Friday, December 2, 2011

18 Shopping Days Till Diane Findlay appears at The Triad!

""Love 'n laughter, suckers, that's the ticket! Love'n laughter!""
Photo credit: Ronald Giles
Texas Guinan

Happy Friday!
The above quote sums up Texas Guinan's philosophy to a "T". The same can be said of Diane Findlay. She has a joie de vivre and a zest for life that is exciting and refreshing. I have known Diane a loonnngggg time and a fan even longer. I don't even remember how we met.
I saw her on stage as Vera Charles with Carol Lawrence as Mame and was immediately smitten.
I was lucky enough to record a song with her several years ago for a collection of Bill Solly's music.
Everyone who sees this accomplished actress and ENTERTAINER on stage walks away a fan. And if you're lucky enough to become a friend, that's an even greater bonus.
If anyone had there own theme song, I think Diane's would be That's Entertainment!

Diane grew up in Suffern, New York. It’s about 25 miles north of New York City, up the Hudson River.Her father had his own real estate company in Freeport, Grand Bahamas.

Perhaps Diane inherited the performing gene from her father. According to Diane, her father was a very talented man. Her mother, a beautician in Sloatsburg, New York, squashed those dreams. After all, he had a family to support.

Bing Crosby even wanted to subsidize him.
Diane says that for the most part, she really wasn't exposed to the arts outside of the home. Her mother, however was one of 14 children. And coming from a large Italian family, there was always music around.
Everybody sang.
She started taking dance lessons when she was 4 1/2. And also at the age of 4 1/2, she made her stage debut at the Lafayette, Theatre in Suffern, New York. This theatre is still operating today as an old movie palace. She learned to shimmy and ended up getting 5 encores! Like Judy Garland, from that point on, they could not keep her off the stage!


The first Broadway show Diane saw was L'il Abner. This was one of several steps that led her to become one of the hardest working actresses in the theatre today.She was 13 years old. The ticket was $6.50 and she was 6th row center. She recalls the details with such vividness that you would think it was just yesterday. She says she felt like she had died and gone to heaven. There was no longer anything else in the world she would do.

  When she was a little older, she started taking the Shortline bus into New York for voice lessons. She was studying with Bernie Wayne who wrote There She Is, Miss America among many other songs. They used to meet at the bar, Jack Dempsey's, which was in the lobby of the Brill building. On one such occasion, when she got up to go upstairs for their lesson, she accidentally spilled her drink on a guy who happened to be nearby. As she was profusely apologizing for her faux pas, the coke soaked guy asked Bernie if Diane could sing. He was the director, Martin Cohen, who was directing a new off-Broadway show, We're Civilized, which was about to open at the Jan Hus Playhouse on East 74th Street. Diane was exactly the type that he was looking for. If she could sing, she got the part. She did and she got the part. It ran for 22 performances from November 8th-November 24th 1962. Also in that show was Karen Black.

A huge break and life altering experience would  happen a few years later. In 1965, Diane was engaged to be married. She was torn between continuing to pursue a career or settling down and getting married. Her fiance was adamant that his wife not have a career in show business. One afternoon, her agent called to say that she had an audition for an immediate chorus replacement in "Hello, Dolly!" starring Carol Channing. She accepted the audition. On her way into the city that day, she made a pact with God. Like Dolly Levi, she needed a sign that day of her life direction. This was major. She went in and auditioned for George Martin, the stage manager and assistant choreographer. She didn't get the part!
As she dejectedly left the St. James Theatre, with FAILURE ringing in her head, she had the image of being a "barefoot pregnant wife in SUFFER-in New York." As she got halfway down the block, George came running after her "Diane, you got the part!" The other girl who was offered the part turned it down and that image of the poor suffering bride was then gone...then and forever!

She went home and told her parents what she had done, AND that she was in the show, AND about her pact with God AND with her decision NOT to get married. Her father wisely said, "Well, then, let's get your fiance over here."

When she told her fiance of her intentions. He refused to accept that. Diane's father said, "Well, there's the door." As the door closed on Mrs. Diane whatsername, it opened for Miss Diane Findlay, working actress.
She was in Hello, Dolly! for two months! The transition period from the first Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, Carol Channing to the next Mrs. Levi, Ginger Rogers.
However, this wasn't the most pleasant experience, but would once again shape Diane's destiny.

Joi Lansing
Gower Champion was a taskmaster and was constantly after Diane to be like everyone else in the chorus. She KNEW she was NOT like anyone else and had great difficulty conforming to his demands. Luckily, George Jessel came a callin'. He was appearing in Pittsburgh and needed a new female singer. Joi Lansing had just departed and he was looking for a new girl singer. When Diane's agent called with this offer, Diane's first response was, "Are you crazy? I don't have an act!"
Diane's agent wisely told her to put one together. She said, "What about charts. I have nothing!" She would be singing with a 16 piece orchestra if she got the job. Her agent once again told her to tell the powers that be that the airline had lost them. She did just that! And STILL got the job. She left Hello, Dolly!, never took a chorus contract again,  to become her own person on stage!

She opened for George in Pittsburgh in the dead of winter where it was COLD! One night, the doorman rang her bell in her hotel and there was an entire rack of sables, minks, and ermine from Mr. George Jessel from Mr. Jessel with a request to please pick one.  She wrote a note, "Dear George, thank you but no thank you. I would pay a lot more for these than you in the long run."
George came down the hall 15 minutes later singing "Swanee" at the top of his lungs wearing a top hat, a monocle, a smoking jacket, boxer shorts, and slippers. He may have been singing "Swanee" but "Making Whoopie" was on his mind!

He said, "I'll make you a deal kid. I think you're very talented! But if you won't do me any favors, I won't do you any favors. However, if you stay with this show, I'll take you to Viet Nam. I need a girl singer."

She went to Viet Nam to entertain the troops and eventually went around the world together PROFESSIONALLY! They remained together as friends often dining at the 21 Club and other such watering holes in the heyday of New York nightlife and remained friends until his death.

When I asked about her thoughts on arts in education, she felt that kids today are actually at an advantage that was not available to her as a kid. With Broadway kids camps and the proliferation of Disney and family oriented shows on Broadway, there is more readibly available to kids. Very important as we build new audiences and entertainers.

If I was to cover all of Diane's achievements in this blog, it would read like Gone With The Wind, but most recently she had a huge success in San Francisco's Tales of The City at ACT, The American Conservatory Theatre. She had had several unsuccessful auditions for Billy Elliot on Broadway and when her agent, Karen Garber, called her to tell her that she had this audition, Diane first turned her down.
  Her first audition for Tales of the City was a wonder. At first she thought perhaps she shouldn’t go to the audition because she felt the director Jason Moore would never buy her as Mother Mucca, and she knew she’d be disappointed, but Karen thankfully talked her into it.
(Moore's career began on Broadway as the resident director of Les Miserables at the Imperial Theatre.)
So she decided to go for broke and have herself a ball, which she did, and look what happened! The entire creative team was wonderful and they made Diane feel as if couldn’t fail. She felt safe, and that’s rare at an audition. She sang Don't Ask A Lady which was written for the first revival of Little Me. She will also be singing that in Richard Skipper Celebrates...Christmas in New York December 20th!

Her second audition was even better, because by then she really knew “Ride ’em Hard,” the dirtiest song in show business, and she couldn’t wait to dazzle them with her take on the song. And apparently she did. Lucky her!

Look at the creative team for that show!


Jeff Whitty (Libretto)
John Garden (Composer/Lyricist)
Jason Sellards (Composer/Lyricist)

Jason Moore (Director)

Larry Keigwin (Choreographer)
Armistead Maupin (left) with husband Christopher Turner
Cian McCarthy (Music Director/Conductor)

From Variety:  ACT's track record with musicals has been sparse and uninspired. So it's a particular pleasure to see "Tales of the City" -- an extremely rare venture into a full-blown, potentially Broadway-bound, world-premiere musical -- turn out very nicely indeed. Lesser results would probably still have given the company a home-turf hit given lingering affection for local scribe Armistead Maupin's beloved San Francisco-set books."
I am thrilled that she will be joining me once again at The Trad. She brought the house down Monday night.  

 Since we are raising money for Carol Channing's Foundation For The Arts, I asked what her thoughts were on Carol Channing. She adores Carol! She said her door was always open and that she was accessible to everyone. We both agree that they don't make em like that anymore. Carol is the last of the Broadway legends!  Carol is still glowing! Yesterday, she joined the Palm Springs City Council in lighting the city's Christmas tree in Frances Stevens Park, 555 N. Palm Canyon Drive.

Diane says, for her, her highest success in the business was receiving Female Performer of The Year in Las Vegas for Hallelujah, Hollywood!
Her lowest point was when she had auditioned for Hello, Dolly! and thought she didn't get it! Can you imagine? The entire trajectory of her life changed in a moment! Thank you, Jerry Herman!

I asked Diane if there was one change she would like to see in our world and I LOVE her response! She would love for Actor's Equity to sell the "empty seats" at show time for theatre shows to card carrying members who cannot afford those tickets otherwise. We entertainers should ALWAYS be going to the theatre. It's part of the learning process. It also keeps us apprised of what's happening. And gives us the opportunity to see roles that we might be right for. Brava, Diane! I couldn't agree more!

I asked Diane who some of her role models are. She said the first time she saw Judy Kaye in On The 20th Century, she cried the entire night. She felt, as many do, that Judy's appearance was PURE PERFECTION! And that she, Diane, would never be that good. Diane played Judy's mother in Tales of The City.  Tony Award win­ner Judy Kaye, Betsy Wolfe, Mary Bird­song and Wes­ley Taylor were among the rest of the cast as the eclectic den­iz­ens of 28 Bar­bary Lane in the world-première musical adapt­a­tion of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which debuted at the Amer­ican Con­ser­vat­ory Theatre in San Fran­cisco May 18.

Shirley MacLaine and Angela Lansbury




Glen Charlow put these together for me!
Lucille Ball. Diane played Lucille earlier this year in Lee Tannen's I LOVED LUCY and was brilliant.


Rosalind Russell

Diane says this is the happiest time in her career. And it shows! She is at the top of her game!

Diane -- I remember the very first time you ever sang for Bob Wright & Chet Forrest like it was yesterday. The first thing Bob said when you left the room was "That lady has something you can't buy: class, and something you can't teach: talent!" It was the first of many times I heard both of those Legendary Gentlemen say "That lady is a real STAR!" Last night I'm sure he and Chet were smiling down, as you brought down the house in Richard's Celebration of Jerry Herman, so pleased that you proved them right once again. As always, I'm so proud of you.
Walter Willison
with Michael P. Beltram

Don't forget:


Dec 20

8pm
THE TRIAD, 158 West 72nd Street
RICHARD SKIPPER CELEBRATES... CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK!
This is the the second installment of this series. Once a month, Richard will be celebrating a different theme. A Benefit for Carol Channing's Foundation for the Arts.
Rosemary Loar, Miles Phillips, Diane J. Findlay, Maureen Taylor, Leslie Orofino, Scott Coulter, Carol J. Bufford, Karen Oberlin, Julie Reyburn, AND... Raissa Katona Bennett! RESERVATIONS A MUST! $25 show plus two drink minimum, $50 PREMIUM SEATS plus two drink minimum. PLEASE CALL 845-365-0720 TO RESERVE.
DO NOT CALL THE TRIAD. 

Mention this blog and get two premium tickets for $75.00! That's a $25.00 savings!

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Tomorrow's's blog will be...YOU TELL ME...I'M OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog! 

I love you Diane!! 

 Diane is the craziest broawd I know! She is such a supporter and always has a kind word to say! I can only hope Ill be an inkling of a talent as she is
-Jessica Coker

Hi Richard, yes I would like to comment about Ms. Findlay. First offf, (you may not want to share this), I covet Diane's body and bemoan my unrequited love for her. My wife, Jan Neuberger, is aware of this not-so-secret lust, and encourages me--hoping that she can have grounds for a divorce. I believe this is the only reason Diane has not succumbed to my passionate advances--she knows she's already broken up too many marriages. She is a wonderful actress and even more wonderful person. I have had the priviledge of attending many of her fantastic performances. Oh, yes, one more thing. She always brings me great bread from Zabar's when she visits us in CT. Not the same as sex, but better then nothing!
I'll copy my wife on this, she's the one that can give you the real scoop.
 
-Bob Carter

 
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!


Now, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE TOMORROW!

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Please contribute to the DR. CAROL CHANNING  and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS


TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DECEMBER!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com


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