Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Lusty Month of May...My musings on CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE at The Tribeca Film Festival!

MAY DAY! (Marin Mazzie as Guenevere sings Lusty Month of May.) That song, of course comes from CAMELOT.
The musical Camelot is a cautionary tale about fulfilled wishes. King Arthur wants to establish a radical system of government based on equality and the rule of law, so temperate that the weather itself would willingly abide by certain restrictions ("Camelot"). Guenevere, irked by her arranged marriage, wants her beauty flattered and a great romantic love ("The Simple Joys of Maidenhood").
Lancelot seeks a level of purity so conspicuous that "he could easily work a miracle or two" ("C'est Moi"). A typical day in my life.

Lancelot does work a heck of a miracle. He raises a jousting opponent from the dead with a prayer, thus catching the eye of Queen Guenevere. Though fond of her husband, she is drawn to the kingdom's most eligible bachelor. They inevitably become entangled in a legendary illicit romance. Because Camelot was founded on the principle that crimes, like adultery with the queen, must invariably be punished, Arthur is obliged to order his wife's execution. Her rescue, led by Lancelot and abetted by the early hour at which Arthur scheduled the event, tears Camelot apart. The consequences of irresistible desire extend to every character. Arthur's fling with his half-sister produced Modred, who would later scheme to depose his father and end the goody-goody days of Camelot.
Arthur's moral and spiritual guide, is seduced away the Crystal Cave by the spirit Nimue. The knights who brought order to the kingdom get bored and will the return of rampant sin and bloodshed.

It seems like it was just yesterday that we were putting up our Christmas tree and here we are FIVE MONTHS later already! I think this is one of my favorite months of the year! There is no denying we had a LOT of April showers. Now, I a am looking forward to May and all the riches that it holds. Seeing The Callaway sisters, Ann Hampton and Liz on Thursday night at Birdland (please join me if you're in town)Liz and Ann will be recording their show Boom! live at Birdland next week. The CD will be on PS CLASSICS and can be pre-ordered at 8:30PM Got to for tickets ) ,
Zani's Furry Friends on May 7th...I'm appearing as RICHARD SKIPPER!...also at Birdland: To place an order call Ticketfly at: (877) 435-9849.
M-F 7am-6pm PST Sat & Sun 10am-6pm PST), Peggy Herman at The Metropolitan Room on May 15th, Vincent Wolf at The Triad on May 20th, May 23rd:IT'S ALL RELATIVE featuring RICHARD SKIPPER!
Paula J Riley Presents: Primary Principles of Acting workshop Industry Showcase.
Scenes that examine the family dynamic from: BEAUTIFUL CLEAR-EYED WOMAN, DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, WAKE & LITTLE MURDERS. e-mail Paula to reserve. Chris Barrett at The Metropolitan Room on the 25th; THOSE are my May Flowers!
(Dori Berinstein, Adam Zucker. Photo credit: Patty Gay)Congrats to CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE on being the audience award runner up The Tribeca Film Fest. (Photo credit: Patty Gay)
Speaking of May Flowers...yesterday, I spent the day with my favorite flower, Carol Channing. This picture, however, was taken backstage at The New Amsterdam Theatre in December when Carol was in town to appear in BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS' GYPSY OF THE YEAR competition. Carol did the opening number with several of the dancers of the 1994 revival of HELLO, DOLLY! That was Carol's last Broadway show. Thank God, I saw it. The memories are still fresh in my mind. When Carol appeared in the GYPSY OF THE YEAR competition in December, it was the first time she had appeared on a Broadway stage in 16 years. You can see a behind the scenes look at this and oh, so much more in Dori Berenstein's loving tribute to Carol (and Harry, too)in CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE which just premiered at The Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Patty Gay)
It has garnered rave reviews and I am so lucky to be included in this! Last Saturday morning, I saw it for the first time and I was joined by Glen Charlow, Patty Gay, and Danny (all pictured here) Also in the audience were Marge Champion, Allan Cummings, Tyne Daly (who also received a Bistro Award Tuesday night),Margot Feiden (from the Feiden Gallery...they gave Dori permission to animate Hirschfeld images for the film), Louise Hirschfeld, Tommy Tune. Marge, Tyne, and Tommy all appear in the film. It was exciting to see this film that Dori, Harlan, and Adam Zuker have been working on for two plus years. It has been worth the wait. So many people are loving the film. Also, there are MANY aspects of Carol's life not touched upon. But how do you put 90 years into an 85 minute film? I'll tell you, go see Dori's film! I am amazed at how much ground she covered. (Photo credit: Patty Gay)And thank God that we have this while Carol is around to appreciate and enjoy it!
Carol, of course, turned 90 in January! I was lucky enough to celebrate with her at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood on February 21st. Carol's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is right in from of The Pantages Theatre. It was a star-studded affair...hosted by the always brilliant Bruce Vilanch! (pictured: John Bowab (who directed), Davis Gaines, Joanne Worley, Carol, Bruce Vilanch, Carole Cooke, Mary Jo Catlett, (I'm sorry but I don't recognize the last person pictured...if anyone recognizes him, please let me know. Here is a fun moment with Carol and Mary Jo Catlett. Mary Jo played Earnestina in the original HELLO, DOLLY! She has a wonderful anecdote about that in CC:LTL

Here is Harlan Boll (in the forefront) , Carol's publicist and FRIEND for the past 15 years (and co-producer of CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE)
Harlan has also become a friend of mine and one of the nicest men in the business.
Thank you, Harlan, for all you do.When Dori finished shooting “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” she told Carol and Harry , that if they’d name their favorite restaurant, the grateful filmmaker take them out for a celebratory dinner. (Carol Channing plays Muzzy in the 1967 musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. One of her two big numbers in the film takes place at her mansion where she shows off her dancing and singing skills to her party guests including Millie (Julie Andrews) and Miss Dorothy Brown (Mary Tyler Moore).)
Guess what they asked for? SUBWAY! The funny thing is they said the same thing to me when I asked them where they would like me to take them after her Feinstein's debut several years ago! I thought they were joking! Harry explained yesterday that after spending so much time on the road, that they wanted to find something quick and fresh and that Subway fit the bill! Are you listening SUBWAY? I see a great endorsement deal!Tony Randall, Helen Gurley Brown, and Martin Gabel join the panel . Many incorrect guesses are made, and Carol ends with plugging of her upcoming TV special.Stephen Mosher's thoughts on yesterday? "It was a magical morning and an exceptional film, all of it made even better by having the legend herself sitting behind me on the left and her preeminent tribute artist behind me on the right. The film swept me up into a heaven based on its' combination of honesty and theatricality. We got to see the wacky and wonderful characteristics that make Carol Channing larger than life, as well as the tenderness and vulnerability that makes her a person. I was especially happy with the director's ability to film all of the interviewees with camera angles and lighting that made them look pretty (something that rarely happens in documentaries). I hope the movie gets picked up and, widely, distributed; because it deserves it, as does Miss Channing and all the people who are interested in show business who would flock to see a true story of an irreplaceable talent in the history of entertainment."

The following is from my friend, Patty Gay:
My thoughts on the Tribeca screening of Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, a beautiful film that intertwines two stories.

One is the love story between Carol and Harry, childhood sweethearts who went their separate ways only to be reunited 70 years later. It was a joy to see a very happy Carol with the love of her life.

The second is the portrait of a dying breed of performer, a larger than life beloved icon, who didn't miss performances and was extremely accessible to her fans.
It was clear from interviews from former cast members that Carol was a genuine, caring person who made them all feel special.
Her bubbly upbeat personality also made her a favorite for generations (fans included little Caroline Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.)
As I watched the film a second time, I was saddened by the thought that the current generation hardly knows who Carol Channing is.
Her film presence was minimal though she gave a hilarious performance and was nominated for an Oscar in Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Her most famous work though was live theater, the best medium for Carol to connect directly with the audience.
As Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly! her wit and comic timing were unsurpassed. She owned those roles and they made her a legend.
Luckily we have clips of Carol from the stage and TV that will last forever, and Dori Berinstein's film and tribute is the delicious icing on the cake.

Thanks to an introduction from Richard Skipper, I got to spend time before the start of the film talking with Carol and Harry. At 90, you can still see the sparkle in Carol's eyes and bright pink lips. It was a sweet interview I will cherish forever. I was fortunate to take many photos from the event. I've enclosed some of my favorites. (They are included throughout this blog)

Patty Gay

I received the nicest note today:
They say there are angels on Broadway. Mine is a dear man named Richard Skipper. Your warmth, open heartedness and kindness has overwhelmed me these past few days. It is a dream that you Richard with Carol, get to live every day, for me - magical fleeting moments that I will never forget. I still see the gleam in your eye when we met on Fifth Avenue.
Yes I saw her on Broadway, yes I saw her at charity events, but this a 39 year dream come true. All the right pieces fit into place after all this time and Carol now is now finally signed in her spot on my wall behind me! (She's looking over my shoulder!) Thank you for this wonderful day, this wonderful afterglow and your friendship. XO
Hans Von Rittern

On a serious note, Please pray for those missing in Tuscaloosa and donate in any way you can,large/small.

(Buy THE CABARET ARTIST'S HANDBOOK by Bob Harrington, edited by Sherry Eaker

Tomorrow's blog will be YOU TELL ME...the first three suggestions I receive!



Richard Skipper,

1 comment:

  1. Richard ,
    What a wonderful blog , I enjoyed every bit of it , what a wonderful career Carol Channing has had, and is still having . She is such a delight , it must be wonderful being friends with her. I can always feel your excitement , when you are speaking about her , and spreading the word. I love the old clips as will , especially JAZZ BABY , have not seen this in years . What energy she showed in that scene in the film . Keep blogging , you are so good at it , keep up the great work , and Thank you for sharing all the excitement on Carol , we love her , and always will . Hugs xoxo from San Diego John