New Year's Eve
This is a charming and exceedingly low-key video that Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt made, singing "What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?" Not-shockingly, I figured that it was reasonably appropriate tonight. How low-key are the production values? At the end, Ms. Deschanel leans over to click off the camera.
On the site, she also posts the following explanation --
"I have known Joe Gordon-Levitt for going on 12 years. We first met in the summer of 2000 while doing a tiny movie called Manic, where we bonded over a mutual appreciation for Harry Nilsson and Nina Simone and I have been lucky enough to call him one of my dearest friends ever since. When we did 500 Days of Summer 8 years later, we spent every lunch hour dancing to Marvin Gaye in the hair and make up trailer; we had loads of fun. I hope to do a thousand more movies with him because he's simply the best. But in the meantime, we made a little New Year's duet for all of you! The original by Nancy Wilson. ENJOY!"
For the sake of accuracy, she's wrong about a couple of things. For starters, it is not "by" Nancy Wilson. Yes, I know she (like many singers) is referring to who recorded it, but who a song is "by" is personal bugaboo of mine. And it's especially notable here because this particular song was written by the great Broadway composer Frank Loesser (who wrote Guys & Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, among others), though it wasn't for any show or movie, just a standalone song.
She's also wrong that the original was recorded by Nancy Wilson, missing by almost two decades. The original recording was performed by Margaret Whiting in 1947. (Wilson didn't record it until 1965, though she had a big hit with it, reaching #17 on the Billboard charts.)
But those are details. The performance itself is the lovely point of it all --
While We're Here...
I've posted this once before after my dad passed away, but I realized that after this year it seemed like a really good way to end 2019.
This is the Phil Och's song, "When I'm Gone." It's not his version, though, but an absolutely exquisite cover by two groups, Kim & Reggie Harris and Magpie. I first heard it years ago when the long-running Saturday night show, The Midnight Special on WMFT in Chicago played it as their closing song each week. They used it for a great many years, and as far as I know they still may be. I just haven't heard the ending of the broadcast in about five years. But they were still using it then.
My folks absolutely loved the song. Loved it. They enjoyed The Midnight Special, a great deal although they liked it more in its earlier years and not the selections as much in its (and their) later years. But they always listened and, if not always all the way through, they always made sure to listen to the ending, just to be sure to hear The Song.
The song is about all the things to do in life now, because this is your chance to see them through.
The other day, as part of our normal conversation, my friend Myles Berkowitz brought up what he said was probably the greatest joke on the "Carnac the Magnificent" sketches that they would periodically do on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where the mind-reader would divine the answer to a question before knowing what the question was. I do have a vague recollection of this, but no more than that, and so I wanted to see if I could track down a video of it. As Myles noted, the fun is added by Carson of course knowing what the "question" would be before he even read the "answer."
It Takes a Pillage
The other day, a friend wrote me an email venting about Trump and his acolytes. "He's completely insane. No hyperbole. Insane. How can even the most corrupt or cowardly or sycophantic Republican vote for this?"
The problem with Trump and the support that's built up around him, I've long felt, is not so much limited to Trump. The unfortunate reality is that the Republican Party has been leading towards this for decades. It didn’t spring from Trump. The blind, near-unanimous, unquestioning following of their leaders and demonization of their opponents and minorities and foreigners and immigrants is a long-held standard of the GOP. They were adherents of the racist, anti-Semitic Father Coughlin in the 1940s. They supported Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, willing to jail Americans for their beliefs. They willingly sustained Richard Nixon's paranoid Enemies List. They believed in Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment of the Republican Party that "Thou Shalt Not Criticize Another Republican." They rallied in religious fervor to Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and up sprang the Moral Majority. They raised George W. Bush to a level of idolatry that allowed his approval of torture. They made Sarah Palin a heroic icon. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck became their voice. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson have been their conscience. They cry out in praise of Jesus while consistently voting against helping the most-needy. They let themselves be convinced that a black man Barack Obama was an agent of the devil. They have attacked a woman Hillary Clinton literally for 40 years since her days as wife of the Arkansas governor for her appearance, for not taking her husband's name, for practicing law and more. Fear rules their minds eternally scared of change and things that are different. And then Trump stepped in. And they voted for him, raised him above the Republican altar and enable his every action.
The is not about Trump. This is about the elected members of the Republican Party -- and indeed the Republican Party for almost 80 years -- who enable him and are complicit.
Happily, he lost the popular vote. Democrats had a Blue Wave in 2018 and took huge control of the House. There has been an ongoing resistance of rallies and marches for three years. He’s been impeached. And most Americans want him convicted.
Remembering Jerry Herman
I was a little surprised to learn that Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman passed away at the age of 88. Not surprised that he died, but that it took me almost a week to know about it, and that only by accident. I've since learned that it got well-covered in the New York Times (as it should) and in the trade papers (as it should), but it rally went under the wire everywhere else it seems. I didn't see it even mentioned on MSNBC, and I had the station on for hours a day every day.
The thing is, whether one was a big fan of his work or thought he was slight, that's beside the point. He wrote three Broadway musicals that were massive hits. (The first-ever to write three musicals that each ran over 1,500 performances.) Two of them were significant. One was critically important to popular culture. In fact, its title song knocked The Beatles out of #1 on the charts.
The three were Hello, Dolly! that ran for 2,844 performances (that's around seven years), which at the time made it the longest-running musical in Broadway history. Mame had 1,508 performances, and La Cage aux Folles ran for 1,761 performances. He also had a big hit with his first book musical, Milk & Honey. In addition, the Broadway revue Jerry's Girls with his songs had a successful run, and he wrote the enjoyable score to the CBS movie, Mrs. Santa Claus, as well as several other Broadway shows, none which were successful, though most had very nice scores. He won two Tony Awards and received a Lifetime Achievement Tony.
I was trying to figure out which of his songs to post here -- and which version of them -- and then I figured that the best thing to do was post two videos -- the first from his Kennedy Center Honor (there are two videos of this, but the first part doesn't seem to be accessible. Happily this is the entertainment portion), and the second from a tribute celebration at the Hollywood Bowl.
This begins with Kelsey Grammar who starred in the revival of La Cage aux Folles.
And here's about 25 minutes from a wonderful tribute to Jerry Herman at the Hollywood Bowl in 1993, which ends with a rousing performance by Herman himself at the piano singing his song, "The Best of Times" from La Cage aux Folles, joined by the entire cast.
On this edition of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is actor Shia LaBoeuf who wrote the semi-autobiographical film Honey Boy, based on his difficult relationship with his father – and he co-stars in the movie as his father.
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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