Archive for the HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES Category

An Easter Message

Posted in Charlie Chaplin, Comedians, Comedy, CULTURE & POLITICS, Easter with tags , , on April 16, 2017 by travsd

“Hannah, can you hear me?” Paulette Goddard as the hope of the world in “The Great Dictator”

Holidays in the western world are a Pagan thing, a Roman Thing. The earliest Christians (the last true Christians, the kind of people who gave their lives rather than deviate from their principles, which meant unwavering self-denying altruism and suicidal non-violence) were against holidays as sensuous distractions, the very opposite, in fact, of everything their religion valued. But the conversion of Pagan (Gentile) Europe meant compromise, and church leaders and theologians were fairly ingenious at how they wed the two seemingly incompatible religious systems together.

Christmas, Halloween and Easter are the most visible fruits of those efforts. Halloween errs on the side of Paganism, but I’m from the Episcopal church which does a very good job of reminding its parishioners that Halloween is “actually” All Hallow’s Eve — the night before All Souls Day. These three holidays (Christmas, Halloween, East) are married to the seasonal pivots, which were holidays in the Pagan world. As is the holiday for the fourth season, summer, though that one for us in America is a little more scattershot. In Europe there are things like St John’s Eve, Midsummer etc but here in the U.S., the Fourth of July finally wound up serving that purpose. That holiday evolved quite differently and has its own specific, separate meanings but serves the same purpose…the picnics and cookouts and so forth celebrate the arrival of summer.

At any rate, over time, I’ve finally come to appreciate Easter. As any former child can tell you, of the four seasonal holidays, Easter generally comes in a distant fourth. John Oliver cracked a joke about it a few weeks ago, quipping that Easter is like a form of Christmas where all you get is a basket of beans. Oliver is a comedian. Hopefully, adults have more investment in their symbolic holy days beyond what they will “get”. The crucial thing about Easter (and the vernal equinox) is that they are about renewal, a clean slate, the possibility of starting over again. When I was a kid, those were a bunch of boring words. Kids ARE the chicks. That’s scarcely a metaphor, it’s just about literally true. What does a baby care about babies? An infant does not contemplate infancy. You have to have seen a good many Easters go by before you start saying, “I wish I could start this whole thing over again”. Not only must a lot of water have passed under the bridge, but a good many doors must have now been CLOSED to you, perhaps never to be open again. The things you didn’t do, perhaps you will now never do.

Perhaps. But. Except. Spring and Easter are here to remind us that regrets are wintertime thinking and winter isn’t forever. Though the present moment undoubtedly SUCKS (and let us extend the Easter portrait by saying that it sucks EGGS) things can and will get better, in fact MUST get better as part of the natural order of things. Maybe not two minutes from now, but they WILL get better. I promise.

This year Easter happens to fall on Charlie Chaplin’s birthday. I can’t think of a more heartening Easter message for today than Chaplin’s speech at the end of The Great Dictator. The text and the clip are both available at the official Chaplin web site here. 

(Not My) President Day in NYC

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Presidents Day, Protests with tags , , , , on February 20, 2017 by travsd

There’s only one way to spend Presidents Day in the age of Drumpf — that’s by rejecting the present office holder utterly and vociferously, and refusing to include him in any honors extended to his august precedessors.  Accordingly, tens of thousands of protesters gathered on Central Park West and Columbus Circle to make their point outside Trump Tower. Your correspondent was among them.

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I wore the swell shirt you see above, created by my old friend Matt Cohen. Now I know for certain that I am one of the 65,844,954 who voted for HRC. I am less certain that I one of the actual ones represented in the difference between her total number of popular votes and Trump’s puny, pathetic lesser total. Still, this handsome article was the appropriate shirt for today’s outing, and if you want one of your own you can get it here.

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Minutes after arriving I looked back and all these people had filled in behind me.

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I do not endorse siccing a dog on Donald Trump. However I would be delighted to watch one tear apart his effigy.

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These are the folks ahead of me in the march. We entered Central Park West at 68th Street, and worked our way south toward Trump Tower

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Trump Tower within sight

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At this stage I left the enclosure, thinking I’d never make it all the way up to the main demonstration, which was a block south at the Columbus Circle corner of Central Park, across the street from Trump Tower.

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At this stage I had actually left the official demonstration. Notice the difference?

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This gave me great joy. Departing protesters showed their disrespect for our pretend President by depositing their protest litter in front of the sign advertising his architectural phallus substitute

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When I turned the corner I learned to my great happiness, that there was easy access to the main demonstration from the Columbus Circle side. (Which no one back at the main march knew — we were all instructed to enter at W. 68th). At any rate, I zipped over for a few minutes to see what I could see, and yell at a Trump building for a few minutes.

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These were the only bona fide anarchists I saw the whole time. Most of the folks I saw at the rally looked like families, senior citizens, students, young couples, and the like. At any rate, I imagine this sign far exceeds the radicalism of 99% of the people there. Presidents can be plenty infuriating, but most of us are quite fond of our Constitutional system. In fact, one of our major problems with the present President is the contempt he shows for that system.

Look! The protest followed me home!

Look! The protest followed me home!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Littlest Lovers: Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren

Posted in BUNKUM, Dime Museum and Side Show, Little People, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA, Valentine's Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by travsd

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“There’s someone for everybody” goes the old matchmaker’s expression, and perhaps no words rang truer on February 9, 1863, the day that professional little person Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) married Lavinia Warren at Grace Church, New York. (I believe that’s Lavinia’s sister Minnie Warren as Maid of Honor; and Commodore Nutt as Best Man). This little stunt, the “Fairy Wedding” by the press, lightened people’s hearts during the depths of the Civil War. We present it to you in the same spirit today.

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It wasn’t just a publicity stunt, however; the two were a real couple. But even so, their boss P.T. Barnum was probably not too unhappy when the big event resulted in coverage like this:

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“I love you completely, my own, my all. But above all, I love this front page coverage in Harpers!”

2016 Wrap-Up

Posted in ME, My Shows, New Year's Eve with tags on January 1, 2017 by travsd

Happy New Year! Below, our annual pictorial recap of the year that was, here in Travyland. And boy would I like to turn the clock back a year!

January:

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Was thrilled to be on the very first episode of Jennifer Harder’s Radio Free Brooklyn show Blonde Thunder Presents. Hear it here. 

March:

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AVT 20th anniversary show and benefit show for I’ll Say She Is at the Slipper Room. More here.

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Premiere of Derek Davidson’s film Moving Pictures., in which I played a small role

April:

Launch of my new web site Travsd.com. What? You’ve never seen it? Well, we opened soft, as they say in the business, but Noah Diamond did a beautiful job on its design, and it’s a useful place for me to point folks to. Please check it out!

Gimme a Thrill, Noah Diamond’s book on the history of I’ll Say She Is n which I am generously featured, is released. 

May/ June:

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I’ll Say She Is revival (of which I was one of the co-producers) at the Connelly Theatre

July:

In July, we profiled our 1,000th vaudevillian in our Stars of Vaudeville series here on Travalanche

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Windows on the Bowery launch event at Cooper Union. I contributed text to some of the historical markers that were hung as part of this project, organized by the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors

with Brian Gari, Eddie Cantor's grandson at launch event for "Windows on the Bowery"

with Brian Gari, Eddie Cantor’s grandson at launch event for “Windows on the Bowery”

 

w/ Charli Ouda in "The Iron Heel", South Oxford Space

w/ Charli Ouda in “The Iron Heel”, South Oxford Space

July through September I acted (and played banjo) in UTC #61’s revival of Jack London’s The Iron Heel (July through September)

August:

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Married the Mad Marchioness, Part One!

September:

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with Dr. Lisa

A guest on the Radio Free Brooklyn program Dr. Lisa Gives a Sh*t. Listen to it here.

October:

A guest on the Between the Liner Notes podcast with Matthew Billy. Listen to it here. 

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with Killy Dwyer, officiant

Married the Mad Marchioness, Part Two (Slipper Room vaudeville show). Full spread here. 

November:

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L-R, Lauren Milberger, Trav S.D., Kita St. Cyr, Glen Heroy

Fields Fest: We presented our adaptation W.C. Fields for President at the Lambs. 

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I appeared as the Narrator in Peculiar Works’ Project’s presentation of America’s oldest play Androboros

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Appeared on Rachel Cleary’s Radio Free Brooklyn program Hear and Now to talk about Fields Fest

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Fields Fest: Times Square History Walk with Kevin Fitzpatrick and appearance on web tv program Classic Movies and More

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with Dr. Harriet Fields, WC Fields’ only grandaughter

Fields Fest: Screening of The Bank Dick at the Cinema Arts Center

with Austin Pendleton following his Christmas show at Pangea

With Austin Pendleton following his Christmas show at Pangea

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Fields Fest: Trav speaks at NYPL on WC Fields and Vaudeville

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Fields Fest: Trav speaks at Greater Astoria Historical Society on W.C. Fields silent movies for Paramount

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Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Kraine Theatre

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Presentation of Man on the Flying Trapeze at Metrograph

In addition, we are especially proud of improvements we have made to Travalanche this year, broadening and deepening the content, adding pieces on politics, society, American history, and some memoir. At the same time, we have not abandoned our usual content streams of vaudeville, classic comedy, show biz, etc.

There are (were) big plans on all fronts for 2017. Typically we announce such things at this time, but because of political developments (and some personal ones) we prefer not to announce anything specific, at least for the nonce. Instead I will simply thank you for your interest and support over the past year, and wish you a safe and healthy twelvemonth to come.

 

 

New Year’s Eve in the Movies

Posted in Hollywood (History), Movies, Movies (Contemporary), New Year's Eve with tags , on December 31, 2016 by travsd

In honor of the day, some favorite movies featuring New Year’s Eve scenes. This holiday is often used to mark extreme or catastrophic change in the life of the characters or their environment — a theme for us to contemplate this year in particular when the clock strikes midnight.

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The Gold Rush (1925)

Shame on you if you don’t know this movie or this scene. Led on by the supercilious dance hall girl Georgia (Georgia Hale) lone prospector Charlie Chaplin prepares for what he thinks will be a delightful New Year’s party with Georgia and a few friends. He sleeps and dreams a magical time, but awakens to find himself alone and stood up. Warning: don’t watch if you’re alone and depressed!

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Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

Something about the early Technicolor adds to the eeriness of this, one of the creepiest of classic studio era horror films. The opening scenes depict feisty girl reporter Glenda Farrell making her way through the crowded New York City streets on New Year’s Eve, clogged with carnivalesque revelers. Holidays are always interesting in older films — what people wear, the different ways they celebrated. Farrell’s journey will lead her to a corpse, and eventually to mad wax sculptor Lionel Atwill. 

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Every Day’s a Holiday (1937)

Mae West loved to celebrate the period of her early childhood, the gay ’90s, in her films.  Something about the era symbolized relative freedom to her, I think: saloons and bawdy houses and crooked politicians. That’s the milieu of her last true starring film Every Day’s a Holiday, set in Tammany era NYC, with crucial scenes taking place on New Year’s Eve 1900 — just when the city and nation were poised to go from horses and buggies to automobiles.

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Sunset Boulevard (1950)

One of the most touching scenes in Billy Wilder’s masterpiece has William Holden briefly escaping from the virtual tomb he has been inhabiting with former silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) to the relative joy and vitality of a proper New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s house, full of youth and music, and a much more appropriate girlfriend. The moment is a poignant blip, a last chance, a fleeting glimpse into a happy life he’ll never get to have.

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The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

At age seven this was my introduction to New Years’s Eve, the first place I heard “Auld Lang Syne”, witnessed a countdown to midnight, saw grownups with noise-makers and party hats. It’s part of the mysterious magic of this film (which is still one of my favorites) that the moment of disaster strikes just at midnight: it’s a new year and everything turns upside down. Celebration turns to tragedy in the blink of an eye. It’s part of the peculiar dream logic and symbolism of movies, and it works extraordinarily well.

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Jaws the Revenge (1987)

This is  a most entertainingly terrible movie which has only recently become a new classic around my house. (I never bothered with it when it came out.) It’s predicated on the concept that now-deceased Amity Island Police Chief Brody’s wife Ellen’s most irrational fears are TRUE — that a sentient, malevolent, psychic shark has designs on her family for some reason, and that you get killed every time you are crazy enough to go into the water. That her son managed to become a MARINE BIOLOGIST given such a family dynamic is one of the film’s countless delightful head-scratchers. Lorraine Gary is the film’s star, Roy Scheider having long since decided he had far better things to do. At any rate, the film starts around Christmas (her other son is killed by a shark while people on shore sing Christmas carols), and so the family travels to the Bahamas to forget it all (wouldn’t you choose someplace far INLAND?) At any rate, the New Year’s Eve scene in this film is memorable for being one of tent pole WTF moments, where you go…”H’m, we seem to have lost the narrative thread here.” As Gary and Michael Caine dance and romance each other and talk, and various other characters move around the party and talk, and you’re like, “Wasn’t this supposed to be a thing about sharks?” Oh, but it will be, for Bruce the Shark soon swims the thousand or more miles to the Bahamas from New England just to have another go at this particular family. New Year, same old killer shark!

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Boogie Nights (1997)

Much like Mae West’s Every Day’s a Holiday, P.T. Anderson’s porn-industry portrait features a scene on a historically significant New Year’s Eve, in this case not a century demarcation but an important change of decades. The coming of the ’80s (and home video) will mean the end of porn theatres, and the end of the time when the industry had some claims to professionalism. Soon any amateur could grab a video camera and make their own porn and the industry would be glutted. The death of the old era is symbolized by a tragedy at the party — but I won’t spoil it, in the unlikely event you’ve not seen this terrific movie.

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New Year’s Eve (2011)

Let’s get one thing straight: New Year’s Eve is a nearly unwatchable trough of expensive garbage. You can just hear Garry Marshall saying, “Ya like good lookin’ young people? I’ll give ya 28 good lookin’ young people — plus Robert de Niro!” I watched a good hunk of this rubbish for the first time last year, and there was one aspect I found very interesting, however. Its structure…of constant cross-cutting between over-expository scenes of diverse people bustling around in anticipation of some major event….feels EXACTLY like the opening act of a DISASTER MOVIE. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that it’s set in New York…TIMES SQUARE, to be precise. A major terrorist target. And I LOVE disaster movies . So I so badly want this to be a disaster movie, to re-cut it, so that instead of a midnight countdown, the climax will be a gigantic wall of water coming from the Hudson River, or a bunch of mid-town skyscrapers toppling like dominoes. And the fact that this DOESN’T happen, in particular, to all these beautiful Caucasian cipher-people, is a total let down.  Roland Emmerich, please step in and give us a new third act for this movie.

70 Years Ago Today: W.C. Fields Meets the Man in the Bright Nightgown

Posted in Christmas, Comedians, Comedy, W.C. Fields with tags , , , on December 25, 2016 by travsd

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We’ll be blogging about comedian W.C. Fields all through November and December as part of our tribute to the comedian called Fields Fest.  For a full list upcoming live Fields Fest events go here. 

It’s well known that W.C. Fields was a comedian, a screenwriter and a juggler — probably less well known that he was an amateur cartoonist. His drawings were interesting, original, funny and very much reflective of his personality. I came upon this Christmas card he designed a few months ago. There are ironies and meaning aplenty here. Fields the curmudgeon wasn’t crazy about Christmas. And also he died on Christmas day, 1946 — 70 years ago today. (He often spoke of death as “meeting the Man in the Bright Nightgown”. )

Today was originally intended to be the last day of Fields Fest, but we have spillover! On December 29, we’ll be presenting Man on the Flying Trapeze at Metrograph with guest speaker Dr. Harriet Fields, W.C.’s only granddaughter, a global health advocate. And we will be rescheduling our talk on “W.C. Fields: from Dime Museums to the Jazz Age”, co-presented by Zelda Magazine, originally scheduled for the Morbid Anatomy Museum. We’ll have an article on Fields in Zelda, and more blogposts about him here on Travalanche. It appears that Fields Fest is the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks for being part of it!

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Christmas, VISUAL ART with tags , , , on December 24, 2016 by travsd

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I snapped this on the wall of the Lambs Club last month during Fields Fest. It’s by the pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, a favorite of both the Mad Marchioness and myself.

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