Friday, August 30, 2013

Jeffrey B. Moss: Revisiting Dolly

Sally Struthers and Company (Alhambra Theater's production of Hello Dolly!
Emmy Award-winning actress Sally Struthers will star in a 50th anniversary tour of the Tony Award-winning Jerry Herman musical Hello, Dolly!,which will launch at the Edward Nash Theatre in Somerville, NJ, in October. This will be the first time the show has toured the country since Carol Channing last took her “to the provinces” in 1996, also her last tour. This is not the first time that Struthers has played Dolly. She has made the part her own in various regional theaters over the past ten years. Jeffrey B. Moss is also no stranger to Dolly. He directed Mimi Hines and Phil Ford in a production that toured the country before taking it to Asia.
Jeffrey and I sat down a few months ago to discuss Dolly. I wanted to wait till a closer time to write in order to bring more attention to the production I, for one, am anxious to see.
Jeffrey’s aunt Laurette Moss was Ethel Merman’s first manager. She used to regale him with stories about
Hello, Ethel Merman!
her. This was before Merman was famous, so Jeffrey grew up on these show business stories.
The first Broadway show that Jeffrey Moss saw was Ethel Merman in Happy Hunting. His Aunt Laurette took him.  Later on, Jeffrey would also see Merman in Dolly!
Jeffrey’s foray into the theater was as a scenic designer. He also designed Dolly, early on in his career, in the round. He also did a couple of productions, as a designer in stock. His first directing job on Dolly was Mimi Hine’s National and Asian tours.
When Jeffrey first did the scenic design for Dolly in the round, the director was Richard Barstow. The producer was Lee Guber. Richard was the director of the Ringling Brothers Circus. He used to work for Lee Guber in the summer. Richard was a little “crazy”. He told Jeffrey that he wanted all of these “cake platforms” for the production. Jeffrey had no idea what he was talking about. Cake Platforms are what elephants stand on in the circus! Although Jeffrey tried, he could not make it work. Richard was eventually replaced. He had a nervous breakdown in the pre production. Neal Kenyon, who directed Dames at Sea, was brought in and together, he and Jeffrey, salvaged the production.
Years later, Jeffrey got the rights to produce a tour of Dolly! He was looking for a star and Mimi Hines happened to be a friend. He had seen her years later in Funny Girl.
Mimi played Funny Girl longer than any other actress.

Hines replaced Streisand and toured the show. She was a legend to Jeffrey and he thought that was a great idea. She had two major elements needed for Streisand, she was a great comedienne and a great singer. It was a love affair and a wonderful experience. This tour played all over the country before embarking for an Asian tour. In the States, the tour consisted of split weeks, one nights, and a few full weeks. The tour went from October till May.
Prior to Dolly, Jeffrey had produced 30 Broadway shows in Asia of all kinds. That include Broadway, rock and roll concerts, and even classical concerts. The Asian bookers came to see Mimi in Dolly, liked her, and they moved forward on this.
Of course, with Mimi came Mimi’s husband and frequent co-star, Phil Ford. That was exactly as Jeffrey desired it. They both were at their prime at the time of this production. There was very little negotiation, as far as money was concerned. They both desired to do it.
Mimi was a STAR. When she appeared on stage, audiences could not keep their eyes off of her. In an era of knowing what Mary Martin and Carol Channing, for example, was like on stage, Jeffrey KNEW a star when he saw one. He had seen various actresses play Dolly; some were stars, some were not. Mimi had a magnetic quality about her. Looking at the overall production, Jeffrey feels it is primarily Cornelius’ story, in a way. He is taking on this adventure and Dolly, in a way, is following him. She is the magnet. When the production team began to form Dolly, as we now know it, the focus began to lean towards Dolly. It is, of course, The Matchmaker.
Jeffrey has never done a production of The Matchmaker. When Jeffrey was in college at Penn State, there was a tour that the Phoenix Theater did of The Matchmaker. Jeffrey distinctly remembers saying to a friend of his at the time, “This would make a great musical!” He still has the program for that production. His premonition was right, it became a wonderful musical. It is very different but it is very much the same. The plots are a little different.
Shirley MacLaine and Anthony Perkins in the film version of The Matchmaker

Playing Dolly in Asia, the audiences got laughs that were not always there with not always there with audiences. There were no translation issues. They are people. They get it. It is a well written story with well written comedy. Joe Styne used to tell Jeffrey the story of when they took Fiddler on the Roof to Japan in Japanese. When it opened, Joe Styne was asked how he, a Jew from New York, could write a story about them! Both Hello, Dolly and Fiddler have universal messages.
There have been no other Dollys in the interim since Mimi Hines. 
It has been at least twenty years. All the elements are coming together to make this national tour, the first since Channing did it in ’96, with Sally Struthers succeed on all counts.
Obviously, Jeffrey likes Dolly. As stated earlier, this show has not been on the road since Channing’s last tour. There is a market for it. It’s not like a “commercial” production in which Jeffrey decides that he likes something and therefore decides to find a way to get it produced. The road is about what twenty-five weeks of buyers in various cities put in their theaters. Will they pick THIS title or THAT title?
There is an agent that puts the cities in place.
As of this writing the tour is slated for twenty-two weeks. As with Mimi’s production and Carol’s last tour, there are one-nighters, split weeks, and full weeks. This is the first time that Jeffrey and Sally have worked together. Earlier this year, Jeffrey went to see Nancy Opel as Dolly at The Ford’s  Theater in Washington DC. At that time, Sally was appearing in The Full Monty in DC and he went to see that show as well. He and Sally have a few mutual friends. Charles Strouse, who also has a Dolly connection (check out my interview with him), is a mutual friend. He also wrote the theme for All in the Family and Sally has also played Miss Hannigan in Annie the last time the show was in New York.

The show itself always hits the mark as far as Jeffrey is concerned. It always rings true with an audience. There are things in the words and songs that are very powerful. There are aspects that touch people in terms of their desires. In It Only Takes a Moment, Cornelius says, “There I was cooped up and there were things out there that I didn’t know I desired.” There are little kernels of “Our Town-isms”. As far as the individual Dollys are concerned, have they all communicated to Jeffrey, as an audience member, everything that could be mined from the role? 
There have been Dollys who have not done that.
An actress is a person who reads a script and begins to discover what it is about and puts that on the stage. 
A performer is someone who does what they do all the time. Sally Struthers is an actress.
The first rehearsal is September 16th. Sally has the added advantage of having played the role before in various productions regionally. They have a three week rehearsal before they go out and tech it. Those first few days in the process are very important to Jeffrey, especially with someone who has played the role. Even more importantly when they’ve played the role before to find out what they think of this character, to find out what discoveries they are going to make in this book that Jeffrey has never seen before. He just did My Fair Lady for the third time. In the tea scene in Mrs. Higgins’ house, when Henry comes in running after Eliza, Mrs. Higgins says, “Don’t run after him now, dear. Stay here. You’re a lady now.” Henry says to Eliza in the middle of that scene, ”Yes, I’ve heard that before…” This particular actor playing this scene and saying those lines delivered them in such a way that made Jeffrey realize for the very first time that Henry had been called awkward before and that made Jeffrey realize why he was the way he was. Higgins had never been able to complete a relationship before. It was just one sentence delivered in a way that an actor chose to say those words and what he was thinking. They stopped and talked about it. It began to influence other choices that they were going to make later. It influenced Jeffrey in his staging for I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, not where he stood. For Jeffrey, it was all about putting the key in the door. He couldn’t. It was too hard. Now he had bravura around him to prevent those arrows that she had seen. That was a whole new discovery. There will be discoveries that Jeffrey and Sally will make together although they both have been involved in previous productions of Dolly. Having seen Sally on stage and being very familiar with her work, Jeffrey is very excited about this partnership. That presence is exciting. Jeffrey doesn’t have to make that happen. 
It is already there for him to harness.
Audiences of my generation know her as Gloria Stivic. Jeffrey has never seen her play Dolly. Sally bears the burden of Gloria. Most people who have had the luxury of owning such an iconic role also share in similar circumstances. That was a long time ago but it is seen on television every day still. The fact is that she is not that person. She can sing and audiences are going to fall in love with her. Audiences already realize that she is a comedienne. TV has the disadvantage of making people believe that that is who they are
as opposed to actors playing a role. The perspective is different from seeing someone play a role one night in the theater. Sally Struthers has a star quality about her that audiences will be happy to see. The aspect of a theatrical performance from her, from audiences who have never experienced her on stage, are in for a pleasant surprise.
There are twenty six members of this company. The music will also be LIVE. 
They are still deciding on the size. Speaking of the music, there are some interesting things in store. You’ll have to see! They are not taking anything away from the orchestrations. They are merely adding to it. Jeffrey is going back to what he believes is the original INTENT of Gower’s on the overall feel of the production. It was an entertainment. “You don’t do So Long, Dearie in “one” without knowing that Gower was going for a music hall feel. 
Riverside Theater in 2011
Jeffrey wants to get back to those feelings. The opening will reflect on that with the “vaudeville” drops.
They will be teching at a college campus theater just outside of New York. It is very user friendly and then they are off and running. This is being produced by Big League. 
Jeffrey is onboard solely as the director and does not have the itinerary in his head! This Dolly is allowing Jeffrey to also revisit some of the scenic elements. It opens in October and plays through April 2014 coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the show opening on Broadway.
Jeffrey would like to see a Broadway revival. He easily sees Sally in that position. A dream Dolly is also Bette Midler. He even imagines a wonderful jewel box production.
Jeffrey acknowledges that Gower was a genius in terms of the entire vision he had with this show. The pieces all come together. The choreographer for this production is Bob Richard. Jeffrey says that Gower’s influence cannot be denied. The Waiter’s Gallop cannot be denied nor certain visions within the Dolly number. Should there be women in the Dolly number? Jeffrey thinks not. The essence is that Dolly is singing to these guys. It’s not by accident that it is Manny, Harry, Louie, etc. 
“Clara” is not one of the waitresses in the number. Could they be chefs running in from the kitchen or running in from the back? Absolutely! The structure of certain things, Jeffrey believes, need to be in place. Does he believe the It Takes a Woman number should be done EXACTLY the way Gower did it? No, although that was a lot of fun. It should definitely be just men, however.
It is unfolding the way it is unfolding now. When they get to rehearsal, they don’t necessarily know how it will unfold at this point. He knows what the show is going to look like. He envisions a maypole of ribbons for Ribbons Down My Back leading into Dancing. It’s just a new idea having nothing to do with Gower
The only missteps that Jeffrey has seen as far as Dolly is concerned over the years are in miscasting. Once again, one has to look back at the intent of the show. Why did the original collaborators come together on Dolly and what compelled them to move forward? Why was Charles Nelson Reilly cast as Cornelius. Why was Eileen Brennan cast as Mrs. Molloy? Were they Michael Stewart’s friends? Maybe. How much of the characters were built around them? What is the secret of Mrs. Molloy? “When a dull soprano or someone who doesn’t get it is cast in that role or some earthy dame who just wants to play the role, you’re in real trouble.” In It Only Takes a Moment, Cornelius Hackl goes from a thirty three year old boy to a thirty three year old man. 
This is a guy who hasn’t quite figured himself out yet at the top of the show nor has he found his confidence. What people forget about Charles Nelson Reilly is that there was innocence about him. The audience desired to take care of him. He was everyman and audiences wanted to follow him. He wants Mrs. Molloy. He wants to be in love. It all comes out in that wonderful speech at the end. If it is not cast with those elements in place, the show is in real trouble. If Minnie Fay is cast as just a “Minnie Mouse” with a funny squeaky voice and the casting doesn’t get who she is with all of her opinions, she’s a goner. One girl, who had played the role before, came in to audition and Jeffrey thought no way, she was obnoxious.
Jeffrey admits that he has made mistakes in casting and has lived to regret it! He could not wait for the closing!!

Sally Struthers is going to hit it out of the park every night! Jeffrey and Sally both will arrive at the first rehearsal already knowing what the show is about. All of the agendas and past histories of both will come together to make something really exciting.
Hello, Dolly speaks for itself. “You sit back and say ‘these boys knew how to write a show’” 
It is not over written. In the rehearsal process just listening to actors saying the lines sans costumes, it comes through loud and clear how solid this material is. The arc from the moment Dolly says to Cornelius, “Put your hand on her waist and stand…” straight through to the curtain falling at the end of Act One is a perfect piece of theater.
All of the emotions of the entire show are captured right there. There is a reason why each character is placed where they are on stage. The show asks all the right questions. When those questions are answered honestly and truthfully, you have a hit show no matter what the show looks like. Desire to set the entire show in a railroad station? IF it is honest, it WILL succeed!
For more info, please visit Big League Website

Thank you Jeffrey B. Moss for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!
Can't wait to see this production!

 With grateful XOXOXs ,


Please check out our PSA for Carol Channing to receive a 2013 Kennedy Center Honor 

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!
If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with YOU!

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000+ performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.”-Carol Channing

My next blog will be...Samantha Rehr: Hello, Dolly through the eyes of a fifteen year old High School Dolly!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!


Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Daniel Nardicio: An Impresario for OUR Generation!

Daniel Nardicio (Source
When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.
John Ruskin

Happy Thursday!
I hope this finds you all having a great day! As I embark on this blog, I'm sipping my coffee and listening to the finale of Hello, Dolly! (1995 Broadway Revival). The excitement of that incredible chorus singing You'll Never Go Away Again gets me EVERY TIME! I felt the same thing in a room of 550 people at the Ice Palace on Fire Island Saturday night as Justin Vivian Bond led the audience at the end of what was actually a swell party celebrating Carol Channing.
The man responsible for getting Carol Channing back to the East Coast and Fire Island is Daniel Nardicio. I personally want to commend Daniel for the professionalism involved and running everything like a well oiled machine.

I know that it takes a village to make something like this happen but you have to have someone in charge to lead the way. Carol Channing always referred to David Merrick and Gower Champion as benevolent despots.
with Margaret Cho and friends
According to Wikipedia, Enlightened absolutism (also called by later historians benevolent despotism or enlightened despotism) is a form of absolute monarchy or despotism in which rulers were influenced by the Enlightenment. Enlightened monarchs embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its emphasis upon rationality, and applied them to their territories. They tended to allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to hold private property. Most fostered the arts, sciences, and education.
I was so taken with Saturday night, beyond my
with Lynda Carter
excitement of seeing Carol on stage again, that I reached out to Daniel for an interview yesterday. I was thrilled that he was available and so, today, I celebrate Daniel Nardico!
Daniel started out as an opera singer/actor. He appeared in Europe a lot. He developed this booming voice which has come in handy in dealing with Carol and the older Icons of his series.He did that for years. He eventually came to realize that his talents were better served for producing rather than performing.
He actually prefers and likes this aspect better.
with John Waters
About four years a neo-Burlesque movement started emerging in New York on the lower East Side. He began by producing these events and started booking and producing a lot of the bigger Burlesque entertainers.
He was working with Dirty Martini and other entertainers that are really great. These entertainers are in the style of Gypsy Rose Lee and entertainers from that era. They are bringing back that burlesque vibe. Daniel did that for a few years before realizing there is no money in it, very much like New York cabaret. From that, being a gay man, he segue-wayed into New York gay nightlife. He started producing events for that market incorporating aspects of burlesque. He produced a lot of parties and events as part of the New York gay nightlife scene.

Now, in his forties, he decided he didn't want to be still in some gay club in his fifties doing just that. That led to him deciding to produce shows. That led to
where he is today, still producing nightlife events, but also producing shows. He is producing these great iconic women of the theater.

Last year solidified his standing in this arena with his evening of Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli, also at the Ice Palace. That show was so successful, they added a second performance and this year on Liza's 67th birthday, they recreated the concert in a sold out performance at New York's Town Hall and now there is even talk that it may go to Broadway!
It is veryclose to happening. 
Oddly enough, Alan Cumming and Daniel had gone on a couple of dates years ago, so they are friends.Daniel had already been working on Fire Island for quite a few years doing nightclub events. He realized that everyone was catering to a 22 year old demographic. No one was catering to the 45-55 age range or older who have a disposable income and no where to go on a Saturday night.
He thought about what HE would like to see on the Island. He got the idea for the ICON series and decided to start at the
Tommy Tune, Carol Channing, Daniel Nardicio
top. Since he and Alan were good friends, Daniel asked Alan if he would be interested in doing a cabaret show on the Island.  Beyond the musical Cabaret, Alan had done cabaret shows before. He said yes. Then Daniel thought, what if we got Liza! He would love to see Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming together. He felt that if he would ask Liza alone, she probably would not do Fire Island, but with Alan, perhaps...and that is exactly what happened.
Margaret Cho (

From there, Daniel started reaching out to really fun people he knew like Margaret Cho, Sandra Bernhard, and Lea Delaria.
He brought them each out on different weekends and it was such a smashing success that people kept asking Daniel how he was going to top getting Liza Minnelli. People also thought the ONLY way to top getting Liza is getting Judy Garland!
Over the winter, he kept thinking about who he would most desire to see. Chita Rivera and Carol Channing came to mind.
Daniel put on Facebook, Whatever happened to Carol Channing and what is she up to these days?
There are a lot of stars from that age bracket that come to mind with the same questions. Some of them have passed on but there are many that haven't.
After Daniel's posting on Facebook, a friend reached out and told
Justin Vivian Bond (Source:
Daniel that he knew Harlan Boll, Carol Channing's publicist.
Daniel though, she still has a publicist? He wrote to Harlan and asked what she was up to these days. He was told that she had been out of commission for a while but that now she was doing better. 
Daniel told Harlan he was interested in producing an evening with her on Fire Island. Harlan said, "Make us an offer."
Daniel made an offer and Harlan said they would be back in touch.
This was in the winter. Two months later, Daniel received a call in which he was told that Carol desired to do it! It was just as exciting as it was when Liza agreed to do it the previous summer.
Daniel jumped at the chance, but knowing Carol's age, felt that he needed to pair her with someone. That would make it a little easier on her. Justin Vivian Bond and Daniel are dear friends and Daniel asked Justin if she would like to do this.
From the moment Justin said yes, they started putting it together.
Daniel started out talking to Harlan and later on with Carol's manager, Wayne Gimiter.

Daniel loved dealing with both. They are great guys. Talking to Harlan solidified that they were on strong footing. Daniel's only concern was that he didn't desire it to seem "sad". That was his big trepidation. 92 is not young! He was concerned that she might not be up to it.  
Then he met Carol and instantly fell in love and was bowled over.
He had gone out to California for work but was unable to meet her at that time.
I alluded to this before but will reiterate that from the moment we arrived, everything moved like clockwork. There was such a feeling of love permeating throughout the Ice Palace. If that could have been bottled, it would obliterate all the challenges of the world.
The pre-show mix of music had the entire room singing and dancing alone and truly set the tone for the night. Daniel created a party atmosphere that was out of this world. All of the music that played was from the Icons of this series. When they did Town Hall in March, they recorded the concert. The hope is that an album will emerge by Christmas. That was included in the mix. He jokingly says an ICON record label will happen. I, for one, hope it is not a joke.
Saturday night (August 31st), Lorna Luft will finish out the season for this summer.
Looking over this past summer, with all due respect to all of the icons, the icon that exceeded Daniel's expectations was Chita Rivera.
He is in love. Carol and Justin were amazing.As a producer, there were so many other tactical things to think about; getting Carol safely to Fire Island, dealing with her accommodations, getting her back and forth, and all that goes with all of that. He wasn't even able to just sit back and enjoy the evening which is why he had the evening filmed for posterity. He wasn't able to be "present" for the show because he was so involved with all the minute details. With Chita, with which he had no emotional relationship with before this show...although he was very familiar with her body of work, the moment he met her, as he did with Carol, he fell in love. When Chita walked out on stage, she OWNED that stage. At that moment, Daniel became an audience member and was no longer the
I took this picture prior to the show of guys sitting behind me. Look at how happy everyone is!
He was in awe and EVERYONE in her presence that night shared in that awe. She is a total joy.
At the show I attended for Carol and Justin, there were 550 audience members! That was easily the fullest show they had this summer.
Liza and Alan were a little less full last year because they did two shows.The evening with Carol and Justin sold very quickly and there was actually talk about adding a separate show. They realized it would have been too much for Carol. She flew in from Palm Springs. They also realized it is very difficult to recreate a conversation. They knew that Justin would have asked all the juicy questions for the first show. What do they do for an encore?  It can't be replicated. The right decision was made to make it a one shot deal.
Daniel and Justin
Rest assured, this series will return next summer! He already has ideas rolling around in his head. It is very difficult to book celebrities this far in advance. This is a smaller gig and those celebrities are looking at their bigger gigs. He will start to go into high gear with the planning in January.
Justin, Daniel, and Parker Posey after Saturday night's show
What is really great right now is that younger artists are coming up to him and telling Daniel that they would like to be a part of this series and are suggesting names. For instance, Margaret Cho, who appeared this past summer, has expressed to Daniel that she would like to do an evening next summer with Patty Duke. They are friends and Margaret thinks it would be a lot of fun to do a night with Patty Duke. These suggestions make Daniel's job a lot easier!
Daniel is leaning towards ALL of the evenings next summer being pairings. This is Daniel's signature, putting someone younger and putting them onstage with an Icon/Legend. That is when the series is at its best like with Carol and Justin.
A lot of people, myself included, were not familiar with Justin's work. I quickly became a fan.
Ana Matronic, lead singer of the Scissor Sisters group, was at the show as well on Saturday night. She has suggested to Daniel that she would like to do an evening with Ann-Margret. YES! Having seen Ann-Margret perform LIVE, I'm there!
With Josh Wood II at Grove Hotel - Fire Island - Cherry Grove.
It is a grueling schedule to do this every week.
Next year, he is thinking of just doing five weekends and going as big as he can.
He basically gets a great entertainer to the Island, has a great time with them, and they leave, and Monday morning he is in preparation for the next one. He was just getting over his break-up with Chita when Carol was arriving. He really needed two weeks between shows to deal with the marketing.
Glen Hanson's work
Speaking of marketing, Daniel had the artwork of Glen Hanson, who I am a HUGE fan of. He designed the artwork for Carol Channing: Larger Than Life.
When Daniel booked Carol, the artwork of Carol by Glen was sent to Daniel and he used it somewhere.
Glen sent Daniel and email saying, "Do you mind giving me credit?" Daniel wrote back saying, "Credit? I desire you do the entire series!"
Glen did such great work than none of them had to be edited or redone. All of the artists loved them and desired their own copies As a matter of fact, John Waters wants to use his as his Christmas card this Christmas. Chita said she never liked the art work that is done for her but she wants one for her house.
Carol Channing, Justin Bond (Glen Hanson)
Daniel has taken a nightclub which is an awkward space on Fire Island and turned it into a cool cabaret space.He has learned what works and does not work as they have progressed. It is all tactical stuff that is boring.  
It all boils down to what they have to work with in terms of sound and lighting.
The bottom line is he desires it to be a positive experience for all that are involved both on and off stage. He has had people traveling to see these shows as far away as Florida. A couple sitting next to me had come in from Washington DC.
Everything from getting in and getting seated to getting a drink is done with pristine precision. These details keep Daniel awake at night.
The crew that Daniel has in place, from the ticket takers on, waiters, etc, are all brought in by Daniel. They all understand Daniel's work philosophy, his manifesto for how he desires everything to work.  It was all amazing!
After Lorna exits the stage on Saturday night, Daniel is looking forward to having a relaxing September out on the Island. He has certainly earned it. Then he goes right into his next big Icon, Joan Collins at BB King's on November 5th. I'll be there! It is selling really well.
He is very excited to be working with her. He is a big fan of that Carol Channing, Joan Collins bigger than life persona. Daniel's philosophy is that if they can be impersonated, they are the kind of entertainer he loves. He can't imagine Sutton Foster being impersonated because their isn't that character. He loves Sutton Foster but it is a whole other kind of energy.
Carol Channing and Liza Minnelli are "characters" and they live it. As highfalutin' as this sounds, Daniel's goal is to give them different opportunities for work.
  Putting Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli together gives Alan a whole new audience and gives Liza a whole new way of working. She has someone to help elevate her another notch.
Daniel loves nightlife and is thankful to where it got him, but now it is time to exercise this bigger muscle that he is developing in producing bigger shows. Something tells me this is just the beginning!
with Alan Cumming

Thank you to Daniel Nardicio for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!

A special thank you to for the use of some of the photographs used in this blog.


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


Richard Skipper   
With Randy Jones and Justin Vivian Bond at Grove Hotel - Fire Island - Cherry Grove.
This Blog is dedicated to ALL THAT HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY Carol Channing and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with her on ANY Level!    

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dottie Ponedel –A pioneer with a brush!

The work of Dorothy Ponedel, Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944
I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.
Georgia O'Keeffe

Happy Wednesday,
Dorothy Ponedel
I hope this finds you all having a great day. As I embark on my blog today, I am listening to Howard Keel and Judy Garland in the soundtrack of Annie Get Your Gun.
What a shame that she was too ill to finish that picture.She was too exhausted. She was one of the major casualties of this dream FACTORY.
The studio really was a factory with various units devoted to certain types of films. The most famous of those units was the Freed Unit, named for producer Arthur Freed, a fellow South Carolinian! They had the best of every area to ensure the highest quality. Even if a film was not the best, it was!
In today's world in which films are geared at the lowest common
denominator, it is always nice to look back from where to look back from where we came from.
I'm concerned about where about where we are and where we are. Once again, I think about Miley Cyrus' performance on Sunday Night's VMA Award. There are some who think it was just a performance and that is nothing to concern ourselves with. I ask 'Why shouldn't everyone hold themselves up to a higher standard?'
When seen in person and on stage, I desire to look my best and conduct myself in a fashion that is not only respectable to myself but to others. Shocking people has been done.

Dorothy Ponodel and Bob Custer in a silent western
Why not try and elevate ourselves? That's MY my work and in my actions.
Now, back to MGM! We all know the stars, but most don't know the people behind them. One such person was one of the greatest make-up artists to come out of the golden age of Hollywood and the movies, Dorothy Ponodel.
The idea for this blog came from my dear friend, Ellen Easton, who happens to be Dorothy's cousin.
A little history of Dorothy before my guest blogger, Ellen Easton, tells her story.
Dorothy (Dottie) Ponedel went to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1920 and quickly found herself cast as an extra in silent movies.
She progressed to dancing roles and sidekick roles throught the 1920's. By a turn of fate, she started her makeup career in 1930 with "Follow Thru" starring Nancy Carroll and Jack Haley. She quickly rose to the top, becoming the very first woman admitted into the makeup union at the specific behest of stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West, both of whom were good friends and loyal clients of Dot's. Dot was kept very busy working with such stars as the aforementioned Dietrich and West as well as Carole Lombard, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, Helen Hayes, Paulette Goddard, Lillian Roth, Clara Blow, Joan Blondell and many others.
Judy Garland as Marilyn Miller in Till the Clouds Roll By
In 1940 she left Paramount to go to MGM at the request of Jack Dawn. While there, she was introduced to a young Judy Garland and asked to see "what you can do with her". The rest, as they say, is history. Dot and Judy quickly became close friends and Dot worked exclusively with Judy throughout her MGM career and beyond. Dot contracted Multiple Sclerosis after returning from Judy's triumphant concert at the London Palladium in 1951 and had to retire from makeup. Her friends, however, stayed loyal. Dot died in 1981.

Enjoy Dottie's Story!

Clara Bow

Dottie Ponedel –A pioneer with a brush!
By Ellen Easton © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Who could ever have imagined that a Chicago gal born in 1898 would become the architect of modern makeup, change the face of Hollywood and aid women’s rights in the work place?
Dorothy, ‘Dottie’, Ponedel on the cusp of the roaring twenties, in 1920,arrives in Hollywood, California with nothing more than a plucky, no nonsense personality and a sense of humor to spare and is quickly discovered by Central Casting for her exotic looks, landing as an extra in silent movies and soon progressing to dancing and side kick roles, as well as being Mable Normand’s stand in. During this time Marion Davies becomes a life long friend.

1927, Dot goes under contract at the Paramount Studio all the
Mae West
while observing and dabbling in how the makeup is created for film. When Nancy Carroll demands Dot to create her makeup for the 1930 film Follow Thru with Jack Haley, who would go on to play the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, and a career was born.
It was not long before Dot was working not only at Paramount but also at the Fox, Republic, Universal and other studios originating THE ‘faces’ of Mae West, Carole Lombard and Marlene Dietrich. Now known as the woman
who fashioned the glamour girl look of the arched, pencil thin eyebrow and hollow-high cheek bones, scores of others beat a path to Dot’s chair, including Joan Blondell, Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, Helen Hayes, Paulette Goddard, Lillian Roth and the “it girl”
Clara Blow, amongst others.

Carole Lombard
With a pioneer’s spirit, Dot, doing the same work as the men, applies in 1937 to Studio Makeup Artists IATSE local 706 with support by Mae West and Marlene Dietrich. Dot’s application is denied but she is given a special permit to continue her work along side the male union members.

The omnipotent gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in 1939 introduces her readers to several guest columnists who will publish for her while she is on vacation. One is her good friend Dot: “Dot Ponedel, Paramount make-up
expert. She lifts your face without the aid of surgery.”

Marlene Dietrich
At last, in April of 1942, with relentless perseverance fighting off the male union members roadblocks to stop her and after threats by Dietrich, West and Blondell to boycott their movie sets, Dot is accepted into make up artist Local 706 as the sole female member.
As late as the early 1960s the Union
bylaws hold that “applicants to the Make up Artist Craft must be male.”

Joan Blondell states.”Paramount's Dottie Ponedel, the first woman in
the Makeup Artists guild, plucked Dietrich's eyebrows into single elevated lines, which became the signature look of the 1930s. Shading under her cheekbones accented them until they were hollow enough to appear so on their own. A white stroke under her eyes made them appear bigger. A silver one down her nose diminished its curve.
Dietrich passed this trick on to the Westmores, who used it frequently and, when eye shadow was still greasepaint smudges, she showed Ern Westmore how to make it from match soot and baby oil and apply it in the gradual upward motions still used today.”
 1943 not only brings on the winds of war but the winds of change are now blowing into Dottie’s life, for this is the year
Judy Garland
that Judy Garland and Dot meet, forging not only a professional relationship to last for the rest of Judy’s MGM film career but a personal friendship that would last until Judy’s untimely passing.

Dot and Judy’s films include: Meet Me in St. Louis, Ziegfeld Follies, The Clock, The Harvey Girls, Till the Clouds Roll By, Easter Parade, Words and Music, In The Good

Old Summertime, Summer Stock.

The story below can best describe the chemistry these two extraordinary women shared with one another as told by Dot’s niece Meredith Ponedel.
 Dot and Judy’s friendship quickly blossomed after they both discovered they each had similar ways of viewing the world.
Judy Garland and Fanny Brice - Why? Because!, Everybody Sing
One of the stories Dot loved to tell me was of the time that Fanny Brice didn’t show up for her call time on a set and Judy decided to find out why.
She took Dot with her. (Dot always
said she hadn’t wanted to go, “it’s not right to leave the set when you’re not supposed to!”, but discovered that Judy didn’t always take “no” for an answer). They found Fanny at her Beverly Hills home – in the kitchen with a butcher cutting up an entire cow!! Seems that Fanny, worrying about food shortages during the war, decided to make sure her kids wouldn’t starve!
 She had arranged for a butcher to come from some meat supply store in downtown Los Angeles and bring an entire cow carcass with him!
Dot said that both she and Judy were speechless upon first viewing this scene. There they were, Dot would say, in Fanny’s kitchen, with this dead cow hanging from hooks the butcher had placed in her ceiling. Newspapers and rags all over the floor and counters and sinks and blood everywhere!
Meanwhile, the butcher was happily hacking away and Fanny was busy bustling around, filling her freezer with freshly butchered meat! Dot said
that she had been doing a pretty good job of keeping a straight face until she glanced over and
Fanny Brice
Judy who, she said, “wasn’t even going to try to hold thisin”. She and Judy caught each other’s eye and just started to roar with laughter! Dot told me it was at that point that that she knew she had discovered a kindred spirit.

Although now under exclusive contract with Judy Garland at MGM, as a special favor to Arthur Freed, Dot agrees to work without screen credit for Ginger Rogers in her return to the screen with dancing partner Fred Astaire in the 1949 Barkley’s of Broadway and again for Freed’s 1952 Singing in the Rain.
There was not a movie star from the golden days of Hollywood’s most dazzling era that did not pass through Dottie’s magical hands. The next time you glam up in front of the mirror give a toast to thank Dot for her tenacity to not let anything stop her success in breaking through the glass ceiling.

Thank you Ellen Easton for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give! (Thanks for adding so much to my blog today!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at


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

               My next blog will be... Celebrating Daniel Nardicio: An Impresario for OUR Generation!

“When it comes to the history of Jerry Herman’s brilliant production, beyond the 5000 plus performances of my own, even I turn to Richard Skipper when I have questions about the remarkable ladies who followed me in the role that the world fell in love with over 50 years ago.”-Carol Channing

Please click on the banner below to visit my website celebrating the first fifty years of Hello, Dolly!

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


Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL Dottie Ponedel and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with her on ANY Level! 

And Reserve Today for Abbe Buck at The Metropolitan Room September 12th. Join our party as we celebrate ABBE!