Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last Minute Holiday gift ideas!

A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away;
While quite unselfish, it grows small.

- Eva K. Logue

Happy Sunday!
It's Hanukkah and Christmas week! If there are some people that you are still deciding on or you need some gift ideas, look no further than today's blog! Two children's books, one very serious book (but one that SHOULD be read), and six CDs! These are books that will keep on giving LONG beyond the recipient opening the package.
The books are all written by friends. The cds are also from friends, a new friend, and one I hope to become friends. But I hope that you will purchase these items and tell them I sent you! Happy reading and listening!

 I just adore Arthur Wooten!  This is my favorite quote about Arthur: "If Armistead Maupin and David Sedaris had a love child, it would be Arthur Wooten." - Greg Archer, Huffington Post

And how wonderful that he is written a children's book! You can visit Arthur's website... ... for more info. (Twitter and Facebook him as well! The book was just released and will be available everywhere but he's trying to direct people to his own eBook store powered by Amazon. 
That link is: 

 Arthur was an avid reader as a child. Like a thirsty sponge, he'd read anything and everything he could get his hands on. Early on, it was the pictures he was attracted to. 
Unable to read the words, he clearly remembers making up his own stories that went with the illustrations. But the one book that influenced him the most was The Velveteen Rabbit.

 As a child, he believed every word that was written. And now, as an adult, he is still mesmerized by the honesty and integrity of the story. 
With Wise Bear William he desired to touch in on core, human emotions and issues that we deal with throughout our entire lives. Am I good enough? Do people like me? Am I smart enough or am I too old? He also wanted to write a piece that quietly demonstrated tolerance, growing old gracefully and beauty coming from within. These are big lessons for children, as well as adults. 

 "Wise Bear William is one of the most delightful books for young readers ever! Adults will enjoy it as well."
- Phylicia Rashad

Heartfelt, winning and tender, Wise Bear William will become an instant classic for your child's home library to be savored and shared in the years to come. I loved it. Highly recommended! Paws up!"
- Constance Marks, Director of the award winning documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

"Wise Bear William offers such a beautiful glimpse into the world of our children, while reminding us about the important things in life - friendship, loyalty, and loving one another. This is a book that children and their parents will enjoy together."
- Dina Spiegel, Psy.D, Child Psychologist

Arthur Wooten

In this beautiful and classic story penned by the critically acclaimed writer, Arthur Wooten, and illustrated by Emmy award winning designer, Bud Santora, toys long forgotten in an attic discover that children are coming up to rescue them.


All wanting to be picked, each toy examines their own self-described shortcomings and turn to one another for comfort and advice. But the most important thing they discover is that as much as you fix things up on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.

With an emotional and surprising ending for all the toys, this heartwarming and timeless tale of love and friendship is destined to become a favorite of young and old for years to come.

The next children's book is by my dear friends Jean Barlow based on a poem by Karen Benedetto. I am blessed to know these two wonderful women. It's a great book with a great message on so many levels!

The unique new children's book, I SEE THE WORLD, is self-published by Jean Barlow and Karen Benedetto.
I SEE THE WORLD teaches kids how others may see differently from themselves.  Beautifully illustrated, it also comes with a CD of the story set to music, and the whole book is overlaid with braille. Teaching tolerance and anti-bullying, this book is a "must" for all children Pre-K to 9+ years old. 
    It's not too late or order I SEE THE WORLD, and Jean and Karen will sign and dedicate it for your children or grandchildren, nieces or nephews on your gift list, or as a gift to other families, teachers, or your local school or libraries.  Cover price $23.95.

    Please contact the authors at: or call 845-268-3170 for this very special book.
You'll get your copies in time for Hanukkah or Christmas.  

Karen, me, Danny, Jean
Jean is managing partner of the company formerly known as In the Flow Music which showcases the songwriting of Karen Benedetto.  Jean has done much of the “behind the scenes” work required to produce and promote the songwriter’s work to the world, and, from time to time, has even performed some of those original songs herself.  An experienced actress, narrator, and product spokesperson, Jean was seen as program host on QVC and The Fashion Channel, as well as on Global Shopping Network.  She continues a variety of activities in business, civic and community projects, volunteer efforts, and the world of the performing arts.  This book is a labor of love—

one intended to both heal and inspire.

Karen’s inspiration for the I See the World poem comes from her own visual challenges of amblyopia and strabismus, conditions that required her wearing a corrective patch as a very young child, and, at age 3, beginning a lifelong wearing of glasses with heavily corrected lenses.  In writing and sharing this story in poetry and song, she is hopeful the child with any visual impairment will find courage and acceptance, and that the sighted child will feel compassion and understanding.  Karen's work has been recognized in a number of international songwriting competitions, has had radio airplay in markets across the U.S., and
her peace songs, including “The Call” (a timeless, healing response to ‘9/11’) have been heard at the U.N. and at spiritual and civic observances across the country and around the world. Music writing styles include folk, country, pop, cabaret, inspirational, and special project material. "Right From the Start… (the Songs of Karen Benedetto)", was her debut songwriter CD and is available through her website,

MARK BREY   –  Illustrator    Mark was an accomplished performer, garnering a number of awards for his extraordinary work in both dramatic and musical productions in New York City as well as regional theatre, in venues as diverse as the Judith Shakespeare Co., Alliance Theatre, the Bailiwick in Chicago, Sacramento Theatre Co, Florida Rep, and the Los Angeles Opera, as well as a variety of TV projects.  In addition to his performing career, he had a natural gift for and a lifelong love of drawing which led to his work on this project, realizing the characters of “Glen” and “Paul”   Mark died suddenly before completing the illustrations for I See the World

LAURA LICHTBLAU - Illustrator    Laura can relate to the
“Paul” character in the story.  She has had glaucoma since her early teens, and also sees the world “through just one eye”.  She has had a love of drawing since childhood.  Basically a “self-taught” artist, he has also taken classes at both the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design in NYC.  She has contributed vital and coordinating story elements in her drawings for this piece.  Laura is delighted for this challenging opportunity to create new characters and visual ideas for the book as well as to complete the illustration begun by Mark.  She lives in NJ with her husband, Harvey; daughter, Sarah; cat, “Bear”; as well as a parakeet, a guinea pig, and many fish.

They all envision this book as a way to help build interest in braille by sighted children and their families, thus increasing braille literacy in the process.

Theyoffer I See the World© as  an educational, inspirational, and motivational piece.

Through its lesson of tolerance and understanding,
they see it as a blueprint for teaching children from an early age to honor the many differences of all persons by treating each with dignity and with respect.

“I just want you to know how wonderful your book is. My granddaughter, Morgan (age 7), has some learning/reading difficulties. She has embraced your book and reads it every night at bedtime.  It is so helpful for her.  When I received your thank you note, Morgan recognized the picture right away.  She asked if she could put it with the book as a keepsake. I can't wait to see our other grandchildren's reaction to your book. It has been so wonderfully received by Morgan and her brother and sister, and the CD is played often.  I am trying to spread the word about I See the World…
Rosalee G – Albertson, NC
“This past Sunday I had the opportunity to share your wonderful book, “I See the World” with my cousin’s son who is six years old and has amblyopia.  He doesn’t wear a patch but uses special drops which blur the vision in his good eye, forcing him to use his “lazy eye”.  He, of course, thought the book was all about him and was positively thrilled.  I’m not sure if you have any idea what a powerful impact your work has on children who see things just a bit differently.  To see his face light up and to see him show such enthusiasm over a “book” was monumental, touching, and such a special moment.  Thanks for the special work you do, and for thinking outside the box.”                                                  Gail – Hemet, CA

“I will give this book to our newest granddaughter to get her book collection off to a wonderful start.  We will share this very special story with all the children, and it should provide a great opportunity for meeting people with disabilities and learning how they have the same feelings on the inside as all of us. Thank you for providing such a great bridge to the discussion.”                                                                          
Debbie – Pearl River, NY
It can also be purchased at 

Books & Greetings, Northvale, NJ – Ken Sarfin
The Children’s Toy Connection, Fredericksburg, VA – Melvey Brown
The Toy Box, Pearl River, NY – Judith Clements

Your thoughts on Arts in Education   
Arts Education is vital--at ALL levels Pre-K to grade 12 and beyond.  As arts programs help to develop a child's inquisitive nature and foster imagination, they provide a wider, more sensitive view of others in the process.  When I read I SEE THE WORLD to young kids, I see in their faces and hear by their questions just how stimulating and motivating the story, the illustrations, and the meaning of the message are.  Yay for Arts Education!!!

Are you happy at the point you are right now in your career, as far as this book is concerned?
Yes, definitely.  The sharing of this book has beem a most gratifying experience, even though it is still very early in its life and still incremental in its reach.  When I hear a librarian say, "Wow!  This is great!  We have nothing like this to offer our kids...", it feels so good.  When I hear parents and grandparents, and--most importantly--children themselves, say how special, how interesting, and how unique is I SEE THE WORLD, it gives me the added impetus to keep going.  Even though self-publishing, self-promoting, and self-financing make it a particular challenge, I continue my commitment to sharing it with the world!

A genie pops out of the lamp, he grants you three wishes. What are those wishes?

1.  That I find a wider forum in which to expose this book to reach more chilren and families, so that my goal of teaching tolerance and understanding can become more fully realized;

2.  That I can find the right people or organizations to embrace and to champion the book; and,

3.  That I can be led to the right publishing house to help with exposing this book to the wider world. 

The next book on the gift list is from my friend, Bob Samuels. 

“We think we're in control until we hit whitewater and our fate is suddenly changed”

Robert C. Samuels woke up one morning with a slight weakness in his left leg. By the end of the day he was in the ICU of Nyack (NY) hospital, completely paralyzed, hooked up to a respirator and feeding tube. It seems like a nightmare but for the author of Blue Water, White Water, it became his terrifying reality.
Danny, me, Bob Samuels, Karin Brown
At 43 years old, Robert had already achieved a successful career as a journalist. He had interviewed important political figures like President Truman and Martin Luther King Jr. He was healthy and happy, working as a writer for Texaco. When he was admitted into the ICU of a hospital one December morning and diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, he was positive he'd be out before the end of the day. Nearly a year later, after experiencing horrific treatment at the hands of his caretakers, Robert left in a wheelchair. He will never walk again. 

Although almost everything about Robert's life changed that year, he never lost who he is at his core; a funny, intelligent, always-look-on-the-bright-side guy. His compassion is immeasurable and he's using his experience to educate others.

“Never assume that doctors and nurses won't make mistakes,” he says “If you are a hospital patient, you need to be your own advocate, or have someone acting on your behalf.”

He is now an ardent advocate for wheelchair users explaining that “things are much better for disabled people now than they were when I first joined the ranks, but there is still a long way to go, baby!”

Robert discusses openly his terrifying experience in one of America's “top” hospitals where he was constantly mistreated by cruel, under-qualified medical staff. As well as:

·         The horrors of his experience.
·         What he thinks doctors could have done to change the outcome of his illness
·         How he has managed his feelings of anger and bitterness
·         The worst and best parts of his experience
·         What life is like living in a wheelchair
·         How being disabled effects a marriage
 Without self-pity, former New York City newspaperman and prize-winning magazine editor Robert C. Samuels tells his own harrowing story of medical survival. He has had a long and storied career as a journalist. He has written for Newsday, Playbill, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and the Paris Herald Tribune. He has interviewed figures as diverse as President Truman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and NPR's John Hockenberry.
 He currently is the travel editor for New Mobility, a national magazine for wheelchair users and is president of the Piermont Civic Association.

Blue Water, White Water is available on and Barnes and

Please buy these three books with my blessings! And now for some great music. My new friend, Randy Buck, has written the lyrics for title tunes for two really good PS Classics albums, Rebecca Luker's GREENWICH TIME and Sam Davis' LOVE ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON
 With her new album, Greenwich Time, Broadway star Rebecca Luker (The Secret Garden, Show Boat, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Nine: The Musical) gives voice to the work of bold new songwriters while honoring a generation of musical theatre giants - including Jule Styne, John Kander and Maury Yeston - with some of their most deeply personal dramatic ballads. Greenwich Time's daring collection of songs celebrates the anticipation, joy, and wonderment of love, and Luker's shimmering, soaring soprano embraces every note. Each song stands as a self-contained moment of intimacy, at turns comic, tender, and breathtaking, as in 'Summer With You,' the world premiere of the rare song with both music and lyrics by John Kander; the shattering 'Killing Time,' by Jule Styne  and Carolyn Leigh; Paul Loesel  and Scott Burkell's thrilling 'Ohio, 1904;' and Joseph Thalken & Marshall Barer's witty, sardonic 'Billions of Beautiful Boys.' 

 As a conductor, arranger and pianist, Sam Davis is no stranger to Broadway – nor to PS Classics, where his talents have been highlighted on such diverse discs as Philip Chaffin’s When the Wind Blows South and the label’s acclaimed restoration of Kitty’s Kisses.

As a composer, he supplied the bewitching title track for Rebecca Luker’s 2009 disc, Greenwich Time. Now, Sam's prodigious compositional skills are celebrated with an entire  collection of his songs, LOVE ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON. An elegant, classic melodist in the tradition of Kern and Rodgers, Sam evokes a wistful, elegiac yearning through his music: a romantic ambivalence that informs not only rueful, soaring ballads like "Goodbye to Boston," "Greenwich Time" and the title track, but also more playful items such as "Love Is a Chance You Take," "Old Blue Sweater" and "Invested in You."

The best Broadway vocalists have been showcasing Sam's songs for a decade, on stage and in cabaret; now, a cast of theatrical all-stars – Christian Anderson, Michael Arden, Tituss Burgess, Danny Burstein, Philip Chaffin, Kevin Chamberlin, Will Chase, Gavin Creel, Jason Danieley, Malcolm Gets, Edward Hibbert, Aaron Lazar, Michael McElroy, David Hyde Pierce, Christopher Sieber, Jim Stanek, Bobby Steggert and Will Swenson – have come together to debut his songs on disc.
Thank you, Randy for turning me on to these cds. They both can be purchased through the PS Classics website.

Three very good friends collaborated on a new CD. Jon Burr, Lynn Stein, and Bob Levy. And I'm proud to say they all met at one of the Wednesday Night's at The Iguana that I co-hosted with Dana Lorge!

Bob Levy, Jon Burr and Lynn Stein’s fortuitous meeting at The Iguana Lounge in New York City in 2010 at an appearance of the duo Jon & Lynn led to an exciting collaboration that became “A LITTLE BIT MORE.”
Jon  and Lynn’s unique style and arrangements express the essence of the Great American Songbook and contemporary jazz, combining the distinctive sound of the upright bass and voice into a mesmerizing combo. Composer Jon Burr, an acoustic bass virtuoso, has worked with Tony Bennett, Chet Baker, Stephane Grappelli, Barbara Cook and others. Artist/curator Lynn Stein is the Artistic Director for the Rockland Center for the Arts, returning to her musical roots as a vocalist. Her sultry, smoky interpretations have a playful way with a lyric. Lynn shines on every track on this diverse collection of original contemporary jazz songs. The first Jon & Lynn CD was released in 2010 on the jbQ Media label: “Jon & Lynn,” jbQ 208. “The Giant Cicada EP,” an exciting new sound with strings and percussion will be released in 2011. The duo has been recording and performing for the last two years to strong reviews and the delight of their audience.
w/ Bob Levy
Bob Levy is an award-winning lyricist and songwriter. He has collaborated with many talented composers over the years including Boston’s Harriet Goldberg and Krisanthi Pappas, who have songs represented on this CD. His most recent prolific collaboration with multi-talented New York composer/arranger/producer Jon Burr represents eleven of the sixteen tracks on this exciting project. Bob’s debut CD, “Out In the Cold - New Jazz Standards”, was released in 2006 and his second CD, Me + My Best Friends” was released in 2008. Both CD collections on the SRM label featured vocals by Perry Danos and Dane Vannatter.
Jon and Lynn
Bob’s third CD, “Off His High Horse” was released in 2009 and features vocals by Jamey Whiting. A new CD of Bob’s country songs called Fire In My Soul will be released in 2012.  In 2007 “A Musical Celebration – Introducing The Songs Of Bob Levy”, a highly acclaimed showcase of Bob’s jazz songs was presented at The Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York City. The same year ASCAP selected his song “Paris Without You” for their Emerging Jazz Writers broadcast series. In 2008 his songs were performed at the New York Sheet Music Society and in 2009 Bob was a featured songwriter at the Cabaret Songwriters Showcase held at The Center for the Arts in Boston. His songs have also been featured on network television programs such as Saving Grace, The Glades, Hung and Greek as well as in major films like You Again starring Betty White, Jamie Lee Curtis and Victor Garber.

Bob’s songs have been performed and recorded around the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece and Japan. Songs from Bob’s Jazz CD’s have been featured on Buenos Aires, Argentina’s FM Jazz Radio, Ruiz 91.7, as well as various jazz stations in the US.
A LITTLE BIT MORE” is an exciting, eclectic mix of original ballads, bossas & swing in the jazz style of The Great American Songbook as interpreted by the distinctive sound of Jon & Lynn. Words by Bob Levy, Music by Jon Burr, Bob Levy, Harriet Goldberg & Krisanthi Pappas. Arranged by Jon Burr, jbQ Media. You’ll soon be able to listen to it on PANDORA Radio!
Bob Levy


Produced and Arranged by Jon Burr, jbQ Media 
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at jbQ Media, Yonkers, NY.
Graphic Design by Jon Burr, jbQ Media
Cover artwork by Ng Yew Keong
Cover photo of Jon and Lynn by Hayao Nakahara
Photo of Bob Levy by David Levy

Lynn Stein: Vocals. Jon Burr: Bass, John Hart: Guitar, Matt Ray & Tardo Hammer: Piano.  Warren Vaché: Cornet

Also available on iTunes and Amazon

I proposed the following questions to Bob: 
Were you exposed to the arts growing up?
Absolutely! I attended the High School of Music and Art in NYC, plus I had a very musical and artistic family that were wonderful influences when I was very young.

In what way?
From the age of six my parents took me to see Broadways shows and concerts. I loved the theatre and wanted to be a set designer at one point, but my love of music outweighed that. When I saw "They're Playing Our Song" on Broadway with Lucie Arnaz and Robert Klein I knew then and there I wanted to be a songwriter." I started writing in Music and Art, primarily as a  lyricist and my first professional collaboration was with Ronny Whyte in 1968 in NYC."

 Your thoughts on Arts in Education
Children need to be exposed to the arts in school at the earliest age possible to nurture budding talent. If I had gone to a local high school in New York I would not have had the passion I have today for music and design. I'm thrilled that my son and his wife are both very creative, artistic people and they have encouraged my two grandchildren to explore their interests in both music and art.
A Little Bit More: Jon and Lynn CD on SoundCloud
"Bob Levy is an award winning lyricist-composer who writes moving ballads and scintillating
rhythm songs in the style of the Great American Songbook, songs of the big bands of the 1930's
and 1940's. Lynn Stein is a popular jazz vocalist who teamed with Jon Burr a few years, a very
popular musician and arranger. Levy and Burr are both talented contemporary songwriters and the songs on this CD are worth listening to and performing. I look forward to seeing live presentations."
Joe Regan, Jr. , The Times Square Chronicles 

“These are the kind of songs that Cole Porter and the Gershwin’s wrote back in the day. I love them all!”
Esther Berlanga-Ryan, All About Jazz, Music From The Heart on LIVE Radio
"Bob Levy's distinctive lyrical content hits home on every song and each word falls into place in a
poetic expression of romance, heartbreak and the general human condition. With this new project, 
Bob has shown that there are no boundaries to his artistic and expressive lyrical styling's. Composer/bassist Jon Burr has added drama to this CD with his haunting and sometimes playful
compositions. His standup bass contributions are distinctively traditional but with 
commanding impressionistic overtones. Overall, this CD is entertaining, artful and has warmth. It will bring you back to your emotions and you will depart from the impersonal digital world we live in today."
Bert Gagnon, Neon Productions Radio, LIVE Radio 

One of my musical director's, Rich Siegel, has a new CD out that is especially timely right now. It is called The Way To Peace. The art work is by his daughter and my god daughter, Emily Siegel, who is 6, by the way! 
 Please visit Rich Siegel's newly re-designed web-site.  In addition to wearing a lot of different musical hats Rich is also a writer, and his writing in various forms is featured all over this site.  The site is designed for a relaxed visit!  I hope you'll take your time and read a bit...
Purchase the CD HERE

Thursday night, as you know if 
you've read my blogs this week, I saw Lorna Luft as Martha in White Christmas at The Papermill Playhouse. I hope to interview Lorna soon so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, I would like to recommend Lorna's Songs My Mother Taught Me. One of my favorite new CDs! Interestingly enough, just as I started to write about this CD, Judy Garland's The Trolley Song JUST came on the radio! Lorna does
Judy proud on this song as well as 10 other tracks. Some of those tracks are medleys that cover a huge range of Judy's incredible and remarkable career. 

The very first show I saw this year was Lorna Luft on January 5th at Feinstein's. 
It was the perfect way to kickstart my year and I closed out the year with White Christmas.Perfect bookends for 2011.

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

Follow me on Twitter If you've seen one of my appearances/shows, add your thoughts to my guestbook at

Tomorrow's's blog will be...Celebrating Harvey Evans and Tony Stevens

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog! 

The Following are Testimonials from my Guestbook at
Please add your own comments

As a long-time Richard Skipper fan, but a newcomer to this site, I must applaud one quality he has that I ADORE, and that's sweet-natured, positive ENERGY! Show business is so full of negativity and angst, it's a blessing to see people refuse to get bogged down and remain enthusiastic about others and the possibilities lying just past that next bend in the road! Bless him for it.
Randy Buck,  Hudson, New York

 Dear Richard,
I wanted to reach out and say thank you for hosting such a sensational event in honor of Jerry Herman's work. My friend Derek and I came to the show not really knowing what to expect.
We were thrilled by the caliber of entertainers....the songs.. the stories behind some of them... it was truly a delight! We look forward to attending your upcoming holiday show!
All the best,
Christopher Logan, Brooklyn, NY

   The show was awesome Richard and you were wonderful! Make sure you get a ticket for Richard Skipper's next event!
 Sally and Roger Osgood, Cranford, New Jersey

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


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Richard Skipper,



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