Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrating Cortes Alexander!

"An orator without Judgement is a horse without a bridle."
-Theophrastus, Greek philosopher (c.371BC-c297 BC)

Happy Tuesday!

I hope this finds you well. I'm excited about my blog today. I am writing about another talent that I greatly admire and it is very interesting to get his back story. I first saw Cortes Alexander on stage at the Palace Theatre in Liza At The Palace, which won the Tony Award. Yes, I was there to see Liza, but I left a fan of Cortes Alexander.

What charisma he exuded on that stage. A great star turn for someone who was sharing a stage with five other very talented individuals.

 A little background...
The first show Cortes saw that really galvanized him was "A Chorus Line" on Broadway. Suddenly he was seeing "real people" as opposed to "characters". He thinks it was really the first "reality musical". He used to wait outside the stage door after school on Wednesday  and watch the actors come out. 
One day Sammy Williams who played Paul (and won the Tony) came out and talked to him. He said, "I've seen you every Wednesday and you never say "hi". Are you an actor?" I almost fell over! He shook my hand and told me to never give up."
Photo courtesy: Steve Wishnoff
Cortes carries those words with him to this day. About 5 years ago Cortes saw Sammy at an audition and recounted the story to him and Sammy was so moved and appreciated his remembering him. He just  thought, "How could I not tell him how important he was to me as a young teen". I'm so happy I did."
 Alexander was very exposed to the arts as a kid. He went to Professional Children's School which basically arranged his academic schedule around his outside life. 
There were kids on Broadway, models, actors, skaters, ballet dancers, and musicians from all over. 

So he learned a bit of everything artistic from an early age.
His first recollection of being on stage was Stagedoor Manor, a theatre camp for kids. All summer long they did show after show. "It was heaven."
 His debut was as an Indian in "Annie Get Your Gun". He remembers "Joe Blasco pancake makeup in Nubian Prince". That was his shade:)



Cortes' first professional job was as a model for Macy's, he thinks. 
He did a lot of modeling as a kid, but when he stopped growing, there went that. 
But he does remember thinking "I'm getting more than my allowance for just standing and smiling".


Arts in Education? 
He can't even believe it's even an issue. It's as essential as Math and English. 
Carol and Jim Caruso, Photo credit: BroadwayWorld.com


Carol Channing gave Cortes his high school diploma and she's a national treasure and among the last of an era. He adores her. She sang at Jim Caruso's Cast Party in LA not too long ago and did the "Dolly" monologue about her late husband Ephraim Levi, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. He says she knows exactly  what she's doing, and people can learn a lot from experience like that. 
Cortes is going to Chicago to do "The Swell Show" (his act) on the 15th at Davenport's and then he plays The Coterie in LA on Jan.10 and 17th. 
Cortes the "Lovely Carol" opening for him. It's her return to LA nightlife, which she pretty much ruled back in the day, so it's gonna be insane!
His biggest success in show biz? 
The Tonics (Cort├ęs Alexander, Michael Patrick Coughlin, Gene Reed Kathie Talbot)
Hmm... There's 2. One was Carnegie Hall with his old group The Tonics, and the second and more recently, was the Tony for "Liza's At The Palace".
The lowest point was after his first tour with Liza was over, and he had moved to California.
Cortes and  Karin Burnap Costa
 






He lost his apartment in NY and had no idea what to do or where his passion had gone. He just felt really empty and lost. Cortes said it was very hard coming off a tour like Liza's, where your road family becomes like real family and suddenly you screech to a grinding halt.
Cortes and Babette
His advise to any actor who has a great gig to begin to lay the groundwork for the next one while still at work on the good one, just to keep the momentum going.He began my cd "SWELL" (cdbaby.com, amazon.com) while on the road the 2nd time and it literally saved him because he was able to transition from one project right to the next.
One change he'd like to see is more live singing. He hates using tracks and he feels like if you can do it in a room with just a piano as well as with a symphony ; 18 backup singers, you'll be covered.
He is nuts for Sammy Davis Jr. He was so well rounded, singing, dancing and acting  and from what Liza's told him, he was a dream of a man. He wishes he could have met him.
Cortes is having a great time career-wise now. He's singing with his friends (The Swell Girls) Melissa Bailey  and Jennifer Rappo, and doing the odd commercial here and there and just reminding himself to remain thankful that his job is also his passion. That's what it's all about. 
He hopes to share some of that passion with my readers Jan. 10th  and17th at his show:)
Cortes and  Karin Burnap Costa

www.cortesalexander.com

 I absolutely LOVE Cortes. I know him from tennis and have friends with him for 10 years. His music is superb. There is nothing more I can add that you do not already know. Our passion together is Goyard and Hermes. LOL
Karin Burnap Costa

In 2009, Cortes Alexander (center in photo) portrayed Don Williams of "Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers" in the Tony Award winning Broadway event "Liza's at the Palace" starring Liza Minnelli as Kay Thompson. Cortes will perform his own new cabaret act "Cortes Alexander: The Swell Show" January 10th and 17th (see above)"

 Kay Thompson fans will be in for a treat because he is planning to sing Kay's explosive swing arrangement of Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean"* and her own hit composition and arrangement of "Love on a Greyhound Bus" (from MGM's "No Leave, No Love").

Here's a KAY THOMPSON classic... Songstress Pat Kirkwood, backed by Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra, performing Kay Thompson's pedal-to-the-metal arrangement.
Photo credit: Sam Irvin
This photo above was taken December 9, 2010, at Jim Caruso's Cast Party at Magic Castle. From left to right: Jim Caruso (who portrayed Dick Williams in "Liza’s at the Palace"); the REAL Dick Williams (of "Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers"); Cortes Alexander; Billy Stritch (who was the pianist-conductor of "Liza’s at the Palace"); and Sam Irvin (author of "Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise").

* HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN is on the 3-CD compilation Sam Irvin produced and annotated THINK PINK! A KAY THOMPSON PARTY which has 30-second track samples on Amazon. Go to Disc 1, Track 2, and you can hear a taste.  (If you don't have this CD compilation, you MUST get one!!!)

Sam Irvin with Cortes and Roslyn Photo credit: Sam Irvin
 CORTES ALEXANDER and his fantastic SWELL SHOW invaded Barre Vermont in Los Angeles last month -- and it was jammed to the rafters with eager fans including JASON GOULD (son of Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould) and aunt ROSLYN KIND (Barbra's sister, seen left).

  "Cortes is not just a marvelous singer. He has that wonderful ability to make his audience feel like they are sitting in his living room for an intimate evening of song and anecdotes among friends. To call it a "swell" show is putting it mildly. I'd call it sublime." -- Sam Irvin, author of "Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise."

 "Tezzie and I have known each other for decades
(I won't tell how many). J'adore him...I am submitting a review of The Swell Show he just did - and while it hasn't been published yet I can give you this quote...Cortes is the human embodiment of a rare, precious champagne. He possesses an innate musicality and joi de vivre that inhabits every song he sings as though they are each bubbles of joyous discovery freed from their bottle at last.


Steve Wishnoff


Cortes and Karin
 I first became aware of Cortes when I went to see Liza Minnelli in Las Vegas, I believe in 2006 or 2007. It was the very, VERY early part of the Liza's at the Palace run, before it so much as had its proper name, and some of the set list was varied greatly between that point and what ended up becoming the real show. Cortes was portraying part of the Williams Brothers. 
His personality stood out apart from the pack so brightly and so happily, I just couldn't help but love him.
With "The Swell Girls"Melissa Bailey and Jennifer Rappo

Not to mention, that voice!! I saw him in 2 shows there, then again in early 2008 in Reno, again with Liza, same tour. I was surprised but delighted to see that he was still in the act. By the time the show hit Broadway, when it was only slated for a 2 week run (it was eventually extended to 5), I made the most impulse move of my life and bought tickets to every. single. show. Of those 12, I only ended up being able to see 10 (Liza was ill and one show got rescheduled, which I couldn't make it to since I had to leave back to California, and the other, I'd caught a little bug and missed one), but they were 10 of the most memorable nights of my entire life. My seats were phenomenal for almost every one of those shows, and close enough to where I could make eye contact. Maybe it was just me, but it always seemed like there was a little hint of recognition that would run across Cortes's face each time I made eye contact and smiled. I did a lot of waiting at stage doors, hoping to meet Liza, but almost just as badly, *really* wanting to meet Cortes. Being a California girl and completely unequipped for NY December weather, I never lasted very long out there, and so I never did get the chance to meet either of them that way, but what I did manage was to make a connection to Cortes on Facebook, of which I've maintained ever since. :) I've followed as his solo career has blossomed, and it makes me beam with pride. I've yet to catch his solo show, but I have his album "Swell" and his single. He is such a feel good artist! I can't listen to his music and *not* smile. Everything about his music is so upbeat and uplifting. And his voice could make anyone swoon! Not to mention, he's one of THE nicest, sweetest guys in the business. He always has the nicest things to say to everybody, and he's one of the rare few gems in the industry that actually take the time to connect with their fans on a personal level and get to know them. I've chatted with him many times online and always enjoyed each and every interaction. 
He's quickly become one of my absolute favorite singers in the entire world, and I'm constantly recommending his music to anyone and everyone I can. I guess you could say I'm probably one of his biggest fans.
Jennifer Abraham


"Cortes is the consummate entertainer. He's not only one of the most talented people in the industry, he's one of the most loved. Always make an early rez for Tez. He sells out!"
 Michael Maron (pictured, right)

 Tez and I did our first Broadway show together, Marilyn: An American Fable, directed by Kenny Ortega (Kenny's first and only Broadway show also). I played Louella Parsons and Tez was in the chorus but I remember his unbounding energy and support for everyone in the cast. Then years later, I'm at the Toluca Lake Tennis and Sports club after my water bootcamp and I see this tennis player bounding off the courts and coming towards me full speed and it's Cortes. 
We literally bumped into one another and said..."hey, I know you!" We reconnected, I went to see him in a small one-nighter at the club and afterward I went up to him and told him how inspiring he was and I that I needed to get off my fat ass and put my club act together. He offered to help (and is still offering to help) and then I started coaching with him on new material and odds and ends for Jim Caruso's Cast Party with Billy Stritch when they were out here. 

with Jennifer Rappo
He has always been so supportive of me and never fails to tell anyone who will listen, how I stopped the show in Marilyn with my number with Mary Testa. Then after much prodding about that blasted club act, he asked me if I would join him in putting together The Swell Show and singing backup with him and I jumped at the chance. Even though I come out of musical theater, I'm really a jazz baby at heart. I loved his cool music, his funky jazz arrangements and the close tight harmonies he can conjure up. It's magic. As he never fails to remind me, when I get a little diva-ish, he could have had anyone in town sing with him but he chose me. We think alike about the music and the lyrics and he never fails to surprise me with either his innovative arrangements or his song choices.
New Years Eve, 1992 — with Daisy Prince,Lindy Robbins, Gene Reed,Brian Lane Green, and Cortes.
I should mention he also writes and is a positive gem when it comes to putting together lyrics and music. He's so supportive of everyone connected with the show and is infinitely patient and kind. I'm so glad we've reconnected because he has re-ignited that performing spark as well as become a dear, close friend. Oh, then there's the Liza connection. (Too much:) Melissa Bailey

 I actually met Cortes many years ago and sold him his house. He actually called me from my real estate sign, and as it would happen, we have become and remain dear friends. Being that he is a singer/musician and my husband and I are musicians, we connected immediately, and then when Cortes met my daughters it sealed our friendship to this day. He has worked with my daughters on occasion (they have a band) and has always been super generous with his time and input. To put it mildly I adore Cortes. He is super talented, funny, thoughtful, and a real "mench"-I am really lucky to have him in our lives!!
Donna Rose Haim


Thank you Cortes Alexander! Next stop, New York please! Thank you to ALL of you who contributed to this blog today!


NO COPY WRITE INFRINGEMENT INTENDED
Daniel Datzer with Cortes



HERE ARE RECENT AUDIENCE COMMENTS FROM WWW.RICHARDSKIPPER.COM:
Dear Richard,
I wanted to reach out and say thank you for hosting such a sensational event in honor of Jerry Herman's work. My friend Derek and I came to the show not really knowing what to expect. We were thrilled by the caliber of entertainers....the songs.. the stories behind some of them... it was truly a delight! We look forward to attending your upcoming holiday show!
All the best,
Christopher Logan, Brooklyn, NY

The show was awesome Richard and all were wonderful! Make sure you get a ticket for the next event!


 Once again, Richard Skipper (ref. his tribute to Jerry Herman at The Triad on November 28th, 2011) topped himself with yet another wonderful, beautifully staged and coordinated event; and on top of that, he also managed to fill it with some of the best talent NYC has to offer, too! I'd heard-in talking with some audience members, last night-that he is doing this type of tribute to other legendary Artists on a monthly basis. He can count on my being there to see each and every Show; as long as HE is hosting it! Keep up your great work Richard, and never stop bringing the kind of happiness, joy and magic that you give to all of us!
Ronald E. Giles
Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey



Have your voice heard – You can make a difference!

I have been fortunate enough to call among my friends several celebrities.
The one thing that I've gleaned from them beyond their bodies of work is their humanness.

Thank you to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you ALL have given to the world!



Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys!
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"Richard, for supporting the ARTS and calling attention to the STARS of yesterday. You are a STAR in your own right!! With admiration and friendship"
Arlene Dahl


Thank you to all who have encouraged me! Thanks to all who have tried to stifle my art. I have learned from ALL of you!


Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!



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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

:)


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