Monday, December 19, 2005

A Chip off the old Aunt

Unaccustomed as I am to public name-dropping, filled with loathing for the celebrity culture we have become, with Nick and Jessica on every newstand and who the fuck are they anyway and what have they done, by the way? the moment does come once in a while, where, in my serendiptious fashion, I cross paths with someone noted who is worth paying attention to. Thus it was that I went with my beloved friends, Joe and Shirley Wershba, great journalists and arguably even greater human beings who worked with EdwardR.Murrow and thus became characters in and consultants to Goodnight and Good Luck, to a screening of that remarkable movie at the Writer's Guild, with George Clooney and crew doing Q & A afterwards.
For those of you who have been victimized by these reports for many a year, you will remember that at the height of my frustration at not being able to get anyone to listen to my musical;('What are you doing writing music?' gravelled Jimmy Nederlander, 'You're a bookwriter!) I wandered into a grocery store in Beverly Hills during this selfsame season, my hissy fit intensified by the fact that there were no Christmas Carols anywhere, and heard them at last. Someone was singing along with the Muzak. Turning the corner I saw Rosemary Clooney, pushing her cart and singing 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing.' I went over and introduced myself to her, and said I wanted to talk to her about something. She said "Good." Then I said "I think God sent me in here," and she replied "I believe in that." So I told her about my musical,and a few days later she came to my house and I played the score for her. She laughed and she cried and said all the right things: "Usually when you have lyrics this good, you have to make musical sacrifices; but that isn't the case here," she soothed on. "This would be a great singing experience."
A while afterwards,I wrote her a letter asking if she would consider recording some of the songs for me. My lawyer negotiated with her manager, and she did them IN EXCHANGE FOR SANDWICHES FOR THE MUSICIANS. I capitalize that info for you to emphasize and make clear what an amazing soul she was, and what a generous heart. When she did a concert in San Francisco I went backstage, and she introduced me to her friends as :"One of the great songwriters of all time." There are certain phrases coming from certain people that should put your spirit to rest. I ought to think of that once in a while, when I grind my teeth.
Anyway, in the Q & A, wherein George was as quick and funny as he is great-looking and seeking to do more with his gifts than just be pretty, though that doesn't hurt,someone asked him if he was being audited, and he said "Not yet, but I did do Syriana so I may get an anal probe." Then someone asked why the jazz punctuating the music, and he said, smiling sweetly, "I had an aunt who sang a little jazz."
Cue. Shirley introduced me to him afterwards, and I gave him the CD of Rosie singing my songs, and said "This was a gift to me from your aunt who sang a little jazz, so I'm giving it as a gift to you." He was Adorable+, genuine and smart, and said to me at one point "You're lovely." Rest, rest, per-tur-bed spirit. I shall remember these things and add them all up and try to stop being an assholette about not being able to break into the light, since light comes sometimes in unexpected ways, and in his case pretty darling.
Yesterday I went to an off off off performance of a show by my one-time collaborator when I wrote my first musical, that was supposed to be produced by Kermit Bloomgarden, the great producer of his day which was in my true youth, except that he put all the money he had raised for our show into Mel Brooks' 'Nowhere to Go but Up,' which tanked, taking all our capital with it. Phil's show was especially sad because he was incredibly gifted and wrote many fine songs, especially the ones in our show, an adaptation of Mark Twain's 'Million Pound Note,' and had a couple of big hits, missing from yesterday's dirge-y salute to the Brill Building, where songwriters used to go to flog their tunes. Worst was the last before the intermission, The Highway of Life, about when you see someone with their thumb out pick them up because they may be your chum, with lyrics by my mentor and father-figure when I was a baby,Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for Wizard of Oz, and what remains the #1 song in the history of American songs, 'Over the Rainbow.' There was never a better, wittier poet in songdom than Yip: "As coroner, I Vocifer,I thoroughly examined her,and she is not just merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." But Yip had a heaviness in him (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? the best depressed example) so someone needed to be around to feather him up, and poor Phil was clearly not the one to do it, at least not on that highway of life, to which a cast of grateful to be working performers did a step-crosstheankle-step, step crosstheankle step in funereal tempo as if, said my sister-in-law, Arline,'they were serious.' I hope if I live long enough to lose my sense of humor, someone kills me.
But on the way out I introduced Arline to Joe Franklin who was on local TV forever, and he remembered her brother, my husband, from when Don worked at WOR, and even knew how to spell his name,which thrilled her. So no experience is wasted except the one you waste.
And news of a different coin, Joel Iskowitz, the gifted artist who designed the new cover for The Motherland, my best novel which will shortly be re-issued and available on please God, has just had his coin design chosen for the platinum one to be released by the treasury in 2006, that depicts the legislative branch of government. His coin for 2008, depicting the judicial branch, will also be issued. He did not design one for 2007, the executive branch, "for reasons",he said, "that will be obvious."

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