This is from an old PBS series I've mentioned before,The Songwriters, which featured Broadway composers and lyricist performing their own songs. In this case, it's John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote such shows as Cabaret and Chicago. But what they're performing here is from neither of those, but a film score -- and probably one of the two most famous songs they wrote, the title song from New York, New York.
(Side Note: The song not only did not win the Oscar, it wasn't even nominated! The story gets worse though when you find out what made the list Usually, you can say, "Well, so-and-so didn't get nominated because just look at what was..." But in this case -- just look at what was: "Candle on the Water" from Pete's Dragon, "Someone's Waiting for You" from The Rescuers, "The Slipper and the Rose Waltz," from The Slipper and the Rose, and "Nobody Does It Better" from The Spy Who Loved Me. And the winner was "You Light Up My Life," from the film of the same name. It's all personal taste, of course, and I can grant a pass to the last two songs on the list, because they both were big hits. But seriously, they didn't nominate "New York, New York" that year? Seriously??)
John Kander at the piano is a quiet, low-key fellow. (He also went to my summer camp, Camp Nebagamon, at the same time as future screenwriters William Goldman and James Goldman, and they later teamed up to write a Broadway musical together, A Family Affair, before the writers went off to Butch Cassidy and The Lion in Winter, and Kander found Ebb). Lyricist Fred Ebb here has enough flamboyance for him and Kander together, and probably more than Liza Minnelli.
I actually had a suggestion that dealt with them singing this song 10 years ago. After 9/11, I wrote to a friend who was a network executive at the time with CBS. I told him that he should contact the producers of Late Night with David Letterman, who he knew. My suggestion was that at the first show back after the tragedy (or at least one of the first shows), they should have Kander and Ebb, introduced as the creators of the song, alone on the stage and perform the "New York, New York" -- at the first sound of the famous vamp (dah-dah-da-dee-dah, dah-dah-da-dee-dah), the audience would have gone ape-crazy wild. But then, when they thought this was the treat, and second verse started up, Liza Minnelli would then walk out on stage, singing and join them. And the audience cheering would have reached a crescendo. But that would only be the set-up -- because on the third time around, as the key changed higher for the big finish, the Radio City Rockettes would come in down the aisles, high-kicking their way to the stage. It would have blown the roof off the theater. I still feel that way today.
Either the suggestion didn't get passed along, or it wasn't approved. I suspect the former. It's understandable, but what a loss of a great moment that I'm sure of. But in lieu of that -- minus Liza Minnelli and the Rockettes -- here are John Kander and Fred Ebb alone. So you can use your imagination to fill in the rest. But I'll give you a prompt: the Rockettes would have come in at the 2:18 mark.)
(If for some reason it doesn't play, just click here.)
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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