Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Karen Wyman: Coming Into Her Own

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

The above quote sounds as if it could have come from Karen Wyman.
Tonight, she is receiving a Bistro Award at the 29th annual Bistro Awards. 
She is a woman who is grateful for her past, but more importantly for her present. She truly lives in the moment. When she hits the stage tomorrow night (March 5th, 2014) at The Metropolitan Room, she will be bringing a show that celebrates where she has been, but also NOW. Get thee to the Metropolitan Room tomorrow night!
Some things bear repeating. Karen Wyman is NOT to be missed.  Now in the early stages of an exciting and decisive comeback, this one-time national sensation returns to performing at the top of her
game.  Still possessed of a rocket-fueled voice, and, now with the life-wisdom she admits she lacked as a teenager, Wyman couldn’t be more ready and willing.Her top-notch trio consists of music director John Oddo on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, and Eddie Caccavale on drums.
Dennis Deal is her stage director.
 In her first major engagement in 25 years Karen Wyman continues her exciting and decisive return at the Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd Street, Wednesdays March 5, 12, 19 and 26, all at 7pm.
 Karen and I sat down to reflect on the events leading to this moment yesterday afternoon.Karen's opening at The Met Room tomorrow night is the perfect time to reflect on the journey that has brought her to this point.
 When I asked Karen if she had a personal motto by which she lives by, she said she never thought about it, but she lives in gratitude.
  She is grateful for all that she has and for all that is coming her way. She thought back to watching Matthew McConaughey on the Oscars Sunday night.
His acceptance speech made Karen sit up and think that she is not the only person who thinks the way she does.
If one lives in gratitude, it comes back. The mind, body, and spirit are all connected.
We should ALL be grateful for all we have.
Karen admits that she has always been a person who does not take herself too seriously. She doesn't take things for granted. She always has and continues to go with the flow. When things are handed to her, she accepts it. It is said that your (outside) body is a reflection of your (inside) mind.
 Karen doesn't dwell on the past. If it didn't work out, well, she doesn't blame someone else for it. She takes full responsibility for everything that happens in her life.

She took responsibility when a recording and singing career came her way.
It was fated and meant to be.
The Bronx-born Wyman was just 16 (now those two numbers are reversed) when she astonished Dean Martin and his national television audience in 1969. That appearance was only the beginning.
She performed in nightclubs and recorded two albums and several singles for Decca Records, and had another on the way.
  Then circumstances changed.  A different kind of non-belty female singer was coming up, and Wyman also opted to start a family. “It feels different than when I broke in,” Wyman observes.  “I was a kid, I was
intuitive, but now I know what the songs are really about.
  I’ve lived.  I’m not a kid, I’m a woman!”  And luckily she can still sing.
 Her last full show was a one-off in Atlantic City in 1989.
Now it is time to take a nostalgic look back and see from whence Karen has so quickly come.
She lived a very normal childhood. Her father was a TV repairman. Her mother worked in accounts payable at Bronx Hospital.
 Her brother, who is seven years older than Karen, studied visual arts and became an art director.
Karen started taking voice lessons when she was fourteen.
Her family gave her love and support from the beginning which kept her going. She also took piano lessons...but she doesn't remember ever playing the piano.
Her entire family was very "family oriented", so she grew up surrounded by cousins and close to her grandparents.
Karen is sephardic. With that goes family, lots of people in the house, very warm, with lots of family and friends always around.

Karen was told that her great grandmother had a great singing voice. Karen's uncle (mother's brother) and aunt were really great dancers.In the thirties and forties, they were in all kinds of contests. Karen believes that when one is born with a talent, it shouldn't be ignored.
It is part of your being. You have to live it.

Like most people, Karen had her favorite singers growing up.
Her all time favorite was Judy Garland.

She also loved Eydie Gorme.
When Streisand came along, she became a favorite.
Karen used to listen to Ethel Merman's original cast recordings.

She admits to be influenced by these singers. She says, unintentionally, people may hear a sound evoked by Garland and Gorme. Karen says she even thinks she hears a bit of Lena Horne in some of Streisand's earlier recordings.
Karen's mother told her she was singing since she was two. Karen has no recollection of where it began. Her mother told her she was singing on key and her mother taught her to sing Three Coins in the Fountain.
Karen was not a shy kid. She would just get up and sing. She was getting a positive reaction so she continued.
Her parents were NOT "stage parents" but they encouraged her to pursue it. They knew that she had something special but they wanted it to be her pursuit, not theirs.
Being who she desired to be gave her confidence.

As stated earlier, Karen was 16 when she made her national debut on the Dean Martin Show. She had a great vocal coach in Marty Lawrence. 
He had also worked with Vicki Carr. He suggested that she should make a demo. That would be a useful tool to get other people to hear her.
There was a "big shot" at NBC in LA that Marty happened to know. Somehow this demo got to NBC in LA and they got in touch with Karen. 
They told her that if she could sing as great as she did on the demo, they wanted her on the show.
She flew out to LA with her dad and she sang for them in a room full of, what she knew, were important people.  She had no music. She just sang. That was it!She passed the audition and made her debut singing, Hurry! It's Lovely Up Here from On a Clear Day...
That was her first professional appearance! She realizes it seems so crazy when she thinks about it.
The response to her appearance was immediate. Marty told everyone she knew to watch the show. He contacted managers he didn't even know. He contacted managers that were handling big stars. After that one appearance, pandemonium hit. Her parents were inundated with phone calls.
The phone would not stop ringing. Articles were being written on her. It was unbelievable. It was as if the red sea was parting for her.
 In short order she made appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and on shows hosted by Carol Burnett, Tom Jones, Jim Nabors, Glen Campbell, Dick Cavett, David Frost, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas.
The beginning of a career was shaping up in a positive manner.
This was the earlier seventies when variety shows ruled the air waves. She did the Sullivan show quite a few times. She also did the Carson show a few times. She was "knighted" when Carson invited her to "sit on the couch." That was a very big deal for comics and singers who appeared on HIS Tonight Show. She was all of seventeen! She had no idea what she was going to talk about. He was very nice to her.
She did repeat appearances on most of these shows. She even did skits on the Carol Burnett Show! She wishes she had access to all of these shows, but she doesn't. She even did a show on PBS with Dick Cavett on VD which was a very big deal at the time. She sang a song about a girl getting VD. It is part of PBS' archives.
I asked Karen what she thought of today's variety shows, which, of course, are shows like American Idol and America's Got Talent. She thinks they're great. It is a great way for these kids to be discovered and seen.  
There is a lot of great talent out there. Look at all the great stars that have come out of American Idol alone. She loves it. Karen has a 21 year old daughter and they watch it together. A lot of people of Karen's age group who are not in the business are always telling her they just don't get it, including the Grammys. Karen says she does get it all. Having a young daughter helps. She is not part of that group that are appalled by the changes.
She likes the beat of a lot of today's music.
She loves Justin Timberlake, feeling that he is extremely talented and an unusual talent. He is a combination of the seventies and now. He reminds her a lot of Al Green. She loves the production values he brings to his work as well as soul. She does admit that there are some singers that she cannot tell apart. They all sound the same. She does get that that is the style of today.
One thing she would like to see change in today's music is a return to melody. When you hear the words to most songs today without the driving beat behind it, there is nothing there.
We are hearing repetition. When we think of the American Songbook and the Beatles, the words, for the most part, is what drives the songs.
Karen gets what singers are singing about these days but she doesn't know how deep they are! It's a different generation and there is a different way of thinking. She is not so sure that we can change that. The music that was written at an earlier time reflects that the songwriters seemed to be a little more sensitive.
Karen was no stranger to the New York Nightclub scene either. She played The Persian Room. She appeared there with Don Rickles.
She doesn't see any difference in "cabaret" and nightclubs. She wishes there were more clubs and performing venues. She wishes the glamor aspect would return. She believes that baby boomers desire more of that. It should be a more affordable area of entertainment. Everything has gotten so expensive that the average "Joe Schmoe" cannot afford to go out. It's almost a hundred dollars to go to a movie! Can you imagine if it was more affordable to go see a live show? There is so much incredible talent in today's cabaret scene. Can you imagine if there were more venues to accommodate more? People desire to go out and be "moved". Music is great for the soul. When you can go out and see a great comic and/or singer and be entertained, it is a great elixir. 
Her career exploding at such an early time in her life is something that will always stick out. Looking back, she believes she was very insecure at the time in her head. It wasn't that she felt that she wasn't good enough. She never thought of herself as a star at the time. She left the business on her own terms. It was bitter sweet at the time.
with KT Sullivan
She's glad that she did. She was married three times. The first marriage ended very early on in the marriage and she became a single parent right away. She knows,  first hand,  what it is to be a single mother. 
A few years ago, she did appear in Atlantic City. It wasn't a career move. It was just a job. It was good money. She cashed her paycheck and went home. She was co-starring as a headliner, but she doesn't call that a "career". She made her own schedule. Then, she met her second husband. They didn't have any children together. Then, she met her third husband and had her daughter. She was still very young. In addition to her previously mentioned daughter, she has a 37 year old son. She also has a grand son. She went through a lot of life experiences. For her, that has all worked to her advantage. Like when Sinatra went away a "crooner" and returned a seasoned man who knew how to sell a lyric, she feels the same about her own experience.She has come back with a confidence and a real assurance of who she is. She feels that she has a greater ability to share with an audience. Most of the people in her audiences have gone through what she is singing about. That is why that songwriter wrote those words.
That is Karen's job to convey those words in a way that will touch the audience. She tells the audience, "This is how you feel, only I'm singing it for you.I've been through it. I know you've been through it. I want you to relate to that." When she was younger, she sang those lyrics intuitively. They expected some older blonde woman to walk in and sing these songs. Now, she IS that older soul.
Growing up, most of us are never satisfied with "where we are". We are mostly critical of ourselves. She doesn't mean this in an egotistical way but she LOVES who she is today. It took her all these years to say, "I'm a good person." She doesn't need anyone else to love her to validate herself. That can't be taught...as much as she has tried to instill that in her children. She would like to convey to a younger generation that if they love themselves, it will be a lot easier to go through life.She has arrived at saying, "I'm OK!" It took time going through "mistakes" and trying to turn herself into what she thought others desired.
What does she like LEAST about herself? NOTHING! There is nothing she would change about her current life. If I had asked her this a few years ago, she would have given me a list! When she decided that she would sing again, that was the healthiest thing she had done in years. She is now on this journey, not knowing where it is going to take her, but it's healthy. She says that at this age, if one doesn't know who they are, they have major challenges ahead.
For her show at The Metropolitan Room for this run, Karen has specifically chosen songs that will tell about her life without getting too deep.
These are her experiences. That is why she has called the show For the Second Time Around. Every song means something to her and what she desires people to walk away with is a better sense of who she is and she wants them to feel great and that she touched them. Every song, she hopes, will evoke thoughts and memories in the audience. Everybody HAS gone through what she has gone through, especially love and heartache. She's not afraid of feeling vulnerable to the audience. She intends to let it all hang out. What we see on stage is what we get off stage. This is the real her.
She was born to be where she will be tomorrow night. She buried it. It is never too late. She is living that. Thank God she hasn't lost her voice.She has finally found Karen Wyman. Over the next few weeks, we can find her as well!
 The music charge for Karen Wyman's second coming in The Second Time Around is $25 with a two-drink minimum. For reservations call 212/206-0440. For more information or to order online visit www.metropolitanroom.com.

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!

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 Richard@RichardSkipper.com.


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!

                                                                  Keeping Entertainment ALIVE!
                                                                   Richard Skipper Celebrates

My second chance, my second take, my second life.” - See more at: http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/playing-around/the-second-time-around-karen-wyman#sthash.NwlKBeeC.dpuf
“My second chance, my second take, my second life.” - See more at: http://www.womanaroundtown.com/sections/playing-around/the-second-time-around-karen-wyman#sthash.NwlKBeeC.dpuf


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