Friday, February 12, 2016

Franco Zeffirelli, Billy Stritch, John Wallowitch...and MORE!

Franco Zeffirelli was born on this day in 1923 (age 93), Florence, Italy.

If you don't tell the whole truth about yourself, life is a ridiculous exercise. - See more at:
If you don't tell the whole truth about yourself, life is a ridiculous exercise.
-Joel Grey

Happy February 12th, Everyone!
I want to begin my thanking EVERYONE for the outpouring of LOVE yesterday. I received over 1,000 birthday greetings from all over the world and I want to take that feeling of elation and take it with me throughout the year.

I've believed for a long time that it’s not whether you get knocked down in life that matters -- it's about whether you get back up. Yesterday, really got me up! Today is the 43rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 323 days remaining until the end of the year. Today, the day continues by celebrating a few of my favorite Aquarians and a few that aren't.
Aquarius personality is very independent, any attempt to hold them down or restrict them will cause them, to flee.
They need to be free to be on their own. Independence is not just desired by Aquarius, it is essential to their well being.
I begin by celebrating one of my
Juliet Capulet Montague - 1968 Romeo and Juliet, Zeffirelli
favorite directors, Franco Zeffirelli. He is an Italian director and producer of operas, films and television.
He is also a former senator (1994–2001) for the Italian centre-right Forza Italia party.

Success is buried on the other side of rejection.
-Tony Robbins

On this date in 1963,Construction begins on the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

Ted Mack was born 112 years ago today in Greeley CO.
William Edward Maguiness (February 12, 1904 – July 12, 1976), known as Ted Mack, was the host of Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour on radio and television.

Today is also the birthday of Billy Stritch and  Tex Beneke, singer, saxophonist, and bandleader (Glenn Miller Orchestra) (d. 2000)
Photo by Bill Westmoreland

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Sometimes there’s a great man behind a great woman. But the real magic happens when two great talents collaborate. Case-in-point: Liza Minnelli and Billy Stritch, her friend, accompanist, and music director. - See more at:
Billy Stritch has been very fortunate to have a few great collaborations in his lifetime: Montgomery, Plant, and Stritch. (That is when I first became familiar with him), Liza Minnelli, Jim Caruso, Marilyn Maye, Christine Eberlsole, Linda Lavin, Klea Blackhurst, and MANY more!
Real magic happens when Billy colaborates with many of the great artists he has worked with. Case-in-point: Liza Minnelli and Billy Stritch, her friend, accompanist, and music director. He was co-arranger with Marvin Hamlisch for Minnelli On Minnelli at the Palace Theater in New York City and his arrangements have also been performed in the annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  In addition to accompanying the likes of the great artists I have cited here,Billy has also carved out a solo career, and even co-wrote a #1 country song in the '90s.
He is the frequent musical director at his friend Jim Caruso's Cast Party, Monday nights at Birdland.Straight from Broadway!
Richard Skipper, Chrisine Ebersole, Billy Stritch
Texans are lucky, because Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso are taking their The Sinatra Century on the road May 6-8 /Tickets On Sale Now! Read further!)  The Long Center is proud to present two of New York City’s multi-award winning, internationally-acclaimed performers, Billy Stritch and Jim Caruso, who will celebrate the historic centennial of Frank Sinatra’s legacy in THE SINATRA CENTURY, May 6-8 in the Rollins Studio Theatre.  Stephen Holden of the NEW YORK TIMES raves, “All-singing, all-dancing show business heaven.” Rex Reed of the NEW YORK OBSERVER states “A nonstop musical show-business bonanza!”
Tickets are on sale NOW. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO.

Now Booking!
These Texas natives deliver an evening of sensational musical fun FEATURING world-class musicianship, brilliant comedic timing and the unique vocal and musical stylings of two of our countries most original Artists.
Lillias White with Billy Stritch
Enjoy the hits: Come Fly With Me, The Best Is Yet To Come, In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, “Love is the Tender Trap,”  Witchcraft, and many more!
Billy Stritch is one of the premier singer-pianists on the New York and national jazz and cabaret scene.
His most recent nightclub act Billy Stritch Sings the Mel !Tormé Songbook earned rave reviews from
the New York critics.
Billy has appeared in cabaret venues across the nation as well as concert  performances at the London Palladium, NHK Hall in Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro’s Municipale Auditorium. In New York, he has performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall and was onstage in the 2001 Broadway revival of 42nd Street, which starred Christine Ebersole.
Their friendship laid the groundwork for a musical collaboration resulting in the CD, In Your Dreams, available on Ghostlight Records. Billy is also a songwriter and arranger, and his composition “Does He Love You” was recorded by Reba McEntire and Linda Davis. The single reached the number one spot on the Billboard Country chart, winning a Grammy Award and selling over five million copies along the way. He has arranged for many top performers and is a frequent collaborator with Liza Minnelli, having written the arrangements for Minnelli On Minnelli at the Palace Theater, Liza’s Christmas at Town Hall, and was musical supervisor and pianist for the Tony Award-winning, Liza’s At The Palace.
Billy has played and sung on numerous television shows including “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “Oprah,”“The CBS Morning Show,” “The Today Show” and “Inside The Actor’s Studio”. He has three CDs to his credit and his latest “Jazz Live,” was released on Fynsworth Alley Records. He is
the winner of the Nashville Music City News Award, a BMI Song of the Year Award, and four awards from the Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets.

Happy Happy Birthday to Billy.....who makes piano playing look all too easy!!
-Bill Westmoreland 
Years ago there was a benefit at " The Beacon theater " Here in NYC..Last minute.. My long time conductor Herb Bernstein fell ill. It was like hours before the show. I left my apt. with my music under my arm.. & prayed there would be someone to help. after all .. there was just no time!..There was Billy!!! Standing at the stage door.. I cried!! "Billy can you help me ?? " Of course he did.. He sight read the music & Played it as if he performed it for years. I knew then I was in the company of a genius !! A few months later .. he joined me on my " Pure Imagination " CD.. It is Still on of my Favorite cuts .. Billy is special.. Special in every way... this is someone to Treasure! JULIE BUDD

Forrest Tucker
Today is also the birthday of Lorne Greene: 
1915 – Canadian-American actor (d. 1987), probably best known for the popular 60s COLOR western, Bonanza.
Forrest Tucker, born 12/2/1898: in movies from 1940, best remembered for his Sgt O'Rourke in TV's F Troop.
 1950 – Patrick Quinn, actor (d. 2006)
On this date in 1952, Michael McDonald was born. singer-songwriter and keyboardist.
Arsenio Hall was born on this date in 1956.
Josh Brolin was born on this date in 1968.
Tea with Mussolini, Directed by Franco Zeffirelli
On this date in 1961, the Soviet Union launches Venera 1 towards Venus.
On this date in 1961, I was a day old!  It was Sunday, under the sign of Aquarius. The US president was John F. Kennedy (Democratic). In that special week of February people in US were listening to Will You Love Me Tomorrow? by The Shirelles. In UK Are You Lonesome Tonight? by Elvis Presley was in the top 5 hits. Gold of the Seven Saints, directed by Gordon Douglas, was one of the most viewed movies released in 1961 while Advise And Consent by Allen Drury was one of the best selling books.
Today is also the birthday of one of my favorite actresses, Ann Walker!
Hilary Kole

In Entertainment News:
Just watch and listen - the new single from Hilary Kole - a luscious and one-of-a-kind rendition of Over The Rainbow. Available now on ITunes ...Hilary Kole, on this stunningly fresh collection of performances of songs from the well-worn repertoire of Judy Garland, reveals and brings new life to the emotional core of each tune while revealing herself as a consummate interpreter. While never  attempting to imitate Garland, Hilary tells Judy’s story —relaying the joy of falling in love, the hope that love will prevail, the heartbreak when love fails. And most importantly, the gathering of the will and desire to pick oneself up again to give it one more try.
Cabaret critic David Finkle wrote, after an appearance years ago at Birdland, Throughout her current Birdland gig, the jazz-pop singer Hilary Kole has only the following elements to offer: a pure voice that flows as easily as burnished notes from a muted trumpet, impeccable musicianship, pellucid phrasing, the ability to swing an up-tune and infuse a ballad with simmering passion, a grounding in the history of contemporary pop songwriting and interpretation, experience working with authoritative instrumentalists like Oscar Peterson and Dave Brubeck, a careful way with final consonants (not a certainty from vocalists these days), an obvious understanding of Ella Fitzgerald's influential artistry, a visible appreciation of the musicians backing her (the marvelous pianist-arranger Tedd Firth, guitarist John Hart, drummer Mark McLean, bassist Paul Gill) and a nonchalant wave of the left arm when she finishes a fast number. To throw one more item into the overwhelming mix: She possesses brunette beauty that makes you wonder if she was separated at birth from Catherine Zeta Jones and Jaclyn Smith.

On Feb. 16, Broadway legend Joel Grey will release his aptly titled book Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir before sitting down for a discussion and performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT.
Before taking the stage, he confided truths about the personal identity struggles he dealt with before coming out. - See MORE

Yesterday would have been cabaret legend John Wallowitch's 90th birthday.
John Wallowitch was a cabaret singer and prolific songwriter who was a colorful figure in the New York cabaret world for more than 40 years. In 1998 Karmic Release made Wallowitch  and Ross THIS MOMENT a documentary following Wallowitch and his long time partner, and modern dance great, Bertram Ross.
Just this week, this documentary was preserved in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences permanent collection. The documentary is now housed at the Academy for generations to come --  John  and Bert would be proud. In celebration of John's 90th birthday,  Karmic Release, LTD is hoping to have a variety of events with the New York cabaret community over the course of this year, including a re-release of the film and its soundtrack. So keep your eyes and ears open for all the cabaret fun to come!

Take a minute to give the guys a google and see what you've missed if your cabaret history's a little
Richard Skipper, Cynthia Crane, John Wallowitch

Happy Birthday John, and thanks for the music.

I want to include this wonderful tribute to John Wallowitch from Chip Deffaa I want to remember my friend, the late singer/songwriter, John Wallowitch, on what was his birthday. This wise, droll, elfin man, who knew seemingly everybody--the second photo shows him with a young Oprah Winfrey--changed the direction of my life, and I'll always be grateful. 
He was a good role model. he wrote 2,700 songs, which were recorded by everyone from Blossom Dearie to Tony Bennett
John Wallowitch, Hayley Mills, Donna McKechnie
 His devotion to his life-partner, Bertram Ross (who'd been Martha Graham's star dancer in his youth) was touching. It was John who taught me many wonderful unknown Irving Berlin songs that have never been recorded. John's endless encouragement to me is the reason I've written five shows--all of which are available for licensing--celebrating Berlin. He's the reason I've made cast albums of three of those shows--"Irving Berlin & Co." ( ), "The Irving Berlin Ragtime Revue" ( ) and "Irving Berlin's America" ( ) -- with more to come. John lived near Irving Berlin, and used to see him on late-night walks. 
John Wallowitch, right, and his partner, Bertram Ross, in 2002. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
John invited me one Christmas Eve to join him and other friends in caroling outside of Berlin's home. I turned him down--it was too cold, I had family plans. My mistake! They not only sang outside Berlin's home, they rang the doorbell. The reclusive Berlin--who usually admitted no one into his home--invited all 18 carolers inside. 
American music and dance came together when Martha Graham (seen here with dancer Bertram Ross), collaborated with Copland
Singing Irving Berlin Inside
He kissed the gals, hugged the guys, served everyone hot chocolate, insisted they'd given him the best Christmas present he'd ever gotten. The inspiration for my first show about Berlin was born that night, although I did not begin writing it in earnest until John died. 
I've had actors portray John in two of my shows. 
His presence can be felt in all of them.

John was a composer of more than 2,700 songs (by his own count, the majority unpublished), Mr. Wallowitch was a familiar face on New York television, beginning in 1980 with his cable-access show, “John’s Cabaret,” in which he played piano, sang and joked.
Bertram and John

With his owlish face, oversize glasses, bow tie and sly Cheshire cat grin, he was the dandified embodiment of a traditional piano man and seemed to know every obscure show tune ever written. 
He specialized in little-known Irving Berlin songs. I LOVE AND MISS YOU, JOHN!

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

Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward.

With grateful XOXOXs ,


Check out my site celebrating the legacy of Jerry Herman's Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!   
Save the date American Popular Song Society

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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February 13th: Richard Skipper celebrates Peter Filichia and his book, The Great Parade: The 1963-64 Broadway Season  which included Hello, Dolly! and Funny Girl.  
Peter Filichia and Richard Skipper will discuss Filichia's Book, The Great Parade (the 1963-64 Broadway Season) (with Klea Blackhurst, Steven Brinberg, Jim Brochu, Diane Findley, Oleg Frish, Danny Gardner and Aleka Emerson, Anita Gillette, Leah Horowitz,
Sally Mayes, Barbara Minkus
Sarah Rice, Steve Ross, and Camille Saviola) and Michael Lavine on piano . 
To be followed by Q&A with the audience and Book Signing

Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM  

322 W 48th St, New York, New York
Doors open at 12:30 for those who want to buy sheet music Also members
can take tables and sell their stuff.  1:30-2:30 "Flea Market" 1:30 seating - showtime: 1:45 - 3:30.  

Please LIKE us on Facebook   
Admission is Free for Members/$15.00 for Non-Members

Please contact Richard Skipper Celebrates
( for more info for more info. —

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

Sarah Rice, Broadway's original Johanna of Sweeney Todd, will sing a Valentine's Day concert of songs from the operetta, classical and musical theatre repertoire, with Paul Jackel, in upstate New York, Feb. 14. - See more at:

On Feb. 16, Broadway legend Joel Grey will release his aptly titled book "Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir" before sitting down for a discussion and performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse in Ridgefield, CT. Before taking the stage, he confided truths about the personal identity struggles he dealt with before coming out. - See more at:

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