Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Holly Daze: Go See a LIVE SHOW!

The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.
-Zig Ziglar

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends with no indigestion...of any kind! I truly get into the excitement of this time of year. It has gotten less about presents and more about presence. That is to be truly present at all times, not only within myself, but as far as family, friends, and fellow entertainers are concerned!

Being in this business is both a blessing and a curse. It is a curse mostly because of the daily "demands" and requests that are put upon us.
I say this with deep affection for all of my entertainer friends.
How lucky we are in New York that we have so many shows available to us each and every day. If I were to see three shows a night every night for the next 365 days, I still wouldn't see everything.
My wish is that every town and city had the same options.
I saw an interview a few years ago with William Shatner in which he was asked about the secret of his success. He answered that he gets out of the house.
It is very easy, especially in this 'social' media age, to become very isolated. My advice is to get out and do socially. Take a friend or two to see a LIVE show as your holiday gift! Also, when you do go to these shows, strike up a conversation with someone you don't know.
I do it all the time and I have met some amazing people who have become friends. There are a few shows that I highly recommend to put you in a celebratory mood.
To find out more about what's going on, CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE for 25 years has been promoting the art and artists of cabaret.

TONIGHT and TOMORROW at Cafe Noctambulo at Pangea the brilliant Mark Nadler 8 and 10PM! TICKETS:  RESERVATIONS: 212 995 0900

I am very excited to end my holiday weekend with a show celebrating Judy Garland. What could be better on a Sunday afternoon. This will take place at The Metropolitan Room at 4PM.
From Somewhere Over The Rainbow To Purple People Eater, Judy Garland sang them all, and on November 30th, some of cabarets most talented performers will celebrate The Life and Music of Judy Garland. Produced by Award winning cabaret producer Joseph Macchia, An Evening Of
Garland will feature some of cabaret's best and brightest talents. The evening will feature some of her biggest hits as well as some obscure ones.

So join me as they take us over the Rainbow with the music of The World's Greatest Entertainer Judy Garland. Then join me afterwards at Almond also on 22nd Street. Bismarck is the perfect host and it is one of my favorite restaurants.
Performing at This Is Your Night, Bobbie Horowitz
These shows are a perfect opportunity to see several entertainers, many of which have shows or CDs (great stocking stuffers!) to promote. I was lucky enough earlier this week to be part of such a night when I was part of the cast honoring Bobbie Horowitz in This Is Your Night, also at The Metropolitan Room.
One such show that I am really excited about this week takes place uptown on Thursday night, December 4th at one of New York's longest running cabaret rooms, Don't Tell Mama. This show is called It Was A Very Good Year.
Don't Tell Mama, December 4th, 9:15PM

This is a showcase of all that have been directed by Lennie Watts.

Lennie is a 10 time MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets), 5 time Backstage Bistro, and 3 time Nightlife Award winner. Recognized as an outstanding vocalist, director, producer, and booking manager, he has been active in the New York cabaret scene for over 20 years. In addition to directing in small cabaret venues, he has directed events at Symphony Space, Town Hall, and BB Kings. 
This year, I had the pleasure of doing press for Peggy Eason, Jim Speake, and Kim Grogg. I am very excited to celebrate this evening. DVR Peter Pan and join us there. 
Speaking of Kim Grogg, you have two more chances to catch her audience pleasing and critically acclaimed Go Where The Love Is. You can read the blog I did on Kim HERE. I have seen the show twice and each time I leave on such a HIGH! We ALL need to go where the love is. There has been so much heartache in the world in recent weeks. I believe that if ALL of us began or ended each day with a song, there would be no violence in the world. Please join me Friday night. 
On the 8th, I am very excited to announce that I will be hosting Dancers Over 40 Legacy Awards
They are back at LIPS Restaurant, and this time there will be live entertainment by the staff! So, yes, you will see your waiters like you’ve never seen them before! Here are the honorees for this year – a great bunch dancers who have contributed decades of brilliant dancing to the American stage. 

Jerry Mitchell
Penny Worth
Dancers Over 40’s last event of 2014, the annual Legacy Awards presentation, is its most joyous. This holiday celebration and awards event honoring their very own members will be held on Monday, December 8th, 6 – 9pm at LIPS Restaurant, 227 East 56th Street.  
This year’s extravaganza is hosted by that Impresario of the Internet, the biggest of the bloggers and confidant of celebs and celebutants, ME – my third foray into their Awards dinner – they hope I will get it right this time!  Also on hand this year, special performances by the LIPS staff and special guests!

Each of the honorees hold a special place in the world of dance and all have contributed to promoting Dancers over 40 and the History, Legacy and Lives of the dance community. DO40 Advisory Board Member Jerry Mitchell will be honored this year along with DO40 founding member Eileen Casey and tried-and-true gypsies Carolyn Kirsch, Penny Worth and Paul Berne. These five individuals’ careers span over 50 years in show business, and have worked with all the greats – Robbins, Fosse, Bennett, Champion, de Mille, Gennaro, Layton and more. Please join us in celebrating their History, their Legacy and their Lives if you're in the NYC area on December 8th!

Tickets on sale NOW!! $50 for non-members $30 for members of Dancers Over 40 with discount code. Reservations: Telecharge, 212-239-6200 or; DO40 members call 212-947-8844 or with discount code. St. Luke’s Box Office open 2 – 6pm daily, at 308 West 46th Street. For more information on DO40 and this event, call our Hotline at 212-330-7016.

(MEMBERS NOTE:  Your discount code has been “shortened” for this event!  See your member eblast for more details!)

Jeffrey Solomon in The Santa Closet at Stage 72 at The Triad (Photo by Bree Michael Warner)
I was lucky enough to see The Santa Closet earlier this week at Stage 72 at The Triad starring Jeffrey Soloman. He will be doing one more show in NYC before taking in to Peekskill and then on to LA. 
Read the BLOG I did on Jeffrey HERE. It is a fun show that asks the question, What if Santa was gay? I highly recommend this show. Under the direction of Joe Brancato, not only does it make you think, it will give you a lot of laughs.  
 Also at Stage 72 at The Triad, Jerry Costanzo brings his new show celebrating the legacy of Frank Sinatra. The show is called Sinatra Inspired. Jerry Costanzo and his Orchestra: Sinatra Inspired

Friday, December 12th at 9:15 PM (On the occasion of what would have been Sinatra’s 99th Birthday!)

GENERAL ADMISSION         $20.00 ($21.69 W/SERVICE FEE)

At the top of this blog, I included the poster for The Many Sounds of Christmas. This is a TRADITIONAL holiday show that I am really looking forward to. You can join me either on December 21st at 4PM or December 22nd at 7PM. A NEW New York City holiday tradition, This year’s edition will feature The Salvatones (vocal ensemble), New York Virtuosi (String Ensemble), Stephen Fraser (Organist), all under the direction of Daniel Brondel, who is Associate Director of Music at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The program will include holiday gems, cherished Christmas carols for everyone to sing together (O Come, All Ye Faithful, and Joy to the World, among others), a brief excerpt from Handel's Messiah, Corelli's Christmas concerto, and some rarely-heard gems like Paul Halley's jazzy arrangement of Go, Tell It on the Mountain, French carol Noël nouvelet, the Nigerian carol Betelehemu, and of course a touching arrangement of Silent Night.

Salvatore Diana
New York-based professional vocal ensemble, The Salvatones consists of passionate, committed singers led by artistic director Daniel Brondel. Since 2010, their impressive vocal artistry has been dazzling and delighting audiences in concert as well as in private and public events. The Salvatones envisions a world where vocal music becomes vital and will work toward this vision with a mission to foster greater appreciation and widen accessibility by cultivating new audiences through high-quality vocal music performances, inventive educational programs, creative partnerships, and social and digital media engagement. Their debut album, Wonderful World, goes on sale this winter. Follow The Salvatones on Facebook and Twitter or visit for more information.

Stephen R. Fraser, a native of St. Catharine’s,
Stephen R. Fraser
Ontario, Canada, has completed degrees in music at the University of Toronto, the Eastman School of Music, and Yale University. In New York, Stephen has served as director of music at The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal), and assistant organist at St. Patrick's Cathedral. As a composer, he was winner of the 2008 American Guild of Organists/ECS Publishing Award in Choral Composition. This past April, he won the 2nd prize (ex-aequo) in the 2nd International Composition Competition for Sacred Music Pope Benedict XVI. Stephen is currently director of music and organist at Christ the King Parish in Yonkers, and coir director at the St. Margaret of Cortona School in Riverdale.

The New York Virtuosi is an international string orchestra comprised of The Julliard School of Music, The Manhattan School of Music and other prestigious musical university graduates.
The New York Virtuosi
The New York Virtuosi was created by violist, Peter Kiral.
Since its inception in 2012, The New York Virtuosi has performed throughout New York City as well as cities, festivals and venues along the east coast, such as The Stony Brook University Concert Series, The Rahway Musical Festival, The Planting Fields Foundation in Oyster Bay, NY, The Soofser Concert Series in NYC, The Embassy Concert Series in Washington, DC and The Monday Night Concert Series in Charleston, South Carolina to name a few.
The New York Virtuosi is currently scheduling an Easter tour in select cities across the country. Commencing with the arrival of Spring (late March/early April), the New York Virtuosi will celebrate this annual rejuvenation with the performance of Joseph Haydn's Seven Last Words.
Find them on Facebook and Twitter or visit to learn more and to view their video gallery.

Daniel Brondel is the Associate Director of Music at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, playing the pipe organ at Masses each week that are broadcast live on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and streamed online worldwide. 
He assists in the direction of the cathedral choir while also managing the organ recital and visiting choir concert series. Daniel performs solo organ recitals in the United States, Puerto Rico, France, Austria and Germany and his first solo-organ album, The Glory of the Organ, recorded at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, is one of the top-selling albums on the JAV label and is available in the Cathedral's Gift Shop, from JAV Recordings, and on iTunes. Daniel is a graduate of the
Daniel Brondel
Eastman School of Music, where he studied organ and improvisation and holds a Master of Music degree in Organ Performance.
At Eastman, he did doctoral work in organ and musicology, and studied voice. During his entire college career, he was a singer and French-diction coach for the Grammy-Award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus, directed by the late Robert Shaw. Shaw, considered unofficially the "Dean" of American choral conductors, was a mentor to Daniel and is a major influence in own direction of vocal ensembles. He is a member of the American Guild of Organists as well as a founder and the artistic director of The Salvatones. 
A native of southern France, Mr. Brondel has lived in the United States since 1988 and in New York City since 2004.

St. Peter's, the first Roman Catholic Parish in New York, was established in 1785 on the site it still occupies. Federal, state, and city agencies have declared the present church a landmark. Among its most important qualities, St. Peter's Church is an outstanding example of Greek revival architecture. Located just steps away from Ground Zero, St. Peter's played a central role in assisting with the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the rescuers and served as command station for government relief agencies. As a result of these activities, the chapel had to be completely restored. 
St. Peter's Catholic Church - New York City (photo: Steven E. Lawson)
Today, St. Peter's Church embraces its role as a center for the growing residential community in Lower Manhattan, Tribeca, and Battery Park City.
The Many Sounds of Christmas
Ticket Price: $25 ($35 if purchased at the door)
Please select your desired performance date:
$25 advance
$35 at door
Phone: 212-784-6176

I hope to see you there! 
If you're in the holiday giving mode, please help save a New York City landmark. Watch Liza Minnelli and
Larry King Plot to Save Café Edison (Video)

Thank to ALL 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!


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!

Be sure and Save The Date to see Kim Grogg on December 5th in Go Where The Love Is
IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook
Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,
Judy Knaiz: Gussie Grainger/Ernestina Simple in the film version of Hello, Dolly!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Holly Daze: Random thoughts on MY Holidays

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be
plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Happy Holly Daze!
 Tomorrow many of us will gather with family and friends to celebrate one of the oldest traditions in our country, Thanksgiving. PLEASE spend it with your family. Family is who YOU choose it to be. Today. I am GRATEFUL for my South Carolina birth family. I am grateful for the family that I acquired with my husband Daniel Sherman. I am grateful for my New York family of friends and I am grateful for my Social media family. My prayer for all that read this is that we physically reach out to each other, not only through the holiday season, but in the days, weeks, months, years ahead. Don't become so involved in your OWN little corner that you don't reach out to those you LOVE and those who LOVE YOU! Remember, you can be kind all year round.

Ready or not, here it comes! I love the holidays, but like the time calendar of Camelot, I would prefer Christmas not to start until AFTER Thanksgiving.

However, as I sit here writing these words, we are having our first snow storm of the season here in New York. 
Spoiler Alert! I'm going to sound like your parents and grandparents. YES! I've reached that point in my life. Actually, I have been here for some time. WHY are we rushing to get to Christmas? Some stores had Christmas displays up in September.

As a kid, I remember hearing the adults around me and those 
newscasters on TV talking about the commercialism of Christmas, but it was nothing then like it is now. Black Friday and Cyber Monday was not even on the horizon. When I was growing up, Christmas did not OFFICIALLY arrive until Santa Claus appeared at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
Macy's Parade 1979
Even the Parade has become commercialized to promote Broadway shows and those companies who sponsor the floats. God forbid, however, that a traditional Christmas song (especially a secular one) be performed. Tomorrow, count the songs that are remotely holiday classics. I'll gladly eat my words if I am wrong. 
Instead, we will get the latest pop stars. As long as they are not twerking, I can, somehow,  still watch. Not only have some Christmas displays been up since before Halloween, some cable programming (Hallmark) have completely hijacked ALL programming other than cheesy holiday movies that have been playing 24/7 since Halloween, but will continue to do so until after the first of the year. Try channel surfing right now and count how many holiday shows you see. Almost every other commercial on TV is a Christmas ad. There are houses in my neighborhood ALREADY decorated for Christmas. Can we please have Thanksgiving back!?!?!

As a child, I would wait with anticipation for the Christmas decorations (and, yes, they were referred to as CHRISTMAS decorations) to be lit up in my home town of Conway, South Carolina.
It was usually the first weekend AFTER Thanksgiving weekend. 
That was usually when the Christmas parade would come down Main Street. We would find ourselves (as a family) standing waiting to hear the first strains of the Conway High School band leading the parade. I still tear up thinking about it. It also takes me back to a happier time in our world as I think about it. We would run into family members and friends. It was also  because of running into my third grade teacher at the 1978 Christmas parade that offered me entree, in a matter of speaking, to my coming to New York. That's another blog! 
AFTER the parade, we would start our Christmas shopping, or I should say my mom would start the Christmas shopping.
After dropping her off at the Coastal Mall in Conway, our first mall in the region, by the way, my dad and I would often go to Nye's Pharmacy for a toasted pimento cheese sandwich and a coke. My dad would also give me twenty dollars to buy gifts for my sister and brothers and my parents. 
I was always frugal enough to be able to buy something for everyone! 
I would almost have a few dollars left over for myself as well! 
That night, we would go out to get our Christmas tree! It wasn't until I was about twelve that we got our first artificial tree! At the time, I was very excited because, since it was artificial, we would have it year round and we could put it up anytime we wished! What did I know?  
We would come home and decorate the tree. Normally, on that night, there would be a Christmas special on TV. 
Andy Williams
Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Perry Como, and especially, Bob Hope! Throw into that mix, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy (narrated by Greer Garson), and How The Grinch Stole Christmas! There were only three networks and we would, year after year, tune in TOGETHER as a family. 
Family was very important in the Skipper household.I come from a LARGE family. My dad was one of 10 children. My mom was/is the oldest of 16! LOTS of cousins. 
Christmas eve was always at my grandmother Skipper's. 
Because there were so many. we would draw names for gifts on Christmas. I don't know how she did it, but my Grand mama Skipper got gifts for EVERYONE! For our immediate family, it would mean that in addition to OUR Santa gifts, my mom would be buying 6 individual gifts (for each of the names she drew). THEN, she would buy a HOUSEHOLD gift for each family! That was 10 additional gifts. Each of the families did that! I guess the family that had it the hardest was probably Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Christine. They had six girls! We would show up at Grand mama's around five or six with great anticipation of our family gift exchange. We would all be running around begging the adults to hurry up and let us open our gifts. I wish that I had a picture of what the living room looked like with all the presents under the tree. It looked like something out of one of those Christmas specials I mentioned above. The smells and look of my Grandparents house was unbelievable. 
with my sister, Debbie
The holidays were all very important to my Grand mama.  She had a manger set up somewhere, an entire Christmas village set up, gum drop trees. She also spent a LOT of time baking. There were cakes and pies galore, ALL made from scratch. I think the idea of getting a cake or a pie from a bakery would have killed her!
Her birth date just passed. My Aunt Mary (my dad's sister) wrote a tribute to her on her Facebook page. With her permission, I am reprinting it here:
Happy Birthday in Heaven to the Best Mama ever! I had a fantastic mama! She gave birth to eleven children, lost a little son at 2 days old, but raised the other ten to be good people and contributing members of society. She worked so hard during her life, taking care of us, working on a farm, cooking, being a wife, etc. I could go on for pages. She had only a third grade education but could read like a scholar and reading was her favorite pastime until she lost her eyesight to macular degeneration a couple of years before she died.
This was taken in 1991
The Horry County Bookmobile made regular stops at her home so she could check out her books. She loved birthdays and family gatherings. No crowd could ever be too big. She especially loved Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Most Christmas Eves there would be upward of 75 to 80 people at mama and daddy's house at one time. So much noise but so, so much love. I think of her so often and miss her a lot, more so at this time of year. Happy Birthday, Mama. I love you!

I think of my grandparents (on both sides of my family tree), my dad, my Uncle Joe, my Uncle Vernon, Uncle Sammy, and all the relatives on my mom's side of the family who are not physically with us any more on a daily basis. They are ALWAYS with me especially around the holidays. I inherited my grandmother's love of the holidays.
I love to decorate the house. I love to be surrounded by friends this time of year. I let go of the frenzy of shopping a few years ago. I would much rather put that money towards celebrating my friends. Wouldn't it be great if we ALL adopted that. I would
Macy's Parade 1979
much rather have you over for a dinner that I prepared rather than killing myself for the PERFECT gift which the recipient does not really consider PERFECT. 

For someone who's first eighteen years were spent surrounded by family, you can well imagine what that first holiday was like without them around. On one hand, it was very hard. On the other hand, due to friends I had made in New York who included me that first year, the transition was a little less painful. 
I moved to New York on August 5th, 1979. Three weeks later, I got cast in my first show, a musical melodrama called No, No, A Million Times No.
The ONLY good thing about that show was the cast, although other than the female lead, Duane Printz, I cannot remember ANY by name. I auditioned at the now defunct Harlequin Studios. 
Harlequin rehearsal studios was directly next door to the Gaiety, on 46th Street, off of Broadway,and if you weren't paying attention to which entrance you were using, you quickly found out by the pictures on the wall as you went up the stairs!
The Harlequin reeked of cat urine and had clanging radiators and no windows that you could open. But it was SHOW BUSINESS! Perhaps I should write some time about all the great rehearsal studios that are no longer here!
As stated, I was cast in the show.  I was cast as a hillbilly named IFFY CANN - a young country boy. Type casting? I'm not making this up! Check THIS out!
It was a great cast and we had fun with rehearsals. For many of us, it was our first show in New York. Not only did we share that excitement. but we collectively forgave a lot that we put up with at the time.   
We rehearsed in good faith not even knowing when or where we were going to play!
Then one night our director came in to announce that we would be playing in Garden City in three weeks. This was just to "try it out" before playing NYC.
We all made plans to be there second weekend of November. We all arrived at the "theatre" to find out that it was an elementary school! Unbeknownst to any of us, a chorus of kids had been rehearsing for weeks to back us up on all of our songs!
Macy's Parade 1979
We were flabbergasted! Our first inclination was to bolt, but then we thought of these kids who had been rehearsing. We had two shows the next day, a Saturday, and one performance scheduled for Sunday. We all agreed to do the weekend shows and then we were finished.
The good news is that we all had bonded. As mentioned, for many, it was our first show in NY.
It also meant that many of us were also going to be without family this first Thanksgiving in New York.
Duane offered to have everyone over to her studio apartment. She was also from Virginia, so I knew it would be fairly traditional.
Since this was going to be my first Thanksgiving in New York, I HAD to go to the parade. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, but got up at 3AM and got a prime spot right in front of Macy's. Not only did I get to see the performances, I also got the chance to see many of them rehearse.
I will NEVER forget how cold it was, but I was THERE! I saw Bryant Gumble, Ed McMahon, Sandy Duncan did a number from Peter Pan, Nell Carter did a number from Ain't Misbehavin,
1979 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Photo, Erik Estrada, Rockettes, Mickey Mouse
Erik Estrada, Buddy Hackett, Armelia McQueen, Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney, Diana Ross on top of the Big Apple float (all in Green like a stem!), Anderson Cooper and his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Chuck Woolery. That's the tip of the ice berg! Wow! I was in heaven seeing LIVE all that I had only known through film and TV. After the Parade, I went to Duvall's for a Thanksgiving feast that I still remember so fondly with good friends, food, and fun.
There have been 53 Thanksgivings in my lifetime. God willing, there will be 53 more. I only hope that they are as wonderful as many that I have had to this point. There is a lot of unrest in the world. Just remember one thing, we are ALL interconnected. PLEASE remember that. Thank YOU!
Here is a blog that I found that captures the same feelings I have.

Thank to ALL 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!
Carol Channing in performance with Hello, Dolly! in 1995 Photo by Adrian Bryan-Brown


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

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

Anderson Cooper and his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade float circa 197
Be sure and Save The Date to see Kim Grogg on December 5th in Go Where The Love Is
IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,
Santa Claus' arrival at the parade's finale marks the start of the Christmas season.