Monday, May 7, 2012

THE PERSIAN ROOM PRESENTS... Lainie Kazan and Connie Stevens!

On Weds May 9th, Barnes and Noble at The Grove in LA is hosting a signing and Q and A with Lainie Kazan, Michele Lee, Connie Stevens, Barbrara Van Orden and author, Patty Farmer, of "THE PERSIAN ROOM PRESENTS." Event is Free and portions of the book sales benefit Childhelp®.
WHEN: Wednesday, May 9th at 7:00 pm

WHERE: Barnes and Noble 189 Grove Drive Suite K 30, LA, CA 90036 - (323) 525-0270

John Mace, Peggy's voice teacher, and Julie Wilson
Happy Monday! 
I hope you had a great weekend and are gearing up for a great week. Last night, the place to be in New York was Feinsteins. 
   Brava, Peggy Herman Klat! SRO crowd at Feinsteins At Loews Regency that included Karen Mason, Julie Wilson, Marilyn Mayes, Tommy Tune, Dana Lorge, Kevin Scott Hall, Kevin Dozier. Sherry Eaker, Mary Ellen Ashley, Glen Charlow, George Marcy, Lenny Babbish, Jamie deRoy, Randie Levine-Miller and too many to name here. Incredible arrangements by Alex Rybeck! Thanks to EVERYONE who contributed to the success of this evening! Peggy was at the TOP of her game!!!!!

Except for one guy who looked like he was going outside for a basketball game, everyone was dressed to the nines and it evoked an era of nightclubs that you very rarely see anymore. That brings me to the topic of today's blog. I have already written about Patty Farmer's incredible book, The Persian Room Presents...Can you imagine Lainie Kazan, Connie Stevens, Barbara Van Orden, and Michelle Lee ALL TOGETHER!?!?! Well, that is happening on Wednesday afternoon on the west coast to celebrate Patty's book. God, do I wish I could be there!
The Persian Room Presents is a history of this magical New York night spot, featuring dozens of celebrities reminiscing about their experiences performing and partying at it. For more than forty years, from 1934 to 1975, the Persian Room was the place to be in New York City. Today, I want to focus on four of those women who appeared at The Persian Room and the amazing woman who has transported their stories to the written word. Today, I'm writing about two of those women: Lainie Kazan and Connie Stevens!

LAINIE KAZAN is the embodiment of the word entertainer -- and artist who has reached the pinnacle in virtually every area of performance. She has come a long way since she was Barbra Streisand's Broadway understudy in "Funny Girl." Once she was able to display her electrifying talent in two shows, she became the "Chanteuse" of her native New York, with nightclub stints and guest appearances on virtually every top variety and talk show in network television, including an unparalleled 26 appearances on "The Dean Martin Show." She even hosted her own variety special for NBC and opened the popular "Lainie's Room" and "Lainie's Room East" at the Los Angeles and New York Playboy Clubs.

Lainie Kazan, who I will be interviewing soon for my own book on Hello, Dolly! (yes, she played Dolly Levi!), had her first huge taste of stardom, after being Barbra Streisand's understudy in Funny Girl for over a year, she got her chance to shine as Fanny Brice for two precious performances when Barbra contacted strep throat. Lainie Kazan kicked off her Broadway career in 1961 with a performance in “The Happiest Girl in the World.” She resurfaced the next year in a production of “Bravo Giovanni.” 
Over the next almost fifty years, Lainie has captivated audiences worldwide as a singer performing in the finest clubs, concert halls, and Las Vegas clubs. Among the many awards she received over the years is her Emmy that she received for her guest spot on the TV show, St. Elsewhere
 She also offered one of her best screen roles to date playing the cheeky, candid Bella in the comedy “My Favorite Year” (1982), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. 
 Ten years later, she recreated the role in a Tony nominated performance in the Broadway musical version of the same name. After roles in numerous films, including “The Delta Force” (1986), Steven Speilberg's “Harry and the Hendersons” (1987), “29th Street” (1991), Disney's “The Cemetery Club” (1993),“The Big Hit” (1998), “What's Cooking” (2000) and “The Crew” (2000), Kazan was put back in the limelight with the box office hit comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002), in which her supporting role earned a Golden Satellite nomination.
  Her more recent credits include “Gigli” (2003), “Red Riding Hood” (2004), “Whiskey School” (2005) and “Beau Jest” (2008). On the small screen, Kazan received an Emmy nomination and a Cable ACE nomination for her recurring roles in NBC's “St. Elsewhere” (1987-1988) and “The Paper Chase” (1985-1986), respectively.
 She also appeared in the short lived TV version of “My Big Fat Greek Life” (2003), where she reprised her role of Maria Portokalos, and appeared in “You Don’t Mess With Zohan” (2008). She will be seen in “Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!” (2009), “The Christmas Movie” (2009) and “The Godmother” (2009). Kazan is also popular for her cabaret performances in the late 1970s called “Lainie's Room” and “Lainie's Room East.” 
 Since then, she has had many sold-out performances throughout the United States and Europe.
Kazan is on the Board of the Young Musicians Foundation, AIDS Project LA and B'nai Brith, and has helped a number of AIDS benefits, telethons and nonprofit organizations throughout the United States. 
For her effort, she was presented with The Israeli Peace Award in 1990 and the Woman of the Year Award from B'nai Brith.

Childhood and Family:
Lainie Kazan was born Lainie Levine on May 15in New York, New York. 
 Her parents are Jewish and her father worked as a bookmaker. She was educated at the Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York, and then the Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
Lainie married Peter Daniels on February 28, 1971, but they later divorced. She has a daughter named Jennifer.
In 1997, Lainie was named the reigning “Queen of Brooklyn” at that year's Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival.

The day after Lainie's SRO opening at The Persian Room, Robert Alden reported in The New York Times that "an audience may have many reactions to Miss Kazan, but that they will not ignore her." 
 Lainie had very recently left Funny Girl when her manager got her into The Persian Room at The Plaza. 
 They didn't pay her much at the beginning. Eventually, they gave her a suite for the entire year! She says in Patty Farmer's book that it was gorgeous and that they were unbelievable to her.

She thought that after that everything would be like that in the cabaret world!

Her thoughts on The Persian Room is that it was very intimate. 
She remembers it always being packed and that it was so elegant. 
After her shows, she would invite friends up for a glass of wine. Liza Minnelli would come up and they would go out together.
She said she partied hearty-she was like a werewolf! She had incredible gowns designed for her at The Persian Room. They were designed by Ray Aghayan, Bob Mackie's partner. She had one gown that was the color of her skin with a jeweled buckle, gracing her legs with chiffon. She still has some of them in a big trunk.

Speaking of trunks, she carried her own sound system with her along with her trunks. She had a realy huge trunk that once belonged to Sophie Tucker. It was black and looked like a coffin. 
She used to make the doornen and bellmen carry all this stuff to her suite. They would see her coming and they would die-that's how she traveled-with the trunks and speakers.She didn't like their sound system so she carried everything.  
Lainie performed in the Persian Room in the '60s and '70s.

(l to r) Justin Bartha, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck and Lainie Kazan star in Revolution Studios' unconventional romantic comedy Gigli, a Columbia Pictures release.

Read Patty's book to read about her opening act, Brute Force!

Lainie and I both miss the elegance and the dress code of those days.
People showed respect by dressing up for you. When you were performing on stage, no body moved! There was always great regard for the artist. "When you go to a venue now, some dippy waitress is serving ringside, and you want to kill her. 
Lainie says The Persian Room had a great staff. and they had great, great times! It sizzled!!

 Nothing you wear is more important than your smile. ~Connie Stevens
Countless people fail to look beyond Connie Steven's arresting beauty and miss the fact that she is a genuine renaissance woman. It is rare that an actress can successfully transcend the entertainment gamut from Motion Picture Star, Television Star, Broadway Star, Recording Artist, to the concert stage and then on to develop a successful cosmetic empire. In a career that has spanned over 30 years, Connie Stevens has gained worldwide popularity and recognition as a multi-talented performer, producer, and most recently, as a major force in the business arena, all the while managing to remain a timeless classic beauty. 

Ever youthful, dynamic, vivacious, versatile and savvy are the words used to describe the actress who has truly earned the title of a "Woman for all Seasons."

At age sixteen, while still in high school, Connie helped form a singing singing group called the Foremost, but her time with them was brief; soon she was ready to pursue a solo career. 

After winning a role in Rock-A-Bye Baby with Jerry Lewis, she signed a contract with Warner Brothers and has been a staple of TV and movies ever since. 
 Her international reputation has made its mark in show business history, having performed for 4 U.S. Presidents at the White House and the Kennedy Center, and her dedication overseas for the U.S. Military in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf as one of Veterans Across America's all time favorites. Connie continues to headline in Las Vegas and continues to perform in live concerts in Atlantic City, New York, Los Angeles, and every other major concert venue worldwide.
At first entertaining for Bob Hope and the USO, Connie soon struck out on her own to visit and perform at military bases and hospitals around the world  throughout the Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars.
As if acting, singing, and charitable work weren't enough to fill up a few lifetimes, Connie raised two daughters on her own and started a beauty empire called Forever Spring, which she markets on the Home Shopping Network. 
Connie also writes, directs, and produces films and documentaries that have special significance to her.
Her musical artistry began when she first sang in a group called The Three Debs at age 16. She then went on to record as a solo artist on the Warner Brothers label. Connie was the first artist signed on the newly formed Warner Brothers Records. She recorded two mega-hits in the early sixties, "Kookie Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)", a duet with Ed, "Kookie" Burns, on of the stars of the TV series "77 Sunset Strip", and the number one record in the country in 1961, "Sixteen Reasons".
 Connie recently recorded a beautiful Christmas Album, "Tradition"... A Family at Christmas, with her daughters, Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher, artists in their own right. Joely Fisher, co-star of the popular "Ellen" television series for ABC and the new star of "Inspector Gadget" (co-staring Matthew Broderick), and Tricia Leigh Fisher, whom you have seen as Heidi Fleiss for CBS or Monica Lewinsky in "Starr Struck".
Connie appeared at The Persian Room in the late '60s.  She was very yong, and the younger crowd was really taking over in places like The Persian Room. She says she was all over the stage.  And she went from one set right into another. 
She remembers the men in her horn section all wore toupees.  
She knows this because her act was very lively and she moved from one end of the stage to the other and back and forth and the music was fast and the poor guys were up and down and standing and sitting, playing their instruments. Get the picture?
At the end of the show, she looked at the guys and it was some scene. She felt bad for them, but they were a great horn section. 
Joe Layton put the show together for her, although there wasn't much choreography because the space you had to perform in was pretty small. 
She did not wear evening gowns; she wore pantsuits designed by Michael Travis.
Between shows, Connie would usually grab a little something to eat and then get a dinner after the last performance.
She didn't really do anything special, just reviewed the song sequence, do her makeup, and get dressed.

 Portions of this blog are from Patty Farmer's MUST HAVE BOOK! An oral history of New York's most magical nightspot.
Order yours today!

Order The Persian Room Presents by Patty Farmer HERE

Thank you, Lainie Kazan and Connie Stevens, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world!

Your devoted fan,


May 11
In her new acting memoir, "Atta Girl: Tales from a Life in the Trenches of Show Business", the Obie-winning actress Peggy Pope ( details an eventful life in the theater, film and television spanning over five decades. But unlike most celebrity tell-alls, this thoughtful and deeply personal account brings to light the trials and experiences of the vast majority of actors, those who either flirt with stardom or play supporting roles throughout their careers. Richard Skipper and Peggy Pope are sitting down for an exploration of Peggy's incredible career in show business. Email me at for more info.

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..PART TWO OF TODAY'S BLOG: Patty Farmer and Barbara Van Orden!

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 Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!

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