Saturday, March 29, 2014

Goodbye, Cabaret Month...Hello, April!

"There is a secret garden where miracle and magic abound, and it's available to anyone who makes the choice to visit there." ~ Dr. Wayne Dwyer

Dear Friends,
On Thursday Night, the 28th Annual MAC Awards took place at BB King's here in New York City.
I would like to applaud ALL the winners, the nominees, and ALL that have ever graced a cabaret stage whether they have been nominated or not.
2014 MAC Award Winner Marissa Mulder

MAC was founded in 1983 as an organization of businesspeople in the cabaret industry, comprising club owners, booking agents, managers, journalists and publicists. Its ORIGINAL intent was “to heighten the public’s awareness of cabaret as an art form”* and to unify and empower the various cabarets around NYC.

MAC’s purpose was primarily about improving the climate in which the business of owning and running those clubs was conducted and, when necessary, to serve as an advocate for those in the cabaret business.(Source: MAC website).

MAC's original founder was Erv Raible who passed away earlier this year.

Somewhere along the line, the organization expanded to include artists. Although it is still the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs , artists are left out of the name of the very organization they are supporting.

Cynthia Crane
I was not part of the cabaret community and/or MAC at the time of it's inception. I spoke with Cynthia Crane this morning regarding the early days of MAC. She was a very early board member. I interviewed Cynthia two years ago to celebrate her birthday (which is today). At that time, I wrote: 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.

One week from tonight, I will be bringing 6 great entertainers to celebrate cabaret here in Piermont, New
New York as it looked in 1985
York where I live.
I am also bringing a great musical director.

Bryon Sommers, our musical director, lives primarily in Virginia these days, but maintains a residence here in New York. It was our lucky day when he agreed to do our show next Saturday.
I met Bryon YEARS ago at an outdoor concert at
Lincoln Center. We were out with friends and we all happened to be seated in the same section. We just started talking and it was as if we were long lost friends.
We discovered in a matter of minutes that we both were in the business AND that we knew many of the same people. 
Bryon and Richard

Now, please note that I was in my early thirties and just starting to put my feet into the waters of cabaret.

Bryon ended up inviting us to a party at his home.
When we walked in, Bryon was seated at the piano playing, surrounded by some of the greatest voices to grace a Broadway and/or cabaret stage.
When we stepped into that apartment, it was like stepping into an MGM musical.

This would be the first of many such parties at Bryon's. Sadly, some of those that were there, then and through the years, have passed on.
Mark-Alan will be joining us in Piermont next Sunday night

I still have very solid friends from those days. The feeling that I want to bring to Pier 701 Bar and Restaurant next week is the feeling that I remember from those parties. I desire that our audience feels that they are at a party where a few friends stand around the piano and sing.
I have asked all of our entertainers to do upbeat material. This will NOT be an evening of angst and/or experimental material.

I'll even encourage the audience to be as involved as possible. After all, they have invested their time and money to spend a few hours with us.
Ellen Bullinger will also be joining us next week
The cabaret "community" is a very tight community here in New York. However, I currently see very  little effort to cast a wider net beyond the "community" itself.
I have been saying for years that the lines are blurred between who the audiences are, who the critics are,who the press is, etc. I don't care what level any of us have achieved in cabaret, we are all swimming in the same fish bowl fighting for our very survival. I want to bring more awareness to this great art form.

It didn't feel so isolated from the general public when I first discovered this world. Why did it all change? I know some will be offended by these comments and I truly don't desire to offend anyone.
I desire to raise the bar. I hope that all that love this art form will desire to do the same. I am not sure how many cabaret rooms are currently in existence.

I can honestly and say that on most of those stages tonight, that the artists entertaining run their entire parade. In other words, EVERY detail is resting on
their shoulders. It saddens me AND angers me that the very venues that are booking these acts, for the most part, have no vested interest in the acts that have been booked. It saddens me that these artists will not be paid, for the most part.
It saddens me that many who are deserving of an audience are struggling to get that audience. It saddens me that MANY will never get the exposure they so richly deserve.
Here in New York, "cabaret month" is coming to a close. Years ago, the Mayor of New York declared March cabaret month. Two years ago, cabaret entertainer Craig Pomranz worked diligently to get this reinstated and succeeded. Believe it or not, he received flack from some in the cabaret community! No good dead...
At that time, traditionally, the Bistro Awards (at one time, the Back Stage Bistro Award) would kick off the month and the month would end with the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). Sherry Eaker does all she can to keep this tradition going year after year. The Bistro Awards are about recognizing, encouraging, nurturing, and educating cabaret, jazz, and comedy artists for over 28 years through our insightful reviews and our annual awards — the oldest awards of its kind in the industry.

Did you know that from prohibition until 1967, a permit called the New York City Cabaret Identification
Card was required of all workers, including performers, in New York City nightclubs? Their administration was fraught with politics, and some artists' cards were revoked on specious grounds. For many performers, the revocation of their cabaret card resulted in the loss of their livelihood.

Those of Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk,Jackie McLean, Elmo Hope, Billy Higgins and Billie
Billie Holiday
Holiday were suspended because of drug charges, and that of Lenny Bruce for his reputed obscenity.
 In 1983, I was 22 and living in the Bronx having come to New York just four years prior. It was also at this time that I was truly beginning to discover myself. I think it was 1984 when I stepped into Don't Tell Mama for the first time. In 1985, I moved to 47th Street. For those of you who don't know, Don't Tell Mama is a cabaret room on 46th Street in NYC in a section called Restaurant Row because of the number of restaurants there.

Dick Gallagher
I remember at that time of walking that block and feeling like it was Carnival in Provincetown, regardless of the time of year.
Walking into Don't Tell Mama on any given night, you would find the late great Dick Gallagher at the piano. There was NEVER a time that I walked in that I was not asked to sing. I felt safe and comfortable being me. I felt like  was going to see family members when I walked in.
At that time, there was ONE cabaret room. I remember LATE shows on Friday and Saturday nights.
About half an hour before the show, an announcement was made that the cabaret room was now open and that if we wanted to see the show, to let our wait person know so that whatever we were drinking could go towards our two drink minimum! When was the last time an announcement was made about a show going on in the cabaret rooms? Now there are two cabaret rooms at Don't Tell Mama. For a short period, there were three! But now, there is a disconnect between the bar and the cabaret rooms and that is a huge shame. In those days, I saw for the first time Karen Mason, Nancy Lamott, Jenifer Lewis, Lina Koutrakos(who would eventually become my first director in cabaret), and Julie Sheppard as Judy Garland (which I saw five times!).
Karen Mason

That was the world that I desperately wanted to be a part of. It would be ten years before I would put my toes in those waters.

The former Grove Street Playhouse 39 Grove Street
In the 1980s, I had an acting career that included stock, tours, and showcases in New York. I went from show to show.
 One of the theatres I appeared in was the Grove Street Playhouse at 39 Grove Street (now a laundry).
I was cast as "Broomhandle", Cinderella's stepfather, who dies at the top of the play!, in their Children's Theatre production of Cinderella. Our first rehearsal was on April 1st, 1980...the day that the New York Transit system went on STRIKE! AND, I was living  on the last stop on the D train in the Bronx!
I was living on the corner of Hull Avenue. It was a trek but I made it into town for rehearsals. This strike went on till April 14th. I actually remember it like it was yesterday. I had a nice long run performing every Saturday and Sunday in that play for five months.With  volunteer actors prancing before flimsy sets of utopian forests and kingdoms, the Grove Street Playhouse kept children laughing for years.
Offstage for the last 15 years of its existence, the nonprofit Greenwich Village theater waged a battle with the
TL Reiley and Stephen Liebhouser, Men of Manhattan
city just to stay open.
 Marilyn Majeskiwas the artistic director of the Grove Street Playhouse.
In the spring of 1990, I was cast in a show called Men of Manhattan by John Glines.We opened at the Grove Street Playhouse at 39 Grove Street in Manhattan.Directed by Charlie Cantanese, this play is made up of eleven scenes of New York City gay life.

I still remember the night that John Glines came into Marie's Crisis to tell me that he wanted me for a reading of a new play that he had just written.

He said he had written a part for me but that he didn't want me to have a script prior to the reading. He didn't want me to prepare for the character at all. He wanted my reaction to be as fresh as the audiences. The night of the reading in a packed theatre (also at the Grove Street Playhouse), we were doing the last scene of Act One, my scene.
In the scene, the lights come up to reveal a couple,  played by Cy Orfield and Steve Liebhouser,  who are having marital issues. Also lying behind the sofa, you see two feet almost like the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.

As the scene progresses and Cy's character leaves the room, the character (played by ME) jumps up from behind the sofa. There is definitely something "off" about him. He immediately begins to seduce Steve's character. When Steve's character asks who "I" am, I announce that I'm Carl Channing! When I uttered that line, the entire audience fell apart. I now knew why John did not want me to prepare anything for this
Steven Liebhauser (left), me as Ian (center) and T. L. Reilly in Scene 8: At Sardi's-II
character. John wrote it for me.
At this point, the extent of my appearing as Carol Channing was relegated to Halloween and doing her voice at piano bars and open mics which were a major part of my life at that time.
As stated before, this show consisted of eleven vignettes. The cast would be comprised of seven actors who would double and sometimes triple on various roles.
T. L. Reilly talking to Steven Liebhauser as the bartender
Because of the impact of my portrayal as Carl, John and Charlie were concerned as to whether or not the audience would be able to accept me as another character. I had to audition several times and opposite a lot of actors before I could convince them that I could make this happen. This is a series of 11 vignettes in which 6 or more actors play 25 various characters, including yuppy lawyers, bodybuilders, a fragrance model, a stripper, and a political activist in drag. The other role that I would be playing would be this hyperactive blind date of Terence's (T.L.) character.
It was a running gag in which Terence's character always ends up with the "fuzzy end of the lollipop" in the love department. I did convince John Glines and Charlie Catanese to cast me and that led me on to the path for all that followed and I will be eternally grateful.    

Let's start celebrating artists again rather than tearing them down.

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

 With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the FIRST Fifty years of  Hello, Dolly!

Me as Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! Revision Theatre, Asbury Park (director: Thomas Morrisey)

I desire this to be a definitive account of 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


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
               Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

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

                                                                  Keeping Entertainment ALIVE!
                                                                   Richard Skipper Celebrates


1 comment: