Archive for the Contemporary Variety Category

What’s Up at Coney

Posted in AMERICANA, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2017 by travsd

We all associate Coney Island with summer (it’s a beach and amusement park after all), but it may be a lesser known fact that there’s stuff happening at Coney Island USA all through the winter season as well. For example, most every Sunday Gary Dreifus presents his kid friendly Magic at Coney show. I was mightily entertained by Mr. Dreifus’s feats in yesterday’s show, as well as those of his special guests Magical Vince and Phil Crosson.  Here’s next week’s line-up:

The magic show takes place in the Coney Island Museum,  open on weekend throughout the winter. The museum has recently been spruced up with some new displays and wall text

 

Koo Koo the Bird Girl and her jolly friend (okay, he’s dressed like a jester, but I don’t know how jolly he is).

 

 

“Slapstick Used By Angelo the Midget at the Steeplechase Blowhole”

And now there is a whole new Hot Dog section of the museum featuring items like:

 

These stained glass windows are from the original Feltman’s Restaurant, birthplace of the hot dog

Thence (the real pull for the day) a special preview event for the new exhibition Five Cents to Dreamland: A Trip to Coney Island, created and curated by the New York Transit Museum. 

A 1998 sideshow banner by the one and only Marie Roberts!

A genuine vintage Strength-Tester mallet.

 

CIUSA Founder Dick Zigun (center): with Concetta Bencivenga, director of the NYTM; and John di Domenico, who serves on the boards of both organizations

 

Coney’s own Patrick Wall, Your Mix-Master

 

CIUSA board members James Fitzsimmons and Dr. Jeff Birnbaum, with Birnbaum’s son

 

Coney Island USA’s annual gala is happening in just two weeks, March 25! An all-star cast celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Mermaid Parade with a Corral Jubilee! Follow this magical portal for tickets and details! 

 

Killy Dwyer in “Not Show Business”

Posted in Art Stars, Contemporary Variety, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Indie Theatre with tags , , , , , on March 5, 2017 by travsd

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I was so grateful Kelly “Killy” Dwyer flushed me out of my hiding place yesterday to come see the last performance of her work Not Show Business in the Frigid Festival at Under St. Marks. We’re longtime fans of Killy’s, not just as an artist but as a person; we love her so much we asked her to officiate at our wedding.  Little did we know that she was going through tough times then, which I only make bold to mention because she talks about it openly in her work.

What do we admire about her work? Well for one thing, she can’t be pigeon-holed. She’s a singer, comedienne, storyteller, musician, autobiographical performance artist. The word “collage” occurred to me looking at the stage yesterday, a piece built of cut-up fragments. In addition to the performance aspects, she was working with found objects (real physical items from her childhood) in this show, as well as video (home movies).

She is extremely bold and brave. I know this because I have been watching her for a long time and I catch quick glimpses of what’s behind the mask. She does a high wire act. Once you’re on the wire, there’s only one way to do it and that’s with the confidence that you can. But there’s that second before you step off. She doesn’t hide that second from anybody before she climbs up, but it’s there. She’s whistlin’ in the graveyard. She mines a lot of humor from mock insincerity in the show biz tradition (after she finished a song yesterday, she said, “Let’s hear it for that, huh?”) and that’s endearing. At the same time, she bares all, about her mistakes, about her foibles, and in particular (in this show) about struggles with mental illness. She switched up her meds six months ago because she was afraid she was losing her memory, and this show is all about memory. Hence the giant baby-jammies, and the box of keepsakes full of old photo albums and yearbooks and the projected home movies on stage.

Now, I have seen shows just like what I just have described that have been insufferable, and you have too. What sets Killy apart, aside from honesty that’s not bullshit, is a high level of craft that allows her to turn the mess of her life into art. She is a great legit singer in a very old school way (like, really, I don’t know, Doris Day or something) and that impression is reinforced by the fact that her physical raw material looks like the Ohio mom she probably would have been if there wasn’t an exploding genius inside fucking up her brain. (I know I’m not alone in that impression because she gets cast as moms all the time in TV commercials.) But in reality she is a feral free spirit, and that comes out in her songwriting and arranging which is modern and technological and would not be out of place at a party (unless you made a point of listening to the dark and funny lyrics). In the show I saw she sang a song about her high school romance with Jack Daniels (the kind that comes in a bottle), an abusive romance which resulted in her breaking her nose at her 18th birthday party. She blended the song and the story perfectly into a seamless performance although it was presumably performed spur of the moment as the result of an audience member choosing it by spinning a “Wheel of Destiny”.

Killy’s work is inspirational to me and it was heartening to see it at Under St. Marks, a space I have been coming back to for almost 20 years now, a place that has hung on to its mission of presenting such work when the whole city seems to be becoming a brothel of high-priced sell-outs. This is pure work. It’s kind of the only work that matters. Made me want to jump on up there and try to do a show just like it, and that’s the highest kind of praise I got.

BTW, Killy’s been doing a terrific prime-time radio show on Radio Free Brooklyn, Friday nights at 8pm. You should check it out!

Happy 100th Birthday to Jazz!

Posted in Contemporary Variety, Dixieland & Early Jazz, Music, PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS with tags , , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by travsd

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On Feb. 26, 1917, exactly 100 years ago, The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) made the first-ever commercial jazz recording,”Livery Stable Blues,” for the Victor Talking Machine Company. An instant hit, selling close to a million copies, the record paved the way toward establishing jazz as popular music and ushered in the Jazz Age. (Naturally, jazz itself had been developing and percolating for years, even decades prior to this, and took several years after this gain mainstream popularity, but today is without a doubt an important cultural benchmark).

The Grand St Stompers will celebrate this historic occasion, as well as paying homage to one of the members of ODJB, J. Russel Robinson, for his contribution to jazz and American popular music with an all-new show! Robinson was an American ragtime and jazz pianist and composer whose early hits included “Sapho Rag” and “Eccentric.” Known for his blues-influenced playing style, Robinson joined the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1919. Among his hits for ODJB were composition such as “Margie,” “Singin’ the Blues,” and “Palesteena.” In 1977, Robinson’s “Singin’ the Blues,” a 1927 recording by Frankie Trumbauer and his Orchestra, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The concert will start with a talk and antique gramophone presentation by MICHAEL CUMELLA (aka Phonograph DJ Mac), the host of WFMU Radio’s Antique Phonograph Music Program.

This night will be dedicated to the great Rich Conaty, who for 40 years, every Sunday night, spread joy to the lovers of hot jazz with his irreplaceable Big Broadcasts. Rich tragically left us in December. On the day of the concert, we will remember Rich and sign off the night with his trademark “Aloha.”

The Grand St. Stompers Octet:
Gordon Au – trumpet, arranger / Molly Ryan – vocals / Matt Koza – soprano sax, clarinet / Dan Block – tenor sax, clarinet / Jim Fryer – trombone / Dalton Ridenhour – piano / Rob Adkins – bass / Jay Lepley – drums

SUNDAY, FEB. 26 — 8PM
DROM
85 Avenue A (btwn 5th & 6th Sts, Manhattan, NY)

Sponsored by Wits End

TICKETS/INFO: NYHOTJAZZFEST.COM
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ADVANCE TICKETS:
General Admission – $10
Reserved Table Seating – $20
PRIME Reserved Table Seating – $25
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DOOR Price +$10 on all ticket levels

DOOR TICKETS:
General Admission – $20
Reserved Table Seating – $30
PRIME Reserved Table Seating – $35
——————————————
Once the ADVANCE ticket block is sold out, tickets will be available at the DOOR price.
——————————————
Presented by Hot Jazz Productions Inc & PM Music Enterprises (Peter Marcovicci)

Some More Circus and Variety News

Posted in Circus, Contemporary Variety with tags , , , , on February 15, 2017 by travsd

So much circus and variety news lately, this may have to become a regular feature!

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Much Circus News This Week!

Posted in Circus, Contemporary Variety, PLUGS with tags , , , , , , , on February 10, 2017 by travsd

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Just a few oddments of circus news I’ve gotten in recent days, so it made sense to loop ’em together.

  • As we wrote here, the Big Apple Circus went under earlier this year. As reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday the good news is that Compass Partners LLC has purchased the BAC’s assets at auction earlier this week and the circus will live on in some new form, perhaps even under the same name. Read the full article here. 
  • Good news for lovers of circus history. Illinois State University’s Milner Library is digitizing 300 circus route books from its Circus and Allied Arts Collection and making them available online. Read the full article in Smithsonian Magazine here.
  • Five members of the Flying Wallendas were badly injured Wednesday when they fell off a high wire while rehearsing their eight person pyramid with the Sarasota Circus. Say a prayer for the swift recovery of these brave performers! The story is here. 
  • The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus will be coming to Brooklyn for the last time in just two weeks. They open at the Barkleys Center on February 23. Tickets for their two week farewell engagement will undoubtedly go quickly. You can get them here.
  • Some news from Coney Island USA. Their annual gala, a “Coral Jubilee” celebrating the 35th year of the Mermaid Parade, will be on March 25. I’ll be the keynote speaker at their annual Congress of Curious People, April 21. My topic: “When Did the Circus Become Un-American?”
  • Lastly, as those in the know know, the theme of this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival is Circus Arts. Our good friends at the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus have been invited to participate. But they need your help! The unplanned trip to bring their show down to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is by definition un-budgeted for. You should help support them in any case (with the ancient art of circus in precarious danger everywhere you turn), but now’s a particularly good time to send some coin to the Bindlestiffs. Do so here.

Barry Lubin Becomes the First Clown to Clown on Seven Continents

Posted in Circus, Clown, Contemporary Variety, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , on January 14, 2017 by travsd

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In the midst of so many horrible precedents, and history being made in so many undesirable ways, something truly amazing happened. The great Barry Lubin, best known as the Big Apple Circus’s “Grandma”, became the first clown in history to have performed on all 7 continents. I want to be able to claim that he was also the first professional clown to perform in Antarctica but I’m not certain if that’s true (hundreds of people go down there annually to work now, and thousands of tourists visit annually on cruises). But I’m certain Lubin’s the first clown of such major stature to do so. The word “wonder” gets thrown around too much in the circus game, but this for once is a novelty that will put a spring in my step for some time. Thanks, Barry! This is in the great Houdini tradition, just going out in the world and doing something plum amazing to give the public a boost — just when we needed it the most.

An Early Holiday Junket on the L.E.S.

Posted in Burlesk, Christmas, Contemporary Variety, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, SOCIAL EVENTS, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2016 by travsd

Yeah, I know it’s almost three weeks away, but we needed some Christmas early this year, know’m sayin’? So when I had the opportunity to review a holiday show at Pangea last night (see below) I enjoyed the evening abroad to the full. Riding shotgun on the adventure was documentary-maker Heather Quinlan, who took some of the better pictures you see below (the uncredited ones are mine)

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The night got off to an auspicious start the instant I got off the F train; there was a vintage subway train parked in the station. The MTA pulls a couple of them out of mothballs (actually the NY Transit Museum) every year at this time.

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Stopped by the Paulaner Brauhaus on the Bowery (site of my wedding after-party/reception) for the tree trimming.

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It was nice to see this pop-up Christmas tree market at the site of the 2015 East Village Gas Leak Explosion, a little bit of festive beauty enlivening what would otherwise be a depressing black hole.

Then it was off to Pangea to see “‘Tis the Season to be Morbid”, a charming cabaret show starring Austin Pendleton (What’s Up Doc? Catch-22 etc etc etc) and Barbara Bleier (with a cameo by Barbara Maier Gustern.) See my review in Chelsea Now.

Bleier and Pendleton in concert. The lady in the red sweater in the audience is none other than Tammy Fay Starlite. Turn around, Tammy!

Bleier and Pendleton in concert. The lady in the red sweater in the audience is none other than Tammy Fay Starlite. Turn around, Tammy! Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

Barbara Maier Gustern. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Barbara Maier Gustern. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Pendleton and Trav S.D.

Pendleton and Trav S.D., lookin’ goofy

The off to Hotel Chantelle on Ludlow Street for the First Annual Repeal Day Party (honoring the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.) We caught several performances by the likes of Trick-the-Bastard, Lewd Alfred Douglas and several burlesque performers, but the photos didn’t come out well in the dim lighting.  Anyway, we were too busy enjoying the performances! I hope it does prove to be annual tradition, as it was a lot of fun!

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Dapper Don Spiro and Delicious Dandy Dillinger, hosts!

Dapper Don Spiro and Delicious Dandy Dillinger, hosts!

 

Nelson Lugo!

Nelson Lugo!

 

Hannah Schiff and Dan Hermann!

Hannah Schiff and Dan Hermann!

 

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Merch room. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

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Quinlan snapped this young lady on the street as we were leaving. I love what it says: the joy of Dandy’s party is spilling out into the world and spreading.

One last stop! I’d wanted to see Cardone’s New York House of Magic ever since he launched it at the Slipper Room over a year ago. The timing was perfect to see it last night. On the bill were young Apollo Riego, mentalist Patrick Terry, and the headliner Devlin. And of course Cardone. 

 

Cardone is literally tell me good places to visit in Transylvania in this picture. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Cardone is literally telling me good places to visit in Transylvania in this picture. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

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Cardone in performance. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Cardone in performance. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

 

Quinlan. We want to make a tv show together. Please give us money!

Quinlan. We want to make a tv show together. Please give us money!

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