Friday, February 5, 2016

Stuart Damon, Gwen Verdon, Mae West...and MORE!

Stuart Damon as the Prince in  Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1965 version of Cinderella
Aide: We are in sight of the towers of home and your father's palace.
Prince: It hardly seems like we've been gone for an entire year.
Aide: I sent messengers ahead to tell of your arrival.
Prince: I am dying of thirst. Let us stop at that cottage. 
-Opening dialogue from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1965 version of Cinderella

Happy February 5th!
It is snowing here in New York City. February 5 is the 36th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 330 days remaining until the end of the year. On this date in1962, French President Charles de Gaulle calls for Algeria to be granted independence.
On this date in 1971 – Astronauts land on the moon in the Apollo 14 mission.
John Carradine, actor and singer, was also born on this date (d. 1988).
Today is also National Nutella Day.
On this date in 1908 – Daisy and Violet Hilton,  conjoined twins (d. 1969). Their story became the basis of the Broadway musical, Side Show. Original stars, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner are reuniting tonight at Feinstein's 54 Below in Unattached! Click HERE for more info.
Take Thelma Ritter home with you!

On this date in 1919, Red Buttons was born.  I saw him in person once. We were both at the same preview for Hairspray. The audience was full of celebritys galore. I sat next to John Waters. I told him I desired to play Edna. He said, "Start eating!".
Christopher Guest,  actor and director, was born on this date. Also Jonathan Freeman, actor, singer, voice artist, and comedian.
This date also suffered some losses. On this date in 1969, Thelma Ritter,passed on (b. 1902).
Thelma Ritter appeared in high school plays and was trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In the 1940s she worked in radio. Her movie career was started with a bit part in the 1946 Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In the movie she played a weary Christmas shopper. Her performance in the short scene was noticed by Darryl F. Zanuck who insisted her role be expanded. During the period 1951 to 1963 Ms. Ritter was nominated for 6 Academy Awards. She is one of the most nominated actors who never won the statue. Shortly after a 1968 performance on The Jerry Lewis Show , Ms. Ritter suffered a heart attack which proved fatal.
On 1993 – Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director, producer, and screenwriter passed on. (b. 1909). Among his many credits, he wrote All About Eve which featured Thelma Ritter AND Celeste Holm, who was the Fairy Godmother to Lesley Ann Warren's Cinderella.
On this date in 1995, Doug McClure passed on  (b. 1935).

As I began to write my blog today, in honor of Stuart Damon's birthday, I put on the cast recording of the 1965 television broadcast of Cinderella. As the overture began, it instantly transported me back to 4 year old Ricky Skipper in Galivent's Ferry, South Carolina. 
Rodgers and Hammerstein had originally penned "Cinderella" in the Fifties, and Julie Andrews was cast in the lead role. I have been lucky enough to see her version and love her in the role.  However, I have a special affinity for Lesley Ann Warren. 
The night, this show aired, we were at my paternal grandparent's home. They had a color TV and this was going to be a television spectacular with an all star cast.
Start Damon and Lesley Ann Warren
From the moment that we saw that gate leading us into the world of Cinderella, I was transfixed. Years later, Celeste Holm would become a dear friend. And, of course, there is Lesley Ann Warren
I was lucky enough to interview her two years ago at Barnes & Noble in celebration of the 50th anniversary DVD re-mastered release of Cinderella
Stuart Damon (born Stuart Michael Zonis)  has been known for thirty years of portraying the character Dr. Alan Quartermaine on the American soap opera General Hospital, for which he won an Emmy Award in 1999. Outside the USA, he is better known for the role of Craig Stirling in The Champions
Damon was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Eva (née Sherer) and Marvin Leonard Zonis, who was a manufacturer.
His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, making their home in America after fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution.Damon has been married since 1961 to Deirdre Ann Ottewill. They have two children, Jennifer and Christopher, and adopted their grandson, Alexander, in 2000.

After a series of appearances on Broadway, Damon's appearance as the Prince helped pave the way to a long career in television and soap opera. The very same year, he had a prominent featured role in the Broadway musical Do I Hear a Waltz? written by Richard Rodgers (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics).
He had earlier appeared in an Off-Broadway revival of The Boys From Syracuse with music by Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Damon is prominently featured on the cast albums of these musicals, as well as the 1960 hit Irma La Douce.

Alexandra Bastedo as Sharron Macready with William Gaunt, centre, and Stuart Damon in The Champions, 1968. Photograph: ITV/Rex
William Gaunt, Stuart Damon, and Alexandra Bastedo.
Moving to Britain in the 1960s, Damon starred in the hit musical Charlie Girl with Anna Neagle in 1965 and appeared as secret agent Craig Stirling, alongside Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt, in the cult series The Champions. He also partnered with Roger Moore in an episode of The Saint which has been credited as an inspiration for the later series The Persuaders!, with Damon's role being played by Tony Curtis.
In 1968 he appeared in the BBC TV adaptation of The £1,000,000 Bank Note and played the starring role. Damon also played magician Harry Houdini in a lavishly staged London musical, Man of Magic.
 In the 1970s, he was cast alongside Gene Barry and Catherine Schell in the series The Adventurer, appearing briefly in two episodes.
Damon has since spoken candidly about the fact that Barry did not want him in the series because of his height.

At over six feet, he towered over the relatively short Barry. After acting roles in several other British television series, including The New Avengers and children's favorite The Adventures of Black Beauty where he played a hypnotist, he returned to the United States. 

In 1977, he began his most famous American role, that of Dr. Alan Quartermaine, Sr. on General
Stuart Damon as Vince: The Adventurer: Poor Little Rich Girl
Hospital
. He also repeated the role on the short-lived GH spin-off Port Charles (1997–2003).
 In 1999, Damon won the Best Supporting Actor Emmy, for his portrayal of Alan, a physician, addicted to the painkiller hydrocodone. In 2005, Damon was reunited with Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt for the first time in almost 40 years, to provide audio commentary on a DVD release of The Champions. In December 2006, it was reported that Damon had been fired by Jill Farren Phelps on the orders of Anne Sweeney and Brian Frons from General Hospital and his last air date was scheduled for February 26, 2007, when his character died.
The reason behind his release was not made public.The taping of the final scene occurred on February 5, coincidentally Damon's 70th birthday. Fellow actors on General Hospital spoke to the press about how upset they were over Damon's firing, with Damon's on-show wife Leslie Charleson saying, "This is the 30th anniversary for the two of us, in August. The timing leaves me very discouraged about the way soaps are going, the total disregard for history and the blatant disregard for the veterans." (Source: Wikipedia)

Cinderella was a highlight in my house growing up- to watch these amazingly talented people perform this piece was magical!! And then Mr. Damon turns into Alan Quatermane on General Hospital!!!
-Lisa Dascoli, host of Talk of the Town on Broadband Radio (Second Tuesday of every month)


I also received the following: 
As Long as You Believe in Yourself and You’re Dreams, Nothing is “Impossible”!
By Jamie Farrar

I’m not from your generation Richard, but I did grow up with this version of “Cinderella”. It was almost a rite of passage for my mother to lovingly pass on to her only child.   She had grown up with the telecast and when it arrived on VHS, she jumped at the chance to own it!
I in turn loved it so much; I eventually accidentally broke the cassette.  Something about it spoke deeply to my heart.  Believe in yourself and nothing is impossible”.  Remain humble and kind
and you will go far..    These are the lessons this production instilled   in me at a young age that
have managed to stick with me all of my life.
Having Cerebral Palsy from birth also granted me prospective.   

It made me different. It made me stand out.
As a child, I hated being different from my peers. As an adult however, I’m finding  my “differences” from others  a blessing instead of a curse. I was the only first grader in elementary school belting out In My Own  Little Corner at recess and I did not care!   
 

I  have a lot of memories about this production, but I’ll stick with one that is fitting of today’s blog.    When I was little, I had a stander—a machine that helped me stand up straighter.   The whole process in itself  was extremely taxing  and painful.  Mom would put on  “Cinderella” and   I’d  sing along until the very end. During these times in the stander, “Ten Minutes Ago” was my favorite song.  I would  close my eyes and pretend  that I  had  the ability to dance.  I’d imagine myself as Cinderella dancing with the prince.
Happy Birthday,   Mr. Damon!   Thank you for  being part of my childhood!



I received the following from Lesley Ann Warren : I seem to remember that the first time I met Stuart was at our first rehearsal together. I was completely bowled over by this incredibly handsome young man who was to be my prince.
My favorite memories with Stuart were how much we laughed together. He had a fantastic sense of humor and I love to laugh so we had a grand old time in between the beautiful work we were blessed to do together. He was the perfect romantic embodiment of a handsome, compassionate man who happened to be a prince. We didn't remain in touch but I always think of him with such love and appreciation. Happy Birthday, Stuart!


I would also like to celebrate a Broadway opening that happened on this date, Mae West in Diamond Lil in 1949!  This was a show that she had done originally in 1928.
 MAE WEST, who did more for corsets than Alexander Graham Bell did for gossip, wore foundations made by the Spirella Corset Company — — upside down. (READ MORE

I, unfortunately, never met Mae West. The closest that I came to meeting her was seeing Jim Bailey portray her in Mae West at the Club el Fey several years ago at Penguin Rep. This is a musical that was written by Bonnie Lee Sanders and Ellen Schwartz. I saw the show several times. The show was a fictitious account of West on the night before she departed for Hollywood and her film career. 
It focused on the early aspects of West's career. 
It was essentially a one person play with Bailey portraying the irrepressible West.
Bailey's performance was so dead on that it still feels like I saw Ms. West in person. One other portrayal of Mae West that I would like to acknowledge is Claudia Shear's portrayal of West in Dirty Blonde which I saw on Broadway several years ago.    

In Entertainment News
It is awards season and that also includes the cabaret community. 
March is traditionally considered Cabaret Month in New York. The month will kick off officially on March 8th, when the Bistro Awards will be distributed at the Gotham Comedy Club. Produced by Sherry Eaker, this award harkens back to much beloved cabaret critic Bob Harrington.
The Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs has announced the 30th Annual MAC Awards. The awards presentation and show will take place on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 7:30pm, at BB King Blues Club and Grill on 42nd Street in New York City which closes out the month. 

Shari Pine
Shari Pine and Righteous Rhythm are bringing the whole From Soul to Sondheim megilla to The Blue Note on March 18th!  Under the musical direction of bassist-to–the-stars, Ivan Bodley (Kinky Boots, Rock of Ages, Spider-Man), Shari is joined by Mac Award™ winner Sean Harkness, drummer Andrew
Pastorino and Pianist Glauco Lima to embrace everything from Bacharach,
Sondheim and Cole Porter to John Bucchino, Alex Rybeck and Billy Strayhorn


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.
-Carol Channing

With grateful XOXOXs ,
 



 

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

First program for Hello, Dolly! (Detroit 1963)

NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED.  FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!


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

Redhead opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre (now the Richard Rodgers Theatre) on February 5, 1959, and closed on March 19, 1960, after 452 performances.

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
(Richard@RichardSkipper.com) for more info for more info. —

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!
 
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com

Danny Gardner and Aleka Emerson
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: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/kiss-me-sweeney-todds-sarah-rice-sings-of-love-with-paul-jackel-feb.-14-111546#sthash.bYCP2Q2p.dpuf







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