Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Welcome to 'Short'"

Where do I start with this? 

I guess it is here.

Not all Jews are short.  Of course, not all Scandinavians are blond.  It just seems that way.  It’s the same thing with Jews and “short”.  My friend Morrie is tall.  That is my entire personal list.

Looking back, the foregoing concern is never entirely absent from my mind.  In my Sociology class in college, I imagined a sociological experiment, a comparative study examining the relationship between crime and height.  (I discovered a direct correlation.  Although, coming clean, I may have unconsciously skewed the statistics.)   

Jumping chronologically ahead, during my toast at Anna and Colby’s wedding, I suggested, since Anna’s new husband was six-foot-four that “Colby is a welcome addition to the ‘Pomerantz Gene Pool’.”  Gratuitously adding, after skillfully timing the subsequent laugh, “Six foot-four is a Pomerantz standing on a chair.”

What can I tell you?  The truth is funny. 

Though we are admittedly not a tall family, I myself never felt particularly challenged.  That’s because, at five-foot-seven, I am taller than my older brother, which is the only relative comparison that matters.  (With humble apologies for the “relative.”)
Here’s the thing.

American culture values height.  Of course, it makes a huge deal about skin color so what do you expect? 

In a study concerning the heights of presidential candidates, cultural scientists – who appear to have an inordinate amount if time on their hands – observed that since 1900, the taller candidate has captured the American presidency nineteen times, while the shorter candidate has prevailed eight times. 

The only noticeably short winners (on the list I looked up) were presidents elected in our country’s earliest era.  James Madison was five-foot-four.  I have no idea who Madison ran against, but I can’t imagine the guy was shrimpier than that.    

Who knows?  Maybe back then, five-four was a reasonable height.  (What’s interesting is that they bothered measuring the candidates at all.  Somehow, height has always seemed to be important, voters drawn reflexively to the taller competitor. 

If George Washington had been five-three-and-a-half rather than six-two, it might have altered the course of American history.  Word is, George the Third himself was lineally tall.  Although cursory research suggests that nobody ever went up and said, “Excuse me, Your Majesty, do you mind if we measure your height?”  That appears more an American concern.  Plus, it is terrible manners to approach a Divinely ordained monarch with a tape measure.)

Anyway…. I’m stalling.  I could have easily removed the previous paragraph were I not trying to delay the inevitable.  And this disclaimer is hardly indispensible itself.

TAKING A DEEP BREATH

Okay.  I’m ready.

While acutely aware of the vertical continuum, I have been relatively content being five-foot-seven, probably due to my winning the “Head-To-Head Brotherly Height Sweepstakes.”   Though no one has ever unironically called me “Big Guy”, the “Familial Advantage” set me off on a confident trajectory.   

Then, not long ago, visiting my cardiologist for my annual checkup, the office nurse measured my height…

You likely now know where this is going.  But in the name of getting there no sooner than necessary, one last strategic digression.

Why the fu… sorry, I have intense feelings about this…

Why the heck do cardiologists need to know how tall you are? 

ANXIOUS CARDIOLOGIST:  “I can’t reach his heart!

Anyway, for some unfathomable reason, they dutifully calibrated my height.  And for the first time since puberty…

I am no longer five-foot-seven. 

No, Wise Guy, I am not taller.  I have dropped down, to the top echelon of that measurement but still

The high five-foot-sixes!

(My salvaging consolation being that my older brother is shrinking commensurately, so I continue to be “the taller one.”)

It was a traumatic revelation.  All my life, I have been hovering within “shouting distance” of the “National Average.”  Now suddenly, I am shriveling into the abyss.

And that is all I have to say about it. 

This post may be somewhat shorter than it usually is.  But now, apparently…


So am I.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Love, Love, Love"

“We love you!”

A welcome sentiment, to be sure.  More gratefully, by far, received than…

“You’re roobish!”

Still.

“We love you!”

Shouted from a crowd to a performer – or performers – onstage, though more likely to a single entertainer, as loving a group can prove pinpointingly problematic.

AUDIENCE MEMBER TO THE ONSTAGE BEATLES:  “We love you!… Though we are less enthusiastic about Ringo!”

Then there’s the problem of speaking unsolicitedly for the entire audience. 

We love you!” 

I mean, sure, the people are there, demonstrating some modicum of interest.  But their mere presence could reflect anything, including, “I couldn’t get tickets for the ‘Stones’” and “My date wanted to come and I was hoping to get lucky afterwards.”  Hearing shouts of “We love you!” one can imagine other audience members thinking, if not outwardly mumbling,

“Well I wouldn’t go that far.”

I don’t know about you, but I cannot see myself professing public affection for an entertainer.  Not that it’s scary or difficult.  An anonymous “We love you!’ from a darkened auditorium, and it’s over.  The risk is minimal.  Little chance you’ll called up on stage and told, “Prove it!”

All right.  So what brings all this up?  (Some people care about that.)

A review of a Barbra Streisand concert at L.A.’s Staples Center.  Barbra, who’s been performing for six decades, is releasing a new album.  Ipso facto – a series of accompanying promotional concerts.

Here’s what happened at the reviewed event.

Barbra delivers one of her trademark numbers – “Don’t Rain On My Parade”, or something she recorded with Neil Diamond – the audience goes predictably crazy and someone from the audience shouts out, “We love you!”

To which the verbally nimble Ms. Streisand, when she could have simply said “Thank you” responds…

“Still?”

Which struck me as… hmph.  (Not a pejorative “hmph”, but a skeptical “hmph.”)

I read this and I’m immediately thinking, “What exactly should be taken from the response, ‘Still?’”

What initially comes to mind is,

“That’s a long time to love me.”  (The assumption being that the love was of six decades’ duration, although it is possible it was a spontaneous reaction to the previous song.)

My subsequent reaction to “Still?”

“I understand loving me when I was young and vibrant, but you actually love this?”
(Implication:  I have plenty of days when I don’t love ‘this’.”)

And my final thought about “Still?”:


“I understand your loving me originally – I’m Barbra Streisand! – but still?’” 
  
Moving on… considering performers also include politicians….

“We love you!”

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S TRADEMARK REJOINDER:  “I love you back!

Okay, that’s sweet.  (Nixon never said that.)  The thing is, if he really loved us, how come the president never says, “I love you” to us first.  It’s always a reaction.  Leaving some of us – the highly emotional contingent – warily suspicious of his sincerity.

When stepdaughter Rachel was young and going to a party, I’d say, “You look beautiful.”  To which she would inevitably reply,

“You have to say that.”

That’s how it feels when the president’s “I love you” comes second.  What exactly at that point are his options?

One additional comment in this context…

You call out “We love you!” to a president because shouting “I love you!” could find you surrounded immediately by Secret Service agents.  (Their perhaps over-zealous rationale:  “I love you.  Michelle has you.  But a certain action on my part will have us bonded forever in the history books.” 

It’s not a smart move.  One “I love you!” and you’re in a room in the back, facing hostile questions and psychological profiling.  Safer, by far, in this situation:  We love you!”

My last and favorite public “We love you!”, one I actually witnessed in person…

James Taylor performing at the Universal Amphitheater – wrapping up “Fire and Rain” or maybe “Sweet Baby James”, and someone from the audience calls out,

“We love you!”

The onstage Taylor, seemingly familiar with this reaction, shoots back,

“That’s because you don’t know me.”

Not really what you expected.  But eminently quotable down the line.

The adoration of the multitudes.  Something you dream about in your bedroom.  (Did I just give too much away?)  My imagined reaction, if “I love you!” happened to me:

Instantaneous blushing.

Hardly historic.


But it’s better than “Still?”

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Okay, I Give Up"

I have never done this before. 

There was supposed to be another entry in this series, but I am abandoning the project and I am calling it a day.

Here’s what I was hoping to do, and I failed.

I wanted to communicate to you the sensations I experienced watching some iconic performances in live musicals.  The thing is, the cliché holds true.

You had to be there.

Skillful writers can convey an emotion.  My intention, however, was to the cut out the middleman – the problematical me – and show you archival footage of those actual performances. 

The trouble is…

They didn’t make any.

Or hardly any.  With the exception of my first offering, Gwen Verdon’s delightful “If they could see me now…” from Sweet Charity which seemed like it derived directly from the actual production, my selected examples wound up being a reprised rendition from an awards show (Zero Mostel’s “If I Were A Rich Man”), two original cast audio recordings (“The Bum Won” from Fiorello! and Barbra Steisand in I Can Get It For You Wholesale) and a movie sampling from The Music Man, which I never saw onstage anyway although I did see all the others (Robert Preston’s “You’ve Got Trouble.”)

Finding no YouTube selections from the original onstage productions, there was nothing really I could show you.  At least not the way I intended to.  (Exception With An Explanation:  I saw a clip of Ron Moody’s onstage rendition of  “Reviewing the Situation” from Oliver! But the visual quality was so terrible, I had to give it a pass.)

Oh well.  I guess I made a mistake.  (I am reminded of Kramer’s agonizingly agitated, “I didn’t think it through!”)

Today, I shall bow out with an inimitable Force of Nature.  The clips comes from some TV show.  

Still…

Imagine seeing this in person.

Which I almost did.   We were outside the theater and I really wanted to get tickets.  But my mother thought the show was too adult for me, especially watching it with her.  So I missed it.

I wish I hadn’t.

Ladies and gentlemen…

My Grand Finale.

The “I never saw it in person” version of the “not taken directly from the stage version” of, well…

Curtain up!


Light the lights!


Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Broadway Memories" - A Dynamical Force Of Nature"

I never saw The Music Man on Broadway.  When it opened in 1957, I was only twelve years old.  (Put away the abacus; I’m seventy-one.  “Yikes!  We’re reading an old guy!”  Sorry.  There is nothing I can do about it.)

Composer-lyricist Meredith Willson tinkered with this pet project for more than eight years.  The man had legitimate “street cred”, as a longtime musical arranger and as a flute and piccolo player for both John Philip Sousa’s band and Toscanini’s New York Philharmonic. 

That’s a remarkable spectrum.  From Marching Band brass buttons to white tie and tails.  And woe, if he forgot which performance was that night!

“Willson, you are a total embarrassment!”

Though Meredith Willson wrote three other musicals, none of them came close to the enormous success of The Music Man (The original Broadway production ran for 1375 performances.) 

I saw Willson’s second biggest hit, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (532 performances) starring Tammy Grimes and it was extremely enjoyable.  I only mention that parenthetical tidbit because my original idea for this series – offering memorable moments from shows I personally attended – is coming apart at the seams.  More on that later, when I run up the white flag and surrender completely.

I found no excerpts from the original stage play.  As a second choice, I offer a memorable highlight from the movie version.  I have little enthusiasm for movie renditions of Broadway musicals.  (They inevitably feel lifeless.)  But this scene comes the closest I’ve ever seen to exploding to life, despite the celluloidal intervention. 

(Interesting Footnote:  The studio wanted Frank Sinatra to play Professor Harold Hill in the movie, but Willson insisted on the less luminous Robert Preston, who’d played the “Professor” on Broadway.)

Oh, to have seen original stage version, playing directly in front of me.

No cuts.

Not “Take twos.”

If this filmed offering is good. 

Imagine how rousingly spectacular that would have been.

From the 1962 version of The Music Man, here’s Robert Preston

Warning the townsfolk of River City

About “Trouble.”