Archive for December, 2012

The Best Year of My Life

Posted in ME, My Shows 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:

Edgar Leslie: Vaudeville Hitmaker

Posted in Music, Stars of Vaudeville, 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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Ade Duval: Rhapsody in Silk

Posted in German, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, Stars of Vaudeville, 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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Bo Diddley: “Say, Man”

Posted in African American Interest, Blues, Comedy, Latin American/ Spanish, Music, Rock and Pop with tags , , on December 30, 2012 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Ellas McDaniel, better known as Bo Diddley (1928-2008). While not usually placed in the pantheon of influential 50s rockers that includes Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Little Richard, he most assuredly belongs there. His shadow is long, and falls in many directions. The songs that he wrote have been covered far and wide; his signature beat (the rhumba-influenced “Bo Diddley Beat”) has become a permanent part of any rock band’s tool kit (I first learned it when my high school punk band covered “I Want Candy”), and ultimately his style, humor and flair would come to influence rap and hip hop (Run-DMC in particular, I’ve always thought. )

I got to see him live once, in around 1988, at the Bottom Line, I think. He was an hour late and his set was a half hour long. This is why playing records at home will always be preferable to live music.

A Mississippi native, McDaniel (no can agree on why he is named Bo Diddley) moved to Chicago as a youth, where he began his career as a busker before playing local blues clubs, heavily under the spell of Muddy Waters. There is much in his work that harkens back much earlier, though. The latin rhythms that influenced his famous beat have their origin in Africa, as does the old tradition of “doing the dozens” on which his comedy routines are based, and which lead us all the way to hip hop. If you only know songs like “Bo Diddly”, “I’m a Man”, and “Who Do You Love”, a track like this one will open your eyes. Vaudeville, past, present and future:

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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Patti Smith on SNL

Posted in Music, Rock and Pop, Television, TV variety with tags , , , on December 30, 2012 by travsd

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A lot of music in the air today (and a couple of more posts after this!). Today is also the birthday of holy-punk-poet-saint Patti Smith. I first saw her/ heard her during her performance on Saturday Night Live in April 1976. Being ten, I was too young to recognize how remarkable the performance was, but going back and watching it now — holy crap! (This was two years before she crossed over with the hit single “Because the Night”)

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable 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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