Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Cynthia Crane!

"He that tootheth not his own horn, his horn shall not be tootheth-ed."

Happy Thursday!
Here in New York, the cabaret community is a buzz with tonight's MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards.

Someone that deserves to be honored today, not only because it's her birthday, but because of her enormous contributions to cabaret is Cynthia Crane. Penny Landeau was a founding member of MAC, when she left the board, Cynthia took over as secretary. She served on the MAC board for many years. As a matter of fact, when I served on the board (as vice president), our meetings took place at the home of Cynthia and Ted Story, her husband of 48 years. In the 25 plus years of my involvement in the cabaret community, I have seen many people come and go. I've seen clubs come and go. Cynthia knows what it takes to maintain a career.
She is still at the top of her game.
She is one of those people that I can't, for the life of me, know how, when, and how we met.
I know she has not always been a part of my life.
However the years that she has been a part of me have been enhanced by our friendship and generosity of spirit.

When I served on the board, there WERE obstacles. There are on ANY board. However, Cynthia was ALWAYS in my court. I thank her for that. So on this MAC Award day, I'd like to Celebrate Cynthia Crane on her OWN special day!

When Cynthia was a little girl, during the war, she saw The Red Mill.  She remembers The Star Spangled Banner being played at the beginning and everyone standing up and how moving it was to her. Even though that was not part of the show itself, she will never forget it.
There was a feeling that even as the world was in chaos, "we as a people were standing together."

I asked Cynthia what she has learned in this industry about making her relationships more solid and resourceful and she answered "absolutely nothing!"
 Cynthia feels, as I do that arts in education are a necessity. Without contact with the right side of your brain, we are losing half. She feels that we are a "left-brain society". In today's world, she doesn't even know what kind of advice she would give kids wanting to pursue a career in the arts.

The business of getting work has all changed. When she started out, you would make rounds. You would knock on doors and meet people face-to-face. You would leave your pictures, whatever.

Nowadays, it's all electronic, and you don't have that personal connection.  She truly doesn't know what advice she would offer kids today. Perhaps kids should bond together and try to create as a group.

As you all know, I'm campaigning for Carol Channing to receive a 2012 Kennedy Center Honor (See below to see how YOU can help). I asked Cynthia for her comments on this. Cynthia's first thoughts are that we don't have legends like Carol around anymore.
She is so iconic to us like Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Humphrey Bogart.
There are still a lot of great people around.
However, there are somehow not as "big" as these icons are.
There's something to be said of the longevity of a career that still lasts.

I called Cynthia few days ago to get the correct spelling of "monstreuse" (Cynthia is a Francophile). When I interviewed Sondra Lee last week, she referred to Carol Channing as a monstreuse. Cynthia says it is a true description of this bigger than life personalities. When she first looked up the word, Cynthia said the first description she found was an "eccentric showgirl". She IS eccentric, she IS unique. No one can take that away from her.

Cynthia's most recent appearance was her John Denver, Bernie Madoff and Me show. She's hoping to get this show booked this summer. I saw this show at Don't Tell Mama here in New York and loved it. When Cynthia recently did it, it was done in Long Island. It was in a library in an audience with strangers and it still works. Cynthia is anxious to get this show booked outside of New York. She presented it to the late Donald Smith. Her timing, she says, was a little off on this.

Currently, Cynthia has no plans for her next move but is open to all possibilities. She also has an idea of a show dealing with anachronisms in songs. She has quite a few songs that would fit the bill. Like Irving Berlin's I Wanna Do Homework. I wanna work home!

Cynthia considers her greatest success in the business the fact that she can still get on a stage for an hour and own it. She relishes the fact that she can share HER stories in an intimate setting. Cynthia has done theatre. She has done band work. She has done club work where you don't talk, you just sing. Her heart, however belongs to cabaret. She says it is amazing when you just have an hour to yourself.

Cynthia with her husband, Ted Story
When Cynthia was first starting out in her career, entertainers WERE paid. The venues did the advertising and it was THEIR job to fill those seats. All you had to do was entertain. Nowadays, you have to be a "one man band". She and I both wish it weren't that way! 
She doesn't know how a club is even able to maintain what they're doing. Then you've got the top clubs where it is a hundred dollars a person and the average person cannot afford to attend.

I asked Cynthia if she considers what she wears on stage to be regular clothing or costumes. She said costumes, of course. She is very careful never to distract from the face. She is not one to wear a lot of "glitter glatter". She wears often dark colors. She says with her hair, a bright red, that it's enough already!

When I asked if she was happy at this point in her career, she said "not really". She wants to be able to go on working and the way things are going she doesn't know if she'll always be able to find a way. She says in the incredible article on her in Cabaret Scenes, she is a bit of a "scatter shot", she is "all over the place." She feels she should have and continue to do so, FOCUS on what needs to get done. To focus 100 percent on what needs doing and where you need to go and she readily admits that she hasn't done that. If she has any regrets, that's it. 

Cynthia has gone through a lot over the past few years. She is one of the casualties of the Bernie Madoff scandal. I asked if she minded if I touched upon this. She says she doesn't mind; it's a part of her life. I asked her how she gets through this. She said she visualizes a lot.

She visualizes colors. She said she felt that you should just prepare yourself for anything. Life is so random and so scary. Her life was wonderful one moment, two healthy children, two healthy grandchildren, a wonderful marriage, and as she said once again in the Cabaret Scenes article, All This and Paris, too! She was appearing in Paris, as she did for several years, before it all came crashing down. She used to prepare herself and fortify herself for anything that came her way. She's not bitter about it. She admits they got involved with Madoff, they took their chances, and they lost. What really gets her is PicardThat lawsuit is still pending. The New York Mets just settled with him. She has no idea what is going to happen.

I asked her what methods she utilizes in terms of trying to reach audiences in this day and age when there are so many choices and options for others. How does she reach her audience? She loves to write. She writes about her personal life and her work on stage. It is sometimes difficult to break through. She writes the Crane Clarion (Click on the link above). YouTube has also been great for Cynthia. She has done very well. Some of her clips have gotten over a thousand hits.

When I interviewed Tony Tripoli last week,  I asked him to suggest a question for my next interview. He came up with a doozy! The question is "When was the last time you embarrassed yourself"? The night before Vedette died, her beloved Bijon, she climbed up the stairs, Cynthia believes to say goodbye, it was the middle of the night and Cynthia had a rotten headache. So she just got a pillow for Vedette to lie on and went back to sleep. Four hours later, she died. Cynthia said she never really said goodbye to her. She feels that she should have gotten up. That is a moment in her life that she is not proud of.

I asked her what her favorite song is. She said she could no more pick a favorite song as she could a favorite child. When Cynthia and I sat down for this interview last Saturday night at Joe Allen's, she had just come from seeing Sue Matsuki's People You Should Know Better show at Don't Tell Mama. Cynthia said her hat is off to Sue. She does so much for people in cabaret.

I asked Cynthia what she does to prepare for a show. Again, visualization, a lot of visualization. She reminds herself of what her purpose is with her show. She wants to break that fourth wall. She does not like shows where people pinpoint a spot on the back wall and play to that, singing their hearts out to a brick in the wall. Cynthia desires to be involved with the audience. If she's seeing a cabaret show, she wants that person on stage to look at her, to talk to her, to be involved with her. I certainly feel that when I see Cynthia!

I asked Cynthia when it was time for a Cynthia Crane show. Always! When she and Ted ran the IRT theatre, luckily she had the money to that. It was totally a labor of love. Unfortunately, cabaret doesn't pay...financially. 

The last "survival" job was when she worked at Massachusetts General Hospital when she lived in Boston. She was in her twenties at the time. 

The best compliment that Cynthia receives is when someone tells her that she she has moved them, that she has moved them on an emotional level. Cynthia has one of the biggest hearts I know. She truly moves me. 
Cynthia Crane is one of the most Human human beings I've ever known. When our children were babies, we used to push them around together. She is truly one of the nicest gals I've ever met.
-Julie Wilson
Cynthia Crane: at the top of her game
Best known in the cabaret community as a classic jazz singer, Cynthia Crane surprised us with a classic cabaret act, instead. Artfully assembled, delivered with a lifetime's worth of craft, her show entitled If I Knew Now ... displayed for all to see what she knows now about putting on a show – which is plenty.

-Talkin Broadway


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!

Tomorrow's blog will be..My Exclusive Interview with Liliane Montevecchi!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

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

Richard Skipper,
This Blog is dedicated to ALL ARTISTS: Past, present and future and the gifts they give to the world! I WANT YOU TO SUCCEED!

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