Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edd Clark and Sue Matsuki: It’s Them Again!

Celebrate the “Wow” of Life!
The above is Sue Matsuki’s personal philosophy and she certainly talks the talk AND walks the walk. 

When Sue and Edd and I sat down to talk, Sue and I tried to figure out how long we have known each other. I know that it is at least fifteen to twenty years, I can’t recall. We met at a brunch, hit it off, and have been friends ever since. I first met Edd Clark when he was part of Three Tenors in Search of an Act.

I loved the show so much that I asked their musical arranger and director, Paul Stephan, to work with me on my Carol Channing show when I was expanding with a five piece band and three backup singers. I thought Paul was the man for the job, and he WAS! Paul also happens to be Edd’s husband. They have been together thirty four years. Sue and her husband, Kenro, have been together twenty eight years.
Sue and Edd have been working together seven years. They joined forces seven years ago to do their annual Christmas show, Sue and Edd’s FABULOUS Christmas.

 This show will be presented December 7th at and 14th at 7PM at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC. CD available on Amazon or CD Baby. Well, now they have joined their talents once again to celebrate another well known couple, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Sue and Edd and I sat down to discuss their past, their present, the state of cabaret and what I think is going to be a bright future!

At their last couple of shows, people were constantly asking them what their next project was going to be. 

They chose Steve and Eydie because they seemed to always be having so much fun on stage together. Edd and Sue share the same vibe. 
That part was a fit, plus they love the music. 
Steve was brought up as a more legit singer at the start of his career. He was the son of a cantor and was brought up in an orthodox environment. Eydie was from a family of performing gypsies and was on stage from the time she was three. 
She was a band singer by the time she was fifteen, and a little jazzier. Sue and Edd thought there were parallels there all around. That also helped them in their decision as to who would sing what parts!
Next week, we all will be able to see this show and this duo in action. Aug 14 & 21 at 7:00 pm at DTM! Today, get to know Edd and Sue like you’ve never known them before. You might learn a few things!
A couple of years ago, Barbara Levy did a comprehensive interview with Sue in Cabaret Scenes to get more of her background, but here are the basics. Sue started out as a ballerina. She was a dance teacher, she taught ballet, and was on pointe. 
She studied with the Hartford Ballet Company for a while. She studied with the Alvin Ailey Company for a while when she was doing jazz. She was doing master classes. From ballet and jazz, she was a salsa dancer and did couple’s partner dancing. She had a dance partner, Louis. It was Sue and Lou. During the disco era, they did merengue, salsa, chacha, disco dancing and they opened up the clubs with their dancing.

Basically, she got hurt. She had a lot of knee injuries combined with ballet injuries and dancing in three inch heels. 
When she couldn’t dance anymore or perform that way, she started focusing on her singing. She had always sung in church. She had a decent voice. She always got solos, but she didn’t really consider herself a singer. 
She was a dancer who sang. She choreographed for a community theater in the Bronx. When she got hurt, like Doris Day, she still had a need to perform, so perhaps she should start singing. She went to The Village Gate about thirty years ago. Trudi Mann was one of the singers there. It was an “open mic”, but you had to audition. Gary Pace was the house pianist. Stan Edwards, not the radio d j, was the emcee. You had to go in prior and audition for Gary and Stan. The evening was in a jazz mode. If they felt you could “keep up”, you were in. Sue auditioned. They put her in that night, and that is where she met Trudi Mann. She met Vanessa Vickers, the pianist and a whole bunch of singers there. That was pretty much how it all happened. She did the open mic at The Village Gate for about three years before she went up to Don’t Tell Mama on 46th Street in NYC to do her first cabaret show. Sidney Myer was the first person to book Sue.
With Edd, he started out as a singer. He sang throughout high school. He went to college with the game plan of being “Mr. Opera singer.” He loved opera. He went to Utah State University for opera. While there, he also did a little musical theater. He came to New York to improve upon his singing because “that’s what you do.”  Edd is actually a Midwest boy but lived in Utah from junior high on. When he got to New York, he ended up with a really crappy voice teacher. Once he found a better teacher, he did a few opera gigs before discovering that a lot of really good people were getting gigs where it didn’t really matter what they sounded like as long as it was BIG. 
Edd has a great opera voice but he considers it small in the scheme of things. He started doing a lot of regional theater including Hello, Dolly! with Mimi Hines which was hugely fun and a production he did for a while. 
He went on Broadway auditions, joined Actors Access, never got that big break. He started temping and someone offered him a lot of money in an office job, which allowed Paul Stephan, Edd’s  husband, to go back to composing. Paul and Edd met in Utah. They moved to New York together twenty-two years ago. They’ve been together thirty-one years.   
They were together in Utah for awhile before making that big move. After accepting his office job, he didn’t do much performing except for a church gig here or there. Then, he stumbled into the cabaret world. His first show was Three Tenors in Search of an Act with Bill Brooks and Steven Tharp. That was when I first discovered Edd AND Paul. Paul did the arrangements for my final show as Carol Channing and became my musical arranger and director for several years. The premise of Three Tenors remained in the talking stage for three years over many wine soaked nights. 
Once they started actually rehearsing they started forging ahead like gangbusters. Edd says one of his favorite nights was the night I was in the audience. This was at the now defunct Helen’s Supper Club on Eighth Avenue. The late Dottie Burman, Gerta Grunen, Danny and I were the only ones there! We sent word downstairs that they did not have to do the show that night; we WOULD return. 
Their response was that they would go on since we were there. It ended up being an intimate, fun night, truly one of my favorites. That night convinced me that I wanted to work with Paul! 
You just never know!
I asked Edd what he does when he gets stuck in a rut. He mentions being in a class that was being conducted by Maury Yeston in which someone expressed being stuck. 
Maury told that person they had to write every day. Some of it’s going to be crap, some of it’s going to be good. You just have to start a new project. You can’t sit around and moan that you can’t do it.
Richard Skipper, Sue, Meredith Paterson, Miles Phillips
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to Sue on stage?
 She says there are so many. Most of them are self inflicted. When she thinks about some of the things that she has said on stage starting out, she cringes. Now as a singer with a little more class and poise, looking back, she sees these faux pas as real pathetic self-congratulatory way such as “I’d like to thank my voice teacher for allowing me to find this new big position in my voice.” Ewwwww!!!!! She can’t believe she actually said that. It is embarrassing to Sue, because as a reviewer now, when she hears an entertainer say something that makes her cringe, it immediately takes her back to all the things she had to learn not to do on stage.
 While it seems minor in terms of what we all wish we had not done or said on stage, it should teach you a lesson of what not to do next time. One time her boss was in the audience and she acknowledged him. She said something to the effect of, “I’m a firm believer in corporate theft,” meaning that she had been making copies of everything over the years.  Then she corrected herself. When she thinks of twenty something years of working for this man, the one thing that he had trusted her on was crossing her “t”s and dotting her “I”s and everything is to the penny.

She has worked very hard for that and she never cheated him. “Why did I say something stupid on stage?” Those are the kinds of things she wishes she could take back, but they are lessons learned.
When Sue’s CD, A New Take, came out several years ago, she promised herself that she would devote at least one to three hours a day related to the PR and/or CD.
She would go home from work and work at least one hour minimally sending out promo letters or contacting radio stations. She set that as a “to doo” for her. She kept that goal beyond the success of that initial CD. Mind you, she was doing this after working a nine to six workday. She did this on top of maintaining a non show business career AND seeing other shows. Now, that she has retired from her non show business career, THIS has become her job.  She is now producing as well. She has set up an office in her home. She and her husband, Kenro, begin each day in their respective offices…he also works from home. He does what he does and Sue focuses on producing and her own gigs, which includes trying to figure out which venues to pursue. Right now, she is averaging between four to six hours a day working on this. Sue is not necessarily working  on her singing these days as much as the production end and projecting forward.
Of course, with all that she is involved in, she still sees a lot of shows in the evening. She spent two hours just a couple of days ago updating her press kits. It all takes time. It doesn’t have to be a big project but she does something every day. Filing her music falls under that umbrella. That takes forever sometimes. She’s pretty disciplined with that.
The advice that Edd would give to anyone wanting to venture into this world is to first of all find a good teacher, someone you trust. You’ll know in a couple of months or maybe sooner if that person is the right person for you. It is a unique dynamic.
It has to click. Good coaching is really important and a lot of people leave that out.
They think, “Oh, I’ll just go do this.” Even a couple of coachings during the process can make a huge difference.
Edd is lucky in the fact that he has Paul to coach him. Paul is a tough taskmaster.
Working on their current Steve and Eydie show, they are going through various sources.
One such source is John Vandarsic. He is a theater director that is also a friend of Edd’s and Paul’s.  He also goes from giving the song it’s individual point of view. With this show, they are relying on their point of view instead of necessarily, Steve and Eydie’s.  John feels that each song is an individual chestnut.

In the Steve and Eydie era, it was not necessarily about lyric connection as it in today’s cabaret world.
It was more about big sounds and charts and arrangements and fun. This is not to say they didn’t get what they were singing in those charts. Sue and Edd are keeping the duets pretty close to what Steve and Eydie did. One of the songs that Sue is doing had its genesis in a jazz show she was putting together last year. Sue realized putting this show together that Eydie had done it in her own inimitable style.
Sue combined her arrangement with Eydie’s honoring her energy but in keeping true to who Sue is.
Sue and Edd have certain song clusters that they have put together that were never put together that way by Steve and Eydie.
For Sue, putting a show together in the cabaret world, she realizes that people in the cabaret world will want to see a connection between those songs in their clusters. There are others that just want to be entertained by the “Steve and Eydie-ism” of it. Those that are looking for that energy will get that. They both have also been working with David Friedman who advocates the true “circumstance” of a song when singing which is, not necessarily, “Oh my husband left me and I’m singing this song because I’m so sad”, but rather a true circumstance in your energy when singing a song. That energy that makes the song true to the person singing it.
Both Sue and Edd sing from that perspective now. Edd is singing from Edd and Sue from Sue in a Steve and Eydie fashion.
The duets are more Steve and Eydie than the individual solos. They are singing lovingly to each other because that is what Steve and Eydie did. They don’t do that much in their partnership. Even in their Christmas show, they go to their “actor” place. For example, the songs Home for Christmas and Stay for The Holidays are definitely about a love gone wrong relationship. It has nothing to do with them being with other partners. They sing these songs from an acting point of view.
They sing from a true position, and that position is a position of them not being in love. They go to that actor’s place. Yes, Steve and Eydie are in love, yes, they are married for eons. They also had a great friendship. When Sue and Edd sing these duets, they toss in a couple of one liners to each other. They crack each other up just as Steve and Eydie did on stage. Sue believes that is what Steve and Edie did separate from being married. She believes that is why this show is easy to do. The friendship energy is there over and above marriage.

Edd said that if he was to meet Steve and Eydie, he would fall on his knees. He would like to thank them for the energy they put out.
They are such feel good entertainers. It doesn’t matter what they are singing, whether it is serious or otherwise, they are giving one hundred and fifty percent ALL of the time. That is amazing to Edd.
In their research on Steve and Eydie, looking at reviews from the past five to ten years, the reviews began with, “Ah…they gave me Steve and Eydie to review and so I went, and you know what? I had a hellava good time! I’m glad I went.” Neither Sur nor Edd ever saw them perform live.
The other singers that Sue has sung, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, she saw perform live.
 Eydie is now retired. It’s a big regret for both that they never saw them perform live.
 Sue watched them a lot on TV.
 Diehard fans know they started out on the Steve Allen Tonight Show. Steve was a regular on the show. Eydie was brought in to sing a song or two from time to time. The two of them had sparks and Steve Allen wrote This Could Be The Start of Something Big for them. That became the show’s theme song. When Steve and Eydie did the song for the first time, people said they could see that it was the start of something big as they were doing the song.

They were flirting with each other. A really poetic start to a great career.

What would Sue tell her twenty-five year old self? That she has a beautiful body! She put herself through such hell at that age.
She was a beauty queen. She never felt “enough”. Physically, she had a great body. Again, she was a dancer. Looking back at those pictures, she asks how could she possibly think that person was fat? It just wasted so much time. She would tell her twenty five year old self that she is “enough”.  
The one change that Edd would like to see in the cabaret scene above all others is for the rooms to get more proactive in promoting the acts that book. There are a couple of rooms who do PR.
Don’t Tell Mama, where they are opening next week, does NOTHING.
There is so much free PR you can put out there. E-mails, etc. It would also be great if entertainers were paid in the clubs. A recent joke that Edd heard was “Want to know how to make one million dollars in cabaret?
Start out with two million.” Most of the audiences in most cabaret rooms now consist of fellow cabaret artists.

Sue and the late great Celeste Holm
If you want to get asked to do benefits and other shows that will bring other people’s audiences and/or non cabaret people in to see you, you have to pay your dues. Early on in our relationship, Sue called me up and said, “Let me help you backstage with your makeup or stage management or whatever you need.” She did it for me once or twice and then I invited her to be in a benefit I was putting together.

Thereafter, Sue was always a permanent fixture in my shows.
Some entertainers don’t want to spend the time to make the connections, to go out and see other entertainers. The reason Sue goes out to see other entertainers other than reviewing, of course, is to make the connections with the audiences and to network and get her name out there and sometimes the entertainer on stage is gracious enough to introduce her to the audience and give a plug for what’s coming up next. People are not really supporting each other anymore. Sue thinks it is all boiling down to economics. It is such a depressed economy right now. You really have to choose who you are going to go see and spend your money wisely.
When the clubs pay more attention to marketing, the paradigm will change. Sue did an article called If I Owned A Club.

She wrote, “You have to spend money to make money.” People who go see Broadway shows, people who like theater, or supper clubs, or whatever…find those people and market to whatever they are reading to bring them into your venues.
What do these club owners and booking managers have a venue for?
With IContact and other such services, it is so cheap to do the legwork now.
It’s easy to do mass emails. Sue is even thinking of hanging a shingle and going to all the clubs and asking to be given their top ten acts and getting that information out every week everywhere. Nobody is doing that. Below 54 has ads running everywhere. They are also paying their talent. It is not a “door deal.” They are also charging service fees which help THEM to offset some of their costs.

Feinstein’s is also closing…making one less room on the landscape. It also is am expensive room. It is next to impossible to walk out of that room with a less than one hundred dollar bill. It is not something most people can do. People going to the theater now can pay as much as a hundred and seventy five dollars a ticket or more. Cabaret is a cheaper alternative to theater prices. The clubs have to find that market. At the same time, the clubs need to be able to guarantee the quality of what they book.
When Edd was doing Three Tenors, he was working at TimeInc., one of the sales people asked Edd if his show was really good. Edd said yes and the salesperson brought a couple of his clients. Everyone was blown away by the show. The salesperson asked if he could bring people to that club all the time because they were all out by nine PM. The food was great, this was at Helen’s, the show was great, he got out with less than half of what he would have paid taking his clients to a Broadway show. He wanted to know if the shows booked at Helen’s at the time would be of the same quality. There was the problem. Edd could not guarantee that they would all be good shows.
Edd suggested that he call Helens to find out who was on on any given night and if they would suggest bringing a group in to see those shows. Why should that guy have to take the time to call the club each time to check on the quality of the acts. Sue remembers the days when tourists or friends came into town and asked where they could go see a good show.

She felt confident and sure to say, “Go to Eighty-Eights.” Booking manager AND owner Erv Raible had such a high bar of the level of talent that played there, that no matter who was there, Sue was confident that there were going to get a great show instead of ”Oh my God! Is this what cabaret is?”
If someone off the street(very rarely happens now) came into a “friends and family” show, and they see someone “lesser than” and think that’s what cabaret is, they don’t  come in usually to give the clubs a second chance.
You have this fifty-fifty scenario happening. If they see a great show, you have a convert.
Edd Clark
If they see a bad show, they think cabaret is “a bunch of overweight middle aged women whose husbands are supporting an expensive habit.”   At one time, Don’t Tell Mama was considering “lesser” acts early on a Monday or Tuesday night with the greater acts booked closer to the weekend. It was kind of an unwritten scenario.
It’s much muddied now. Everyone is getting booked whenever most clubs can book them. It is a repressed and depressed market right now. When The Metropolitan Room started, they tried to keep that bar higher. However, the economics of a club is that a “friends and family” show fill up the rooms. A “lesser than” singer gets a one or two shot and that will sell a lot of drinks. That’s the reality of this. So, as soon as the bar was lowered to allow those shows to showcase, the nightclub they wanted to establish as this higher level nightclub disappeared.
Time will only tell, under Bernard Furshpan’s guidance, if the bar will once again be raised. There is so much that can be done to change the industry. It all comes down to the clubs supporting the acts that are good. That will get people into the clubs to see what this genre is. This is not an unknown genre. It IS a wonderful alternative to theater. It IS half the price. There are many talented people in the clubs who could be on Broadway.
Some of them are.
For my singer readers, Edd recommends something called Singer’s Friend. It is a homeopathic remedy for throat ailments. He gargles with salt water, gets plenty of rest, and doesn’t advocating pushing the voice. Most singers tend to deal with this very well. He is not an advocate of “the show MUST go on.” IF you are truly sick, you are not going to be at your best AND you’re going to get everybody else in the cast sick. You can also do serious damage to your voice.
When Sue is working on a project, she doesn’t really go to other mediums for inspiration. Singing, for Sue, is all about the lyric. Whatever her project turns into emotionally or script wise will come from the songs she gravitates to because these are the words she needs to say.
That goes to where she is emotionally at whatever phase she is in her life.
Sometimes it’s just a pile of tunes in a chair that she always wanted to do. She would bring them in to her musical director, Gregory Tororian, and say, “Yes? No? Yes! No!” Then she says, “What is this show based on this pile of music?” In the case of Steve and Eydie, it is dictated for them. What are the big tunes, etc? Before settling on Steve and Eydie, they were considering other avenues.
They tried to come up with a concept a long time.
Edd likes to bring in a whole list of songs that he likes and that he finds interesting and go through it. Obviously, some things are not going to work with your voice.  
 Throw those out. Working with Paul, he will grimace if something isn’t working. Edd calls it “squishy face.”

Sue makes sure she gets enough sleep the night before an appearance.
She has everything ready the night before.
She has her dress ready. She has everything packed to take to the club. She wants to have an easy, joyous, fun day the day of. She has a problem, however, in the sleep department. She literally runs through her show constantly. That includes patter and blocking.
She constantly does that and by the seventh or eighth song, she starts to fade away.
Then she is jolted awake and begins the process all over again. She rarely makes it to the last half of the show!
I asked Edd if there is a production he wishes that he had seen. He answered with the original Follies and Sweeney Todd starring Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou. Paul say it four times!
Sue’s fondest memory? 
She is on her honeymoon in the Amazon jungle with Kenro. They were in a canoe with a guide. They were laying back on plush pillows. She was nestled with Kenro with this gondolier guiding them through the Amazon. It was pitch black. She could barely see her hand in front of her face. All she could hear was the sounds of the jungle, gators splashing in the water, screeching sounds, birds and bugs flying past her, piranha flapping in the water. It was terrifying, it was exciting, but there she was in Kenro’s arms and she felt the safest she has ever felt in her life. If one moment in her life could be frozen as heaven, that would be it.
Julie Reyburn
I asked Sue who I should do an upcoming blog on. Julie Reyburn! It seems to some as if she was cabaret’s golden child from the moment she appeared on the scene. Sue believes that Julie has paid so many dues. She has an upcoming jazz brunch at Below 54. Whenever Sue looks at someone like Julie, she gets  the green eyed monster! There is a twinge of jealousy, Sue freely admits. To Sue, Julie has really earned her place in this community while being a mother with two small kids. She works full time for a philanthropic organization.  She stays true to who she is. She’s very intelligent. Sue loved being on the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) board with Julie. She’s a bright business woman on top of everything else. Sue looks at someone like Julie, the same could be said of Sierra Rein and Lennie Watts…how much more talent does someone really need to really make it? All three of those people could be Broadway stars in Sue’s book with their voices and their acting ability. When Sue thinks of “where she is not” on the cabaret food chain, she looks at all the other great talent that is also “where they are not”. There is so much talent in this community that one can turn around and spit and hit three people. You just have to go forward from where YOU are. Bless what YOU have. Sue thinks Julie will be a great subject because she has had a blessed and a rough road. It’s nice to see her star shining as much as it is. The same could be said of Sue and Edd. May this be the start of something big!              

Thank you Edd Clark and Sue Matsuki AND Steve and Eydie for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give!

The shows are Tuesdays, August 14th, and 21st. 7:00, Don't Tell Mama.343 West 46th Street
Restaurant Row
$15 cover/2 drink minimum. Call 212-757-0788 to reserve after 4PM

With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating my forthcoming book on Hello, Dolly!

I want this to be a definitive account of Hello, Dolly!  If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!

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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
My next blog will be... Veronica Klaus!

Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!

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


Richard Skipper,                            

This Blog is dedicated to ALL THE DOLLYS and ANYONE who has EVER had a connection with ANY of them on ANY Level!

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