Archive for July, 2011

American Vaudeville Theatre at Fringe NYC

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, AMERICANA, Contemporary Variety, ME, PLUGS, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on July 22, 2011 by travsd

I Want You!

To See

Trav S.D.’s
American Vaudeville Theatre 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza

In the New York International Fringe Festival

Don’t miss the 15th anniversary edition of my long-running vaudeville show, mixing the hottest contemporary variety acts with Topsy-Turvy songs and comedy sketches, wrapped in a distinctly pre-21st century package.

With the following SPECIAL GUEST ACTS at these remaining dates and times (just click the link for more info on the act):

SAT August 13 @ 3:30pm

* CHING SONG SONG, featuring the musical saw of JULIE LAMENDOLA!

* Mock Star KILLY DWYER!

* Magician NELSON LUGO!

* Contortionist THE AMAZING AMY!

WED August 17 @ 9:00pm

* JULIET JESKE as PRINCESS SUNSHINE!

* Operatic clown JENNY LEE MITCHELL (ably assisted by GLEN HEROY of the PBS show Circus)

* SARAH ENGELKE as STREGA NONA!

* Juggling Genius KEITH LEAF!

SUN August 21 @ 5:30pm

* POOR BABY BREE, ably assisted by accompanist FRANKLIN BRUNO!

* THE LEROY SISTERS!

* Mentalist RORY RAVEN!

* Juggler A.C. POUSER!

WED August 24 @ 4:15pm

* LORINNE LAMPERT a.k.a UKE-A-LOLA!

* THE LEROY SISTERS!

* DAVID GOCHFELD & MICHAEL TOWNSEND WRIGHT as “TWO OLD GEEZERS”!

* Magician NELSON LUGO!

FRI August 26 @ 7:30pm

* Rock and roll ventriloquist CARLA RHODES!


* Sideshow/burlesque maniac THE GREAT FREDINI!

* KEITH LEAF, Master Juggler!

* DAVID GOCHFELD & MICHAEL TOWNSEND WRIGHT as “TWO OLD GEEZERS”!

And our core cast:

* Piano Man ALBERT GARZON of IXION BURLESQU

* BECKY BYERS and Her FIVE SIZZLING FAJITAS (Tory Dube, Shiloh Kline, Stephanie Willing, Candace Aye Yoshioka)

* Our Company of Comedians: PATRICK THOMAS CANN, JOSH HARTUNG, MICHAEL LESTER, COLIN PRITCHARD, C.L. WEATHERSTONE

* And your Master of Ceremonies: Mr. TRAV S.D.!

Consulting Director: Carolyn Raship
Technical Direction & Design: Daniel Jagendorf
Costumes: Karen Flood
Stage Manager: Tory Dube
Sound Op: Tom Bibla
Light Op: Vinny Rajkumar
Graphic Design: Laird Ogden
Authorized Company Rep: Art Wallace

We’re excited to be one of the shows ensconced at Fringe Central at 45 Bleecker Street. That’s right. This fabulous venue is reopened (at least for now) and we’ll be among those privileged to play there.

Tickets go on sale July 22!

For tix and info go to fringenyc.org, or call 866-468-7619

And for more info on the American Vaudeville Theatre, go here:

http://travsd.wordpress.co​ m/2011/05/05/american-vaud​eville-theatre-in-ny-intl-​ fringe-fest/

Don’t miss the mad scramble to be among the lucky hundreds to witness this historic event!

And to bone up on your vaudeville history beforehand, consult my book 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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Three Cheers for the Countess!

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, ME, Vaudeville etc., Women on July 21, 2011 by travsd

As we head into the home stretch of our brief run in the New York International Fringe Festival, I just wanted to pause a moment and extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Countess, known to most government authorities as Carolyn Raship. Folks who peruse the program and marketing materials for our little one-horse show will note that she is listed as “Consulting Director”. “What does that mean?” you may wonder. Well, we made it up. As anyone can tell you, it’s deuced hard to direct yourself on stage. Some manage, but this correspondent has enough trouble holding the reins on his own part, let alone standing outside himself and seeing the big picture. As she did with my Tetragrammaton earlier this year, Carolyn generously stepped in and brought her expertise (greater than mine) to the task of moving bodies around artfully through space. You can see her hand especially in the “Crime of the Rhyme” sketch in the show, as well as the “One Ball Juggler” bit, and other solo bits I do. She was also the director of Sarah Engelke’s “Strega Nona” routine, performed in the show last week.

More palpably perhaps, she has busied herself with an amazing series of portraits of many of the acts in our show, which you can see at her swell new Tumblr blog here (if you haven’t already). This series has really added up to something, I feel. In short, it has legs. What the creature is or where it will walk on those legs, no one knows, but something beautiful, useful, and full of potential seems to have been loosed on the world. Let’s all keep our eye on it and hope that it doesn’t bite.

The Countess, in case it wasn’t plain, is my every happiness. I love her way more than vaudeville.

R.I.P. Jerry Lieber

Posted in Broadway, Music, Rock and Pop, Tin Pan Alley with tags , , , , , on July 21, 2011 by travsd

I was saddened to hear yesterday (August 22, 2011) of the passing of Jerry Lieber. I had gotten to speak to him once on the phone back when I was working for Tony Bennett. He was, of course, trying to sell Tony a song. I thought, how sad and odd, that a songwriter of this stature still has to travel around, hat in hand, and hawk his songs. At the time, Tony wasn’t even hot (this was a year or so before his big comeback in the 90s). As it happens, Jerry would have his own big comeback that decade, when Smokey Joe’s Cafe became a hit show on Broadway. (This, too, is strange and unnatural. That one of America’s top songwriters, and one so very much in the Tin Pan Alley tradition, doesn’t get a Broadway show for forty years — and when he does, it is with forty year old songs. Something symptomatic there, something unhealthy).

At any rate, if you wrote out a list of famous songs by Jerry Lieber with his pal Mike Stoller, it would, without exageration, be about as long as your arm. Lieber was the lyricist, and one could argue, the more significant and distinctive contributor to the team. Because one notable aspect about their work is the enormous range, both in terms of emotional content and of subject matter, in their songs. On the one hand, the lyrics to “Spanish Harlem” were so beautiful that Lenny Bruce once quoted them in his act as proof that rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t so bad. On the other hand, they wrote dozens of humorous songs, songs so gimmicky that they were of the type that ordinarily define “one hit wonders”, yet they had dozens of hits with them, usually(but not always) with their principle mouthpieces The Coasters: “Little Egypt”, “Along Came Jones” (about the star of B movie westerns), “Poison Ivy”, “Love Potion #9”, “Yakety Yak”, “Searchin'” (with its references to Charlie Chan and Bulldog Drummond), “Charlie Brown”, “Three Cool Cats”, “Alligator Wine” (as sung by Screamin Jay Hawkins) etc etc.

Lieber had that rare gift to be able to convey slapstick lyrically, planting hilarious images in the head with only words. From “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”:

“From behind the counter there came a man,

A chef hat on his head and a knife in his hand.

He grabbed me by the collar and he began to shout:

‘You’d better eat up all your beans and get right on out!'”

I’m also very fond of the punchline to “Love Potion #9”:

“But when I kissed a cop down at 23rd and Vine,

He broke my little bottle of Love Potion #9″

The team also had a major association with Elvis Presley, and as so often happens, success proved a kind of undoing. Elvis’s first major national hit was “Hound Dog”, a song the team had written for Big Mama Thornton in 1953. Soon they were supplying songs for his movies that also became hits, songs at once funny and cool, hence perfect for the King: “Jailhouse Rock”, “You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care)”, “Bossa Nova Baby”, etc etc etc. As the machine ground on through the sixties however, the product began to descend into hackwork and exhaustion showed: “Girls! Girls! Girls”, “King Creole”, etc.

Their original heyday had a couple of last gasps. “D.W. Washburn” was a minor hit for the Monkees in 1968. The following year, Peggy Lee had a hit with “Is That All There Is?” (later the theme song of our own Miss Astrid). A little known fact, the team (who were also top producers in the 50s and 60s) produced Stealers Wheels’ 1972 hit “Stuck in the Middle With You” (later memorably revived by Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs). And, though I’m not seeing this in a lot of the obituaries, the revival for Lieber and Stoller came quite early. When I was a kid in the 1970s, Sha Na Na and the ABC hit sit-com Happy Days were actually huge cultural forces, dominating the television airwaves. At any rate, they were certainly the avenues by which I came to know the team’s music. And thereafter their music became principally about nostalgia. (Another example — the title song of Rob Reiner’s film Stand By Me). At any rate, you can learn more about Mr. Leiber here. If there’s a rock and roll heaven…

Stars of Vaudeville #336: Swayne’s Rats and Cats

Posted in Animal Acts, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , on July 21, 2011 by travsd

swainsratsandcats

Swayne’s Rats and Cats (sometimes spelled Swain’s, sometimes remembered as Nelson’s) was a notorious animal act of late vaudeville, late enough that it was fondly recalled by many major twentieth century stars in their anecdotes. One finds accounts of the act in the writings and utterances of George Burns, Groucho Marx, Fred Allen, June Havoc, and Mousie Garner, et al. At the climax of the act the rats, dressed as little jockeys, would ride the cats around a little racetrack. Several have told the story in which Fanny Brice retired to find a rat in her dressing room, and screamed for Swayne (or Nelson, as the case may be) who entered, looked at the rat, and said “That’s not one of mine!” According to Groucho, however, a year later that civilian rat had become the star of the act.

To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other fine establishments.

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And the Rest (This Concludes the Stars of the AVT Series)

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Contemporary Variety on July 21, 2011 by travsd

This post wraps up our series profiling the many performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary.

There are dozens more valued and beloved entertainers who performed with our show over the past 15 years who are still unprofiled here…but the folks who remain have either:

a) retired from the show business;

b) disappeared off the face of the earth (or have no Internet presence, which amounts to the same thing);

c) never actually been variety artists per se;

c) somehow run afoul of the producer and Master of Ceremonies of the American Vaudeville Theatre;

d) didn’t answer my request for information;

or

e) some combination of the above.

If you’ve performed with us and have been missed somehow and would like to be included, by all means, get up in my virtual face!

And the ship sails on!

Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival through August 26!

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 #141: Amber Alert

Posted in American Vaudeville Theatre, Burlesk, Contemporary Variety with tags , on July 21, 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 met Amber Alert in her Clark Kent guise (Leah Aron) through our mutual boss (my former, her current. A terrific guy, by the way!) I finally saw her perform at the Slipper Room when she was one of three contestants for the Crystal Stiletto Awards, organized by Nelson Lugo. The judges were me, Joe Franklin and journalist (not the actress) Meg Ryan. Amber won the award. Later I booked her for my big burlesque show at Theater for the New City.

She trained at NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing and has worked extensively with Karen Finley.

Says Amber: “In making art, I employ my body, primarily, as the focal point—a stage—and at different times add the use of sound, video, movement and commonplace found objects to create narratives. My performance pieces incorporate the themes that are integral to my work, and include sex, violence, ethnic identity and the onerous challenge of navigating gender norms and societal expectations. As an artist, I appropriate and thus take control of the pervasive media images and cultural messages that assault the senses and drive us to covet that which undermines our true potential.”

You mean that was what she was doing in that naughty nurse outfit?

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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Variety Arts #20: Vaudeville

Posted in Variety Arts (Defined), Vaudeville etc. with tags on July 21, 2011 by travsd

This post is one in a series that defines for the layman the various types of variety arts, and to relate some of my own interactions therewith, all in anticipation of my upcoming show Trav S.D.’s American Vaudeville Theatre 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza.

When Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin were born, variety entertainment had been going on for decades in America, and like Harry Houdini, Milton Berle, Mae West, and countless others, these performers got their start on the vaudeville stage. From 1881 to 1932, vaudeville, (a nationwide system of theatre circuits specializing in variety entertainment) was at the heart of show business in the States. Its stars were America’s first stars in the modern sense, and it utterly dominated American popular culture. Writer and modern-day vaudevillian Trav S.D. chronicles vaudeville’s far-reaching impact in No Applause–Just Throw Money. He explores the many ways in which vaudeville’s story is the story of show business in America and documents the rich history and cultural legacy of our country’s only purely indigenous theatrical form, including its influence on everything from USO shows to Ed Sullivan to The Muppet Show and The Gong Show. More than a quaint historical curiosity, vaudeville is thriving today, and Trav S.D. pulls back the curtain on the vibrant subculture that exists across the United States–a vast grassroots network of fire-eaters, human blockheads, burlesque performers, and bad comics intent on taking vaudeville into its second century.

To learn more about the variety arts 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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