Tommy Tune: Taps, Tune and Tall Tales at The Carlyle April 22-May 03, 2014

Every memory is self-serving, and the occasional admission of error offers the author an opportunity to congratulate himself for his honesty and courage in mentioning it.
-John Gregory Dunne

 April 22-May 03, 2014
Taps Tune and Tall Tales
Café Carlyle
Tickets (212) 744-1600

Happy Monday! I hope you had a great Easter weekend. 

Today in 1974, Tommy Tune wins his first Tony Award for Seesaw. It's not where you start...

Last Tuesday night, on a snowy Spring night I was among the fortunate few (but sold out!) who were able to worship at the feet of a true entertainer, Lucie Arnaz.
She had a highly successful week with rave reviews, making her Carlyle debut.
Lucie was born to be an entertainer.
Like Liza, she was born into show business royalty. Also like Liza, she has done it her own way and we are all the better for it. Both Lucie and Liza  have carved out amazing careers for themselves. So has Tommy Tune!
In the mid eighties, Lucie joined Tommy Tune in My One and Only creating yet another legendary theatre pairing.
Tommy Tune with Lucie Arnaz
How appropriate that she is passing the baton to Tommy Tune, who will be making HIS cabaret debut tomorrow night (April 22nd, 2014) where he will share Tap, Tune, and Tall Tales for one week. I can't wait. I have been following the evolution of this show from the beginning. I was lucky enough to be invited to Tommy's first dress rehearsal of this show, prior to playing  the former Feinstein's in 2012. Look for a newer more improved Feinstein's in the future! When I first saw Tommy's show, in a polished dress rehearsal, I thought it was perfect then.
 He made a few tweaks and opened at Feinstein's.
I was also lucky enough to be at the star studded opening night!

Come to think of it, Lucie was there as well!
At that time, Stephen Holden in The New York Times wrote, "“Honored and ancient.” That is how Tommy Tune — on Sunday evening at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency — described his feelings about having been designated a living landmark three years ago by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. If physical monumentality is a prerequisite for landmark status, no entertainer is more qualified. Mr. Tune, who stands 6-foot-6 and wore a scarlet vested suit for his show, “Taps, Tunes and Tall Tales,” is larger than life. And his handsomely styled silver mane contributed to the statuesque image."  

Tommy tells me that it is an ever evolving show. For his upcoming run at The Carlyle, there are some changes AND an additional twenty minutes!
Tommy and I sat down to talk yesterday morning about the events leading up to this engagement! Boy, has he been busy.
Hand painted envelope by Stephan as a gift for Tommy Tune.
This is not the first time that Tommy and I have sat down to talk about his career. I first interviewed Tommy two years ago for my Hello, Dolly! project.

Then, thanks to Susan Agin, Tommy and I sat down to discuss his career in front of an audience at Queensboro Community College last May.
It is hard to believe it has been almost a year!
It is almost as if it's once a year when we sit down to discuss his career.
Today, enjoy the latest chapter in Tommy's life as we celebrate his upcoming run at The Carlyle!
When Tommy and I sat down yesterday to talk, he had just come in the day before from Texas for the Tommy Tune Awards in Houston, Texas and had attended Lucie's Friday night appearance at The Carlyle. He tells me that this year's ceremony just went through the roof! For the past 12 years, Theatre Under the Stars has held its Tommy Tune Awards, an award ceremony that recognizes the top musical performances of Houston-area high schools.
Hello, Dolly!
 It began with eighteen high schools competing with their high school productions of musicals. It is now up to forty-seven schools! They have had to close the competition. More schools desire in but there just isn't space.
Greater Houston is huge, as all things are in Texas.
It is all boiled down to eight finalists. It is run exactly like the Tonys.
The foot print is exactly the same, but it is The Tommys.The winner of Best Actor and Best Actress come to New York in June and compete nationally for The Jimmy Awards, which are part of The Nederlander Endowment and the winners of The Jimmy Awards win their ENTIRE college tuition, four years.
It all started at TUTS, Theatre Under the Stars, a well known amphitheater in Texas.Eventually TUTS built their own theatre.

They desired to do something to perpetuate and create new audiences. When Tommy was going to high school in Texas, his high school was the very first one to do a Broadway musical as a spring show. They did The Pajama Game.

It was under the direction of Ruth Denny.
She changed Tommy's entire life, teacher, mentor, and inspiration for who knows how many theatre artists over the past half-century. Ruth Denney was one of the most influential arts educators that Texas ever knew. She passed away a little more than a week before her 93rd birthday in 2007. 
She introduced Tommy to theatre, period.

Show Dates
Up to that point, he had just been dancing. Tommy now presents an endowment in her name given each year at The Tommy Tune Awards to outstanding students. Last year, the show opened with Applause! This year, they opened with We'll Take a Glass from Grand Hotel. Tommy performed the number with the kids, 100 of them doing that number!
Tommy is still on a buzz from that.

I received this note today:

The Tommys was the greatest experience of my life. It really gave me a
glimpse into the professional world. I got to work with Mr. Tune himself!

When he gave me notes on my flying Charleston I just about died! I got a
note from a 9 time Tony award winner!! I couldn't contain my excitement! I mean this guy has fulfilled my dream 9 times!! 

But that night was more than just being onstage with Tommy. It was about the buzz. 
All theatre kids know it. It's that moment when all of your nervous energy goes away and you step into those stage lights and see a full house in front of you and you can hear them cheering and it seems like all of the problems in the world are just gone. Vanished.
Photo credit: Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Going into the Tommys, I'll be honest, I really just wanted to win. 

But after those 5 days of rehearsals working with the best and most talented in the business I realized, that's what it was about. It was about meeting those amazingly talented people.
 It was about getting a note from Tommy on my flying Charleston.

It was about the final note in the leading actress medley and getting a standing ovation and crying my eyes out looking into that full hobby center house realizing that I had just had a perfect
Best Featured Performer winners from HSPVA’s Avenue Q, Kyle Legacion and Emily Scott.
performance to over 3,000 people and I had the 7 most talented girls in Texas right there beside me who helped me along the way.

I'm so so so honored and thankful that I got chosen to participate in this amazing event. 

I'm even getting chills right now just thinking of it. 
It was a dream come true and I really hope I get the chance to be nominated again next year just so I can work with those amazing people again! Rebekah Stanley (Leading Actress nominee - Fiona, Shrek: The Musical)

Before The Tommy Tune Awards, Tommy was part of the Playbill Cruise March 19-28.Read more about that cruise from Seth Rudetsky's column on,  ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Spring Breakdown and Tales from Tahiti.   
All of this has been leading up to The Carlyle.
He is so thrilled to be making his Carlyle debut Tuesday night.

It is such a hallowed space. This is the room that Bobby Short and Elaine Stritch and Eartha Kitt made their homes.

Today's crop includes Steve Tyrell, the Pizzarellis (whom Tommy adores), Judy Collins.
Tommy has been blessed to see great and legendary entertainers play there.
He is still figuring out the logistics for his show. He only gets into the space on Tuesday morning.
This show is about twenty five percent more new than when I last saw it at Feinstein's.

Tommy keeps working on it.
It's a living breathing thing.
 Tommy says it is not a new show, because it is his life. He can't make up a new life, BUT it can be expressed in different ways.

When Tommy played Feinstein's, it is hard to believe that was his first time EVER in a cabaret situation.

Since then, he has played other clubs. He had a wonderful success at The Colony in Palm Beach. It was very encouraging with over flowing crowds.
Closing night, there was a waiting list of 200 for a room that seats 90.
Me thinks he will be back! He doesn't know when.
It's important to Tommy that he keeps doing new things. As the years pass, it becomes more and more important.
Cary Grant told him years ago, when Tommy was turning 45, "After 40, a gentleman must never show his elbows in public AND he must take up a new activity every year."

Right now, Tommy's favorite part of his upcoming show is the new aspects he is adding.
Backstage at HIGH BUTTON SHOES (1967) are, from left to right in the back row, Clyde Miller, James Bovaird, Donald Knight, Gerry Burkhardt, Tommy Tune and Kurt Peterson. The little boy on the left is David Spector, and next to him is Joseph Makovec. Photo courtesy of Sally Marks. Melody Top
He has put a Bossa Nova tap number into the show. He loves Brazilian music. He has found a way to put that into the show.
He is working on a new encore "should I get one". 

He has a few new tales to tell, thus the title.
Tommy has also added a song called It Could Happen To You. He finds he is living his life with that song. He wakes up in the morning singing that song. It has been in the show a couple of months as he has

performed around the country. He has a Gershwin medley which has been extended.
He tells more stories about the making of My One and Only, which is always a crowd pleaser, especially the New York crowd.
One of Tommy's fondest memories came when he was on the road with Ann Reinking in Bye, Bye, Birdie. He was up for yet another Tony Award, this time for Will Rogers Follies. Unfortunately, and fortunately, scheduling precluded him from being at the New York Tony ceremony.
This tour ran from mid-1990 through June 1991 starred Tommy Tune as Albert, Ann Reinking as Rosie, Marc Kudisch as Conrad, Marcia Lewis as Mrs. Peterson, and Susan Egan as Kim.

They did a live hook-up, which they had never done before that time. Two things were happening at once. They were doing their live performance of Bye, Bye Birdie. The show was stopped twice...once when Tommy won for Best Choreography and once again when he won for Direction. It truly was LIVE television.
Tommy says it is not difficult to let go of a role, for him, when it is said and done. He is not that kind of performer.
He invests everything that he is in a role. He just changes costumes and moves on.
In 1997, Tommy wrote his memoirs, Footnotes. Two weeks before the previews were to begin for Busker Alley at the St. James Theatre, tragedy struck.
He was in Tampa, Florida. On the Saturday matinee, in the last 45 seconds of the show, Tommy slipped and broke his foot.
It was a really nasty break. He had broken his foot before, but that healed and he was lucky. This time it was not good. He didn't know if he would ever dance again, walk again, walk without a cane, or walk without a limp. He was sent home. He was essentially bed ridden. He was in his bed and couldn't even get up to go into the kitchen to get a beer. Everybody had to do everything for him; he had to stay off of that foot and keep it elevated. He was also feeling guilty about all of the people who were now out of work as a result of this. It was a huge production! Producers had lost money. It had been a bumpy road getting to the point they desire with the book, but it was finally very good. It always takes Tommy a while to make a show really good. He loves these people who can just do it out of thin air.
He is not that kind of director. He has to find his way with it and the work REALLY begins for him when they do their first preview. It is such a scary thing to realize that there is so much more work ahead to do.
THAT is really when you make it a hit. Up to then, the work has been done, maybe two or three years to write the book, then raising the money, then the auditions, then getting into rehearsal, and then getting into tech, and then, finally getting into that first performance on the boards. You can't take a breath then.
That's when the entire team starts to work, to refine everything and to decide what's not working and what has to go.
All of that had passed and they had a good show. THEN, THIS HAPPENED!
Tommy was depressed. He was feeling very guilty about all the money that had been spent on this million dollar show. Everybody was now out of work, every stage hand, every musician, all the actors, the book writer, the composers (Richard and Robert Sherman), dancers, Willa Kim (costume designer), singers, Tony Walton (scenic designer). The St. James theatre had been painted on the outside with this huge beautiful Leroy Nieman image of Tommy Tune (see poster above). It was like Ready, Set, Stop. He doesn't blame himself. Normally, Tommy has a sunflower growing inside of him. It was now a dried withered sunflower.  The sunflower had shriveled spiritually.
Tommy didn't know what to do with his energy. He was still compos mentis except for his foot. He keeps a writing pad beside his bed, and in the middle of the night, and wrote something down. The next morning he wrote something else down. He simply wrote, "I never had a grandfather." He thought, "Well, that's very true, Tommy, but why are you thinking about that now?" He did have two grandmothers. "One was a bitch and the other was a witch." He was not writing a book, he was writing to find out who, in his "broken life", he would be if he couldn't dance
What could possibly happen next? Where does he go from here? This was a huge bad thing to happen to his career. Everything was cancelled because Tommy was unable to go. He is like Carol Channing, he does not miss performances.
Suddenly, there it was. He was not going to be doing this least for quite a while. Each day, he would write a few sentences before going to sleep. Tommy says his subconscious wrote that book. He didn't set out to write a book. He was just taking stock. It grew very quickly. By the time his foot healed, he had written a volume of memories.
It was his memoir. He had sent it to Sam Cohn, who was Tommy's agent at the time at International Creative Management. 
Tommy just told him to read it over the weekend and tell him if he thought Tommy had something here. He told Sam that he didn't set out to write a book, but maybe this was one. Not only did Sam read it in one seating, he called Tommy on Sunday morning and told him that he wanted to take it to their literary department. On Monday, he did so. Tommy had never been in the literary department at this point. On Tuesday, Tommy got a
call that the book had been sold to Simon and Schuster!
It happened in one day. There are great writers that pedal their books for years to get a publisher and his book sold in one day. That was a very exciting moment for Tommy. 
This next question comes from Sarah Dashew.
What is Tommy's favorite season and how does that affect him? 
Spring! It is a new beginning. We all get another chance. THIS Spring, Tommy can't wait for. While he was in Houston last week, it snowed here.
Lucie's show was called Spring is Here and as stated before, it snowed on her opening night.The cleaning lady in Lucie's apartment told her she should call the show "Winter is Back!" 

When I asked Tommy his thoughts on the theatre today, he laughed and said, "You can't ask me that. It's too big a question."
 He just read a recent article in the New York Times which was referring to the plethora of musicals. There is now a confusion as to which ones can be nominated. There are so many choices. There really isn't a real front runner. Tommy believes that is a real healthy place to be. There are a lot of choices with different types of musicals for the public's consumption. 
I asked Tommy about the possibility of another book. 
with Dr. Ruth
He says there is an absolute possibility. Footnotes came out in 1997. Since then, he has changed his mind on so many things. He recently opened up his book, read a passage, and thought, "That's so wrong. You don't even think that anymore!" Emerson said, "To be a man is to change your mind." Tommy is definitely a man. 
Footnotes was written when he was confined to his bed due to a broken foot, hence the title. Tommy tells me his best creative thinking comes in the bath or the shower.

If he is stuck on a project, he just lets go and takes a big bath or a long shower. He's a water sign being a Pisces, a true water sign. Water is very important thing to him. Long showers is Tommy's biggest vice. He worries about conserving water. He tries to limit those sessions! His other big vice is champagne and potato chips! That, of course, is just for special occasions. 
As far as Tommy's greatest virtue, he believes virtues are highly over rated.

The biggest lesson Tommy has learned in his career AND in his life is to approach everything with "baby eyes." That is how he approaches every rehearsal. "Who are we and what are we telling the audience?"  
To a cast, the question becomes, "Who are we and why do we desire to tell this story?"

There has to be a bigger reason behind everything that we do. The performance is just the tip of the iceberg.
There is a huge under water part of it that feeds it and makes it more than a song or dance or story that the audience is experiencing.
Just before Tommy walks out on stage, he prays. He asks all the forces available for him to help him bring it off and be the best that he can be and give the purest entertainment he can.
He calls upon all the people who are no longer here to help him prepare to step out on that stage and, of course, God. He attaches himself to the greater universe in the best way that he can. The forces of nature and the beauty of the world is what Tommy desires to reflect.
On Sunday, April 27th, Tommy will be bringing this show to Kean University/Enlow Hall in Union, NJ for a Sunday matinee. Then, he begins the next week at The Carlyle.

It reminds him of our forefathers in Vaudeville who would do three to five shows a day. They spent their off time in train stations going from gig to gig. 
They would travel to the next city, go to their hotel, check in, go to the theatre for orchestra rehearsals, then go back to their hotel, get themselves cleaned up, come back to the theatre, move into their dressing room, do three shows there, get on the train and go to the next place.
We have it so easy now. 
There is an old Japanese expression which, when translated, says, "Each day is the student of yesterday."
Everything that happens today becomes the teacher of tomorrow. 
Tommy's passport lists his age as 35! Deny! Deny!! Deny!!! Tommy thinks the aging process is an amazing thing. He just turned 75. While in Houston, in front of an audience of 6,000 at TUTS for The Tommy Tune Awards, the audience sang Happy Birthday to him with an orchestra!

My One and Only Reunion – Twiggy – Mike Nichols – Tommy Tune (Source
That gave him a kick. He doesn't believe that would have happened if he was turning twenty. He's alive and it's a good thing! 
As Carol Channing says, "It just happens". Tommy's advice is to embrace Mother Nature and Father Time and get on with it. 
Tommy calls himself a Gershwin Tune. 
Carol Channing and Mike Nichols are his role models.
Thinking back to where it all began and the house that Tommy grew up in, his most vivid memories revolve around the kitchen. 
on Arrested Development
They ate together as a family EVERY NIGHT! That almost doesn't exist with some families today and the way the world is moving today.  
Dinner was IT. Not only did they have dinner together, they all got in the kitchen together and cooked together. His father was a great cook. His mother was the baker. His sister, Gracie, and Tommy, would be the sous chefs Tommy would assist his mom with the baking. They made their food, brought it into the dining room, closed the kitchen doors, said their blessings, and they discussed their day and current events. This was before television had taken hold. There was none of that. Tommy values that. He believes it is the basis for his entire personality. When he is casting, he looks at person auditioning for him as he is assessing their talent, of course, and if they can hit the notes and do the steps, the big question, however, is, "Would I like to dine with that person?"
He thinks if he can cast a show as he would invite people to his dinner table, then this will be right for the audience. 
When Judy Knaiz heard I was interviewing Tommy for this blog, she had a question for him. Judy played Gussie Grainger in Hello, Dolly with Tommy. She desires to know what Gracie, Tommy's sister, is up to these days.Judy recalls fondly watching The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with Gracie the year Tommy
Tommy Tune at the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. New York City, NY.
appeared in it.

Gracie runs an art center in Fort Worth called Arts Fifth Avenue. On May 25th, it is25th annual National Tap Dance Day, Gracie is doing a big celebration. The night before, Tommy will be doing, Taps, Tune,  and Tall Tales as a benefit for her arts center. On Tap Day, Gracie and Tommy are going to dance together.
How does Tommy begin his day? He opens his eyes and he applauds the day. He applauds the fact that it worked again. The sun appeared. We made the revolution and it's a new day. His little doggie, Shubert, jumps in to celebrate!

Tomorrow night, I'll be celebrating Tommy Tune at The Carlyle! How lucky for all who will be able to do the same for the next two weeks! 
 April 22-May 03, 2014
Taps Tune and Tall Tales
Café Carlyle
Tickets (212) 744-1600

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

Thank you ALL I have met on my journey to this point for the gifts you have given to me and continue to give!

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!  IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share  on Twitter and Facebook for a chance to win fabulous prizes!

A Testimonial from Richard Skipper's most recent event
 Richard - What a wonderful experience it was working with you at Pier 701 Saturday night (4/5/14)!
It was a remarkable, successful evening!  I thought the show was terrific, the cast was amazing and the flow was perfect!  Not to mention your natural talent to keep the audience completely captivated for the entire show from start to finish!
Bravo, I look forward to working with you again soon!
Tim McGrath, (Richard Guestbook)

Richard Skipper,Wayne Gmitter, Peggy Herman, Tommy Tune, Franco LaCosta,Alex Reybeck at Peggy Herman's CD Release Party at Feinstein's in May 2012

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

I desire this to be the definitive site for all things Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!
Walther Matthau and Tommy Tune in Hello, Dolly!

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!                 


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

                                                              Keeping LIVE entertainment LIVE!



  1. A wonderful story. Tommy Tune is one of my favorite performers of all time. When I was designing sets for a high school production of "The Boy Friend", he was kind enough to send a congratulatory letter to the students. And I even did a painting for him that was featured in a magazine that did a story on me. Tommy Tune, you are the best!!!

  2. Wonderful blog, Richard, about a charismatic, multi-blessed, bliss-inducing artist and cloud-scraping tower of talent. --Alan K. Choy

  3. L'espoir d'entendre la suggestion de quelqu'un. Que diriez-vous des robinets d'achats en ligne. Comme nous le savons tous, la Robinet LED maintenant devenir de plus en plus populaire. LED robinets de cuisine et salle de bains robinets encore plus de Mitigeur douche. Mais il est aussi très important pour les gens de choisir un grand robinets de qualité LED. Si vous voulez en savoir plus d'informations de la maison et du design. Vous pouvez me contacter.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts