Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day! Life IS a cabaret...

Tickets are now available for the 19th Birthday Party of CABARET HOTLINE
ONLINE that will be held on Thursday, July 9th at 7:00 pm at THE WEST BANK
CAFE/LAURIE BEECHMAN THEATER (407 West 42nd Street, NYC - 212-695-6909 - ).
Sales are limited to 75 seats. They've already
lined up some great performers for the show: Tom Andersen, Terrell Baker, Raisa Katona Bennett, Ryan Greer and Jim Speake to start. Two more performers have been invited - they are waiting to hear back - and they're still
checking out 3 or 4 more to ask.

The cost per ticket is just $15 to 2009-2010 members and $25 for those who
have not renewed their memberships yet or haven't joined yet. SILVER
memberships are just $20 so you can join/renew as a member for $20 then get
your ticket for $15 and receive a full year of benefits. Tickets and memberships are not refundable. NO RESERVATIONS WILL BE
TAKEN BY THE CLUB - no tickets sold the day of the event.
Program Booklet ads are available as well - in just three sizes: 1/4 page
(square), 1/2 page (horizontal) and full page.
Pricing is $75 full page, $50
for 1/2 page and $30 for 1/4 page.

Those of you who know me personally and/or if you have been following my blogs, you know that ARTS IN EDUCATION is my main cause. Here are a few news items And facts I have discovered since my last blog last Thursday. ...Research has shown that the arts have a positive effect on students not just for their own sake but that also improve academically. Leading figures from the cultural sector are being urged to work more closely with teachers, so that between them they can produce a national strategy for educating young people in the arts.
A spectacular new arts high school in downtown Los Angeles cost an equally spectacular $232 million.
Now that the campus is complete, with its state-of-the-art theater, ceramics studios and other eye-popping amenities, the critical next step for school leaders is to avoid wrecking it. My prescription: Don't rush the school into a September curtain-raising, and don't diminish what could become a national beacon of arts education by turning it into a neighborhood school.
In other arts related news, President Obama picked the Broadway producer Rocco Landesman to lead the National Endowment for the Arts.

For years, school systems across the nation dropped the arts to concentrate on getting struggling students to pass tests in reading and math.
Yet now, a growing body of brain research suggests that teaching the arts may be good for students across all disciplines. The U.S. Department of Education reports that when comparing the amount of arts education received by first-graders to third-graders, first-graders were much more likely to receive education in art, music, dance and theater than third graders. This means that the educational process is not being carried out even to the third year of many children's schooling.
In Pennsylanaia, Wilkes County high school and middle school performing arts programs received a major boost Tuesday with a $115,526 donation from Lowe's Companies Inc.
Dr. Steve Laws, Wilkes school superintendent, said the North Wilkes, East Wilkes, Wilkes Central and West Wilkes high school band directors have access to $25,000 apiece to buy musical instruments for their high school and middle school bands starting next week.
In addition to $100,000 for the band programs, said Laws, the four high school choral programs are getting $2,500 each to buy rights to sheet music and fund other performance-related expenses.
He said $5,000 will go for the drama program, with drama instructor Wes Martin teaching for one period apiece in each Wilkes high school in the 2009-10 school year.
Laws said that with funding cuts for performing arts programs likely due to the local school system's major budget challenges, this latest major donation from Lowe's is particularly timely.

Due to the likelihood of cuts in operational funds, said Laws, members of booster organizations for bands, choral groups, athletic teams and certain other Wilkes school programs can expect to be faced with the challenge of raising additional money. "Fundraising will be even more difficult in the coming year," he added.
The West Wilkes, East Wilkes, North Wilkes and Wilkes Central band programs normally get $3,000 each from the Wilkes Board of Education, plus two of the three get an additional $3,000 on a rotational basis. The choral programs normally get $500 each annually, while drama has no set budget.
He said the $115,526 donation again illustrated the important partnership role of Lowe's in public education initiatives in Wilkes, which have included technology, facilities, career education, athletics and more.
"Over the past three years, the Wilkes Board of Education has focused on upgrading the arts program in the schools as one of its goals," he said, with a particular emphasis on building stronger band programs.
The number of band students, particularly in the four Wilkes middle schools, continues to increase following the hiring of new band directors at Wilkes Central, East Wilkes, North Wilkes and West Wilkes.
"Thankfully, the middle school band program has grown so fast that many of the instruments purchased (with the $100,000 from Lowe's) will go for it," said Laws.

"One of the joys I have had is watching our young people perform and seeing that they get better every year. The talent and ability of our young people to excel is there. It's the adults working with them that makes the difference," he added.
Laws said all research shows that arts education contributes greatly to the overall development of young people, including students who perceive that they have little artistic talent.
"It costs money to provide opportunities for these young people and Lowe's recognizes the importance of making this investment."
Laws said that largely through Lowe's and people associated with the company, the Stone Family Center for Performing Arts opened in 2008 to improve opportunities for Wilkes students to perform and showcase their talents.
He said this includes providing a venue for visual arts, with student artwork regularly featured in the Stone Center and elsewhere in a portion of the 65,000-square-foot former Lowe's store on Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro.
School administrative offices fill most of the building.
Over half of the $800,000 needed to create the Stone Center came as donations from Lowe's President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Stone, and his wife, Diane; the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation "Hometown Grants" program and five retired Lowe's executives and their spouses: Leonard and Rose Herring, Pete Kulynych, Arnold and Becky Lakey, Dwight and Ann Pardue and Phil and Scotti Stevens.
All of these people live in Wilkes and Stone is chairman of the Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.
Laws noted that two years ago, the Lakeys donated $50,000, or $12,500 each, for high school band directors to purchase instruments.
The $115,526 donated this week by Lowe's came from the company's planogram facility, which is where Lowe's evaluates products for possible sale in its stores.
Laws had requested $100,000, based on $25,000 for additional instruments for each high school band program.
Before submitting the request, he asked each band director to prepare a list of instruments they would purchase with $25,000 each.

MY FEATURED PERFORMER FOR THE WEEK IS SHARON MCKNIGHT!On Tuesday, June 2 7:30pm - Sharon McKnight performs her acclaimed SONGS TO OFFEND ALMOST EVERYONE at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre 3656 N Halsted, 3rd floor Chicago.

Scott Schechter, expert fan
By Sally A. Downey

Scott Schechter, 48, formerly of Philadelphia, an authority on the careers of Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli, died of an apparent heart attack May 14 while traveling by train from a business dinner in New York to his home in Asbury Park, N.J.
In 1998, Mr. Schechter coproduced what critics considered the definitive audio overview of Garland's career. The four-CD box set, Judy, spans the singer's career from her earliest known recordings in 1929, when she was 7, to her final appearances in 1969.
Mr. Schechter also co-produced the set's 32-minute video and co-wrote its 100-page book.

He also wrote Judy Garland: The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend, a 2002 book that describes the "alternately astonishing, trivial, revelatory, mordantly funny act of possible madness known as Judy Garland," according to reviewer David Patrick Stearns, an Inquirer music critic.

The book lists the contents of Garland's address book, tells when she had teeth pulled and migraine headaches, and gives details of a day of filming of The Wizard of Oz that was wasted when a raven flew off the Scarecrow's shoulder and did not return.

In 2004, Mr. Schechter compiled The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook, a pictorial biography of the singer.
He had good people skills and was able to gather unique images from photographers who shared his vision, said Mr. Schechter's life partner, Russell Klein.

Mr. Schechter befriended Minnelli, who chose him to run her official Web site. His expertise as a Garland-Minnelli historian was acknowledged on his TV and radio appearances, and he was a consulting producer to companies that continue to release Garland and Minnelli material.

Mr. Schechter grew up in the Melrose Park Gardens neighborhood of Philadelphia.
He told Stearns that he had found metaphysical irony in having grown up in the town where Garland began her U.S. concert career in 1943 (at Robin Hood Dell) and concluded it in 1968 (JFK Stadium).

Mr. Schechter told Stearns that he had discovered Garland when That's Entertainment, a 1974 anthology of MGM musicals, opened at the old Fern Rock Theater.

"Then Channel 48 purchased a package of MGM musicals that were shown on weekdays at 1 p.m.," he told Stearns. "I had a pact with my mom that if I kept my grades up, I could come home for lunch on those days when they showed Judy's movies and not go back to school in the afternoon. I was 13."

After graduating from Northeast High School in 1979, Mr. Schechter worked for insurance companies in Philadelphia and New York before making Garland and Minnelli a career.

An animal-rights activist, Mr. Schechter doted on his rescue dog, Tigger, Klein said.

Mr. Schechter and Klein were involved in neighborhood revitalization efforts in Asbury Park, where they had lived since 2003.
In addition to his partner, Mr. Schechter is survived by a brother, Herman; a sister, Rene Schechter Klein; and two nieces.

A byword for Broadway, a synonym for ‘star’, Liza Minnelli is Hollywood royalty. An Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy – all hers. Throw in three Tonys and two Golden Globes.

Her personal life is no less compelling. From disastrous marriages to successful affairs, from booze to pills to health problems – she’s always been her mother’s daughter. Judy Garland’s daughter. Dorothy’s daughter.

How surreal to be speaking to the woman herself. I tell her as much when she calls Queensland Pride from New York.

“But don’t be silly!” she replies in her distinctive voice. “I’m just a person like everyone else.
I’ve had two hip replacements, honey!”

The response is pure Liza. Like her mother, she’s always seemed very human and vulnerable.
Another example: the nerves she exhibits. The morning of our chat coincides with the ticket release for her tour – and Liza is nothing if not nervous.
“Well, of course I’m nervous!” she says, when I express my surprise. “I get very nervous before tickets go on sale because I want people to come and see the show!
Every time is like putting myself on the line.”

She has nothing to worry about, of course. Tales subsequently emerge of ticketing sites going into meltdown. In Sydney, demand is so great that her two Opera House shows are supplemented with an extra date at the much larger Sydney Entertainment Centre.

The show itself is based on her recent New York engagement, Liza’s At The Palace – the Broadway run of which provoked ecstatic reviews from The New York Times (“Liza is a pure entertainer”) and The New York Post (“A triumph of which show business mythology is made”).
“I’ve got the best show I’ve ever done in store for you!” she promises. “I’m gonna work my butt off and give you everything I’ve got!”

And I, for one, believe her.
This is a woman who was told she’d never walk again after contracting viral encephalitis in the year 2000. She had to learn to talk again, let alone sing.

At several points, she was reported close to death and media outlets the world over readied obituaries.

And today? Forget walking and talking, she’s singing and dancing like a mad woman, getting some of the best reviews of her career.

So what got her through?

“Faith,” she replies. “I had faith. Faith in myself, faith in God, faith in the people taking care of me, faith in my fans.
There was no great plan, I just had faith.”

And so Australia gets to see Liza’s Lazarus-like ‘second wind’ when Liza Minnelli in Concert begins in Sydney on October 16 and visits Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne, before winding up in Brisbane on October 30.
It marks Minnelli’s first visit to these shores since 1989, when she toured Australia with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jnr in The Ultimate Event.
“It’s been looong time,” Liza concedes. “And you know what? I don’t know why! I love Australia and Australians!”

Of course she does. She spent seven years married to one of us – one of our own famous stars, the late Peter Allen.
“He was just the best,” Liza recalls. “Absolutely the best. He wrote the best songs, he was so sensational. He was the kindest man you’d ever want to meet. And I was so lucky to get to know him.”

There was just one problem. Peter Allen was gay.

It’s been variously reported over the years that Liza knew this when she married him, but the Cabaret star categorically denies it when asked by Queensland Pride.

“Why would you ask that, honey?” she says, just a trifle testily. “I didn’t know. No, of course I didn’t know! And I don’t think he knew either. He hadn’t come to terms with it yet. And when he did, of course he told me and of course I said, ‘I understand’.
But it was hard.”

Liza is less understanding, however, of The Boy From Oz, the jukebox musical based on Allen’s life, which played to 1.2 million Australians in the late ’90s before moving to Broadway starring Hugh Jackman as Allen.

Liza was one of the main characters portrayed in the musical, as was her mother.

“I didn’t see it,” Liza replies airily, when I ask her opinion of it.
“I didn’t feel the need to,” she says, when pressed for a reason.
And then there’s a pause, followed by: “I had no need to see it, I lived it. I was there the first time. And nobody asked me anything about it; nobody could ask Peter anything. It was absolutely done without input from the people who were there.”

It should be noted that she says none of this with rancour. The words are delivered casually, almost sweetly.

Nor is she rancorous when asked about the image portrayed of her in some sections of the media; that of an out-of-control, drug-fuelled virago with a loose grasp on reality, to put it bluntly.
“I’m not a mess,” she maintains. “If I was a mess, there’s no way I could perform night after night, like I do. I’m one of the most disciplined people I know! But you know what? I don’t care what people say. They’re gonna say what they’re gonna say.”
Strong words, but again delivered sweetly, even pleasantly.
And again it strikes me that there’s nothing rancorous about Liza, nothing bitter.

Despite the well-documented heartaches, the very public relationship breakdowns, the near-death experiences, the drug addictions (Andy Warhol once recalled her demanding “every drug you’ve got”), and the mantle of tragedy surrounding her upbringing, Minnelli consciously chooses to focus on the good times.
The woman who once said “reality is something you rise above” seems to live by the words.

“Life is here to enjoy,” she tells me. “It’s a gift we’ve been given. There’s just no point dwelling on the bad times.”

Life is a cabaret, old chum?

“Yeah, that’s it,” she laughs.

And she sings in that unmistakable voice, loud and clear, quavering only so slightly with its 63 years.

“Life is a cabaret, old chum / Only a cabaret old chum / And I love a cab-aar-reeeeet!”
Liza Minnelli in Concert: 8pm Friday, October 30, 2009 at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall. Tickets ($99-$279) available from or 132 849.

Visit for further details.


Liza is born to singer/actress Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli.
1949 Makes her first film appearance (In The Good Old Summertime), at the age of three.

Begins performing professionally on stage.

1964: Releases first album, Liza! Liza!; landmark appearance with Judy at the London Palladium.

Becomes youngest person to win the Tony Award.

Marries first of four husbands, Peter Allen. They divorce in 1974.
Stars in Cabaret; wins Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe. Makes Liza with a Z television special.

Stars in New York, New York, theme song of which becomes her signature song.

Leading lady to Dudley Moore in hit film, Arthur.

Releases acclaimed album Results, produced by the Pet Shop Boys.

Returns to Broadway in Victor/Victoria.

Reportedly close to death with viral encephalitis. Told she will never walk again.


Triumphant Broadway return in Liza’s Back!; marries producer David Gest. They soon divorce, Gest claiming Liza is violent alcoholic with herpes.
Joins cast of Arrested Development.

Announces Liza Minnelli in Concert Australian tour including Brisbane performance on October 30.
A life celebration will be scheduled next month.

This Wednesday is Delores Hope's 100th Birthday! CBS is doing a celebration and I'm getting a group together to sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY Live on the air for her!
We will gather at CBS between 7AM & 7:15 to sing Happy Birthday to Delores!We want 100 voices for 100 years!

Time: 7:15AM at 59th and 5th (next to Apple store).
We are working on securing individuals now. Are you interested? Please forward this to EVERYONE YOU KNOW!

I can be reached at845-365-0720.Please call to confirm! DRESS NICELY! This will be seen nationally!

Thanks for everything.
Dolores will be in Los Angeles, where the party will be held that day. TEN DECADES OF DOLORES.
With grateful XOXOXs to all of you who have come through for me ESPECIALLY Georga Osborne!!
Richard Skipper 845-365-0720Don't forfet to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS:

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper

The party resumes in the evening.
May 27
IGUANA VIP LOUNGE, 240 West 54th St. & Broadway
I will be hosting in this new comedy and musical variety show, with special guest stars Ritt Henn, Bobbie Horowitz, Hector Coris, Bernadette Pauley, Maureen Taylor. Jordan Clawson on keyboard, Saadi Zain on bass...and a few other surprises as well!

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