Christmas Traditions...and Christmas Ideas!
|Bertram Ross and his partner, the late, great and brilliant composer/lyricist John Wallowitch.|
The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years... Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart." -- George Matthew Adams
Actions usually speak louder than words, but communicating your feelings now is the most direct way to connect with others.
This means we all will be more EMOTIONAL over the next few days! And there's no point trying to fight it.
Today's interactive Gemini Lunar Eclipse is stimulating my 5th House of Love and Creativity. VERY LUCKY FOR ME! The Full Moon Lunar Eclipse won't affect everyone the same way, though.
This blog begins with a picture of Bertram Ross and John Wallowitch. John and I share a birthday. I thought of him, and still do, as a spiritual soul-mate.John had another spiritual soul mate, Irving Berlin. Bertram and John lived in the same neighborhood. And one Christmas eve, Bertram and John, went over to Berlin's home and stood outside and sang White Christmas and Always...and left.
The following year, a few friends joined them...and they even saw the figure of Irving Berlin peering through the curtains on the second floor. The following year, the number of people joining them more than doubled...and Berlin even welcomed everyone into his home! The year after that, the numbers had grown even more and not only was everyone welcomed in, but there was wine for everyone! As the years went on, even when Berlin was upstairs and not seeing anyone, the Pied Piper of Berlin, John, and his followers were welcomed in. They knew that Mr. Berlin upstairs could still hear them.
After Berlin passed on, he left his home to the Luxembourg Embassy. They continued this tradition. Over the past five years of Bertram and John's lives,
I was honored to be part of this tradition.
|with Cynthia Crane and John Wallowitch|
I first discovered John when I first moved to New York. He had a Manhattan Access Cable show that, without meaning to be, I think, was one of the campiest things I had ever seen. The production values were non existent.
It was a single camera, general lighting, and John just sitting at the piano. Every once in a while, a hand would emerge within camera range and drop a dollar or two in the tip jar.
I called in one night as Carol Channing! He thought it really was Carol and began to cry. I used to call in every other week. After a while, he caught on that it really wasn't Carol but still played along nonetheless! I couldn;t believe it when I finally met him. Love and miss you, John, but I'm celebrating you tonight!
When John died in 2007, New York seemed palpably dimmer, and he is greatly missed by his legions of friends, family and fans around the world, who adored him both onstage and off. Anyone who counted him as a friend (as I did) would vouch for the fact that he was a kind and attentive friend, a wicked and razor-sharp wit with few equals, in addition to being a monstrously talented and prolific composer/performer.
His songs were recorded by world famous singers (Tony Bennett, Shirley Bassey, Blossom Dearie, Shirley Horn and many others). He was often (and quite proudly) compared to one of his great idols, Noël Coward. Like Coward, John wrote both the words and the music to most of his songs. In one of his more brilliantly wry bits of wordplay, in his song, "Cosmetic Surgery," John wrote:
"In a matter of weeks
With the modern techniques
For improving physiques
They have altered their beaks
And they've lifted their cheeks
And now everyone speaks
In society's cliques
Of the changes that science has wrought
Of the changes that money has bought!"
I, like most people, get nostalgic this time of year. The magic of music brings friends and family together especially during caroling season.....
My partner, Danny, and I are kicking off the holiday season with our own Christmas caroling party tonight. Of course, my favorite Christmas "Carol" is you know who! This particular "Carol" has always spread joy and continues to do so!
Ken Kleiber has created a Christmas tradition of putting out a Christmas show every year including Carol Channing, Charo, and yours truly.
It is also on Manhattan Access but SHOULD go national. Thank God for You Tube so that many others can enjoy these.
If you are not up to coming to Rockland County tonight, treat yourself to an early Christmas present and go to the Metropolitan Room in NYC to see Craig Pomranz's new Christmas show in the decorated Christmas cabaret room. This is his first annual Christmas show!
The last NY show this year. Craig will prove that time and tide wait for no man, as horologically he explores the tick tock of love and how the clock rules the heart with songs as diverse as Stephen Sondheim’s “Night Waltz” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” As Herman Hupfeld said “the fundamental things apply as time goes by,” add some Holiday cheer in music and from serious to deliriously silly, and from start to finish, this is a party you won't want to miss..with one of the dreamiest voices in the music industry, a voice reminiscent of Johnny Mathis, Chet Baker and Little Jimmy Scott.
Direct from his Los Angeles engagements Craig Pomranz brings "Love and the Clock" in The First Annual Craig Pomranz Holiday Show!
There are also a few book that I highly recommend this year for Christmas . They cover different realms of writing and they ALL were written by friends of mine. They are in no particular order of importance. But I have enjoyed them all. The first is a work of fiction by my friend Ed Navis called Jerusalem Hill.
Psychiatric nurse-turned-business professional Anderson Stevens left the hectic life of a consultant to become the Executive Director at the Crestview Institute, the country's most posh and expensive psychiatric hospital.
When his life-long friend Ryan dies suddenly, Anderson is accused of the murder. Faster than he could say "Lithium," he's committed to the infamous New Jersey state hospital, Jerusalem Hill. Heavy sedation and shock treatments force Andy to embark on an epic hair-raising and emotional journey through his disturbing past in which he must face the music of his demons and develop new strengths so he can escape from the Hill and clear his name.
Ed Navis started his professional life as a nurse clinician in an inner city psychiatric emergency service, and became a human capital strategist in 1984 when he realized that there were crazy people in corporate America, too. He's written two business books (PeopleThink and Confessions of an HR Professional: Secrets for Getting Your Foot in the Door), and a collection of essays about the illogical (If the World Made Sense, Men Would Ride Sidesaddle).
Ed lives in Little Falls, NJ. Jerusalem Hill is his first novel.
OR Order it HERE
I also HIGHLY recommend Was That A Name I Dropped? by Paul Brogan. Paul has known EVERYONE in Hollywood. It is an incredible memoir accounting an incredible journey! What a great documentary this would make!
Paul Brogan grew up in picturesque Concord, New Hampshire, a city that might have been an appropriate setting for a Norman Rockwell painting.
From an early age he dreamed of going to Hollywood and working in the movies. The images that flickered on the huge movie screens, as well as from the television console that sat in the living room seemed to beckon to him. That road to his dreams, however, was fraught with many detours and demons that threatened to derail not only his hopes but his life as well. "Was That a Name I Dropped?" tells in chilling detail a true story about growing up gay and battling depression so deep that suicide seemed like the only option available.
Paul's road to Hollywood is colorful and filled with memorable moments and characters. After being brutally raped at 18, Paul relied more and more on a fierce determination and refusal to listen to the naysayers who told him he had to simply "settle for."
He didn't listen and his story, filled with interesting anecdotes about the many celebrities he encountered on his journey, gives hope to everyone who wants to make their own dream come true.
Filled with stories about his friends and acquaintances including Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Carol Channing, Eileen Fulton and Jim Bailey among others, "Was That a Name I Dropped?" will leave the reader smiling, laughing and holding back tears as they join Paul on his journey. Order it HERE
An INCREDIBLE biography that is a very fun read is Sam Irvin's Kay Thompson: from Funny Face to Eloise. You won't be able to put it down!
Kay Thompson’s larger-than-life story is an effervescent toast to show business with a shot of Auntie Mame and a twist of The Devil Wears Prada.
A multi-threat entertainer and a world-class eccentric, Kay Thompson was the mentor/best friend of Judy Garland, the vocal guru for Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne, and the godmother/Svengali of Liza Minnelli (who recreated Thompson’s nightclub act in her 2009 Tony Award–winning event, Liza’s at the Palace).
She went to school with Tennessee Williams, auditioned for Henry Ford, got her first big break from Bing Crosby, trained Marilyn Monroe, channeled Elvis Presley, rejected Andy Warhol, rebuffed Federico Fellini, got fired by Howard Hughes, and snubbed Donald Trump.
She coached Bette Davis and Eleanor Roosevelt; she created nightclub acts for Marlene Dietrich and Ginger Rogers; and when Lucille Ball had to sing on Broadway, Kay was the wind beneath her wings, too.
Kay’s legion of fans included Queen Elizabeth of England, King Juan Carlos of Spain, and Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco. Danny Kaye masqueraded in drag as her; Noël Coward and Cole Porter wrote musicals for her; and The Beatles wanted to hold her hand. She was a charter member of the Rat Pack, costarred in a whodunit with Ronald Reagan, and directed John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Gala.
The dame cut a wide swath through the arts. After conquering radio in the 1930s she commandeered MGM’s vocal department in the 1940s, where she revolutionized the studio’s greatest musicals with her audacious arrangements, from The Harvey Girls to Ziegfeld Follies.
In the 1950s she became the highest-paid cabaret attraction in the world with her groundbreaking act "Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers," featuring her young protégé—and secret lover—Andy Williams.
In a stunning feat of reinvention, Thompson next became the bestselling author of Eloise (first published by Simon & Schuster in 1955), chronicling the mischievous adventures of the six-year-old mascot of The Plaza, spawning an industry that is still going strong today.
Then Kay took the silver screen by storm as the "Think Pink!" fashion magazine editor in Funny Face, stealing the film right out from under Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.
The Thompson saga swells from small town wannabe to international headliner, dissolving into self-destruction and madness—the storyline usually reserved for a rags-to-riches potboiler—yet with unexpected twists, outlandish turns, and a last-minute happy ending that, even by Hollywood’s standards, is nothing short of preposterous. But that is Kay Thompson. Fascinating. Frustrating. Fabulous! Order it HERE
Riveting! It took me right back to the 80s here in New York.
This story is about two brothers raised by their widowed mother. Jacob and Noah couldn’t be more different than if they’d been born to two different sets of parents, and though Jacob is openly homosexual while Noah is straight that’s not the only differences between these two young men. Noah is a hard worker, dedicated to taking care of his family while Jacob is more laid back and just takes life as it comes. Still while he loves his brother and has no problem with his life choices, Noah is tired of their mother always comparing him to Jacob as if he’s the golden child.
When Jacob decides to move to New York with his partner and Noah stays behind to care for their mother a world of excitement, adventure, and unknown danger opens up for him, but what will it ultimately cost him and what lessons will both brothers learn along the way?
This novel was the perfect view of the life of a homosexual male trying to make it in a world that’s hard on everyone, but the temptations can sometimes have a deadly price to pay in the end. It’s also the story of brothers and their differences as well as how losing someone you love, someone that has always been there for you and accepted you for who you are, can change your entire life, some changes of which are not always for the better.
The story is wonderfully written and you could feel the character’s emotions. It teaches you that changing is not always easy, and at times it is best to be yourself and realize who you are and embrace it rather than try to live a lie. I highly recommend this book, Gregory G. Allen has a way of writing that keeps you interested long after you’ve finished the book. (Source: Great Minds Think Aloud Book Club) Order it HERE
There you have it! ALL your shopping directly through my blog!
Gretchen Reinhagen first hit the professional music scene at the tender age of five, fronting for her father's band at the Cape Cod nightclub, The Farm, singing a cover of Karen Carpenter's “Sing” as well as that classic standard “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”.
Yes, Gretchen delighted employees and their families at The Farm's annual staff holiday party, and a Christmas ham was truly in the making. The highlight of the evening for keyboardist Bill Deechan, was when Gretchen turned to him mid-song and said “TAKE IT!” The highlight of the evening for Gretchen was standing outside with Dad between sets, searching the skies for Santa's sleigh.
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Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!
I love you Carol!!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
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DR. CAROL CHANNING and HARRY KULLIJIAN FOUNDATION FOR THE ARTS
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DECEMBER!
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com