Tuesday, June 30, 2009


In the news this week, Carol Channing is listed as one of the "Music, Showbiz and Entertainment Personalities of the 21st Century" in a 75 country peoples choice poll:

Sunday marked the 40th Gay Pride march down Fifth Avenue. This time celebrating the gains of gay rights and demanding that New York join the five states that have legalized gay marriage.
The gay pride parade was held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, which was a riot in a Greenwich Village bar that jolted the gay rights movement.

"Hopes and dreams and expectations have been raised, and there is nothing worse than to for people to have their hopes die out, to have the rug pulled out from under them," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City's most prominent openly gay elected official.

The celebration went on though, with drag queens, floats, and a performance by Liza Minnelli.

The world is still reeling from the death of Michael Jackson.

While the media's treatment of Michael Jackson in the first 24 hours after his shocking death last week was largely reverential (aside from anything coming out of Maureen Orth, that is), things took a turn for the ugly over the weekend, just as Liza Minnelli had predicted.
As you might expect, the Fleet Street tabloids were the epicenter of Jackson-related stories and rumors; at least one story that made the rounds yesterday has already mysteriously been pulled from the originating source's website. That said, I've pulled together a quick roundup of the latest Jackson news for you, all of which should be taken with a grain — if not an entire shaker's worth — of salt.
• Michael Jackson's autopsy results were harrowing, to say the least. Jackson weighed approximately 112 pounds at the time of his death, and his body was described as being "severely emaciated."
Additionally, he had also lost almost all of his hair and "little more than 'peach fuzz' covered his scalp"; he was wearing a wig at the time of his death. It also appears that during the frantic moments before the ambulance arrived at his home, he received up to four adrenaline shots into his heart. [Sun UK] Update: TMZ is now reporting that the autopsy report being relayed by the Sun is "fabricated and completely false." No further explanation at the moment.

• Speaking of autopsies, Jackson's family ordered a private physician to complete a second autopsy. It is thought that they might be preparing for a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against Dr. Conrad Murray.
• Speaking of Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's personal physician, he was located late on Friday afternoon and spoke to police over the weekend. He is no longer being considered a suspect in MJ's death. [TMZ]

• Grace Rwaramba, a nanny who served under Jackson's employ for seventeen years, says she had to repeatedly pump his stomach over the years because of issues that arose when he had too many prescription drugs in his system.

She also claims that the Nation of Islam was renting the home where Michael Jackson spent his final months to him for £60,000 a month, a home that supposedly had a market value of more like £15,000 a month.
Lastly, she says that Michael Jackson signed the contracts for his O2 residency thinking he was only performing 10 shows, not 50. [Daily Mail]

• Celebrity biographer Ian Halperin, best known for the exposés he's written on Scientology, wrote a shocking piece for the Daily Mail that corroborates Rwaramba's claim that Jackson initially thought he was signing on to perform only ten comeback concert dates.
He also writes that Jackson could barely speak, let alone sing, because of a genetic condition that affected his lungs. His most shocking claim — aside from one that Jackson would rendezvous with one of his male lovers at a "grungy, rat-infested motel" — is that his grueling preparation for the concerts is ultimately what killed him. [Daily Mail]
This is my friend Scot Wisniewski.

• Michael Jackson rehearsed at the Staples Center on the night before his death. His performance was "recorded in multi-camera, high-definition video and multi-track audio," and AEG officials are reportedly considering releasing the footage as Jackson's final album.
The parades were bicoastal, the Seattle PI said, with big turnouts in downtown Seattle and Chicago as well.
Stars such as Celine Dion, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minnelli and Ne-Yo and many others are opening up to "The Insider" about the shocking death of Michael Jackson on Thursday.
"I am so devastated by this terrible news,” Celine tells us. “From the beginning of my career, he was my idol in show business. He was a genius and an incredible artist!!"

"I am so grateful to have worked with the King," says will.i.am. "He was a gift to the world, he is a bright light and I wouldn't be surprised if the world stopped spinning tomorrow."

A Las Vegas auction of 21 items of Michael Jackson memorabilia brought in more than $200,000 on Friday, the day after the “King of Pop “died suddenly in Los Angeles. The items came from the collection of Liza Minnelli’s ex-husband mickey_mouse1David Gest, a concert promoter who was an associate of Jackson, and the sale was scheduled months before the singer died.
The sale items included a painting of Mickey Mouse as a music conductor, with the dog Pluto howling in front of him.
The piece was done in acrylic on cardboard, and Darren Julien, president of Julien’s Auctions, said he believes Jackson made the painting at a young age. The sale value of the item was estimated at less than $1,500, but it sold for $20,000, Julien said.
Another item that sold at a high price was a drawing of a boy in the style of Peter Pan.
It sold for $20,000, Julien said. The item is noteworthy, because Jackson once said, “I am Peter Pan in my heart,” and he named his ranch Neverland. Also, he often chose the company of children, a fact that figured prominently in his 2005 trial and acquittal on charges of child molestation.

The auction also featured items from Jackson’s heyday atop the pop charts, most notably a hand wrap that he wore on the cover of his 1987 album “Bad". It sold for $10,000, much more than its originally estimated sale value of less than $800, Julien said.

Julien said Jackson memorabilia has always been highly sought after. Julien’s auction house had a high-profile showdown with Jackson earlier this year when it planned a massive auction of items from Neverland Ranch, but canceled the sale after resolving a legal dispute with Jackson’s camp.
"Michael was a huge supporter of my career but more importantly he was a good friend, had the biggest heart and it was an honor and pleasure to be able to work with him and know him," Lance Bass said. "There will never be another Michael Jackson, my thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Liza Minnelli says: "He was a kind, genuine, and wonderful man. He was also one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. I loved him very much and I will miss him every remaining day of my life."
“The news of the passing of Michael Jackson comes as a heartbreaking shock for me," says Dionne Warwick.
"Michael was a friend and undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest entertainers that i fortunately had the pleasure of working with. ... he will live on in my memory and most definitely through the music he shared with so many."

"Michael Jackson will live forever through the thing that he put all of his life energy into: his music," says Ne-Yo. "I will do my part to keep the melody alive, to keep the energy forever changing form, but never ever dying!! Long live Michael Jackson."

“The world has lost one of the most influential and iconic figures in the music industry,” Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our shock and sadness over his death and our hearts go out the Jackson family, Michael’s children and to his fans worldwide.”

"I knew Michael as a child and watched him grow over the years,” Dick Clark says.
“Of all the thousands of entertainers I have worked with, Michael was THE most outstanding. Many have tried and will try to copy him, but his talent will never be matched. Michael Jackson was due to make his triumphant return to the stage in London next month — but instead his sudden death has left millions of fans feeling they've lost a lifelong friend.

The worldwide chorus of grief united the famous — statesmen and superstars alike — and the legions of ordinary people who grew up with "Thriller" and "Beat It."

Word of Jackson's death jolted nearly everyone, from a young man in Colombia who was named after the King of Pop, to Malaysians who named a soy drink for him, to a generation of people around the world who have tried, in vain, to moonwalk.

"It's horrible news, so unexpected," the Italian actress Sophia Loren told The Associated Press by telephone. "The world has lost an icon and music has lost treasures. He wrote songs that generations of yesterday, today and tomorrow will all keep on singing. What he wrote was amazing."
Loren and her children had been frequent visitors to Jackson at his Neverland ranch in California, developing an enduring friendship.

"I hope that Michael will find that peace that maybe he did not have in the last 15 years."

In London, shocked fans gathered at the Lyric Theatre, where a live show based on Jackson's record-selling album "Thriller" is being performed, and waited for news about refunds for some 750,000 tickets to his sold-out, 50-night run.
A spokeswoman for AEG Live — the promoters for the London concerts — declined to say how ticket refunds would be handled. She spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she was not authorized to speak to the media.

There were poignant memories of his final public appearance when he came to London for a March news conference to announce his "This is it" concerts, which he said would mark his farewell to the London stage.
A candlelight vigil at London's Trafalgar Square was planned to honor the singer.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela issued a message through his foundation saying Jackson's loss would be felt worldwide.
Jackson sang at a birthday concert for Mandela in 1998. In 1999, according to local media reports at the time, he lunched with Mandela at a small gathering at which the South African anti-apartheid leader celebrated both his 81st birthday and his and wife Graca Machel's first wedding anniversary.

The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, UNESCO and the Red Cross were given proceeds from a huge benefit concert in Germany in 1999 that featured Jackson and other international stars.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who recorded with Jackson before they had a falling out over ownership of the Beatles catalog, said his prayers went to Jackson's family and fans.

"It's so sad and shocking," he said. "I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones."

In Ireland, where Jackson made his temporary home in a castle south of Dublin in 2007, people remembered him as a kind and loving man. Eugene Lambert, Ireland's best-known puppeteer, recalled his son's puppet performance at a birthday party for Jackson attended by the singer's three children.

"Michael and the kids seemed to enjoy the show equally," he said. "My son sang happy birthday to Michael, who seemed genuinely touched by the attention. Michael rang me that night to thank me for the show.
He said he hoped he'd be as happy at his work as I am at my age, and of course I'm 80."

In Paris, actress and singer Liza Minnelli told France-Info radio she would sing her "dear, dear friend," a tribute during a concert Saturday, but would not disclose which song. "I will miss him until the day I go," she said.
"He changed history. He changed musical history and he changed performing," Minnelli said, her voice strained.

Minnelli, herself the daughter of screen star Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, lamented Jackson's public childhood.

"Imagine, you grow up in public. From the time he could walk, they put him on stage. He had no childhood, none," she said.

Former British child star Mark Lester, who is godfather to Jackson's children, said he had visited with Jackson several weeks ago and believed the star was ready for the rigors of performing 50 live gigs.
"He was absolutely fine," said Lester. "I can't believe this, it's such a shock. I'll always remember him as being a very sweet, kind and loving man."

Rocker Lenny Kravitz recalled working with Jackson in the studio on an unreleased track and finding the man far different from the eccentric recluse often portrayed in the media.
"It was the most amazing experience I've had in the studio," Kravitz said. "He was funny. Very funny and we laughed the whole time. I also saw what a beautiful father he was.
He was a beautiful human being. If not for him, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. He gave me joy as a child and showed me the way to go."
Jackson's death prompted broadcasters from Sydney to Seoul — where the news came early Friday — to interrupt morning programs, while fans remembered a "tortured genius" whose squeals and sliding moves captivated a generation and who sparked global trends in music, dance and fashion.

Several world leaders weighed in.

Britain's prime minister Gordon Brown said his thoughts are with Jackson's family. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called it "lamentable news," though he criticized the media for giving it so much attention. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who had met Jackson, said: "We lost a hero of the world."

"I don't think anyone can be indifferent to Michael Jackson, my husband included," French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy told RTL radio in France.
"I will enormously miss his voice, his songs and his presence in our world," she said.

In Romania, where a tumultuous Jackson concert in 1992 helped mark the country's new freedoms after the fall of the Soviet bloc, singer Lucian Viziru said he was stunned by the tragedy.
"I feel like crying," he told the AP, rubbing his eyes. "I grew up with him, I learned his dances, his songs, everything. My first ever cassette was 'Thriller.'"

A condolence board went up in downtown Bucharest. Radio and TV stations played his music and broadcast clips from the concert.

"My heart is heavy because my idol died," said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates doing a synchronized dance to "Thriller."
The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.

Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their "Thriller" dance and a minute of prayer.
The flamboyant former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos, who cheered Jackson's acquittal on child molestation charges in 2005, said she cried on hearing the news.

"Michael Jackson enriched our lives, made us happy," she said. "The accusations, the persecution caused him so much financial and mental anguish. He was vindicated in court, but the battle took his life. There is probably a lesson here for all of us."

In Bogota, Colombia, a 24-year-old tattoo artist named Michael Tarquino said his parents named him after Jackson. He recalled growing up with electricity rationing for hours at a time and waiting for the power to return.

"When the light came back on I would play my Michael Jackson LP, and I'd stand at the window and sing along," he said.

Japanese fans were always among Jackson's most passionate supporters, and news of his death came as a huge shock. Michiko Suzuki, a music critic who met Jackson several times in the 1980s, said the country was likely to be mourning for some time.

"Everyone was imitating his 'moonwalk' when it was a hit. He was a true superstar," she said.

Jackson also had a huge fan base in Seoul, South Korea, where his style and dance moves were widely emulated by Korean pop stars.

"He is my master and the prime mover to make me dance," pop star Rain told the South Korean sports and entertainment daily Ilgan Sports. "Even though he is dead, he is an eternal performer."

Aaron Kwok, one of Chinese pop's most accomplished singer-dancers, said he was deeply saddened by the news.

"It's so sudden," Kwok said in a statement. "No one can replace Michael Jackson's contributions to pop music."

"He was an incredibly loyal, loyal, loyal friend,” Donald Trump tells us. "He was very into charity.
He'd come help me with P.A.L. [Police Athletic League] whenever I needed him to...he was there.”

"I was just so shocked to hear the news," Regis Philbin says. "I've had the opportunity to interview him over the years. I'll never forget when he was on 'The Joey Bishop Show,' he was just 11 and he was magnificent...such an entertainer."

“I was lucky enough to know and work with Michael Jackson in his prime,” says director John Landis, who directed Michael in his classic “Thriller” music video.
“Michael was an extraordinary talent and a truly great international star. He had a troubled and complicated life and despite his gifts, remains a tragic figure. My wife Deborah and I will always have great affection for him.”

"Rarely has the world received a gift with the magnitude of artistry, talent, and vision as Michael Jackson,” says Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Recording Academy. “He was a true musical icon whose identifiable voice, innovative dance moves, stunning musical versatility, and sheer star power carried him from childhood to worldwide acclaim.”
Autopsy results on entertainer Michael Jackson may shed some light on why the pop singer died Thursday at age 50, officials said.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office said an autopsy on Jackson was scheduled for Friday and results could be available the same day, CNN reported.
Jackson, in apparent cardiac arrest, was rushed Thursday from his home to UCLA Medical Center, where efforts to resuscitate him failed.

"I don't know what caused Michael's death, and I don't want to speculate as to what the causes are," attorney Brian Oxmon told Usmagazine.com.

So, is that the cause of it? People die from various and sundry causes -- they have congenital malformations of the heart, they have difficulty with various infections.

Oxmon added Jackson "had no particular health concerns except that he had broken his leg many years ago, and it hurt him."

And now we find ourselves here.
He had been warned that the misuse of medications would result in this, and I am heartbroken that we are here.
"All of us who knew him well really know what he was like," Minnelli said. "And I'm sure that now the accolades are going, and I'm sure when the autopsy comes, all hell's going to break loose. So, thank God we're celebrating him now."

Marlon Jackson, one of Michael Jackson's siblings, told CNN he learned of his brother's death through his manager, Frank Dileo.
"Frank told me that Michael last night was complaining about not feeling well. He called to tell him he wasn't feeling well," Marlon Jackson said Thursday. When they got to him this morning, he wasn't breathing."
Usmagazine.com said police in Los Angeles want to find and interview Michael Jackson's personal physician to see what happened before his death.
Fans paid tribute to the singer of monster hits "Thriller," "Beat It" and "Billy Jean" at the hospital and at Jackson's home.
Jackson's career began at age 5, when he fronted The Jackson Five with his brothers. But after dominating the pop music scene for years, Jackson became mired in scandals that included child molestation charges, for which he was acquitted.

We also lost pitchman Billy Mays within the past five days. He probably died of a heart attack and not from hitting his head during a rough airplane landing, a Florida medical examiner said yesterday. Mays, 50, famous for hawking cleaning products such as OxiClean in late-night infomercials, had complained he didn't feel well after banging his head on a Philadelphia-to-Tampa flight Saturday. But an autopsy completed yesterday found that heart disease was to blame for his death. There was no evidence of blunt trauma or drug abuse, Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said.

Life goes on...A performing arts center planned for eastern Iowa is on track to be completed in 2011.

The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts has gained enough financial support from the state and the community. Officials say the $10 million project is moving forward despite significant hurdles such as last year's floods and the lagging economy.

Local schools and dance companies have expressed interest in the space, and officials say they'll start booking performances at the center by the end of the summer.

Groundbreaking is expected to take place in the fall.

Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The filmmaking geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios have proven they know how to punctuate great storytelling with just the right music.

The studio has compiled 25 songs and instrumental tracks from their first 10 movies - from 1995’s “Toy Story” to the new release “Up” - for the brilliant collection “Disney/Pixar Greatest.”
Pixar’s movies have been nominated for an astounding 11 Oscars in the best original song and original score categories, and all those honorees are represented on the collection.

The eclectic compilation matches the diversity of Pixar’s films, which delve into a variety of subject matters, tones and genres. The nine songs range from Randy Newman’s folksy “Toy Story” theme “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” to Peter Gabriel’s soulful “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E.”

Sarah McLachlan breaks hearts with “When She Loved Me” from “Toy Story 2,” while Sheryl Crow gets engines revving with “Real Gone,” the opener to “Cars.”
“Monsters, Inc.” stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman charm with their Oscar-winning in-character duet “If I Didn’t Have You.”

Country trio Rascal Flatts, which includes Joe Don Rooney of Picher, contributes its hit cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway” from “Cars.”

The CD also features 16 memorable instrumentals, various pieces of film scores ranging from the superheroic theme to “The Incredibles” to a soaring snippet from “Up.” As with any compilation, the album has its missing pieces, especially Newman’s evocative “I Will Go Sailing No More” from “Toy Story,” Brad Paisley’s heartfelt “Find Yourself” from “Cars” and Robbie Williams’ solid cover of the Bobby Darin standard “Beyond the Sea” from “Finding Nemo.” And of course, the best musical elements of “WALL-E” aren’t Pixar originals but Jerry Herman’s wonderful songs from “Hello, Dolly!,” which play such a pivotal role in the film.

Pixar fans of all ages will be able to easily identify the movie and often even the cinematic moment the tracks come from. Like the films themselves, the music collection provides quality entertainment for the whole family.
GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers.
In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, I take my audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.

Join me tomorrow night for LENA HORNE BIOGRAPHER GRILLED if you're in NY!
""Stormy Weather" Author James Gavin Tells All"
What: Opening
Host: Barnes & Noble-Lincoln Triangle, New York
Start Time: Wednesday, July 1 at 7:30pm
End Time: Wednesday, July 1 at 8:30pm
Where: Upper West Side

Friday, June 26, 2009


This week, we lost three cultural icons: Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon. Being a child of the seventies, all three played an integral part of my upbringing. I had 45s of ABC and Ben. Believe it or not, I had THE poster, AND I used to sneak up each night to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon.Now, Tonight truly feels like an irretrievable yesterday. What I loved about Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon was that they seemed genuinely interested in their guests as opposed to David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Conan Obrien (and everyone else who has followed in their footsteps) who are mocking their guests.

Loss is loss,of course, at any age. I look at these three lives: one lived to a ripe older age, and two others MUCH too soon.
However, look at the wonderful legacies they ALL left us! I'm grateful for that! So I saw THANK YOU ALL for the gifts you have given us in our past, present, and future generations. With the way our world is structured, it frightens me that in 25 years, newer generations may not know who they are. But who knows? A google search may find this blog and perhaps I can shed a little light on what they meant to me and why I went to bed last night feeling a great loss and a huge void!

There will be a Michael Jackson video marathon: Beginning Friday, VH1 will broadcast a weekend-long marathon of MJ videos, certain to include classics like "Thriller," "Bad," and more. It's hard to believe that Michael Jackson, the king of pop, is dead. I feel the same way I did when I heard that Elvis Presley died. Fifty-year-old Jackson died at UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles after suffering a cardiac arrest. His mother, brothers including Jermaine, Tito and Randy and sisters Janet and LaToya, had raced to be at his bedside.
Jackson was dogged with reports of worsening health with rumours of skin cancer and a reported lung failure. The Pop singer had converted to Islam last year and changed his name to Mikaeel.
Jackson was one of the few artists to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. His other achievements include multiple Guinness World Records, 13 Grammy awards and the sales of his over 750 million albums worldwide.
His solo studio albums like Off the Wall (1979), Thriller (1982), Bad (1987) and Dangerous (1991) became some of the world's best-selling records.

Michael Jackson always was a bundle of contradictions. He went from being a child star to a tabloid target.
What are your favorite memories? The other-worldly grace of the Moonwalk. The fierce, focused energy of "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." The dance-floor urgency of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' " and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."
BEYONCE has joined the long list of celebrities paying tribute to MICHAEL JACKSON.
The R&B superstar insists the Thriller hitmaker will never be challenged as the King of Pop and June 25 will always be remembered as "a terrible day."
She says, "The incomparable Michael Jackson has made a bigger impact on music than any other artist in the history of music. He was magic. He was what we all strive to be. He will always be the King of Pop.
"For anyone who has ever seen, felt, or heard his art, we are all honoured to have been alive in this generation to experience the magic of Michael Jackson. I love you Michael."
Another leading lady, Liza Minnelli, has also paid tribute to the late pop superstar, calling Jackson a "kind, genuine, and wonderful man."
Jackson was among her wedding party when she married David Gest and she adds, "He was also one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. I loved him very much and I will miss him every remaining day of my life."
"E! News Special: Michael & Farrah: Lost Icons": This 30-minute special chronicles the lives of two icons that died Thursday. Premieres 10:30 a.m. Saturday, E!"Bio Remembers: Michael Jackson": This profile promises to covers Jackson's days as a child star through his formative years at Motown and rise to superstardom -- along with his recent difficulties and sudden death. Interview participants include Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Liza Minnelli, La Toya Jackson, Katherine Jackson, Jermaine Jackson. 10 p.m. Saturday, Bio Channel

The good intentions of "We Are the World" (which he co-wrote) and "Man In the Mirror."
In a better world, we would remember Michael Jackson -- who died today at the age of 50 after being rushed to the hospital -- only for these unforgettable accomplishments. It is wonderful that Michael Jackson's death is prompting reflection on a historic music career.
"E!ES Michael Jackson": A documentary produced in cooperation with the Jackson organization, it includes home videos, new and archival interviews with Jackson, his family and friends. Premieres 10 p.m. Wednesday

We also lost Shelly Gross this week. Though not a household name, his contributions to the theatre were immense.

Producer Shelly Gross Dead at 88
By Jessica Glenza
June 23, 2009

Sheldon "Shelly" Gross, Broadway producer and co-founder of the Guber-Gross entertainment circuit with Lee Guber, died June 19 at age 88 in West Palm Beach, Fla., after a long battle with illness.
Gross began his career in broadcast journalism. In a 1976 New York Times interview, he described himself as "looking for a way to escape" when he was asked to emcee a luncheon with the cast of the original Broadway production of The King and I.
Gross said he was so entertained, "I decided that what I really wanted to do was start a musical theater."

The Guber-Gross entertainment circuit commenced production in 1955, luring mass audiences to outdoor tent theaters, first to Westbury Music Fair on Long Island and Valley Forge Music Fair outside Philadelphia and later to theaters outside of Washington, D.C. and in suburban Baltimore. Along with their third partner, Frank Ford, Guber and Gross built the largest group of year-round superstar theater chains in the country.

The Music Fairs booked entertainers such as Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, and Liberace and also brought their own productions of Broadway titles to Guber-Gross theaters, including Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel, Gypsy with Angela Lansbury, and Cabaret with Leslie Uggams.

Gross also produced a string of Broadway shows, including the original musicals Sherry!, starring Dolores Gray and based on The Man Who Came to Dinner; Lorelei, a reworking of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with some new songs by Jule Styne, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green and Carol Channing re-creating her famous role of Lorelei Lee; and Bring Back Birdie, the short-lived sequel to Bye Bye Birdie. His musical revivals on the Great White Way included Camelot with Robert Goulet as King Arthur in 1993 and the smash hit 1977 production of The King and I with Yul Brynner and Constance Towers, which ran for 695 performances. (In a casting coup, when Brynner took his vacation, Gross brought in Angela Lansbury to play Anna Leonowens. Alas, the two stars never played opposite each other.) Gross produced two unsuccessful Broadway plays, Catch Me If You Can and Murder at the Howard Johnson's, and presented numerous stars in concert on Broadway, including Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Charles Aznavour, Patti La Belle, Barry Manilow, Victor Borge, and Shirley MacLaine.

Born in Philadelphia on May 20, 1921, to Samuel Gross, M.D., and Ana Rosenblum Gross, a teacher, Gross attended Central High School, where he met longtime business partner Guber.
"I wonder," said Gross in a 1972 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, "what would have become of my life if I had been sitting next to Schwartz."

During World War II, Gross served as a communications officer in the South Pacific and immediately afterward earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He began his career working at a radio station in Atlantic City, then moved back to Philadelphia, where he became a popular TV personality and won the 1954 TV Guide Announcer of the Year award before becoming a producer. He was also a published novelist, with the books Havana X, Roots of Honor, and Stardust to his credit.

Gross is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan Seidel Gross; sons Byron, Dan, and Rick; four grandchildren; a niece; a nephew; and a goddaughter. A memorial service in his honor is planned for late July in West Palm Beach. All donations will benefit the Palm Beach Dramaworks theatre company, for which Gross served as a fundraiser and mentor in his retirement.

Several cable networks will air tribute programming to pop music superstar Michael Jackson and actress Farrah Fawcett, both of whom died today (June 25).

TV One will pre-empt its regular primetime schedule June 26 to air an up-to-date documentary about Jackson, who died suddenly Wednesday afternoon.

The Michael Jackson Story, which celebrates the prolific career of Jackson from his start in Gary, Indiana with the Jackson Five to the announcement of his 2009 World Tour -- including rarely seen archival footage -- will air at 8 p.m. and repeat at 11 p.m. said the network.

BIO Channel will celebrate his life and untimely death Saturday as part of a special BIO Remembers: Michael Jackson. The profile, which includes interviews with Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Liza Minnelli and family members La Toya Jackson, Katherine Jackson and Jermaine Jackson, the documentary paints the complete picture of the greatest pop star of all time, according to the network.
Fawcett, who died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer, will be memorialized on TV Land with a tribute presentation this Saturday. TV Land will air the first two episodes of the 2005 TV Land original series, Chasing Farrah, which chronicled her daily life as one of the most recognized stars in the world, beginning at 9 p.m.

"Farrah Fawcett was much more than a Hollywood icon, but a friend and colleague," explains Larry W. Jones, president, TV Land in a statement. "We are honored to have known her and worked with her and will remember her fondly. Our hearts go out to Farrah's entire family."

Thank you ALL for the gifts AND memories you gave the world!
GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers. In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, Skipper takes his audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.

Join me for LENA HORNE BIOGRAPHER GRILLED if you're in NY!
""Stormy Weather" Author James Gavin Tells All"
What: Opening
Host: Barnes & Noble-Lincoln Triangle, New York
Start Time: Wednesday, July 1 at 7:30pm
End Time: Wednesday, July 1 at 8:30pm
Where: Upper West Side

Monday, June 22, 2009

Remembering Judy Garland

It was 40 years ago today that Judy Garland passed away. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I remember where I was, I remember what I had for dinner that night,
I remember how sad I was. I cried and cried, I was eight years old! According to Wikipedia, Judy Garland (born Frances Ethel Gumm; June 10, 1922 – June 22, 1969) was an American actress and singer. Through a career that spanned 45 of her 47 years, Garland attained international stardom as an actress in musical and dramatic roles, as a recording artist, and on the concert stage. Respected for her versatility, she received a Juvenile Academy Award, won a Golden Globe Award, received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her work in films, as well as Grammy Awards and a Tony Award.
She had a contralto singing range. Incredible career and life and yet people want to focus on the tragic. Not me! Today,I celebrate a wonderful career and life! Judy is still in the news! This past weekend, Many celebrated the Platinum Anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” -- the most-watched movie in the world -- in the birthplace of its brightest star, with the 34th Annual Judy Garland Festival, taking place all weekend in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. I just returned from Minneapolis where I appeared in LIFESONG 2009 APPLAUD AND PAUSE FOR A CAUSE for BECAUSE WE CARE. Because We Care hosted by Broadway star, acclaimed writer, and television personality, Bruce Vilanch. The event, was held at the Music Box Theatre (where Carol Channing did HELLO, DOLLY! while in Minnesota!). It featured performances by more than two dozen nationally recognized entertainers who donated their time for this one night extravaganza in the Twin Cities. I am honored to have been included.

Entertainers appearing with Bruce Vilanch included acclaimed actress and cabaret star Sharon McNight, entertainer Cindy Benson, Eric Michael Gillett, singer and pianist Mark Nadler, Karen Saunders, yours truly, with musical director Ron Snyder. WHO WAS INCREDIBLE! Other cast members included Miss Peggy Judy, Marcus Simeone and Irene Soderberg.
Because We Care Minnesota Performing Arts Alliance Responding To AIDS is a all volunteer, not-for -profit organization founded in 1994 by a group of people living with HIV/AIDS.
The LIFESONG performance series has become a living memorial to the founder's many friends lost through AIDS and with support from the entertainment industry providing resources to Minnesotans living with or at risk for HIV infection. Proceeds from this performance will benefit HIV services and prevention programs at the Minnesta AIDS Project.
This year's performance featured a special presentation Honoring Sharon McNight for her Humanitarian work in HIV/AIDS.

Sponsors of this years LIFESONG are the Millennium Hotel, Cenveo, Chambers Hotel,Saloon and My Scene City. Thank you Karen Saunders for asking me to be part of this!

Anne Hathaway has revealed that she must have been insane to agree to play the role of iconic singer Judy Garland, as she is not sure she has the talent to do the part justice.

Hathaway, 26, is terrified about playing the role of the late star in a big screen adaptation of biographer Gerald Clarke’s 2001 book ‘Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland’.
“I think I’m either naive or insane to play her - maybe a little bit of both!” the Daily Star quoted her as telling the New York Daily News.

But at least Hathaway has the backing of another musical veteran, Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to her about it yet, but I understand that as long as I treat Judy with respect - which of course I will - Liza is very happy about it,” she added.

Two separate national surveys gauging youth and adult participation in the arts reported last week that visits to art museums are declining.

The percentage of eighth-graders who reported that they visited an art museum or gallery with their classes dropped from 22 percent in 1997 to 16 percent in 2008!

The arts contribute so much to the economy, to the education, to the cultural life and I'm not convinced that everybody is always totally aware of that. I desire to raise the profile of the arts to give everybody an idea of the kind of thing we do. "The National Endowment for the Arts also released new data recently showing that fewer adults were choosing an art museum or a visual arts festival as a leisure-time destination. From 1992 to 2001, 26 percent of adults reported that they visited such attractions, but the number for 2008 dropped to 23 percent.
The decrease is small, but it may portend coming declines as the most loyal part of the museum audience ages. The exception, the NEA said, was in the D.C. metropolitan area, where 40 percent of adults said they had visited a museum in 2008 -- reflecting tourism and free admission at most major museums.
In addition, the agency noted sizable declines between 1982 (when it first started documenting arts participation) and 2008 in almost every performing arts field. It reported double-digit rates of decline for classical music, jazz, opera, musical theater, ballet and dramatic plays.
The NEA survey "shows that audiences for the arts are changing," said Patrice Walker Powell, the acting NEA chairman. "While many now participate in arts activities available through electronic media, the number of American adults who are participating in live performing and visual arts events is declining. The findings underscore the need for more arts education to foster the next generation of both artists and arts enthusiasts."
The National Assessment of Educational Progress report is part of a periodic federal look at how America's students fare in various subjects. Arts education was last measured in 1997, but because of budget constraints, the survey was limited this time to music and visual arts. The schools and students were selected at random, said a spokeswoman, and the questions took various forms.

Some results are promising. Students were asked to identify the instrument in the opening solo of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Fifty percent correctly identified the clarinet.

Other results indicated that students need improvement in basic skills. In NAEP's visual arts component, students were asked to do a self-portrait.

Only 4 percent received the highest mark of "sufficient," while 57 percent received a "minimal" rating, the third-best ranking.

General accessibility to arts instruction remained constant, the NAEP report said.
Music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week in 57 percent of the schools and visual arts instruction in 47 percent.

Yet there were several gaps in student scores. Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders scored 22 to 32 points higher than black or Hispanic students. On music questions, public school eighth-graders scored 14 points lower than private school students and nine points lower than their private school counterparts in the visual arts sections.

The recession's impact on school arts programs has not been statistically evaluated, but anecdotal indicators are not encouraging.

"School budget cuts are underway, with more projected next year," said Eileen Weiser, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, speaking of the economic climate in Michigan. David W. Gordon, the superintendent of the Sacramento County Office of Education, said California is cutting back on school buses, which would further jeopardize school trips. The first family of the United States (minus the nation's No. 1 jazz fan, who was busy with health-care reform) was there.

First lady Michelle Obama told the group that jazz was always in the air when she was growing up in Chicago. Her grandfather put speakers in every room of his house, turned up the stereo and listened to music all day long.

Bring your voice, bring your opinions, bring art back to our schools.

In 1943, the United States Armed Forces Institute published a second edition of War Department Education Manual EM 603 Discovering Music: A Course in Music Appreciation by Howard D. McKinney and W.R. Anderson.
The material presented in the book was a reprint of educational material taken from existing standard textbook matter used in American schools and colleges at that time and is significant to this discussion because the text included the following when discussing jazz:

Some may start with an enthusiasm for music of the jazz type, but they cannot go far there, for jazz is peculiarly of an inbred, feeble-stock race, incapable of development. In any case, the people for whom it is meant could not understand it if it did develop. Jazz is sterile. It is all right for fun, or as a mild anodyne, like tobacco.

The ambitious listener might better start from the level of Chopin's melodious piano music, or Grieg's northern elegiacs or Tchaikovsky's gorgeous colorfulness.

Today ask people under the age of 25, "Do you know who Louis Armstrong was?" "Do you know who Duke Ellington was?" "Do you know who Dizzy Gillespie was?" "Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Carol Channing?"
It tears my heart apart that young people today have no idea who the men were that put them (I'm talking about people in the entertainment field) on their shoulders and helped shaped who I was as a young musician.
Men who will forever stand at the foundation of popular music, and who I believe in years to come will be regarded as America's Chopins, Griegs and Tchaikovskys.

In the face of our record business collapsing around the world, I consider it a tragedy on the part of our educational institutions that our children are virtually devoid of their home-grown culture while that same culture is accepted and celebrated all over the world. With the belief that we must first clean our own house in regard to preserving our cultural legacy, networks and ideas to make music education an ongoing part of the lives of children in the United States must happen.

We should be creating a program that ensures our children are thoroughly grounded in the history of American music and its importance to the cultural identity of our nation.

Increase the quality and number of the most qualified music educators in the United States.
Develop shared advocacy and funding initiatives for youth music programs.

Our culture is as much a part of and just as important to our American history as Washington's crossing of the Delaware, the invasion of Normandy and the landing of a man on the moon and is just as important to our children's educational development.

It has been proven time and time again in countless studies that students who actively participate in arts education are twice as likely to read for pleasure, have strengthened problem-solving and critical thinking skills, are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance, and four times more likely to win an award for writing an essay of poem.
Can you imagine the confidence it instills in them to overcome any obstacle that they are presented with?

Every great society from the Egyptians, to the Greek and Roman Empires, has been defined by its cultural contributions. The commercial benefits of the arts not withstanding -- our artistic endeavors are a consistent source of revenue in the United States and our nation's largest export -- can we really run the risk of becoming a culturally bankrupt nation because we have not inserted a curriculum into our educational institutions that will teach and nurture creativity in our children?
That when future generations look back our cultural legacy is an age of disposable, vapid pabulum.

I am of the mindset that you have to know where you come from to get to where you're going. The time has come to make a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors to put in place a system whereby our children and future generations will be aware of our county's rich cultural legacy and contributions to the world.
The arts, particularly our music, are the soul of our country. They are an expression of our spiritual ideals and a timeline of the emotional state of our nation... scars and all.
Beverly, Massachusetts' North Shore Music Theater announced recently that its fifty-four year run is over. An operation devoted to youth education and to the staging of original as well as famous musical shows, the theater will be missed by the thousands who supported it for a half century.

Our country has a long history of discarding and devaluing our cultural resources particularly where music is concerned.
And although we have thankfully evolved in this pursuit, we still have much further to go before we can claim that we are diligent protectors of our cultural heritage.

In the global landscape that we live in today where ideas are exchanged with the stroke of a send key, what better way to influence nations than by exposing them to the basic belief in freedom of expression that is inherent in our nation and witnessed through our culture.

The practical reason why many theatres are disappearing from our cultural landscape is that they have debts up to their hips with not a chance to pay them off. This includes millions owed to subscribers who pay in advance for upcoming seasons that will never arrive.

The real reason for many closings, the one that has been eroding the revenue base for years, is never discussed - the generation gap and its impact on American culture.

Without the mercy of instruction, I somehow came upon the works of Carmen Miranda, Julius Monk, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton. They all did a number on me. I sat in my room in South Carolina and listened to them and the experience stays fresh to this day.
In the beginning, what got me going was an all instrumental record produced by Quincy Jones called "The Genius After Hours".
It's a Ray Charles piano record. Really fine stuff. From there I started picking up more stuff. Thanks Quincy for opening that door.

The strength of our Artistic, Musical and cultural heritage is that we've never had one.
We've never had a 'Paris Salon' telling us what is good, acceptable, & what is rubbish or drivel.
Jazz, Blues, Rock-n-Roll, punk, Rap, Hip-Hop... All derided as drivel or 'just noise' when they first emerged. Each have found their footing as true valid expressions and forms, and that is what other countries love about us. We are ever-changing, and irreverent of 'Art Czars'.

The Arts are crucial in education.

Our schools have been driven to the ground, focusing ad nauseum on a sterile curriculum of their interpretation of math, math and more math at the exclusion of everything else. Parents and students are thrilled anytime they are exposed to the arts.
I'll throw in the media -- there is no room on our 800 cable channels for any arts programming, except Ovation.
When was the last time a major network presented a biography of a writer or an artist? The arts have been marginalized - Coltrane and Monk should be part of the air we breathe.

98% of educators will tell you arts are what get kids' brains going. Study after study show listening to music, learning to play a musical instrument develop portions of the human brain that other learning doesn't. Music, Art, Foreign Language, Humanities, Physical Education: are all intensively important to our children's brain and physical development.

Unfortunately, educators are currently dealing with the effects of No Child Left Behind.
While it's essentially a good law with good intentions, there are so many inaccuracies, loopholes, and inconsistencies in it that it's yanking the focus off of LEARNING and onto: Passing the Test.

There's just not a lot of time in public schools today for the arts when we're scared out of our minds kids aren't going to pass the reading, grammar, and math parts of the test.

Has anyone noticed that some newspapers in most towns outside of New York don't even have an arts section? Entertainment does not cover all of the arts.

The reason we have seen a huge drop in arts ed in the past 8 years is more likely due to the desire to "dumb down" American children, especially the disadvantaged. The wealthier kids get the arts by paying for it as after school activities.
A creative person is one who is more in touch with his/her surroundings, who questions authority and challenges the status quo.
They are the innovators. I believe there are some in power, especially the last admin, who are bent on controlling and in some cases destroying the lower and middle class.
An intelligent and creative lower class scares the pants off the "repuglicans". Who would fight their illegal wars?
That means lowering standards for the public schools and even creating an atmosphere where kids will not even finish school due to frustration and the inability to think and do for themselves ( coming up with creative solutions).
We must change this situation. We also need to train all teachers to integrate art and music into the standard curriculum and bridge the arts with math, science, geography, history etc.

Are we becoming a cultural vacuum? I am witnessing the detour around the arts first hand. There is nothing in most school's curriculum that stokes creativity, nor imagination.
It is the medium, by which, an artist can give his (her) own take, express their own interpretation. Try to take it to another level each time you play. What am I contributing that one of my colleagues could build on? There is no greater loss, in our society, than depriving our youth of the arts.

It is imperative to restore art education and in my mind, it along with mandatory phys-ed should be reinstated in every curriculum. The reason the kids are testing poorly in the US and dropping out is because it's difficult to develop a passion for anything if all Johnny does all day is math and science and more and more testing, with no relief or outlet for creativity. All great scientists and inventors were/are artists and/or trained and used their right side of the brain through creative expression.
Carnegie Mellon University now has a program where the arts students and the engineering students work together, brainstorming and creating new technologies. We need each other and it goes both ways.

QUICK! Pick one of the world's great civilizations. What immediately comes to mind? The arts.

Italy is revered for Michelangelo's David. Ancient Egypt, Mayans, China, Europe, India and many others - the first image you have in your head is a work of art that could only come from that culture.

What ancient civilization makes you think, "Wow they sure had some great businessmen back then"?

During his Presidential campaign, Barack Obama assembled a blue-ribbon committee on the Arts, led by George Stevens, Jr., and they, in turn, produced a detailed plan for restoring government support for and promotion of the Arts. The plan was the most comprehensive plan since the WPA Arts projects of the 1930s. It's definitely worth reading.

Just because a subject is not taught at school doesn't mean that a child who is motivated to learn about it cannot do so.

Research studies show that students that participate in music programs get better grades and score better on tests.
Yet, arts programs are being eliminated because they are not part of NCLB and budget cuts cannot support "frills".

This is the same logic that eliminates school librarians so that the money can be used for literacy programs.

Music and art programs train the mind and a very few of these musician/artists end up being full time artists, but they do end up becoming business men and college grads.
We pump billions into football programs and what does that produce and if you say character let's start with Michael Vick as an example!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Blues is what connects us to the earth," Wynton Marsalis told students recently "It keeps us grounded, gives us the spirit behind this music. It makes us holler and scream and shout through our horns."

The Obama administration plans to continue its hands-on program in arts education in the future, but it was jazz, America's indigenous art form, that got the first turn in the spotlight.

For longtime Washington jazz musician and educator Yarborough, it was important to see not just the history of jazz honored at the White House, but its future as well.

The first lady was joined at the afternoon concert by her mother and her daughters -- because, she said, she wanted to introduce the girls to "all kinds of music other than hip-hop."

The dilemma facing public schools — with the realization that the arts might be important, if not essential, in cultivating the imagination and creativity of our children in order to reverse the blind progress of a culture gone mad with greed and individual success — is that they need artists to teach the arts. The world has become a place of terror and uncertainty, fueled by institutions that have learned the secret of controlling their members quite effectively by using fear.

Creativity is the opposite of conformity and is nurtured by a supportive, positive environment that allows students to engage in creative play and honest communication; a place where their fears and vulnerabilities are, at least, acknowledged and not ridiculed.

Teachers of the arts are no less affected by a punitive and stifling system than are their students.
Parker Palmer, in his groundbreaking book, The Courage To Teach, passionately believes that "good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher."
Palmer has been a sane voice for those who believe teaching is a "vocation of the heart, and many teachers may lose heart because of the troubled, sometimes toxic systems in which they work."

We can't blame the system entirely for this data-driven, dispassionate approach to administering education.

To not honor and integrate the wholeness of the arts would be an exercise in futility and guaranteed failure.
Most of the ills in the world have been created by highly educated people with advanced degrees who lead with their minds.

This is not an argument for ignorance, but rather a statement that the worth of education must now be measured against the standards of decency and survival — the issues now looming so large before us in the 21st century.
We, the generation that faces the next century, can add the . . . solemn injunction, "If we don't do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable."

The artist has only his or her story to convey, and if our stories are no longer valued, then a vision for the future has been obscured by willful neglect, and the outcome will be no less than disastrous.

Artist Gary Snyder reminds us that "art is the creative play of the human mind." If we are to cultivate the future minds of humanity in order to build a saner, sustainable, compassionate and peaceful planet, creativity must be honored, understood and nurtured in its entirety.
Again to David Orr:

"The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind."

In other entertainment news, Debbie Reynolds, the beloved, iconic and award-winning actress received The Friars Club honors by friends and colleagues in a star-studded tribute on Sunday, June 15th at The Friars Club (57 East 55th St). BroadwayWorld.com was there to cheer the iconic screen favorite on as she was honored by the starry crowd!
Debbie Reynolds earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in the movie musical "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." The triple-threat is also known for performances in "Singin' in the Rain," "How the West Was Won" and "The Catered Affair" as well as her TV show, "The Debbie Reynolds Show."

Reynolds was Tony-nominated for her performance in Irene, and later assumed the lead role in Broadway's Woman of the Year.

There is no institution that has embraced Shakespeare's observation with so much unbridled bravado than that of the Friars Club. They have parlayed one hundred years of antics into a reputation that has been elevated to legendary status.
Since 1904 The Friars Club has been wining and dining the top personalities of the times and in-between courses expounding and discoursing in their own unique fashion. From ribald comedy to musical merry-making the Friars have spent a century cultivating a tradition that has spanned several generations and spawned millions of laughs.
For more information please visit www.friarsclub.com.

Quick: who won Tonys this year? Awards are nice, of course, even if only the awardees and their mothers remember. As for the televised Tony ceremony, we found it a colossal bore with a few exceptions: James Gan-dolfini, Frank Langella, Angela Lansbury. But it didn't take off until the last half hour when Lansbury talked about honoree songwriter Jerry Herman, followed by delightful clips from "Mame" and "Hello Dolly" and Herman's graceful acceptance speech.
The TV show's opening, a mélange of nominated musicals, was bizarre, with Aaron Tveit of "Next to Normal" confronting Stockard Channing of "Pal Joey." It was downhill from there until towards the end with the Herman tribute, accolades to the three boys who play Billy Elliot (accepting with oodles of modest charm) and talented host Neil Patrick Harris' concluding song, a clever salute to the night's winners.

Awards are here to stay, however: They look good in an artist's bio and can further careers. Not to be outdone, Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, recognized (see the Best Plays annual) as one of the more prestigious around, have just been announced and will be handed out tomorrow in a low-key ceremony. The 19-year-old CCC now even has both a Web site for articles, interviews, calendars and other pertinent information, plus a blog for a selection of state-wide reviews.

This year's CCC awards are spread out, except that Goodspeed Musicals, the state's one remaining all-tuner franchise, naturally walks away with most of the song-and-dance honors. Another favorite is the Michael Wilson-directed "Dividing the Estate," the Horton Foote drama that was also nominated for a Tony. Westport Country Playhouse picks up certificates for "Tryst" and "Around the World in 80 Days," including a special achievement for the skilled foley artists who provided effects for the Jules Verne show.

CCC's most prestigious accolade, the Tom Killen Memorial Award (named for the late critic), goes to Rob Ruggiero, the director who helmed two winners, "Big River" and "No Child." Ruggiero is spreading his wings beyond our borders: His production of "Make Me a Song" played New York and London, following its debut at Hartford's TheaterWorks. Upcoming is his "Camelot" at Goodspeed.

Congratulations to all.

The 2008-2009 Connecticut Critics Circle WInners

"Dividing the Estate" (Hartford Stage)

Musical: "Big River" (Goodspeed Musicals)

Actress in a play: Andrea Maulella ("Tryst," Westport Country Playhouse)

Actor in a play: Colman Domingo ("Coming Home," Long Wharf Theater)

Actress in a musical: Kristen Martin ("42nd Street," Goodspeed Musicals)

Actor in a musical: Russell Joel Brown ("Big River," Goodspeed Musicals)

Director of a play: Michael Wilson ("Dividing the Estate," Hartford Stage)

Director of a Musical (tie): Semina De Laurentis ("The Producers," Seven Angels Theater) and Rob Ruggiero ("Big River," Goodspeed Musicals)

Choreography: Rick Conant ("42nd Street," Goodspeed Musicals)

Set design: Michael Schweikardt ("Big River," Goodspeed Musicals)
Lighting design: Robert Wiertzel ("Of Mice and Men," Westport Country Playhouse)

Costume design: Ilona Somogyi ("Passion Play," Yale Repertory Theater)

Sound design: David Levy ("Around the World in 80 Days," Westport Country Playhouse)

Ensemble: Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Lizan Mitchell, Portia, Anthony Mark Stockard ("No Child," TheaterWorks)

Roadshow: "Marilyn: Forever Blonde" (Ivoryton Playhouse)
Debuts: Donnetta Lavinia Grays ("No Child," TheaterWorks) and Olivia Scott ("To Kill a Mockingbird," Hartford Stage)

Special achievement award: Elizabeth Helitzer and Mark Parenti (("Around the World in 80 Days," Westport Country Playhouse)

Tom Killen award for outstanding contribution to Connecticut theater: Rob Ruggiero

For further information on the Connecticut Critics Circle, visit the Web site at www.ctcritics.org and the blog at cccreviews.blogspot.com

GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers. In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, Skipper takes his audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.

Monday, June 15, 2009

School of the Arts students protest teacher layoffs

School of the Arts students protest teacher layoffs

Last week, students dropped their books to pick up picket signs.

Children from the School of the Arts are outraged over the Rochester City School District’s decision to layoff some art and music teachers in the city schools. More than 250 students protested, walking from the district’s headquarters to City Hall this afternoon. Some of the students also performed.

SOTA’s performing arts program is well respected among school districts in Section V, but because of budget cuts, many of the school’s teachers are being laid off. Students say, without the teachers, the school wouldn't be what it is today.
I would like to write in support of continued (even increased) funding for the arts and specifically music programs in Albemarle County schools.
We have a large body of research that establishes the critical role of music and the arts in the development of cognitive skills and in learning other subjects.

Now, in particular, in this time of reductionist, outcome-based (Standards of Learning) education, we really need to have schools encourage the human imagination and creativity. These arts and music programs enhance the quality of a person’s life and contribute to keeping us competitive in the modern world.

The district's $699 million budget calls for slashing more than 200 positions across the district, and increasing class sizes in some schools.

School budget cuts are wiping out entire departments, with art classes and programs for at-risk students disappearing fastest, the Daily News has learned.

Intermediate School 218 in East New York, Brooklyn, is losing one third of its teachers, which will mean axing its music, art and computer programs, teachers said.
As a serious student of the arts, I am deeply concerned about the fate of arts education in America’s public schools. Since the adoption of the federal No Child Left Behind Act during President George W. Bush’s administration, schools have focused on basic-skills-building at the expense of teaching young people about the arts.

"From top to bottom, the school is going to be gutted," said Chris Schilling, the school's computer teacher and basketball coach whose position has been cut, he said.

"There's no paper, no ink in the printers - we can't even make copies," he said.

"We've been staying here on Saturdays, working for hours after school and we've raised our standards, so why would they make such a big cut?"

Department of Education spokeswoman Ann Forte said IS 218 is losing its ninth grade to a new high school opening in the same building, so the junior high school will not need as many teachers.
"Our support staff has been working with principals to help them formulate their budgets, and principals have until June 18 to submit their budgets to us," Forte said.
"No decisions are final at this point."

Schools where enrollment has dropped are getting larger cuts, as they would any year.

One such school - Boys and Girls High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant - will take a 16% budget cut totaling more than $3.1 million.

"The mayor is supposed to be in control of the schools and he's cutting them," said Michelle Ottley, co-president of the parents association at Boys and Girls.

Her daughter Sharnice, 15, wanted to attend summer school but there won't be enough room, she said.

Public School 42 in Far Rockaway, Queens, is losing eight teachers, four school aides and tutoring for the most at-risk students, teachers said.

"The children fall behind because there are insufficient ways to help them," said Maureen Babel, who has three children in the school.
IS 162 in Bushwick lost almost all of its after-school programs this year and will likely lose seven teachers next year.
"A quarter of my kids are special ed kids," said IS 162 music teacher Jesse Adelson.
"They may not love English and math but they love music."
Jim Bailey as Judy Garland 40th Anniversary Concert

To mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Judy Garland, Jim Bailey returns to the UK with his legendary impersonation of the great star in her cabaret years. Many different artists over the generations have drawn upon the ups and downs of Garland’s career for inspiration and Bailey’s well rehearsed routine still manages to throw up some unexpected delights from the blowsy, bluesy Get Happy opening through to the inevitable journey Over the Rainbow via The Man That Got Away, The Trolley Song and the seemingly ubiquitous I’m Still Here.
There are a few gems here beside the usual back catalogue, including Charlie Chaplin’s signature tune, Smile and Garland’s own audition piece for MGM, the rousing Zing Went the Strings of My Heart.

Bailey doesn’t dwell on Garland’s private life and there are no revelations here save for a distaste for Ikea furniture. This concert is simply a chance to revisit some classic numbers rendered with flair and an attention to comic detail that borders on the uncanny.

Youngsters and would-be cabaret stars should consider the disciplines involved in creating this still wholly credible illusion. The moves and mannerisms have been finely tuned over the years and the vocal patterns seem so natural that there are indeed moments in this concert where members of the audience have to sit up and remind themselves that this is indeed a female impersonator and Bailey is a man in his sixties.

From Garland, sort of, to this year's Tony Award winning Liza with a Z...Award-winning superstar Liza Minnelli will make her long awaited return to Australia in October this year, touring nationally in support of her current hit Broadway show "Liza's At The Palace."

Featuring an incomparable Minnelli songfest, including many of her personal favorites and signature hits, the diva will be joined by a 12-piece orchestra led by conductor/drummer Michael Berkowitz and pianist/musical supervisor Billy Stritch.

Directed by Ron Lewis, this concert performance of almost two hours duration (with interval), will be full of personal stories, anecdotes and heartfelt reminiscences.
There were plenty of interesting haps and mishaps at the 2009 Tony Awards ceremony, the 63rd of its kind, which took place this past Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York and was televised by CBS.
Though Brits walked away with plenty of the top honors, Americans shook up the typical routine, and a series of exciting musical excerpts made for an impressive year for the Tonys, which received a boost in the ratings for the first time after a slump of several years.
As this year's host, Neil Patrick Harris provided the show with a refreshing comic energy. His jokes were offbeat and sometimes full of insider bite (including a dig at Jeremy Piven's now-infamous sushi defense). Even more thrilling was his closing number, which brought the house down by summing up the evening's events with pith and pizzazz.
The show was off to a vibrant start with an elaborate opening number featuring most of the evening's musical nominees in a vast montage of this past Broadway season's offerings. There were the West Side Story gangs up against Guys and Dolls's crapshooters.
There were the Shrek fairy tale characters waving their freak flag. And there were also the Hair tribe, Liza Minnelli, hair band Poison with the cast of Rock of Ages, Elton John and the Billys from Billy Elliot, Dolly Parton and the 9 to 5 trio of leading ladies, and - perhaps the most awkward of pairings, - Next to Normal's Aaron Tveit battling Pal Joey's Stockard Channing in a face-off of competing renditions of I'm Alive and Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered from their respective shows.
In perhaps the evening's most worrying moment, Poison frontman Bret Michaels was knocked clean off his feet by a descending set piece following his performance with Rock of Ages in the opening number. After this troubling mishap, however, the show was off and rolling as the awards got underway.
By now it’s popular knowledge that Brett Michaels got his bell rung but good at the Tony Awards. The video clip in it’s various incarnations no doubt has tens of thousands of views on Youtube. Brett’s all right with a fractured nose and busted lip. And doesn’t hold any hard feelings to those who got a laugh out of it. He even thanks Liza Minnelli and Ugly Betty star Mark Indelicato for checking on his condition in the dressing room.
Rolling Stone reports, however, the one thing he is sore about is the way the Tonys’ public statements handled the whole incident.
By claiming he “missed his mark” the blame is pushed onto him.
Michaels calls them the “irresponsible” ones for not waiting a couple of extra seconds to drop the prop, or stopping it altogether until he cleared the stage. “For God’s sake, they have at least a five second delay to prevent the airing of unapproved expletives and nudity.”
Most of the awards were fairly predictable. Though there was talk of a possible Next to Normal upset (similar to Avenue Q's usurping cash cow Wicked some years back), Billy Elliot danced off with the best musical prize unceremoniously, winning a total of ten awards over the course of the evening, including awards for director Stephen Daldry and, in the acting department, for its three Billys as well as for Gregory Jbara.

In one of the most-discussed Tony speeches of the season, Alice Ripley cited a passage from J.F.K., shouting in a rather angry tone of voice before slipping back into her usual friendly demeanor. Explaining herself later, she explained that she was speaking up so she could be heard because of sound troubles experienced throughout the telecast, but she's still subject of a handful of parodies already on YouTube.

The Billys (David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish), of course, won best actor in a musical, coming as no real surprise, though the circumstances of their nomination raised a few eyebrows because of the ruling that Tony voters need only see the performance of one of the three young actors in order to vote for the trio.

As has been the trend in recent years, a bundle of awards went to deserving Brits in transferred productions. At least ten awards went to British shows and nominees, with Hair the only U.S.-originated production to take top honors. God of Carnage took home the best play award, and The Norman Conquests won best revival of a play, providing Matthew Warchus (who was nominated for his direction of both shows and won for Carnage) an extra jolt of pride upon accepting his award.

Liza Minnelli's comeback show, Liza's at the Palace..., took the prize for special theatrical event, besting Will Ferrell's You're Welcome America, and special awards went to composer-lyricist Jerry Herman for lifetime achievement and press agent Shirley Herz (the first ever to win a Tony) for excellence in the theatre. Taking home the newly created Isabelle Stevenson Award was Tony winner Phyllis Newman, whose women's health initiative, as part of the Actors' Fund, serves women in the entertainment industry in need of medical assistance.

Overall, it was a year dominated by performances. Aside from the nominated shows, tour casts from Legally Blonde, Mamma Mia, and Jersey Boys performed excerpts to promote shows on the road with mixed levels of success (it was quite a sight to see five carbon-copy Frankie Valli's from across the country perform together on-stage).

What with Elton, Dolly, Liza, and Doogie, there was certainly no lack of drama or celebrity at this year's Tonys. Despite a fairly predictable list of winners (I mean, please, who could have beat Angela Lansbury as featured actress in a play?), there were plenty of satisfying moments (watching Karen Olivo, near tears deliver her heartfelt speech) and plenty to talk about, even if there was an element of schadenfreude in watching Bret Michaels hit the floor. Can next year's awards top this year's?
Oh, please - it's far too early to tell. But with shows like Spider-Man, The Addams Family, New York premieres from David Mamet and Sarah Ruhl, and revivals of Bye Bye Birdie and Finian's Rainbow amongst others, who knows what web-slinging will be instore in just a year's time. Start picking favorites!

Best Play: God of Carnage

Best Musical: Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Book of a Musical: Lee Hall, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: Music: Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal

Best Revival of a Play:The Norman Conquests

Best Revival of a Musical: Hair

Best Special Theatrical Event: Liza's at the Palace...

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:Alice Ripley, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical: Karen Olivo, West Side Story

Best Direction of a Play: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage

Best Direction of a Musical: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Choreography: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Best Orchestrations: (tie)
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal

Best Scenic Design of a Play:Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:

Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Best Costume Design of a Play:

Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:

Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play:

Gregory Clarke, Equus

Best Sound Design of a Musical: Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: Jerry Herman
Regional Theatre Tony award:

Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award: Phyllis Newman

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:

"This is the end of the Broadway musical as we know it," said a fellow theater enthusiast after "The Phantom of the Opera" won the Tony for best musical of 1988. He spoke with disgust, but he was a prophet.

Except for Andrew Lloyd Webber's own "Sunset Boulevard" in the '90s, no top Tony-winner since has come from the grand Broadway tradition of large orchestration and lush melodies that are free from pop or rock music influences.

That doesn't mean "Rent" and "Spring Awakening" and "Avenue Q" lack charm, heart or good tunes. But the style of the Golden Age of Broadway, which began with the operetta-like "Showboat" in 1927, seems to have just one practitioner now: Lord Lloyd Webber.

Stephen Sondheim, who'll be 80 next year, never cared much for that style and left it behind long ago. Jerry Herman, who'll be 80 the year after next, no longer writes new shows. So only ALW carries the torch that's in danger of going out.

All three holdovers from the Golden Era wrote their first full-length musical scores within four years of each other. Herman did "Milk and Honey" in 1961, while Sondheim turned out "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" one year later. In 1965, Lloyd Webber finished "The Likes of Us," about Irish social reformer Thomas Barnardo.
(It was the composer's first of five pairings with lyricist Tim Rice.)
"Likes" set ALW's tone for the next four decades: large, sweeping emotions accompanied by large, sweeping melodies. Think of "Evita" or "Cats" or, if you've heard it, Lloyd Webber's wonderful "Requiem," written in memory of his dad.

Lloyd Webber comes from a classical music tradition: Father William Lloyd Webber was a composer, and brother Julian is a classical cellist. ALW once wrote a set of variations on Niccolo Paganini's 24th Caprice For Violin, then adapted those for the wordless second act of his "Song and Dance."
So he thinks in grand, long-phrased gestures. His melodies have an operatic sweep, often reminding people of Puccini, though accusations of direct musical theft usually prove unfounded.
And please note that, when John Williams won an Oscar for "Star Wars," his main theme exactly duplicated a motif from Puccini's "Manon Lescaut." Nobody cared.)

What makes "Phantom" great is not the boat sailing through the candlelit mist or the squashed-tomato makeup of the maimed face or the effects with magic mirrors and underground lakes, though those all cast a spell.
It's certainly not the "plummeting" chandelier, which has been about as terrifying as a rickety Japanese lantern in all five productions I've seen. (That includes the Broadway version, six months after it opened; I'm writing this before seeing the national tour that's playing at Belk Theater through July 5.)
No, what makes it great is the wrenching pain the Phantom suffers at losing Christine Daae and the ambivalence she feels at rejecting a brilliant, psychotic artist in favor of a loving but conventional relationship.

Some of that emotional impact comes from the lyrics by Richard Stilgoe and Charles Hart, which are never less than serviceable, but most of it emerges in the music.

Not everyone saw the potential in this story at first. Maury Yeston won a 1982 Tony for "Nine" and was approached by actor Geoffrey Holder, who had rights to create a musical from Gaston Leroux's novel.

"I laughed and laughed," Yeston said later. "That's the worst idea in the world! Why would you write a musical based on a horror story?... Then it occurred to me the story could be somewhat changed... (He) would be a Quasimodo character, an Elephant Man. Don't all of us feel, despite outward imperfections, that deep inside we're good?
And that is a character you cry for."
He was right. Had he set to work at once and raised money for a Broadway version, Lloyd Webber might have had to turn his attention elsewhere. But ALW reached the stage first and gave us the capstone to 60 years of theatrical traditions.
I am happy to inform you that I have been selected for the role of Pastor Harden in a movie "In This Home". I'm shooting my scene on Thursday!

GO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper


BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers. In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, Skipper takes his audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This picture is from when I was doing Judy Garland! For more info, see below: http://www.richardskipper.com/judy/index.html
Here is a great article about another Judy Garland, JIM BAILEY!

I'm jumping right in with my rant about the importance of ARTS IN EDUCATION!
Bank of America has long held the belief that art education helps build strong foundations in our communities, ultimately shaping our future," said Patricia Mercurio, president of Bank of America Missouri.

"We are delighted to provide support to the Saint Louis Art Museum for the Youth smART program and we look forward to the impact we know it will have on the thousands of young people it will reach."Arts education makes a difference in communities. It should be part of every child's education. The arts develop creative intelligence that encourages communication of ideas through image, sound and movement.
It has been proven that arts education positively impacts the developmental growth of children and helps to level the learning field across socioeconomic boundaries. Remember that trumpet you put up in the attic? Or how about the flute your daughter played in middle school?
Do you still have that saxophone from your I-am-the-next-Kenny-G days?

It is time to pull them out and put them to use. We would love to have all of those old, gently used band instruments you are hiding in your attic or in the back of your closet.
The Nashville Alliance for Public Education and the Country Music Association have teamed up for a used instrument drive at the Hall of Fame Park during the CMA Music Festival this week to benefit Metro Nashville Public Schools.

These organizations have worked together since 2006 as part of the CMA's "Keep the Music Playing" initiative, which donates half of the proceeds from the CMA Music Festival each year to the Nashville Alliance to support music education.

In just three years, the program has raised $2,245,421 to purchase instruments, including cellos, clarinets, saxophones and pianos.

Why is it critical to support the arts?

Arts education makes a difference in communities. It should be part of every child's education. The arts develop creative intelligence that encourages communication of ideas through image, sound and movement.
It has been proven that arts education positively impacts the developmental growth of children and helps to level the learning field across socioeconomic boundaries. If you invest in culture, you invest in your community.
They have added this instrument drive during the festival. The instruments will supplement the thousands of new instruments already purchased by CMA with funds from the CMA Music Festival.

At a time when our public schools are under intense scrutiny for academic accountability, it's tempting to ignore the importance of music education, especially when you consider prices run from $216 for a flute to $6,200 for a performance-quality bassoon.
The research-based evidence continues to grow, showing that more than 95 percent of our students who participate in performing arts graduate. A greater emphasis on the visual and performing arts in education is important for boosting academic performance and engaging students in the learning environment.

That's why the CMA partnership with the Nashville Alliance is so critical for our schools.
The Nashville Alliance raises funds to support Metro school programs that fall outside the regular budget, and supporting music education is a big part of this program. The CMA's announcement of this year's $1,011,294 donation to buy musical instruments for 31 Metro schools was a dream come true for many children in their schools.

Thanks to the CMA and all of the artists who perform at the CMA Music Festival free every year, we are able to put more and more instruments in the hands of our students.
They will have a booth set up in the free Dr Pepper-McDonald's Family Zone in the Hall of Fame Park during the festival, June 11-14, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. to collect instruments.

The CMA and its biggest stars have certainly done their part; now, it's your turn. Please show your support by donating your used instruments to our public schools. If you invest in culture, you invest in your community.

Arts and humanities groups could see increased money from the federal government in 2010, if Congress approves all of President Obama’s budget request.
Rocco Landesman (pictured here with Roger Miller), the colorful theatrical producer and race-track aficionado who brought hits like “BIG RIVER,” “Angels in America” and “The Producers” to Broadway, has been nominated as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

JERRY HERMAN, 2009 Special Tony Recipient, Takes a Moment to Reflect on a Lifetime
By Kenneth Jones

If Jerry Herman were to write a Jerry Herman lyric about what he's feeling at the moment — in light of his 2009 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement — he would probably steal a line from Jerry Herman: "The best of times is now."

The 77-year-old composer-lyricist who won Tony Awards for his scores to Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles, and was nominated for Mame, The Grand Tour and Milk and Honey, is more thrilled than Dolly, Mame and Albin combined.
If a staircase happened to be handy, he might be strutting down it — beaming.

"It's the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me, it really is," Herman told Playbill.com. "It doesn't get any better than this. That's an award from the people that I've worked with all my life. It's beautiful."

Herman's acceptance speech at the June 7 Tony Award ceremony was short and sweet. He gave no hints.

He makes appearances at concerts and has sat down recently for public conversations (with songs) with Michael A. Kerker, head of musical theatre for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
"We do something called 'The Red Chairs,' where we sit in two red chairs and he interviews me," Herman explained. "When we get to a specific song, a marvelous Debbie Gravitte or Jason Graae or Ron Raines comes out and sings that particular song with Don Pippin at the piano.
It's a lovely format. Eventually, I get up and go to the piano myself."

Herman also plays piano for joy at his two California homes, when he's not keeping tabs on his "kids," as calls them — productions of his many licensable properties, including the revue Show Tune and the musicals Mack and Mabel and Dear World, both of which, like The Grand Tour, have been revised since they first played Broadway. (La Cage aux Folles is an Olivier Award-winning hit in its current London revival.)

"I just find myself at the piano, playing everything that I can think of," Herman said.
Does he play the work of his musical hero, Irving Berlin? "Oh, God, yes. And Kurt Weill and Porter and even some classical things.
I just love to play. And at this age it's good for my fingers to keep busy."

At the Palm Springs, CA, home he shares with Terry Marler, his partner of 11 years, there is a 61-foot swimming pool. "That's my exercise," Herman said. "I'm there a great deal of the time; I swim and swim and swim as often as I can."

Palm Springs real-estate-broker Marler also keeps him young. "He gets me through all of this," the composer explained. "It gets harder every year. You don't like to think of age as being a problem, and it's not yet with me, but it does get more difficult. And boy he's keeping me fit. In fact, ten minutes ago he had me up doing balancing exercises… He keeps my life going. He's responsible for laughter and companionship.
He's just a great, great partner."

Common interests help solidify their relationship. Marler is passionate about the music of Jerry Herman, and Herman is passionate about architecture, design and homes.

Herman observed, "He has his own world and career, but it's something that I'm very interested in.
If he sees a great piece of property he'll say, 'Come with me, I want to show you this.' If he were a stock broker or an accountant, I would still have the same feelings for him, but to be able to share his work, as he shares mine, is really a wonderful and unexpected treat. When you meet someone and become close and want to share your life, you don't really have a choice of what that person does."

The Nederlander Organization said in recent years that it was planning to produce Broadway revivals of the three "major" Herman shows: La Cage aux Folles (which they did in 2004-05), HELLO, DOLLY! and Mame.
Herman said that there's no progress yet on the latter two productions.

"We really haven't had a chance to sit together, and that's when things happen — when we're in the same room," Herman said.

"Maybe this trip, after the Tonys, we'll be able to put our heads together and come up with some exciting thoughts about the two of them."

He admitted, "They are very difficult to cast, especially Mame, because that woman has to do everything: She has to be a lady, she has to be funny, she has to be a terrific singer and a very experienced dancer — and the right age and the right tone.

For the Nederlanders, or for any producer, she has to have a bankable name."

La Cage aux Folles has been "my big surprise," he admitted.
The romantic comedy about a showbiz family headed by two gay dads was not a sure thing when it was first produced in 1983, though it was a Tony-winning Best Musical smash on Broadway through 1987. The extraordinary social change — the exposure and acceptance of gay lives — of the past 25 years has helped the show to flourish around the world.

"Yes, I know that Dolly! and Mame will go on forever, I know that, but La Cage has taken its place with them," he said of his last Broadway score, which includes that infectious anthem "The Best of Times," a number that would have made Irving Berlin proud.

Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com.

Rags-to-riches story "Billy Elliot" had a massive night at the 63rd annual Tony Awards on Sunday, winning 10 awards at the annual celebration of all things Broadway.
But despite onstage cameos from Liza Minnelli and Dolly Parton and a top-notch hosting job by "How I Met Your Mother" star Neil Patrick Harris, on Monday morning most people were talking about how the show almost killed Bret Michaels.

In honor of the nominations for "Rock of Ages," a theatrical celebration of '80s-era hair metal, Poison took the stage to perform their iconic "Nothin' But a Good Time" with the cast of the musical. Led by "Rock of Love" star/singer Bret Michaels, the band looked totally at home on the stage — until Michaels missed his mark at the end of the song and was slammed in the head by a large piece of scenery that descended from the ceiling.

People.com reported that the extent of Michaels' injury was not known at press time, but he did not, as reported, break his nose. A publicist for the singer told the site that while Michaels was still hoping to hit some afterparties, he was planning to hit an ER first and get some X-rays to make sure he was not seriously injured.
Despite lots of hype and a handful of nominations between them, "9 to 5: The Musical" and "Rock of Ages" — the latter starring former "American Idol" finalist Constantine Maroulis — got blanked at the show, while the 1960s musical "Hair" won Best Revival of a Musical.

The Best Play award went to the comedy "God of Carnage," which chronicles a chaotic night of arguments between two sets of parents. "Carnage" star Marcia Gay Harden won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.
Best Original Score was a win for the story of a family dealing with a mother's bipolar disorder, "Next to Normal." Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush took the Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for "Exit the King," and Alice Ripley won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for "Next to Normal."
The sweep for "Billy Elliot" — composed by Elton John — included wins for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (shared by young stars David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Gregory Jbara), Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design of a Musical, Best Lighting Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestrations and Best Sound Design of a Musical.

Though it garnered eight nominations, "Shrek: The Musical" had to make do with just one win, for Best Costume Design of a Musical.

Veteran Angela Lansbury, 83, won her fifth Tony in the Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for "Blithe Spirit," becoming the second actress to reach that milestone.
And Minnelli's "Liza's at the Palace" beat out Will Ferrell's one-man show, "You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush," in the Special Theatrical Event category.

Musical Direction by Jon Weber, with a five piece band and back-up singers(Rocco Arrigo, Michael Hopewell, and Kristopher Monroe).

In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, I will take my audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.
I am returning to Asbury Park by popular demand after performing as Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! at Asbury Park's historic Paramount Theatre in a special benefit performance for ReVision Theatre last year and Tim McLoone's SOLD OUT SHOW last August.

Other recent highlights include a successful run at the Iguana VIP Lounge in NYC; REDEEMER EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH in The Bronx in a sold out show with MAC Award winner Diana Templeton and Anthony Santelmo, Jr.;
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER STUDIOS, DANCERS OVER 40 Celebrates a Wonderful Year tribute to Gower Champion, featuring David Hartman, Marge Champion, Lee Roy Reams, and dancers from Champion s Broadway shows.

With Channing s personal endorsement, I have taken his tribute from Manhattan to Las Vegas and San Francisco and all points in between, summoning the legend's spirit, her signature style, and her sense of connection with the audience.
This is not a drag show and it is not campy! It is an interactive performance of audience pleasing, critically acclaimed theater.
Carol Channing says, . . . this is the first time ever I have been shown with so much love, respect, and polish Richard Skipper is a TRUE MUSICAL COMEDY STAR! He is FABULOUS AS ME!

What I try to recreate are Channing's memorable shows in Vegas and on Broadway, in which the diva proved she could do a whole lot more than just diamond-happy Lorelei Lee. I won two MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) Awards, the Back Stage Bistro Award and was named one of the top cabaret performers of the year by Cabaret Hotline. He has also been awarded the coveted IGCITA (International Guild of Celebrity Impersonators and Tribute Artists) CLONEY award for Outstanding Tribute to a Legend, and has appeared with the great lady herself at the Palace of Fine Arts.
For more information about other performances, tributes and awards, visit Richard s website at www.RichardSkipper.com.
Also in Asbury Park, A CELEBRATION of the life of Scott Schechter, the devoted Judy Garland-Liza Minnelli historian who died May 15 of a heart attack at the age of 48, will be held June 13.
The 1 PM event, which is open to the public, will be held at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ.

Scott Schechter was the author of "Judy Garland: The Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Legend" and "The Liza Minnelli Scrapbook."

The Wonder Bar is located at 1213 Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, NJ; call (732) 502-8886 for more information.

New Ronny Whyte CD!


Ronny Whyte - Piano and Vocals
Boots Maleson - Bass
David Silliman - Drums
Dominick Farinnaci - Trumpet
John Bunch - Piano
Michelle Ramo - Guitar and Violin
Lou Caputo - Alto Sax & Flute

The critics say:

“…the kind of songs crooners like Nat Cole and Sinatra would have gravitated toward…one fine album that should make waves.
It’s definitive cabaret at its best by a master interpreter of the genre.”

-John Hogland, Cabaret Scenes, May 2009

“… a thoughtfully selected mélange of well-structured songs, intelligently phrased – jazz, cabaret, humor on the highest level – clearly a worthy addition to your collection.” - Elliott Ames, New York Sheet Music Society Newsletter, June 2009

“Whyte’s performances are first rate… his impeccable vocal stylings are the heart of this album. …dig some fine songs that you probably have not heard before, but will enjoy hearing time and again.” - Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz, March 2009

“…if this is any indication of Ronny Whyte’s career, he surely has quite a future!” Dan Singer, In Tune International, May 2009

INCLUDES 15 Future Hits: Hamptons Blues / Here’s Looking At You Listen to the Piano Man / You Know What? / Warm Goes to Warm

Something to Write Home About / Lights On , Nobody Home / People, Places, Things / Always December / It’s Love…or Not! / My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own / Certain People / A Sentimental Thing / Looking for New Ways / Paris in The Snow

Other Ronny Whyte CDs available:

By Myself - Solo Piano

Thanks for the Memory - A Tribute to Bob Hope

Whyte Wolf – 16 songs by Tommy Wolf

Walk on the Weill Side – 16 songs by Kurt Weill

Soft Whyte ( with Strings) – Featuring Forget the Woman

All in a Night’s Work – with Harry Allen, Tenor Sax

Something Wonderful (all instrumental including Porgy & Bess medley)
With Travis Hudson:

We Like a Gershwin Tune (1973)

Songs of Rodgers & Hart (1974)

order on line at www.ronnywhyte.com or by mail

Send check or money order to:

Ronny Whyte, 619 Fifth Street, Milford, PA 18337

Featured Entertainer of The Week: QUINN LEMLEY! I will be "appearing" with Quinn this evening at BB. King's! http://www.quinnlemley.comGO SEE A LIVE SHOW THIS WEEK! Don't forget to contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING & HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS: http://www.carolchanning.org/Foundation.htm

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper