Archive for May, 2011

Stars of the AVT #15: Dirty Martini

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags on May 31, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

I first beheld the vision that is burlesque sensation Dirty Martini back in ’98 or ’99 when she was in Tex and Trixie’s All Girl Revue at the Wow Cafe. Seeing her for the first time is intrinsically memorable; I bet everybody remembers their “first time”. I’ve written about her a couple of times on this site before, here and here. My credentials as a fan are therefore well established…although I have only had the honor of presenting her the once, as part of my American Burlesque series at Surf Reality in 2001. She’s an international jet setter, model and movie star now. Naming herself after a cocktail has worked so well for her, from now I think I am going to call myself “Harvey Wallbanger”.

And here’s an exciting news bulletin Dirty just starred in the film Tournee with Julie Atlas Muz.  Based on a 1912 Collette novel,  it  won the critics prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival!

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Antique Phonograph Music Program Live From Bryant Park

Posted in Dixieland & Early Jazz, SOCIAL EVENTS, Tin Pan Alley with tags , on May 31, 2011 by travsd

One of the best radio shows on the air, WFMU’s Antique Phonograph Music Program is broadcasting live from Bryant Park Tonight. (I should know the show is excellent — I’ve been a guest on it twice!) Host MAC is encyclopedic as he is entertaining, and his collection of 78s is fairly awe-inspiring. Tonight he promises a program of songs about New York along with bird calls, poets and recitation. Music starts at 7pm and LIVE broadcast is from 8-9pm.

Stars of the AVT #14: Mr. Spoons (and Daphne Hellman Shih)

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Music, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , on May 30, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

I was saddened to learn when preparing this post that George Gully (a.k.a “Mr. Spoons”) had passed away about six months ago. More recent photos and videos on his web site (here) are unrecognizably unlike the guy I presented at the Charleston Bar & Grill and the Duplex back in 1997, who seemed sort of well-fed and full of piss and vinegar. He gave the impression of being a tough old bird, a bit of a scrapper. Does my memory embellish? Were they just whispers and rumors at the time? But I seem to remember something about scars from stabbings or even shootings. He spoke fondly of playing roadhouses with chicken wire to protect the performers from the flying beer bottles. Saloons were his usual turf; he’d been performing in them since the age of seven when he began performing with his father, from whom he’d learnedto play both the spoons and the bones. He was a dazzling showman when he was more vigorous, one of the most professional I’ve yet presented, with his yellow rhinestone suit and derby, bowtie, and his virtuosity on those things you usually eat soup with.

Here is a touching clip I just found on Youtube of Spoons playing with a young admirer:

For a couple of his performances at the AVT he brought his sometime musical partner, socialite and harpist Daphne Hellman Shih. She was as lovely and gracious as you can imagine, lugging that gigantic harp to our tiny dive gigs and soothing my distress at paying them such a small stipend. She was a class act, and when she passed away in 2002, she rated this Times obit. What a remarkable life.

Anyway, they’re both in vaudeville heaven now, and for the first time ever, an angel’s harp is being accompanied by a guy playing the spoons.

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stars of the AVT # 13: Jonny McGovern

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Art Stars, Contemporary Variety, Drag and/or LGBT, Stand Up, Television with tags , on May 29, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

Jonny McGovern (“The Gay Pimp”) has gotten a lot of play with his homocentric raps and comedy routines in recent years on Comedy Central, and was a regular on Ricky Lake’s syndicated show. The graphic nature of his humor isn’t to everybody’s tastes, but to many young gay people he’s become an icon. He’s been the Gay Pimp since his Surf Reality days around the turn of the century, which is where I first knew him. Before that, he did a routine I liked still better: a LaWanda Page-esque aging Blaxploitation star named Chocolate Puddin’. Her tagline was “Gonna cut ya!” Jonny was in my sketch variety night called Rave Theatre at Surf back in ’99.

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stars of Vaudeville #328: T-Bone Walker

Posted in African American Interest, Blackface & Minstrelsy, Blues, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on May 28, 2011 by travsd

A true bridge between the old world and the new. To the extent that most contemporary people are familar with T-Bone Walker (born this day in 1910) it’s probably as an electric bluesman, an influence on B.B. King and Chuck Berry, and an inductee into the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. But he also has a vaudeville pedigree. After singing on the streets of Dallas as a child, he performed in medicine shows and black vaudeville. For a time he sang, danced and played with Ida Cox; after that he performed with Ma Rainey. Some claim that he is the first electric guitar player. His real name is Aaron Thibeaux Walker. Pronounce “Thibeaux” the French way and you’ll see how he came to be known as T-Bone. He passed away in 1975.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Wit’s End

Posted in PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , on May 28, 2011 by travsd

Tonight at Flute, the regular monthly party Wit’s End will launch two swell new confections: Issue #4 of Zelda Magazine (the magazine of vintage nouveau), and “Moonlight Rendezvous”, a new early jazz/ ragtime CD by Gelber and Manning. It all starts at 7pm. Call 212.265.5169 on that appropriately antiquarian device the telephone to make your reservation.

 

Stars of the AVT #12: Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-Phony Band

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, AMERICANA, BROOKLYN, Music, Sport & Recreation, Vaudeville etc. with tags on May 28, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

The Brooklyn Dodgers Sym-phony Band is a group of fans so rabid they used to gather outside of Ebbets Field and play music before, during and after Dodgers games. Since the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1956, these guys (who clearly already had a lot of free time on their hands) now even had more free time on their hands. But that didn’t stop them from still getting together and playing. They made delightful human interest copy for newspapers on slow news days, which is, I imagine, how I learned about them in the mid-90s, probably from the New York Times. I booked them for my run at the Charlestown Bar and Grill on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg in 1997. They brought with them a film crew, which was shooting this documentary. To this day I still haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know if any footage of my show made the final product.

What I do know is that they didn’t draw like I assumed they would. Audiences were scanty, and in Brooklyn, no less. The band played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and some other tunes for my cast, the bartender and the film crew. Then, when it was all over there was some difficulty about the money. I’d quoted them an amount on the phone and they were now telling me that they understood that I’d meant I’d pay the members of the quintet EACH that amount. It would have been a preposterous amount to have paid for a bunch of batty amateur musicians who couldn’t even attract crickets to watch them play at this venue. I was embarrassed. On their side, the conversation grew heated; one of the worst experiences I ever had as a variety booker. “Do you know who we are?” shrieked a humunculus named Jo-Jo, “We know people. Do you know what we can do to you? We can have you taken care of.”

Those who know me will tell you I am more jellyfish than shark. After a while they got tired of watching me tie myself into a pretzel, and left the bar, still hurling threatens and curses back at me as they piled into their car.

Ah, yes! Baseball! Brass bands! The sweet, nostalgic sound of a more innocent America!

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Dead Herring Benefit Tonight

Posted in BROOKLYN, Clown, PLUGS, Rock and Pop, SOCIAL EVENTS on May 28, 2011 by travsd

I thought Jeff Seal was a clown. Now it turns out he’s a band?! How is a person supposed to keep track? Furthermore, I’ve been to that Dead Herring house of his. He lives underneath the Williamsburg Bridge like some kind of urban troll. What’s next? Riding like a hobo in box cars?! What? That IS what Jeff Seal is doing next?!

Notwithstanding, the planners of this event promise an “amazing show” with:

Coasting
The Sundelles
Guts for Garters

and Featuring Stand Up Comedy Performances.

Plus a Raffle to raise money with prizes including:
$50 bar tabs at Bruar Falls and Cakeshop
M’lady records package
Tom Tom Magazine Prize Pack
Theater tickets to the new musical Death Takes a Holiday
K Records Surprise Pack
Dinner for Two at the Rabbit Hole
City Reliquary Personal Guided Tour
A Date with Sleepies
Free Drinks
Free Shows
Pies and much much more

It’s all Dead Herring, 141 S 5th St #1E, Williamsburg, starting at 9pm tonight

Stars of the AVT #11: World Famous B*O*B

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , on May 27, 2011 by travsd

This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!

World Famous B*O*B has been one of the most prominent fixtures on the New Burlesque scene since its origins in the mid-90s. Like all pioneers, she is one of its funniest, brightest, most inventive stars. I like how her name is a sort of palindromic pictogram of her legendary paps, each B a topographical map of her chest, the asterisks…nipples? pasties?  I’ve already done a bit on her background in this review of her one woman One Man Show here.

We were lucky to have her star in our burlesque adaptation of Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead at Surf Reality  in 2001.

The show was one of our biggest successes, with B*O*B one of our biggest draws. I learned tons from working with her as a performer, several lessons that I continue to tap into to this day. One is nem di gelt. B*O*B cheerfully commanded the highest fee I ever paid a performer — and then earned it, by pulling the audience in, and by entertaining them  with professional consistency. So this was a lesson to me as producer, too. As a performer: get the money. As a producer (when it is worth it to do so): pay the money. (Producers: B*O*B is worth the money). Two is: “Do whatever it takes to make the experience pleasant for yourself”. B*O*B literally told me, “No, No, you always have to be late!” This sounds like immoral advice, and it goes against my uptight, Puritan grain, so it is very important advice for me to listen to. She doesn’t mean be late for a curtain. But be late for a call and DEFINITELY be late for parties. If you’re in show business it’s infinitely better for you to be in a carefree, happy mood and entertain the audience, than to show up on time with a furrowed brow, pleasing only the stage manager. This one is real tough for me, as I’m generally also the producer, but I put some aspect of it in practice whenever I can. Also: take a car! This again goes my Scottish nature, but damned if it doesn’t make sense. I hailed a taxi for B*O*B and put her in it every night, and I know she arrived in one. For the performer it means kicking back in a comfortable seat enjoying the ride like a star…as opposed to saving a few bucks and getting into a bad mood (and showing up late for all the wrong reasons) like a sardine.

A few months after Orgy BOB and I were both featured prominently in this Adam Gopnick New Yorker piece about New Burlesque (TravSDNew Yorker article0001). ‘Twas I led him to BOB. He asked me to name the significant players, somebody colorful. Her’s was the first name that sprang to mind.

To learn more about vaudeville past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Deacon Bishop Revival Tonight at Goodbye Blue Monday

Posted in ME, PLUGS, Rock and Pop with tags on May 27, 2011 by travsd

This troubling handbill is meant to suggest that we — you and I — should go see the Deacon Bishop Revival combo tonight at Goodbye Blue Monday (see above).  Yeah?! Me  and what ear plugs? As I think you’ll hear when you play their three tunes here, these three gentlemen spew forth a beatful, thunderous noise calculated to make accountants leave their desks, run into the street and start waving a gun around. It’s the new sound  journalists are calling “the punked rock”…but just what IS the punked rock? Let’s take a walk inside my head (squish, squish, squish, squish….)

I started high school a few months after Sid Viscious’s death. Nothing was known of punk in our school until my junior year when a kid named Colin, a junior high friend who’d moved away for a couple of years came back from Detroit with a buzz cut, earring and leather jacket. Some of us were into the Ramones and certain New Wave bands, but Colin brought with him a record collection containing the entire arsenal, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, the Dead Kennedys. He was (and remained) the town’s only punk (and in retrospect, a pretty mild one, come to think of it).  I hung out with him and another friend Alex quite a bit and for a while we had a band called the Happy Machines. In emulation of my brother (a professional drummer) I played the drums using his castaway kit pieces. I didn’t have sticks so I played with two sawed-off broom handles. We played precisely one gig, in someone’s basement. Though we had managed to fill the room with curious schoolmates, before we”d played a half dozen songs we had driven every one away with our noise. My flirtation with punk (it was never more than that) lasted until I was about 19. One time I wore an Izod shirt to school I had decorated with “bullet holes” and fake blood. Another time when me, Colin and Alex were roaming the school halls after hours, Colin whipped it out and took a piss on the floor. We laughed but I thought to myself, “Geez, they just waxed that.” The last time I saw Colin I went up to stay up at his place in Boston. I was sitting in a broken armchair when a thug he’d stiffed in a drug deal came in and smashed the television I was watching with a metal chain, screaming “I WANT MY MONEY!” I just sat there with a glassy smile glued to my face, pretending I was still watching television. My foray into Bohemia had reached its outer limit.

My commitment to anarchy and destruction had always been less than total. It was more of a Romantic ideal. My interests were more the crackly old surf and British Invasion records my older brothers had left behind. I was a faithful listener of Dr. Oldie on WBRU, the local FM rock station out of Brown University. My main point of intersection with any punk sensibility was an enthusiasm for Nuggets the legendary compilation of garage rock singles.

This burst of nostalgia has been awakened by the Countess, oddly enough. She has been Netflixing all of these punk related movies, documentaries about the Sex Pistols and X, and a movie she loved as a kid, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. I’ve been thumbing through her copy of Griel Marcus’s Lipstick Traces, which believe it or not I’d never read. (I’d only previously read Marcus’s The Old Weird America, about Dylan’s Basement Tapes). I’ve also been playing music with Josh Hartung, whose uncle was in the Dead Kennedys. Then there are the recent deaths of Poly Styrene (whose work I didn’t know) and Lux Interior of the Cramps (whose work I did, and really loved).  It’s all fed into me looking back into the punk phenomenon, which has become, God help us all, historical. It’s now possible for us to look back at it as a closed system, a thing with a beginning, middle and end. I first realized this when a certain punk band used to show up at my open mike night at the Charleston back in the 90s, all festooned with mohawks and hair dye.  Oh, this is a thing now, I thought, really no different than dressing like Fonzie or the Andrews Sisters. That punk band used to bring their toddler to the gigs. One no longer has to be given to spontaneous riots to make punk (if one ever did in the U.S., that was more the British experience, where the movement had a much more political character).

I may seem to be roaming far afield from Deacon Bishop Revival’s gig tonight, but not really. They started this train of thought. The guys in the band are my friends and only a little bit younger than me. We are now the age of those London authority figures who declared that punk was the end of the world in the late 70s. But as we all saw, the end of the world happened last Saturday and we’re all still here. The one thing left after the Apocalypse is “The Apocalypse”.

 

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