Over on his website, Mark Evanier has been posting a few videos from a recent Australian stage production of the classic movie musical, Singin' in the Rain.
The stage version of Singin’ in the Rain actually originated in London in 1984 – and as whimsy would have it, I saw this original production then on a trip visiting a couple of friends. That starred Tommy Steele, who also directed. I believe it played at the London Palladium and was extremely enjoyable. And as you can imagine, the question I suspect everyone in the theater had was "How in the world would that they that number?" The answer is that as the scene starts, they wheel out a sort of platform that has raised edges, so when it rains it acts as a sort of large "tub" and catches the water. And then when done it is wheeled away.
(On side note, what was also fun for me personally is that in the role of 'Cosmo' -- played by Donald O'Connor in the original film -- the actor was Roy Castle, who had played the valet 'Sam Weller' opposite my fave Harry Secombe in the Broadway production of the oft-mentioned here musical, Pickwick.)
I’ve posted a couple of songs here from the cast album in the past, but unfortunately there are no good videos of the production. (There’s one, recreated for a variety TV show, but it’s oddly a Gershwin song, “Fascinating Rhythm,” that they interpolated into the score for some reason, so I've never cared to post it.)
At one point, YouTube did, in fact, have a video of Tommy Steele doing the title number, done at the time of the original show – it was for a TV show where people would write in about things they want to do, and this was a little 7-year-old girl who wanted to do the number with Steele. It was absolutely charming -- but alas, about 3-4 years ago the long-time host of the show got charged with some despicable past-crimes, and it was a huge scandal in England. Snce I can no longer find that video, it appears likely the show clearly pulled all video from YouTube.
You can find the two Australian videos on Mark's site with the title song here and "Good Morning" here. I'll be honest, though they're fun to see and I'm glad they exist, I'm bit bit underwhelmed by them, especially the big title number. It's supposed to be a Big Hollywood Movie Star exuberantly exploding with every possible ounce of joy in expressing his new-found love, and to me there's absolutely no charisma and comes across like a matter-of-fact rehearsal just trying to get the steps right. The "Good Morning" video is much more enjoyable, although a little by-the-numbers for my taste and (mostly) I think poorly cast, which distracts too much for me. (The two men who have completely different personalities seem interchangeable, and the woman, who is supposed to be a young ingenue struggling to break in, that's the whole point, comes across as a contemporary of them).
However here's another video of the title number though, from a fairly recent British revival. It's not great either, but fun significantly better stage, and exceedingly more lively.
What seems reinforced to me by all these videos, I think it's a role that is greatly aided by someone with major star power, like Gene Kelly, who has the charisma (and talent) to help make the number burst out. And in the world of London theater and British pop culture, Tommy Steele was at least in that ballpark.
This below is only audio, but here he is from the original London production.
It's hard not to love the 2015 video making the rounds of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- the current nominee for Attorney General. It comes from confirmation hearing two years ago of Sally Yates to be Deputy Attorney General.
As he has the floor, Sessions admonishes Ms. Yates repeatedly that she has the responsibility to say "no" to a President. From his explanations and context, it's clearly an effort by him to put checks on then-President Obama. She explains her belief in the rule of law and was confirmed.
It was this same Sally Yates who yesterday followed Session's forceful position and her own and indeed said "No" to Trump over his Executive Order on immigration (an order that had also been blocked by several federal judges) -- and was fired for her actions. Meanwhile, Sessions himself today during his own confirmation hearing wouldn't commit to not impeding the investigation on Russian interference in the election.
His specific question about saying "no" to the President comes at the 2:00 mark.
The ACLU usually raises $4 million a year in online donations. Over the weekend, thanks to their going to court fighting the Trump Executive Order on immigration, their online donations were...$24 million. To be very clear, that $24 million wasn't for the past year, it was just over the past weekend. Yes, they raised in one weekend six times what they normally raise in an entire year.
My immediate thought was not what you might probably expect. It was, "I am really glad that I donated to the ACLU last month." That's because when I made my donation in December there had been a little bureaucratic screw-up, and when I called about fixing things, instead of getting a real-live person there was instead a recorded message saying that they had a bit of a backlog since the election, so please be patient and leave a message, and someone would eventually get back to you in a few days. So, it took longer than usual to resolve thins.
Given that they still had a bit of a backup a couple of months after the election from merely a basic increase in donations, I can't imagine how backed-up they'd be now, after this last weekend. If I had waited to donate the money -- not just this week, but anytime for probably the next half-year -- there would likely be an interminable delay fixing things.
(The odd issue was that, because my father had taken out a membership in the ACLU, when they got my application it turned out that our two memberships the organization -- for some reason even they couldn't quite figure out -- got merged. Considering that my father had passed away last May, and I had written them a half-year ago that they didn't have to keep mailing him material, it seemed like something that should be cleared up...
And, yes, now, it is cleared up. and I received the new, correct membership card a couple weeks ago. I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I'd waited!
As an aside -- and it will probably be a long aside -- I was glad to know that my dad had donated to the ACLU. For a long while, he'd had a sort of love-hate relationship with them, which I understood and sort of felt, as well. That's because back in 1977 there was the whole controversy about the American Nazi Party wanting to march in the very Jewish community of Skokie, which was a Chicago suburb fairly close to where my folks lived. They were at first blocked by the city, but the ACLU fought to allow them to march. While my parents completely understood the concept of fighting for free speech even for hateful people, it was still very tough on them to deal with that on behalf of Nazis, whose goal only 30 years earlier, had been the total extermination of the Jewish people. Making it tougher still was that because of the controversy, people with Jewish-sounding last names in the Chicago suburbs were being harassed by anti-Semitic, hate phone calls in the middle of the night, which my folks also got. It was a very visceral time. So, I completely understood the mixed feelings -- and even had them, too. As much as people understood the ACLU's stance, though, they still lost a lot of donations. And it took a while for many people to come back to the fold. So, I was glad to know that my father did.
That dichotomy was difficult for me because I not only had always supported the ACLU, but I'd had a professor at Northwestern I liked who was the Illinois director of the organization. So, I felt a particular closeness to them. Years later, I even got into an argument (albeit a polite one) on a movie set defending the ACLU against three of the producers (one of whom was also the film's director) who were quite right-wing and had been ridiculing the group. Usually publicists don't tell off their bosses, especially when one is the director..., but I fortunately had a good relationship with them all, having worked together over the course of several movies. And as I said the argument was all very polite. And in the end, even if they didn't agree with me, they sort of came across to not thinking the ACLU was worth ridiculing. (I suspect though that that lasted as long as I was around in ear-shot to disagree with them..)
All that aside, as amazing as the numbers are with how much the ACLU raised online over the weekend, it's important knowing that they'd also started having an increase in donations since back in November. So, my guess is that their annual fiscal report this July is going to be quite impressive.
It's needed. An my guess to is that they'll continue raising more more money than usual. And it will be put to good use.
It's not uncommon that we see a news story about some intolerant business that has discriminated against people, and when they're blocked from violating civil rights a follow-up story reports how the store received donations of $100,000 or so to show their support. It's so nice to see the other side of the coin, and not just that the outpouring was for an amazing $24 million (thus far), but for an organization that didn't just refuse to sell wedding cakes or pizzas, but defended those in serious need around the entire country, wherever they were from in world.
You can find them here.
Yesterday, the beloved Northwestern Wildcats beat Indiana University 68-55 in basketball. This likely doesn't mean much to most people, but it was their sixth consecutive win in the Big Ten. And that too likely doesn't mean much to most people. But you have to understand one thing --
The last time Northwestern won six straight games in their Big Ten conference was the 1932-33 season!!! That was 84 years ago!
Northwestern doesn't have a great team this year, but they are overwhelmingly better than most NU basketball teams in the past. That isn't saying much -- which I'll get to in a moment -- but the team is 18-4 this year and stands a very reasonable chance of making the NCAA basketball post-season tournament. And that likely doesn't mean much to most people, too. However (and this is a really big "however") --
The NCAA tournament began in 1939. And in the subsequent 77 years, only one major Division 1 team in history has never, ever made the tournament. Every other major college team in history has been to the tournament at least once. Except one team. And that single team is... (yes, you've probably figured it out at this point) -- Northwestern.
So...we are hoping.
The new Associate Press college basketball rankings were released today. Northwestern actually jumped on the list into the top 25. Just barely -- they're #25. They may only last there a week, but for one brief shining moment it was known as Camelot. And who knows? But this is only the second time in its history that Northwestern has made the top 25 basketball teams teams in the country -- and they have been playing basketball for 112 years.
The Cubs just won their first World Series in 108 years. It's not too much to hope for Northwestern simply getting into the NCAA tournament for the very first time -- the only major college team never to have done so -- after 77 years.
Here's a minute-and-15-second recap of the game that put the Wildcats into the Top 25 for only the second time in 112 years.
Sometimes there's so much TrumpNews (tm) that it's almost too much. All the different stories overlap and get covered SO much with unrelated reports of all the unrelenting outrage that to single-out one thing alone seems far too limiting yet to note it all seems like you're piling on with a garbage dump. Happily, though, it doesn't really matter either way because it's all getting covered in full with overlapping headlines, so not much is needed to add to it.
What is fascinating, however, and worth noting is that within just one mere week of being inaugurated, the Trump administration has amazingly already provoked TWO massive national protests on two totally-separate issues -- the women's march and Muslim travel bans -- each into the millions of people. You have to admit, that's pretty impressive by any standard.
All the more impressive is that none of these two massive national protests have anything to do with all the other problematic issues the administration is facing, like investigations into ethics violations, or investigations into Russia involvement to help Trump in the elections (two investigations after just one week is pretty good, too), or simply getting its cabinet approved. And more.
What's so especially-intriguing to see amid all these are the Trump officials who are already whining to the press about how besieged they feel from attempts to "delegitimize" their administration. Keep in mind, this is only after a single week in office, and they are already complaining about being besieged. And they still have three years and 51 more weeks to go from a four-year term -- assuming they make it that far. And the protests, investigations and problems are nothing. The administration hasn't really even had time yet to do enough things to get the public seriously riled up. It's only been one, paltry week.
But then now the Trump administration is finally getting a chance to see the difference -- the massive difference -- between being a candidate, a president-elect...and the President of the United States. With the first two, you can yammer all you want, and none of it actually matters because you're just a private citizen. You can be as irresponsible as you want, the public may even find it entertaining, much like a circus out of control. But when you're The President, people take that very seriously. When you're The President, every word you say counts. Every sentence you "tweet" is dissected. Every unformed thought you bring into existence becomes real. Not just in the U.S., but all over the entire world. Everything. Not just by those who oppose you, but even by those who voted for you. People take The President very seriously. That's why the whole "sarcasm" thing Trump kept saying he was joking about throughout the election was a profoundly bad omen for him, because it showed what was in store if elected and that he didn't understand. That's why the whole "You're taking his words at face value rather than what he means" defense was always empty as a void. When you're President of the United States, the reality is...People Pay Attention to EVERYTHING. Most especially when you sign Executive Orders that give standing to your "sarcasm" and 3 AM tweets. And even more when you sign Executive Orders so outrageous that the Court knocks them down.
During the election, I wrote about how when people say they supported Trump because he was such a great businessman (never mind the six bankruptcies...) it was foolish because being president has nothing to do with being a businessman. When you're a businessman, I wrote, and head of a company, you're completely in charge. What you say goes. You make a policy, and everyone in the company has to adhere to it. If you want someone fired, they're gone. It's a little fiefdom, and you control it all. You may even own it, everything. It's business. Politics doesn't work that way. Not even the presidency when you're The Most Powerful Man in the World.
For starters, as I noted, there is another entire party that opposes you, and it's basically equal in size to yours. And you can't fire elected representatives of the other party. They'll be in office as long as their supporters vote for them. Nor can you fire all the civil service employees who fill the government. And there are state governments over which you have absolutely no authority. And none of this even takes into consideration all the other countries around the world which each have their own sovereign governments...let alone their own military and actual weaponry, for which you have utterly no say in their actions -- even when they're your allies. Which doesn't take into consideration all those nations and others who are your very real and deeply-serious enemies, who aren't just trying to undercut you on pricing and market share, but may actually be trying to do you very real, deeply-serious harm, trying to literally blow you off the face of the earth.
Being a good businessman has utterly nothing to do with this. And only a week in office, we're already seeing the results of that. The results of having zero experience, zero background and zero capabilities to be President of the United States, Commander-in-Chief of the American military, and the Most Powerful Man in the World.
Now toss in an egomaniacal, insecure, sociopathic personality who can't even accept that there were more people attending his predecessor's first Inauguration than his. Who can't even accept that although he won the election his opponent received almost three million more votes than he did. Who can't get past a comedy show making jokes about him. Who can't get simply deal with the there being singers who don't want to perform in his honor.
Mix that all together, and you end up with a first week like this. And there's still three years and 51 weeks to go. Assuming he makes it that far.
Still, I have to admit that, as horrific has the first weak week has been, there is a certain whimsy to seeing the Trump administration whining about people trying to delegitimize them for a whole seven days. Given that the very man they're whining for spent five years intentionally building a lie in an known-attempt to delegitimize his predecessor -- and that his own party's leaders literally met the day before his predecessor was sworn in as President to reach an agreement to block everything he would do during his entire presidency, even before they had any idea what the action would be -- the concept of irony, gall, hypocrisy and legendary comeuppance still doesn't come close to defining the reality.
The Trump administration doesn't need others to deligitimize them. They're doing a fine job all on their own.
The guest on this week's 'Not My Job' segment of the NPR news-comedy game show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! is Daniel Handler, the author of the Lemony Snicket series of Unfortunate Events books (which is now a series on Netflix). His interview with host Peter Sagal is, as you might expect, sardonic and funny.
This edition of the 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Wrtiers Guild of America includes an interview by host Brian Gary with Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, who just received an Oscar nomination for their screenplay of the wonderful film, Hidden Figures, which got an Oscar nomination, as well, as Best Picture. (Melfi also directed the movie.)
Their interview is quite fascinating, including some background that Allison Schroeder actually had worked at NASA and majored in economics at Stanford with a background in calculus. Also, the first draft of the screenplay was written before the book it's based on was completed, and there was a certain collaboration there. The podcast opens with a Guild-related conversation, and the Hidden Figures interview comes along at the 37:20 mark, if you want to jump ahead to it.
From the archives. This week's contestant is Rainer Klaus of Madison, Alabama. The hidden song is hidden with good humor, but it's eventually guessable. The composer style was one that I thought I came close to, but I was wrong, and probably should have gotten it.
Very interesting article in Vanity Fair by Sheila Weller about a new book soon to be published, The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy Tyson. The focus of the article is how the author tracked down Carolyn Bryant, the woman who the 14-year-old boy allegedly whistled at, the "inexcusable" act which led to his brutal beating and death -- and how she says that Emmett Till never whistled at her, though at this point she doesn't recall all the other details of her exchange with Till.
No other author has ever interviewed Carolyn Bryant Donham, which took place 10 years ago when she was 72. She's still alive at 82, though in seclusion. The book doesn't say she specifically expresses regret for what happened, though she expresses great sympathy and tenderness for Till's mother and what happened to the boy, which the reporter notes comes across like close to the same thing.
The piece isn't very long and worth checking out. You can find it here.
This is a pretty funny piece they did the other day on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah about -- of all things -- the cake at the Trump inauguration.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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