a book, or put it in my “notes” app on my iPhone. So when I write I am always rummaging through everything to find that special line I thought of a week ago. It’s quite comical in itself and I should film it and put it up behind me on a screen at The Metropolitan Room “Charles getting ready for his show”.
I am certainly not in a hurry to get out of the house today. In fact if I could I’d sit here all day and type. Sometimes it just feels so right. Like now. My energy is on a roll. OK - I’ll pull out the umbrella and get this “home boy” to venture into the the unknown wilderness of Manhattan. Something is out there today just waiting to be discovered………Ja ne!
September 13, 2014 - Saturday
7:37AM - Writing something interesting each day that holds the attention of the reader is certainly a challenge. It's easier to just not do it. The way I look at it is I have a bunch of words and half formed sentences bouncing around in my head which by all means is average in size. I don't know, maybe 7 inches wide? I never measured it. Hat sizes confuse me. That's why I wear baseball caps now. They're adjustable. I'm looking for a baseball cap with ear flaps so I can wear it in the winter. I know I'll look like a beagle but most people you see in New York resemble some form of animal variety so I'll fit right in. But hey, I digress. What was I talking about?
Oh yes, creative writing. The trick is to let it flow. Imagine you are a leaky faucet in the kitchen and each drip, each drop, each drip drop is a word, two words, an idea. Put that stopper in the drain and let that water fill up the sink. Before you know it you'll have a story. Well, maybe.
The story I am writing today ain't much of a story. It's a little more than a thought, but hopefully one that kept you reading until this point. If so, my self made exercise is completed and I've succeeded. I call the lesson "How To Write Somethin' About Nothin"! Now if I can only work that magic on my checking account I'd have it made.
I will save this little blurb now and before I post I'll shower, eat some Special K with a banana, but on something that isn't camouflage to drive out to my cousin's memorial luncheon at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho - easy to get to thank you Mapquest - and let the matter settle. I'll see if the words I've strung together deserve to be read by someone other than myself. I'll let you know. Shortly. Ja ne!
9:44AM - They do
September 12, 2014 - Friday
OK, so I woke up this morning thinking about good ways to start my entry in today's blog. I thought of writing "Lot's of great stuff happening today" and I stopped myself and said what?? That is so ordinary and a boring way to start an entry. Be creative! Let people know what you're doing today, but don't be so obvious about it. Sneak the information in each sentence. Don't just come out and say that you're meeting your friend Joe this morning for breakfast. Let it be part of a greater thought.
Yes - this sounds like a good way to go and an overall more interesting way to write and make stuff interesting to you, a reader of my blog, right? I will give it a try. So while I'm figuring out what I'm going to wear today for our first table read rehearsal of Uncle Giff I'll construct some cool sentences in my head that will contain my activities for today without being blatant about what I'm doing and where I'm going.
If I'm successful at it, I'll be feeling very accomplished as I sit and watch the 11pm show at Joe's Pub, Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion. Since the show was recommended by an old friend, Carol Ramer, I don't know if it's any good. If it is, I'll really be into it and not think of my entry in today's blog. If the show is not so good, my mind will wander to what I am writing now and contemplate if I could have written it any better.
You can't think too much about this stuff, because then the writing get's tortured and labored and everyone thinks you're trying too hard. So each day I'll give it a little try and not spend too much time thinking about it. This is a lot to take in on a Friday morning at 7:17AM - fresh brewed Dunkin Donuts coffee in hand. Ah….but the shoes I want to wear to the reading tonight and to the show at Joe's Pub desperately need new heels so a trip to the shoemaker before my breakfast with Joe will be on the agenda. Remember, Friday comes but once a week. Whatever that's supposed to mean! Have a fun day everyone. Ja ne!
September 11, 2014 - Thursday
Up with the birdies this AM as I have to run uptown to Dyckman Street (Avenue?) to shoot one of the last scenes for Trevor's The Demo Guy. We shoot again on Sunday too. After that I think he said just one more day. I am looking forward to seeing the finished product as I really like my character "Melvin Zaza".
Other good news is that I just got cast in a production called Uncle Giff's Christmas Special. I auditioned this past Sunday and heard back from them that night. I had good feelings about the audition and I really loved the script (or the sides that were given to me to read). It's a truly zany show about a nut named Uncle Giff that put's on a Christmas Special at CBS TV but does all these stupid things and mistakes and gets the network in trouble and the special canceled. I play George Gimbel, the uptight TV producer. It's a good role and I'll get to be big and arch and over the top. We are doing it in December, so it will be totally a good addition to the holiday entertainment out there.
One more update and then I gotta run. I'm heading back to New Hampshire in three weeks to do a Kander and Ebb review at Interlakes. Nancy sent me an email and asked if I'd like to be in it and of course I say yes. Hello Dolly was such a great experience and I really love the place and everyone there. Can't wait to see it all again. Even better news is that we are rehearsing here in New York for two weeks prior to my going up. Adam Tilford is music director (he did Dolly) and Kenny Green is in it, so is Ellie Kahn and dear David Berris is staging and picking the songs. I'm sure we'll have a great time. There is a song by Kander and Ebb called Coffee In A Cardboard Cup and I keep thinking they are going to give that one to me, but…..we shall see, we shall see…..more to come later.
Have a great Thursday! Off to the upper reaches of Manhattan for more Demo Guy! Ja ne!
September 9, 2104 - Tuesday
Last week was a sad, rough week as a great lady, whom I am so honored to have known, passed away. Joan Rivers was an incredible person, one that many people only associate with a caustic wit, a sharp biting tongue and at times, a direct meanness to the object of her momentary attention. She really was none of those things in person or as they say, in "real" life. Oh yes, she could have a bite when she was performing on stage, but off stage, she was a totally different person. The Joan Rivers I knew from way back in 1984 at The Westbury Hotel on Madison Avenue, was a caring individual, someone who was interested in what a person was doing with their life, quick to give a compliment, offer a kind word to those in need and, most importantly listen when someone was speaking to her. I remember the times I was with her in her hotel suite, helping her with her lines for Broadway Bound. She would pour me coffee, offer me some cantaloupe. She had a snack waiting for the housekeeper that was on her way up to clean the room.
I remember how nice she was to my mother when I took her to see Broadway Bound. How Joan told her that I was a very good person and she was sure I was a wonderful son. I saw my mother beam with pride. My mom floated down 44th Street after leaving Joan's dressing room at the Broadhurst Theater. One funny thing my mom said, (that I'm sure Joan would find amusing) was this, as we were walking, our heads in the clouds, my mother turned and said to me, "It was so great to meet her, but I'll never forgive her for what she did to Carson". My mom was the ultimate Johnny fan so I could expect nothing more.
As the years passed, I stayed in touch with Joan, not close, but I would make a point to see her shows wherever and whenever I could. She always made a point of "comping" me. If I paid, she was not happy. She'd say to Graham Reed, her personal assistant, "Did we take care of Charles?"
The last time I saw her in person was in February of this year at The Laurie Beechman Theater on 42nd Street. A small venue, maybe 100 seats, where she was doing her stand up routine and donating the proceeds to God's Love We Deliver and Guide Dogs for the Blind. As I walked into her dressing room to say hello afterward, she grabbed my hand and said to me "Charles, I wasn't funny tonight". Imagine, the biggest, funniest comedian in show business thinking she had bombed. I told her no way, she was fantastic, funnier than ever. She smiled, laughed and we talked about the old Westbury days. I'll miss you Joan. Love, Charles
August 23, 2014 - Saturday
I've been back in New York about two weeks now and haven't slowed down enough to write a good update on my website. Started back right away on Watercooler Madness. We are close to wrapping on this and only have two more nights to shoot. I am looking forward to the finished product. The cast is very good and very funny. Plus we have a great story line. I think it will be about 3 months until we get to see anything. It's now in the hands of the editor. Who, by the way, is also the director.
Had two rehearsals with Ben for the November show and I'm really excited to report about that too. I think I've put together a really entertaining evening of songs and stories. I'm telling lot's of stories from my youth, family, growing up in Queens, High School of Art and Design days. After I finish this blog update, I'm going to start the script for the show. Lot's of good stuff happening.
Last night we had one of our theater gatherings in our apartment and had a ball with some dear and special friends. Laughed and ate, had lot's of desserts that guests brought. I made everyone watch these great Kay Thompson videos on YouTube. I've been reading her bio and I am finding it so inspirational, especially as I prepare for the show. I will incorporate some of her moves for sure. I Love A Violin and Louisiana Purchase with the Williams Brothers are fun songs and they are on YouTube. The spilt screen one with Liza Minnelli is especially fun to watch. I can't believe that Liza is spot on with tempo and lyrics. She's word for word with Kay. Watch it and you'll see.
OK - now that I've broken the ice and given a proper update to my Chatter - I'll say goodbye for now - from chilly upstate New York. Having a few friends stop over here tonight. Got some fresh corn at the farm stand too. Pulled pork and tomatoes. Summer time food is the best. Wish it were 10 degrees warmer and sunny though. Ja ne!
August 8, 2014 - Friday
My time here in New Hampshire is coming to an end. Only three more performances of Dolly. I will miss this place and everyone here. I made some really great friends. Monday I will hit the ground running as they say, taking a 9:45AM bus out of Dodge to Boston, then hopping on the 1:15PM train to Penn. Jump off the train to get on the N subway to Brooklyn to shoot some last scenes of Watercooler Madness. One of the actresses leaves the next day and I have to shoot a few scenes with her. We only have a window of a few hours so it will be very hectic and busy busy busy.
Can't wait to focus on my Metropolitan Room show when I get back. I'll put my nose to the grindstone and write a script and with Ben's help solidify the order of the songs.
Life has been sweet here in New Hampshire. The state motto is Live Free or Die. Not sure how I feel about that. It's a bit on the aggressive side, but hey, everything else about this state is just perrrrrfect!! Ja ne!
August 5, 2014 - Tuesday
Today begins our last week of performances of Dolly. I won't want the week to end. New Hampshire hospitality is great. Doors are always open, everyone helps you out. Lots of good eating and I think I gained 20 pounds.
Last night we had a great party at the Campbell's. Everyone was in a great mood and the Seth was playing his piano and singing and entertaining us with all the Beatles hits and Billy Joel too.
Heading over to Laconia General Hospital in a short while to say hello and that I miss them. Ha! Have them check out my left foot. I'd love it to look like my right one again. Deep sigh.
Heading downstairs to read some more in the great bio my friend William lent me on Kay Thompson. One of my favorite personalities. She was a character. Taught Judy Garland her moves. And Lena Horne too. I'm about half way through. those that know me well know that I seldom finish a book, but this one I am determined to finish. The stories are just too great to miss!
A big New England hug to you all! Ja ne!
August 4, 2014 - Monday
I am having such a great time up here in New Hampshire that I completely forgot to update my blog! This has been an absolute heaven!
Let's see…..opening night of Dolly was great! The crowd and crowds since then have loved us. We are getting standing ovations every night. The energy in the show is fantastic and the jokes are landing right as they should. Jerry Herman would be so proud of us if he saw this production. The cast is amazing. I particularly love Gaby who plays Minnie Fay. I must say that as my own special and unique Horace, I gave a little back story to my relationship with Minnie Fay. I decided that our characters don't like each other very much and whenever we are on stage together we have such fun playing that with lots of connecting via expressions and side glances. We have scenes together that aren't even written!
This weekend was wonderful as Kirk and his Mom came up to see the show. I moved out of the lovely place I am staying in to move into the Squam Lake Inn, another lovely place. It is a great Bed and Breakfast and very well run and appointed. My cousin Jackie and her husband Phil saw the show too on Saturday along with our friends Donna and Robyn from New York (they have a place in Sandwich). I'm back staying at the Billings and enjoying their overwhelming hospitality.
I've been practicing my juggling every day. I found real juggling balls at the local bookstore here and love using them. I can officially say I can keep three balls going. It's going on the resume.
Today was my day off so I swam, read, tried to get through the over 230 emails I let pile up, and I took the red kayak out. I was told the red one was the fast one so I felt I was ready for it as I had been kayaking for over a week now. Such a daredevil am I.
The food is amazing here. I eat everything in site and can't get enough of the fresh seafood. The Haddock is wonderful. I had a Lobster Roll with Mom at Town Docks that blew me away. Hopefully I'll have one more before I leave for New York. I can't even think of that yet!!!!
My foots OK, but I don't feel it's right yet, so I plan on going back to the Emergency Room this week. I'm not in any pain but it's still red and puffy so I think it's best to get it checked out.
The Home won the top award at the Planet Connections Festival and I am so proud to have been in it. We rocked!
Tonight the cast is getting together at the Campbell's to celebrate the last performance of Big, the show Interlakes did with the children's company that Graham was in. He's only 12 but a mature 12 and very talented. He's the Campbell's son (one of three). All the boys are so talented and great. Seth plays piano and sings and Spencer is going to be a brilliant mathematician. Great people.
Catch you all later! Time for another dip in the lake. Ja ne!
July 25, 2014 - Friday
Reporting from beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee where it seems there is never a cloudy day. Yesterday after rehearsal (only three hours thank you) I was able to go kayaking and swimming in the lake. Water is 80 degrees.
Today is a big rehearsal, our first "stumble through" as they call it and we'll see how we do. I was able to get a half hour of stage time yesterday to work "It Takes A Woman", a rousing number which with the help of the talented male ensemble will be a grand showstopper. Well - I am hoping!
An update on my foot, three IV's over three morning visits to the ER at Laconia General Hospital. Turned out it was a BAD case of cellulitis and they had to jump on it. Now I am on Bactrin pills. It is almost gone, just dry and flaky now. Itches like crazy. I will always be careful to catch this early if it should ever happen again.
I am teaching myself how to juggle and yesterday I achieved three balls! Yay! There are some great videos on YouTube to teach to all sorts of things and the one I found for juggling is terrific. That is all for now! Have a great Friday! Ja ne!
July 19, 2014 - Saturday
I've been away from the lights of 14th Street, and into my personal haze………so sings Dolly Levi in Act Two of Hello Dolly.
Well I am up here in gorgeous Meredith New Hampshire ensconced in what can only be called a dream house. A big rustic (yet fully equipped and modern in every way) home with a million bedrooms and decks and docks and boats and anything you can want. I wake up each day to a view of Lake Winnipesaukee that in unrivaled. In fact I am typing this right now (7:40am) in my bedroom looking out on a calm and cloud free morning, the sun rising over the sparkling lake. I expect Garrison Keillor to pop out of the trees. I hope not.
Today after rehearsal I will put on my $7.00 pair of swim trunks from the local Rite-Aid and jump in that lake. The thermometer states that it is 80 degrees. Hope the lake dip will help my foot. What foot you may ask? My bum left foot. It has been swollen and inflamed by some sort of reaction to God knows what since I got here. I saw a doctor in the city that told me it was a "strain" not even a "sprain". So he gave me an ace bandage and a bottle of Aleve and told me to go away. Well the first two nights up here it got worse. So I went to an orthopedic doctor over in Gilford. (I love saying that - over in Gilford) and he informed me that aside from some unknown cause, I should discontinue the use of the ace bandage as the elastic in it was making matters worse. He said I just needed to let it take it's course and it might take a few weeks. I think it's getting better. I don't know. I talk to it daily. I bought white cotton socks yesterday and I'll try to keep off it. Thank God Horace Vandergelder doesn't dance. He's Presbyterian you know.
I am getting ready to leave for rehearsal now, so'll I'll post again tomorrow with more stories from the hills. Ja ne!
July 7, 2014 - Monday
The weekend was packed. Turned out not a minute extra. I won't bore you - well not too much - with the details but the highlights did include two dance classes at Steps, shooting a scene from the Demo Guy, singing a crazy Richie Eisenberg tune with Barb Malley at The Salon, brunching with Ruya, and hang'in out at my place with Dean Thomas. Watched two movies with Dean on Netflix. For those of you who know me - you know that keeping my attention span even for one movie is a challenge, so when Dean said let's watch another one, at first I went ugh - too tired, but then I said hey = it's 4th of July. Relax Charles and enjoy it!!
So we watched this Al Pacino flick called The Stand Up Guys. Chris Walken was in it too. It was kinda like Thelma and Louise meets Bonnie and Clyde. Al Pacino plays a convict just released from 28 years in prison for murdering the son of some big gangster named Clap Hands. (That was my favorite part of the film - his name) Chris Walken is Pacino's old partner. He picks him up when he's released, but unknown to Al, Chris has to shoot him by 10am the next day. You can figure the rest out. They be love bros so that ain't gonna happen. Fun and silly and great for a night of chill in on the couch. First we watched Witness For The Prosecution and it was fun telling Dean who Marlene Dietrich was. His next lesson Bette Davis.
Off to do things - so catch you all up later. Ja ne!
July 4, 2014 - Friday
H4OJ everybody!! Great time at Don Juan last night. Funny thing happened toward the end of the show. As the Devil and the Commander prepare to depart back down further into hell and Dona Ana is left on stage to remain searching for the Superman, a little gray mouse scurried on stage and ran under the upstage curtain. The cast did not notice, or so it seemed, but the audience let out a slight chuckle. Only slight as after all it was Shaw and the audience was very mature and intellectual. A little gray mouse would not phase them. If it had been Jersey Boys I'm sure the screams would have shaken down the house. Ah life in the New York off-Broadway theater. No telling who will appear.
Meeting my friend Ruya for lunch, and catching up. We'll meet in front of HB Studio. I used to be at HB 3 times a week for two years, but now, I am never there. Sad but true how things change. It was such a part of my life for so long. I looked forward to my Tuesday evening class each week. I'd race there. Then I started musical performance on Sunday afternoons, then Austin Pendleton on Saturday's. I loved that place so much. Always will.
Keep those Bar-B-Q coals hot today and remember the sun block. Try to avoid tropical storms and major traffic delays. Keep the kids in the car seats and make sure you leave the AC on for the pets. Finally try and relax. Ja ne!
July 3, 2104 - Thursday
I'm not a huge George Bernard Shaw fan, but tonight I'll give it a try. I'm seeing Don Juan In Hell at The Medicine Show on 52nd Street. I think it's a comedy. Most of Shaw's work is considered a comedy although I don't laugh. It takes a lot for me to laugh especially out loud. I am looking forward to it. Kirk did an excellent Shaw play at Irish Rep that was fantastic, Man and Superman. They had a section in it from Don Juan In Hell and I recall that being a very good part of the production. I'll let you all know tomorrow how it was and if I have become a Shaw admirer. Learning new things is part of the game of life.
Many people are of the opinion that you can not change who you are. And yes, it is a fundamental fact that we are born and die with certain character traits. But I believe that if you work at it, and remain consciously aware at all times (or most times) that you can make definite changes to your personality. Replace old habits with new and hopefully better habits. It takes an effort for sure, but anything worth achieving in life takes work. I am proud of the changes I have made in my personality over the years. I have more to do for sure, but the fact that I work at them, think about them, is positive in itself. How many times have we met an older person that is just cranky and unpleasant. People think of that person as being that way their whole life. That it's a given. Well, it doesn't have to be that way. That person, if they are aware and being conscious of themselves can take definitive steps little by little each day to check themselves and make adjustments to their personality. They decide to do it. I did that. Years ago when I saw certain personality behaviors creeping in (I won't call them flaws - that's just beating yourself up) I made a decision that I would change them before they became too ingrained. Today I am a much happier person for it.
Silly little things made a difference like always leaving the house in a good mood. Saying hello and thank you to strangers when I come in contact with them. Doing something nice for someone. LISTENING to people when they speak. It comes down to positive versus negative energy. Give out positive energy and you'll get it back in spades. I have seen it work and I think that is what convinced me it was the right way to go.
Wow- did not expect to get on this line of thought this morning but glad I did. Look what a little Shaw can do! Ja ne!
July 2, 2104 - Wednesday
Had a productive night last night even though only two things got done on my "to do" list. One was a biggy, sending new photos to Kath to put up on the website. The other was sending Ben an updated song list. Done.
Tonight is a get together for our Crossing Of The Visible team up at Dan's apartment. We didn't get to hang out and celebrate our show the other week - everyone had to run. So tonight we'll catch up. Looking forward to seeing Jonathan and the gang.
Didn't need to say much today - want to spend these summer days soaking it all in. Love the vibe on the streets in the summer and I want to witness every minute of it. It goes by too fast. My goal today is to stay out my "my head" and observe the world around me. Look at every tree, plant, flower and bush. Love my summer days. Ja ne!
July 1, 2014 - Tuesday
I need to find the direct number of Mr. Prendergast from the MTA to let him know that the smell (I could use a less kinder word) in the 49th Street subway N / R line is unbearable. It's been weeks now and it doesn't go away. It smells seriously like all the homeless in New York are having their convention at the north end of the platform. Something has to be done. Especially at $2.50 a ride. Come'on!
Sang last night at Sophie's. It was a great time. Albeit a small crowd, we had a party with Polly, Vanessa, Sam and Erica. I did my parody song to the tune of Here I Am from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. "Would ya' look at that tacky ceiling, check out that broken chair! Excuse but what I'm seeing, is 100 proof, that's a leaky roof! But I'm so happy to be here."
Have a free night at home tonight and I'll use it wisely. Song list to Ben for the November Show, finish watching the video Adiran did of my Valentine's Show, work on my Hello Dolly lines, and send some new photos to Kath for this very website. Oh - and my postcard for the November show is almost there. Just one minor tweak and it's done! To the printer!!!
I leave in less than two weeks to New Hampshire!! I am psych'd!!!! Ja ne!
June 29, 2014 - Sunday
I have been MIA! Yes - terrwibblee guilty. Sad face. What a week. But all good. It started off on Monday with great news - my nomination for Best Lead Actor in The Home, Gabrielle Fox's play I did a few weeks ago at the Planet Connections Festival. Such a great way to wake up, huh? I had a text from Gaby - "You were nominated for best actor :-)".
Been busy working on my November show this week too. Met with Ben and ran some of the songs we are doing and tried out a few new things. He liked a song I found that I was sure he wouldn't. A song by Guided By Voices, a rock band that I've been listening to on YouTube. Ben wants me to find a new ballad - but I came up with this. I won't tell you what song incase any of you out there come see the show. I'll still look for a ballad. I have my little system to find new material. I go on YouTube and hit and miss different artists and songs. Pick things by title or catchy band name. It's a cool way to stay connected to the music and I've heard lot's of great things. Found this crazy song about taking a selfie that made me laugh.
Last night I saw my friend's show at Don't Tell Mama. Natasha Castillo. She did a really nice tribute show of Carpenter songs. I had forgotten that the Carpenters had written or sung so many great songs. Made me wanted to pull them up on YouTube too. Well not actually pull them up, Karen wouldn't look so great if I did. Maybe I'll find that ballad, huh? Whenever I think of the Carpenters, which hasn't been too often, believe it or not I always think of Bette Midler. Why? Well I'll tell you. The year Bette won the Grammy for Best New Artist, the award was presented to her by The Carpenters. I guess they won the year before or something. Anyway, when Bette got on stage she said something like, "I can't believe I'm on the same stage as Kitty Carpenter!" Ah that Bette. Such finesse. A winner with every word.
Oh - today is Gay Pride Day in New York City and I am home celebrating it by catching up with the mess on the desk. Many many years I marched, watched and had a grand time on Christopher Street. Friends like John, Ceasar, David, Steven. Happy Pride to each one of you and may your memories of the parade and festivities be as wonderful as mine. Ja ne!
June 21, 2014 - Saturday
Just a quick hello before I get going this morning. Out the door to shoot Trevor's web series today then hopping on a late afternoon bus upstate. Yesterday had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with my dear friend Lynne while we looked at "Art". Ha ha. She took me to an exhibit by the artist Kara Walker at the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. It was / is a giant Sphynx like figure of a black "mammie" with about 20 little black boys around he in the vast space of the factory. What makes the large statue and the small ones special is that the artist, Kara Walker, had them constructed out of sugar. The smaller ones are made out of molasses, or so I'm told. I'm still trying to process it all. I mean I wasn't overwhelmed or feel moved in any way. And yes, it was interesting and monumental to see, but not sure what it means, or if I feel it is art. Lot's of money was behind this project. This means to me corporate sponsorship, hence big business being involved. Which makes me feel like it is less "art" than sensationalism. I actually preferred seeing the wonderful, beautiful and highly innovative graffiti painted on the sides of the warehouses and buildings in Williamsburg on our walk over to the gallery. This to me was the real art. The artists, unknown, expressing themselves for any passerby that walks down the block.
Just my rambling thoughts on this Saturday morning. Gotta run! Ja ne!
June 20, 2014 - Friday
Lot's going on! Let's see, where have I been… Shooting two web series has really been a challenge. One shoots in Brooklyn (as previously mentioned) and it takes an hour to get there. Coming home in the wee hours takes longer as the N train makes all the stops. The other web series shoots in Jersey, Wall Street area and tomorrow we are shooting a pool scene at the YMCA so I have to bring my bathing suit. Monday and Tuesday night this week I did a staged play reading of a play called Dark Matter written by David Nieves. We did it at The Medicine Show on West 52nd Street all the way over by the river. Practically IN the river. We didn't have great houses, a handful of people, but I liked the play and the character was fun to play. He was kind of like a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Groucho Marx. No complaints - just observations.
This morning was a free morning - my special Fridays. So I spent it reorganizing my closet. I save everything. So many clothes. I came across my old Alter Boy Cassock. Ordered a Snap Back Cap in yellow with a big W on it from a company called State of Wow that is so cool. I want to wear the hat in my Metropolitan Room Show this November. Can't wait to get it. The hat is coming from Denmark I think, and they don't' ship to the United States. So this nice actor in my last show, Crossing of the Visible said I could ship it to her Mom in Spain and she would bring it back to New York after she goes there in July for a visit. Part of the excitement of getting it is that it is making a crazy round the world trip to reach New York. Plus I'll be the only person here to have it! I hope! Watch - in October they decide to go global and the hats are all over the US!!
Last night I discoverd a new treat on the set of Water Cooler Madness. A banana with some Peanut Butter on it. OK, I know lot's of people eat that, but I never did. Now I am addicted. In fact - I am ending this for today and going into the kitchen to grab one now.
Super thoughts to you all on this Friday. Make it special. Ja ne!
June 14, 2014 - Saturday
Songs For A New State Of Mind. That's the name of my Metropolitan Room Show. Why did I pick that? Well my new state of mind started a while back when I completely changed up my life and started to be my own agent. Each song will be very well selected and reflect something about who I am. Oh nothing too serious because I ain't that way. It will be pickles and sour cream of course. A mixed bag of goodies old and new. Yesterday we took photos in Washington Square Park and my concept for the shoot was well executed by DC Anderson. Wow. He nailed it. In the photo's I am dressed as a 1930's street performer, a troubadour so to speak, peddling my tunes in the park for a buck. DC sent them to me in sepia tone which totally complemented the feel of the image. I am motivated, excited and ready to go with the work I need to do.
My friend Barb Malley was here today and we rehearsed a song that we will do at the Salon on July 6th. A Ritchie Eisenberg tune called All Good Things Must Come To An End. Then Barb invited me to sing her opening number with her in her October show at the Laurie Beechman. That is where I saw Joan Rivers in February. I'll be performing on the same stage as Joan. So all Good Things Are Just Beginning for me.
If I start to think that things aren't going well, or moving fast enough for my speedy little mind, I'll remember the words of wisdom that Kirk's Dad gave him and that hang on a wall up in Smallwood, "Live One Day At A Time And Make It A Masterpiece". nuff said. So glad to say hello to New York today. Ja ne!
June 10, 2014 - Tuesday
Ah the story of Cosette the chicken. Well….in the cast of The Crossing Of The Visible there was a young boy named James. He is 8 years old. He is a very nice and quite talented little boy. His mom was with him at the rehearsals and the show and she seems very supportive and encouraging of his acting career. He sings and dances and takes lots of classes. James and his family live in New Jersey and they have a pet chicken named Cosette. They did have three chickens but unfortunately a fox got into the chicken coop and killed two of them in April, right before Easter. Cosette was badly injured and needed surgery. She almost died too, but she pulled through.
James showed me a video of Cosette and the two other chickens and how they all lived together at James' house in New Jersey. The chickens would peck at the back door and come into the kitchen and move the cats out of the way and eat right out of the cat bowls. The chickens also liked to play and jump on the trampoline that the children have in the backyard. James and his sisters also pick up the chickens and hold them just like you would with a cat or a dog.
I never thought chickens would make good pets until I saw James video. It was so nice to see James' face light up when he talked about Cosette. That is one lucky little chicken to have a friend like James. Ja ne!
June 6, 2014 - Friday
Backstage waiting to go on for our first performance of The Crossing of the Visible, I realized why I like being an actor and performer. The feeling of excitement in those few moments before we step on stage is the most fantastic feeling in the world to me. My whole body feels alive and tingly. I know that there is an audience out there anticipating something, what that something is, they do not know. I know what it is because I am rehearsed and have my lines and movements memorized in my body. I also know that each performance is different and that I will never do anything the same way twice. The connection to the space and the audience is unique at each performance. Unlike a movie or film or a web series, the performance gets recorded and it can be seen over and over again. My performance is finished when the curtain comes down. Never to be repeated. In my career so far, I have done countless performances of many shows. Each one is now gone, never to be repeated. I love that. I feel like I have collected a series of performances, one after another, in my body. If I could do a live theater performance on a daily basis I would. I realize now that I live for those times on stage. Such a gift in my life to be able to do this. I am lucky.
After this week, a few of my projects will be behind me. The Home, Crossing of the Visible. I'll be able to focus on other aspects of my career. I need to put some updates on this website. Add a few new recent photos. I still haven't watched the video of my Valentine's Show and Adrian needs me to get back to him to see if I need to make any changes. All that will happen next week.
Today I still have the 7:30 curtain of Crossing of the Visible to look forward to. I'll savor each moment of the day until then. When it ends, I'll move on to the next project and put the work I've done into my memory bank of experience. Tomorrow I will tell you the story of the chicken named Cosette. I think that story will be my strongest memory of the work I've done this week on Crossing of the Visible. Ja ne!
June 3, 2014 - Tuesday
Working on Crossing of the Visible in Brooklyn this week. We have two shows, one on Thursday and one Friday. Still in my zoom zoom mode this week. I think it will slow down starting next week. I wanted to spend more time at my desk and catch up with stuff but not in the cards.
I walked to the subway at 10pm last night in Williamsburg. The air was still and the smell of summer hung in the streets like the washing my mom would clip on the clothes line in the backyard in Elmhurst. I pretended that I was walking down 53rd Avenue and seeing my buddies sitting on the stoops in the quiet summer night. That time before we all went to bed and have our few minutes together. Knowing we'd see each other again in the morning and play handball or roller skate on the street. Coming into the house and seeing my mom in the front room with the TV on and watching Merv Griffin or her favorite David Suskind. So many years ago yet I can recall the feelings just as strongly as I was living them then.
Summer has always been my favorite time of year. I know it has a lot to do with these memories. Each year I await summer and live for these few brief months. So glad this year I have a trip planned to New Hampshire. I can not wait to get there and start work on Dolly. I began memorizing my lines last night on the train ride home.
I am hitting the street now. Sun, summer, here I come. I will walk to 52nd Street and spend as much time as I can outdoors. Ja ne!
June 2, 2014 - Monday
Well we ended our six performance run of The Home yesterday afternoon. It was a great time and the show was very well received. I am hoping that it gets a nomination from the festival for best play. I did have a quite a lot of people come see it. Very pleased with my work in it.
Thursday and Friday of this week I am doing Jonathan's show, The Crossing of the Visible. That will be exciting as his work is always so visual and innovative. We rehearsed in the actual space yesterday and it was great to see it. We are doing it at the Center for Performance Research in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Not a bad commute. Three stops in on the L train. Williamsburg is a hip neighborhood and hopefully our audiences will reflect the demographic.
I am actually feeling good that The Home is over. The last two weeks have been intense with my schedule and now that one of the projects is behind me I can try and catch up one some of the other things I've let slide.
The house in Queens is under contract and I need to go out to the lawyer's on Friday to sign some papers. I made an appointment with DC to do a photo shoot for the postcard for my Metropolitan Room Show - we'll take photos on Friday June 13 in the afternoon. I have a title for the show "Songs For A New State of Mind". I want a 1930's depression era motif to be carried through the show. In fact, I suggested we do the post card in black and white. Or maybe sepia tone.
So glad to be on tract with my "Chatter". Typing this blog this morning has give me a good start to the day. Oh - I read in the Village Voice this week that there are now 25 million daily blogs begin written to an average readership of 7 people. Made me wonder what my stats were!
Ready to get going! Ja ne!
June 1, 2014 - Sunday
Well what's happened…….OK….. Riding on the subway at 4:30am from Brooklyn is a unique experience. So many people take the train at that hour. Riding across the Manhattan Bridge when the train goes above ground and you can see Manhattan approaching I had this wonderful sense of calm and of purpose. I felt my life was in order and in place. I knew I had to get up by 8:30 AM to make a rehearsal for my Metropolitan Room show, to start planning it, and yet the lack of pending sleep did not concern me. I was content in my thoughts and at peace. Doing what you like to do in life really makes a difference. Nothing can beat that.
I've spent time over the past few days thinking about my summer on Fire Island as a houseboy, back in 1980 or was it 81? The endless days of sunshine, that summer was so special. I remember that I got to Fire Island on May 20th that year and didn't leave the island until September 24th. Wow -those exact dates are in my head after 25 plus years. I stopped wearing shoes around July 1st. Stopped wearing clothes……well we won't go into that. It was a fun summer. I was "hired" to keep the house clean and prepare the weekend meals for the 8 guys sharing the house. Let's see if I can recall their names. There was Joey, he was in the rag trade in the garment district, Bruce and John, a nice couple that seemed like they belonged in Larchmont rather than the Pines, Jeffrey, a wild Interior Designer that would arrive on Fire Island at 6pm on Fridays, take some sort of pill, lay down on the the couch and proceed to roll off, Gary, and oh my, I've forgotten the rest.
Anyway, I recall being a very diligent houseboy for the first three weeks. Cleaning the bathrooms right after everyone left on Sundays, doing the laundry, dusting and running the vacuum. Well, by the end of June, I was so caught up in the social circuit out there, that I was running the vacuum cleaner at 5:30pm when they were arriving on the 6pm ferry. I think the sheets were still wet when I put them on the beds. Dinners turned out to be lots of macaroni and cheese and pigs in a blanket. Chips and dips were the appetizers.
The guys didn't seem to mind. I started to entertain them. I wore crazy costumes and lip sang to Cher records around the pool. They all laughed and had a great time. They took me to every party as I was the little 21 year star of the houseboys. So many nights I saw the sun rise. This week, coming home at 4:30am on the R train over the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn shooting Water Cooler Madness made me think of those days, years, gone by. How much has happened between then and now. But each moment is connected to the next, so my ride on the subway home from Brooklyn is just a continuum, the same as walking on the beach at 5am from Cherry Grove. Ja ne!
May 29, 2014 - Thursday
Well the challenges of doing a "daily" blog have reared their ugly head!
On the one hand, being busy gives me lots and lots to write about. On the other hand, there ain't no time! I'll try as best I can to recount the events of the past two days. (What hasn't become a blur!)
Casting Calls / Water Cooler Madness got off to a great start two nights ago. The shoot was lots of fun and I have to say it was very well organized. We are shooting waaaaay out in Bayridge Brooklyn. I have to take the N or R train to 59th Street which for those of you reading this and unfamiliar with the landscape of the New York subway system is about 12 stops deep into Brooklyn. Any further and I'd end up in the water. Coming home the other night at 5am was an experience for sure. I shared the ride with an actress named Maxillian. We chatted and felt safe as there were quite a few people heading off to early shifts at various jobs. But the ride seemed endless. We hopped off the train when it hit Manhattan and got into a cab. A luxury for sure, but such a treat after all those milk stops on the N.
Tonight is our fourth performance of The Home at 9pm. I get out at 10:30pm and have to hop on that N train to get to the web shoot. Told you it was crazy. In fact this week, which I am smack in the middle of, is the week I was dreading. Every project that I am involved in decided to move forward this week. Ah such is life. As long as I remain calm and collect, I will weather the tides that are coming up from the shores of Brooklyn.
Maya Angelou died yesterday, and I spent a moment reading her obituary on line. It was interesting to ready about her early life. I found it very inspirational. It made me feel that hard work, difficulties in life and struggling to succeed pays off if you keep moving in the right direction. The trick is to not give up and not loose a positive attitude. I'll hold that thought with me today and do the good work I am doing and keep a smile on my face as I subway hop from gig to gig! Ja ne!
May 27, 2014 - Tuesday
Came home at 6am from the all night shoot of Casting Calls / Water Cooler Madness, the crazy new web series directed and produced by Jazzmyn Banks. It was a great time on set and lots of cool people. New friends were made! Whit Lee was in a scene with me and he is also playing the Artful Dodger in Baayork Lee's production of Oliver coming up that Kirk is doing the lighting for. It is a small world in the acting profession. I am back on set on Thursday at 11pm at night, another all night shoot. My character is Sam, the office snob. I wear a checked jacked with a polka dot pocket square. I look down my nose at my co-workers. So cool to play him. My own little invention.
Tonight is our third performance of The Home. We are getting good notices and we made the "best" list of the Planet Connections Festival. Looking forward to a great time tonight.
I am pretty exhausted still from last night, so I'll be real brief and sign off. Need to take it easy today. As our friend Charles Nelson Reilly used to always say "Save it for the stage!" Ja ne!
May 26, 2014 - Monday
My Metropolitan Room show is six months away and I am racking my poor old brain to come up with a title for the show. Charles Baran's Sausage and Peppers Review? Pork and Beans for Two? Cranberry Stuffin' Madness? I know it will be like a bolt of lightening when I hit on the right title. I want to come up with something fairly quick so they can include it on their website. My photo is already up there and they used a picture they pulled, I am assuming, from my website. That's OK, but I want to use a different photo and give 'em a great catchy title. It will happen. Channel the spirits of Totie Fields, Milton Berle and Belle Barth. Chant……..
I forgot to mention in my brevity yesterday, that Friday night, after our stellar performance of The Home, I scooted over to The Theater of the New City on First Avenue and 10th Street, to see Mimi Stern-Wolfe and Laura Wolfe her daughter in a little mini concert. They did four songs. One of which was an original of Laura's and one an original of Mimi's. I mentioned in my blog a few days ago that Mimi was the lady that came to see Cradle Will Rock at HB and gave me the part of Larry Foreman. A big step for me and I am and will be always grateful to her. A group of us went out after the concert to Yaffa Cafe on St. Marks Place and sat in the garden courtyard and enjoyed the spring night. I was honored when Mimi asked me to sit next to her. I will always, always go see her perform. She is a wonderful person and I owe her so much. Yaffa Cafe is great too. Some people don't care for the food, but I always like whatever I get. It is the perfect spot to experience the East Village scene. Sit in the courtyard too. No - I don't get paid for endorsements!
Yesterday I shot a few scenes form Trevor's web series The Demo Guy. We were in beautiful Prospect Park by Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. I don't think I was ever at the fountain there and the Neptune motif is fantastic. The aquatic Gods are spouting water from every orifice and there are calm shells and starfish made of bronze. Great piece of outdoor art. I'd love to find out the history of the piece. My scenes were fun to shoot and I came up with some ideas that the group loved and used. My character is basically stalking Trevor's character, so I kept think of funny ideas to make stalking interesting. My favorite was running from tree to tree and bumping into the last tree instead of ducking behind it. There was also a great shot of me crawling on all fours in the background while Trevor did Yoga in the park. You can see me crawl past through his "down dog" position. Ha the joys of comedy!!
Let's see….what else did I do. Ah, yes, met with Roark to discuss his new play Elena. That is the play he wrote with me in mind for the main role. Carl VonCosel. A weird dude that kept his wife preserved in his house in Key West for seven years until the authorities found out. True story. Roark gave me two books to read for reference. Then I met up with Nathan and we walked Etai's dog Whiskey along the piers at 42nd Street. Whiskey is a Shiba Inu, a Japanese breed, and not very cuddly. She is particular with whom she interacts. Well, she did NOT like the fact that I came along for the walk and she let Nathan know it. She pulled, turned away, sat down, and kept giving me glaring looks. It is so funny how you can read a dog's feelings from just their body language and eyes. She was so happy to get back to her apartment and ditch me. Don't worry, I'm not offended. As far as dogs go, I like Whiskey and can understand her attitude. I don't like unexpected surprises myself. She's cool.
Today: 12:30 to 4:00 rehearsal for Crossing of the Visible up at Shapiro Center at Columbia, then a nice long R train ride out to Bayridge Brooklyn for our first day of shooting for Water Cooler Madness, Jazzmyn Banks new web series. This has a big cast and they built a set in Bayridge. I am excited about it. I have a great part. I play Sam. Arrogant, pompous and an odd bird. Jazzymn said I should bring "funky" pants, hip tie. I have a lot of cool stuff to pick from so I'm ready.
Glad to spend the time this morning with a nice catch up blog. May the parakeets of summer sing songs pure as a purple sunset. Ja ne!
May 25, 2014 - Sunday
We had an amazing performance of The Home last night! So happy with how we did. The cast and the audience was so in to it. Every moment was felt. What a powerful play. So glad I had some dear friends in the audience, Adrienne, Jimmy, Alice and DC. Wow! It makes being an actor so wonderful when you see your hard work pay off.
Yesterday I was at an early shoot for Trevor's web series The Demo Guy and today I am running out to go to Prospect Park for more shooting. Gotta run but I'll do a proper little something tomorrow.
This is Memorial Day Weekend, so make it memorable!! Ja ne!
May 23, 2014 - Friday
Life lessons well learned. I am feeling so proud this morning of how I handled my day yesterday. It was a bit stressful and did not go as I planned, hoped and / or wanted it to. But my sense of calm and keeping my composure actually increased my positive feelings and helped negate the dark cloud that kept trying to rear it's ugly head. Oh - now I get the mantra "Keep Calm And Carry On". Yes - it works. I won't talk specifics and I'll be a bit vague as to the events and moments of the day that went awry, but the way I handled them at the end of the day was all that mattered in the end. Sometimes I surprise myself. In a good way I mean. So I'm looking forward to today and tomorrow and the day after…….
Speaking of surprises, I was so very pleasantly surprised by my cousin Gerry showing up at my show yesterday afternoon. She brought her friend Mary along and they loved The Home. She said it was very moving and that she had started to cry. Gerry lives out on Long Island and her making the trip in to see my play really meant a lot to me. It was the first time she saw me do anything. The subject matter of The Home is a bit dark and it can be a difficult play to sit through. It deals with family issues that are not always easy or comfortable. I know for me the play hit home on many many levels. Doing this part is a great experience. We have five more performances of The Home and I am looking forward to them, very much.
Today, however, starts a new project. It is our first rehearsal for Crossing Of The Visible, Jonathan Vandenberg's new piece. I like working with Jonathan and I think it will be another amazing production like The Kingdom was last year. We rehearse in the tower at Riverside Church and the views of the Hudson River are spectacular. I am working with one of my former cast mates, Dan, and he and I got along really well so I am in a great mood and quite happy to start the day. That's probably why I bolted out of bed at 5:30. One day I'll learn how to sleep late!
Onward and upward and may the positive forces of energy surround you and make your day brilliant and shiny! Ja ne!
May 22, 2014 - Thursday
Opening night of The Home! Well, I should say Opening Afternoon since our performance is at 4pm. Our play is part of a festival called Planet Connections. Festivals usually have a crazy schedule, back to back shows as they try to squeeze in as many as they can in one day. Quite possibly there may be a show before ours, and I know for a fact there will be one right after ours. We have a half hour (I think) to get out of the theater after we take our bows. Ah the glamorous life of show business. The Planet Connections Festival does have a theme to it though. All the plays in the festival must have a socially relevant topic. Our play, The Home, deals with Alzheimer's disease and the ramifications it has on a family. I love this play. So glad to be creating a role that was never done by another actor. I am hoping our play has a life beyond the festival.
Started getting some ideas down last night for the Metropolitan Room Show. I sent Ben a list of songs and some ideas. I know that it will change a lot as we move forward and rehearse. The Valentine's Show became something completely different from our first rehearsal. So excited to begin this journey. The great thing about a club act is that it is my creation and vision. And I play myself. I can bring whatever I want to the stage, sing the songs I like, tell the jokes I think are funny. A teacher once told me that as long as you are being truthful and being yourself on the stage, you can't go wrong. I'll remember that today at 4pm when I go on as Artie in The Home. There's a lot of Charles in him and I'll make sure to tap that and bring a truthfulness to the role. Ja ne!
May 21, 2014 - Wednesday
Today is "tech" day for The Home. We will be setting light cues and running sound cues and checking our blocking. We had a great rehearsal last night. So excited for our first performance tomorrow.
Last night I took the 9:53 out of Harrison to Grand Central. Then took the Shuttle to Times Square. On the Shuttle - most every day - there is a performer who entertains the riders for the brief few minutes that the train goes crosstown. Last night a very talented young African American man sang "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay", the Otis Redding song. Everybody was half asleep but he sang like he was playing to a sold out crowd in Carnegie Hall. It got me to thinking about life, and how it is all a matter of circumstance, yes, I'll use that word, circumstance. Listening to him sing, and comparing him in my mind to a performer like Usher or Kanye West, people who had the "right" circumstances and became successful, made me feel melancholy. I'm sure the long day had something to do with it. But I still felt that way. There are so many talented performers that sing in the New York subway system that will never get a break, never appear in a proper venue. It is sad. So much talent not noticed by people that rush by on their way to work or home. My favorites are the Opera singers. They amaze me. Half the time you can't hear them as the trains drown them out. But they keep singing and don't stop and give a performance worthy of the Metropolitan Opera stage.
So today I am dedicating my blog to all the hard working under appreciated very talented performers that go on and on and on and don't let the train noise, the smelly conditions, the inattentive riders or the struggles of their daily lives stop them. They are an inspiration. They are the true stars. Each anonymous one of them. They help me each day to get up and keep trying. To make art, to add something of value to the world. Here I go! I am ready! Ja ne!
May 20, 2014 - Tuesday
Well, I stand corrected. Cradle Will Rock did NOT put Patti LuPone on the map. It was, of course, Evita that she did four years earlier, in 1979 that made her a name on Broadway. Cradle was in 1983. I never saw Evita and I'm not a big fan of it, so I guess I was rewriting history a bit. Anyway, it was a great show last night. I am always in awe of Patti and her talent and her ability to be part of an ensemble cast and sit quietly in the back of the stage even though she's a huge super star of the Broadway theater. Nice job all around. I did think some elements of our production were far superior and I felt good to know that we held our own in our scaled down version on 8th Street a few years back.
More exciting news - just booked a show at the Metropolitan Room. I'll be bringing my new club act, (yet to be titled), to "The Met" on Thursday, November 20 at 9:30PM. So excited to playing this venue. Lot's of great people have appeared on that stage. Now - time to get busy and write a show. I have a good number of new songs, some rough ideas and enough time to pull it all together. Ben Krauss is on board and we start work next week.
Tonight is our final dress rehearsal for The Home. We go into tech tomorrow morning at the theater and we open on Thursday. I ran lines over the phone yesterday with Margie Ferris. She plays my sister in the show and is a great actress. I also love her supporting manner and personality. A very fine person to work with. So glad to be in this production.
Loving me some yoghurt and three berry granola right now so saying ja ne until we meet tomorrow!
May 19, 2014 - Monday
Tonight we are seeing Cradle Will Rock at the Bernard Jacobs Theater. Patti LuPone is in it and reprising the role of Moll, the role she did many years ago for the Acting Company and sort of put her on the map. I think this special performance is a benefit for the Actors Company and it's directed by our friend Lonny Price. I am excited to see it. The Cradle Will Rock holds a special place in my heart as it is the first professional show I was cast in. The story goes like this -
I was taking classes at HB Studio a few years back, and in the Musical Performance Class, taught by Ann McCormack, we were working on The Cradle Will Rock with the intention to do a presentation of it in workshop form with piano at the end of the semester. I remember being a bit disappointed when she announced what show we'd be working on as I was hoping it would be something like Mame, or Chicago, or even A Little Night Music. Cradle Will Rock?? Never heard of it. So I poo-poo'd it. Anyway, I read my copy that she handed out and she wanted to know what parts we were interested in. Well, I loved the part of Larry Foreman and send her an email right away. Larry Foreman is the protagonist of the piece, the central character, and he doesn't come on until Act Two but he comes on with a force. He sings the title song at the top of the Act. It is a great part. Well the following class Ann announced the casting and - ta-da! - I was Larry Foreman!! I felt so happy that day, so happy.
Moving forward, after working for 13 weeks on the piece, we presented it in two open performances in the classroom. A lady named Mimi Stern-Wolfe came to the second show. No one had invited her. She had just seen it on line in the HB newsletter. Lucky for me. It turned out she was casting her production for the Howl Festival that year to be done at Theater 80 St. Marks in the East Village. After the show, I remember she came back behind the curtain (it was a class room and about as big as a Living Room) and she said "I want you to play Larry Foreman in my production". I nearly fell down. I was so excited. I had to audition for Larry Marshall. He was the director of the show. Mimi was musical director. That Thursday I remember going to the audition and basically did the the entire scene for Larry. He looked at me and said, "that's it". "You can do it". I went right away into rehearsals and boy oh boy did I have fun.
I am looking forward to seeing it tonight and seeing how our production measured up to this one, or should I say, how this one measures up to ours, because we were brilliant!!! Ja ne!
May 18, 2014 - Sunday
The past two weeks I have been spending a lot of time in Grand Central Station. We are rehearsing The Home up in Westchester and I've been taking the train to Harrison almost every day. As a New Yorker, I am saddened to say that I never really "got" Grand Central Station before these past few weeks. I've always raced through it on my way to an appointment, my dentist is in the area, or on the occasional train to Connecticut or points north. I know Penn Station much better. Yesterday, as I sat waiting for my train at track 108, I looked around and totally absorbed the feel and vibe of this awesome place. The main level is nothing short of monumental and oh that ceiling! I once read a book that described the celestial constellations on the ceiling. It is wonderful to see. I realize that the place was restored in the 1990's and again in 2006 and prior to that looked like a well worn shoe. Seeing it now, and as it most likely looked when it was built, is certainly a highlight to any visit to New York.
My favorite part of course, is the downstairs food court. I think if I worked in the neighborhood I'd eat lunch there every day. And get very fat. All my favorite foods are there. Chinese, a Hummus and Pita place, Italian, Burgers, and a great Gelato place that has amazing coffee. I struck up a friendship with a guy named Bernard at the Gelato place and it became a routine of mine to stop and get a coffee each time I went up to Westchester. I like routines. They give me great comfort. I tend to make new routines even if I travel on vacation for a short period of time. I like stopping in the same shops, eating in the same places, getting to know people that work and live in the area.
I leave in a few minutes for Grand Central and I'll stop and get a decaf with Bernard. Today's coffee will be free as he gave me a "frequent diner" card card for the Gelato place and all my nine numbers are stamped. Tenth cup of coffee on the house. Tuesday will be my last time going up to Westchester. My Grand Central Routine will end only to be replaced by a new routine somewhere else. Such is the life of a wandering actor. A New York gypsy with my script and daily planner and my free cup o'Joe! Ja ne!
May 17, 2014 - Saturday
The discipline of writing something everyday is a great challenge. Just now, I sat down to write and I feel like I have nothing to say! Me of all people. Can you imagine? Normally I can't shut up, but at this very moment my mind is a dried up well. Now a panic has set in. I am a boring person! I looked out the window for inspiration. The Ginkgo tree gently waving in the breeze seems to be in world of it's own and oblivious to my struggle. The sunshine is not reminding me of times spent on Fire Island, or Miami Beach or even summer days long ago in Lake Ronkonkoma. I can't think of anything yesterday that happened that was unusual, crazy or just interesting to write about. Maybe if I make a list of yesterdays events something will come to me. OK here goes:
Spoke to the Real Estate Agent for the Queens house
Had Indian food for lunch
And a piece of Strawberry Shortcake
Took the train to Westchester for a Home rehearsal
Got back at 10:30PM in the pouring rain and got soaked
Ate leftover Chinese food for dinner that Kirk had waiting for me from his dinner with Bill Whitener
Went to bed
Wow - that is dull. Now here's the list, annotated for the more sparkly life of Charles Baran:
Woke up by getting a phone call from Terrence McNally asking me to take part in a reading of his new play
Got dressed in my new Prada jeans with a Gucci belt
Spoke to the Real Estate Agent for the Queens house telling her we'll accept the 10 million dollar offer
Had Indian food for lunch with Lady Gaga
And a piece of Strawberry Shortcake with Dustin Hoffman
Took the train to Westchester for a Home rehearsal and flew back to the city on my private helicopter
Got back at 10:30PM in the pouring rain and got soaked just because I LOVE walking in the rain
Ate leftover Chinese food for dinner that Kirk had waiting for me from his dinner with Bill Whitener reheated and served by Yan, our Hungarian butler and gym instructor
Went to bed to my brand new Pratesi sheets after a long hot bubble bath
Now that is really what happened yesterday. Just wait till you read what happened today. Ja ne!
May 16, 2014 - Friday
I can not believe a week has gone by since I came back from New Hampshire. At this time last week I was learning dance steps to Magic To Do for the opening number. It was a great time for sure.
The play reading was nice last night and it was great to see Nick Minas again. He is Nathan Cann's partner and he directed the reading as well. Nick was also the director for Stand Up Tragedy, the play I did last year at the Church of the Nativity. I have such fond memories of that time. Tom Littman was also there last night. Tom played the main school teacher in Stand Up. He was fantastic in the role. Doing Stand Up Tragedy was a real gift for me. I was cast right at the audition and I have never had a feeling like that since then. I remember it very clearly. I had really prepared my "sides", those are the pages of the script the director wants you to audition with. I went in and really went for it, I gave a performance that actually was very similar to the end result and how I played the part. After my audition was finished, Nick sat back in his chair and thought for a moment and said to me "Charles - I want you to play this part". Well, I nearly fell down. I started to cry as it was the most amazing thing that could have ever happened. I later spoke to a friend, also in the theater, and he said that it is a rare thing when someone is offered a part "in the room". He said it is a good feeling for the director as well. To this day I feel lucky and blessed to have done that part. Thank you Nick.
This morning, Kirk and I watched an old clip on YouTube of the song "Turkey Lurkey Time" from Promises Promises. The original Broadway show had Donna McKechnie, Baayork Lee and Margo Sappington doing the song, a trio of great talent. And I am so amazed to say that I know all three of those ladies personally. Kirk has worked with Baayork and Margo, and Donna was my teacher at HB Studios. The song is an iconic theater piece, Broadway history, and to know all three of the original folks in it is a really cool thing. Maybe that should be my epitaph on my tombstone, "Here lies Chuckie B, Polish boy from Queens who knew all three Turkey Lurkey girls". Ja ne!
May 15, 2014 - Thursday
Well, I took a big step in getting myself organized. I went to Staples today and bought a weekly planner for 2014. I thought they'd be on sale since it was May, but no, I paid full price. It was worth it. I penciled in everything that I know is coming up, rehearsals, performances, and the upcoming shoot for Watercooler Madness. I had tried to keep a calendar on my iPhone but it wasn't working for me. I didn't get to see a snapshot of the week ahead on the iPhone. I had to scroll and focus on a day at a time. OK, this leads me to the point that sometimes paperless and computers are NOT always better. Sometimes, nothing beats a # 2 pencil with an eraser. The place I'm sitting in has wi-fi. As I type this, I am in a coffee shop in the East Village and on my way to reading for a new play by a friend Nathan Cann. I like the idea of updating my blog in other places than my apartment and I may try doing this from time to time.
Man about town?
I cover the waterfront?
Tomorrow is a big rehearsal for The Home. I am looking forward to getting back in the groove as i was in the New hampshire mode.
Anyway, time to sign off and go around the corner! Ja ne!
May 14, 2014 - Wednesday
It's always been the way I like to start each day, coffee in bed. I spend at least a half hour in bed calmly with a cup of coffee and a muffin or danish before I get going. It's the only quiet time I have each day and I treasure it. I'll never let this part of my daily routine go. In fact, on the rare times when I do have to jump out of bed and start the day with a bang, I don't feel right all day. The gentleness of the morning, the light coming in the blinds, the sound on the street of only one or two cars, that first taste of coffee is the best and my favorite part of any day. Today I am hoping to keep this calm feeling with me and spend the day in a relaxed mode. I have to work at an office today, my part time gig, but being a part timer I am able to remove myself from the office dynamics and disappear into the background a bit. I like that. Since starting this new life last year, I've worked in design firms here and there on an hourly basis but kept my schedule very flexible in order to go to auditions and rehearsals and meet all the casting directors and agents that I am meeting - yeah right. But stressful days still can pop up even as a part timer. I fell behind in my one job and had a ton of paperwork to work through yesterday. It got me a bit stressed.
I have to remember that whatever I do or get done in the day is enough. I don't have to finish everything. I have to remind myself that I am not in a race with myself. I tend to do that to myself and I have to put check on it. My goal today is to get some work done at the office I am going to, get to the gym and do a good work out for an hour, then go to a reading of a new play that my friend Roark wrote with me in mind for the lead. That's enough. In fact that's more than enough. I don't have to do or be any more. I'll spend the day being only just Charles. If I can remember this when I finish typing and shut off the lap top, I'll be OK. Life is a journey but not a race. Ja ne.
May 13, 2014 - Tuesday
Back in New York and starting back to the regular routine. Taking today to catch up with the stuff I didn't get to before I left for New Hampshire. I do have lots of work to do on my Home script - I am about half way memorized with my lines and about half way to go. So the next few days will be drill drill drill. I think the best way to do that is a page at a time. I am looking forward to the show and can't wait to open on May 22nd. Going from the New Hampshire show to the Home is quite a change. One was musical comedy and the Home is a serious drama. I'm glad to have Kirk back and spending our evenings together. Not much to report today so I'll be very brief. I'm in a New York state of mind as the song says. Have a great one folks and a big hug to you all! Ja ne!
May 12, 2014 - Monday - On route to New York
Wi-fi is working well on the Bolt Bus back to New York! It was a terrific time in Meredith and the show went very well. I missed updating my journal everyday though. It felt odd not to do it. I realized that traveling away from home disrupts a lot of daily routines. I didn't keep up with my emails, hardly looked at Facebook. I was very focused on the show and doing a good job. The two audiences we had were so delightful and appreciative of the show. Everyone left the theater with big smiles on the faces. They loved meeting us afterwards and shaking our hands.
I have my script for Hello Dolly and have already begun highlighting my lines on the bus. Horace Vandergelder will be such a delightful role to play. As I read the script I am laughing out loud (on the bus) at the sheer cleverness of the writing. Dolly has amazing lines. I love it when she pulls calling cards out of her bag for every type of profession, like "Dancing taught to 33 year old head clerks" or "Artists taught to Polka". It is a timeless show and one my very favorites.
Last night I had a great dinner in Meredith with Nancy, David, Ellie, and Dr. Bob. Dr. Bob is a local dentist in Meredith and a big supporter of the Interlakes Theater. He is also a brilliant photographer and has two books on New Hampshire published. They are photo books and he has documented the state in colorful and breathtaking landscape photography. When I come back in July I am going to buy one and have him sign it for me. He took photos of the show as well and I can't wait to see them on Facebook.
My hand is fine and the slight swelling and stiffness of my middle finger has gone down.
Tonight I plan on going to Sophie's and sing. I'll do Gifts Of Love. No one there has ever heard me try a ballad, so I want to surprise them.
I'm glad to be back on my blog schedule and I look forward to more chatter tomorrow. Putting my seat back and taking a nap now for the rest of the trip. Next stop Manhattan. Ja ne!
May 10, 2014 - Saturday - New Hampshire
Greetings from Meredith New Hampshire! Home of Flurries Ice Cream Parlor! Sorry I didn't get to write anything yesterday. Yesterday was the first day I missed since I started the blog. I had my lap top with me all day but didn't have a moment to turn this sucker on. So this covers both days. The show is going great and we open tonight! We just had a run through and we are tight and ready. So ready. Love it all. The most dramatic thing that happened yesterday is that when we were getting in the car to come to rehearsal, Micah, our fantastic accompanist, slammed the car door on my hand. While in excruciating pain and certain my fingers were broken, I calmly said, "Please open the door so that I can get my hand out". Everyone was amazed how I didn't scream and yell. And the best of all news is that my fingers are fine. Here I am typing. Anyway, we are on dinner break and taking a rest until our 6pm call tonight. So I'll sign off now and say bye until tomorrow.
Oh, Meredith is lovely by the way and can't wait to get up here for Dolly in July. Nancy is great and I'm going to love working with her.
Cheers, hugs and New Hampshire love! Ja ne!
May 8, 2014 - Thursday - New Hampshire
I am sitting in my lake front room at the Mills Falls Inn typing my daily blog. I could not have asked for any finer accommodations. This is a beautiful spot. It helps a lot that we have a magnificent spring day without a cloud in the sky. I don't think I mentioned, or maybe I did, that my mom and day had spent their honeymoon here and I wonder if where I am staying is near where they stayed. I'll look, wait and expect another sign. The 6 hour bus trip was well worth it though. To spend 4 glorious days here doing what I love to be doing is a blessing for sure. My fellow cast mates are terrific and talented and Elli the musical director is on her stuff. She was cranking out those harmonies for us last night at 10pm! We then all went over to where the rest of the cast is staying and we had a bonding evening. We played a game called Apples to Apples that ended up being quite clever and fun. At first I thought it would be a bore as I'm not really a game person. My attention wanders after 15 minutes. But this one was good. One player picks a green card that has a word on it, say "passionate". And we each have seven red cards that have words on them that may or may not have any relation to the word "passionate". The fun is picking a word that might add humor or interest to the game. Some of the choices were wacky of course like "whips" or "stubbed toe". The have nothing to do with the word "passionate" but that's what makes it work. Typing about it doesn't seem as fun as playing it though so I'll stop and move on.
I have a 10am music rehearsal and then we start blocking at noon. This will be the fastest experience putting a show together that I ever had. I like working under pressure and I think that's when my best work comes out anyway. If I have too much time I procrastinate. "I'll learn those lines tomorrow, the show it two weeks away". Well we don't' that that luxury on this show.
On the Queens front, we've had three offers for the house and it's only been on the market since Sunday. Not bad. I knew it would go in lightening speed. Each day I'm less attached to the place.
Hey, I just realized that by going through this process of selling the house while I'm up in Lake Winnipesaukee is another sign from mom and dad. They're watching out for me and making me feel like I still have another connection with them. They're saying "Chuckie, the house in Queens isn't the only thing that will remind you of us. We were here at this lake too and looked out at the same view you are seeing. Remember us here". Thanks mom and dad. I'll keep you close by today. Ja ne!
May 7, 2014 - Wednesday
Heading up to New Hampshire this morning on a 9:30 bus from 33rd Street. So - I'll be brief. Have to pack and get everything organized for the show. They wanted me to bring "colorful spring like" clothes so of course I pulled everything out of my closet. I am looking forward to getting away though. I just realized my last time out of New York was last October when I went to Hungary. New Hampshire may not be as exotic a locale, but I've never been there so I'm looking forward to new sites. And….meeting new people working on the show. I am taking my laptop and power cord etc. I hope I find wi-fi so I can update my blog. I'll find a way to do it (hopefully) and keep my journal current. I look forward to writing about the adventures awaiting me in the next few days. Many good wishes to you all for a great day. I'm still half asleep. Ja ne!
May 6, 2014 - Tuesday
One of the best parts of leading this actor life is being able to start each day with the feeling of being in charge of my life. Take for instance today - I woke up easy and rested and will head down to the laundry room this morning and get all my wash done before I leave for New Hampshire tomorrow. In my prior life, my "business manager" life, I did my laundry on the weekends with everyone else in the building. Today I'll do it alone and relaxed. Then get everything else I need to get done. And……I can't believe I am talking about laundry!! But hey, that's what I wanted this blog to be about. Anything. I didn't ever want to think in advance what I was going to write about. I kinda want everything to come out naturally - not forced or belabored. Words pop into my head and I write them down.
The real estate agent in Queens has started showing the house. I haven't heard from her and of course - impatient me, I take that as a bad sign. I have never sold a house before so this is a new process for me. I have no idea how long it takes - or the frequency of communication you get from your agent. I'm sure it will all work out well. It's a lovely house and there will be people out there that want it. Sit tight and wait Chuck.
Ben was very pleased last night when we worked on my two songs for the show. He noticed how much work I put into them. Yes, I was trying to please him. Getting a gold star from the teacher. He is such a great musician and I know so little about music theory. He is teaching me a lot. I think we make a great little team. He keeps me focused on the technical aspects of the song, the beats, the rests, and once I master that part he tells me to "do anything I want" with it. He just wants me to learn it properly the first time through. Then I own it and can loosen it up, phrase it the way I want to. I love working with him. I can't wait till we do another show. Hopefully in September.
Yesterday afternoon I walked home from the East Side though Central Park and felt so lucky to be doing what I do. 3:30 in the afternoon and I didn't have to be anywhere until 6! My life changed so much this past year. The night before I had dinner with my niece and we spent some time talking about the old office. She still works there. Her experience working there is different than mine was so I'm glad that things are going well for her. Listening to her talk about some of the things going on made me feel happy to not have to deal with the issues and problems I once had to help solve. So freeing.
Well this has been a pleasant start to my day. A bit rambling but I love it. Have a nice Tuesday everyone. Ja ne!
May 5, 2014 - Monday
Did I mention how excited I am to be going up to New Hampshire this week to do the Stephen Schwartz show at Interlakes? I think I did, but I'll say it again! So excited!! I'm traveling by bus. I don't mind bus travel. I find it relaxing and always enjoy checking out the scenery. I have my two songs running over and over in my head. They asked us to bring colorful "spring like" clothing, so I need to get back into my closet (no pun intended) and pull out every bright thing I own. A few years ago, while I was in New Hope when Kirk was doing a show, I bought these great plaid pants in a used clothing store. The pants are so cool, from the 70's. Tight around the hips and a slight flair to the bottom. I'll throw those in my bag and see what they think. I have a bunch of colorful Polo shirts so I think I'll be OK. New Hampshire I am ready for ya!
Rehearsals are going really well for The Home. Yesterday we got through the first half of the show and Tuesday night we'll attempt a run. We have a big break and don't come back till the 15th, so we have a lot of work to do in a short time. Our first performance is the 22nd. Before rehearsal started yesterday, we sat around reminiscing about our families and how there are similarities in our lives to the characters and events in the play. The character of the mother in The Home is a feisty old gal that screams down the stairs when her kids are making too much noise in the Living Room. She's also quite a bit judgmental and opinionated. I see a lot of my mom in her. While sitting around talking with the gang I remembered how my mom could never get famous people's names quite right. She always mixed them up a bit. I told a funny story of when I was about 18 years old I got tickets for us to see Liza Minnelli in The Act. I had gotten second row seats I think. Really close and center. I remember at a quiet point in the show, when Liza was no more than 10 feet away from us, my dad leaned over to my mom and in not such a whisper asked who that was up on stage. My mom, in even a slightly louder voice replied "Chick, that's Lisa Minnurri, the dope fiend Jody Garland, her daughter!" I swear Liza looked down at us as I tried sliding under the seat in embarrassment. I hadn't thought about that in a long time and it was great to remember it and share a good laugh. My mom - a tough cookie. The female Archie Bunker. One of a kind. I'll throw her in my bag along with my colorful "spring like" clothes and maybe a bit of that spirit will come out on stage when I sing "It's An Act!" Hopefully I won't have a Stella and Charlie in the front row to contend with! Ja ne!
PS: Kirk reminded me he's doing the Ballet in Kansas City not Sound of Music! He's back later in the summer for that one!
May 4, 2014 - Sunday
Kirk arrived back home from Budapest last night at midnight and today he is off to Kansas City for Sound of Music. It is so great to spend the time with him and have a nice morning. His photos of the ballet are breathtaking! Plus I got some Budapest T-Shirts to add to my collection! Lucky me!
Spent a few hours yesterday hacking away at the weeds and overgrown bushes in my mom's old backyard. More memories of the many days spent in that backyard. Hot summer days when we'd eat in the backyard at the picnic table. Mom would fix a cold dinner, tuna salad, potato salad, watermelon for dessert. We'd sit and enjoy her delicious food and take in the beauty of her garden. My mother was an excellent gardener and she always had the most exquisite collection of flowering plants and home grown vegetables. I remember the tomato and cucumber plants. I remember her marigolds, bushes of them. Roses everywhere. She had this miniature peach tree that was in the center of her garden. She was so proud of that tree. Each year around this time the peach tree bloomed as if to welcome us to spring. The branches would be covered in the most intense purple color. The tree never gave us fruit that was edible, it was what mom called an "ornamental" tree, the cherry so to speak on top of her great confection of flowers and vegetable plants. Yesterday - as I stood in front of the tree, only three and a half feet tall, I put those flowers on the branches one more time and said goodbye to the garden. The branches are brittle and dried. I wondered what year would have been the last year it flowered. I wondered if it tried to hold on a bit, but missed my mother's touch. The new owners will dig it out I'm sure. Hopefully a family will buy the house and someone will stand there and feel my mom's presence and maybe they will pick up where she had to leave off. The soil is good. Many many years of mom putting compost from the kitchen and mixing it in with her trowel - coffee grounds, egg shells, orange rinds. Nothing went to waste in my mother's house. To this day I still rinse out zip lock bags and reuse them. Little lessons we keep and hold on to. For me it's not so much that I am being frugal, but it helps me remember mom. Ja ne!
May 3, 2014
Heading back out to Queens this morning to do some work at the house with my sister. Yesterday when I went out there I saw the "For Sale" sign for the first time. Seeing that really hit me. The finality of selling the house became very real for me. I cried. I've been trying to figure out why this is such a hard thing for me to do. I decided that the house was the largest tangible proof of my parents existence. Letting it go will leave me with less to physically remember them by. As long as I had the house I could go there and walk in the rooms and feel their presence. Now, more and more, I will just have memories. OK, I'm not really being 100% truthful about that. Kirk and I still have the little cabin in the Catskills that was my mom and dad's weekend home. I feel them there all the time each summer. But for me - that house isn't as powerful a memory of them as the Queens house was. The Queens house was where we had so many good times. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and many many nights of just "company" as my mom would say. Sorry - I didn't expect to wax sentimental this morning about Queens, so forgive me. I expect there will be a few more entries in the blog as the weeks and maybe the months go by until we sell. I'll try to keep them brief and not too mushy. Let's move on.
Other good stuff in the works - today a four hour rehearsal for The Home this time in Manhattan. The last few were up in Westchester as I mentioned. It's coming along nicely and the blocking is almost done. Anthony our director is doing a great job and he really has an eye. Before I leave the apartment I will run through my two songs for the New Hampshire show next week. I listened to them in my headphones quite a few times yesterday to get the music in my head. I booked a rehearsal with Ben for Monday at Nola to work them one more time before I go up there.
My dance class yesterday with Chris Liddell was fantastic! Only one other student showed up so we got a "semi-private" lesson. He was able to take his time and work with us individually. Loved it. I'll have to miss dance class this coming week as I'll be away at the show.
Before I sign off, I just realized as I'm typing, that the only reason I know how to type is that my mom made me take a night course at Newtown High School in the early 70's. She was always worried that I wasn't learning anything at Art and Design. So thanks for that mom, I do appreciate knowing how to type and thanks for giving me something else to remember you by after the house is sold. Ja ne!
May 2, 2014
Well last night was a bust! The Cinco de Mayo show was cancelled at the last minute due to a lack of human beings in the seats. A small group of us stayed around at the downstairs piano bar and we got to sing and do our stuff anyway. Downstairs was quite crowded so it turned out well. The piano player, a fellow named Darius, was quite talented and a great host. He got us all up there to sing and we had a few laughs. The evening ended on a high note. My friend Preston from the Billy Bonfire show was there and I hadn't seen him since November. This morning I was taken aback by how fast 5 months flew by. That show seemed like a few weeks ago.
Back to last night. I had written some funny lyrics specifically for the show and specifically about the The Duplex. When Darius asked if I had a second number, I hesitated for a nano second, as the lyrics are a bit unflattering to The Duplex. They go like this - "Will ya look at that tacky ceiling! Check out that broken chair! Excuse me but what I'm seeing, is 100 proof that's a leaky roof! But, I'm so happy to be here!" Turns out it was a big hit and everyone laughed. The Duplex employees were not offended and I was so glad they took it in good fun. All around lesson of the evening - make that lemonade out of lemons!
No time to sit around moping about last night's cancelled show gang - Not me! I'll refocus my energy today and take a dance class at 1. Then I have a rehearsal for The Home, again back up in Westchester. Kirk just sent me a text from Budapest, his last day there. We have been doing this Face Time thing on the computer and it's great. Now we'll do it all the time. When I was a kid I used to watch the Jetsons and they had these telephones that had a "Face Time". I never thought something like that would exist. And here we are! Ja ne!
May 1, 2014
Happy Cinco de Mayo in advance!! That's going to be my opening shout out to the audience tonight at The Duplex when I take the stage for the crazy Cinco de Mayo show I'm in. Looking forward to shaking up the crowd and having a good time. They sent me the running order for the show and they have me opening up. Well - I'll warm em' up that's for sure! Someone once asked Ethel Merman if she was worried about the big Broadway show she was starring in being a hit and she replied "Why should I be worried - I know my songs!" Obviously oblivious to the fact that the show wasn't just her songs. Ha! Love that remark. Last night rehearsing with Ben I kept throwing that one out and kidding with him. We also worked on my two songs for next week's show up in New Hampshire. I have to pick those up FAST. I taped them and I'll run them over and over in my headphones. Good thing I have a long bus ride up to New Hampshire on Wednesday. Loads of time to listen to them and work on the words. And these are long songs with lots of lyrics. "It's An Art" is 17 pages long and "Gifts Of Love" is 10!! Today I'll take it easy and enjoy what is supposed to be the correct weather for the time of year we are in. Or so they say. I don't let this crappy weather stop me. Last night, on the way to rehearsal with Ben, I tripped and fell coming up the subway steps and landed in a puddle. I just forged ahead like a determined battle-axe. Hey - I know my songs!! Ja ne!
April 30, 2014
Took the train last night up to Harrison New York for a rehearsal for The Home. The director, two of the cast members and the writer live there so we agreed to spilt the rehearsals up between Manhattan and Harrison. I really took notice of all the thousands of commuters packing Grand Central at 6pm. It made me grateful to not have to commute on a daily basis. This afternoon I'm stopping by the Duplex to check out the space prior to the show tomorrow. Then I'm meeting up with Ben at Shetler to run through the two songs I'll do. I'm excited to be playing there tomorrow and I know it will be a fun evening. I tried looking The Duplex up on Wikipedia to get some info on the history of the place but it doesn't seem to be important enough to have a Wiki entry. I did see elsewhere on line that it's been around since the 50's. I remember it when I was a teenager and hanging out in Village. I didn't go there though, I would just pass by it on my way to sitting outside Bette Midler's apartment on Barrow Street. I was the original stalker. When Bette was doing her Clams On The Halfshell Review in 1974, the Daily News ran her picture in front of the little and unassuming building she lived in at 36 Barrow. So, after High School, Marcy and I would high tail it to the Village and sit for hours outside her place waiting for her to come home. We'd sit on the stoop across the street. Bette lived on the first floor and you could actually watch her walking around her apartment. A few times she noticed us and would lower her venetian blinds. I tried to talk to her on the street, once when she was pulling a laundry cart and coming from around the corner. I remember she had curlers in her hair. I asked her if she wanted to see a painting that Marcy had done of her - I had the painting with me. She said "no thanks" and kept walking. My biggest Bette coup was the time I noticed a note taped to her mailbox in her entry foyer. Back then, security wasn't so tight, and the entry door to her apartment vestibule was propped open and you could see right into the hallway. Marcy stood watch while I ran up the stairs and snatched the note. To my happy delight it was written by Bette herself! It said, and I quote, "Aaron, went to cut the track in New Jersey. Back by 7:30. Reservations at the Pierre. Love B." Aaron was Aaron Russo her then manager. We went to the nearby Coffee Shop and I borrowed a pen and paper from the counter person. I rewrote the note word for word, adding of course that I was a huge Bette Midler fan and apologizing for taking the note but it means a lot to me, yadda yadda yadda. Hey I was 15. I taped up my copy of the note, hoping that Aaron Russo would understand when he saw it. Then we went back to our post across the street and kept watch from the shadows. Well, to our chagrin, Bette arrived home before Aaron. She ran up the stairs. She noticed the note was different and snatched it off the mailbox. I can still see her doing it, with one grand and very annoyed gesture. She came out on the stoop. Looked up and down the street. Put her hands on her hips and went inside. I saved the note to this day tucked safely in one of my many boxes of memorabilia. I'm sure it's with the two letters her mother sent me, but that is a story for another day. Hope your day is filled with adventure. Take chances! Snatch those notes but remember to be kind enough to rewrite em! Passing on the information is what it's all about! Ja ne!
April 29, 2014
Just listened to the two songs I'm doing in the Stephen Schwartz show I am in next week at the Interlakes Theater in Meredith New Hampshire. I didn't know either song and boy was I pleased when I pulled up It's An Art on YouTube. This is a very funny song that a waitress sings from the musical Working. I am so happy to be given this comedic song and I know I will ace it. Right up the old alley. The other song is a touching love duet called Gifts Of Love from the Baker's Wife. That will be lovely and a good change for me. Can't wait till next week to get up there and starting working on this show. Yesterday evening we had our first read through of the web series I'm in called Watercooler Madness. It's actually two web series, Casting Calls and Watercooler Madness. It's a web series within a web series. In Casting Calls this guy named David gets laid off from his job at Nasa and opens up a production company. The company isn't doing too well and along comes this rather unsavory fellow named Otto that has funneled some illegal money into the company and in order to cover it up they have to film a web series. The one they film takes place in an Office with a bunch of low life advertising workers that are hung over most of time. I play Sam. I bit arrogant and full of himself. Very funny stuff. I am looking forward to the shoot. The chemistry between all the cast members seemed spot on. After that I ran to a read through of the first few pages of The Demo Guy, Trevor Crane's project. I have a great part in that as well. I play Melvin. I'm the nemesis to Lance Xavier - the amazing and super successful "Demo Guy". Lance does demos in department stores for a living and I, Melvin, want to take over and be the star. I steal his tricks and copy his moves and eventually get his money, his apartment and his girl. This is another funny script. I am so glad to be given these comedic projects. Tonight's rehearsal is for The Home. Not a funny show, but it does have a few light moments. I think even the darkest drama needs a bit of levity so the audience doesn't slit their wrists. Glad to be busy. It's a gift and I'm so glad to be receiving it. Ja ne!
April 28, 2014
Last night was a pretty amazing night at the Salon over at Etcetera on 44th Street. Mark Janas, one of the hosts, along with Tanya Moberly, had his students from Manhattan School of Music perform and run the show. They were great. They had a wonderful song selection from Cole Porter to the Beatles. They did quite a few songs from Closer Than Ever which is a show that is near and dear to me as Kirk did it a year ago at the York and I saw it many times. I guess Mark is a big Richard Maltby fan as well! I tried a new song and the nights where I try out new material is always a bit uneasy for me. Since all my stuff is comedic, my success or failure is based on how much the audience laughs or doesn't laugh. Last night I did another Betty Hutton tune, "Murder" He Says. I started off with a little stand up about having to date older men and that the guy I am dating now is so old, he's "older than his birthday". Well, I didn't get to far into it when I had that great feeling of taking the audience along for the ride. They loved the Abercrombie and Fitch joke (you'll have to come see me sometime to hear the joke) and from that moment on I knew they were hooked. The best part of Salon is the mingling at the intermission or after the show. It's the time you can meet the singers and get names and Facebook contacts. Many many talented people come there, Christine Pedi showed up last night, and few weeks ago we had Sarah Rice from the original Sweeney Todd. So for me as a relative newbie in the Cabaret world, I am always so honored to get their feedback and positive comments. I had wanted to try out the "Murder" He Says number last night at Salon as I'm thinking of doing it Thursday in the Duplex show. Being that it went so well, it looks like it might be the second song I do. I did have something else I was leaning towards, oh decisions decisions. I'll keep you posted. Today is a busy day - what else is new. I have a "first" rehearsal for a web series I'm doing called Water Cooler Madness, and then after that run to a rehearsal for this independent film I'm in called The Demo Guy. Both these projects have been in development for a while now, a few months, and they seem to be happening at the same time. It always works that way right? Anyway folks, make this a Monday to remember. I'll check back in tomorrow and let you know how it all went! Ja ne!
April 27, 2014
The best part of doing this blog everyday is figuring out what to write. I'll wake up with an idea but then start off with something completely different, like I'm doing today. I've been in a great mood these past weeks, with lots happening that keeps me focused and moving in the right direction. But there are challenges to remaining positive all the time. Sometimes something will happen during a day that will send you into a funk. It might be a small thing, like getting behind on your laundry or not opening the mail for several days and knowing there are bills waiting in the pile. Or, not working on your lines when you have a big rehearsal coming up in two days! That one really gets me all the time. I hate going into a rehearsal unprepared. When my life takes that turn I really practice some mental relaxation exercises. I stay centered on the present and fight the overwhelming feeling of not getting things done. I focus on the things I am getting done that day, like writing my blog right at this moment. Then I don't feel so stuck and not knowing what direction to turn. I'm a person that tends to over schedule my day. I know a few of you know this about me. It actually is the way I enjoy life. I love to keep myself busy and it makes me tick. But I know I have to be very careful. Over scheduling can add to this feeling of not getting things done, letting people down by showing up late or as I mentioned being unprepared, and the worst of all it leads to burn out. As it's turning out, writing this today had been a really helpful exercise as it is making me think about slowing down a bit, at least for today. I'll take time to "take time" and move a little easier through the day. I don't have any pressing appointments, and I need to just enjoy that feeling. Days like this don't come along every day so I'll make the best of it. Big hug! Ja ne!
April 26, 2014
Love a morning where I can lounge at home and not have to race out the door. WQXR on the radio, coffee and my laptop. Just letting the day happen. Exciting news yesterday that made my day. I got an email from Jonathan Vandenberg, a very talented director I worked with last year at Mabou Mines asking me to be in his new production. It's called Crossing the Visible. We have two shows in early June at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn. Jonathan is a very innovative director, and artist really. The production we did at Mabou Mines was a unique performance piece with no spoken words, only movement and sound and lighting. It was a series of scenes based on biblical stories. In one of them I played a blind man being led to the river by Jesus. I wash my eyes with water from the river and open them and see. I recall the music being very intense at the moment I opened my eyes. I could only imagine what it looked like to the audience. It was great. The cast was wonderful and we were a real family for the month of January last year. Our rehearsals were up at Columbia in the Riverside Church Tower with amazing views of the Hudson River. One of the cast members from that show is in this one too and it will be great to reconnect. The only downside to the acting profession is not seeing the people you work with after the production is over. For a few brief weeks, maybe a month or two at best, you work with these amazing wonderful people and you become really close. You eat together, take the subway home together, go for a drink together, share lots of laughs, maybe a few tears as well. Then, after the last performance we all hug and kiss and make promises to stay in touch. But, as life goes, we get busy and move on to the next group. My cell phone is full of the phone numbers of all these great people. One day I'll produce a huge extravaganza and put them all in it! This week coming up I have rehearsals for The Home and on Thursday I am singing at a Cinco De Mayo Show at the Duplex. Ben Krauss will play for me and I will do a funny parody song in tribute to performing at the Duplex for the first time. Today I'll go to the gym and use the membership I pay so dearly for and then back out to Queens to go through the house and backyard with my sister. I think I'm slowly saying my goodbyes to the house. When the tenants were in it for 18 plus years I didn't go inside much. So it's been nice to walk the rooms and say my farewell to the doors, windows, floors and walls that have absorbed so many memories from so many family days. Be well everybody and enjoy your Saturday. Ja ne!
April 25, 2014
Good morning world and good morning New York! I never oversleep and I'm usually up with the roosters but today I did. Kirk called from Budapest and I was in a deep sleep. I have to get going. Meeting Ben at 10am to work on songs, dance class at 1:00 and off to to Queens to meet the Real Estate Agent and check on the painting of the house! Not much to say today but make it a great one!! Ja ne!
April 24, 2014
It never fails to amaze me when I run into people I know in this city. Within the span of 24 hours, less actually, I ran into three people that I consider good friends. Tuesday night, walking uptown at 10pm, my friend Ben stuck his head out a cab window as it whizzed by Lincoln Center and gave me the thumbs up. Yesterday I walked into a soap store on 14th Street to find my friend Kristen at the counter buying a few things, and on 8th Avenue in the late afternoon I ran into Katherine, the designer of this website, and I got a chance to thank her in person. I checked on line and there are 1.6 million people living in Manhattan according to a recent survey. Yes, living here, that doesn't include the daily commuters and the tourists. So you can get an idea of the chances of bumping into someone. According to the New York Lottery website, your chance of winning $5,000 in the Mega Millions Game is 1 in 739,688. So technically I should have won $15,000 yesterday right? Sometimes the bumping into thing works in the opposite way. For over 20 years I never ran into my neighbor Nan who lived five feet across the hall unless I knocked on her door. Sure, I'd hear her come and go, but we never opened our doors at the same time. Never saw her in the laundry room and never ran into her on the street. In the complete opposite extreme, there is this guy named Nick that lives a few blocks away from me on the Upper West Side, or at least I think he does. I run into this dude everywhere. I mean everywhere. All the time. I'm talking different neighborhoods too. The craziest time was the day I was auditioning for summer theaters at The Straw Hats at Pace University all the way downtown by City Hall. On the spur of the moment, and having some time to kill before my audition, I decided to find a New York Sports Club in the area and squeeze in a quick work out. There's one a block or two way from Pace. Leaving the gym after the workout, who do I bump into walking into the gym but Nick! This brings me to my point. I believe in cosmic energy, synergy and the yin and yang of life. I believe when we bump into people we know there is a reason behind it. A connection that is being made, that needs to be made. I can never figure out why or what the connection is trying to be. I just sit back and accept it and enjoy the random meetings. In the meantime, I'll keep buying my Mega Millions ticket each week, playing the same numbers, and hoping that I'll bump into a winner. Ja ne!
April 23, 2014
Last night after my rehearsal for The Home, I ran over to 44th Street to pay a visit to my old acting class and say hello to Joe Daly my old teacher. I hadn't seen Joe in over a year. He was my first acting teacher when I began my new career just a few short years ago. It was great to see him again. Joe is probably in his 80's. He seemed a bit slower and his hearing's gotten a bit worse, but it was the same Joe, quick witted and full of support and encouragement for the students. You can tell he loves what he does and that teaching acting is a passion for him. The students, my friends Amos, Ashanti, Kendra, Obaid, Jeff and John, are devoted to him. After class we went out to a pub on 9th Avenue and sat around and chatted like we used to do. Yesterday I reminisced about my house in Queens and memories from many many years ago. Last night I sat in the pub and remembered being in class just a year or two ago. I recalled the excitement of working on a scene with my scene partner and going out afterward with the gang to the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street (the class was down at HB Studio then) and talking about the great work we were all doing in the class. I remembered schlepping my shopping bag filled with props for the scene, shot glasses maybe, maybe an empty Jack Daniels bottle that I'd fill with apple juice for my scene from Burn This that Amos and I were so brilliant in. I realize now that I was falling in love with acting and the theater. It was a new romance and the honeymoon was starting. Today the honeymoon is over and I've gotten down to business. I don't take classes anymore, well, just dance. And I spend my days auditioning and rehearsing for shows I'm doing. I focus on the nuts and bolts of being in this business and treat it seriously. I am glad I had that time in Joe's class. It was clearly the right class for me to be in as it opened my eyes to a new world, heck a new life. It gave me new friends. It helped push me in the right direction. I had to say goodbye to them and move on. But Joe Daly and the gang will always be a major part of my story, whatever it ends up being. Ja ne!
April 22, 2014
Choices. Everyday we make them. Some are easier to make than others - like choosing whether to have cereal or eggs for breakfast. Some are harder. Recently I had to make a few of the harder variety choices. After a logical and well thought out discussion with Kirk, I decided I wouldn't go to Budapest on this trip. That choice seemed OK at the time we made it but now that he's over there I am second guessing it. It happens. Oh, I know we made the right choice. It would have cost a lot of money for me to go, plus I'm lucky to be doing some great projects here in New York like the play at Planet Connections and this new webseries that starts next week which I couldn't have done had I gone. But that doesn't mean we still don't feel the pang of "what if" I had chosen differently. Another big choice I had to make recently was deciding to sell my Mom's house in Queens. Mom's been gone over 20 years and my sister and I had held on to it mainly for sentimental reasons plus for over 18 years we've had two terrific tenants. But when the tenants gave notice last month that they were leaving, something had changed in me and I was able to say "Let's sell it". I walked through the house two weeks ago and looked at each room and recalled the times spent there. I looked up at the archway between the Living Room and the Dining Room and remembered hanging up the Christmas cards each year. I saw my Mom standing at the Kitchen stove cooking one of her fantastic meals. When I looked out at the backyard, I didn't see the weeds but the abundance of flowers and her prize winning tomato plants and zucchinis. I went down into the basement and stared at the shelves where I kept all my toys. I stood in front of the house with the Real Estate Agent on the same sidewalk where my Mom would make me shovel when it snowed. Boy did I hate doing that then but would kill today for one more chance to see her face at the front door supervising my winter duties. The last two years of my life have been marked with some pretty big choices - none of which I regret. I hope that as I move in new directions each day and make the choices to come that they continue to be the right ones for me. I don't necessarily want or expect them to be easy, just the right ones. "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost Ja ne!
April 21, 2014
! love watching old TV shows on Netflix. I started about a year ago, watching shows that I never watched when I was a kid. Hawaii Five-0 (the original) The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dennis the Menace and Leave It To Beaver. One of the major reasons I like them is I feel they are a strong connection to the past, well my past actually. It's nice to be brought back to a time when there were no cell phones, no laptops, cars were big and clunky, and the plots had nothing to do with terrorism or serial killers. Last night, however, I watched an episode of Leaver It To Beaver that was a bit disturbing. Wally and the Beaver sent away for a baby alligator in the mail ($2.50 including 3 cents postage) and the plot involved hiding it from June and Ward. What was disturbing about it was that they actually used al live baby alligator for the filming. It would hiss and snap at them from time to time on camera. In addition, the Zoo Game Keeper, Captain Jack, (played by Edgar Buchanan who later was Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction) actually encouraged the boys to keep the alligator in the bath tub and feed it brandy with an eye dropper to keep the alligator "happy". The episode had an air of unsettling danger to it. References were made about alligators sawing off people's arms and there were one or two times when it bit the Beaver or father Ward. The writers were certainly pushing the envelope back in 1957 with that one. I wonder how many kids secretly sent away for baby alligators after watching that episode. I wonder how many letters were written to the network by angry parents. Of course it all ends every well with the alligator being sent to live at the Zoo with Captain Jack. Wally and the Beaver get a fluffy little puppy in it's place with June and Ward smiling in the bedroom doorway as the camera fades out. Well, at least I didn't have any nightmares about it. Got up rested and ready for a new week with lots to do. Singing at Sophie's tonight and rehearsals for The Home tomorrow and Wednesday. I got to do Face Time this morning with Kirk all the way from Budapest. While it's nice to spend a half hour with the Cleavers and remember a simpler time, it's also fantastic that we now have the technology to see and speak to someone you miss a lot that is clear on the other side of the world. I'd say within span of a few hours, I had the best of both worlds! Ja ne!
April 20, 2014
Easter was always my Mom's favorite holiday. I think it had something to do with the floral aspect of Easter. My Mom was a highly talented gardener. She could make anything grow. And Easter signified to her that time when she could get back outside in the small backyard in Elmhurst and dig in the dirt. Another reason I think she preferred Easter is that she hated wrapping Christmas presents and would bemoan that chore quite verbally. At Christmas I'd lay in my bed on Christmas Eve and listen to the scotch tape dispenser being tugged at, the scissors steady beat as they snipped snipped across the wrapping paper and a chorus of four letter words harmonically emanating from my Mother's mouth. Back to Easter. The preparations would start weeks in advance for her favorite holiday. The first item of business was to take me down to Robert Hall on Northern Boulevard and pick out a new Easter suit. I didn't mind this chore as I've always been somewhat of a clothes horse and I loved getting something new and showy to wear. After that, on a visit to my Grandmother's apartment on Diamond Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Mom would stop at the Polish butcher and put in her order for fresh kielbasa. NOT the smoked, the fresh. And there was only one place in Greenpoint that new how to make it right, or so my Mom said. Kielbasa, sauerkraut, horse radish and hard boiled eggs was traditionally the first course on the Easter menu. A few nights prior to Easter Sunday we'd do the whole coloring of eggs ritual. I recall one Easter when Mom tried something new with the Easter eggs. She got us a "Ukrainian Easter Egg Kit". It was very involved. Very. You had to coat sections of the egg in this black wax where you didn't want any color. Then color the egg, add more wax to the newly colored sections, dip the egg in another color, add more wax, and so on till you felt that you had created a world winning Easter egg design. Then you'd removed all the black wax to unveil an Easter egg that hopefully would not look like a big hot mess. I remembering always liking my designs and wish I had some tangible memory of them now. Easter's a little different today, though we still get together and celebrate. Some of the traditions are preserved by my sister Betty. First course is still the kielbasa, sauerkraut, horse radish and hard boiled eggs. My sister's taken over the gardening duties and a few years ago officially became a "Master Gardener". I expect she'll have lots of Hyacinths and Lilies adorning the dining table when I arrive on the 1:32 train into Ronkonkoma station. I hope whatever you all do today, it has something to do with enjoying good food, breathing in the newly blossomed spring and recalling some pleasant family memories. Happy Easter. Ja ne!
April 19, 2014
As much as I'd like to, I can't sleep late. I'm always up around 6 or 6:30. Even if I turn in late, after midnight, I still wake up at the same time. It used to bother me and I'd say to myself "Oh why can't I sleep till 10 on the weekends"! - but I've long since stop trying. I think it's because no matter how much I may complain about things, and there are many times I do, I love facing the day and getting busy. Today, especially, is a great day with nothing to complain about because Kirk comes home from Pittsburgh! (insert happy face here) He lands around 1 and I get to spend the day with him. Yes, I said the day. (insert unhappy face here) Because at 11:55 tonight he flies back out headed to Budapest for two weeks where he will light three ballets for the Hungarian Ballet. (insert happy face again here) He was there last year at the invitation of Ivan Nagy and I went along for the ride. It was a fantastic trip lasting just about three weeks. I really got to learn a lot about the city. By the time I left, I knew lots of side streets and places that tourists would never go. I knew my way around the subway and one time I even gave directions to a fellow passenger! It is a beautiful old city and what makes it so wonderful is that many of the old buildings have not been restored, cleaned up or modernized. Their facades are a bit decayed and there is a beautiful patina developed over many many years that covers everything. Doors are old, hardware is old, the windows are old. I hope they leave it alone rather than clean it all up like we do here in New York. It adds so much to the character of the city. I prefer old things looking old I guess. Why make them look new? I was one of the people who thought the Dakota on 72nd Street looked better before they power washed it. While I was in Budapest I took two side trips. I went to Vienna for 2 days. I went by train and saw the country side. About a 2 hour trip. I loved the architecture and pristine beauty of that grand city, but the people can stay indoors for all I care. I found the Viennese extremely snobbish. It's also a very expensive city so bring lots of moola. I also went to Krakow and that was an amazing place to visit. I traveled by bus. A 7 hour trip right through the middle of Slovakia. That was a great adventure. I had moments on the bus where I would think of myself as being this little tiny speck on the earth in the middle of this foreign country and that no one knew exactly where I was at that moment in time. It's a very liberating feeling. Also a bit unsettling at the same time. Krakow is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (from what I've been told) and I'm so glad I went. My purpose for going was to tour Auschwitz but I ended up falling in love with Krakow. Seeing that city made me very proud to be Polish and since last year I've noticed I have embraced my Polish heritage a lot more. So this proud Polish boy from Queens who was recognized yesterday for the first time in my life by the cashier in a Cosi restaurant ("Oh wow - you're that guy that sings that Pelican Song! You are funny!") and is so lucky to be spending the day with Kirk will get his mojo in motion and make this Saturday a Saturday to remember. May good fortune smile on all of you for the weekend ahead. Ja ne!
April 18, 2014
Fridays are a day I take completely for myself. I call it my "show biz" day. I only do things that move my theatrical career forward. So today I start off at 10 working with my music director Ben for an hour and a half, learning three new songs that I found that I think might be good in my new show, (comedic of course), then at 1 a dance class at Steps on 74th Street (we have a substitute teacher today and I'm excited!), head downtown to Tribeca to have lunch with my dear friend Lynne (we are soul mates and sit for hours discussing art, music and theater), then back uptown to Shetler Studios for our second rehearsal for The Home (did my homework last night and got 4 pages off book!). Second rehearsals are my favorite because it's the rehearsal where we start to settle in and relax. We all know each other and we allow ourselves to loosen up. Yet the excitement of being in a new play or musical is still in the air. On days like this, where I find myself in lots of different parts of the city, I tend to play the memory game. When I come out of the subway and as I walk to my destination I try to recall a specific moment in my life when I was in the same neighborhood or on the same block. One place that this always happens to me is on Bank Street in the Village. There is a corner restaurant that years ago, back in the mid 1970's was called Arnold's Turtle. I would go there a lot with my best friend Marcelino Sanchez and we would sit for what seemed like hours over a cup of tea and talk about crazy stuff like who was a better performer, Bette Midler or Cher. He was in the Cher camp and I was in the Bette-r camp. We never agreed but it was fun to sit there and hash it out. One night at Arnold's Turtle while we were sitting at our favorite window table looking out on Bank Street I recall giving him a birthday present. It was a pocket watch. I'm sure it was rather inexpensive but to a 15 year old boy I'm sure it cost a fortune. I had it engraved. When you opened it, it said "To Marcelino from Chuck - friends forever". I think of that moment every time I walk by that corner and look at the spot where our favorite table used to be. I often wonder if he had saved that watch or what became of it. Marcy is no longer around. He left us in the early 80's. Such a loss. His future was filled with promise after playing Rembrandt in the film The Warriors. So today I dedicate my "show biz" day to you Marcy as I run around NYC. And, Marcy, yes - Bette is still "Better-r than Cher!! Ja ne!
April 17, 2014
Once a week I have breakfast with my friend Joe at the Pier 72 coffee shop on the corner of 72nd and West End. We started this a few months ago, maybe almost a year now, and it's become a ritual that we both enjoy and look forward too. It's a great way to start off a day and keeps us connected. Before we started our "Breakfast Club", maybe a year or two would go by without us getting together. Busy New Yorkers! But this once a week get-together changed that. I only wish I had one day a week where I could do this with all my friends. One of the exciting things about living in New York is randomly seeing famous people on the street or in a store. David Hyde Pierce has breakfast at Pier 72 every day it seems and Joe and I usually see him there. He acknowledges us with a slight nod of his head in our direction. I smile back. When I was getting ready for my Valentine's show in February I actually went up to him and gave him a flier. He seemed quite interested in what the show would be and asked a few questions. I said if he came I promised I wouldn't make him sing. He liked that. Sometimes when we leave the coffee shop we see Bernadette Peters walking her dog. She lives across the street. She doesn't nod. She's a harder nut to crack. But I'll keep trying to get a smile out of her. Yesterday, when I got on the R train at 42nd Street, I sat next to Karen Akers and we exchanged a few words and pleasantries. She has a lovely speaking voice and it's no wonder she is a great chanteuse. Very expressive in her voice and facial expressions. I think of how lucky we are in New York to have these little sightings happen. People who live in a town like Akron or Des Moines may never see anyone anywhere ever. It's one of the cool things about linking here and I guess the Landlords factor that into the rent prices too. Well, time to get ready to head over to the coffee shop. I'll tell David you all said hello! Ja ne!
April 16, 2014
Yesterday had a terrific first read through of The Home, the new play by Gabrielle Fox that I am doing. It's going to be a great process with an excellent cast and director. Looking forward to what's coming! Also had a nice audition yesterday for Hairspray. I did my G-Man tune from Pins and Needles and I always get a positive note on it. It's a fun song that no one ever does and it naturally makes people smile and laugh. I got to audition in front of Allegra Libonati who was the Assistant Director of Hair on Broadway and is the Artistic Associate at A.R.T. at Harvard University where Diane Paulus is Artistic Director. So it was a big moment for me. She asked me to tell her a few things about myself and I enjoyed the personal connection. I don't think I'll get a call back, but that's not the point. Knowing I did well is all that matters. Exciting breaking news - it look likes I'll be going up to Interlakes Summer Theater in New Hampshire in advance of my Hello Dolly gig to be a part of a preseason concert tribute to Stephen Schwartz. I'll be going up May 7 and we have two shows, May 10 and 11. So if you find yourself in the Meredith New Hampshire area grab a ticket and come see me. It's funny how things work out in life (well sometimes, in this case anyway). I had a big break in my rehearsal schedule for The Home and this Stephen Schwartz show fit right in. Well it's time to move this day forward. As my friend Toby says "I can rise and shine, just not at the same time". I like that one. Ja ne!
April 15, 2014
Last night was great fun at the New York's Next Top Drag Queen contest at The Metropolitan Room. The host(ess) was really great and very funny, especially picking on a lady named Valerie that happened to be sitting at my table. I did not know her, but she did add to the evening by talking back constantly to the host(ess). Usually that sort of stuff can be annoying but it was all handled with great spirit. Then ran over to Marie's Crisis piano bar on Grove Street and sang a few show tunes with Rebbekah for her birthday and met all her friends. Marie's is an institution in this city and been around for ages, maybe since the 60's. I know it was around in the 70's because one of my best friends from The High School of Art and Design was Steven Brown and he was there all the time. I couldn't stay out that late so I never got to go, but Steve went and sang. He had a beautiful baritone voice, big and bold. He taught me a lot about musical theater and we'd discuss shows for hours in the lunch room. It's thanks to him that I saw the original production of Follies with that glorious cast. I took my Mom and she was in heaven seeing Dorothy Collins, Ethel Shutta, Yvonne DeCarlo, and Gene Nelson. My favorite was Fifi D'Orsay. On my refrigerator I have a photo my Mom took of me with Miss D'Orsay at the stage door after the matinee. Of course my Mom cut off our heads. Even so it's one of my favorite photos. When I look at it I can remember every moment from that magical day. Speaking of days - today is a going to be a great one. I have an audition at noon for a theater doing Hairspray (would love, LOVE to play Wilbur one day) and tonight a first read through with the cast, director and playwright for The Home, a new play I am doing at the Planet Connections Festival towards the end of May. If you want more information - check out the "News" page on my website and you can read all about it. Have a great day everyone and don't let the tax man bite! Ja ne!
April 14, 2014
Happy Passover to all my Jewish friends! Last night was a blast at Etcetera on West 44th Street - The Salon with the wonderful Mark Janas and the terrific Tanya Moberly. I did a parody song especially for the The Salon and it went over very well, very well indeed. The tune was I Love Being Here With You by Peggy Lee and Bill Schluger. Peggy Lee co-wrote quite a few of her songs it seems. Anyway, I changed all the lyrics and here is a brief sample:
And Tanya here, said hey what's this? That ain't from Cats, it ain't Les Miz! Then she told me I better find another biz! Cause I ain't singing' here for you!
Load's of fun! This morning I spent 20 minutes unsubscribing from junk emails in my inbox. It has really gotten out of hand. There's this one company Haband that sends like 10 a day. They sell clothes I think. They were the first to go! Tonight I have two events. I am going to see my new friend Michael, aka Mica at the Metropolitan Room in the show America's Next Top Drag Queen, or something like that. It's a Drag Queen talent show and of course I'll vote for Michael / Mica without even seeing him! Then afterward a quick stop at a birthday party for my friend Rebbekah. She is having a sing a long birthday at Marie's Crisis. Ja ne!
April 13, 2014
Growing up in Elmhurst Queens, I went to this church on the other side of Queens Boulevard from our house. It was a long walk. The mass was usually long and boring, but I had to go because my Mom always wanted me to put the weekly envelope in the collection basket. Mom and Dad didn't go to church you see, but they used me as a foil. Let's say they maintained "presence". Anyway, the best part of that weekly journey to Ascension Church on the other side of Queens Boulevard was the breakfast that my Aunt Mamie would make for me after the mass. Aunt Mamie lived directly behind the church. Her kitchen window was maybe 20 feet at best from the rear windows of the church. In the summer, when all the windows were open, hers and the church's, she could tell exactly when mass was over and pop the English Muffins in the toaster so by the time I walked around the block to her and Uncle Johnny's house the butter would already be melting on them. She served the English Muffins with some scrambled eggs, a bit runny just the way I like 'em, and Parks Sausages. Her dog, Shadow, would get some scrambled eggs too and we'd eat them together. Aunt Mamie was my Dad's sister. She was a great spirit, always cheerful, laughing and up for a good time. I recall remembering her being a great dancer too. At weddings or at the Elks Club she would shine on the dance floor, sometimes dancing with my Dad. So today, on this Palm Sunday, instead of scrambled eggs at Aunt Mamie's, I am going to sing at The Metropolitan Room at their Sunday Open Mic Brunch and I will dedicated my song "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry" to her………complete with maracas of course.
April 12, 2104
Last night was a fun evening seeing this show - The Mad World of Miss Hathaway. This is a show that has been running for a while now - maybe two years? Every few months they do another episode. It was Episode #11 "Mergers and New Positions". It's a campy over the top show with crazy characters - very much like the old school downtown theater that I remember from the mid 1970's. Did I say that? Yes - the OLD days. The place to be back then was the West Village, Christopher Street was hopping and there were a few great venues that had these types of shows - some that started at midnight. I recall the 13th Street Theater had a crazy gal named Tracy Berg. I think of her now and then and wonder where she is now. Her show was called "Cocktails for Two" and it involved a large Martini glass on stage. Very fun. Back to last night - I went with my good friend Joe (known him forever) and two new friends I just met - Mimi and Vishnu. Mimi works with Joe and she also does these Burlesque Shows at The Slipper Room. I want to check it out next time she does one. Vishnu is her husband. Since he's an all American type, I asked how he got that name. His parents are from Berkeley California and lived there in the 70's. That does explain it, doesn't it? He is also an amazing photographer and has a website www.vishnuhoff.com. After the show Joe and I went for sliders at Mark on St. Mark's place. If you like sliders, they are the best and worth the trip to the East Village. My day today…..Saturday…….not a day of rest - plenty to do. I have an audition at 2pm for the part of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. It's a summer theater production being done in Saranac Lake waaayyyyyyyy upstate New York in the Adirondacks. My spell check is telling me I spelled that wrong but I think it's right. Luckily the audition is not upstate but at Pearl on 8th Avenue. They sent me a lot of sides and after I finish this post for today, I will put my pointy nose to grindstone and work on them! Waiting for a call from Kirk - he's in Pittsburgh working on a production of Shaw's Candida that opens on the 17th. Ja ne!
April 11, 2014
I'm so excited! Today is the day my website went live! This is my first entry in my online journal, "Chuck's Chatter". Let's see, today is a productive day. Took my 5th dance class at Steps, met with Katherine my Web Designer to get this baby live and tonight seeing a show at The Wild Project on East 3rd Street - The Mad World of Miss Hathaway. I love the East Village. I haven't been down there in a while and it will bring back some nice memories of doing Stand Up Tragedy this time last year. That was a terrific show with a wonderful cast. Hope I don't get too sentimental. Who me???