Archive for the Christmas Category

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.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in Pictures

Posted in Christmas, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows with tags , on December 23, 2016 by travsd

We had a quiet milestone earlier this week, and I was happy to get to share it with the people who were there. We presented a semi-staged reading of our holiday (play? radio play? screenplay?) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians at the Kraine Theatre with the stars Glen Heroy, Noah Diamond, Matt Roper, Melody Jane, Kathy Biehl, Zero Boy, Jennifer Harder, Bob Greenberg, Jonathan Smith, Robert Pinnock and Bill Weeden. (And the likeness and taxi horn of Seth Shelden)

The idea to take this old script of mine out of mothballs emerged when I realized, when working with Glen Heroy on W.C. Fields for President, that playing Santa Claus at Christmastime was also a major part of Glen’s life and career. You see, my script (begun decades earlier) had W.C. Fields as Santa Claus at its center! Furthermore, the script also features the Marx Brothers as characters; having recently worked with inspired Marx Brothers impressionists on I’ll Say Say She Is added fuel to the flame, as did recently working on Jack London’s The Iron Heel (my script has several Yukon touches, as well as some nods to communist agit-prop). The script also borrows from March of the Wooden Soldiers — and I realized I knew two professional Laurel and Hardy impersonators. It all pointed to doing a presentation of this script.

And there are other reasons. I feel like I am a bend in the road of sorts, as perhaps we all are. I hit a major birthday milestone recently, I married the love of my life, both parents have now passed away, my kids are grown, it’s winter solstice, a new year approaches and THE WORLD SEEMS POISED TO DESCEND INTO A NEW DARK AGES.  All this adds up to my feeling I have reached the end of a rather long chapter of my own self-definition. And perhaps no one but me will quite notice the difference.  I am calling Wednesday’s presentation “my last (self-produced, downtown) show”. Meaning the end of this mental construct, always more an idea than a reality, of myself as indie theatre company. Probably as far as most people were concerned, that had already ended a long time ago. April, 2015 was my last previous such presentation.

I’m not going anywhere, precisely — not retiring, just changing how I do things. Venues, partners, working methods, where and how I concentrate my efforts, all that sort of thing. Lately, I have been paid to act, for example. I hope to do a lot more of that. I like writing best of all, so I hope to do much, much more of that. I have interest by agents and publishers in three books, an off-Broadway company is planning a reading of one of my plays, and I am talking to an independent producer about writing his screenplay. And 2017 is full of centennial show biz milestones which I hope to observe in one way or another (talks, variety shows, blogs). I have an idea for a podcast; and a solo show I’m working on. And a thread through all of this is the political situation: how to reflect it, fight it, comment on it. (More on some of these plans to come in our New Year’s Message). But I’m setting my sights higher as to platforms and to mechanisms. And I can’t wear all the hats any more. Self-producing and directing in particular make me miserable; total independence comes at the cost of tooth-grinding and agida.

So this vehicle Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, with its recapitulation of many elements of my past, was kind of a perfect kiss-off. It was a reworking of one of the first scripts I ever wrote (suggested obviously by the eponymous movie, which happens to be a favorite of mine). And I was deliriously happy to have by my side Robert Pinnock, who has been with me through much of my folly, almost from the beginning. And it was perfect to have it at the Kraine Theatre, which was part of the indie theatre community BEFORE there was an indie theatre community, when it was quite a nascent thing in the 1980s.

At any rate, I promised pictures in the title, and all I have given is words! Here come the pictures, taken by myself, cast members, and audience members, whom I hope will forgive my pilfering of their online postings:

BEFORE THE SHOW:

Glen Heroy

Glen Heroy

 

Stage manager Sarah Lahue, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond

Stage manager Sarah Lahue, Matt Roper, Noah Diamond

 

Zero Boy

Zero Boy

 

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith

 

Bob Greenberg

Bob Greenberg

 

 

Heroy and Jennifer Harder

Heroy and Jennifer Harder

 

Robert Pinnock, Trav S.D., Bill Weeden

Robert Pinnock, Trav S.D., Bill Weeden

 

Pinnock and Kathy Biehl

Pinnock and Kathy Biehl

 

Greenberg and Melody Jane

Greenberg and Melody Jane

 

Harder and Biehl

Harder and Biehl

 

The three ladies of the show: Biehl, Melody Jane, Jennifer Harder

The three ladies of the show: Biehl, Melody Jane, Jennifer Harder

THE SHOW:

 

Seth Shelden by proxy

Seth Shelden by proxy

 

Heroy, Diamond, Roper

Heroy, Diamond, Roper

 

Trav S.D. and Pinnock, as (I guess) Galileo's idea of martians

Trav S.D. and Pinnock, as (I guess) Galileo’s idea of martians

 

Smith and Greenberg

Smith and Greenberg

 

Zero Boy

Zero Boy

 

Melody Jane as Princess Peewee

Melody Jane as Princess Peewee

 

Trav shakes his evil fist

Trav shakes his evil fist

 

Biehl sings "Silver and Gold"

Biehl sings “Silver and Gold”

 

Weeden rocks the UFO, courtesy Noah Diamond, designer

Weeden rocks the UFO, courtesy Noah Diamond, designer

 

Harder plays "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

Harder plays “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”

 

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NOW ON TO THE NEXT THING.

Christmas in Italy!

Posted in Christmas, Classical, Dance, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Italian, Music with tags , , , on December 19, 2016 by travsd
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Photo by Annie Watt

We got a badly needed lift yesterday, as well as a much overdue dose of Christmas spirit, and a highly welcome injection of “red sauce” directly into our veins, at Cristina Fontanelli’s 13th Annual “Christmas in Italy” Presentation at the Washington Irving Campus Landmark Theater near Gramercy Park.

Host Ornella Fado of the NYC-TV show Brindiamo! launched the festivities with welcoming remarks and then the mic was passed to world-renowned soprano Fontanelli, founder and prime mover of this heartwarming holiday event, which combines the best of high and popular cultural traditions, ever since its inception. The first half consisted primarily of well-known operatic selections by Italian composers like Verdi, Puccini and Rossini, ending on “The Italian Street Song” from Victor Herbert’s Naughty Marietta. We could have listened to her heavenly singing voice all night, but she generously shared the stage, singing a duet with tenor Blake Friedman (Rossini’s “La Danza”); sharing the spotlight with pianist David Maiullo, and mandolin players John La Barbera, Barry Mitterhoff, and Jay Posipanko; and even turning the stage over to accordionist Angelo Coppola, whom she said she discovered playing on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx’s Little Italy.

That last detail was the kind of touch that particularly endeared her to me, and I believe to most of her audience. Don’t get me wrong — she has the kind of gift, and the kind of skill, that’s liable to make you feel like a piker no matter what you do in life. If you’re a plumber, you’ll say “I’m okay at my job — but I sure wish I was as good at plumbing as she is at singing.” On the other hand, she has this down to earth personality that seemed to shrink the large auditorium down to the size of a family kitchen. Her aunt was there; Fontanelli dedicated a song to her, and got us all to join her in “Happy Birthday”. She greeted old friends in the audience. She grieved for the loss of her mother, who passed away this year. There were hundreds of us in the audience, but the distance between us seemed very small.

And the second half of the show was even warmer and more family-oriented, for that’s when the Christmas part of the program kicked in and we got to hear The Christmas in Italy Choir sing their beautiful rendition of “Silent Night”, and to watch recitals by large numbers of adorable children from The Little Language Studio and the Jersey City Ballet, and to meet the winners of the Miss Italia USA Scholarship Program, and to enjoy Plu Sayampol and his dancers. And to see Santa Claus!

As I’ve been bragging to everybody lately I’m 2% Italian, and that 2% was fully on the ascendant yesterday evening. Afterwards, we rapidly decided what was for dinner. I had the spaghetti and meatballs; my wife had the chicken parmesan. The 14th Annual concert is already on our calendar for next year.

Mink Stole: It’s Merry Christmas, Dammit

Posted in Christmas, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Singers, Singing Comediennes, Women with tags , , on December 11, 2016 by travsd

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Three Christmas Cheers for Dreamland Diva Mink Stole!

We had the great good fortune to see her Holiday Cabaret It’s Merry Christmas, Dammit at the Cutting Room last night and want to sing its praises.

The actual set was almost identical to the one we caught two years ago (read about that one here). With these noticeable differences:

  • Last time was at the Laurie Beechman. This version was at the much larger, swankier Cutting Room, giving the whole thing an honest to God concert feel, with an elevated stage, a better sound system, and a much larger audience — and even so, they packed ’em in last night. To paraphrase W.C. Fields, the audience had to clap up and down instead of sideways.
  • What an interesting, sobering experiment, to watch the same performer do the same show on either side of the catastrophic 2016 election. There is no escape from the dreaded Orange Taint: you go places, you run into friends, and you metaphorically or literally HOLD each other as tight as you can and share your fears and worries and anger and little accidental words of encouragement which you both quickly shoot down because the scale of the horribleness is too vast to be adequately confronted no matter WHAT happens. So….a lot of her show was like that. The set list and some of the patter was the same, but Mink kvetched and beat her chest and worried aloud about the state of the world and we joined her, and nothing has ever felt so WEIMAR. It’s like we were huddled in one of those Berlin night spots with the clock running out and goons roaming the streets just waiting for their cue to kick our heads in. It gave momentousness to her performance. Not that she was strident or self-importantly “political”. She was just honest and down-to-earth, and that’s one of her greatest assets as a performer. You feel like you know her, like she’s talking to you. In one way it’s consoling. In another way….what’s more terrifying than knowing that the hundreds of people in the room are also terrified?
  • Speaking of Weimar, I think I noticed a lot more vibrato in her performance, a bit of the old Lotte Lenya, and I loved it
  • There was a different bass player this time, and this one needs to CALM. DOWN. It’s too much to claim he was upstaging the singer, but…he came close. I was aware of the bass playing the entire time; it sounded like John Entwhistle or something. It didn’t bug me precisely. He seems a capable musician, but, yeah the dude was pulling focus.
  • Mink, please tell John to finally make FRUITCAKE, and to give you a nice, big part because you’re awesome. Oh, but I bet you’ve already done that. In just those words!
  • Read Scott Stiffler’s terrific profile/interview with Mink Stole in Gay City News, in which she talks about the Christmas show and much else, here: http://gaycitynews.nyc/mink-stole-christmas/

Two Exciting Talks This Coming Week — Plus More!

Posted in Christmas, Comedians, Comedy, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, ME, My Shows, W.C. Fields with tags , on December 8, 2016 by travsd

Here’s what’s coming up the next few days in Fields Fest — and beyond!

 

"Sally of the Sawdust" (1925)

“Sally of the Sawdust” (1925)

Saturday, December 10, 1:30pm: “W.C. Fields in Astoria: The Paramount Silents”

Many people know that W.C. Fields had one of the most distinctive speaking voices of the classic comedy era. What they may not realize is that prior to the advent of talking pictures, Fields was a SILENT comedy star. From 1924 through 1928 he appeared in ten Paramount features filmed at that studio’s Astoria Queens facility. In this illustrated talk author and lecturer Trav S.D. takes you up close to this lesser known stretch of the Great Man’s career, and shows how much of Fields’ silent work presaged his better known talkies. At Greater Astoria Historical Society, Queens: www.astorialic.org

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Monday, December 12, 7pm: “W.C. Fields: From Dime Museums to the Jazz Age” an illustrated talk by Trav S.D., sponsored by Zelda Magazine 

A look at screen comedian W.C. Fields’ growth from humble sideshow and dime museum juggler to sketch comedian and one of the biggest stars of sophisticated Broadway revues like the Ziegfeld Follies, George White’ Sandals and Earl Carrol’s Vanities. Along the way meet the glittering stars he shared the limelight with like Louise Brooks, Fanny Brice, Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor. Admission: $8. Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn NY

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Art by Carolyn Stewart

Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 pm: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! 

Glen Heroy is Santa Claus by way of W.C. Fields! Noah Diamond and Matt Roper as the funny members of the Marx Brothers who talk! Melody Jane as a beautiful martian princess! Trav S.D. as an evil martian Emperor! Zero Boy on sound effects and narration! And many, many more TBA in this holiday reading of Trav S.D.’s mash-up up of the kitchy Grade Z Christmas classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, along with Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland a.k.a March of the Wooden Soldiers, Rankin-Bass specials, and the socialistic writings of Bertolt Brecht and Jack London! Can Elves and Bogeyman truly band together to thwart the hostile take-over of Earth by an Orange Faced Oligarch from Outer Space? Beats me, you sure won’t find out in this play! Plus music and variety TBD! Please come help us seriously cut loose and exorcise this terrible year. More intoxicating than a cup of cocoa with a shot of Peppermint Schnapps! It’s all happening at the Kraine Theatre, East 4th Street, Tickets $10: Get ’em here.

 

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Thursday, December 29, 7:00: The Man on the Flying Trapeze

A screening of W.C. Field’s often overlooked 1935 Paramount classic The Man on the Flying Trapeze at Metrograph. Celebrity guest speaker TBA.

 

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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