From the archives. This week's contestant is Bob Lagerquist from Eugene, Oregon. This was one of those puzzlers where I was sure I knew the hidden song, but couldn't quite get it. And then, about halfway through I moved closer...and then I got it. I think my problem was that at first it sounded like another song, and when that happens it's hard to get the song out of your head. As for the composer style, well...no, I couldn't figure that out. Knowing the answer now, I understand it, but it's not part of the composer's style I'm most familiar with.
This is a video that a Dutch radio station posted yesterday. It came during a performance by the British metal band Architects, which they were giving at the Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, the Netherlands. After finishing a song, lead singer Sam Carter stops the show and notes that he was undecided whether to say something about what he saw in the crowd during the previous number -- and then makes abundantly clear that he will say something.
What follows is Carter angrily reaming out a fan for sexual assault against a young woman that he saw while she was "crowd surfing." His passionate is furious, and even more wonderfully, he repeatedly gets huge cheers from the crowd.
The video has gotten a lot of attention, and Carter a lot of praise.
None of these videos are especially-good quality, and the audio of each is a bit muddled. But boy howdy are they each a treasure.
Initially, I came across one, and was going to post it. But then, doing some searching, I came across three others that leaped-out as too special to pass by. So, here are four versions of the song, "Liaisons," from Stephen Sondheim's 1973 musical A Little Night Music.
It's not that any of these are The Best rendition of the song -- I've found several others that are great, as well, which aficionados may well swear by. And I'm not even including the original, which was Hermione Gingold, who not only played the role of Mme. Armfeld in the first Broadway production, but in the initial staging in London, as well. Rather, these are four performances that are in their own ways historic, and remarkable for who the actresses are. And one of them -- alas, audio only -- is (to me) the most special of all, and I don't say that because I saw it live, when the show was on its national tour in Chicago, but because...well, you'll understand when we get to it.
The song is the only solo number for the character, and it's a showstopper. Mrs. Armfeld is an old woman, an aged, former courtesan -- the mother of the main character, Desiree -- who has been watching all the dalliances going on around her during the course of the show and eventually reminisces wistfully what real liaisons should be, that they be done with class and style and grace.
This first is a fairly recent revival of the show on Broadway, done I believe around 2012. It brings back to Sondheim an actress who in much earlier days starred in Sondheim's first show, Anyone Can Whistle and then had great success (and a Tony award) for another of his musicals, playing then Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. But here, Angela Lansbury has grown into the role of Mme. Armfeldt.
Next, this is Glynnis Johns in the role. She may not be as well-known as the other performers here, but is beloved for one particular role. And theater fans already know why this particular performance is special to include. The reason most people would remember Glynnis Johns is for a movie -- she played the mother, Mrs. Banks, in the movie, Mary Poppins. But that's not why she's included in this collection. It's because for the original Broadway production of A Little Night Music, she was the actress who created the starring role of Desireee -- indeed, who introduced the song, "Send in the Clowns." And with the passage of time, she returned to the show, this time as Desiree's mother, in a 1991 revival in Los Angeles.
Below, this was the video I referred to at the beginning, that I initially found and had intended to post alone. It comes from a 2010 limited-run production in Paris, the first-ever version of the show done there. Unfortunately, the video is just a single long shot, no close-ups or even anything medium, so you can't really see any details. But the audio comes through well, and therefore you get to enjoy the lovely performance of Leslie Caron. (If reminders are needed for anyone, she starred in such classic films as An American in Paris, Gigi and Lili, among many others. (A wonderful side note: when starring in the title role of Gigi, the actress who played her grandmother was...Hermione Gingold, who as mentioned later created the role of of Mme. Armfeld.) I believe this production only ran for a week, and what's interesting is that they didn't translate it into French -- perhaps translating intricate Sondheim lyrics was too much of a challenge, at least for a limited run -- but you can see "super-titles" at the top of the stage, translating the words into French, as is used for operas these days.
And wonderful as all these are, this, to me, is the gem. A good part of that is personal -- as I said, I saw this production on the show's national tour when it came to Chicago in the mid-1970s, playing at the Shubert Theater. Jean Simmons was the star, and she also played the role in the London production. And as terrific as the production was, it was this performance of "Liaisons" which made the matinee so memorable for me. That's because the role of Mme. Armfeldt was played by none other than...Margaret Hamilton! Yes, the 'Wicked Witch of the West' from The Wizard of Oz. And she was great. It remains one of the handful of most-memorable performances I've seen. My recollection is that she played the role very differently from the others. As you saw in the videos above, Mme. Armfeld is in a wheelchair, and at the end of the song she fades off and falls asleep, and is wheeled off-stage by an attendant. That's the only way I've seen the role done -- except in this production. Margaret Hamilton walked hesitantly out on stage, but stood there, almost defiant against age and time and sang it standing tall. And then walks carefully offstage.
As I said, this is only the audio, but still... You at least get to hear Margaret Hamilton steal the show with "Liaisons."
If you didn't watch the Weekend Update: Summer Edition broadcast last night -- or didn't watch the video of Tina Fey's return to SNL that has been making its way around the Internet today -- here is it below. And even if you did see it, it's just a hoot. Basically, it's Tina Fey ranting about politics while gorging on sheet cake for 3-1/2 minutes.
Fey was a surprise guest -- much to the delight of the live audience -- because she's a graduate of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where the rally took place over the weekend, so ostensibly she was there to comment. And she starts off fine and straight-forward, if upset about it all. And then it all takes a u-turn, and she gives co-host Colin Jost a lesson in dealing with your anger by "sheet-caking."
(Fun too is watching her masterfully maneuver the cake with her fork like a pro, to get the biggest portions of cake, which suggests pretty clearly that this is not just a first-time sketch for TV, but she's someone who has probably sheet-caked before in her life at moments of angst...)
It's pretty hard not to love Tiny Fey for her relentless normalcy and self-effacement, while rising above it to wonderful levels. I have no doubt there are people who can't stand her. After all, there are people who don't like pizza and puppies. And no doubt there are people who hate her take-down of white supremacists, Nazis and hate mongers. But political as this is -- and it's very political -- it is still first and foremost a comedy routine. And it's one thing to hate (or love) the words, but another to be able to step back and revel in the comedy. And this just ratchets Tina Fey joy up a few notches -- pigging out on sheet cake for 3-1/2 minutes on national television while taking down all that's mean and nasty in what can only be described by one of today's cliches: an epic rant.
But to be clear, it's not the rant that makes this. Anyone can rant. But doing it while stuffing your face with sheet cake, that's high art. Or low art. Or just a plain goofy joy.
Almost 30 years ago to the day (give or take a few months...) I had press credentials to cover the ABA book convention in Las Vegas. It happens to have been the year, "The Art of the Deal" was published. At one point, a guy I knew came rushing up to ask me breathlessly in excitement if I was going to Trump press conference in 10 minutes, just down the hall. "No," I said. It's how I felt about him three decades ago, and never have regretted not attending a contained, free press event 100 feet away to see close-up the man who would later, bizarrely, become president.
As it was, I moved along the hallway and, as whimsy would have it, ran into Stephen King and chatted with him about a mutual friend, writer-director Mick Garris.
Little did I know that in two years, I'd be doing the on-set PR for King's movie, Pet Sematary. When it comes to choice of conversations and later occurrences, I have long-known I came out on top...
It was a double-dip day on Thursday.
In the morning, I read this article here on Raw Story about Felix Sater. If you find the name somewhat familiar, that's because it came up during the election. Sater is a particularly-sleazy businessman who has occasionally partnered with Donald Trump and has a long-history of legal troubles, though Trump claimed not to really know who he was -- despite photos of them together and despite Sater being...well, an occasional business partner.
(By the way, just to clarify the term "legal troubles," Sater -- for one example -- plead guilty to racketeering in a $40 million stock fraud scheme that the Mafia organized, though he never went to jail for it -- that's because he became an informant for the FBI and CIA. This is never a good thing when you find yourself a business partner of Felix Sater if you ever are under federal investigation yourself. Oh, and in an interesting related-issue, Andrew Weissmann -- who was the prosecutor who handled Sater's plea deal -- has been hired by Special Counsel Robert Mueller...)
Okay, so that's who Felix Sater is. Well, as it happens, Felix Sater has been questioned by Robert Mueller, and the Financial Times reported that he is "cooperating" with the investigation. Indeed, according to the sources, "Sater may have already flipped and given prosecutors the evidence they need to make a case against Trump."
But, hey, don't take the reporter's word for it. Just listen to...oh, Felix Sater. In an interview he gave with New York magazine, Sater himself hinted, "In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colourful character you have ever talked about. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it now, before it happens. And believe me, it ain’t anything as small as whether or not they’re gonna call me to the Senate committee.”
It gets worse, if that's possible. (We'll..."worse" depending on your point of view. Others may be chomping at the bit. According to a source for The Spectator magazine, Sater has already told his family that he knows he and Trump are going to prison, "someone talking to Mueller's investigators informed me." ("Me," being the reporter, not Sater, just to clarify pronouns.)
Now, to be clear, a lot of this is "reportedly," and Felix Sater also appears to be someone who likes to talk big about himself. But, on the core issues, he is cooperating with the investigation, and he does have a history of making plea deals to give up his associates and keep himself out of jail.
Not good for Trump.
But as I said, Thursday was a double-dip day for Trump, and the other story may actually, remarkably even be worse -- and it has a twist. (In fact, because of the twist, that may be what makes it worse.)
Mind you, even without the twist, it's pretty terrible on its own.
Over lunch yesterday, a friend told me about a story that began with Bloomberg News and moved to other outlets, including Vanity Fair -- so these aren't fly-by-night news sources -- though it hasn't gained national traction yet, however it was discussed that morning on Thom Hartmann's radio show, where my friend heard about the article. He said the story presents a massive conspiracy bank fraud problem for the Trump family -- pretty much all of them: Donald, Eric, Don Jr., and Ivanka. And it's not based on rumor, but the article includes leaked emails from the Trump Organization -- not merely talked about, but the actual emails itself.
Later, after lunch, my friend tracked down the article and sent me a link to it. The story was very convoluted -- as most bank fraud stories are -- but to give you a general overview:
The story concerns Trump's involvement with a $350 million fraud over the Trump Soho Hotel deal (a facility he talked about at length on The Apprentice TV show -- something which probably isn't a good thing to have done at this point). Basically, his partner in the deal had committed the bank fraud with the help of the Mafia, and ultimately with other money laundering sources in Russia. And the leaked emails show that Trump, Eric, Don Jr, and Ivanka all knew about it, and even held a meeting on it. And not only did they never report it to the authorities, but kept it quiet to pretty much shake down their business partner and continue defrauding the banks.
Oh, one other thing. This is that "twist" part which makes it even worse for Trump. (Yes, even worse...)
When I got home from lunch and received the email from my friend with a link to the article, I burst out laughing about four paragraphs in. That's where I read that the business partner is...Felix Sater!!!!!
Well, that's not good for Trump.
There's something else that's very important in the article. It talks about federal RICO racketeering charges that could be pending, and also notes that the state of New York has its own RICO racketeering laws. Recall what I wrote here a couple weeks ago -- a presidential pardon ONLY covers federal crimes, not state or local.
Not good for Trump, the sequel.
Also, for anyone who tries to claim these are outside the purview of Mueller's Russia investigation, they aren't. The first story on the Trump Soho Hotel bank fraud overlaps with Felix Sauter doing money laundering with Russia. As for the second story, not only does any story with Sater now raise the trail to Russian with his money connections there, but any story with Trump's finances and money difficulties points to the foundation of why he likely had to go to Russian oligarchs for raising money, since banks in the U.S. and around the world wouldn't lend him any.
You can read the article and leaked emails here in this piece from The Stern Facts, which puts the entire story together from the various sources.
At the moment, this is not a national story. Neither is the one about Felix Sater cooperating with the Mueller investigation. But that doesn't make them any less real. The emails are real. Bloomberg News and Vanity Fair have reported them. Felix Sater is talking with the investigators. And Sater does have a history of making deals with the authorities -- one of whom is on Robert Mueller's staff. It's just that all these real stories simply haven't broken through "as news" ALL the other even bigger stories that have been making the headlines. But being a news headline is actually secondary to what the very real FBI investigators are doing, whether the stories have become headlines yet or not. And as Felix Sater himself says, "In about the next 30 to 35 days, I will be the most colourful character you have ever talked about."
It was not a double-good day for Trump. For other people reading about it all...that's another matter entirely.
Once upon a time, in the early days of the Kennedy Center Honors, they didn't just honor popular performers still often in their prime but it was for legends. I guess after a while, if you honor five a years and go on for 40 years, eventually you run out of legends. (Though I wouldn't be surprised if a desire for ratings and bringing in younger audiences has had some affect.) But this is from the days when legends were still there on the table.
This is the 1983 Kennedy Center Honor for James Stewart. And it's a good one. That seems to be rare when the honoree is an actor, since it generally tends to be difficult to build a good foundation of entertainment. And the entertainment, as far as most presentations go, is indeed low-key. But even without that, they pull it off. Low-key as it is, what what do with it, is choice.
Make no mistake, the entertainment in memorable. In fact, though this is from 34 years ago, I still remember watching this live when Carol Burnett brings out her backup singers. The emotional reaction from Jimmy Stewart is memorable. Over the years, the Kennedy Center Honors has done something like this a few times. And it's always been pleasant. But I think this was the first time, and specifically because of how it relates to Jimmy Stewart's overall career and life, this is pretty much the one time when it really worked so movingly.) Actually, "emotional" is what is the centerpiece of making this presentation so good.
(A quick side note. Throughout her appearance, Burnett repeated apologizes for not being a real singer. In fairness, part of her saying that is as a set-up for bring out her back-up singers. However, she later keeps repeating it. But it's worth noting that she starred in two Broadway musicals, Once Upon a Mattress and Fade Out-Fade In.)
For starters, Burt Lancaster is the host of the segment. Then, far more than most (which is understandable, given the honoree), when they get to the filmed biography, it is just overloaded with great clips. And then later when Carol Burnett (who has long been public about idolizing Jimmy Stewart) sings another song, which is related to a Stewart movie, you wonder if she'll make it through. And she's preceded by an impressive guest, who stays around and joins her for the song.
It's all pretty wonderful.
What with removing statues of Confederate Civil War generals being so prominently in the news, I thought I would do a kindness for all those so upset about it and present a joyful Broadway musical number on behalf of one such statue. It's the wonderful "Jublilation T. Cornpone" from the show Li'l Abner. And keep reading because, believe it or not, there's an even funnier and more pointed connection to it all...
But first, to give credit where credit is due, the song is performed by Stubby Kaye, and written by Johnny Mercer , who did the words, and music by Gene de Paul.
Okay, now the loopy part.
To make this all the more whimsical, pointed and, yes, even bizarrely newsworthy, I take you to the plot of the show.
One of the storylines is that this tiny, nothing, backwoods of a hamlet, Dogpatch U.S.A. has been deemed so useless and unnecessary that the government has chosen it to be the site for testing an atomic bomb. At the very end of the show, government officials arrive to clear out Dogpatch, and as the villagers prepare to leave, they... remove the statue of Jubiliation T. Corpone! And -- when doing so, they discover a plaque that had been hidden away underneath which shows that Abraham Lincoln had honored this Southern general for being so incredibly incompetent that his ineptitude helped win the war for the North. As a result of finding this plaque, it's determined that the site is a national monument, and so Dogpath is saved.
In other words...removing the statue of a Confederate general saved the day!!! Saving the town of hundreds of fictitious people.
I was going to post something else tonight, a fun song, but when checking it out online again first, I came across this, and felt it had to have priority.
It's an episode of Dragnet 1967 with Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. No need to watch the whole thing, although it's enjoyable to scroll through. As for the plot line -- well, you can see the premise (and the reason for posting this) from the image below.
It all starts when explosives are stolen from a warehouse, and Joe Friday and Bill Gannon go to investigate. Along they way, they come across a witness who had confronted the perpetrator in a car accident and got shot in the arm. It turns out there hadn't been an argument, but the reason for the shooting, as the on-site officer explains, "is because he said he was a Negro." Eventually, Joe and Bill track the suspect down to his home where its full of dynamite, guns and Nazi paraphernalia -- all intended to blow up a school...that was going to be integrated. And yes, happily, they stop the plot.
My favorite line comes at the very end, in fact the last line before the Epilogue, and it's 100% pure Joe Friday. The neo-Nazi clearly has no intention of doing any more talking, after gloating about how he knows his rights and that Friday will want a motive. Joe jumps right in -- "Hate'll do for a start. And try to put that walnut-size brain of yours to work on this. You keep harping about minorities." (The guy says, "That's right.") "Well, mister, you're a psycho. And they're a minority, too."
Cue the music. And then the narrator....
"The story you have seen is true..."
Fifty-four years ago, back in 1963, the legendary political cartoonist, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Bill Mauldin drew what many consider one of the most memorable op-ed cartoons, when he worked for the Chicago Sun-Times. Though it addressed a very different situation, the assassination of President Kennedy, it occurred to me that the drawing holds another resonance today, as the Party of Lincoln saw its leader give aid and comfort to white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK, marching with swastikas, Confederate flags, giving sieg heil salutes and calling out Nazi chants.
I offer Bill Mauldin's powerful, heart-breaking work about another time which still holds its meaning for a very different world.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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