In Uncategorized on December 18, 2021 at 10:08 pm

Just as I knew she would after seeing her slay at the Cafe Carlyle, in her new show entitled Finding My Voice, Kathleen Turner gave a triumphant one woman display of showmanship, a true performer’s instinct, formidable smarts, desert dry wit and liberal political outspokenness, at Town Hall tonight. She is formidably versed in popular music of the past century and her song selection was pristine: I’d rather be sailing, Any place I hang my hat is home, Moonshine Lullaby, On the street where you live (for her now-grown daughter, as a baby), her unofficial theme song, It’s only a paper moon, and one I once swore I could never hear again, but since Sondheim’s death have fallen in love with again, whensung by soeone who has earned the right, Send in the Clowns.

Musically, her voice – at best – may possess the range of half an octave But her sense of pitch is nonetheless unerring and she used it with a good actor’s masterly skill and knowledge of its limitations and capabilities, so its effect was not only powerful but quite supple in sensitively conveying a multitudinous range of emotion. She was helped, most rewardingly, by her impeccable choice of songs and a spiffy trio of piano, bass and guitar with an orchestral resonance to it. Produced by Ken Davenport, this is a rich full experience, an education in what it means to survive in a tough, crazy and unpredictable world, as a woman, a mother, an actress, a victim of cripplingly painful arthritis, and a staunchly liberal political activist.

About that last, lest you should worry, she has cannily gauged the amount of mordant and, these days especially, very necessary, sage observation she can get away with, and does it with a blithe, never oppressively angry, approach. “I still remain an optimist,” she assured us, but “to interfere with a woman’s right to choose, who the fuck do they think they are?” I was glad that she reminded us that Town Hall has long been a haven for individual voices speaking truth to power: “Margaret Sanger spoke here.”

Make no bones about it, she is and remains a star, witnessed by a packed house of adorers – NYC always loves a true diva – and in what she sings and says represents the very best kind of cabaret, informed by a rich, fully lived life, perfect comic timing and stunning communication skills.My favorite moment was when she described being in the West End of London for The Graduate. She dispatched the loneliness of being an unmoored American in Blighty with the always welcome A Foggy Day, and then went on to describe how she solved that problem. Her stage door area was corralled by police barriers to keep her after show fans at bay but she couldn’t help but notice how ‘the Queen’, Dame Maggie Smith, just simply walked out her stage door after her performance to head home, no fuss no muss.

One night she received a note from Dame Maggie, “Mayn’t I please borrow a barrier?” That was all it took for Turner to run next door, note in hand, which resulted in regular, hilarity-filled Thursday night dinners for this essential pair. Between the two of them, they must know everyone in the profession for the last 100 years, practically, and oh to have been a fly on that wall!

One Radiantly Imperishable Folkie

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2021 at 4:03 am

The great Judy Collins is performing at Town Hall this Friday night- if you have never seen her live, that should be on your bucket list, so GO. Her voice is as thrillingly silvery-clarion as ever, and her survivalist, outspoken spirit inspiringly undiminished. At her gigs, the talk is always just as richly rewarding the music.

That instantly riveting, sweetly melodic voice of hers should be credited with first drawing attention to the music of Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now) and Leonard Cohen (Suzanne), and helping Stephen Sondheim become known to the mainstream with her haunting rendition of Send in the Clowns. Everyone but the notoriously redoubtable Mitchell was grateful. Collins was not invited to be part of the all-star cast who celebrated Mitchell’s 75th birthday in 2018 and, as Collins later remarked:

“Joni has nothing nice to say about anyone,” Collins said, sotto voce. “I’m never on her invitation list. I made her a star, yet Both Sides Now makes her mad as hell. It’s always shocking with Joni. She has crafted her life to make people mad and insult them. I’ve put in a lot of hours making phone calls, sending her notes, flowers. And I’m so in awe of her writing that I don’t care!”

No one admires Mitchell more than me, but it is apparent that she is not the easiest person in the world. My cousin and high school bff, film producer Bonni Lee and I would listen to her albums endlessly, but when Bonni finally met her in L.A., she said she was a major disappointment, drinking heavily and completely self-involved.

Anyway, here’s the much more easy to deal with Collins in an interview I did with her a few years ago:

from Gay City News, Nov. 19, 2016


BY David Noh

As reassuring, endlessly rewarding, and lovely a New York presence as the Statue of Liberty herself — whom she somewhat resembles today in her classic profile — Judy Collins is returning to the Café Carlyle to bewitch us with her ever-uncanny voice, which seems to possess all the vast plains and mountains of this great, if crumbling country of ours.

Her new show will feature a bold first step for her that she described in an interview with Gay City News.

“Of course I sing some of my hits and some from my new CD, ‘Silver Skies Blue,’ my new CD I did with Ari Hest, who will be performing with me. Ari and I have written all the songs together. It’s very exciting, a first for me. I have written songs in the past but never a whole album, a big step. I met Ari a few years ago, and he wrote the lead song for my duets album I recorded with Willie Nelson, Jackson Browne, Jeff Bridges, and Jimmy Buffet. We decided to work together and spent a year writing songs, and here we are. You know, I have to keep myself excited and interested, and these are great songs, all important.

Judy Blue Eyes’ timeless talent and her vision of what keeps us around

“Ari really impresses me. I wouldn’t have done this work without him. He’s a career musician and wonderful singer, been around for about 15 years. He had a contract with Columbia and did a couple of albums for Sony. I’m very picky and wouldn’t go near someone if I didn’t think they were cooking on all burners. I just think he’s dazzling and his work is first-class.”

I told Collins that, for me growing up, her voice was a beautiful, inescapable presence in my life and, miraculously, its silvery, crystalline timbre and elemental force seem unchanged decades later. Collins laughingly replied, “Well, it’s good luck, good health, a lot of good training, and, I think, just in general a fortunate combination of a number of things. I was a classical pianist, playing Mozart, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff as a young person before I found folk music. Then, when I started singing in concerts and touring, I started to lose my voice. In 1965, I was lucky enough to find a great teacher named Les Margulies, a genius, whom I worked with for 32 years. He knew what he was doing — not a lot do — and I was lucky.”

If nothing else, Collins will always be known as the artist who gave Stephen Sondheim his first and only real pop hit, with her recording of “Send in the Clowns.”

“Yes! And I just made a new Sondheim special for PBS with orchestra, which will come out during the November-December pledge drive, as well as a record, with just piano, of 10 of those songs, coming out in February. I finally accomplished a dream I had for 25 years of doing that. I hope to do the same for these songs that I did for ‘Send in the Clowns,’ so people will hear them in a different way and make a huge difference in their lives.

“I had been nosy about Sondheim in 1973, when a friend brought me the cast album of ‘A Little Night Music.’ When I heard ‘Clowns,’ I just flipped out — ohmigod, I have to do this song! I was lucky because my record company, Elektra, was poised to do good work. I had certainly built my relationship with them, having huge hits with ‘Both Sides Now,’ ‘Some Day Soon,’ ‘Amazing Grace,’ and ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes.’ They were poised, with the album I was working on, to make the best out of it and they certainly did. I was with Elektra for 25 years and then went back and recorded more, which I still do, and I still get a check from them every six months. Fifty-five years. Amazing! I still see Sondheim in town, and I’m always so glad to know him. He appreciates what I do, which is very nice. ”

“Who Knows Where the Time Goes” was memorably featured on the soundtrack of the film “The Subject Was Roses,” lending an extra layer to Patricia Neal’s poignant Oscar-nominated performance.

“Yeah, it’s a wonderful song, which Sandy Denny wrote, and I was lucky to find it when I did. The director, Ulu Grosbard, called me just after I recorded it in 1968. He said, ‘I’m making this movie, and I’m downstairs editing it, while my kids are upstairs, playing your album. I keep listening to the song “Albatross,” and it fits right into the scene where Patricia takes this bus ride out to Montauk and I’d like to use it. What else are you doing?’

“I told him about ‘Who Knows,’ and played it for him. He said, ‘I’d like to add a few things to it, make it more upbeat at the end,’ so we rerecorded it for him, which people usually don’t do, but we had a little time.”

The other songwriter inextricably linked with Collins is Joni Mitchell, whose “Both Sides Now,” was a seminal 1960s anthem.

“I was so lucky, because it was 1967 and, again, I was preparing an album. I had already discovered Leonard Cohen [with ‘Suzanne’] and helped to make him famous, for which he’s always been grateful and helpful. I had heard her name, and her song ‘The Circle Game,’ and one night, at 3 a.m., I got a call from my friend, Al Kooper. He put Joni on the phone and made her sing ‘Both Sides Now,’ and I said, ‘I’ll be right over,’ and that’s how that happened. She’s a wonderful artist, and what a writer!”

As if the ageless beauty of her voice weren’t enough, Collins is even more physically striking today than in her youth, with a superb personal style sense, not to mention her gorgeous mane of silver hair and laser-blue eagle eyes.

“You have to keep it simple, learn to stay healthy, exercise. I have to be an athlete to do this, 130 shows a year all over the place. I have to be up for it at all times. “

The Collins candor is also impressive, whether it’s her delightfully revealing patter in her stage shows (“I love to talk and tell my stories”) or her admirably public sharing of experiences with alcoholism, depression, and suicide [her son, Clark, took his own life in 1992, at age 33]. These topics, once kept so hush-hush, seem to affect everyone these days, on some level.

“I’ve always been an activist. These were the secret things we couldn’t talk about and now we have to. I had tried for a number of years to write about suicide, then finally found a publisher, a great guy who was running an imprint at Penguin.

“I found a place to write a book about suicide, and then one on creativity, and then one on surviving tragedy. I’d intended it to be for suicide survivors but they convinced me that it was really about survival in general, which I actually still don’t believe. I think suicide is very different, but it was okay. I don’t mind losing a few.

“The world is a very difficult place to live in, and art and music and writing and painting are the things that we do so we can stay on the planet. I truly believe that, otherwise I think people would leave in droves. One of my favorite stories about 9/11 is about my friend, Emily Rafferty, who was president of the Metropolitan Museum until a few months ago, when she retired. Giuliani — you wouldn’t believe he had this much sense — called her on 9/12 and said, ‘Everything is closed. You have to open the museum!’

“There were no cellphones or email, so it was a lot of calling land lines and running over to people’s houses, but she did it. They got hold of everybody in this sort of handmade event, and the museum opened the next day and thousands of people came. Because they needed to see art and be reassured that people for centuries, ever since time began, have been going through terrible things and survived. Artists tell us that there’s more than what’s going on and what we’re seeing. That’s the only thing I give Giuliani credit for. He was a helluva prosecutor I must say, but he lost his mind along the way. A sad, sad man. A dangerous, sad man.”

Although many of her contemporaries are holed up in California, Collins has always been the staunchest of New Yorkers, always lending a special glow to the many cultural events she attends in private life.

“Oh, I love New York! I get to come home and, like last night, go to a lecture at the New York Historical Society where my friend Harold Holzer talked about Abraham Lincoln. He’s a wonderful scholar. A lot of my friends are writers and historians. It’s funny how that worked out.

“I recorded in California but never lived there, except from 1943 to ’49, as a child. I go there for business and concerts, so I certainly am there on a regular basis. I had a very good experience doing ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” It was a good time to be in LA.”

I’ll say. It was the late 1960s, and Collins was one of the gorgeous, free-floating muses and queens of the scene, the lady of rocker Stephen Stills, who wrote “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” for her.

“That was really something. I know, it’s very touching, that song. When he played it for the first time, we both cried. And I said, ‘Well, it’s not going to work. I’m not coming back. But it sure is beautiful!’”

So, who does Judy Collins listen to?

“Hugh Prestwood just put out a new CD, ‘I Used to Be the Real Me,’ which I love. He wrote ‘Hard Times for Lovers,’ which I recorded. Yes [laughs], the ‘naked’ album [because of her revealing cover]! He’s had a lot of big country hits recorded by other people, but isn’t actually well known as an artist. And, of course, I listen to the new albums by my peers to see what they’re doing. I heard Leonard’s new CD, which is amazing, and I always try to keep up with the new artists and find out what they’re doing. And the old classics, like Joni’s work.”

Oscar Night, 1962

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2021 at 9:28 am

as told to me by Rita Moreno, ultimate comeback kid, who turns an inspiring 90 today:

“I was doing a World War II B-movie [‘Cry of Battle’] in Manila. I was back to doing the same crap again, playing a Filipina guerilla girl in the army. It was so depressing and then I got nominated, to my amazement. So when the time came, I flew in to LA. They literally gave me only two days off, which was a shame as I missed all the great hoopla that happens after you win – the flowers, telegrams, phone calls – all that attention which to this day I feel so robbed of.“

George Chakiris, who remains a great friend, and I were each other’s dates. On the way to the theater we were making up ‘sour grapes speeches’ in case we didn’t win – ‘Oh, I know she slept with him…’ – making up these terrible stories. Up until ‘Titanic,’ our film set records for the most awards, just piling them up.“George was the first to win and I didn’t come until very near the end of the program, which was just breaking me, the suspense was hideous. And then I got it, and I remembered when my name was called, saying to myself, ‘Don’t run to the stage, it’s not dignified. If the applause stops before you get there, so what.’ But the applause didn’t stop because the movie was such the favorite.“My speech was the shortest in Oscar history, the shortest and most uninspiring speech, but what can I say, I’m stuck with it. I just said, ‘I can’t believe it!’ and then there’s a pause and I was trying to think of something to say and I just repeated, ‘I just can’t believe this,’ and there was one more time to think of something and I said, ‘I leave you with that!’ It really is an out-of-body moment and even though you’re almost certain you don’t have a chance because so-and-so is the hot contender, you should have something in your head.“

“The funniest part was that Joan Crawford was co-hosting that night and she had her Pepsi-cola cooler in her dressing room, filled with vodka, and the lady was bombed. I went into the wings and only then did I burst into tears. And she grabbed me, and there was one lone photographer in the wings, not in the press room, and she put her arms around me and pressed my face to her chest while he was taking pictures. She was built like a linebacker and I couldn’t get out of her grasp. She kept saying, ‘There, there dear, don’t feel bad!’ And I kept saying, ‘I don’t feel bad! I don’t feel bad!’ And the photographer kept saying, “Oh, Miss Crawford we need to see Rita’s face!’ ‘But the poor dear is upset,’ she said, and in my muffled voice I kept saying, ‘I’m not upset!’ “Finally the man came to get me, and they had to wrest me out of her hold and take me to the press room.

“The best part is a week later, in Manila, I get this note in her famous blue stationary: ‘Darling Rita’ – I never met the woman in my life – ‘how generous and kind of you to come visit me in my dressing room’- we weren’t in her dressing room, we were in the wings – ‘at the most important moment in your life. How dear and sweet of you. Love, Joan.’”

“That’s my funny story but the sad story of that night was that at the Governor’s Ball, Natalie [Wood] never came over to say hello or congratulations. Wasn’t that odd? I was very hurt and astonished. We’d gotten along during the filming although we weren’t best friends. In fairness to her, she was kind of cool to most of us, but she was certainly never rude. I read her biography and I didn’t realize what a really sad life she had.

“My friend, actress Liz Torres, told me the most wonderful story, which always makes me teary. She was living in Spanish Harlem, which is a very noisy place, and she said, ‘It was no different Oscar night. But when the Best Supporting Actress category came up, that whole neighborhood suddenly just shut up. And when your name was called out, there was such cheering and whistling and people yelling at each other through windows: She won!’ Isn’t that marvelous?”-


Rita’s gown, which she had made in the Philippines by their greatest designer, Pitoy Moreno, I believe to be one of the most beautifully elegant ever worn by any contender. She wore it again in 2018 but I think it was a mistake to alter its superbly original trapezod top into a strapless when the original more modest bodice was so much more soignee.