Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hey, You!

Saturday Night Live
Season 3: Episode 7
December 20, 1977

"Hey, You!"

Woman.....Gilda Radner

[ open on woman sitting alone at a bar ]

Announcer: Not all women are looking for Mr. Right. Sometimes they might just want a little company for the evening. That's why Olfalo created Hey, You!

[ Woman holds up perfume and sprays it on herself ]

Announcer: Just one whiff does the trick, for those occasions when you can't afford to be subtle.

[ men begin to flock all around the Woman ]

Announcer: Hey, You! The scent you can't ignore.

[ the woman spots a single man sitting alone at the other end of the bar ]

Woman: [ whispering seductively ] Hey... You!

[ the man approaches the woman, who gets up and leaves with him ]

[ once outside, they enter a taxi and take off into the night ]

Announcer: Hey, You! for that special someone you never expect to see again.

[ cut to the next day, as the woman hobbles out of a hotel and tries to catch a taxi home ]

Announcer: Hey, You! The Perfume for One-Night Stands.

[ dissolve to product shot ]

Announcer: From Olfalo.

[ fade ]
My world-view as a nine year-old was that New York City was a gritty, dangerous swinger’s bar and that when I grew up my life would be much like Gilda’s in this fake advertisement -- desperate for love and attention, going home after dark with strangers for risky sex before catching a cab the next morning, half-dressed, with a cigarette clamped between my lips.

I think the fact that she stumbles into the ugly, urban dawn, shrugging on bits of her clothes from the night before didn’t just communicate to my pre-adolescent brain the “Walk of Shame” but that she had, in fact, been raped. I think I read a little too much into this gag.

SNL Transcripts

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Firesign Theatre

I do not hate Monty Python. I hate people who love Monty Python. And by that I mean, I hate people who love Monty Python but don't get Monty Python. There is a generation of twits who believe Monty Python is hilarious because it is absurd. "The Ministry of Funny Walks" is indeed hilarious. But not because it is the Ministry of Funny Walks.

It's the Ministry of Funny Walks. Do you see?

Whatever, what do you know from funny.

So, while Monty Python was skewering British society, The Firesign Theatre was smoking a lot of pot. Oh, and skewering American society.

Formed in the late 1960s, the Firesign Theatre (Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Proctor) created surrealist tableaux of funny, often taking both sides of one LP to tell an extended, dream-like story. When I was a kid, I did not know the extent of their narratives, because the only album we had in the house was a compilation record, Forward Into The Past (released in 1976) which included selections from their previous nine albums, plus difficult to locate comedy singles.

In 1972 they released Dear Friends, a collection of their live radio broadcasts on KPFK in San Francisco. Whereas their produced work is tightly scripted, this program allowed for a certain amount of spontaneity, which on two occasions, got them fired.
Perusing the TV Guide:
BERGMAN: I like to watch that program with my girl.
PROCTOR: You have a girl?
BERGMAN: We'll go into that later.
(nervous laughter)
PROCTOR: You'll go into her later.
(big nervous laughter)

Just in time for the holidays:
"Toad Away"
Recorded December 9, 1970 on KPFK
Fan video by me.

Twenty years ago today, on Wednesday, November 27, 1991 WCPN 90.3 FM presented Calling All Ears, an evening of Live Radio Theater directed by Firesign Theatre alum David Ossman. The event was recorded at the Cuyahoga County College Main Stage Theater on the Metro Campus, and featured original works by Mr. Ossman as well as local playwrights William Borden and Aubrey Wertheim.

David Ossman and ... what the hell am I wearing?

Participating in this program was thrilling; Ossman cast me to play Fergus the bartender against his Maxwell Morgan, Crime Cabby. Unfortunately, it is a little embarrassing to listen to now, as I am trying too hard to match him, tough guy to tough guy, when my job was to be the squirrely sounding-board character. I mean, I was the bartender.

It's like Tom Hanks told me, you don't want to meet your heroes.

Before broadcast, Ossman warms-up the audience with the Firesign classic, "Bozo's Big Bang."

Having graduated from college that spring, this was my first big professional-grade theatrical project in Cleveland. The best thing to come out of Calling All Ears, however, were all the great connections I made with fellow travelers like David Caban, Brian Pedaci, Peggy Sullivan, David Thonnings, and Lee T. Wilson.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (book)

Completed The Murder of Roger Ackroyd this morning, about which the less said the better. Asked my brother in England about the book last week, he says he's never bothered to read it because of my father's unfortunate reveal. It is his opinion that Christie isn't really for re-reading, though I have found numerous others on the Internet who think otherwise. In any event I can say this, knowing the ending from the beginning saves me the time it would have taken impulsively reading the entire thing over again from the beginning right away.

Last night we watched the BBC movie Agatha Christie: A Life In Pictures (2004). Queer little film, detailing the true story of when Christie suffered amnesia (or did she ..?) and went missing for almost two weeks in 1926. Though it features a fine performance by Olivia Williams, and the appearance of Mark Gatiss always makes me happy, it is an interesting piece if bio-fiction that is marred by too much sinister cleverness on the part of the director. Most of the text is narration, taken from first-person accounts that are dramatized by the actors, punctuated by odd film stock (see: Mark Romanek) and the more-cheesy-than-disturbing appearances by the Gunman, an image from Christie's childhood nightmares.

This film also includes several spoilers, including the conclusion of Roger Ackroyd. So there you go, I inadvertently gave away the ending to my wife. Read it now while you still have the chance.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ralph J. Perk

In 1976 the mayor of Cleveland was Ralph Joseph Perk (January 19, 1914 – April 21, 1999) who once famously set his own hair on fire.

Mayor Perk banned Playboy magazine from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. He also banished chewing gum from the facility. He spearheaded a major expansion of the airport, and the creation of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA.)

The Mayor's wife, Lucille Perk, turned down a dinner invitation from First Lady Pat Nixon because it was her bowling night.

Ralph J. Perk won the Republican nomination for Mayor in 1971 against George Voinovich, and upon his election became the first Republican mayor of Cleveland in 30 years. Perk served three two-year terms before losing to Kucinich in 1977.

Perk ran for Senate in 1974 but lost to John Glenn, who then held the seat for a quarter century.

He declared May 6, 1974 as Jesse Owens Day.

He presided over the dedication of Aviation High School on Sept. 1, 1974.

Ralph J. Perk was against women's reproductive freedom, handgun restrictions, and draft amnesty. Perk was also for Nixon before he was against him.

Amusingly, for his 62nd birthday political fundraiser party on January 17, 1976 the theme is the musical Hair. (Get it?)

Perk also appointed Richard Eberling to chair a committee to redecorate City Hall. Eberling was soon convicted of petty thievery, and later of murder. Eberling is also the prime suspect, according to the son of Sam Sheppard, as the true murderer Marilyn Sheppard.

Have you seen the video?

Perk Plaza, named for the mayor, sits at the corner of East 12th and Chester, across the street from the always exciting Reserve Square apartments. It's plain, concrete-slab walls, hiding large parts of the part from street view, are a typical example of late 70s design and short-sightedness and after a fatal shooting in early 2009, plans were quickly made to finally give the place a renovation.

Perk Plaza at Chester Commons was officially reopened at a ribbon-ccuting ceremony on November 21, 2011.

Cleveland Memory Project

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nine of Clubs

I wasn’t part of that crowd. I did not know the DJs by name. I never saw Trent. I was never a very attractive Goth, I couldn’t thrift to save my life, there was nothing to be done about my hair, when I dressed dark I looked clownish. But I went to The Nine.

Oh baby, look at you. Don't you look like Siouxsie Sioux.

Before it was became an adult video and novelty store in the 1990s, 1273 West 9th Street was home to the legendary Nine of Clubs nightclub, one of the very few public locations for listening and dancing to “Progressive” dance music. Most of the music I remember and love from my college years I first heard there, and sometimes nowhere else since.

Once during Spring Break in 1988 I was sitting at a table with my sketchbook, getting examples of hair and make-up. I was trying to drink and mind my business but I kept getting hit on by middle aged dudes.

Hogadiddle and the Art Fag.

On December 25, 1987 we had gathered to celebrate Hog’s 20th birthday. Checking out after hours a small group of us, boys and girls, were head to the parking lot across West Ninth (there are condos there now) when this dude in a trenchcoat who had walked out at the same time as we had started messing with the birthday boy. Hog was hammered and he thought the guy was being friendly. The stranger said he had been in the Marines and my friend said he had a cousin in the Air Force, you know, to go along, but that really pissed the guy off. He pulled up his shirt to show off a scar in his abdomen he claimed to have gotten in Beirut.

That was when he pulled out the gun.

Hog freaked out and started whimpering while we tried to talk the guy down. But the guy started laughing, put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger “click” and then walked away. Before we got home, somebody (I won’t say who) vomited in the car.

There's a big Nine of Clubs Reunion going on tomorrow night on 78th Street Studios, a benefit for Be The Match Foundation but it's sold out already. (Now mope.)

I came here to drink, not to get laid.

UPDATE: Listen to Erie Effusion, Sunday nights from 6 - 8 PM on WRUW 91.1 FM.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Job Opening at the Plain Dealer

Posted August 23, 2011:
Seeking a full-time theater critic for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio’s largest newspaper and a Top 20 metro daily. Northeast Ohio is rich in theater offerings, from PlayhouseSquare in downtown Cleveland - the second-largest performing-arts complex in the United States - to cutting-edge professional companies and a robust community-theater scene.

The ideal candidate will have 8-10 years of daily newspaper experience, including writing about theater, both as a critic and a reporter. Hard-news background is a plus, as this beat generates a lot of news, much as theater generates millions in economic activity for the region. Enthusiasm for online journalism, from blogging to social media, is essential.

The Plain Dealer has a full staff of arts and entertainment critics, and our features sections have won national recognition. Please send resume and 5-10 clips showing your range to Debbie Van Tassel, AME/Features, The Plain Dealer, 1801 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114; email
In the past three months, the theater beat has been covered by staff reporters Joanna Connors, Don Rosenberg, Andrea Simakis, and fee-lance critic Christine Howey, but no full-time theater critic has been named.

See also: Tony Brown

Friday, November 18, 2011

Othello (1952)

Orson Welles began to create a film-adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello in 1949. At that point in history, it was still common-place for white actors to “black up” (as they say) to play characters of African origin. Even Anthony Hopkins played the role in blackface for a BBC adaptation as late as 1981. By the late 1940s Welles was already in financial straits, the sheen of his 1941 Citizen Kane glory having been dulled by poor business decisions, unappreciated directorial efforts, and a sizeable amount of bad luck.

For three years, on and off, i.e. when he had cash saved up from acting in other people’s films, Welles would schlep his cast and crew to exotic locations like Morocco, Venice or Rome to pick up a few more shots. It has been speculated that, as he pieced together the film, in textual order, from the late 40s through the early 50s, race-sensitivity must have influenced him as through the film to Moor of Venice’s his complexion goes from shiny chocolate to dusky cocoa.

The film was released in 1952 and received the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film (now called the Palme d’Or.) In America, however, it did not impress. It wasn’t even release in the US until 1955, at which time the New York Times opined, "There are flashes of brilliant suggestion in this tumbled, slurred and helter-skelter film. But they add up to nothing substantial; just a little Shakespeare and a lot of Welles."

When the old Heights Porn Art Theatre at Coventry and Euclid Heights Blvd. re-opened to much-fanfare as the Centrum in 1993, the single-screen theater had been divided into three, and each screen was given a name; the Columbi and the Roxanne (after local radio pioneer Chris Columbi and Plain Dealer film critic Roxanne T. Mueller) and the smallest screen, the Kane (yes, after Citizen Kane) which they said at the time was featured a screen that was best for black-and-white films. It was in this house that I saw the 1992 re-release of Welles’ Othello.

Though traveling to these locations was expensive, crumbling ruins of castles and ramparts made for cheap, exciting locations, and a great deal of it uses natural light (the sun is free.) The murder of Roderigo was improvised to take place in a "Turkish bath" because the costumes had been lost. They all wore towels. Orson Welles was a GENIUS.

The New York Times

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Wayward Angel (2000)

"Old Stone Church"
(Late 20th Century)

The First Presbyterian Church of Cleveland, known for almost two centuries as the Old Stone Church sits at 91 Public Square the corner of Rockwell and Ontario. Constructed from 1831 to 1833, Old Stone has a long, illustrious history, and a complicated relationship with the theater.

There goes the neighborhood.
Reverend Samuel C. Aiken gave a sermon in 1836 condemning the theater as houses of sin. In 1883 a theatre called The Park opened next door. Three months later a gas explosion destroyed that theater, and burned down the Old Stone Church along with it. The church was rebuilt, but so was the theatre, which was renamed The Lyceum, opening in 1895.

By the end of the 20th century the Old Stone was by far the oldest building remaining on Public Square. For over a hundred years the building had lacked a spire, since its second one was destroyed after another fire in 1884. It wasn't until 1998 that a replica spire was erected, and the Berea sandstone of the building which had been blackened over the years was cleaned. Suddenly, this rather stern looking church was given a vibrant new appearance.

Around that time I had just turned thirty, and my friends and I were making theater in and around downtown under the name Bad Epitaph Theater Company. We presented contemporary version of Hamlet and Lysistrata, and in late 1999 staged the first Cleveland-area production The Santaland Diaries for our first "holiday play."

For any theater company, the holiday production is key. For some reason, people who never see theater the rest of the year will come out for a pageant of some kind, and every local company competes for Christmastime cash. Some theaters depend upon their Solstice cash-cow to pay for the rest of their programming. We found something which fit with what we felt at the time was our urbane, Gen-X point of view in David Sedaris's tribute to horrible part-time work.

The plan was to remount this production in 2000, and to make a lot of money. However, it was also decided to present a second holiday show, The Wayward Angel. This one-act was written in the early 1960s as a television script for a local station, though we never could discover which one. Some said it was for PBS, but there was no PBS in those days. The playwright, Thomas P. Cullinan, wrote for KYW-TV (now WKYC, our NBC affiliate) and it may have originally been broadcast there. The show was tapped for national distribution, but there were copyright issues regarding music performed or played during the broadcast, and the recording was shelved, probably taped over, and most likely lost to history.

I didn't see why, when we already had a corner on the hippest new holiday show available, that we had to present two Christmas shows, and besides, The Wayward Angel, the story of a near-fallen angel who tries to get right with the Lord by crashing the Messiah's birth, only to crash-land off the coast of Celtic Ireland and unintentionally plant the seeds of Christianity on the Emerald Isle ... well, it made me a little sick.

But the playwright's son was one of our artistic collaborators. And there was a great part for Nick. However, I insisted that if we were to present a Christmas pageant, then as Charlie Brown said, "We're going to do this play, and we're going to do it right." It would be free and open to the public, soliciting donations to cover the costs of production and anything left over we would donate to some worthy cause.

Since the days of Reverend Aiken the Old Stone Church has embraced the arts and has strong artistic programming. In the late 20th Century the director of the Faith & Arts Series was David Gooding, formerly of the Cleveland Play House and a connection to members of our artistic team. By mid-year we had already checked out the space and determined that while the 700-seat sanctuary would not be appropriate, the fellowship hall on the lower level would be ideal.

Nick Koesters, Face-down on the floor. Again.
And a modest Christmas pageant it was. With the curtains of its little stage closed, the room appeared the familiar, utilitarian church hall; tile floors, big round tables with table cloths. Poinsettias on each table. Arabica donated coffee and a large tray of brownies and carrot cake for each evening's performance. A half-hour before the performance, musicians played a charming selection of Celtic tunes before the curtains parted to reveal a startlingly complete box-set of a hut carved into the stage. The performance itself lasted about 45 minutes.

Now. The Old Stone Church is located across Public Square from Tower City, which in those days was still being frequented by suburban shoppers in significant numbers. But how many would cross the square after dark to explore a forbidding looking stone church in downtown Cleveland, or park their car on the street to come and join us?
"It's a wisely observed, elegiac little piece, leavened by Cullinan's unforced statement and wry humor." - James Damico, The Free Times

"It's a small story, and a brief drama. But it will also leave the viewer humbled and thankful in this busy season of rampant consumerism." - Tony Brown, The Plain Dealer
Nick was singled out for his surprising quietness.

The room sat over one hundred, we were full most nights, and in the final days before Christmas, it was standing room only. The "official" admission policy was that everyone bring at least one non-perishable food item for the Old Stone Church Food Pantry, but we received in excess of 2,000 food items. People were also very generous with their cash, as we covered our costs and had $1,000 left over to provide to the Food Pantry.

Mimi Rodriguez
Closing night, the house was packed. One audience member came up to us to explain how they had just been over at Tower City, and all they wanted was some peaceful and enjoyable Christmas entertainment and that this was perfect. There were grandparents and lots of children. My wife attended, she was very pregnant with our first child. It was the night before Christmas Eve.

It was all very sweet and sentimental, far from the arch and bitter amusements that had been my source of creativity since childhood. I could imagine a future in this emotional place, embracing family and hope, though circumstances made it necessary for me to wait a while longer.

Showtime in Cleveland (John Vacha)
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Old Stone Church website

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hoolihan and Big Chuck

They always ended the show in their PJs.
Histories have been written about the preponderance of late-night movie programming that featured a terrible B-movie hosted by some kook in a costume. Cleveland’s Ghoulardi one-upped a lot of his national competitors with his regional digs, arch (one might say “meta”) humor, and his adventures into chroma key, placing himself into the movie, decades before MST3K.


When Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson left Cleveland in 1966 to make his fortune as a voice-over artist in Los Angeles, one of his producers Chuck Schodowski and weather man Bob “Hoolihan” Wells took the slot. Now, instead of a dimly-lit studio haunted by a deranged beatnik who blew up things, we had two charming, rubber-faced twits creating hilarious and hilariously cheap comedy shorts to pad out the awful movies.

Now, local television has always been cheap. But reviewing segments from the Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show, you can understand how they inspired several generations of dorks from Northeast Ohio to pick up dad’s Super 8 camera and make silent, physical comedy, usually involving obvious costumes, wigs, mustaches, and a grand, goofy, visual punchline.

I am looking at you, Litz.

A keen interest in bizarre music was always a plus.

"Certain Ethnic Bankrobbers"
WARNING: Hideous gay stereotype.

In 1976, Hoolihan and Big Chuck aired at 11:30 PM on Friday nights, which was awesome because that meant we could stay up late and not worry about having to get up for church the next day.

This clip was filmed at the corner of Fleet and Klonowski, and once upon a time the Jolly Tee Cafe may have been on the corner of Aetna and East 76th street in Slavic Village:

Pure Cleveland.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miller's Dining Room

The Miller family was on old Cleveland food family. The had a butter and egg stand at Central Market. Doris Miller had a degree in home economics from Mather College and had trained as a dietician at Stouffer's. After Central Market caught fire and burned down, she talked her parents into joining her in taking over the former "Kaase's" restaurant in Lakewood at 16707 Detroit Ave.

Miller's Dining Room opened in 1950. My memories are faint, and because we always went after church I think of it as some fancy place, but it was a family-style restaurant where the emphasis was home-cooked meals at a decent price. The table cloths were crisp and white, and they even had finger bowls!

Ask anyone about Miller's and they will tell you about the sticky buns. Servers circulated throughout the meal offering a selection of piping hot rolls to whoever wanted one. It was like dim sum for crackers. The sweet and chewy, caramel-swirled sticky buns were the most popular selection.

The "average costumer ate two." The child must have had three or four, or until someone told him to stop. This was important, because I also usually ordered the chicken a la king, chicken in gravy served in a crispy shredded potato basket.

After 40 years of business, Doris Miller Urbansky and her husband Tom sold the venture to the Thomas family, who kept the Miller name and style. Five years later, in 1995, Miller's Dining Room caught fire and burned down.

Doris Urbansky died in 2010.
Sticky Buns
originally served in Miller’s Dining Room
[makes approximately 30]

For the Sticky Buns:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular white enriched flour; not bread flour)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/3 cups butter
1 egg

For the Topping :
(to be put in each muffin cup)
1 to 2 teaspoons melted butter
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 dash cinnamon
For the Filling:
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 to 3 cups light brown sugar

In large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Mix well.

In saucepan, heat milk, water and butter just until warm (between 120 and 130 degrees F). Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Add egg. Blend at low speed until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough.

Turn out onto well-floured board or pastry cloth and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes.

Place in well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with clean cloth toweling or waxed paper. Let rise in warm oven (turn oven to lowest setting for one minute, then turn off) for 15-20 minutes, or place in warm area of kitchen and let rise until doubled in size.

Prepare muffin tins by generously greasing each cup with butter, adding about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar to each cup. Set aside.

Amply flour clean toweling or pastry cloth. Roll dough out into rectangular shape no more than 12 inches wide and about 1-inch thick. Generously brush dough with melted butter. Sprinkle up to 1/2-inch brown sugar over top of butter.

Roll dough loosely as for jellyroll, pinching along the seam to secure filling. Cut into 1-inch slices and place in prepared cups.

Bake rolls in oven preheated to 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool a minute, then remove rolls with fork. Spoon any remaining topping over the rolls.

*Recipe note: Miller’s secret was the type of brown sugar the restaurant used — C&H Pure Cane Golden Brown. You can buy it in bulk ($22 for 24, 1-pound boxes) by calling the company directly at 1-800-234-5708, but Domino brand is a good substitute.
Lakewood Sun Post
Cleveland Magazine
Cleveland Memory Project

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

We all have loved you, Rael.
Cleveland has always been kind to Peter Gabriel and to Genesis. When few in the United States even knew who they were, they would attract sold-out crowds here. I found a review of their 1973 gig at the Musical Hall in my high school newspaper.

In 1974 they released their most ambitious and ill-fated album to date, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. "Concept" albums were already a worn-out phenomenon, and yet the band created a two-album set that weaved out an utterly bizarre tale from the mind of Peter Gabriel, following what we would call a "Nuyorican" kid (of whom Gabriel knew none) named Rael, who is transported to an "Alice In Wonderland" type underworld in pursuit of his lost brother John.

He is frozen in space, is forced to confront his first, humiliating sexual encounter, is made love to by a mythical beast, has his penis surgically removed, and finds out he and his brother are actually the same person.

I love this record.

Unfortunately, the album had not yet been released when they began their world tour in America. Imagine paying good money to see your favorite band, but they refuse to play anything you have ever heard before. Some may have been thrilled, most were not. This "performance event" also involved over 1,000 slides and many large, unwieldy costumes which Gabriel had designed with no thought given to how to get the mic anywhere near his mouth.

As you can imagine, there were plenty of "Spinal Tap" moments. The show closes with a strobe on Rael and his doppelganger (a mannequin) at opposite sides of the stage, making it look like he's in two places at once. Closing night the dummy was missing and in its place a nude roadie. And after 120 performances, it was never filmed.

According to manager Tony Smith, the day came, early in the tour, when Gabriel announced that he was quitting the group. The fact that he decided to tell his manager this news in a hideous, orange-paneled hotel room at Swingos makes yet another notable moment in Cleveland Rock and Roll history.

In 2005 (Jesus, really? Six years ago?) I took Josh to see The Musical Box, a French-Canadian tribute band that recreates the Gabriel-era Genesis tours in exacting detail. They brought The Lamb to the Allen Theatre. I had asked my father, but he was going to be out of town. He was pretty interested in Genesis around the same time I was, during my high school and college years. This time around, however, he asked me, and I was only too delighted to accept.

So last night we saw The Lamb in the State Theatre. Myself and a 76 year-old man. The median audience member was a guy somewhere between mine and my father's age. There were assorted wives, but also other women who looked like they actually wanted to be there. I noticed this time, as opposed to five years ago, a number of teenage girls with their fathers. The father-daughter combo seated behind us were cute, she was really interested in the program they'd bought, and he was only too happy to share his insight.

It's a great show. I mean, it's a tribute band, but I would much rather see this than, say, 1964: The Tribute because once you get beyond the "Whoa! They sound just like ..!" factor, what do you have? Why pay to see someone impersonate the Beatles when you can just listen to a CD or watch a movie?  

Watching these guys is like seeing a play or something, rock storytelling, there's a lot to look at and listen to -- with a crowd of like-minded creeps who applaud and whoop and cheer. And, if you are the guy sitting in front of me, light up a marihuana cigarette.

For an encore, they played Watcher of the Skies and, yes, The Musical Box.

Genesis: Chapter and Verse (Collins, Banks, Gabriel, Rutheford, Hackett)
Peter Gabriel: An Authorized Biography (Spencer Bright)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The New York City Marathon

Today, Harris Falk runs the New York City Marathon.
(This photo is from 2009.)

UPDATE: 5:10:46 Way to go, Harris!

Founded in 1970, the New York City Marathon was originally four laps around Central Park. While attractive (by 1970 standards) I cannot imagine anything more challenging and tedious than running around Central Park four times. It's not merely the repetition, it's also a very hilly course.

Marathon Man (1976)
"Hurrr -- why don't you just trying ACTING!?"

In 1976 the race map was drawn to touch all five boroughs. Expecting New York City denizens to be outraged at over 300 blocked intersections, no one was prepared for the crowds, excitement and positive energy created by the event. Participation in the NYC Marathon exploded.

Beginning on Staten Island, runners traverse the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Brooklyn where they remain for 13 miles before taking in a few miles of Queens, and crossing the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan. North up First Avenue into the Bronx (one mile) and then back into Manhattan before concluding in Central Park. The cheering is truly outrageous.

Cruising under Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 2009 ...

... running over Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 2006.

Hey! You! Douchebag in the hat!

My 2006 NYC Marathon Experience (Daddy Runs Fast)
The Bowery Boys Podcast: NYC Marathon History

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Alex Bevan

"I'm a skinny, little boy from Cleveland, Ohio.
Come to drink your women and chase your beer."

- Skinny

My brother had a copy of Springboard (released 1976) and while the original attraction for me was to hear the forbidden lyrics of his signature song about the ectomorphic, young, alcoholic from Cleveland, Ohio, I soon enough found myself lying on the couch in the den, wearing those oversize headphones, listening to both sides of an album of sweet, simple acoustic love songs that I still really like a lot.

I first saw Bevan perform live my freshman year at O.U. where I learned alternate lyrics to Skinny which I ended up stealing, or "improving upon" when Scott T. and would perform the song at Lucky's a few years later. He also played the coffee house anthem, FOLKSINGERS ARE BORING:
Nobody comes to the coffee house,
Nobody comes to the coffee house,
Nobody comes to the coffee house,
Folk singers are boring.

Boring, Boring
Folk singers are boring,
Boring, Boring
Folk singers are boring.

First they sing a song about a train,
Then they sing a song about a train,
And then they sing a song about a train,
Folk singers are boring.
I was at my friend Leah's house almost ten years ago for her dad's birthday party, when out of the house walks Alex Bevan. Turns out her dad has been playing with him on and off since the late 1970s. Crazy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Curtain (book)

Through her early 80s Christie found it increasingly difficult to write. Contemporary studies suggest she was suffering from Alzheimer's, as her capacity for vocabulary began to diminish exponentially. In 1975 she chose to release Curtain, the "final" Hercule Poirot novel. It was released in Britain in September of that year, and shortly thereafter in the United States where it became a best-seller.

Critics noted this work was a marked improvement over her recent work. This may have been because Christie had actually written Curtain during World War II. She has also written a "final chapter" for her popular detective, Miss Jane Marple. She did this out of concern for her own survival during the war, and to give her characters what we today might call "closure."

Because in the case of Poirot, he dies. Sorry to give away the ending. He did receive an obituary in the New York Times, so it's not exactly a secret. I will say no more.

Oddly enough, the author did little to update the book from the 1940s to the present, in spite of the fact that her other works took place during the time period in which they were published. Poirot's last case reunites the Belgian detective with Captain Arthur Hastings whom we meet in the very first Poirot mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, though Christie had not used Hastings as a character since 1937. If contemporary, Hastings would be in his late 60s ... and Poirot a centenarian.

Preparing for the role of Hercule Poirot has its challenges. I'm not a big mystery reader, I never read a single Poirot novel or story until this year. However, my awareness of the character stretches back to 1976 when my brothers returned from a trip to England with my father. Henrik was consumed with mystery novels, he had a monthly subscription to Ellery Queen Magazine. Christie had been dead since the beginning of the year, and though I had little comprehension of what he was telling me about her detective, the idea of writing a novel to be published posthumously (it wasn't, but I thought he was telling me it had been) seemed kind of spooky. So did the shadowy cover of this book, written by a dead woman, featuring a guy in a bowler and a weird mustache.

I have avoided watching any of the films, or any of the TV series -- which is a shame because I love David Suchet and am looking forward to seeing what many have told me is the definitive interpretation of the role. No, I am just reading the books, finding my inspiration there. Right now I am ploughing through The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. My father famously gave away the ending to Henrik, for which he has never been forgiven. Unfortunately, whenever my father recounts this tale (he finds it amusing) he gives away the ending again, to whomever is listening.

Including me. I will never forgive him.

The Guardian

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It Can't Happen Here (The Final)

Cleveland Public Theatre hosted the Cleveland staged reading of "It Can’t Happen Here" on Monday, October 24, 2011. The event was directed by David Hansen and featured Case Western Reserve University adjunct professor John Vacha, author of "Showtime In Cleveland," the definitive history of Cleveland theater.

The company represented a cross-section of regional, professional theater. Dremus Jessup was performed by Dr. Michael Mauldin, head of the Cleveland State University theater department. Mary Greenhill was read by Cleveland Play House Associat Artistic Director Laura Kepley, and Dr. Fowler Greenhill by Ms. Kepley’s real-life husband, acclaimed playwright George Brant. Company also included Great Lakes Theater actor-teachers Brian McNally and Tim Keo, Cleveland Public Theater Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Wood, as well as local professionals Myles Byrd, Mark Cipra, Elisa Hanna, Hester Lewellen, Brian Pedaci and Lew Wallace.

This reading, free and open to the public, was attended by 50 audience members. The evening opened with a “curtain raiser,” a reading of a ten-minute comic scene from David Hansen’s "Cleveland Centennial." This brief “Living Newspaper” style scene describes a fictional backstage account of the actual opening night of "It Can’t Happen Here" in Cleveland in 1936, but also includes actual quotations from Hallie Flanagan, Sinclair Lewis and local and nation critical response to the production. Presenting this scene was an entertaining way of providing historical context of this event to that evening’s 2011 audience.

Following this, John Vacha shared a 5-minute presentation including slides from opening night of the Cleveland production at the Carter Theatre at East 9th and Prospect. The full “September, 1936” version of "It Can’t Happen Here" was read with one, ten-minute intermission. Read with intensity, speed, humor and pathos, the running time of the reading itself was less than two hours, playing something like a “radio drama.” After the reading was concluded, Hansen and Vacha fielded a few questions from the audience. Some familiar with the book pointed up differences between that and this stage version, and asked if any changes had been made to make the story take place in Ohio (there were, as was done for the Cleveland production in 1936.) They wanted to know how successful the Cleveland production of "It Can’t Happen Here" was (it was very successful, and only closed because of scheduling.)

Response to the play itself was very, very positive. Many were impressed at how topical the script remains, and asked if there were any plans for a fully-staged production.

Earlier in the day Hansen and Vacha were interviewed on the local NPR affiliate, WCPN.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Armpit of the Nation

"Mistake on the Lake" hurts. But not as much as "Armpit of the Nation."

In 1976, the four year-old Cleveland Magazine decided that since Cleveland was entirely unable to clean up its own mess (and this was before the default) the classiest course of action was to piss on some city sorrier than we were.

Hence, The Great Cleveland Magazine Scapegoat Contest. Nice. The "winner" was, for no particular reason, Dayton.

Reader Tess Muharsky of Willowick wrote, “In Dayton they think Ibsen stars in the Beverly Hillbillies and the Nutcracker Suite is a wrestling hold. So culturally void is it that locals insist Twelfth Night is when lovers exchange a dozen lords-a-leaping. And only in Dayton are shrimp cocktails ordered ‘up.’”

Okay. And yet, Johnny Carson did not get the message. Some guy from Euclid sent a plunger labeled Key To The City of Buffalo.

Urban Dictionary states plainly that the nation's armpit is currently New Jersey. Feel better?

Cleveland Magazine
Urban Dictionary

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Arthur Miller: Brooklyn
"Seeing Red" (2008)

Stage performance requires a real-time transformation into a believably different person than who you are. And this can be an exciting transformation, for performer as well as audience member. Make-up when skillfully applied, impeccably accurate costuming, a swagger or carefully crafted physical disability can happily deceive the audience member into believing that are in a different time, or place, a sharing a moment with someone unique, someone other, and this kind of artistry is what live theater is all about.

The accent, however, the sounds of the words, can make everything just a show. I really, really hate listening to a fake accent. And I am stressed about delivering one. When I have it right, it becomes a part of me, and my character, and I believe myself. When I am making hash of it, even I don't buy it and I feel sorry for the audience that has to listen to it.

There's a twangy kind of tough-guy "tawk" that I slide into when I have no formal guidance. I got away with it in college, playing Dopey in Balm and Gilead, and I spent so much time delving into the world of that character that the cadences of Wilson's heroin-addled punk that my own voice sang back to me and I was all right with that. It helped that I was also permitted to smoke real cigarettes onstage. Weren't those the days.

Porlock: Romania
"On the Dark Side of Twilight" (2010)

Every other year, I am called upon to use an accent in the Great Lakes outreach tour. Four years ago I was playing Arthur Miller, performing an edited transcript from his HUAC testimony, and I knew the "New Yawk" crap was not going to fly. And so I visited my old friend, professor Chuck Richie at Kent State. Just because a voice is woiking class, does not mean it has to be in the nose. Miller spoke from the chest, he was a muscular guy.

Two years ago we met to discuss a proper accent for the vampire Porlock (On the Dark Side of Twilight.) In this story, the young Englishman Aubrey Porlock, transformed into a vampire, is stranded in the "wilds" of eastern Europe and settles in Romania for ninety years. We decided to go with an "acquired" Romanian accent, taking special care not to go the Bela Lugosi route. No "v's" turned into "w's" like Pavel Chekov.

Yesterday, we began work on a Belgian accent. Poirot is often confused for French, so we may assume he is from the region closest to France and not, say, Holland. Exploring the International Dialects of English Archive we discovered that while most of the substitutions are like those of French, the Belgians accents we listened to do not have the lilt or "sing-songy" inflections of a French speaker.

Next up: Mustache Maintenance.