Archive for February 3, 2017

Tomorrow at Dixon Place: A Great Free Opera

Posted in Classical, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, Music, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd

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A couple of years ago we waxed enthusiastic about the samples we heard of The Hat, an opera-in-progress by Karen Siegel and Zsuzsanna Ardo at Opera on Tap’s New Brew series (same folks presenting our opera section tonight). Now Siegel and Ardo’s show is more topical than ever. It’s about the affair between a young Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger. It’s been both heartening and dismaying to know that sales of Ardent’s books have gone up the past few weeks (she’s the person who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the rise of the Nazis). And Heidegger of course, though one of the most brilliant existentialist philosophers of the 20th century, actually became a Nazi apologist! The romance sounded do distant and faraway the last time I heard it. Now it’s hitting terrifyingly close to home.

They’re presenting the whole thing tomorrow night at Dixon Place in the Lounge — admission is free. An edifying way and place in which to spend a winter evening.

The Ubiquitous John Fiedler

Posted in Hollywood (History), Sit Coms, Television with tags , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd
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“Star Trek” (“Wolf in the Fold” episode, 1967

Today is the birthday of the once ubiquitous character actor John Fielder (1925-2005). Few know the name but most everyone of a certain age knows the face and the voice! A diminutive man with a capacious bald head, his physiognomy always reminded me a little of the comic strip character “Henry”:

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His high-pitched, mild-mannered voice allowed the Wisconsin native to work in radio after his World War Two Service. He broke into Broadway and television in the 1950s. His small size and tiny voice were usually employed in one of two manners: 1) timid, scared little characters; or 2) the opposite: officious, bullies who tried to compensate for the small size by self-assertion and bullying. He was ordinarily employed in comedies or for comic purposes.

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Just a handful of notable film and tv appearances (out of hundreds): the movie version of Twelve Angry Men (1957), The Twilight Zone (1960 and 1962), Star Trek (“Wolf in the Fold” episode, 1967), The Odd Couple (the Broadway play, 1965-1967, as well as the film, 1968, and tv show, 1972 and 1974), Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh (various animated films & tv specials, as the voice of Piglet, 1968-2005), Kolchak: The Night Stalker (as Gordy the coroner, 1974-75), The Bob Newhart Show (as Mr. Peterson, 1972-1978), and guest shots on practically every show ever broadcast.  He kept working right on until his death in 2005.

Sweating bullets as Vinnie in the movie version of "The Odd Couple" (1968)

Sweating bullets as Vinnie in the movie version of “The Odd Couple” (1968)

Celebrations of America’s Diversity by that Famous “Cuck” Norman Rockwell

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd

Today is the birthday of the great American illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). It couldn’t be better timed, for his late work says forcefully what I firmly believe: American patriotism is deeply intertwined with the celebration of American diversity. And that’s a message that particularly needs circulating just now.

There is no greater indication to me of how stupid and boorish these alt-right thugs are than something like the recent Budweiser Brew-Ha-Ha. Everyone in America is an immigrant, and things like this Annheuser-Busch tribute, if anything, used to be the stomping grounds of the right, at least as much as the left. That was America’s brand of PATRIOTISM. It’s the kind of thing that used to get Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan and Georgie Jessel and Frank Sinatra misty-eyed. Every Hollywood movie’s World War 2 or Vietnam troop is always almost hilariously diverse, as though it were a study group from Model U.N.: “Roll call: Petrocelli! Bernstein! Robinson! Gonzalez! O’Rourke!” I mean, what the hell? It seems to me these alt-right people don’t want America, they want Idaho, so they oughtta just move there, build their feckin’ wall around themselves and leave the real Americans — the ones who have some understanding of American freedoms embodied by the U.S. Constitution and the Statue of Liberty — to flourish without them. The alt-right is a millstone around America’s neck.

Anyway, as you’ll all agree there is no one more “American” than Norman Rockwell, he was kind of the official artist of Americana for a good hunk of the 20th century. The derogatory click-bait term I used in the headline is obviously used sarcastically. A few inspirational images from his hand:

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He leaves this one open to interpretation. To my eyes, it’s clear these innocent children are going to be friends in about five minutes

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It’s hard to make out the words, but they are the Golden Rule of Christianity, “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” Pretty simple, huh? One might think.

The Bodega Protest

Posted in BROOKLYN, CULTURE & POLITICS, Protests with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd

Yesterday 1,000 Yemeni bogeda owners in NYC shuttered their shops (for the day)  to protest Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, which affects them and their families directly. Their day culminated with a rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall last night. It severely bugged me that I wasn’t able to attend, as it’s so close to my home, but I had a meeting I couldn’t get out of. Luckily my old friend Gabriele Schafer of the International Culture Lab was able to go and she was generous enough to share her pix with Travalanche. As Gaby put it in her email to me: “No one is as proudly American”.

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Jack Waldron: The First Stand-Up?

Posted in Comedians, Comedy, Stand Up, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by travsd

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Brooklyn’s own Jack Waldron (Jack Kestenbaum, 1893-1969) was born on this day. In vaudeville days, Waldron was a comic, singer and dancer with a team called Lockett and Waldron; he later worked with a succession of others partners including Betty Winslow, Myrtle Young, Emma Haig, and Harry Carroll; and was also briefly teamed with Shemp Howard in 1925.

Waldron had spots in four Broadway shows in the twenties: Flossie (1924), The Great Temptations (1926), Hello, Daddy (1928), and Woof Woof (1929-1930). He made two Vitaphone picture shorts: A Breath of Broadway (1928), and Radio and Relatives (1940). Throughout the 30s and 40s, he was mostly a night club comic and m.c., prized for his one-liners. As such he was highly influential; some have gone so far as to claim him as the first stand-up comedian, although the same claim has also been made about many earlier performers. Jack E. Leonard claimed to have patterned his rapid-fire insult style after Waldron, quoting him as saying to a heckler, “Let’s play horse. I’ll be the front end, and you just be yourself!”

In 1948 Waldron did The Ed Sullivan Show, his one tv spot. and then three Broadway shows in the 50s: Pal Joey (1952-53), The Pajama Game (1954-56), and The Vamp (1955). In 1961, the Sobels included him in their A Pictorial History of Vaudeville. And in 1969 he became Shepherd (president) of the Lambs, a post he held until he died.

You can see him in action in his Vitaphone A Breath of Broadway here.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult 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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