Archive for December, 2012

The Best Year of My Life

Posted in HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, ME, New Year's Eve on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Happy Old Year!

Forgive me for taking this traditional moment for crowing, but a little mental calculus has resulted in a bursting of the dam. 2012 was easily the best year of my professional career, in some ways better than every previous year put together. All in the same twelvemonth, I:

* wrote an article that was published in the New York Times (I’ve been IN many Times pieces, but this was the first time I’d actually penned one to go in the paper of record)

* had a sold out workshop of my new play The Fickle Mistress at Dixon Place, featuring OBIE winners Everett Quinton and Jan Leslie Harding, and starring downtown diva Molly Pope

* directed Angie Pontani’s Burlesquepades at Soho Playhouse

* presented the biggest, best edition yet of American Vaudeville Theatre in the prestigious New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF)

* finished my second book

* also presented SRO programs in the Brooklyn Book Festival,  NY Clown Theatre Festival and FABFest

* the usual quotidian miracles: the Villager column, the blog, speaking engagements, performances, and a couple of short silent comedy films.

Plans for the New Year include:

*  the release of my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube (with a series of public appearances and original silent comedy films to support it)

* a Palace Theatre centennial celebration

* a new burlesque comedy revue

* workshop events around my new opera (co-written with composer David Mallamud) The Curse of the Rat Man

and lots and lots of writing and performing….

I daren’t hope for a better year for me this year….and since so many had a tragic year in 2012, what I’ll be thinking about at midnight tonight is a better year for THEM (and thanking the master of ceremonies upstairs for a great 2012).

And a great 2013 for YOU. Thanks so much for reading this blog! (And for doubling your numbers once again in 2012!)

Forgotten Shows of My Nonage #20: Sunshine

Posted in American Folk/ Country/ Western, Forgotten Shows of My Nonage, Music, Rock and Pop, Television with tags , , , on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of John Denver (1943-1997). In 1974, there was a TV movie (followed by a short-lived tv series) called Sunshine that used Denver’s recent hit “Sunshine on My Shoulder” as its theme song. Though I wasn’t much older than the child star at its center, I was a devotee of both. The story was a weepie about a young, good looking hippie couple with a child. Christina Raines (from Nashville) played the mother, who’s dying of cancer. Cliff de Young was the musician husband, left to raise the child on his own. Interestingly, de Young had been a real life rock musician prior to becoming an actor, and it’s him covering the Denver song on Sunshine’s theme.

Here’s a snippet:

Rex Allen: Don’t Go Near the Indians

Posted in American Folk/ Country/ Western, Crackers, Music, Native American Interest, Singers, Television, TV variety, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Star of Vaudeville #412: Rex Allen (for more on this cowboy star go here). And now here he is singing his over-the-top hilarious politically incorrect 1963 hit song on the Grand Ole Opry “Son, Don’t Go Near the Indians”:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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Odetta

Posted in African American Interest, American Folk/ Country/ Western, Blues, Music, Singers, TV variety with tags , on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Odetta (1930-2008). Her profile is different from most other African Americans associated with folk and blues music in that she trained in opera and got her start in musical theatre; it was only with the folk and blues revival of the 50s and 60s that she identified with the populist genres. Bob Dylan has credited her with interesting him in folk music as a teenager (previously he had been playing rock and roll), and she was also a major influence on Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult 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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And don’t  miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Stars of Vaudeville #554: Edgar Leslie

Posted in Music, Tin Pan Alley, Vaudeville etc. with tags , on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Edgar Leslie (1885-1976). He began writing songs for vaudeville acts in 1909, among them Nat Wills, Joe Welch, James Barton, Lew Dockstader, and Belle Baker. Hit songs he wrote or co-wrote included “For Me and My Gal”, “Moon Over Miami”, “Among My Souvenirs” “He’d Have to Get Out (Get Out and Get Under)”, and “Sadie Salome”. He was a founding member of ASCAP, and served as its president twice, from 1931 to 1941, and from 1947 to 1953.

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult 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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And don’t  miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Stars of Vaudeville #553: Ade Duval

Posted in German, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , on December 31, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Adolph Amrein, a.k.a Ade Duval (1898-1965). He began his vaudeville career in the early twenties with Andrew Blaeser in an act billed as the Duval Brothers. When the team broke up, Duval developed his signature niche, which was “Rhapsody in Silk”, a number of illusions involving silk fabric. His other popular tricks included “the Vanishing Cocktail Shaker Full of Milk” and “Smoking from the Thumb.” His wife was his assistant and musical director. When she passed away in 1955, he retired.

Here’s a 1932 clip of Rhasopdy in Silk:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult 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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And don’t  miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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Michael Nesmith, “Magnolia Simms”

Posted in Comedy, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, Rock and Pop, Sit Coms, Television, Tin Pan Alley with tags , , on December 30, 2012 by travsd

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Okay, last one today, I promise! The musical stars must be truly alligned for December 30. It’s also Michael Nesmith’s birthday. I’ve already written a bit about the Monkees here. None of the charges that are commonly leveled at the group apply to him in any way: he was never uncool, he was never inauthentic, he was never untalented. Far from being just a cute, cheeky sit-com star, he is above all a terrific songwriter…if I post a song of his I like on every one of his birthdays, I think I will I have to hire someone to keep doing it on my behalf after I am dead.

I’ll start with this one, though, because I mention it in No Applause as a key example of the vaudeville music revival that happened in the psychedelic sixties. The false starts are part of the intended fun, as is the broken record bit at the end:

To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.

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