Jim Brochu's Memories of David Burns and Hello, Dolly!
Not only was he surrounded by these greats, they became his FRIENDS. The walls in his gorgeous apartment that he shares with his partner of 28 years, Steve Schalchlin, are covered with photos and testimonials of Zero Mostel, Ethel Merman, Lucille Ball, David Burns, and too many to mention here.
I was thrilled to sit down and discuss his memories earlier this week. It is of a bygone era that we will never see the likes of ever again.
Jim's father, who worked on Wall Street, met "Davy" first. His father did some of David's investments. Jim met David Burns very briefly after Music Man when he was 10 years old. He was Mayor Shinn in that production. They met again after Do Re Mi.
At that time, David and Jim were becoming friends although Jim's father tried to keep him away from David because he had the foulest mouth that ever was. Pat Carroll referred to him as "Mr. Naughty". Sondra Lee disputes that. She says he was "down and dirty". Jim corroborates that. He said they were in an elevator once and he took his penis out and the lady in the elevator screamed. Later Davie said, Yes, she screamed, but she didn't let go."
|Jim and his Dad|
The souvenir program for Forum was out and Jim asked him to sign it. He still has it. He wrote, "To Jim, You're always welcome. Davie Burns". Jim asked, "Do you mean that?"
He said, "Yeah". Well, if he meant it...whenever Jim came in from school during the run of Forum, he would go to the theatre. Jim went to military school on Long Island and would come into Manhattan on Friday nights, meet his father on Wall Street, and then they would go uptown for Jim's father's "night on the town". They would go to Sardi's for drinks. Then, Jim would go to the theater by himself and pick up David after the show and they would meet his father at Jilly's which was right next to the Alvin Theater. It is now the Russian Samovar. It was a wonderful place.
She was as drunk as he was. She extended her hand and in that Garland tremulous voice said, "You must be Jimmy."
|David Burns and Jim Brochu|
The first choice was Burl Ives. Merrick thought he would be great in the role but Gower said he wasn't funny. Merrick wanted Burl Ives and Ethel Merman. The second choice was Art Carney. Art did not want to do a play and by this point, Channing is on board. David had just won the Tony for Forum and he was getting $1250.00 a week. That was 1962 and great money!
He knocks on Merrick's door. Merrick says come in. David doesn't move. He knocked again. Merrick says come in. Again, David doesn't move. This routine went on three times. Finally, Mister Merrick got up from his chair and opened the door. There is David stark naked. He looks at Merrick and says, "Any casting today!?!?!" He got his $2,000 and the rest is history. That's the way he told it to Jim.
|Nicole Barth on Right|
Here are the lyrics:
WHENEVER INSPIRATION FAILS ME
AND THE CITY LIFE CONFUSES
I FORGET WHATEVER AILS ME
JUST BY FOLLOWING THE MUSES
TO A SHADY GLADE WHERE THE ELVES ABIDE
WHERE THE WATER SPRITES AND THE NYMPHS RESIDE
BUT OH THE TWILIGHT OF THE EVENING IS
MY FAVORITE TIME OF ALL
THAT’S WHEN THE LOVELY WING-ED CREATURES
ALL DE LIGHTLY, SPRITELY CALL
WON’T YOU COME AND BE MY BUTTERFLY
AND FLY AWAY WITH ME
ON A PINK PETUNIA PILLOW
WE WILL DREAM AWAY THE DAY
WHILE THE NAUGHTY PUSSY WILLOW
AND THE SHY CALA-LILY
TICKLE US SILLY
IF YOU’LL ONLY BE MY BUTTERFLY
I’LL BE YOUR HONEY BEE
AND WE’LL MERRILY FLY AWAY, AWAY
YES, MERRILY FLY WITH ME.The script for "Hello, Dolly!" published in the Best Plays of 1963-1964 includes "Come And Be My Butterfly;" the official play script substitutes "The Polka Contest". The tempo would start and Vandergelder would discover Cornelius and Barnaby in the Harmonia Gardens and that's when the chase would ensue. The butterfly girls would be standing there and the music would stop and David would scream, "Watch those feelers" and bring down the house! My friend Nicole Barth was one of those girls.
Jim would see the show so many times that David said, "You should get a job, you're just standing there." David got him a job with the Golub Brothers and they assigned him to the St. James Theater selling Orange Drink. Jim worked at the St. James Theater from the middle of Ginger's run through the rest. Martha Raye, because David was still playing with her, was coming into the show and Jim was invited to the dress rehearsal. He remembers sitting there with Lucia Victor. He had a great picture of himself with David Burns and Lucia Victor that he gave to Lucia Victor. He didn't copy it and Lucia is gone. At that rehearsal, Martha did not know the part all that well. She jumps off the cart and says, "Mrs. Dolly Levi!" She reaches into the purse and says, "There's nothing in here but a mirror and a dildo." Of course, everybody fell a part." She couldn't remember what she was supposed to say, so she said that instead. You could hear the orchestra fall apart. He doesn't remember if Lucia thought it was very funny. She had a very short rehearsal period. Jim says it was her energy that carried her over.
At one point even Jack Benny was offered the part of Dolly Levi.According to Phyllis Diller's autobiography "Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse", in the late 1960s Broadway producer David Merrick approached Benny with the idea of him playing Dolly Levi in drag in "Hello, Dolly!" opposite George Burns as Horace Vandergelder.
The intention was to turn Broadway on its ear and revive flagging interest in the show, which had been running since 1964.
Danny LaRue, in 1982, played Dolly Levi in London as a big pantomime type of extravaganza. Danny had been approached by Merrick many years earlier, according to his autobiography, but was afraid that American audiences would not accept his type of humor. The idea with Benny and Burns never came to fruition.
Although Jim did not see the show prior to landing at the St. James, he did read read the script when it was Dolly! That Damned Exasperating Woman. He owned that script for a while but lost LOTS when he moved from LA back to NY. He also used to own the Vandergelder costume, the purple tails and Betty Grable's "Parade Passes By" dress. He saw all the Broadway Dollys. Carol Channing brought a "truth" to the role.
She was absolutely true to the part. She and David had a perfect chemistry. She adored him and he played to her.
| Here is Jim at 22 years old with Davy, Maureen Stapleton and Garson Kanin at Sardi's for Kanin's book party.
David would "shoot his lines" to Carol upstage. He would deliberately turn three quarters to the audience. When they cut Penny in My Pocket in Detroit, he was over joyed. PARADE was written in Detroit, and replaced Vandergelder's song that ended Act One.
It was also at that time that the name of the show was changed to Hello, Dolly! after hearing Louis Armstrong's 45 of that song.
In December 1963, at the behest of his manager, Louis Armstrong made a demonstration recording of "Hello, Dolly!" for the song's publisher to use to promote the show.
Mack David (1912–1993), an Academy Award-nominated composer also known for his compositions for television, sued for infringement of copyright, because the first four bars of Herman's were the same as those in the refrain of David's song "Sunflower" from 1948. As he recounts in his memoirs, Herman had never heard "Sunflower" before the lawsuit, and wanted a chance to defend himself in court, but, for the sake of those involved in the show and the potential film, he reluctantly agreed to pay a settlement before the case would have gone to trial. (Source Wikipedia)
Although she never went on on Broadway, Jim said that Carol's standby, Joanne Worley, was simply amazing in rehearsals. She is a marvelous actress and was committed to the part. He still remembers her in her white rehearsal skirt. Martha was a clown. She played it very broadly and brought out the "Irish" Gallagher side in Dolly.
Carol's was closed. Ginger's door was always closed. She was "one of the guys". A phrase I keep hearing about Betty. She would be backstage in her "merry widow" and boots for her opening number and say, "OK, guys! What are we doing after the show tonight?" Jim said she was very sweet but that she wasn't great in the part. He considers her one of the weakest.
They put more dancing in for Ginger and for Betty. Ginger was more in the "Dancing" number. Some of what Sondra Lee had done in that number went to Ginger when she came into the show. There was a two week interim when they were waiting for Pearl Bailey's company to come in. Betty's contract was up and she refused to stay with the show for those two weeks. Bibi Osterwald took over for those two weeks.
Pearl Bailey's troupe was originally supposed to be a road show. After the success at The National Theater in Washington DC, he decided to bring the show to New York which was one of the greatest moves he made after casting Channing.
Jim says Phyllis Diller, who came in after Bailey, was one of the best. Again, she played it straight. She was not "Phyllis Diller". There were none of the crazy laughs.
Last week, I interviewed Gordon Connell. Gordon was David's understudy but did not go on until 1966 when David took a much needed vacation.
Jim was at the St. James Theater (he was working in the concession at the time) the week Gordon went on. This was opposite Ginger Rogers. David had a working farm in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania and Jim drove him to the farm for his respite from Dolly.
|Cab Callaway and Pearl Bailey|
One of Pearl's standbys was an actress by the name of Novella Nelson. Novella was wonderful in the part. If Pearl didn't feel like going on any night, Novella was at the ready. Thelma Carpenter was the other. Thelma ended up doing 121 performances. One night, Novella started the show and Pearl found out Henry Kissinger was in the audience. In the middle of the show, Pearl took over.
She said, "I'm feeling better, honey. You can go home now." Novella was still in the orange opening dress and Pearl came on in the green and pink with purple sleeves end of Act One dress. One night, she didn't feel like changing clothes. She opened the show in her blue sailor So, Long Dearie dress. She showed the audience her costumes and told them where she would normally wear those costumes and in what scenes!
I asked Jim if he has ever seen any other productions other than the Broadway Dollys. He said he did see a production at a Catholic high school in Philadelphia! This school was originally denied the rights to Dolly. It was still on Broadway. Jim asked what Biff Liff what needed to be done in order to facilitate their getting the rights. Biff Liff who was Merrick's associate producer at the time said he would put them on a list and soon as the rights became available, he would let Jim know. A week later, Biff called Jim and said, "This is a Catholic school, right? Do they want all the sets and costumes? We're closing the show!" So this high school in Philadelphia got all the sets and costumes from the original production! That is how Jim ended up with the original costumes he acquired. He lost them many years ago at The Fountain Theatre at 5060 Fountain Street in Hollywood! If anyone has a purple tailcoat, please return it. The girl who played Dolly in this high school was a girl named .Kathleen Ann McCauley and she was terrific. She married her high school sweet heart, Gerald Thomas Hathaway. They had a daughter and named her Anne.
This was 1971. David Burns who was doing 70 Girls 70 at the time went with Jim.It was the week before he died. He didn't see the show but went to the party afterward and everyone was thrilled.
Thank you, to ALL of the Dollys stage past, present, and future, for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world!
Your devoted fan,
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